Visual cortex training: coming to a baseball team near you

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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?

Six-year old boy reports the Indians want to give Francisco Lindor a seven-year contract

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The substance of the report is not shocking. Francisco Lindor is one of baseball’s brightest young stars and the Cleveland Indians would, no doubt, wish to lock him up for an extended period of time. The surprising part is the guy who reported that, yes, the Indians are working to get Lindor a seven-year extension.

That guy: six-year-old Brody Chernoff, son of Indians general manager Mike Chernoff. Brody was invited into the team’s broadcast booth during the ninth inning of their game against the Chicago White Sox. Indians announcer Tom Hamilton asked, no doubt jokingly, if his working on anything interesting. Brody:

“He’s trying to get, um, Lindor to play for seven more years,”

Again, not shocking. It would’ve been way worse if Brody had said “Dad’s working on a three-way deal that’ll send Naquin to an NL team in order to affect a three-way trade that’ll land us Verlander without having to deal directly with a divisional rival.” But I imagine Dad still would’ve preferred he not mention that.

Watch:

Braves sign David Hernandez

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Bill Whitehead of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the Braves have signed reliever David Hernandez to a minor league contract on Sunday. He’ll report to spring training as a non-roster invitee.

Hernandez, who turns 32 years old in May, signed a minor league contract with the Giants in February. He requested and was granted his release on Friday when he learned he wasn’t making the team’s 25-man roster to open the season.

Hernandez pitched for the Phillies last year. He compiled a 3.84 ERA with an 80/32 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.