There may not be anything more difficult to evaluate in baseball than a swing. No two swings are alike and there is no "textbook" swing, a blueprint all players should follow. There are pretty swings and there are ugly swings, but neither is guaranteed to work or fail.
In an effort to measure and better evaluate swings, engineers at the University of Michigan have been working on a small device -- seen in the video above -- that records reaction time, bat speed, bat control ... all sorts of neat stuff. Samantha Murphy of Mashable spoke to the device's creator:
"We can report the metrics of a swing that are of great interest to players, coaches and recruiters, such as the bat speed at ball impact, the batter's reaction time, whether the swing is level or exhibits any upper cut or chop, the entire path of the batter's hands during the swing, the bat's swing plane and much more," Noel Perkins, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, told Mashable.
"Feeding that information immediately back to the coach and player accelerates training and improvement. It takes the guesswork out of knowing if your swing is improving or not," he added.
Perkins originally designed the device -- which is flat and attaches wireless sensors to the bottom of the bat, on the knob -- for fly fishing. He was unable to get his casting down right and was running out of ideas to improve his technique.
The baseball device is currently in development with Diamond Kinetics, a Pittsburgh-based start-up. Two leading bat companies have sponsored the research and the University of Michigan has partnered with a number of entities to commercialize the product for various sports, including baseball and tennis.
The good news is that the product is cheap -- production estimates are as low as $30 for enabling the hardware. Early prototypes have been tested by two bat companies and they've been in contact with MLB. Given the incorporation of PitchFX and FieldFX in recent years, it's only a matter of time until swing mechanics are measured. Perkins appears to be a pioneer in that field.