How Do You Perceive Pitch Height?

Pitch recognition is an important part of hitting.  You have to see the ball before you can decide on if you are going to swing.  One important aspect of pitch recognition that is overlooked is how does our brain interpret the data it is receiving?  We think we know where the ball is and where its going to be based on speed, height, and pitch type.  We can even make contact, but going back and looking at what we really think isn’t possible.  I came up with this thought and test to help you at least get a base understanding of “feel vs real” in terms of where you think a pitch is.



I record almost every swing I take.  90% of the time they get deleted after a quick glance but I started noticing something that was making me question a few things.  When I would take a pitch I usually thought it was high.  But I would go back and see that the pitch was at a hittable height and would probably be called a strike.  I would probably take this pitch and question the umpires strike zone in a game but what if I was wrong?

I had to make this random and I decided to take pitches I thought were high.  While doing this I used my hand to show the camera the height I thought the ball was crossing the plate at.  What I found was that I thought balls were higher than they really were.  The difference in the green line to red line is about 6-7″, a large amount.  I then started thinking about why this was happening.  I have a good sense of the strike zone and good hand-eye coordination so I can make contact with most any pitch.  But why was my brain and eyes seeing something different?  I think it has to do with where you pick the ball up on its path to you and when you decide to swing or not swing.

I can’t really talk to anyone else about what I experience because they aren’t in my head or have my eyes.  This is all individual assessments and you have to be honest with yourself.  But I think I am seeing the ball more towards the pitcher when its higher up.  This is where I am deciding to swing or not swing so my brain only recognizes this height (although the brain subconsciously works and knows how pitches move, drop, spin, to compensate).


— I am probably seeing the height at the 3rd from the left and need to decide to swing then.  Where an MLB hitter probably sees and decides at the 2nd from left.  This is evident in video where hitters are still at foot strike and haven’t unloaded the hips or hands but the ball is half way to the plate.

Look at Jose Rameriz.

Christian Walker in slow motion.  Notice that he starts to commit to the swing before his foot lands.  Then at foot strike he can still hold off and take but he confirms he will swing and releases.

And if you don’t believe that the pitch path is dramatically downward, look at this.

From Baseball Savant – Kershaw


If this is true and we find that other hitters see the ball more true at height, this might mean that they decide to swing later and they can gather more information and process it quicker and have a quicker trigger or time to impact.  I assume this is probably the actual skill here and why MLB hitters are so good.  They can wait longer to decide, gather more information, and then their swing is so quick that they are still on time.

Asking a hitter where they think the ball crossed the plate might be a quick test on determining how long they can wait to decide to swing and how quick their swing is.  The closer their guess is to the actual location, the better they are at doing this.