Machine learning and statistical prediction of fastball velocity with biomechanical predictors.
Nicholson KF., Collins GS., Waterman BR., Bullock GS.
In recent years, one of the most important factors for success among baseball pitchers is fastball velocity. The purpose of this study was to (1) to develop statistical and machine learning models of fastball velocity, (2) to identify the strongest predictors of fastball velocity, and (3) to compare the models' prediction performances. Three dimensional biomechanical analyses were performed on high school (n = 165) and college (n = 62) baseball pitchers. A total of 16 kinetic and kinematic predictors from the entire pitching sequence were included in regression and machine learning models. All models were internally validated through ten-fold cross-validation. Model performance was evaluated through root mean square error (RMSE) and calibration with 95% confidence intervals. Gradient boosting machines demonstrated the best prediction performance [RMSE: 0.34; Calibration: 1.00 (95% CI: 0.999, 1.001)], while regression demonstrated the greatest prediction error [RMSE: 2.49; Calibration: 1.00 (95% CI: 0.85, 1.15)]. Maximum elbow extension velocity (relative influence: 19.3%), maximum humeral rotation velocity (9.6%), maximum lead leg ground reaction force resultant (9.1%), trunk forward flexion at release (7.9%), time difference of maximum pelvis rotation velocity and maximum trunk rotation velocity (7.8%) demonstrated the greatest influence on pitch velocity. Gradient boosting machines demonstrated better calibration and reduced RMSE compared to regression. The influence of lead leg ground reaction force resultant and trunk and arm kinematics on pitch velocity demonstrates the interdependent relationship of the entire kinetic chain during the pitching motion. Coaches, players, and performance professionals should focus on the identified metrics when designing pitch velocity improvement programs.