If you have seen any MLB games this season you’ve seen a new piece of face guard protection for players. Guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have a new thing on their helmet. It seems like at least half of all hitters are wearing a baseball helmet face guard.
There are, roughly, three of these on the market today.
More Jaw Guards are on the way. Little League had many manufacturers point out that their helmets aren’t “safe” with a Markwort C-Flap. The USA Today pointed out how dumb this stuff was. Safety gear is not safe because, uh, we can’t sell it to you.
Some might argue that MLB or even college level hitters need more protection because they routinely face 95+ mph heaters. This is true. But, they also have the benefit of years of experience, faster reaction times, and pitchers that are throwing from further away. (You may also like our conversation on youth pitcher head protection).
Drilling holes in a batting helmet to attach the C-Flap from Markwort will remove the warranty and the batting helmet’s NOCSAE certification. This means, at least in some circles, if an injury occurs due to a helmet failure with a C-Flap attached then there would be no recourse for liability on the company that produced the helmet.
By extension, some have claimed that Little League makes helmets with an installed C-Flap ILLEGAL for play. Decertified (ie modified) helmets should probably not be certified. But, the irony is noteworthy considering MLB players use this exact C-Flap on their Rawlings helmets. Yet Little Leaguers are would be breaking the rules and leagues be susceptible to lawsuits…
Boombah’s face guard does not have this problem as the face guard uses the pre-drilled holes in the helmet.
Other companies are working on producing a jaw protection on their youth helmets that are certified. But, as of this writing, there is nothing on the market aside from Boombah.
Want to see the Markwort in Action?
We’d love to see the email from Little League to this kid and his family explaining why his helmet is illegal…
See Kris Bryant Just About Die
|Rawlings||Mach Ext||Pre Installed||$$$|
Do younger players need jaw and face helmet protection?
While our young players may not be facing Aroldis Chapman fastballs, if you asked them, it sometimes feels like it.
(See what’s on his thumb?)
As parents and coaches we enjoy watching our players play and get better. Nothing affects their progress more than a fear of the ball. One easy way to set young minds a little more at ease is to provide them with every available protective tool. The Markwort’s C-Flap does just that and at minimal cost, with easy setup.
Does the C-Flap fit on my existing Rawlings, DeMarini, etc. helmet?
Boombah claims theirs works best on their Boombah Helmets. On other helmets the certification doesn’t exist.
Markwort claims theirs works on most helmets. See our conversation on installing the C-Flap below.
Rawlings, Schutt, DeMarini, Slugger and and a host of over serious batting helmets work with the Markwort C-flap. Although Boombah does not suggest it is recommended, we found the Boombah Face Guard to work on a DeMarini helmet with the three screws provided. We use our Boombah version on a Boombah helmet.
What is a Markwort C-Flap?
The Markwort C-Flap is a piece of padded plastic that attaches to the batting helmet on only 1 side, the side that faces the pitcher when batting.
Pro Tip: You’ll need a differently designed one for a left or right handed batter.
The C-Flap is an ingenious little piece of equipment. It may be just enough to turn that hesitant hitter into a more confident one. Or, make that anxiety ridden mom a little more relaxed about her little ballplayer—and the money invested in their dental work. The C-Flap is a:
- lightweight piece of Lexan plastic (harder than most helmets)
- attaches below the ear hole on the batting helmet
- hangs out over the jaw.
Markwort makes no promises that its C-Flap will protect against all facial injuries. But, if worn and used properly should help prevent the majority of facial injuries. Once installed it doesn’t leave enough of a gap for the ball to get between it and the bill of the helmet. Thereby, it also protects the eye without impeding the hitter’s vision.
Player Face Guard Testing
Our test player has used it for 2 practices and 4 games with no complaints. It did not obstruct vision or bothered him. It made him atleast a little more confident at the plate. His teammates thought it was cool.
The C-Flap is fairly inexpensive at a cost of about $20 per flap. It is available for both right and left handed hitters. If your player is a switch hitter you could get it for the side he makes the most plate appearances on. Or, install one on 2 different helmets (if that’s an option). Or, possibly, install one on each side of his helmet.
Does it Work?
We can’t guarantee the last option would work but it does seem that both would fit without impeding vision or the ability to put the helmet on their head. The C-Flap also comes in about 10 different colors which should coordinate with most uniform options. We opted for the clear version since the helmet we installed it on is a Carolina blue and our player did not want white and none of the other colors matched up well. On the clear version you can see the pad that is attached to the lower portion of the C-flap but doesn’t look bad at all.
Installating the Baseball Helmet Face Guard
Unless your player has access to a staff of clubhouse attendants like the MLB players, you are probably wondering about installation of the C-Flap. Not to worry, we aren’t exactly experts or handy when it comes to fixing or installing things but this took less than five minutes and only one scraped knuckle.
The C-Flap comes with a handy little template you attach to the helmet with tape (our junk drawer swallowed our tape so we just held it in place by hand while we marked the holes).
Using the template, you:
- Mark 3 spots that you will drill out with a 7/16″ drill bit.
- Before you drill you will have to peel back the liner from the helmet and reattach later with double sided tape or something similar.
- If their is a snap for a chin strap you will most likely have to remove that too, but that proved to be no obstacle for our do-it-yourself prowess (ok, maybe a little, hence the scraped knuckle).
- Once the liner is peeled back and the 3 holes are drilled it’s as simple as placing the brackets on the inside and attaching the flathead screws from the outside.
- Their is also tape installed on the flap to help keep it in place and tight to the helmet.
Is It Worth It?
The whole process of installation honestly went much smoother than we were anticipating. All necessary hardware is included with the C-Flap. The C-Flap fits most brands of helmets including ABC, Adams, All-Star, Rawlings, Schutt, and more. Ours is a Schutt model with a slightly different shaped ear hole. We covered the ear hole a little. But, it still seems to offer the protection needed and not restrict hearing or air flow.
Markwort’s C-Flap is definitely worth the small investment of time and money. The piece of mind of your player and yourself have, and looking like the pros, is plenty worth it.
The backspin tee is a hitting device that hangs a baseball over the plate to reveal the part of the baseball that should be hit. The pro model also puts the ball at an angle like it would if it were being pitched. These are advantages over traditional tees which hold the ball over the plate and, at least some, cover the part of the ball which should be struck.
Contact with the bottom of the ball AND the right swing path create optimally struck balls. This is why the Backspin tee has won awards, gets great reviews and is at the practice fields many MLB and College teams.
See the best traditional batting tees.
Where to buy the Backspin Tee?
As Backspin increases their distribution, the best place we found to buy the device is on Amazon here. You can also check out the Backspin Tee’s website. Looks like pricing is the same in both places. Our experience with smaller vendors is the deals will more likely be found on their site than on Amazon who, of course, takes their cut.
Does the Backspin Tee Really Work?
Generally, we think the question does the backspin tee really work likely misunderstands the point of the backspin tee. You can hit a ball off a traditional tee with the same angle and spin that you could with a backspin tee.
But, the point of the backspin tee is to present the ball more replicable of a real pitch that requires a successful swing plane. The backspin tee suspends the ball at the angle of a pitch and exposes the part of the ball that should be hit for success. While traditional tee replicates a perfectly flat pitch (which never happens) and holds on to the ball about right where contact should occur.
In that sense, the Backspin Tee works perfectly. It is a revolution for a product that most never dreamed could be improved.
Q&A With Backspin Tee
We spent some time exchanging emails with the folks at Backspin tee. These are the questions we honestly had, and their answers are candid and useful.
Why Does This Work?
The benefit of an upside down tee is probably one that is not common knowledge. A suspended ball in the air being held in any fashion has no benefit over each other. Its what is being covered and where the rubber is placed is where the benefit really shines.
When you a batter hits the top half of the ball on a normal tee, they hit all ball, and hit a ground ball. In a cage, they might think this is a good result. Off our tee, if you hit the top half of the ball (the part of the ball the pitcher wants you to hit) you hit our rubber cone and get immediate negative feedback to change.
On the flip side, if you hit the bottom half of the ball on our tee you hit nothing but the ball with positive feedback. Of course, on a normal tee you might be hitting the rubber on bottom half of the ball hits and then getting a negative feel.
Also, for good hitters consistently hitting the bottom half of the ball you will wear out the rubber possibly quicker on normal tees meaning you will have to financially replace the cones in the future.
Our Lifetime Warranty will never put this as an issue for our customers.
How does the ball stick in the tee?
The ball holds in the cone with surface tension. You simply turn the ball into the rubber cone allowing the rubber to physically squeeze down onto the ball. The only people that have issues with this are the ones trying to push and jam the ball up into the rubber. Its a very simple and easy loading process. Our customers are very pleased with this function.
Baseball or Softball?
We use different size cones for both baseball and softball cones, but they are very easy to transition between when needed.
Backspin Tee Focus
The Back–Spin Tee’s focus is to produce an on plane swing path, and hitting the correct part of the ball with that swing path. When you hit the bottom half of the ball with a good swing plane, you automatically will produce a desired line drive launch angle (yes, that means in the air) and it will result in having the proper amount of backspin. Remember, backspin is a result of where you hit on the ball, not something you can add more or less of on command.
Do tradition tees produce more topspin?
A traditional tee does not produce more topspin because their rubber is under the ball. However, exposing the part of the ball that you don’t want to hit could and has caused hitters trouble when trying to hit what they are aiming at. Ex. “Staying on top of the ball”.
Our Pro Model is infinitely adjustable by the millimeter. It weighs 18lbs, and is very easy to break down into its three parts. It also comes with a Launch Angle Chart, and a laser cut carrying handle.
The Youth/Pre Game Model breaks down into 2 pieces, weighs 10lbs, and is not adjustable. It is set to hold the ball 26″ above the ground.
This tee is designed for any serious ball player that wants to be more perfect in their training. You won’t mis-hit on our tees and enjoy it. You are challenged to swing fast, and precise. Having said that we have tee sales from ages of 7 year olds to the Major Leagues.
Pro or College Teams Usage
There are tees in 29 of the 30 MLB Teams that we are aware of, and hundreds of colleges in both baseball and softball.
Bat Seats, What?
Our Bat Seats are for sale on our website, and our customers love them! Very practical, and user friendly on their bats.
There are a number of fantastic options for great batting tees on the market and we’ve tried most of them. As a consensus, Just Bat Reviews writers and players like the Tanner Tee Heavy as its overall best batting tee. However, the Atec T3 tee also received high marks. We discuss our reasoning below as well as some options for any one looking for the top hitting tees.
(You might also like our article on the best pitching machines)
Best Batting Tees
|1||Tanner Heavy Tee||5/5||$$|
Why You Need a Great Tee
Hitting a baseball… one of the most frustrating, yet rewarding things an athlete can try to do. How can a player best prepare for a piece of leather less than 3 inches in diameter hurtled toward you anywhere from 40mph at the youngest ages to 95mph+ at the elite levels?
How can that athlete make their round boomstick hit that ball and make it move forward into the field of play? Continuous practice, high numbers of repetitions, different scenarios… repeat. Not everyone has access to a pitching machine, let alone the space needed to successfully get in the number of reps needed to be successful at hitting a baseball.
Tee Work is the Answer
The best answer to this situation, and by many, the fundamental piece of developing a “big-time swing”, is tee work – and a lot of it! If a player dedicates themselves to work hard, why should they work to refine their skill with subpar equipment? Today, we look at some of the top batting tees we have tested and one that is new to the game of pro-level equipment.
Expensive Tees vs Rubber Tees?
The Tees we discuss below might be in the eyes of many when comparing to the hard rubber tees you can buy at the many big chain retail stores. But the durability, functionality, and ease of continued use will make the investment well worth it!
If you are serious about tee work then we think, to put it bluntly, the cheaper rubber tees you might purchase at major outlets is a waste of money. They break quickly—especially if you are using it with serious ball players.
If you are even remotely familiar with the game of baseball, you will have heard of the brand Tanner Tees. From little league up to the most elite levels of baseball, Tanner Tees are a staple in every practice facility or hitting cage. Today, we are going to look at the two Tanner Tees that make it to the top of our list.
Tanner Tee – The Original
How can you not look at a baseball tee and see that it has an endorsement from hitting legend Tony Gwynn? The Tanner Tee – The Original is and has been the standard for batting tees for over 25 years. This tee is hand crafted in Sarasota, Florida. The tee is comprised of two parts – the adjustable stem and the weather resistant polymer base. What sets the Tanner tee apart is the hand-rolled FlexTop. The FlexTop is an extremely flexible, yet sturdy rubber role at the top of the stem allows for the bat to pass through the contact point without much interference.
This is a total difference in response you will receive from the typical rigid plastic stem that many major brand tees offer. If you miss-hit the ball or swing lower than intended, the tee will receive the impact and fall over.
This is not the case with the Tanner Tee. It is recommended, however, that you either have something to weight the tee down or purchase a tee weight that is available to ensure the most available reps per hour without having to pick up the tee from bad miss-hits.
Original Tanner Tee Sizing
The Tanner Tee – The Original is available in three sizes: Adjustable 16-23in (Low Ball), Adjustable 20-32 (Youth/Short), and Adjustable 26-43in (Adult/Standard). We recommend the Adult/Standard model for all of those out there looking for a tee unless you are in the early years of youth ball (5yrs to 9yrs). The hitting cage atis a long-time user of the Tanner Tee.
Best Batting Tees
Tanner Tee – Tanner Heavy
The Tanner Heavy tee takes “The Original” by Tanner and adds a 10lb. heavyweight base built in, all other size options are the same. The tee base is designed with three points of contact, which allows for maximum balance, while decreasing the likelihood of tee creep or knock-over from a tee-killing swing.
I have found that this model is really solid as it can sit on a raised home plate and sit perfectly without leaning the tee because half of it is on the plate and the other half is on the ground.
There is little, if any, need to have a tee weight involved in the setup here. It is a great replacement for the Original Tee with a tee weight if you are looking to simplify the mobility of the tee from home to facility to the batting cage. The other great part that I feel this tee brings is that the bottom plate is not a solid square.
The hitter can still see the majority of the white plate below when swinging and not have a blacked out square due to the base of the tee. This would be a great option for tees that mostly stay in one physical location.
Atec T3 Professional Tee
I have recently had exposure to this batting tee and it is very nice and solid. It feels very similar to the Tanner in its stem and base. The Atec T3 Professional Tee is built with industry leading materials to minimize swing interference and maximize positive contact zone. This tee is very portable and easily moved to what ever environment you are trying to use it to improve your hitting skills. This tee includes a high density base which is good for stabilization.
I do recommend, however, the very slick tee weight that slides over and fits on the base to control the tipping effect. I think this is a much nicer accessory to stabilize the tee as opposed the sand bag that is typically used with the Tanner Tee – The Original. If you want to try an alternative to Tanner Tees, this might be the one.
See our full Atec T3 Tee Review
Jugs has been known for a long time in the world of pitching machines. In fact, they are the #1 selling pitching machine company in the world. The Jugs T seems very similar to the Tanner Tee and the Atec Professional T3 above. The tee is adjustable from 24″ to 46″ inches to allow hitters to work on mechanics throughout the strike zone.
The claim of the Jugs T is that with its total weight of 10lbs, there are no extra accessories needed to keep the tee on the ground and not tip over. One nice addition to this tee that the others lack is a built in handle to carry the tee. The Jugs T includes a patented grip-n-go handle on the base for easy transport.
Final Thoughts on the Best Batting Tee
In the end, tee work will make a hitter better. It comes down to how much and what drills you do to take that next step in your skillset. We do recommend, however, that you invest in a piece of equipment that will stand the test of time and make the sessions as effective as possible. The tees listed above start around $80 and move up to $115. Professional level tees provide a professional level experience for the hitter. Why give your hitter a sub-par piece of equipment?
Out of pure delight, we got access to two real and professionally made college baseball spray charts.
Think you know baseball strategy? Here is your chance.
Would you shift for the first, second, both or neither? (Leave a comment below).
The answer, by the way, isn’t the same for everyone or every situation.
Clearly, #1 hitter above tends to pull the ball more to his strong side. Only 8% of the time he will put the ball on the ground to the third basemen (add together the 1%, 4% and 3% to the right of short stop). Notice, too, he hits the ball in the gap between 1st and 2nd 11% of the time. Meaning, if we move the 3rd basemen to the 1st/2nd gap we lose 8% of the time on the ground to the right of the SS but win 11% of the time by covering the entire gap on the strong side.
That 3% bump might not win you the game today, but what about a 1 out of 3 games? Or, what about 1 out of 20? And how many more games did you say we needed to make the CWS regionals?
That’s up to you, coach.
#2 hitter (this is Nick Madrigal’s actual scouting report from 6-4-3 charts) is much more balanced. He’s right handed, but still keeps the 2nd baseman busy enough that moving him around doesn’t look too useful.
But, for crying out loud, can you tell the right fielder to wake up for a minute. This righty elevates the ball to the opposite field more than anywhere else. And, to boot, he struck out all of 7 times his entire senior year. No surprise he was picked up #4th in the draft. (And didn’t strike out in the pros until his 72nd at bat).
Imagine dealing with these questions day in and day out over thousands of pitches and plate appearances and dozens of opponents.
Who would have time to put together spray charts on every hitter?
The answer, of course, is 6-4-3 Charts.
“The difference is that it would take me 8-10 hours, whereas it takes our software less than 10 seconds to generate full-season hitting and pitching reports for an entire roster!” ~Derek Weldon
We took some time with the folks at 6-4-3 charts Rick Ahlf (RA), Tim Kuhn (TK), Derek Weldon (DW) to find out what makes their college baseball spray charts click.
How To Scout
Bat Digest: Let’s say I’m coaching a team that’s trying to win against a guy like Nick Madrigal (Oregon State Beavers NCAA Champs and 4th pick to the White Sox in 2018). What type of insight would a 6–4–3 chart give me to a guy who virtually never strikes out? How can I use this as an advantage?
DW: His basic stat line with his K and BB numbers tell you (and our analytics will confirm) that he’s a disciplined hitter, he’s not going to chase, and he will put good swings on mistakes.
He was one of the best hitters in the nation and the 4th overall pick, so he’s clearly going to be a tough out. Our charts will provide insight into where he hits the baseball with different matchups, situations, counts and more so you can better defend the baseball when he puts it in play.
Additionally, for being such a great contact guy, some would expect him to see a lot of pitches and work the count. But, our charts show he’s a 31% 1st pitch swing guy, which indicates that he’s going to be aggressive when he sees a ball he likes early.
Also, our charts show that he sees an average of 3.16 pitches per plate appearance, which is relatively low. This indicates he’s going to get his ball, put a good swing on it and put it in play.
RA: Madrigal had one of the lowest S/M% in the country (4%) for the 2018 season and the lowest in the CWS for players with at least 150 PA (the only other player under 10% being teammate Stephen Kwan). Looking at his chart, no doubt that’s going to be one of the first of our advanced analytics to jump off the page for a coach.
Elite Team Tendencies
Bat Digest: In the terms of the 2018 CWS teams, do your charts help observe any tendencies the teams that made it to Omaha (Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Texas Tech) did more often than those who did not? Or, besides “score more runs than their opponents,” what do elite Division 1 college teams do better than others?
DW: We actually just published a few interesting graphics to our Twitter account (@643charts) showing the correlation between some of our analytics and winning percentage for D1 Baseball in 2018.
There are some very strong correlations between BABIP against, WHIP, wOBA (weighted on base average), and QAB (quality at-bat) versus winning percentage.
Small Ball Tendencies
Bat Digest: At what count, runner situation and outs are teams most likely to bunt?
DW: We provide “short game” data to our clients. This includes bunt data, stolen base data and a few other statistics to understand how a player’s speed might influence a game. From a bunt standpoint, we can look at the two teams that played in the National Championship game as examples. Oregon State bunted 111 times on the year, including 28 bunt hits and 9 safety or suicide squeeze attempts.
On the other side, Arkansas only bunted 42 times with 13 bunt hits and 5 safety or suicide squeeze attempts. Clearly, these two programs from opposite sides of the country play a different brand of baseball from one another, and our reports highlight specific situational tendencies to prepare our clients for the potential situational baseball they will see versus a given opponent.
Who Uses 6-4-3 Charts?
Bat Digest: Who is the ideal client for the 6–4–3 Charts? Who uses it currently? How many College Teams use this? Do any Pro Teams use your service? Why not?
TK: In 2018, our inaugural season, we only targeted D1 Baseball programs and we were able to serve 76 D1 programs, or roughly 25% of D1 teams. These 76 teams represented 28 conferences and the whole gamut – from traditional powerhouses to developing programs. Ten of our clients won conference championships, 16 reached an NCAA Regional, 6 reached the Super Regionals, and 3 made it to Omaha.
We are excited to announce that we will be expanding our service in 2019 to D2 and D3 baseball, as well as D1 softball. There are no MLB organizations using our service at this time, but it’s something we hope to explore in the future.
Bat Digest: Does your reporting give any suggestions on how to defend against certain tendencies? Or is it simply just the data and you leave it up to the coach to decide how to defend?
DW: We provide the data and then let the coaches make decisions. When asked specific questions about how I might use some of our data, I will provide my opinion. But our main goal is to provide 100% objective information to help coaches make the most informed and sound decisions possible.
We could put the same hitters chart in front of 3 different coaches and each coach may elect to align their defense differently based on a variety of factors including the pitcher, the caliber of their defenders, the playing field, etc.
It’s interesting. I have had some fascinating conversations with some of the best coaches and baseball minds in the game where they are explaining to me how they are using our reports.
The way these guys see the game is incredible. The inferences they are able to make from our charts and analytics are truly fascinating. These guys see the game through a different lens than most, which is why they are where they are in their careers.
When Should a Defense Shift?
Bat Digest: As a former Division 1 coach, at what point does it make sense to shift?
DW: Every program is going to have a different opinion and go about positioning defenders differently. Some are more aggressive and not afraid to be a little unorthodox. Others believe this game has been played for over 150 years and defenders have given areas on the field for a reason.
When I was at Tennessee Tech, Coach Bragga didn’t want us to move our guys too much, so we “shaded” instead of “shifting”. It kept guys in position, but tilted the defenders toward the side of the field most likely to see action. It was a very sound philosophy that kept us from getting burned with extreme shifts.
However, sometimes it is inevitable to shift. I used to manually dig through as much information as I could and pull together a lot of the information we are providing at 6–4–3 Charts.
The difference is that it would take me 8-10 hours, whereas it takes our software less than 10 seconds to generate full-season hitting and pitching reports for an entire roster! There were times that we had to shift. For example, if I have 50 games worth of spray charts and a right-hand hitter has only hit one ball on the ground to the right side of 2B off of righties, then we have to shift very aggressively there. The data just supports it too much to ignore.
Another important thing to consider is the pitcher on the mound. A lot of our clients lean heavily on their own players pitching reports to see where opponents are putting the ball in play versus a given pitcher and position their defense according to that.
Has the Shift Ruined Baseball?
Bat Digest: As a former Division 1 coach and lover of baseball, do you hate the shift?
DW: I love it! I really enjoy watching the chess match that occurs within a baseball game between opposing coaching staffs. Defensive shifts, situational baseball, and matchups out of the bullpen or off the bench are the parts of the game I’m personally dialed in on.
It’s fascinating, spectators see the shift and think it’s only about the hitter’s tendency. But these guys make the decisions on defensive alignment at a much deeper level. They are considering L/R split data, count data, situational data, as well as their own pitchers, defenders and a whole suite of different things.
It’s really exciting at 6–4–3 Charts to be a part of that process and to be able to lessen the burden on coaches and programs by providing this mountain of data for them, saving them valuable time to recruit the best players they can and spend more time coaching their own guys.
Other Adjustments Made
Bat Digest: The shift is the most obvious defensive adjustment made based on spray charts, but what other adjustments do your clients make based on your reports with the growing prevalence of sabermetrics?
DW: We strive to be far more than just a spray chart company. There’s no doubt the 16 zone spray chart that we pioneered and the various advanced spray charts we offer is the core of our product. But we provide a ton of information on matchups and situational tendencies, in addition to providing a massive amount of stats and analytics.
We believe the value is twofold: it obviously is going to help you prepare for opponents from a scouting standpoint, but it’s also going to help you coach your own guys better. The ability to look at hard data on your own guys, bring them in and say, “Look at the numbers, you need to make some adjustments to give you and us a better chance to succeed” is invaluable.
As I mentioned earlier, all of our clients use our data differently from a strategic standpoint.
In a conversation with one Sunbelt client whose name I’ll leave anonymous, was describing how much they feel like they have to lean on the data, because they were a little behind in talent and pure athleticism. He described how they felt like they had to “roll the dice” to have the ability to compete and win.
The coach I was speaking with felt like they were overachieving, in part because of many strategic successes with shifts, matchups and other strategies based on the information we provided in our reports.
College Fastpitch Spray Charts
Bat Digest: Fastpitch reports? Do you make them? The Olympics are adding fastpitch in 2020, how about we work together to make spray charts based on the bat being used? (Ever seen our https://www.justbatreviews.
RA: Yes we do, for the 2019 season we are expanding our service to Division 1 Softball. We have already had conversations with Division 1 softball coaches from across the country and have worked to ensure we are delivering the best product we can. The reception has been extremely positive and we are excited to arm softball teams with a new competitive advantage this year.
TK: In terms of bat-specific spray charts, no doubt we could put together the data and analytics for bat-specific performance. If we know which bat certain programs are using, our software is already architected in a way to produce that data with quick turnaround times.
A 6-4-3 Scouting Report
Bat Digest: You folks measure a lot of things, but do you measure how much more successful a team is when they have great scouting reports? In other words, are these things ultimately useful in the W/L column? And, if so, by how much?
RA: That’s a great question, and one we have thought a lot about here in the off-season. When it comes to the college level, you obviously have a much higher rate of player turnover, so your level of talent is always churning.
You might have a program go 35-20 one season, then turn around and go 20-35. We know we are only a small piece in the puzzle, but regardless of if you have a team with the raw talent and athleticism to get you to a 40-win season or only a 20-win season, we aim for our service to provide you that competitive advantage that’s going to tally a few more in the win column. And we aim to do that by equipping our clients with the relevant data behind player performance.
As a scouting service, I always like to say that our ideal combined winning percentage for our clients is .500, because that means every team is using 6–4–3 across the board.
Data In, Data Out
Bat Digest: Where do you get the data to put in and how do the calculations all work?
RA: This is a question we get all the time from coaches. At a high level, our database is compiled from resources spanning over 1,250 sites, with a back-end optimization software that makes sure we leverage the highest quality data available for every game that’s played. Every statistic you find in a 6–4–3 report is generated within our software. In other words, not a single statistic is pulled from a team stat page.
We are proud to have taken this approach, since it ensures that all of the data in front of you comes from the same comprehensive data set – one that’s not pieced together from a team stat page and simply supplemented with a few extra calculations. In terms of the accuracy of our data, doing a side-by-side comparison between our data and team stat pages, our statistics and associated sabermetrics agree to >99% accuracy.
Exclusively serving Division 1 baseball for the 2018 season, our database included 100% of games played across the country – not a single missing game.
To highlight the capabilities of our software package, we are able to run full-season comprehensive hitting and pitching reports for an entire roster in under 10 seconds as Derek mentioned earlier.
This corresponds to a data set of over 500,000 data points per team and nearly 150 million data points for D1 Baseball in 2018. For the 2019 season, in scaling our business to include D1/D2/D3 baseball and D1 softball, this amounts to running approximately 625 million data points per week.
Bat Digest: Throughout the off-season, have you made any modifications or improvements to your scouting reports?
DW: Reflecting now on our first year, we are incredibly proud of the product we put together. We released an end-of-season survey and received great feedback and suggestions from coaches across the country. We just finished revisions of our new chart design that builds off of last year’s design, and adds a ton more information in terms of advanced spray charts and advanced metrics that coaches are going to love. Rick spent the off-season working on computational improvements to our software, and he’s added so much more functionality. I’m confident now that we can provide virtually anything that a coach would want to see in the way they want to see it.
Varo baseball released a new bat grip and it is something we’ve never seen before. It’s like a combination between a Lizard Skin or Vulcan and old fashioned bat tape. It’s made of silicone and therefore stretchy and water resistant. Most unique, the wrap is not sticky. As you wrap it around your bat it doesn’t actually stick to the bat, or your fingers, but to the wrap. It works surprisingly well. A feature we wish were on every bat wrap.
Where to buy the Varo Silicone Bat Wrap
In time, expect the Silicone Varo bat wrap to be available at most major retailers, online and off. Look to their website for all the options. We like to check Amazon for when listings pop up which they undoubtedly will.
3 Things to Note about the Varo Silicone Bat Wrap
- The wrap is made to use on multiple bats. It’s price makes it quite cheap considering each roll could be used on up to 4 different bats.
- If using it for Youth, consider double wrapping the bat to create more thickness and padding.
- It sticks to itself and not the bat. So, when you want to change grips you’ll find it noticeably pleasant when compared to other warps.
VARO Silicone Wrap Thickness
You can control the thickness of the wrap by pulling it. It claims to stretch up to 3x the original size.
Without any stretching the wrap would be considered thin by most Little League and BBCOR players. There is very little padding like a traditional 1.1 or 1.8mm Lizard Skin. (Most Little League/BBCOR bats come with a standard 1.1mm grip thickness).
VARO doesn’t give a measurement on this one, but we’d guess it close to the 0.8mm range (which is the lowest range of the Lizard Skin/Vulcan grips lie.
VARO Silicone Wrap Recomendations
Like any wrap, the point of it is pretty straight forward. It improves grip, helps remove string and looks cool. We’d say on all accounts the Varo silicone bat wrap does just that.
Little League: We’d guess most little league players will find the grip very cool to look at, appreciate the tackiness, but wish it was more padded.
High School: For players that want a very wood like grip on their bats then the VARO silicone grip will do just that. Expect a thin feel but a real great look and a smooth finish.
Wood Bat: We think the Varo Silicone bat grip will thrive in the wood bat market. It serves the purpose of a great look and real tack. We don’t think the thinness will effect most wood bat players at all.
After trying a number of sunglasses made specifically for baseball we like Marucci’s MV108 performance set the best. Others are quite good too, and there is ultimatley little difference. But, Marucci’s were light, ultra comfortable and didn’t get in the way of anything we did—even bat. The budget conscience buyer will like the Ewin EO1 cycling glasses for less than $20.
Best Baseball Sunglasses
|3||Under Armor||Men’s Igniter||4.5/5||$$|
|4||Under Armor||Kids UA Menance||5/5||$$$|
Best Place to Buy
Marucci’s sunglasses are in stock on their website and we price check there before anywhere else. Of course, we always check Amazon. Under Armour products price out really well there and so does the Ewin E01 polorized baseball set.
Here’s what you’ll like about the MV108:
- They are light.
- Look Fantastic
- Multiple Color Options
- Feel Comfortable
- Made by Marucci
Other Sources for Best Baseball Sunglasses
In terms of real reviews and insight, we often check out pro baseball insider’s write up on things. This is, like us, a real baseball player that has real experience with the gear. Not, like oh so many these days, Amazon link farms with nothing but best selling lists. There is more insight to the right type of baseball sunglasses on Pro Baseball Insider then you could ever want to know.
Our other major source was our own experience. We don’t play pro ball like the folks at PBI, but we do play a lot of Highschool, Little League and comp/Travel ball. That experience, and direct feedback from several players, gives us our insight into the best sunglasses.
Let’s put this simply. Since buying baseball and softball gadgetry during the last 10 years NOTHING has been more useful, fun and worth it than our Pocket Radar Ball Radar. There, we said it.
And after 2 years of use…
The Pocket Radar Ball Coach on our hip and the Stalker Sports 2 gun has filled nearly every need we had. We even SOLD our Stalker Gun.
Radar Gun Recommendations
For the majority of coaches, parents and players, this little gadget will serve their need for a radar gun. It consistently makes our baseball gift guide for a reason.
Here’s a video where we say the word “UM” over 300 times!
Where to Buy the Pocket Radar
We got ours on Amazon. Of course you can check Pocket Radar website too. But, for the most part, the prices were the same. And our Prime shipping and familiarity with the retail giant made us go that way.
You might also like to see where we got our favorite pitching machine.
|Pocket Radar|| |
Stalker Sports Gun
|Distance||<100 feet||200+ feet|
3 Pocket Radar Ball Coach Pros
There are at least three features we appreciate from the Ball Coach Pocket Radar Gun.
Weight & Size Is Ideal
If you’ve lugged around something like the Stalker Sports radar gun, the size of the Pocket Radar is fantastic. It fits easily into the belt holster case included with the device. The radar weighs only a few ounces. It is so light, in fact, we wondered if it would work at all. It can easily be carried to and from any sports park in the country without much notice.
This is the complete opposite experience of dealing with any standard sized radar gun.
Accuracy is Spot On
It’s accurate. When you stand directly in line with the ball flight it works just like the Stalker 2 we have.
This means, if you have access directly behind the net or back stop, then you’ll get accurate readings. Expect to be at least as accurate as the Stalker Sports 2 Gun.
You can also get accurate readings by standing behind the thrower. We found these readings to be accurate up to at least 100 feet behind the ball flight.
Long Lasting Batteries
We have had the same set of batteries inside our Pocket Radar for over a year. We keep thinking it is going to need some soon, but it never does.
The Pocket Radar uses two double A Batteries. The Stalker Sports 2 Gun uses 6 AA batteries that need replacing every few weeks (and sometimes sooner with heavy use).
Stalker Sports Gun Comparison
We have owned a Stalker Sports 2 gun for nearly three years now and no longer take it to many practices and games simply because it is so bulky to carry around. As a coach and parent whose hands are always full to and from the field, the Pocket Radar is the perfect size. It seriously fits in your pocket or with the case, clips on to your pants easily.
Pocket Radar Ball Coach Cons
During our robust testing, there were four deficiencies in the Pocket Radar. Some of which could be deal breakers, though probably not for the average buyer looking at the device.
It Does Not Work at Angles
The Pocket Radar, unlike the Stalker Sports 2 Gun we used, does not work at angles. If your location is more than a few feet to the left or right of the direct ball path then it’s likely you’ll get lower speed readings. Mind you, you’ll still get reading, just lower readings than what is actually happening.
Other more robust radar guns can be used at angles, but you must set your given angle to the ball flight in the settings.
If, for example, you are sitting in the dugout at a 15 degree angle on the line between the mound and plate, then the Stalker Sports gun could give you accurate absolute numbers as to the speed by simply changing the settings. If all you have is a Pocket Radar, then your readings will be lower than what is actually happening in absolute terms. However, it should be noted, in relative terms the Pocket Radar is accurate by way of comparison to other pitches from that same angle—but you can expect your number to be less than the absolute, or actual, speed. In other words, the claim the Pocket Radar is useless at angles isn’t accurate. It may not be able to give you an exact speed, but it can tell you if a pitcher has lost steam or how his speed compares to the next guy.
Long Distances Don’t Work
Second, the Pocket Radar doesn’t work at considerable distances. The Stalker Sports gun is rated up to a few hundred feet—which may be helpful if you’re in the stands or are scouting a player from distance. With our Stalker Sports gun we’ve even received some readings from dead center outfield over a pitcher’s shoulder to home plate. Any attempt with the Pocket Radar at these distances wouldn’t work at all as it isn’t rated to go much more than 100 feet from the ball path.
VERY short Distances it struggles too
The Pocket Radar struggled to pick up speeds at very short distances. We tested batted ball speeds off of a tee and into a net. We stood both behind the tee and behind the net. The Pocket Radar, in the couple of feet the ball traveled, struggled to give consistent readings on ball exit speed.
The Stalker Sports 2, on the other hand, picked it up with a pretty good amount of accuracy—although it wasn’t perfect either.
The Stalker Sports 2, as well as other classic styled radar guns, come with ports to output speed to a display. You cannot use the Pocket Radar for this purpose as there would be no way to port the data.
Pocket Radar Recommendations
Simply put, if you are a scout or a coach who needs to track speeds at considerable distances under a number of different circumstances (hitting, pitching, base running, etc.) then the Pocket Radar will NOT be for you. Radar guns like the Stalker Sports or Juggs Gun may be for you. Those guns are robust with several options and accuracy you can count on.
If, on the other hand, you are a coach, player or parent who has access to an angle in the direct path of the ball during a game or practice—within about 100 feet—then the Pocket Radar is a no brainier. It’s less expensive and less bulky. It will be a useful for you not only because you’ll be in a position to record speeds, but also because you won’t leave it in the truck deciding it’s too cumbersome to deal with.
For the right person, the Pocket Radar will be the best toy they ever bought.
Let us guess, you were watching a game on TV and you noticed an MLB batter’s thumb ring.
Wait, you asked, is there such a thing as a baseball thumb guard?
Specifically, its a Pro Hitter’s Baseball Thumb Guard used for baseball batters. It’s purpose is to fill the gap between the oval shape of a cupped hand and the perfect cylinder of most wood bats. Hitters, and the company, claim it helps dampen sting on poorly hit balls and increase the girth of the bottom hand grip for a better overall feel. Last we counted, at least 40% of MLB players use one at least occasionally.
The short answser, this:
Pro Hitter Thumb Guard
Baseball Thumb Guard
A few Google keystrokes later and, baaam, here you are. Short answer: it is a Pro Hitters training aid. It sits between the palm of the top hand and the bat. This device increases the contact with the bat. Many feel the ProHitter gives them more control, better comfort on mishits, and increases their palms contact.
The idea behind the ProHitter thumb guard is to remove the seperation between the hand and barrel knob. This volume filler allows for more consistent pressure on the knob which, in turn, allows for a stronger and more controlled grip. Hard to measure exactly how many use it in the MLB, but no less than 40% of players use it consistently and, likely, well over 70% have tried it.
This Prohitter’s batting training aid made our best gifts for baseball players list too.
Pro Hitter’s Thumb Guard Baseball Guide Gallery
How It Works
First, the Prohitters Batter Training Aid forces the handle of the bat towards the fingers. The volume of the little plastic piece forces the bat handle out of the palm of the hand and, during the swing, keeps the grip where it needs to be.
Second, the Prohitter helps reduce hand sting by taking some of the brunt of the vibration away from the top hand and into the plastic piece. Hitters who suffer from bone and palm bruising will find this a must.
Turns out, as you notice, several MLB players use the little gadget. Pro Hitter claims that more than 50% of big leaguers use it consistently. And based on the number of times we notice it on the hands of players we don’t disagree.
Bat Digest Thumb Grip
We at justbatreviews found the little piece to be very helpful—especially for younger players who tend to overgrip the bat and hold it too deep in their palms. The little gadget was simple to use and relatively inexpensive. They even make some youth versions of the Prohitter which might end up a really good baseball stocking stuffer.
Prohitter doesn’t release any data as to whether the device actually does improve bat grip or bat speed. However, they do claim, correctly, that well over 50% of Major League ball players take the time and effort to have it on their top hand thumb at every at bat—and in our mind that is as telling as any data points they could provide. Next time you watch a game, see how many Prohitters you can spot – we suspect you’ll be shocked how many you find.
We took some hacks with the Swingrail, had a few hitters try it out and read every online review we could find about the device. Generally, we think it an above average tool when compared to the number of swing gadgets on the market today. It helps players feel what “keeping their hands inside the ball” means. This, in turn, creates a quick to the ball approach on a good swing plane.
You might also like our baseball bat cross necklace guide.
If your hitting coach has told you that you “cast” the bat or your swing is “too long” then the Swingrail will likely be useful. (Assuming, of course, your hitting coach knows what they are talking about). The idea is the Swingrail is used during tee work or soft toss to create the right muscle memory. Improving your upper body mechanics to the shortest path to the ball is useful for any player (softball or baseball) at any level of the sport.
However, the Swingrail is far from a full hitting solution. And, the idea of getting your hands inside the ball or getting an optimal swing path is not new. The principle can be taught and drilled a hundred different ways. (See this YouTube search for some inside drills and this one for some bat path drills).
Does that make it worth the $29.99? Hard to make that decision for someone else’s money. But, our general feel is that anything that can get dad and son excited about getting in work is worth considering.
Among the Swingrail reviews, the biggest complaint about the device was how hard some younger players found it. If you don’t really drive the knob to the ball then you’ll struggle to make it work. The bat will not come off the rail. Younger players, say under 8 or 9, might find serious frustration in getting it to work. But, in some sense, that is the point. Make it work.
Before and After Swingrail
Our experiment was to take a novice hitter and establish baseline of his contact percentage and ball distance. We measured how many times he hit the ball and how far (using our Rapsodo) both before and after his first swingrail session.
In short, our results were inconclusive. However, we do believe his bat path looked better. Maybe most importantly, the hitter finally felt what it was like to get his hands in front of him. Or, as others say, get “inside” the ball. We are hopeful that, in time, the results will show from a better bat path and optimal contact points.
Here is a video of a pre and post Swingrail session.
Where to Buy
Staying Inside the Baseball
Any player, softball or baseball, could use the Swingrail. In particular, those who struggle to get “inside” baseball.
Getting inside the baseball is a misunderstood by a lot of folks. The phrase getting “inside” doesn’t mean very much by itself. Ultimlatlye, the idea is that our hands throw the knob of the bat towards the ball to create the pivot point of the bat out in front of us, towards the ball. This creates a quick to the ball bat path, maximum bat speed and a good bat swing path.
This video does a decent job explaining what getting inside the ball means.
Here are a few vidoes we found helpful in our research of the Swingrail. The principles of getting our hands “inside” the ball and attacking the ball in front of you are emphasized.
We took 4 popular athletic cups and tested them for protection, value and comfort. We filled the cups with grapes (from Costco) and shot balls from our pitching machine at 55mph from 5 feet away. We then measured which cup kept the most grapes undamaged. We found the inexpensive McDavid cup to do the best in terms of keeping the most grapes unbroken. However, that determination has little to do with cup comfort, which might be a bigger factor.
Based on Amazon reviews and our experience, the Diamond MMA feels the best while wearing it. The Nutty Buddy gets high marks too when it comes to comfort. But, in terms of overall protection we give the award to the McDavid cup.
Best Athletic Cups
|Diamond MMA||Multi Sport||$$$||34%|
|Nutty Buddy||Best Fit||$$$||N/A|
|Shock Doctor||Name Brand||$$||28%|
|Comfy Cup||Learner Cup||$$||12%|
Cup Check Video
Best Overall Athletic Cup: McDavid
This is a no frills protective cup. After all, what is you want in a plastic shell that covers the crown jewels? Bells? Whistles?
McDavid is a company that focuses on low cost protective items. You’ll find things like knee pads and knee wraps for construction workers. The protective cup fits right in their wheelhouse.
It runs larger than the other cups we tested in the class—it held 30 grapes while the others held only 25.
But, in terms of protection it worked great—the best of the bunch. And, get this, the cup is less than 10 bucks. Hard to go wrong here.
Best Fit Cup: Nutty Buddy Cup
The Nutty Buddy Cup is built with the idea of comfort. No other cup we researched gets near to the number of great ratings and recommendations this cup does. It is built specifically for no pinch points. Anyone who has dealt with a cup that doesn’t fit right can sympathize.
Many MLB guys, according to the Nutty Buddy website, use a Nutty Buddy cup. And, if you are having trouble finding an athletic cup that fits right then the Nutty Buddy is an easy choice—despite it having a higher price point than most on here.
Best Multi-Sport Athletic Cup: Diamond MMA
If you are fighting MMA this may very well be the cup for you. Even a better deal than the McDavid cup above. But, if you are just playing baseball we aren’t sure the highly rated support jock is right for everyone. It will, however, make you feel confident in the locker room, lets say.
The cup fits well–is likely the best fitting cup on this list aside from the Nutty Buddy. It also looks professional. Clearly, it was designed with an MMA fighter in mind. And it will work just great for baseball.
We didn’t find it to have any better protection in terms of a dead on hit. It protected 34% of the grapes in our test. Which was a solid second place but well behind the much less expensive McDavid.
We’d recommend the cup for multi sport athletes that would like a good looking protective cup.
Another Option: Shock Doctor Cup
The Shock Doctor flex cup doesn’t feel much different than the McDavid cup. It does have a bit of a different profile–and in the large version didn’t hold as many grapes.
The results for the Shock Doctor (in our grape smash test) were the worst of the bunch. It only protected 28% of the grapes.
We were not entirely impressed with the cup but, like we say in the beginning, it is a plastic cup, after all. Shock Doctor has very good distribution and can be found in most athletic stores. At $10 its worth a shot.
Also, where Shock Doctor does succeed is in the breadth of their product offering. Colorways and designs are all over the place.
Best Starter Cup: Comfy Cup
The comfy cup, we warn you, is a soft cup. It is, in effect, a slightly padded cup that does not stand up well to direct and fast hits. However, it would do better than simple briefs. If your player is new to the sport and you’d like to see them use protection we’d suggest the comfy cup.
Note, too, it only holds like 8 grapes. This is a boys cup and nothing more.