There is something simple and rewarding about taking batting practice. It is easy to over complicate things with training tools and random drills, but nothing beats just measuring what happens on a normal swing. This is why statistics gatherers like Rapsodo and HitTrax are gaining popularity for players from little leagues to the majors.
Simple smart phone cameras can be useful to watch a swing technique and mark it up, like below. But if you want true status Al data a more advanced system is likely the right move.
Why Does Launch Angle and Bat Speed Matter?
At the core of baseball hitting is simple physics. If you know the inputs to a hit (angle of impact, exit velocity, and spin) it’s possible to calculate where a ball will go. HitTrax measures two out of three of those stats, with spin rate being the one miss.
Once these things are measured and averaged over time you can start changing them. All those fancy drills and training tools, and even old timer knowledge, are supposed to build you the perfect swing. HitTrax and other tools let you know if they really do.
By getting on a machine for 100 pitches you can be objective about how to incorporate advice. If after taking that old timers advice you realize that your bay speed drops considerably and your exit velocity drops you can call BS on that being “the way you hit dingers”.
An example of this is seen in some of the HitTrax case studies. While a study done by the company may be biased on the exact tips used to produce the increases in exit velocity, the methodology of finding a baseline and then doing another session gives an objective measurement of how you are improving.
At the same times when changing a swing it is important to consider sometimes you will regress as you develop the new technique, but again having measurements are the only way to know if the end result ever gets there.
What Can A Hittrax Camera and Display Measure
The HitTrax setup consists of two major components. The first one is a HitTrax camera that takes high speed video of your swing. The other component is the software that analyzes the video and creates a display for the relevant stats of your hit and projects the ball flight. This display and projection allows for simulating a full hit in a batting cage without requiring a full field.
Where To Try A HitTrax Machine?
For many the HitTrax cost can be a deterrent to experiencing one. Private coaches and training centers do have them, and HitTrax at ho e is an option if you have the space and thousands of dollars.
But if you want to try HitTrax out more economically you can find them at Dick’s Sporting Goods. The major retailer has cages installed in many of their locations as a way to let you try out new bats (and eventually buy them they hope).
If you want to test things out and see how fun they can be just plug your address into their store finder. Look for the closest store that has the HitTrax logo. You will likely be limited to testing new bays, and most of the cages require hitting from a tee. Even so, if you are polite to the store employees there is a good chance you can work out a longer hitting session, where you can test out a different stance or swing or simply establish a real baseline over a larger number of swings.
HitTrax vs Rapsodo
We previously covered a trial session with the Rapsodo machine. There are a lot of similarities between the two system, but a few notable differences.
Both Rapsodo and HitTrax provide reliable hitting statics based on high speed cameras. This is unique since there are also lower cost apps that use a phone camera and attempt to do similar things, but at this point phone cameras can not keep up with Rapsodo or HitTrax cameras.
The one statistic that is missing from HitTrax is ball spin. This makes a bit of difference for hitting, but spin rate isn’t really something hitters can optimize for. Sure, spin rate changes depending on how you are making contact with the ball, but the impact of the difference is minimal when compared to spin rate on pitches.
In this regard HitTrax falls short of Rapsodo as it is primarily for hitters while the Rapsodo can be turned the other way and used to optimize pitching technique based on stats.
From a cost perspective both systems are pricey. While either of the can be setup at a home cage they are both well into the thousands of dollars for the system so are much more for coaches, programs, and facilities that have the means.
It is also worth noting that the costs for HitTrax and Rapsodo are typically only for the core camera system and analysis program. You still have to have a reliable cage (or field) to install the system. Rapsodo can be a mobile system, as can HitTrax, though so if you want to bring a system to different locations that’s an option. Of course if you have a home cage, and presumably hundreds or thousands wrapped up in other gear the $5k—$10k cost of a hit tracking system may be more reasonable.
Other Apps and Tools For Batting Practice
If you can not get access to a HitTrax machine, or if you need something for more home use, there are other great options for tracking swings. At the free level the SwingPerfect app does a good job of capturing video of your swing and providing simple exit velocity and launch angel stats. Our review of SwingPerfect points out that there are some shortcomings of the app but in general it is hard to beat as all it requires is a smart phone.
The other home option are bat knob based sensors that capture swing data. We reviewed Blast Baseball, one of the more popular swing sensors, and think it is a good option for casual BP. Keeping the sensor on your bat during a game may not be advised (or even allowed in some places) but paired with the phone app that captures video this $100 sensor is a lower cost way to replicate what you get from HitTrax.