Working the Recognition Zone

There is an outstanding example of “working the recognition zone” of the batter on YOU TUBE. Basically, what’s being shown here is the same initial flight path of an incoming ball – over and over again, that looks identical to the batter ---- but at the last minute about ten to fifteen feet in front of the plate it changes its (the ball) complexion totally.

Below is the basic proposition of the dynamics of a pitch. The travel zone is the part where the batter has no real idea of what the pitch is, nor does the batter have confidence in making a quality contact. However, the recognition zone is all together different – here the batter has FIRST the ability to spot the incoming pitch and identify its type, the SECOND the batter has a very confident decision making process that a quality contact with the bat is very plausible.

It’s that SECOND part that we as pitchers fool with, and the better we are at showing the batter one thing that turns out to be something totally different the greater our advantage.

On YOUTUBE – type in Brian Carcerano JV Pitching and watch how this pitcher shows three (3) pitches that look relatively the same – but end up different at the plate. Why did he choose these three (3) pitches? Because the batter had a “at bat” posture that indicated an “area of contact confidence” that was from the shoulders to the chest high. Look at the batting stance and how and where the batter holds the bat!! So, if this batter had confidence with an incoming pitch at that location… it only goes to figure that he would continue that confidence… i.e., mindset, during the swing.

I would strongly suggest studying this video and make it part of your “things to do list” this season.
Coach B.

Here’s the vid Coach Baker is talking about. I’d say his pitches need to come down in the zone a bit, but the vid certainly illustrates Coach Baker’s comments. Good stuff!

Steven’s comment here is a point I somehow omitted when editing my post and “cut” and “pasting” the accompanying pictures. I noticed only after leaving for a moment then coming back are re-reading did I see the dropping of the remainder of the post. (I’ll get the hang of this thing yet!)

As this video shows – the pitcher does keep the ball UP with his delivery. I assume this is because of the pitch selection, his age, talent level and other influences.

This you want to avoid – keeping your pitches up like that, because even a strong 13 year old can light you up. (take ya deep!) Ideally however, keeping a pitch in the zone as Steven mentioned – and still showing the same flight path but with a different “motion”, “locations” and “speed” that the batter can’t seem to get a handle on is what I had intended to show using the video.

However, take note of the fact that if your at an age where this is a typical delivery for you because of a strength issue due to being only 11, 12 or 13 – don’t be too concerned now. You’ll get stronger as time goes on and your flight path will start to be more in the zone like Steven said.

Coach B.

Is this post concerning the same pitch or 2 differnet pitches? Is it fastball change-up related or like slider-slider, fastball-slider?

Good video guys, this show good sequencing IMO. Yes, his curveballs should be down in the zone, but his fastball is in a perfect location. Throwing a fastball up and “out of the zone” (letter high in this case) is a great pitch following a breaking ball. The pitches seem like their coming out of the same plane, which makes it very difficult to hit.

Coach Baker,

I liked the idea behind your diagram, but I’d make the case that the two zones are actually reversed.

A very difficult-to-accept fact has emerged from neurobiology over the past 2 or 3 decades: We live in a visual world that always lags behind physical reality by at least 0.1 seconds. A slightly more conservative, and better, estimate is 0.15 seconds. That is the minimum level of time required for your visual cortex to construct a visual representation of an object in your brain from the signals your brain recieves from your eyes. Although numbers may vary slightly from study-to-study, based on differences in experimental technique, there is essentially no intra-study variation in this number among human subjects. What’s more, specific training at “seeing” a specific thing, like a pitched ball, does not reduce the minimum processing time required by your brain. Training clearly improves the quality of an athlete’s motor response to what he sees, but–again, even the best training does not appear to change the fundamental visual processing time.

In addition to the visual processing time, there is an additonal “decision-making” and “initiate muscular response” process that requires additional time, maybe 50 milliseconds.

A beautifully controlled study of professional and amateur cricket players by a researcher named Peter McLeod showed that the absolute minimum amount of time required to see a ball changing course unexpectedly, and begin a muscular reaction to the observed change, is 0.2 seconds for everybody, regardless of the level of training.

More interesting to me is the visual cortex processing time: If a 90 mph fastball travels 132 feet/sec, and it takes 0.1 sec for the human brain to perceive a 3D image, that means that a 90 mph FB is actually 13 feet ahead of a hitter’s ability to perceive correct position in real time. Since visual consciousness is a continuous data stream, as long as our eyes are open, our brain’s visual reconstructions of fast moving events, like a pitched ball, are always a review of the recent past–in a nutshell, we see fast-moving events late.

So, I would argue (and Adair also appears to have understood this in Physics of Baseball) that the “recognition zone” is from right out of the pitcher’s hand, to about midway to the plate. The rest is travel zone, because the hitter had to have already seen, decided, and begun to react by the midway point. In other words, the rest of the trajectory of the ball is just travel time toward the reacting batter.

It is also interesting that Ted Williams completely denied reports sometimes attributed to him by overzealous folks that he could “see the ball hit the bat”. He could certainly not see this event in real time…no one can.

I think I’ll agree with laflippin because batters can pick up on a pitch by hand position, arm slot, etc and they have to see it asap because they aren’t able to when the ball gets closer.

I agree.

The two zones are reversed.

A major league pitch’s movement starts as late as possible. That means 1/2 to 2/3 of the way to the plate. That way the hitter doesn’t have time to react to the movement of the pitch.

Very impressive analysis. I haven’t read something that prolific in years. And a nice job I might add to the perspective … if we were only talking heat. Pitching and batter confrontations do not live in a singular dimension of only fastballs traveling at 90 plus. Take the curveball for instance. Picking that up out of the pitcher’s hand - arm slot or not is kind of difficult… not impossible mind you, but difficult. A good curve and off-speed requires a totally different mindset then the ones you choose to use as your example. Also, batters do not have a one time experience snapshot in their head. They also base their at bat presence based on …” ahh, I’ve seen this before, in addition to the historical appearances of the guy their facing”. And in that regard, guys that have good stuff on the mound know how to hide the ball before delivery, manage an arm slot discipline that says every pitch is the same pitch, and body language, etc. And before I go any further, we’re not talking little league here. Some pretty technical stuff was just explained so I’m going to follow that mindset.

Ok, now for the reason for the diagram and the depiction of the two zones the way they are – for training purposes… Set up a series of orange road cones or similar markings, from the pitcher’s mound in a direct line …to about five feet in front of home plate. Now, for different pitches ask the batter to say “NOW” when he feels confident about picking up the pitch which support his swinging at it. Then follow up that “NOW” by asking him
in which direction did his recognition and CONFIDENCE grow — from the pitcher’s hand TO the point at which he yelled NOW… or from the spot where he yelled NOW to the ball’s continued flight homeward. Invariable – without fail, your batter will tell you that his greatest recognition and CONFIDENCE was from that spot then TOWARDS him… not in the other direction. Remember, we’re not just talking recognition but we’re also considering confidence in the batter to make a judgment call. I have used this technique for over 32 years and I have yet to get a different answer. However, fair being fair. The next session that I’m coaching… which is in the not too distant future… I’m going to sit down with my guys and …WORD FOR WORD use the dynamic explanation that I read above.

As a side note – Bonds uses a hitting routine during his practice sessions that keeps his eye – hand – recognition skills sharp, by asking the training coach to pitch him from only about twenty feet or a little more. This kind of drill is common among top clubs and a lot of great contact hitters are no strangers to this kind of BP. They know how pitchers can work the release and sometimes push their body (pitchers) behind the ball
as a screening back round … which makes the incoming pitch even more difficult to pickup. (talk about complicating the visual experience – zones or no zone!)

Again, the narration about the relationships of time and space, mental image recognition and the neural process is without question as detailed and explicit as it gets. My compliments.

Coach B.

Perry Husband has a series of ‘web books’ on this very subject at :

They’re a series called “Downright Filthy Pitching”

Tunneling, recognition, ‘effective velocity’, pitch sequencing, ‘pitch spread’, lots more. Great stuff.



re: “…confrontations do not live in a singular dimension of only fastballs traveling at 90 plus.”

—Absolutely agree, Coach Baker. More discussion of this below, off of Chris’s point about hitters’ inability to adjust to late movement.

re: “A major league pitch’s movement starts as late as possible. That means 1/2 to 2/3 of the way to the plate. That way the hitter doesn’t have time to react to the movement of the pitch.”

-----Thanks for adding this comment, Chris. IMO, the most dramatic practical demonstration of the ~0.1 sec visual processing time limitation is found among good knuckleball pitchers. Training can teach hitters to respond correctly to the trajectories of pitches they’ve seen over and over again. However, as Chris points out: The more late movement, the greater the potential judgement error and the harder it is going to be to make a correct adjustment. Elite hitters who can routinely connect solidly with 90+ mph fastballs that follow a smooth trajectory are reacting to a probability that the ball’s initial trajectory will be predictive of its location over the plate.

But, good 70 mph knuckleballs routinely make elite hitters look foolish. What’s more, these pitches also routinely make catchers (who know what’s coming) look foolish. This seeming paradox is nicely explained by the aerodynamic instability of good knucklers–they don’t follow a smooth, predictable trajectory–but even at a modest 70 mph (Little League velocity) these pitches are about 10 feet ahead of human visual processing time. So, any erratic changes in trajectory within the last 10 feet of flight can’t even be perceived in real time, much less be reacted to.

There’s a great demonstration of this in the video from Red Sox-Yankees 2004 ALCS, Game 5. Somehow or other catchers like Doug Mirabelli figure out what “usually” will happen with a specific knuckleballer’s pitches, and that provides guys like him work in MLB as long as guys like Tim Wakefield are pitching. But, the Sox didn’t have Mirabelli to catch Wakefield–they had Jason Varitek, who despite being the better catcher had no clue what Wakefield’s pitches were going to do. Tied game, late innings, Red Sox facing elimination in the series, and Varitek passed something like 5 or 6 pitches over the course of 3 innings. Many more were simply body blocks of pitches that he couldn’t handle. Sheffield struck out and made it to 1B on a passed ball. Excellent neurobiological drama! Red Sox move fast to reacquire Mirabelli from the Padres!