Visual cortex training: coming to a baseball team near you

10 Comments

This is fun. Some neuroscience researchers at UC Riverside had the UCR Highlanders baseball team take part in an experiment aimed at sharpening the way their visual cortex processes stimuli. Specifically, they looked at patterns on cards called Gabor patches, designed to increase vision and perception. The results were dramatic. From the research abstract, published in Current Biology:

We applied this training program to the University of California Riverside (UCR) Baseball Team and assessed benefits using standard eye-charts and batting statistics. Trained players showed improved vision after training, had decreased strike-outs, and created more runs; and even accounting for maturational gains, these additional runs may have led to an additional four to five team wins. These results demonstrate real world transferable benefits of a vision-training program based on perceptual learning principles.

The study is explained more generally at the L.A. Times.

The big caveat to all of this: the measurement of how much the team improved was based on sabermetric analysis of the team’s performance compared to performance from the previous year, with researchers finding that “the Highlanders’ improvements exceeded what would be expected from simply maturing and playing additional games.” My suspicion is that variation and uncertainty in any projection/prediction of how a baseball team does — especially a college team, which has way less of a body of data behind it than big league teams — is pretty great. Maybe there was marked and significant improvement. But how much is probably extremely wide open given how inexact a science baseball projections represent compared to your average neurological research data.

Still: intriguing. If time with some pattern recognition exercises is truly effective, might time in the batting cage be cut a few minutes each day?

Report: Glen Perkins will retire from baseball

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
1 Comment

According to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, Twins GM Thad Levine told 1390 Granite City Sports that reliever Glen Perkins will retire.

Perkins, 34, has battled shoulder injuries over the last two years, limiting him to a total of 7 2/3 innings between 2016-17. His decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the circumstances. The Twins declined his $6.5 million club option back in October, making him a free agent.

Across parts of 12 seasons, all with the Twins, Perkins compiled a 3.88 ERA with 120 saves and a 504/158 K/BB ratio in 624 1/3 innings. He ranked among baseball’s best closers from 2013-15, racking up 102 of those saves with a 3.08 ERA. The lefty made the American League All-Star team in each of those three seasons.