We went up to SmartKage headquarters in Tyngsboro, Mass., and put the sleeves on Nate, a local high school junior. We then fired up Motus Global’s bullpen mode – first in the new motusTHROW app, and then in the legacy mThrow app. At the app’s direction, Nate threw a mix of fastballs, curveballs, and changeups. A voice from the iPhone instructed him which pitch to throw, whether to throw from the windup or the stretch, and what part of the strike zone to aim for. Each of the two sessions consisted of 21 pitches, simultaneously tracked by SmartKage’s PITCHf/x system.
To date Baden Sports, the parent company of Axe Bat, says it has backed up these claims through ergonomic and biomechanical research. The most extensive study on their product, completed by a team at UCLA, exemplifies much of their support for these claims. You can read the results of that study as it applies to the claims above on their website here, and you can also read more details from the full study here.
We wanted to take it a step further though, performing an independent study in a real world setting. Specifically, we wanted to look at whether the Axe Bat stood up to the performance claims that they make.
As hitters develop, their mechanics evolve over time into a swing that both shares many commonalities with other players and is unique to their own game. But tracking a player’s progress on that journey to a consistent swing has always been tricky. Scouting and video analysis can give players a sense of how repeatable their mechanics are, but these are expensive, time-consuming, and limited to players at the highest level, whom we would expect to already have the most consistent mechanics.
Enter technology. Technological developments, including inertial bat sensors and camera-based ball tracking systems, should make it possible to develop a quantitative measure of consistency readily available to a wider range of players, with a wider range of abilities. This will allow young hitters to better measure their progress while also giving scouts and coaches a tool to judge prospective players.
In this article, we look for a way to quantify that relationship between consistency and hitter quality. We measured over 1,500 individual swings from 25 hitters, ranging in age from Little Leaguers to NCAA Division 1 players. We also collected different kinds of swings from each hitter, having each player hit off a tee and a pitching machine, with the goal of hitting first for power and later for contact.
When Motus Global’s sleeve was announced last spring, it was supposed to save baseball, stemming the flood of Tommy John surgeries plaguing the majors. Now, the device that teams have been using to study their pitchers’ mechanics since last fall is available to the public. The mThrow has been on sale through the Motus website since March, and began shipping in early May. Eager to see what the device had to offer, I plunked down the $150 (plus $20 for an additional compression sleeve) and waited anxiously.