Cal State Fullerton Softball | +121 OPS Points
In Fall 2020, when many programs were figuring out how to navigate the COVID-19 restrictions on practice, Cal State Fullerton Softball and Head Coach Kelly Ford took a proactive approach. Ford, with Hitting Coach Caitlin Grimes, 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, Cal State Fullerton Softball hitters racked up 4894 pitches on uHIT Custom. Ford and Grimes prioritized pitch recognition for their hitters and got substantial buy-in from their hitters.
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.) Bailey started her uHIT Custom experience with an Assessment of 56% Accuracy and a Reaction Time to the zone of 0.570 sec. As a reference point for these numbers, 100% Accuracy would mean Bailey 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 0.600 sec for the Assessment pitch speeds. So looking at Bailey’s numbers, she was well below the Accuracy and faster than the Reaction Time goals for pitch recognition.
Now, fast forward to the Spring 2021 season, and after 521 pitches of uHIT Custom Training, Bailey is now pulling an Accuracy of 75% (a +19% change). Most importantly, she is recognizing time she has as the ball is approaching and utilizing that extra time to improve her Accuracy in pitch recognition. We can see this from her Reaction Time increasing (i.e., slowing down) from the training to 0.587 sec (a +0.017 sec change). Going into next season, the goal for Bailey’s hitting will be to keep increasing her Accuracy (first) and then to maintain that Accuracy, while decreasing her Reaction Time (second). This goal sequence will help her 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 Bailey.
We can look at more players like Jack to see their changes from Assessment to later Re-Assessment after Custom Training:
Megan: 48% Accuracy to 57% Accuracy (303 pitches)
Katelyn: 0.612 sec Reaction Time to 0.492 sec Reaction Time (258 pitches)
Remington: 0.495 sec Reaction Time to 0.367 sec Reaction Time (391 pitches)
For Katelyn and Remington, it is important to note that these speedups in Reaction Time happened with minimal change in their Accuracy. So they were both getting faster to the zone, without sacrificing pitch selection. Extending these types of changes across the 24 other hitters of Cal State Fullerton, we can see where a +121 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 Cal State Fullerton played and compared that season’s team hitting to this season’s.
In 2019, Cal State Fullerton Softball 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 Cal State hitters out-performed the more experienced 2019 hitters:
OPS in 2019 | .810
OPS in 2021 | .931
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 and made the biggest change on extra-base hits. The 2019 OBP was .365, compared to the 2021 OBP of .396. And the 2019 SLG was .445, compared to the 2021 SLG of .535.
We can look at other on-field hitting numbers to see what kind of effects this boost in OPS had. For instance, the team hit +25% more Home Runs in 2021 (60 vs. 48 Home Runs) and scored 23% more Runs every game (5.8 vs. 4.7 Runs). So here we see two numbers in run production that are directly driven by a higher OPS in 2021.
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 Grimes, the Cal State Fullerton Hitting Coach, for her take on things. She told us,
“We see uHIT translating from the phone to the field.”
-Hitting Coach, Cal State Fullerton Softball
In other words, Grimes 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. These gains in on-base plus slugging (or “OPS”) allowed the team to generate 23% more runs every game and, ultimately, more wins (+38 points in winning percentage with uHIT).