Hartford Baseball | +48 OPS Points
In Fall 2020, when many programs were figuring out how to navigate the COVID-19 restrictions on practice, Hartford Baseball and Hitting Coach Steve Malinowski took a proactive approach. Malinowski successfully applied for the uHIT College Partnership Program (click here >>> to learn more) and secured uHIT Custom Training for his hitters that fall.
Continuing their uHIT Custom Training in Spring 2021, Hartford Baseball hitters racked up 5761 pitches on uHIT Custom. Prioritizing pitch recognition for his hitters, Malinowksi was able to get substantial buy-in from his hitters across both pitch and zone recognition programs in uHIT (measured in number of pitches worked):
Pitch Recognition: 4688 Pitches Worked in uHIT
Zone Recognition: 1073 Pitches Worked in uHIT
With Assessments done in Fall 2021, uHIT’s effects over several months could be seen clearly. (Because of NCAA rules, we will only identify players without last names here.) Jack started his uHIT Custom experience with an Assessment of 46% Accuracy and a Reaction Time to the zone of 0.454 sec. As a reference point for these numbers, 100% Accuracy would mean Jack identified every pitch type perfectly, and either tapped or held a tap when doing so in uHIT. On Reaction Time, an optimal time to the zone from our research shows around 0.430 sec for the Assessment pitch speeds. So looking at Jack’s numbers, he was well below the Accuracy and above the Reaction Time goals for pitch recognition.
Now, fast forward to the Spring 2021 season, and after 519 pitches of uHIT Custom Training, Jack is now pulling an Accuracy of 66% (a +20% change). Most importantly, he is recognizing time he has as the ball is approaching and utilizing that extra time to improve his Accuracy in pitch recognition. We can see this from his Reaction Time increasing from the training to 0.489 sec (a +0.035 sec change). Going into next season, the goal for Jack’s hitting will be to keep increasing his Accuracy (first) and then to maintain that Accuracy, while decreasing his Reaction Time (second). This goal sequence will help him get on base more (better Accuracy) and drive the ball with more power (better Reaction Time). And this sequence would all be automated by the uHIT Custom Training program directly in uHIT for Jack.
We can look at more players like Jack to see their changes from Assessment to later Re-Assessment after Custom Training:
Aidan: 42% Accuracy to 71% Accuracy (712 pitches)
Nikolas: 56% Accuracy to 64% Accuracy (662 pitches)
Jared: 53% Accuracy to 69% Accuracy (419 pitches)
Extending these types of changes across the 15 other hitters of Hartford, we can see where a +48 point change in OPS might have come from. Of course, not all hitters took to uHIT like these four, but the team effects are measurable in more ways than just one player at a time. To look at this more closely, we looked back to the last full season Hartford Baseball played and compared that season’s team hitting to this season’s.
In 2019, Hartford Baseball had an older team than in 2021. Generally, an older team of hitters is more experienced and capable of better decision making at the plate in real games. Based on that, anyone would expect the 2021 team to have poorer decision making at the plate than the 2019 team. And these decisions should reflect in measures like on-base percentage and/or slugging percentage, both flexible measures of at-plate decision making for getting on-base (in any fashion) and driving the ball with power.
Yet, despite these differences in experience, the 2021 Hartford hitters out-performed the more experienced 2019 hitters:
OPS in 2019 | .702
OPS in 2021 | .750
When we breakdown these numbers by getting on-base (OBP) and generating power (SLG), we see how the 2021 bumped up the ways they got on-base, but made the biggest change on extra-base hits. The 2019 OBP was .344, compared to the 2021 OBP of .346. And the 2019 SLG was .358, compared to the 2021 SLG of .404.
So how can we explain these better hitting numbers with a less experienced and younger team of hitters in 2021? Were there any new approaches or new technologies used in 2021 that were not used in 2019? That’s where we asked Coach Malinowski, the Hartford Hitting Coach, for his take on things. He told us,
“The guys that are using uHIT are producing”
-Hitting Coach, Hartford Baseball
In other words, Malinowski saw that the addition of uHIT Custom Training was making a direct impact on the field in 2021. This allowed a less experienced team of younger hitters (2021) to out-perform a team of more-experienced and seasoned hitters (2019) on the key offensive output measures like OBP plus SLG.