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: Adam Eaton to miss rest of the season with a torn ACL

Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s been a miserable weekend for Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton, who stumbled over first base and injured his leg while running out an infield single in Friday’s 4-3 win over the Mets. While the team officially placed the outfielder on the 10-day disabled list with a left knee strain on Saturday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Eaton has been diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2017 season. The team has yet to confirm the diagnosis or announce a definite timetable for the 28-year-old’s return, perhaps due to extended evaluations by Eaton’s orthopedic doctor:

The Nationals appear to have several outfield options with Eaton on the disabled list, though they have not pinned down a long-term solution. Center fielder Michael Taylor replaced Eaton on the field during the tail end of Friday’s game, and returned on Saturday to man center and bat second in the lineup. The club also promoted top outfield prospect Rafael Bautista, who slashed .291/.325/.354 with five doubles and a .680 OPS through 19 games in Triple-A Syracuse this season. He’ll assume Eaton’s roster spot and looks to be available for a backup role in the outfield going forward.

Shelby Miller will undergo Tommy John surgery

Getty Images
1 Comment

Last we heard from Shelby Miller, the Diamondbacks’ right-hander was contemplating Tommy John surgery for a partial UCL tear in his right elbow. Now, he appears to have decided to go through with the procedure.

Miller decided to skip Tommy John alternatives like plasma-rich platelet injections or stem cell treatment, which have been used to varying degrees of success by other major league pitchers with similar injuries. The surgery will set him back an estimated 12-18 months, FanRag Sports’ Tommy Stokke reports, which puts Miller’s estimated return date somewhere in 2018 if all goes well.

The 26-year-old starter was off to a rocky start this season, posting a 2-2 record and 4.09 ERA through 22 innings and striking out just 20 of 99 batters faced. This was his sophomore campaign in Arizona after muddling through the 2016 season with a 3-12 record, 6.15 ERA and 0.5 fWAR over 101 innings with the club.