Study analyzes visual tracking strategies in baseball

By Amy Wallace   |   Aug. 4, 2017 at 1:03 PM
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Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Researchers from Ohio State University's College of Optometry have found that batters change their visual tracking strategies depending on whether they swing or not.

The study, published in the August edition of Optometry and Vision Science, measured horizontal eye and head movements in two collegiate baseball players who were up to bat with a pitching machine.

Researchers found that patterns of head and eye movements are slightly different when batters are swinging compared to "taking" a pitch, meaning not swinging at a pitch.

The study tracked head movements in the baseball players by using an inertial sensor mounted on the players' helmets. Eye movements were tracked using a video eye tracker, both showed differences in tracking when swinging compared to not swinging at pitches.

The two batters followed a similar visual strategy in swinging and taking a pitch, however, when not swinging, they mainly moved their heads, not their eyes, toward the ball the majority of time the ball was in the air.

When the ball was about 150 milliseconds from arriving, the batters shifted their eyes ahead of the ball when it crossed the plate.

"Large eye movements only occurred late in the pitch trajectory," the researchers said in a news release.

Conversely, when the batters were swinging at the ball, they followed a different visual strategy with head movements toward the ball being substantially larger than eye movements. The batters focused their eye on the ball up until about 50 milliseconds before it crossed the plate.

Researchers believe their findings support previous research that placing the gaze ahead of the ball is the optimal learning strategy and tracking the ball is the optimal hitting strategy.

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