As a 7x All-Star, 4x Silver-Slugger, and a 3x Gold Glove winner, Paul Goldschmidt has had a storied MLB career, and is arguably on a path to the Hall of Fame. With little to prove to anyone other than himself, nobody could have faulted Goldschmidt for simply staying with what had worked previously, and hoping for the best. But that’s not the player he is, and after a disappointing 2019, albeit one that most players can only hope to achieve, Goldschmidt began to look for a way to improve.
In his quest to find the next tool or training program that could help him, he found WIN Reality. As spring training got underway in 2020, Goldschmidt started testing the VR training tool to see if it could help him in the real world. Almost immediately, he understood what this kind of practice program could offer, and to say he was excited about it would be an understatement.
“I was facing Ryan Helsley, one of our relievers. And he threw a pitch to me in the virtual reality [system] before I faced him, a fastball up and in that ran a little bit like a two seam fastball. A couple pitches later, he threw a fastball down and away, and it cut. I remember going to the ballpark [thinking] ‘Alright, let’s see what happens’, and I faced him, and sure enough, one of his fastballs was up and in and ran a little bit and jammed me, and then my next at-bat he threw one down and away and it cut a little bit. I walked out of the cage and told our hitting coach, ‘that’s amazing, the [VR] is very realistic.’”
Suddenly, Goldschmidt had a tool at his disposal that not only gave him the ability to practice against in-game pitching conditions whenever he wanted, but one that was so realistic, that he could get real data points to reference in actual game at-bats. By utilizing Trackman data, Goldschmidt wasn’t seeing approximations of pitches that Helsely, or Clayton Kershaw, or any other major league pitcher could throw, but rather actual in-game pitches that had been thrown in previous games.
While a tool like this is important year round, WIN Reality became vital to Goldschmidt’s training regimen when the Cardinals were shut down due to an outbreak of Covid-19. Forced to stay in his hotel room for 15 days, Goldschmidt was robbed of the opportunity to face pitching in a real-world game situation, but thanks to WIN Reality, he wasn’t without a substitute.
“WIN VR definitely helped during the 2nd shutdown. Luckily I had it with me while we were stuck in our hotel rooms, and I was able to continue seeing pitches. I used it more than usual the few days before we started up again to continue to train my eyes, work on my timing, and see the flight of the ball.”
In 2020, his batting average, on-base-percentage, and a number of other metrics, have all rebounded from his 2019 season, and in some cases, reached career highs. Beyond the pure offensive output statistics, Goldschmidt’s also made notable changes in his approach at the plate, something that he’s able to practice with WIN Reality that could previously only happen in real-world at-bats. Compared to last season, Goldschmidt cut his chase rate by 21% and his overall swing rate by 13%, all while raising his contact rate within the strike zone by 3.5%. This highlights his increased ability to lay off pitches he doesn’t think he can make quality contact with, and instead focus on the areas of the zone he knows he can control.
Between Goldschmidt’s innate skills as a baseball player, and WIN Reality’s unique ability to recreate game environments, the perennial MVP candidate has a new way to practice the strike zone that didn’t exist just a year ago. Now, he can fine tune his approach at the plate, work on his pitch recognition skills, and improve his swing decision reaction time in a true practice setting, all with the confidence that what he’s doing in virtual reality, directly transfers back to the real world.