The relationship between visual anticipation and baseball batting game statistics

Müller, S., & Fadde, P. J. (2016). The relationship between visual anticipation and baseball batting game statistics. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 28(1), 49-61.

By: Sean Swallen

This study dealt with minor league American baseball players and visual aptitude during offensive at-bats. Previous research such as Mori and Shimada (2013) and Abernathy and Russell (1987) utilized both video-based and subjective questionnaires to test differences in visual aptitude of a batter with regard to anticipation of pitch type. However, the authors of this study found no published research of how individual elite baseball players anticipate, and in turn, how their anticipation scores are related to real-world game performance statistics. As a sport psychology consultant, it is vital to investigate the relationship(s) between laboratory measures of anticipation and real-world game performance within skilled groups. The focus of the Muller and Fadde (2016) study was to do just that.

(34) Minor league American baseball players were evaluated. They were given video tests (baseball temporal occlusion video adopted from Moore & Muller, 2014) to provide a baseline visual aptitude—essentially finding the speed and accuracy of predicting pitch type based upon pitcher anticipatory “tells” (i.e. shoulders, foot placement, ball release, trajectory of ball/arm). A 100+ game season worth of statistics were then added into the data and correlative tests were run against the baseline data obtained from the subjects such as on base percentage (OBP) and batting average (BA).

The results showed positive correlation in accurate anticipatory skills and OBP and BA. Specifically, the hitters who more accurately predicted fastball verses changeup based solely on pre-pitch foot placement of pitcher, had a higher correlation with OBP and BA. This validates the numerous laboratory studies hypothesizing the correlation between anticipatory skills and successful hitting. It further validates previous research suggesting that advance information (pitcher kinematic information up until the point of release) leads to increased prediction of pitch and therefore has a positive correlation with OBP and BA.

The heavy mental acuity it takes to perform highly in baseball is unmatched to most team sports. This study sheds more support to the ever-important step of kinematic processing (anticipatory stimuli) as a driver of decision-making. It also sets the stage for more applicable and cost-effective ways that science and sport mesh to create new avenues for consultants, coaches, and athletes to ride that competitive edge.


Other citations used:

Abernethy, B., & Russell, D.G. (1987). The relationship between expertise and visual search strategy in a racquet sport. Human Movement Science, 6, 283–319. doi: 10.1016/0167-9457(87)90001-7

Moore, C.G., & Müller, S. (2014). Transfer of expert visual anticipation to a similar domain. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67, 186–196. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2013.798003

Mori, S., & Shimada, T. (2013). Expert anticipation from deceptive action. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 75, 751–770. doi: 10.3758/s13414-013-0435-z

DR. B Performance Psychology

DR. B Performance Psychology