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Is Hitting Actually Contagious?

Aug 29, 2013
In the world of baseball and softball the belief that “Hitting is contagious” is pretty common. It is the belief that once one player gets a hit, it trickles down the line up, and soon enough you have a rally going. But can one hit from one player truly have an effect on the next batter? I found a study entitled, “Hitting is Contagious” and it investigates just that!

Past studies have been completed that insinuate this contagious phenomenon as definitely possibly, but never proven. Research has shown that we as humans experience “action inductions”. The tendency to perform an action related to one that we have just been observed. The best example of this is yawning; when you see someone yawn it’s almost inevitable that you are going to yawn yourself.

The purpose of this particular study was to investigate the multiple aspects of action induction in baseball players of various experience levels. The study was done with a reliable and valid simulation baseball machine. It accurately simulates an actual baseball at bat, except every pitch is thrown in the strike zone of each particular batter. (More details to the study can be found here: Is hitting actually contagious? | One Game, One Love.)

The results of the study show:

More experienced and less experienced players both required fewer pitches to achieve a hit after observing the action stimulus. Which was the stimulus where the batters watch a video of a ball being hit into the field.
More experienced players also showed a significant relationship between stimulus direction and hit direction for both the action and outcome prompts. Meaning that for experienced players, if they watched a ball be hit to left field, or saw a ball laying in left field, they tended to hit the ball to left field.
Less experienced players only showed a significant relationship between hit direction and prompt direction after viewing the action prompt. In other words, for less experienced players the only prompt that dictated the direction of the batters hit was the video prompt. Although, the effect was significantly smaller than the effect on more experienced players.
The effect of the stimulus decreased as delay increased. With experienced players the effect was completely eliminated after 4 pitches, the equivalent to about 80s. For less experienced players the effect was eliminated after 2 pitches, roughly 40s. Meaning: the stimuli’s effect on the direction of the hit was lowered as each pitch was thrown.
This article didn’t discuss too many cautions; however they were worried that players might have seen the direction of the prompt as an instruction on where to hit the ball. They actually recreated this study, only using experienced players and the same prompts, but asked the batters to try and hit the ball over second base every time. Despite the change in direction, the results of this second study were significant and consistent with the results of the first study, so they were able to eliminate this caution.

In conclusion: Hitting IS contagious! The results of the study show that action induction does occur in a baseball setting, and is more significant, and decays slower in experienced players.

I loved this study because it directly relates to my future profession and current job as a softball coach, and past experiences as a player. It’s more knowledge I have for my own personal coaching tool kit, and more knowledge to give to my players. It provides me with more evidence to strategies I already stress as a coach. Like looking to hit the first pitch, and with my new knowledge, especially after a successful at bat! Also calling time out to take a second to breathe when errors are being made, can eliminate the action induction affect and hopefully help my players positively.

On the other hand, there is one concern I have with this study. In the discussion section of the article they mentioned hurrying players between at bats to induce action induction after successful at bats. But in my mind: if you look at a real time baseball game, as an on deck batter. You see the hit, watch the defense field it, throw it in, then you have to walk to the plate, take a sign from the third base coach, and wait for the pitch delivery. That itself usually takes close to 80s, and in the article they stated that the effect of action induction is eliminated after that amount of time. This makes it seem hard to generalize these results to a real life baseball game, which they did in their discussion section.

With that said, I can still definitely utilize this information for teaching techniques, using more video, or demonstrations to promote successful performances. It also provides support to using imagery through out games and practice, which is one of my favorite strategies to use with my players.

Do you think hitting is actually contagious? Did this study affect your opinion at all?
Jun 24, 2013
Yes, hitting is contagious.

12YO DD won a game by walking in 10U, it was really strange. She had one of those 13 swings at bat and no one knew it at the time but the game was over. Best at bat DD has ever had is a walk. :)
Jan 4, 2012
I think so too... I have DD's swing philosophy built on this. I think in our case it would be called "Contact is contagious" Establish that you can foul endlessly, by swinging outside the ball...just consider your still on deck and timing her out... until you get the pitcher up to a full count...then keep workin her until she then gives up...then give it your best shot. Don't let her walk you... every pitch is a suicide squeeze... It can trigger a chain reaction of confidence for the rest of the lineup...if you can get her to 12+ pitches.
Jan 18, 2010
In your face
I know we live in the age of "studies", but I believe anyone who spends a decent amount of time around the game can conclude hitting comes in waves.........aka contagious. What also seems to be contagious is errors. How many of us have played or seen teams go inning after inning errorless, and then 2-3-4 errors in a row? That's a study I'd like to read about too.


Ex "Expert"
Feb 25, 2009
GD nice post.

Yes, hitting is contagious. IMO, there are two parts to that equation. The hitters get a renewed sense that the pitcher is highly hittable and the pitcher starts to question their "stuff' and so often reverts to the FB instead of throwing their game including the change. IMO, the change is the great equalizer in hitting and when a pitcher stops throwing that, the other side's hitters unload.
Aug 29, 2013
I know we live in the age of "studies", but I believe anyone who spends a decent amount of time around the game can conclude hitting comes in waves.........aka contagious. What also seems to be contagious is errors. How many of us have played or seen teams go inning after inning errorless, and then 2-3-4 errors in a row? That's a study I'd like to read about too.
Action induction would also affect the negative. So the same "contagious" effect would be true for errors.

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