February 5, 2015
By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
© 2015 Collegiate Baseball
CORONADO, Calif. — Have you ever wondered why trained, military snipers can hit their target with precision one mile away but pitchers fail over and over again at hitting their mark from 60 feet 6 inches?
I recently saw the blockbuster movie American Sniper, and it really hit home about the success rate at hitting targets from these two disciplines.
According to Kenny Kendrena of Inside Edge, a company that specializes in precision statistics for professional baseball teams, data from all 2014 Major League Baseball games reveals that pitchers only hit their intended target 24 percent of the time.
The way Inside Edge defines this is either the catcher’s glove didn’t move, or it was within one baseball width from the glove.
“People will think that is a low number, I’m sure,” said Kendrena.
“But if they watch games closely, they will see that it’s very accurate. Pitchers don’t hit their intended spot as often as one would think.”
Keep in mind this success rate of 24 percent is for the elite pitchers in the world.
College and high school pitchers obviously miss at an even lower percentage.
So I did a bit of investigative work to find some answers about why snipers are so successful and what pitching coaches and pitchers can learn from these highly disciplined marksmen.
I ran a search on Google which brought up the U.S. Navy SEAL Sniper Training Program in PDF format.
So I scoured through the 314-page document and found some fascinating gems that will undoubtedly help baseball pitchers.
Beyond this information, I purchased the book American Sniper written by Chris Kyle. And he had some insight into why snipers can concentrate so well even in the harshest weather conditions.
In addition, Dr. Bill Harrison, who has worked on vision training with more professional baseball players than anyone in history, chimes in on how pitchers can gain better command of pitches.
Eye Position Absolutely Crucial
“In order to see what is required during aiming, the shooter must know how to use his eye,” according to the U.S. Navy SEAL Sniper Training Program.
“Variations in the positions of the eye to the telescope will cause variations in the image received by the eye. The placement of the eye in this respect is called eye relief. Proper eye relief is approximately 2-3 inches from the exit pupil of the telescope and can be determined to be correct when the shooter has a full field of view in the telescope with no shadows.
“If the sniper’s eye is located without proper eye relief, a circular shadow will occur in the field of vision, reducing the field size, hindering observation, and, in general, making aiming difficult.
“If the eye is shifted to one side or another of the exit pupil, crescent shaped shadows will appear on the edges of the eyepiece. If these crescent shaped shadows appear, the bullet will strike to the side away from the shadow. Therefore, when the sniper has a full field of view and is focusing on the intersection of the crosshairs, he has aligned his sight.”
Dr. Harrison was asked if any company has ever invented a crosshairs for pitchers to view through that might sharpen their aiming focus.
In the SEAL sniper training program, it is said that having a target quartered with crosshairs maximizes the chance of a hit with the first shot.
“In the early 90s, we worked with the U.S. shooting team,” said Dr. Harrison.
“A lot of them were trap and skeet shooters. I was fascinated then by their approach to marksmanship, and a lot of them had military experience. They were receptive to learning more about vision and what you can do to hit the target with more precision.
“Trap and skeet shooters weren’t interested in hitting 95 out of 100. They felt 98 out of 100 was OK. What they expected was 99 or 100 out of 100. That was their mind set, and they weren’t interested in hitting their target some of the time. I’m sure snipers are exactly the same.
“You must find out if if aiming is precise or if there is any quivering with the eye. I would think that snipers are more precise with their eyeball aiming than a general shooter. And they have to be more precise than a trap or skeet shooter.
“There is another element. If you are precise in aiming at a target, are you thinking about other things, including what your body feels like? Or is your attention 100 percent on what you are doing?
“I know you are absolutely right that a pitcher must be a sniper.”
With sniper training, staying still is of utmost importance. But as a pitcher, your head and body are in constant movement until the pitch is released. And even then, the head and body are moving until the follow through is finished.
More On Sniper Vision For Pitchers
To read more of the in-depth article, CLICK HERE by purchasing the Feb. 6, 2015 edition for this special report. Concepts taught by the U.S. Navy SEAL Sniper Program are explained along with in-depth analysis by Dr. Bill Harrison who has worked with more professional baseball players on their athletic vision than anyone in history.
Keeping the eyes still is vital while steadiness of sniper like focus is also crucial. Dr. Harrison explains that getting target oriented by the pitcher prior to the pitching sequence is essential along with having pinpoint focus on the target at the precise moment of ball release.
Pitchers must make adjustments just like snipers. The necessity of proper breathing for more precision target hitting and why the vagus nerve is crucial in this process is covered along with a section on why trigger control is important. The all-important area of concentration is explained and why demanding mental pressure by instructors is vital to refine those skills, among other areas in this article.