Testing Pitch Recognition to Improve Talent Identification and Player Development

Peter Fadde, Professor and Director of Learning Systems Design and Technology, Southern Illinois University

Sean Müller, Senior Lecturer, Motor Learning and Control in the School of Psychology and Exercise Science, Murdoch University


Abstract: Pitch recognition is highly valued in modern baseball, with statistics such as “eye” (walk-to-strikeout ratio) now appearing in prospect profiles. But statistics are after-the-fact and noisy. Adding systematic testing of Pitch Recognition (PR) can therefore improve talent identification, player development, and – at MLB level – player preparation and utilization. Using the simple and validated video-occlusion method (videos showing batters’ view of pitches are cut off at or shortly after release) we have tested the PR skills of more than 200 minor league, Cape Cod, and college batters. We score batters’ ability to identify pitch type (Fastball, Curveball, Changeup) and predict location (Ball/Strike) on a 20-80 scale. Mean scores of MiLB batters are 60 on both dimensions. Scores under 55 are bottom 25 percent and over 65 are top 25 percent. Cape Cod batters averaged 61 on Type and 63 on Location.
PR testing of batters on a Midwest League team revealed insights for player development. A high draft pick from college because of exceptional plate discipline was hitting under .200 while coaches retooled his swing. His 64 (Type)/71(Location) PR scores showed he still had his good eye. Imagine testing a high school or international prospects’ PR before signing him. Imagine testing an advancing hitter’s PR for the next level. Imagine testing hitters’ ability to “see” pitchers they have faced few, if any, times. A baseball team or organization that adopts PR testing and learns what PR scores mean in their system can substantially improve talent identification, player development, and opponent preparation.

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