- Very lightweight (won’t even notice it’s there)
- Long battery life
- Easy to use mobile app
- Accurate analytics
The Garmin Impact Bat Swing Sensor is a helpful piece of tech for serious baseball/softball players.
I don’t think it’s a big secret that sports in general are becoming increasingly driven by analytics. There’s a much bigger emphasis on advanced analytics and how athletes take care of their bodies. And it’s not just professional and college athletes we’re talking about – this trend has trickled down to the high school and youth levels as well. Baseball has definitely been on the forefront of this trend – we’ve all either seen, read or heard about the whole Moneyball or sabermetrics strategies that baseball teams employ. This has also translated to players focusing more on the science behind their swings and making adjustments to lift the ball more, generate more power, etc. Garmin, known more for their wearable tech and navigational devices, has taken notice and introduced a device to help baseball and softball players do just that.
The Garmin Impact device is a small sensor that attaches to the end of your bat. It’s super lightweight (weighs only ~1.2 ounces) and is easy to take an on/off. You barely even notice it’s there. Garmin definitely did a nice job designing this sensor. It’s very easy to use – it only has two buttons (one on each side).
Now swing analytics can get very complicated – if you do a google search, you can quickly get lost. You’ll run across fancy terms like mass distribution, collision efficiency, exit velocity and the science behind each of them. Garmin tries to keep the data it provides as simple and helpful as possible. The Impact Bat Sensor focuses on five main data points:
- Bat Speed: This is obviously the big one. Pretty much everyone that’s ever played baseball has heard this term. It measures how fast the bat travels through the hitting zone. Generally, faster bat speed leads to faster batted ball exit speed (or how hard the ball is hit). Generally, professional hitters produce bat speeds between 75-90 mph.
- Hand Speed: Measures how fast you’re able to get the bat into the hitting zone. Faster hands means faster bat speed and more time to react to the pitch. For reference, professional hitters have hand speeds between 32-38 mph.
- Time To Impact: This measures exactly how long from the start of your swing to impact. The shorter this time period is, the better. Faster time to impact means you’ll be able to wait longer on a pitch to determine if it’s a strike or ball and whether it’s inside/outside, high/low, etc. For reference, professional hitters have a time to impact range of .12 – .18 seconds.
- Elevation Angle: Measures the angle of your bat at impact. A negative number indicates the barrel of the bat is lower than the knob, which generally results in a line drive or pop fly. A positive number is more uncommon. This means the barrel of the bat is above the knob, generally resulting in a tomahawk type swing that produces a lot of ground balls.
- Attack Angle: This measures the direction your bat is moving at impact. A positive number means your bat is rising through impact (think upper cut). Negative numbers mean your bat is dropping through impact (think chopping).
So those are the major data points you’ll receive, which is more than enough information for amateur hitters to start making adjustments to their swings. I’m not a professional baseball player or anything but from what I could tell, the sensor worked pretty well. I rarely noticed false positives. You’ll obviously need to make contact for the sensor to register a swing but really the biggest outliers or limitations I noticed were more of a result of myself rather than the sensor itself. For example, I’d swing at a bad pitch above my head or in the dirt and clip the ball and it would register some crazy metrics. Other than that, I didn’t notice any issues.
Further, the accompanying Garmin Impact mobile app provides a lot more insights for players to understand and digest their swings. The pairing process with the sensor is super easy and within the app and you can easily create individual profiles for both players and bats. That’s super nice for coaches who want to track swing data for their entire team. You can create individual profiles for all your players and the bats they use and then easily switch between them as your players rotate taking batting practice. Here’s what else you can do within the mobile app:
- You can see swing count, avg bat speed, top bat speed, top hand speed and a line chart for all your swings. Then from there you can actually dig into each swing to see time to impact, attack angle and elevation angle.
- Garmin also provides coaching tips on swings where the sensor detects something is wrong (i.e. elevation angle too low) and will give you tips on how to correct it. The app even provides a 3D swing reenactment so you can see your swing path.
- Or if you don’t want to see a reenactment, the app also allows you to capture video of each swing so you go back later and actually look at yourself swing.
Overall, I liked the app. It’s nothing fancy – it looks like it’s from 2010 but I wasn’t really expecting anything fancy. It is after all just an app for a bat sensor. Still, it’s intuitive and easy to use. You’ll get the hang of it within a couple minutes. The coaching tips are very basic and not really all that helpful but I don’t think that’s what Garmin was going for. They’re not trying to replace your hitting coach. This device is there to simply provide the data so you and your actual hitting coach can digest the information and make the necessary adjustments (i.e. change your attack angle and hit more line drives).
The price is right in line with most other competitors. Yes, it’s expensive ($150 – See on Amazon) but compared to the cost of bats and gloves and the money amateur players spend on equipment these days, it’s not so outrageous. Also, it’s worth noting that the battery life of the sensor is pretty long at right around 10 hours, which is more than enough for several hitting sessions. Overall, I liked using the sensor. I think it’s helpful for serious baseball players who have access to hitting coaches. Without that, you’ll just have a bunch of data and not know what to do with it.