Shane Baz made his major league debut the other night. With the influx of young elite arm talent in the MLB, vision training is becoming a popular form of player development.
Unless you’re a prospect enthusiast or a passionate ardent Tampa Bay Rays fan, that name is likely unfamiliar to you (for now), but Baz is the latest in a long line of impressive Rays pitchers to make his debut. The Rays scouting and player development machine is the envy of nearly all teams in major league baseball, and Baz is another cog they’re plugging in.
I mention this as I saw some highlights on Baz’s impressive debut outing on Twitter yesterday, and I got chuckling to myself at a) how ungodly his fastball and slider looked, and b) how many pitchers now have pitches awfully similar stuff to Baz. 20 years ago, Baz’s pitches would have been an international phenomenon and would have made him a household name. Now, while impressive, Baz’s are more of a ripple in the national baseball news instead of the tidal wave they once would have been.
One of my favorite baseball social media accounts is Rob Friedman (aka PitchingNinja), who highlights the gaudy pitch movements of many modern twirlers. Friedman created an overlay of Baz throwing both his fastball and his slider to show how differently they moved despite coming out of a similar arm slot:
When viewed like this, hitting seems impossible! Even semi-anonymous pitchers (for now) like Shane Baz are throwing pitches that boggle the mind, so imagine what it’s like hitting against the household names and Cy Young Award candidates without vision training.
In truth, it’s never been harder to hit, which is why we are in an era of historically high strikeout rates paired with historically low batting averages. Pitchers throw harder and make balls move differently than they ever have, and this trend isn’t going away- it’s already creeping into the college level, and it’s likely more prevalent at the youth levels than we even realize.
Hitters have to recognize pitches, decide if/when to swing, and track the ball to the plate quicker than they ever have. Barring a rule change of moving the mound back, these trends are only apt to continue.
When I watch the clip of Baz, though, I can’t help but think of how a vision training program like Vizual Edge can help hitters catch up to modern pitchers and start to tip the scales back to the offense. If a hitter can more quickly identify when the pitcher releases the ball out of his hand (Recognition)...if he can more quickly pick up the spin on the ball after he releases it (Divergence)...if he can better track the ball as it breaks and crosses the plate (Convergence)...he might have a better chance of making better decisions in the batter’s box. Hitting is an exercise of pitch recognition and switching from divergence to convergence, which are all visual skills that we train in our program.
If you’re a young hitter with aspirations of playing at a higher level or an upper-level hitter that’s already facing 90+ MPH fastballs, consider vision training as a way to improve. We think plenty about our swings and our approaches as hitters at the plate, but many of us spend far less time training our eyes and brain as a way to progress at the plate. However, we know our vision is going to be key to helping us make the adjustments to succeed wherever your “next level” might be.