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Michael K. McBeath, Richard N. Hinrichs, Jeremy R. Babendure; Judging Speed of Baseball Pitches in a Batting Cage. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):423. doi: 10.1167/14.10.423.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Introduction: Hitting a baseball is often described as the hardest thing to do in sports. Here we examine ability of untrained observers to estimate speed of pitched baseballs from a batter's perspective in a real-world setting with near Major League Baseball hitting conditions. Participants volunteered at the Science of Baseball Festival, a promotional event sponsored by ASU, Arizona SciTech, Major League Baseball, and the city of Scottsdale. Method: 162 observers were tested in ability to judge baseball pitch speed from the perspective of a batter in a batting cage. Pitch speed randomly varied between 85 and 102 mph using a pitching-machine located at the Major League pitching-distance of 60 feet. Actual speed was measured with a speed-gun. Participants each stood behind a protective fence within the batting cage and observed and estimated speed of four pitches, with feedback after each pitch. Results: Participants were initially quite poor at discriminating between pitch speeds, producing a correlation of only r=0.027 between actual and estimated speed on their first trial. Yet, they improved asymptotically the following three pitches, respectively increasing the performance correlation to r=0.26, r=0.30, and r=0.41. Other demographic predictor variables of age, sex, and baseball experience did not relate to judgment accuracy in a systematic manner. Overall estimates initially averaged more than 3 mph too low, but converged to an accuracy within half mph by the third pitch. Discussion: While untrained observers are initially quite poor at discriminating real-life Major League pitch speeds, given feedback after several pitches, observers rapidly learn to be quite accurate. Our findings support that under real-world full-cue viewing conditions, even inexperienced observers can be remarkably adept at learning to judge very rapid motion. This supports that difficulty in hitting may be largely due to inability to coordinate perception-action rather than lack of perceptual resolution and accuracy.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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