The Cincinnati Bearcats baseball team is in the news today for a revolutionary vision training program they are using to help their offense. It involves a wide range of activities designed to sharpen focus and help players better see the ball.
According to the Associated Press, the Bearcats increased their team batting average by 34 points last season, despite the NCAA switch to aluminum bats engineered to play more like wooden ones. The program helped Cincinnati get significantly better at the plate while hitting was down overall in the Big East.
They say the exercise has become more and more popular and is even practiced in the major leagues. Quoted in the story is none other than Nationals utility guy Steve Lombardozzi.
''I try and get an edge any way I can,'' Lombardozzi told AP. ''I'm big into vision training. To me, it's a no-brainer. The most important thing about hitting is you have to see the ball to hit. Any type of vision training you can do to help you see the ball, the more successful you're going to be.''
The switch-hitting Lombardozzi is currently batting .317 in 33 games this season. At six feet and 195 pounds, the 23-year-old makes his living as a contact hitter and has done well for himself so far.
The article describes the drills Cincinnati uses, some of which involve blinding strobe goggles and other gadgets designed. The goggles are used to blind the player for fractions of a second while they focus on catching balls thrown at them.
Cincinnati reportedly does the program several times a week. They have been contacted by several MLB teams in interest of adopting the practice. With Lombardozzi as a proponent, maybe more Nationals players will catch on.
The Nationals have plenty of questions facing their starting rotation as they enter the 2016 postseason, but they now know exactly what the Dodgers will be rolling out for their NL Division Series.
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts announced the Dodgers' rotation on Tuesday with Clayton Kershaw set for Game 1, Rich Hill for Game 2 and Kenta Maeda for Game 3. Julio Urias is a possibility for Game 4, though Kershaw could always go on short rest.
That's three lefties, with Maeda the only exception. That's also two rookies in Maeda and Urias.
Kershaw getting Game 1 is no surprise, of course. The three-time Cy Young winner and former MVP is the best pitcher in baseball. He's 12-3 with a 1.65 ERA in 20 starts this season and has 168 strikeouts to just 10 walks.
Hill has also been very good with a 2.05 ERA in 19 starts this season. The Dodgers acquired him in a trade with the Athletics on Aug. 1. Hill actually spent part of the 2015 season as part of the Nationals' minor league system.
Maeda has been one of the best rookies this season with a 16-9 record and 3.20 ERA. Urias is not far behind him with a 3.53 ERA through 17 appearances.
The Nationals are likely to pitch Max Scherzer in Game 1 and Tanner Roark in Game 2. Who pitches Game 3 is less clear, though it will be a choice between Joe Ross and Gio Gonzalez. The other could pitch Game 4, unless the Nats decide to start Scherzer again on short rest.
Stephen Strasburg is unlikely to pitch in the series at all, the Nationals revealed on Tuesday. He remains out with a right flexor mass strain.
[Via the Los Angeles Times]
Nationals starter A.J. Cole has been suspended five games and issued an undisclosed fine by Major League Baseball for his role in the benches-clearing altercation between the Nats and Pirates on Sunday in Pittsburgh. The rookie has already decided to appeal the ban.
Cole is in line to pitch for the Nationals on Friday against the Marlins. That start is in jeopardy if the suspension is upheld, or he decides to drop it.
Cole, 24, threw behind Pirates first baseman Jung Ho Kang in the third inning of the Nationals' win over the Pirates. It was after Kang faked a tag at third base on a triple by Bryce Harper, a move that led to Harper jamming his left thumb on the play.
Harper has since missed two games with the injury, but X-rays showed no broken bones. He is expected to return to the Nats soon, possibly on Wednesday.
Cole is 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA this season. He has allowed 12 earned runs in his last 16 2/3 innings pitched. Friday would be his final chance to prove himself before the Nats decide their playoff roster, but he may not get it.
[RELATED: X-ray on Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news]
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