“” What is a Driveline Hitting Assessment? - Driveline Baseball

What is a Driveline Hitting Assessment?

| Blog Article, Hitting, Offseason Training
Reading Time: 12 minutes
Hitting Assessment at Driveline

There’s a hitter in you. One that can hit the ball harder, launch the ball further, and swing the bat faster. The truth is, this player exists in every single one of us, it’s just a matter of tapping into that potential with the right training.  Driveline is designed for the committed player who understands that improvement and refinement of their skill will come as a result of their relentless hard work. Sound like you? The foundation of our coaching is the hitting assessment, which includes data collection and analysis using various baseball technologies.

What exactly does that mean? It means we use technology to learn more about every single area of your swing.

Our mission at Driveline is to make you the best baseball player possible, and technology significantly enhances this process.  These innovative tools are very powerful because we don’t have to guess anymore.  When we tell you something, we have data to back it up. With that said, what kind of data do we collect during the hitting assessment? 

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Batted Ball Data

  • Technology: Hittrax and Rapsodo
  • Key Metrics: Exit velocity and launch angle 
  • Why? Batted ball data is one of the strongest predictors of success.  Improve your batted balls = improve your performance. 

Bat Sensor Metrics

  • Technology: Blast Motion
  • Key Metrics: Bat speed and attack angle
  • Why? Swing the bat faster and you will hit the ball harder.  

Swing Biomechanics

  • Technology: Motion Capture and K-Vest
  • Key Metrics: Kinematic sequence, hip-shoulder separation, rotational kinetic energy, posture and body positions
  • Why? Move more efficiently to increase bat speed and gain swing adjustability

Bat-to-Ball Skills

  • Technology: Internal contact tracking tool
  • Key Metrics: Smash Factor
  • Why? Hit the ball flush and your production will surge. 

Swing Decisions

  • Technology: Internal contact tracking tool 
  • Key Metrics: Swing Decision Grade
  • Why? Develop elite swing decisions to become an even more dangerous hitter. 

Edgertronic Camera Footage

  • Technology: Edgertronic Camera
  • Video: Up to 2000 FPS slow motion footage.
  • Why? Implement bat path and mechanical adjustments to catch more barrels 

Strength Assessment

  • Technology: Dual Force Plate System
  • Key Metrics: Maximal strength, explosive strength, reactive ability 
  • Why? Assess baseline strength and allocate weight room training economy in the most efficient manner

Physical Therapy Screening 

  • Why? Move healthy and be prepared to perform everyday

So, once we accumulate all of this data, what do we do with it? Enter Driveline Hitting Trainers. When it comes to data, the application of this information is what truly matters. I repeat, the application of this information is what truly matters.

MEETING WITH ATHLETES – HELPING APPLY THE DATA

Trainers meet with athletes one-on-one to discuss collected data during hitting assessments

At the end of every hitting assessment, hitters sit down with a trainer and review their reports: batted ball, Blast, motion capture, K-vest, bat-to-ball, and swing decisions. But wait, that’s too many reports, how do you guys prevent data overload? Great question, and one that all Driveline trainers are very well equipped to answer. Trainers streamline information that is most relevant to you. We refer to this as identifying the “low hanging fruit.”

Training plans are designed to attack your most immediate deficiencies as well as accomplish longer term goals. Our main objective during the athlete meeting is to answer this question “What are you working to improve, and how are we going to get you there?” Using this information and date from the hitting assessment, trainers create objective goals for each athlete.

SWING DESIGN

We’ve created goals and developed a training plan to accomplish them. The next step is going to work in the cage! Swing Designs are one-on-one hitting sessions where trainers outline a plan and select drills focused on improving your deficiencies.

These sessions are invaluable for the athlete because trainers explain the “why” behind specific drills.  We view swing designs as an action plan to connect the dots for every athlete and create their training plan and programming going forward.

Different drills are used to improve different facets of your swing during a hitting assessment

Swing designs develop a clear roadmap for your development, but most importantly they prepare you to do damage every time you step into the batter’s box. 

The previous portion of this blog was meant to be a brief overview of the hitting assessment. These following sections dive into much more detail about each individual topic.

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FIRST WEEK AT DRIVELINE – WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

The primary purpose of a hitting assessment week is to collect various forms of data and derive a baseline level of performance for every athlete. Areas we will collect data on during the hitting assessment week include: Batted Ball Data, Bat Sensor Metrics, Swing Biomechanics, Bat-to-Ball Skills, Swing Decisions, Edgertronic Camera Footage. Data collection on every aspect of a hitter’s swing is integral to the assessment process. While all of that data may seem a little daunting at first, don’t worry! Our hitting trainers are very skilled at “translating the data” for every athlete. If you were curious about what the first week looks like, below is a day-by-day breakdown of the hitting assessment process.

Day 1 – Information Intake, Batted Balls, Blast, K-Vest, Edgertronic
  • Hitters take 40-50 swings off a machine while Hittrax and Rapsodo collect batted ball data on every ball in play (BIP). The machine is set to a standardized distance and velocity. We like to think of Day 1 as collecting the “snapshot”  of your swing. 
    • Blast Motion collects bat sensor metrics
    • K-Vest is worn to collect data on swing biomechanics
    • Edgertronic cameras film every athlete’s swing at 600 frames per second
Day 2 – Physical Therapy, Strength Assessment, Group Hitting
  • Athlete’s meet with our on-site physical therapist, Terry Phillips, for a physical therapy screening/assessment
  • After the physical therapy appointment, hitters go through a strength assessment with members from our High-Performance staff (more on this later)
  • After the strength assessment, athletes hit in a group of 2-4 athletes where more batted ball and bat sensor data is collected 
Day 3 – Motion Capture, Bat Speed Training, Group Hitting
  • Athletes hit in Driveline’s motion capture lab. A very exciting addition, the motion capture lab collects biomechanical data on the kinematics and kinetics of your swing — a game-changer for evaluating and making adjustments to your swing!
  • After the motion capture lab, athletes hit in group work again. During group work training, hitters utilize the Axe Bat Speed Trainers and perform a bat speed training workout. 
Day 4 – Smash Factor Training, Group Hitting
  • Athletes hit in group work. Drill work during day four is centered around improving Smash Factor. Athletes hit Driveline hitting plyocare balls, go through a quick lesson on batted ball physics, and learn more about our different Smash Factor training techniques 
Day 5 – Athlete Meeting and Swing Design
  • During the athlete meeting, trainers sit down with the athlete and walk him/her through the various reports and data. These include the batted ball report, Blast report, K-Vest graphs, and the motion capture analysis. Trainers package all of this information in a digestible manner, explain the athlete’s strengths/weaknesses, and touch on any other areas of importance. From here, trainers develop a training plan that is specifically tailored to each individual athletes’ needs and goals. Because data drives our decisions, we have the luxury to generate objective and tangible goals. 
  • After the athlete meeting, a swing design takes place. Swing designs are one-on-one hitting sessions where trainers coach athletes and run them through various drills. The one-on-one format is valuable because it allows for extra time to discuss and answer any questions the athlete may have about the drills or his/her training program moving forward. 

Foundations of Hitting

30 modules teaching you everything we know about hitting and hitting mechanics.

WHAT DO WE MEASURE

Batted Ball Data

A hitter’s batted ball data is one of the most useful and applicable forms of data we can collect.  It reveals a lot about a hitters’ current talent level and is very descriptive of how a hitter’s bat is moving through the zone. Using Hittrax and Rapsodo, we can answer questions like: 

  • How hard do you hit the ball?
  • What launch angles do you hit the ball at?
  • How do you hit pitches in different areas of the strike zones? 

Answers to these questions are invaluable tools for trainers to create programming, develop an athlete’s approach, and make swing adjustments. Additionally, we create batted ball reports for every in-gym athlete. Some of the key performance indicators we evaluate are: 

  • Average exit velocity
  • Top 8th exit velocity (the average of the top 12.5% of a hitter’s hardest hit balls)
  • Average launch angle
  • Average launch angle of hard hit balls

We’ll also evaluate other aspects of your swing such as where you make contact in the zone

How you are hitting the ball in specific launch angle ranges. 

Lastly, what does your contact look like to every area of the field  (-45 = left field foul pole and 45 = right field foul pole)

Batted ball data builds the framework for objective goal setting. As trainers we can say stuff like “During your first week at Driveline your top 8th exit velocity was 94 mph, in 6 weeks your goal is to increase this to 97 mph” or “Your average launch angle of hard hit balls is -2°. This means that the hardest balls you hit are on the ground, and you’re missing out on possible production. In 6 weeks, your goal is to increase your average launch angle of hard hit balls to 10°.” Trainers then create a program designed to accomplish these goals. All of this guarantees you will step into the cage with a plan, every single day. 

Bat Sensor Metrics

The manner in which an athlete’s bat moves through space is largely predictive of what his/her batted ball data will look like. Because a hitter has control over how he/she is swinging the bat, blast metrics tend to stabilize very quickly, making them essential feedback for creating/evaluating training programs. At Driveline, we use Blast Motion to collect the following: 

  1. Average bat speed
  2. Average attack angle
  3. 90th percentile bat speed
  4. Efficiency (bat speed/hand speed)

Additionally, we will use metrics such as early connection and plane efficiency to learn more about how a hitter’s bat is moving. While not as predictive as metrics like bat speed and attack angle are, we find that using a healthy combination of all the Blast metrics tends to yield the best results!

Swing Biomechanics

When it comes to biomechanics, the tools we use for data collection are Driveline’s world-class motion capture lab and the K-Vest. Both of these tools provide precise measurements for the kinematics and kinetics of an athlete’s swing. Some examples of what trainers will analyze are: kinematic sequencing, rotational velocities, specific joint angles, and posture throughout the swing. Armed with this information, we can be much more precise with our drill prescriptions. Biomechanics removes the guesswork, streamlines training, and gives hitters a definitive plan for improving their swing. 

Bat-to-Ball Skills

We quantify a hitter’s bat-to-ball skills using a metric called Smash Factor. Smash Factor measures the collision efficiency of the bat and ball at contact, in essence telling us how much of a swing’s bat speed was converted into exit velocity.

Smash Factor is quantified during a hitting assessment
A Ball-Bat Collision with Excellent Smash Factor

By considering both bat speed and exit velocity, smash factor gives unique insight into how well a player puts their strength and raw tools to use. Smash Factor reaches reliability very quickly (≈20 BIP) and is easy to apply and analyze in Driveline’s training environment. Because it assigns whiffs and fouls a smash factor of 0, taking a player’s average describes both how often and how well they make contact.

We use launch monitors like HitTrax and Rapsodo combined with in-house contact and result tracking tools to calculate and monitor players’ smash factor while they hit in game representative environments. Having access to rolling smash factor grades for our athletes is an extremely useful tool to evaluate performance and adjust programming. 

Swing Decision Score

Using the same methodology as smash factor with our in-house contact and result tracking tools, we generate a swing decision grade for every athlete. Oftentimes, before making a mechanical change with an athlete, we make sure to ask the question  “What pitch did he just swing at?”  Quantifying what pitches an athlete swings at helps to evaluate his performance with more context and make training adjustments accordingly.

Edgertronic Camera Footage

Edgertronic cameras used for hitting assessment

Using the Edgertronic camera, we film your swing at up to 2000 frames per second. This super slo-mo camera is a valuable tool for analyzing your swing and bat path. Cross-referencing mocap/K-vest data with Edgertronic footage allows us to visualize mechanics and examine your swing kinematics in even greater detail. 

Strength Assessment

Every hitter will go through a strength assessment during their first week at Driveline. Our strength assessment tests a wide range of general strength properties using a dual force plate system from ForceDecks. If you are curious about the intricacies of the strength assessment, reading this blog post is a great place to start!

Strength training for athletes follows a similar test and retest structure. Athletes will assess during their first week in the gym and then retest once every six weeks. Six-week blocks allow HP staff to track athlete progress while advancing their programming and not using so much training economy whereas to significantly interfere with hitting and throwing programs. 

Physical Therapy Screening

On the second day of their hitting assessment week, every athlete will see our on-site physical therapist, Dr. Terry Phillips for an initial screening. After the first week, athletes will check-in with Terry on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Scheduled visits allow Terry to work his magic and ensure you feel ready to go for daily training. At Driveline, our motto is to “minimize the amount of time our athletes do not feel 100%” and Terry plays an integral role in making this possible. 

GET IN TOUCH

Interested in training with us? Both in-gym and remote options are available!

By John Soteropulos – Hitting Trainer

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