“You can’t hit what you can’t see”
How important is sports vision to batting performance in professional baseball players. This was a question that the Sport Science Research Lab at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi set out to answer. To provide answers and insight into this question, 352 professional baseball players were evaluated for visual skills and batting performance during the 2013 minor league baseball season using the Vizual Edge Performance Trainer® (VEPT), a commercial software program designed to assess eye alignment, depth perception, convergence, divergence, visual recognition and visual tracking.
Individual sub-test scores were used to generate a composite EDGE score. Visual skills testing was conducted by professional baseball scouts as part of pre-draft player evaluations. Batting performance was determined by 2013 season statistics for six offensive variables: 1) batting average (BA), 2) bases on balls percentage (BB%), 3) strikeout percentage (SO%), 4) on base percentage (OBP), 5) slugging percentage (SLG) and 6) on base plus slugging (OPS).
Players were divided into quartiles based on their comprehensive EDGE score. Hitting performance for the players who scored in the top 25th percentile on the EDGE score was then compared to that for those who scored in the bottom 25th percentile. Analysis of data indicated the players who scored in the top 25th percentile on the EDGE score, i.e. those with better vision, performed significantly better at the plate on four variables: BA, SO%, OBP and OPS (Table 1). When players were divided into the top and bottom 10th percentile scores, even greater disparities were found between the top 10 and bottom 10 for BA, SLG % and SO%
|Table 1. Comparison of performance for top and bottom 25th percentile scores on EDGE|
|Average scores||Top 25%||Bottom 25%|
|Base + Slugging||.713||.667|
|On base %||.334||.283|
|Table 2. Comparison of performance for top and bottom 10th percentile scores on EDGE|
|Averages||Top 10%||Bottom 10%|
So what does all this mean? The results provide evidence that superior visual skills are related to better hitting performance in several statistical categories. Since the body reacts only after the eyes send the proper information to the brain, enhanced vision is essential. An athlete can’t hit or catch something he/she can’t see clearly. Since visual skills appear to play a significant role in hitting performance, coaches, trainers and administrators should consider assessing each player’s vision and using a valid training program to improve vision when indicated.