If this is the first time you’ve heard or seen the Zepp Labs baseball sensor then be prepare to feel like you’ve gone to the future. You may exclaim, as Doc Brown would, “Great Scott!” Our general feelings are, this little gadget can, and just may, raise the bar of hitting instruction across every level of baseball. But before we start slobbering all over ourselves, let’s first detail the functions of the technology and also see if we can’t find a grievance or two in our zepp baseball review.
The Zepp baseball sensor is a 0.4 ounce gadget that fits inside a rubber grip (called a mount) which attaches to the knob of a softball or baseball bat. The sensor is a gyroscope and accelerometer—meaning: when the Zepp Labs sensor is attached to the bottom of a bat it can determine both the bat’s orientation to the earth as well as how fast and what direction it moves.
The Zepp Labs sensor records these orientation and movement data points and, via Bluetooth, transfers the information to an app on your device. It only transfers the relevant data gathered around the time the bat makes contact with the ball. The app then aggregates these data points and places a series of charts, tables and graphics for perusal at your fingertips, literally.
If the Bluetooth connection is live during hitting the sensor immediately transfers its information to the phone or tablet. The results reveal in a matter of moments. If the sensor is not Bluetooth connected then the data is recorded (up to 2,000 swings) on the sensor and transfers when Bluetooth connects later.
The combined data creates metrics the average (and not so average) baseball player has never before seen. To name some of the insights the app provides:
This data is then stored under the selected player’s profile as well as the bat they were using when the data was generated. At any point in the future you can review any swings in aggregate under the labs’ report section or individually through the calendar. Here is some data my 10 year old son and I generated:
If you’re impressed so far get ready to have your pants blown off–we haven’t even started with the cool part yet. The app can capture video of the swing two seconds before and one second after contact–it knows where to capture because the accelerometer tells it there was impact.
This video clip is then filed away with the other data the sensor gathered. You can review these videos with toggled slow motion anytime later. We found the video review of the hit more valuable than the actual data points. Both used in conjunction, however, the two modes create a bag full of insight no generation of baseball players has ever experienced.
And all of that, quite frankly, isn’t even the most helpful part. The most helpful part, at least as me and my boys saw it, was the side by side video ‘swing compare’ of the app–especially to the pre-loaded swing of big leaguers.
For example, observing how my son swings a 32 inch Marucci Hex Youth barrel compared to Jose Altuve and his 33 inch Sam Bat in slow motion proved as valuable as any hitting instruction he’s ever received. That is without hyperbole. That few moments of insight comparing his swing to his favorite player’s swing was the most significant piece of hitting feedback he could have ever received and I could have ever given him.
As you can see, and as my son recognized without anyone’s help, Jose drives the top half his body through the baseball whereas my son takes it leaning back. Jose also drives forward well enough that his back foot actually comes ever so slightly off the ground at contact—my son has too much weight back. Jose’s swing is also remarkably compact–my son’s a bit too far away from his body. We toggled through the side by side video for several minutes and he and I quickly noticed the similarities and differences without debate. In a matter of minutes my son’s swing improved.
And Zepp Labs baseball sensor benefits are not done yet. The technology includes a catalog of tips, drills and videos the app suggests based on the deficit of skill reported in the metrics. John Mallee, hitting coach of the Cubs, even has a few cameos in the tips section showing you different drills for any number of topics: bat speed, hand speed, attack angle and so on.
I also realized, because dad had to try it out, that I’ll never be able to have bat speed of 90+mph and, maybe even more embarrassing, the harder I try and swing the more ridiculous I look–especially in slow motion.
If you couldn’t tell from the above we are thoroughly enamored with the gadget’s form and function as well as the app’s interface.
So enamored, in fact, that we hesitate pointing out things we wish were a bit different. But since this is a review, let us put our objective hat on.
First, the app is an absolute battery drainer. Running Bluetooth, video and internet (to sync profiles) sucks down your battery like nobody’s business. If your plan is to use this during a game or far away from an outlet make sure your battery is charged to the rafters.
Second, there are a couple of bat companies that are not in the drop down menu so you need to put their names in the ‘generic’ category. From what I’ve gathered this isn’t Zepps fault but the bat companies–who need to opt in. So, RIP-IT and Baden Axe: READ YOUR EMAIL.
The third issue is not so much a complaint as it is a caution. It’s also more philosophical than any real fault in the device. The data gathered by the sensor and app is so prolific that it might push players to over-complicate hitting a baseball. The app does try, and on the whole succeeds, in giving us tangible directions for improvement, but you don’t actually need to be a physicist to hit a baseball and this app might give players, especially young ones, too many chances to over-think their swing.
I can imagine, for example, a little leaguer with the Zepp Labs sensor attached to his bat knob more worried about his bat speed than a bunt sign from the third base coach.
From a coaching perspective, we most appreciate the accuracy and consistency with which our hitting instruction can be explained and recorded for our players. With everyone including their grandma’s two cents of hitting instruction to wade through, hitters will find with the Zepp Labs baseball sensor and a competent coach, advice that is applicable, verifiable and actually possible to perform.
The $150 price tag may cause many to balk–and as a father of three boys in baseball we 100% agree on controlling the budget. But compared to the price of bats, private hitting lessons or travel team fees the $150 isn’t asking much. (The best price, as far as I could tell, was here or here).
As well, something to consider, the device is so transferable that going in as a team, league or a couple of different players makes it even more accessible and we’d recommend that route to most. (If you go that route, make sure you pick up some extra mounts from here).
The app keeping track of your cuts, measuring improvement in your swing speed, a graphical representation of your hands getting inside the baseball and comparing your swing’s finest points to those who have perfected the craft is an absolute treasure trove of information that was heretofore unknowable.
This little gadget should find its way, at some point this year, onto every little league, high school and collegiate player’s bat who wants to improve his hitting.
And if that isn’t slobbering, we don’t know what is. Two big thumbs up.
(What will they think of next? As my son suggested, maybe a pitching wrist band to measure arm speed and trajectory? Make it happen Zepp!)
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