Hitting Performance Lab

Search Menu

Author Archives: Joey Myers

About Joey Myers

I’m a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), the International Youth and Conditioning Association (IYCA), and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). I’m also a HUGE supporter of the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). I’ve spent 11+ years in the corrective fitness industry, and have too many alphabet-soup certifications to bore you with. I also played four years of Division One baseball at Fresno State from 2000-2003. It’s NOT how you study, but what you study that counts. I apply human movement principles (or rules), validated by science, to hitting a baseball and softball.
  1. Justin Turner Walk Off Homerun Swing Analysis

    3 Comments

    The Anatomy Of A Game Winning Justin Turner Walk Off Homerun

    To be honest with you…

    I MISSED watching the Justin Turner walk off homerun LIVE!!

    My excuse…?

    Justin Turner Walk Off Homerun

    Justin Turner walk off homerun photo courtesy: DodgerBlue.com

    For those of you who can remember when your kids were 2-5 years old, you might recall the Disney channel being on almost constantly in your household.

    When I turn on baseball, I get “Why are we watching this…?” from my 5yo.  And not after 30-mins of it being on…no…RIGHT AWAY!

    He could be drawing, watching a kid’s show on his Kindle, or playing with his NERF gun, and he knows when the channel is changed.  It’s like he knows it’s going to happen before it does.  That’s another talk for another day.

    But I digress…

    I did get to see the replay of the game winning dinger via Twitter…

    And, I DO know this, Justin Turner’s walk off homerun was a thing of beauty.

    As many of you know, I get a lot of Fixed Mindset knuckleheads claiming this system doesn’t work at the higher level on the socials…in baseball and softball circles.

    I blame the lenses they look at hitting through, which – let me tell you – are far less effective than picking up a bar fly with “beer goggles”.

    Seriously though, here’s some context to put the dinger in perspective, before getting to the info in the video above…

    In this Justin Turn walk off homerun swing analysis, we’ll go over…

     

    What’s he IS NOT Doing

    I know, shocker for a select few out there.  I do define some of the above terms in the video, so make sure you watch that before commenting.  I know some of the cues can be used with the right framing of it.

    So let’s see…

     

    What he IS Doing

    • Catapult Loading System principles: globally flexed spine, hiding hands, showing numbers, and
    • Pitch Plane Domination: knee action, back foot skip, early barrel on pitch plane, barrel stays on plane for long time, great spine angle at impact.

     

    The Catapult Loading System Kindle eBook Giveaway

    Just FYI, on this Friday, October 20th, I’m giving away free Kindle versions of my new book The Catapult Loading System: How To Teach 100-Pound Hitters To Consistently Drive The Ball 300-Feet…but here’s the catch, this giveaway is for 5-days ONLY!  Last time I did this, over 1,300 coaches and parents downloaded the ebook.  And you don’t have to have a Kindle to read the book, just download the Kindle app on your mobile device.  If you’ve already downloaded it, then I’d appreciate it if you could let a friend know.  Literally hundreds of coaches across the States are getting the same results – if not better – with their hitters (literally THOUSANDS of them!!) using this system, than I am with mine.  I’ll make the announcement over email and Facebook, so please look out for that in a couple days…

  2. How To Motivate Athletes To Commit To Training Consistently & With Intensity…WITHOUT “Burning Them Out”

    Leave a Comment

    “It’s not about how many swing you get in a day, it’s quality deep practice swings that matter.”

    I had the honor of being interviewed by Coach Daryl Weber who’s the founder of the website:

    Attack Style Wrestling

    AttackStyleWrestling.com

    Coaching principles transcend ALL sports. Yes, a wrestling coach and a hitting coach CAN speak the same language. Photo courtesy: AttackStyleWrestling.com

    Yes I know, he’s running a coaching blog about wrestling and this is a hitting blog,

    BUT…

    The principles of coaching transcend ALL sports.  

    As always, I’ve tried to make this 46-minute audio easier to digest, so I’ve included time stamps you can fast forward or rewind to.  In this interview, we went over the following:

    • About 1:20 min. mark, where it all began for me when I started teaching hitters to “swing down”. Dark time for my hitters then, and they weren’t getting consistent results.  My knowledge stagnated at the time. Where everything turned around for my hitters and my system.  Book resources included.
    • About 5:00 min. mark, how to debunk conventional teaching cues using today’s technology to test and compare swing mechanics such as Zepp, SwingTracker, and Blast.
    • About 8:00 min. mark, what is a “sticky coach?” Taking a hiatus from hitting industry teachings, the challenge is translating information from coaches that are very technical to the end user. Can the information be taken from the expert to the coach to the player?  The more effective teaches are the ones who can do this.  If we can effect the coaches, we can exponentially effect more players.  Coach Daryl talks about how doing coaching clinics can be REALLY powerful when it comes to effecting more players.  The book we were talking about was: The Science Of Sticky Coaching: How To Turn Ordinary Athletes Into Extraordinary.
    • About 14:00 min. mark, this interview started when Coach Daryl asked me to answer the following question, which he included in the following blog post: Do you have ONE TIP to help coaches and parents motivate athletes to commit to training consistently and with intensity…WITHOUT “burning them out”?  Read that post because he polled other effective coaches and they gave their responses as well.
    • About 15:00 min. mark, how to apply the Minimum Effective Dosage model (MED) to young athletes. 4-5 days per week, and 5-mins per day of hitting homework practice.  This is outside of organized practice time.  Be happy with 5-mins per day.  It’s not about how many swing you get in a day, it’s quality deep practice swings that matter.  And when you’re dealing with a demotivated hitter, set them up for success with the MED model.
    • About 19:00 min. mark, Coach Daryl likes to remind his athletes that it’s okay to fall off the wagon, if you don’t get the MED practice time in.  Life happens.  Set yourself up for success, by starting small and don’t overwhelm yourself early on.
    •  About 21:15 min mark, I talk about Karen Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot The Dog, using positive reinforcers to inspire athletes to put the work in.  I shared the story of the Professor lecturing students 10-mins every day, who didn’t turn their homework in…changed to positive reinforcement, and went from only 1/3 of students turning in homework, to three weeks later, 3/4 of students turning homework in.  Praising hitters for the days they DO get in, motivates better than lecturing on the days they didn’t get in.
    • About 24:00 min. mark, Coach Daryl shares about his weigh-in struggles with his wrestlers.  Coach would tally up weigh-in numbers before practice, get frustrated, and proceed to negatively lecture his wrestlers at the start of practice.  This wasn’t good, so Coach had his coaches report weigh-ins to him AFTER practice, which freed him up to give a positive motivating speech at the start of practice.
    • About 26:30 min. mark, how to keep youth athletes from leaving the sport after only a couple years. Coaches “bullying” players. Encouraging athletes to open up communication lines with coach about playing time at the High School level on up. 12u on down is in the parent’s court. Dealing with coaches who teach hitting based on conventional wisdom. Using the “bobble-head” strategy.  Ask your players at the end of a session: are there any questions on what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it?  If players understand what they’re doing, then contrasting information at practice won’t confuse them.  They’ll be more prepared!
    • About 36:00 min. mark, talked about the approach a D1 softball player was going to use with her hitting coach, who has a professional baseball background and teaches conventional hitting wisdom.  She interned for me this past summer, sitting in and helping out on my hitting lessons, and we worked one-on-one about a half dozen times.
    • About 43:00 min. mark, coaches have to start asking more questions.  Question what they’ve always been taught.  Question what they’re learning now. Question ME because I don’t mind.  The quality of your coaching is directly connected to the quality of questions you ask.  Gain knowledge and test.

     

    What is the Science of Sticky Coaching?

  3. The Sooner You Know ‘Swinging Down’ Is A Disaster The Better

    2 Comments

    How To Use Knowledge To Help Hitters Reach Their Full Potential

    (Before getting into this post, I have to pre-frame it with the fact that cuing a hitter to ‘swing down’, ‘keep barrel above hands’, and ‘get on top’ can be helpful for hitters whose barrel paths are extreme upper cuts or for non-productive fly ball outcomes.  Other than that, these cues ARE NOT conducive to scoring A LOT of runs for teams) 

    Jake C.: Swinging Down

    One of my HS Frosh hitters swinging down at the beginning of one of our first lessons together. We’re using the RopeBat to fix this. Photo courtesy: ME

    The objective of this post is to persuade those who disagree with the title, to see hitting through cleaner sharper glasses.

    Kudos to Sean T. Plouffe on Twitter for posting the above Tweet…

    Seeing this post on my Twitter news feed dang near stopped me in my tracks.

    That was actually ME in the above video!

    This was a two tee drill video I did a long time ago for my old site SwingSmarter.com, between 2008 and 2010.

    Unfortunately for my hitters this was the Dark Ages of my teaching, when I regurgitated swinging down on the ball because it was what I was taught during my playing days.

    It felt like looking back at old High School pictures when you were fat and had more craters on your face than the moon 😛 lol

    Apparently, I’m not alone in ‘teaching what I was taught’ after my playing days were over…

    We’ll discuss:

    • ‘That’s what he was taught’,
    • The journey that led me away from conventional wisdom, and
    • The bottom line… (how to fix)

     

    ‘That’s What he was Taught’…

    Take this email I recently received from one of my readers, Bryan Nugent:

    “Good morning,

    My predicament is that over the last year or so I have been working with my son using your style  (catapult loading) from your book. My son is like a night and day difference when he doesn’t load like you point out. Some of my cue words I tell him are tuck, hide, see and drive.

    • Tuck – for his shoulder
    • Hide – his hands
    • See – keep his eye on the ball
    • Drive – hit through the baseball

    Ok, now to the issue his baseball coach is trying to get him to have a different approach, stance and pretty much a different swing all together. From what we have been working on. How would I or what is the best way to approach the Coach and tell him to leave his swing alone in your opinion?”

    And here was Bryan’s response after I emailed him a couple questions…

    “Thank you for responding to my email. My son is 10. This past Saturday morning before our first pool play game we went back to the cage and got back to doing what we have learned from you. His results were outstanding including a solo shot that the opposing coach told him he hasn’t ever seen a 10 yr old hit the ball that far before.

    The coach is young(23) just graduated from a local college where he played baseball. Not knocking him in any way but when talking to him he states ‘that’s what he was taught’ quite a bit. So maybe since this is his first time to coach young boys he is trying too hard, if that makes sense.

    I did talk to him a little bit and told him I would bring him your book so he can see where we are coming from. Hopefully he will see there are 2 ways to skin a cat to get the same result. Which is to be able to get the kids to reach there full potential. Thanks again”

    Thank you Bryan for sharing and for your continued support.  And yes, I asked his permission before sharing with you coaches.

     

    The Journey that Lead Me Away from Conventional Wisdom

    I can honestly say that I was where this young coach is when I first started teaching hitters.  And I know many of you coaches out there, if you’re being honest with yourself, can relate.

    I had stopped seeking knowledge about the swing…stopped reading…stopped asking questions.  My mindset was VERY fixed.

    Needless to say, I came to the realization that my hitters weren’t getting better.  At the time, my local lessons weren’t growing.  I was teaching what everyone in my area was teaching.  There was zero differentiation.  And you know what Mark Twain once said,

    “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect”.

    It wasn’t till about 2011 that I started asking questions, and bought Jaime Cevallos’s book Positional Hitting (who’s a good friend of mine).

    Then met Chas Pippitt of BaseballRebellion.com, and helped him develop an online presence in 2012.

    This was a good start, but there were still A LOT of unanswered questions that I had.

    You see, I found a passionate curiosity for corrective human movement science back in 2005.  I got educated by gathering a large wicker basket full of alphabet soup certifications.  In a short time, I was training athletes and non-athletes by helping them troubleshoot their mobility and stability issues to improve performance or quality of life.

    This led me down a rabbit hole that went pretty deep.

    When my son was born at the end of 2012, I had an epiphany after reading a couple highly influential resources.  I digested the following books over and over, using them to reverse engineer the swing from a human movement principles validated by science perspective:

     

    The Bottom Line…

    If you’re a young coach – or more seasoned – who still teaches swinging down on the ball, squishing the bug, and that the hips are where the power is at…I know how you can feel married to these because you’ve put a lot of time, effort, and emotion into them while coaching and/or playing.

    Believe me, I felt the same way.  Looking back now, it was a form of collective wisdom brainwashing that runs rampant in baseball and softball circles.

    Here’s what I found teaching young hitters to apply human movement principles that are validated by science to hitting a ball:

    • My hitters see and feel productive outcomes within a reasonably short amount of time (huge for getting them to ‘buy into’ the system),
    • The online and local lesson part of my business has increased 5-fold (the word is getting out!),
    • The coaches that learn this from me are getting the same productive results with their hitters – if not better (and their hitters are raising the eyebrows of other coaches), and
    • The best news is, the knuckleheads on social media have a VERY difficult time arguing the true science of the swing!

    My recommendation is this:

    • Educate yourself like I did with previously mentioned books,
    • Question very things you teach by asking, “What don’t I know?”
    • Do swing experiments like I do to see if a hitting mechanic is inferior or superior to its counterpart (CLICK HERE for a post on how to do this), And…
    • Above-all, be big enough to swallow your pride, regardless of how many years coaching or playing, or if you had the privilege to coach or play at the highest level, and admit you may be wrong.  Because let me tell you, many are, so you’re not alone.

    Rest assured, if I can change, then so can you.

    Believe me, your hitters will THANK YOU.  Learning can start when ignorance admits its ignorant. You don’t know what you don’t know, right?  Well, now you do 😉

  4. How To Train A 2-Year-Old To Hit A Moving Ball

    2 Comments

    If You Can Train Two Pigeons To Play Ping-Pong, Then YES You Can Train “Normal” Young Athletes To Step Sideways & Hit A Moving Ball

    This is a follow up to the post I recently published titled,  “WHY ‘Squishing The Bug’ Is So Dumb”.

    I had a couple coaches reach out over email and social media,

    Saying although they agreed with not teaching older hitters to ‘squish the bug’, they disagreed that it’s okay to teach younger hitters.

    Let me be clear, I don’t typically get into weight transfer with hitters less than 7-years-old.  HOWEVER, it can be done, and that’s what this post is all about.

    So, is it the young hitter that’s incapable of learning how to do what the best do?

    OR…

    2 Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

    Two pigeons were taught to play ping-pong using primary and secondary reinforcers. Photo courtesy: LiveLeak.com

    Is the instructor incapable of teaching what the best do?

    The answer will become clear in following.

    We’ll discuss:

    • What science of learning says, and
    • Regression to progression models for teaching.

     

    What Science of Learning Says…

    One Facebook reader shared that he has 12-years in the child development field, in addition to having 8-years of coaching at different levels.

    He agreed with the aforementioned ‘squishing bugs is dumb’ post, but said what he’s seen in child development research is that the majority of 6-year-olds are incapable of shifting their weight and hitting a pitched ball.  He added that only the top 1% of kids can.

    He also referenced a kid with what he called “no athletic” ability as an example.

    This is an interesting comment coming from someone with his professional background.  And I asked myself, okay, what am I missing because my experience has been much different.

    First of all, to reference the bottom 1% of kids in “train-ability” throws up a yellow flag for me (“train-ability” was referenced in the book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science Of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein in the Heritage Study).

    Since this gentleman is convinced “normal” 6yos can’t be taught to weight shift and hit a ball (exclude mutants and bottom 1% from the equation), then…

    I asked if he’d read The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Made.  It’s Grown.  Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle.  And what his thoughts were on Daniel Coyle’s findings of the following athletic “hotbeds”:

    • 3yo females learning gymnastics in China?
    • 3yo females learning tennis in Russia?
    • Young females learning golf in Korea?
    • Young boys learning baseball in Curacao?
    • Young boys learning soccer in Brazil?

    He responded with, well it’s different in Russia because they’re more disciplined.

    Wa??!

    I said oh, so if the kids practice, then it’s possible for “normal” athletes?

    No response from him on that.

    I then went on to talk about how the International Youth & Conditioning Association, which I am a certified member of, shared their own child development research that children between the ages of two to five years old should developmentally be able to run, hop, jump, forward skip, and sideways skip.

    Weight shifting, like in a stride, is very similar to side skipping.  Think about throwing a Frisbee as far as you can.  And, Pitchers do this all the time, in addition to first baseman when stretching to receive a throw from an infielder (okay, this is more of a front step, but you get the idea).

    This gentleman said although this may be true, normal kids cannot side step AND hit a moving pitch.

    We’ll get into the progression I used with my own boy when he was 2-years-old, at the end of this post.  But hey, maybe he’s part of the top 1%…I dunno 😛 lol  You be the judge.

    Back to the child development expert, I mentioned the following book to him Don’t Shoot The Dog: The New Art Of Teaching And Training, by Karen Pryor, which is about using positive and negative reinforcers in behavioral conditioning.  Basically, it’s a dog training book (worst title ever by the way!!), but the info is just as applicable to humans, horses, dolphins, and any other thing that has flippers, 2-4 legs, and breathes air.  Also, this is what was used to train the two ping-pong pigeons in the video above.

    PIGEONS!  I’ve also read somewhere, might have been in the Don’t Shoot The Dog book, that a scientist once taught a chicken to turn the pages of a book…a CHICKEN!!!

    Let that sink in for a moment…

    Here’s what I took away from the conversation with Mr. Child Development Expert…

    The brain and eyes have a contract with each other…the eyes are only suppose to look for what the brain wants to see.  You can read about that in the book Stumbling Upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

    And this child development expert was biased towards information confirming his belief that “normal” 6yos cannot side step and hit a moving ball.

    BREAKING NEWS!!

    I’m biased too!  But on the opposite side of the spectrum.  I operate from the perspective that if the young athlete isn’t getting what I want him or her to do, then I’m NOT doing something right.  Not the other way around.  I find a way, and look for information validated by science to support my claim.

    So which coach would you rather work with?

    Let me repeat,

    Teaching hitters to ‘squish the bug’ has NOTHING to do with what the best do.  And an instructor that defaults to this when teaching young hitters is like a grade school teacher teaching his 1st Grade students that 2 +2 = 5, because they’re incapable of learning that the real answer is 4.

    Look, some of you may be thinking that ‘squishing the bug’ is about “getting the hips through”.  My good friends Matt Nokes AND Homer Bush dispelled this myth in the following posts:

    I was told this is a BOLD statement…to say teaching ‘bug squishing’ is WRONG.

    It is wrong.

    You may feel I’m judging you, but I’m not.  I have an issue with what you’re teaching and WHY.  NOT with you.

    I think you’re better than that.  It’s not personal. 

    But be honest with yourself.  It’s not what the best do, but I do understand you’re frustrated working with these younger hitters.

    …And may have a solution…

     

    Regression to Progression Models for Teaching

    I’m not going to get into how to teach side stepping in this post.  If your kid can side skip, or side step, then they’re fully capable of a weight shift.

    The question is how to get them to hit a moving ball.

    And before I get there, I wanted to share a quick story I read in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, that highlights the learning process.

    Remember this scene in the movie Terminator 2…? (video should start there, but watch at about the 5:00 min. mark)…

    In the book, Arnold discussed how he learned to load a shotgun with one hand, while riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and at the same time shooting the padlock off a chain-link fence.

    According to him, this was his process:

    • NOTE: He spent time in the Austrian Army as a tank driver in his younger days, so he knew how to shoot a weapon beforehand.
    • He spent many repetitions loading this particular shot gun with one hand, seated on the Harley.
    • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun, seated on the Harley, shooting a small target.
    • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun while riding the motorcycle.
    • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun, riding the Harley, and shooting the target.

    His whole thing was “reps, reps, reps”, until the action he practiced became second nature.

    This is also what Josh Waitzkin calls “making small circles”, in his book The Art Of Learning: A Journey in Pursuit of Excellence. Josh was a young chess prodigy, and his life was the basis for the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”.

    How did I teach my 2-year-old son how to hit a moving ball?  Here’s the process:

    • Starting at about 1.5 years old, we practiced hitting different sized balls off a little tee with a big plastic blue bat,
    • A few months before he turned two years old, I started throwing a big beach ball at him while he hit it with his big plastic bat,
    • We then started slowly shrinking the ball down until after a few months past his second birthday, he was hitting baseball sized whiffle balls with his big plastic bat, and then
    • We shrunk the bat down to a conventional yellow whiffle ball bat, so at about 2.5-3 years old, he was able to hit a baseball sized whiffle ball with the slim yellow bat.

    Truth be told at 3yo, he wasn’t hitting every pitch I threw at him, but he was hitting the ball harder more often, other than just ‘tipping it’ or totally swinging and missing like most his age or older, who didn’t have the prior progressions.

     

    The Bottom Line…

    Coaches,

    If 3 year old girls are learning tennis in Russia, golf in Korea, and gymnastics in China, then your hitters can learn how to step sideways and hit a moving ball.  If discipline is an issue, use the Minimum Effective Dosage Rule, practice only 4-5 days per week, for only 5-mins each day.  It’s not about length of time, but frequency of reviewing the material.

    If you can teach a chicken to turn the pages of a book, and train two pigeons to play ping-pong, then YES you can train “normal” kids to step sideways and hit a moving ball.

    If you cannot, then the fault most likely falls – I know this may be hard to swallow for some – with the instructor, not the child.  Set the ego aside.  Every day, ask yourself the question:

    “What don’t I know?”

  5. WHY ‘Squishing The Bug’ Is So Dumb

    2 Comments

    If You’re Teaching ‘Squish The Bug’, Then You’re OLD

    This video is a definitive guide when it comes to WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is an inferior hitting mechanic.

    Right now, if you find yourself asking if people STILL teach this, then sadly, the answer is yes.

    I ran into one just the other day on the socials.  Nothing but pseudo science and circular reasoning.  Pretty mind numbing experience actually.

    Here’s fair WARNING for the small few out there still teaching hitters to ‘squish the bug’…

    If after watching this video, you’re still not convinced, then you’re old.

    Consider what Henry Ford once said,

    And while we’re at it, look at what Ayn Rand said,

    In the above video, we discuss the:

    • Science,
    • Experimentation, and
    • Application…

    …validating WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is DUMB, and no hitter should ever have to go through something as horrifying as that 😛 lol

    Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

    Also, here’s a recent case study post I did on skipping the back foot titled, “How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood.

    DON’T BE OLD.

  6. Here Is A Method That is Helping Rhys Hoskins Give Salivating Pitchers Nightmares

    6 Comments

    Leg Kicks May Be Dangerous To Pitchers (And Hitters That Don’t Perfect Them)

    Before I get into the Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown video featuring Mark DeRosa & Cliff Floyd above…

    I wanted to give you a heads up of what’s in this post:

    • Lesson learned from my school of hard knocks,
    • How to fix striking out every at-bat in tournament, and
    • Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown.

     

    Lessons Learned from School of Hard Knocks

    Rhys Hoskins: MLBNetwork Swing Breakdown

    Rhys Hoskins says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can. Photo courtesy: Sports Bay Area

    I recently worked with a newer 12/13u hitter of mine, where he shared he had a terrible tournament, where he struck out virtually every at-bat the weekend before.

    This immediately raised a red flag for me.

    The easy thing to do for a player – and a dad or mom – is to point to a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

    As a hitting coach, if this isn’t your first rodeo, then you know this is not the case a majority of the time.

    Quick back story,

    My last year of Little League was insane:

    • Hit .880 regular season, .770 in All-Stars,
    • 30+ dingers,
    • 40+ doubles, and
    • Struck out a grand total of 3 times in the span of 6 months.

    By the way, looking at old VHS video of that swing, I was doing what I teach now.  All those strikeouts were early in the regular season, and once I settled down, they vanished entirely.

    I was ignorance on fire!

    Brace yourself for the “fall”…

    The next year I made the move to the big field, with no pitching distance transition like there are nowadays.  I found myself swinging and missing A LOT.

    I got so frustrated with myself,  and what do you think my dumb brain thought was the problem?

    Right-O!! Mechanics.

    Do you know the REAL cause?

    Let me give you a clue…the word starts with a “T” and ends with “-iming” 😛 lol

    I was being driven by my fear of getting “caught up” to by other players.  And yes, the whispers started in Middle School when I struggled to recover my old swing.

    Do you know how much of a nightmare that is for a hitter who’s super driven to succeed like I was?

    This fear drove me into the bookstore to read every book on hitting I could get my hungry teenager hands on.  Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Charlie Lau, Mike Schmidt, and on and on.  Nothing seemed to help.  I obsessively watched film of that swing trying to figure out what I was missing or leaving out.

    Hey, at least I wasn’t out stealing cars!

    It was a 4-year mind-fudge that ended in recovering my batting average – somewhat – but not my power the last two years in High School.  Thinking back now, it’s a miracle I ended up with a scholarship at Fresno State.

    The point of this story is, negative tournament outcomes don’t necessarily mean a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

    Back to my young hitter…

     

    How To Fix Striking Out Every At-Bat in Tournament

    So I had three questions I planned asking my hitter, in diagnosing the challenges he had with his last tournament:

    • The first one is, were you focusing on the new stuff we worked on last lesson (which was a week before), during game at-bats?
    • If the answer is NO to that question, then I would ask, how many strikes did you swing at, OR not swing at?
    • If they’re swinging at good pitches, then on the swings you took, how many were “on-time”?

    If they pass the first three questions, then we look at seeking and fixing the ineffective swing mechanic.

    However, this particular hitter failed question one.  I hadn’t warned him about bringing new swing techniques into game at-bats.  I told him that in games, your focus MUST be on swinging at good pitches and getting on-time.  It’s to compete.

    I teach hitters my painful lesson.

    The good news is, this hitter will be on the up and up again, and won’t have to go through the frustration, struggle, and anger I went through attempting to fix something I knew nothing about at the time.  And frankly, the only one who had a clue was Ted Williams, but his message was drowned out in the other white noise I was hearing, reading, and watching.  Paralysis by over analysis.

    Now, let’s tie in the Rhys Hoskins video above…

    Rhys Hoskins Swing Breakdown

    Below you’ll find video notes I took.  Afterward, I’ll only focus on about a couple of these, I think others will make for good conversation in the Comments section below…

    1. About 1:20 min mark, DeRosa: “Hands go along for the ride…not a lot of hand load”
    2. About 1:40 min mark, DeRosa brings up examples of “violent hand loads” featuring: Cecil Fielder, Vlad Guerrero, Gary Sheffield…and Manny Ramirez, Buster Posey, Justin Turner, and Daniel Murphy used as examples of “not a lot of hand load”
    3. About 2:20 min mark, DeRosa: asks Rhys is he’s conscious about his pre-swing hand movement. Rhys says all he’s worrying about is having some separation between his body and where his hands are during load
    4. About 2:50 min mark, Rhys: “The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”. Cliff Floyd talks about having a leg kick is a perfection type of approach. Pitchers are trying to disrupt a leg kicker: tempo, changing speeds, etc.
    5. About 3:20 min mark, Floyd says Rhys has something you can’t teach: “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…Floyd says it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.
    6. About 4:00 min mark, Cliff Floyd goes into more detail about a hitter focusing on perfecting the timing of a leg kick, and not worry about anything else, or else you’re screwed.  Rhys talks about getting “inside the pitcher’s rhythm in the on-deck circle”.  Cliff Floyd comments: “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.
    7. About 5:10 min mark, Mark DeRosa is wanting Rhys to explain the use of his hands and back elbow.  Cliff Floyd says if you want the kid to go into a slump keep talking about hands and elbows.  Rhys says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can.
    8. About 6:10 min mark, talks about “knee to knee” “hover” leg kick.  More balance, don’t get over backside.

    A lot more good than bad in this video.  I wanted to focus on the timing aspect though…

    Just to be upfront with you, I’m not one of those instructors that teaches a leg kick to ALL my hitters.  I think this is a BIG mistake.  If my hitter doesn’t have what I call a “Float” (aka stride type) built into their swing already, then I ask them to experiment a little.  Or if what they’re using isn’t effective at getting them on time and dynamically balanced, then we get resourceful.

    We experiment with:

    • A leg kick (medium or high),
    • Slide step, and
    • Toe-tap.

    By the end, they find that one of these techniques allows them to time the ball better, and it may not be what they started with.  We’re looking for what they’re comfortable with, and can execute the swing dynamically balanced.

    You heard Rhys Hoskins say,

    “The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”

    This was after DeRo prodded him to explain what his hands and back elbow are doing.  Cliff Floyd got on DeRo that he’s going to force Rhys into a slump with all this hands talk! lol

    Floyd also said that a lot of time and energy needs to be spent on perfecting the timing of the leg kick.  He added, “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.  This is very important.

    Some of my good hitting friends online, who I highly respect in their knowledge, don’t believe timing can be taught or calibrated. I respectfully disagree.

    If you can teach a pair of chickens to play ping-pong, then yes, timing can be taught.  True story by the way – with the chicken (read Don’t Shoot The Dog: The New Art Of Teaching And Training).

    I’ve also heard pitching coaches on the Socials say they lick their lips when seeing a hitter with a leg kick.  And you heard Cliff Floyd address a pitcher’s job is to disrupt a leg kicker by changing their delivery tempo, changing speeds, etc.

    But then Floyd turns around and compliments Hoskins saying, “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…and adds, it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.

    Calibrating a hitter’s timing and pitch recognition training are a deadly combination for pitchers who salivate over seeing a leg kicking hitter.  I asked this coach whether he’d salivate over facing Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, or Mike Trout.  He didn’t answer.

    Coaches, if you don’t give hitters tools for their toolbox, then they’re up there hitting blind.  Don’t make them hit the pinata blind folded!

     

    Here are some resources to take back to your hitters on timing and pitch recognition:

    You can teach timing.  You can teach pitch recognition.  Woe to the pitcher that pitches to hitters who train both.  The winds of change are a blowin’ for hitters over pitchers.  When troubleshooting with your hitters, remember:

    • The lesson from my school of hard knocks,
    • How to fix striking out every at-bat in a tournament, and
    • Timing lessons from Rhys Hoskins.
  7. How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood

    2 Comments

    Discover The Back Foot Variance Drill Secret

    I wanted to share a couple things in this post…

    • An updated video of the Back Foot Variance Drill, and
    • A testimonial from one of my online lesson dads from Tennessee (I’m in California!).

     

    Back Foot Variance Drill UPDATED

    Since putting this drill together a few years ago, I’ve improved on it to reflect what the best are really doing.  Here’s an outline of what we talk about in the above video:

    • Objective: to shift body-weight into ball and un-weight the back foot,
    • Squishing bug?
    • Variance Drill – fix hitters who skip too much v. not skipping, and
    • Options: skip backwards (scissoring).

     

    Back Foot Variance Testimonial

    I prescribed the Back Foot Variance Drill to Lawrence (Jr.) back on July 9th, along with the Babe Ruth Drill (forward momentum), and the Snapping Towel Drill (angling the body back over the catcher during turn).

    Before I show you a couple BEFORE/AFTER images of his swing, please read what dad emailed me…

    “Joey

    Wanted to sit down and let you and your readers know how much of an impact you make on players lives. The key is to listen and follow what you say. 

    First my background. I played at the Juco level, independent ball and amateur ball until i was 39. I pride myself on knowing the game and thought I was a pretty good hitter and taught hitting. I walked away with three amateur world series rings and no regrets on my playing career. 

    I have taught my son hitting since he was 4.  As any parent has, I am proud of my son with probably some dad goggles on. But fact is he is a gifted physical specimen at 15, he is 6’1 and 175-lbs

    For this I’m just going to focus on the facts. He ran into some hitting issues I was having trouble correcting this Spring. But I know hitting, right? And my son still listens to me so I should be able to help him. But it was not happening, we both were getting frustrated. As a freshman he still hit over .300 in varsity. But something was off.

    Then while researching, (yes people if you or your coach does not have a growth mindset do yourself a favor and go do something else.) I ran across you this Spring. After studying what you were saying and swallowing my pride I decided to have you give my son video lessons online. 

    Best thing I ever did for my son. We are only half way through the lessons taking our time to digest and work on what you have suggested, but here are the results. This after 3 months and 2 lessons

    My son exit velocity before you was 86-mph it now sits at 91-mph. He recently did a show case with perfect game. On the hitting metrics they use he is between the 93-98 percentile on all players they have seen. In batting practice he would routinely hit the ball 325-350 feet using wood or bbcore. He is now hitting balls in excess of 400 feet.

    While taking batting practice on a high school field yesterday dimensions of 320 down the line and 370 to center he hit 16 out of 45 pitches out including 3 in excess of 400 feet. I sent you video of a game he played last night. To have you evaluate, that home-run was to dead center which was 360 feet. The ball was a line drive and landed in the road over 40 feet behind the fence.

    Yes the catapult loading system works. He is hitting baseballs with a wood or bbcore bat at 2.5x his body weight. Using those bats and at his age is just as impressive as 3x body weight. 

    I mentioned before he is a big kid at 15. But he is still a kid, he has not begun to physically mature yet. He does not shave, no hair on chest, no definition of muscles. I fully expect to see within the year as he starts maturing he will be hitting baseballs over 500-ft. In three months working with you he has gained over 50 feet consistently. It now looks like he is on the little fields again taking bp.

    Thank you for what you do and giving my son confidence moving forward, you helped a young man more than words I’m writing will ever be expressed.

    Here is what he accomplished since we started using you. Named all world series team for the 15u babe ruth world series where his team finished second. Playing for 15u south east team Rawlings led team in batting average for the summer. That team went 6-1 in the wwba perfect game world series where he was named to the all tourney team. 

    Named all tourney to perfect game summer showdown as well. Before you he had played in three events with perfect game with no all tourney nominations. He has also been approached as a rising sophomore by a high level D1 head coach that is interested in him. 

    Thanks Joey for everything, and for not only being a great person to get to know, but being so knowledgeable on the scientific metrics on hitting. 

    All the best
    Lawrence Sutton”

    Thank YOU Lawrence for such a glowing testimonial.  And thank you Junior for being such a respectful and coach-able student of the game.  By the way, originally Lawrence (dad) left this as an UNSOLICITED message on my phone, and I asked him to put it down on virtual paper, so I could share it with you.

    Before sharing the BEFORE/AFTER images, let me address naysayer objections I frequently read on the Socials, speaking out against my book, “The Catapult Loading System: Teaching 100-Lb Hitters To Consistently Drive The Ball 300-Feet”, this email clearly dispels:

    • “In High School homers virtually disappear because of BBCor bats”,
    • “15yo High School hitters can’t hit balls in excess of 400-feet at 175-pounds”,
    • “Sure, your system may increase power, but it will be at the cost of Batting Average and Strikeouts”, and
    • “This kid is just a freak [or they may use the word ‘mutant’]”

    All this is FAKE NEWS Coaches!!

    The last one always makes me laugh…I say take me to VEGAS then, because I’m running into A LOT of mutants!! Buahahaha

    And you know why homers “virtually disappear” with BBCor bats in High School?

    Because many of these coaches are teaching their hitters to HIT THE BALL ON THE GROUND!  Please STOP!  It’s insane these coaches don’t want their offense to score more runs and win more games.  Ground-balls SUCK for hitters!  The reverse is true for pitchers by the way 😉

    I have faith, “winners” will make the adjustment and not whine, complain, and come up with every excuse in the book as to why hitting the ball HARD IN THE AIR doesn’t work.  Sad.

    Boosting Ball Exit Speed and Launch Angles is a formula folks.  With hard work, attention to detail, and dedication, more hitters can achieve what we’re sharing.  The Catapult Loading System takes care of the former, and Pitch-Plane Domination the latter.

    Here’s a BEFORE/AFTER image of Lawrence’s back foot skip (too much) on July 9th…

    Lawrence’s feet are too close together in these swings…

    Here’s a BEFORE/AFTER image of his August 25th 360-foot dinger…

    This angle is a challenge, but use the catcher’s belt as a reference point to the back foot in both images. In addition, look at the gap between his feet.

    Now, as you remember, we made three changes to Lawrence’s swing back in early July:

    • Increase forward momentum,
    • Create more space between his feet, and
    • Increase spinal tilt during the turn…

    …so it’s hard to tell which one of these was THE ONE thing that made the biggest difference.  My argument for the Back Foot Variance is this:

    1. In past swing experiments, Forward Momentum hasn’t been shown to increase Bat Speed at Impact significantly.
    2. Increasing spinal tilt is great, but doesn’t work if the hitter’s feet are close together – like a golfers.
    3. The greater the distance between the feet (although not too much), the more consistent the hitter can get to the bottom half of the ball.

    Also, if you read this Washington Post article titled, “Bryce Harper: A Swing of Beauty”, you’ll discover:

    “Glenn Fleisig, an expert in the field of biomechanics, said the majority of hitters he’s studied transferred 90 percent of their weight to their front foot and kept 10 percent on their back leg at contact. Harper, of course, would move 100 percent of his weight forward at contact when his back leg lifts. That, Fleisig said, would enable him to generate a ground rotational force equal to 150 percent of his body weight.”

    At Bryce Harper’s current weight of 215-lbs, that would be 322.5-lbs of force transferred at impact!  Any weight transfer less than 100% would be an inferior model, so that’s why ‘squishing bugs’ isn’t optimized.

    Coaches, be careful who you’re following.  Make sure they’re sticking close to the human movement principles that are validated by science.  If not, then quickly abandon ship.

    Please keep me updated on your hitters’ progress using the Back Foot Variance Drill below…

  8. How To “Stay On Ball Longer” & “See It Better” Like Giancarlo Stanton

    67 Comments

    STOP Pulling Off The Ball, Increase Batting Average, and Boost Power By Using The Closed Stance?

    I know, I know,

    Some well meaning coaches will think, “Well, a closed stance cuts off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement”

    I get it.  I used to believe the same thing a couple years ago,

    …But what I found in my research was counter-intuitive, yet very promising for hitters.

    Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

    Giancarlo Stanton using his “closed stance”. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

    You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

    My process is to chew and digest the science, observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then try it out!

    As you’ll soon find out, Giancarlo Stanton did his homework before making this particular change in his swing.

    Since there may be many of you raising the same objections I started with, I wanted to discuss:

    • Addressing the above “Study of Planes” video, then we’ll move on to…
    • Analyzing the small change that has netted BIG results for Giancarlo Stanton this season.

     

    Study of Planes

    My good friend Seo Perales shared the above video with me a few years ago.  By the way, he’s a multiple level black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu.

    We love comparing notes because we both like to seek and explore human movement principles that are validated by science.  The only difference is, in his line of work as a Jujitsu instructor, he wants to learn how to break down the body, and I’m into maximizing its effect.

    The above video demonstrates the science of movement planes.  What are considered weak and strong planes of movement from a Judo perspective.

    I think you’ll find the video enlightening.

    Now, you may be thinking, “A Judo video? Really?!  What can I learn from a video about Judo?”

    If you find yourself camped out in ONLY baseball or softball circles, then you’re missing out on A LOT of useful information that will take your hitters to a whole other level.

    The video is very applicable to hitting.

    Furthermore,

    My good friend Lee Comeaux from Texas, who teaches professional and amateur golfers, also brought the power of movement planes to my attention about a year ago…

    He told me draw an “X” in the batter’s box from opposite corners, and have the hitter stand on either line when hitting.  He’s very versed in Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains.  He says hitters standing on one diagonal leg of the “X” encourages the springiness of fascia.  He taught this to his 15yo daughter, who has hit over .600 the last couple years playing Fast-Pitch Softball in Texas, which is one of the hotbeds for both baseball and softball competition in the country.  Oh and by the way, she also hit a half dozen homers as well.

    The second part of this post, I wanted to share the tipping point in addressing Giancarlo Stanton’s new closed stance…

    Giancarlo Stanton & The “Dreaded” Closed Stance

    The straw that broke the camel’s back for me in writing this post, came from this MLB.com article by David Adler titled, “Closing time: Stanton’s stance fueling surge: Marlins slugger’s home run tear lines up with change to batting stance in June”.

    You can go there and read the full article, but I wanted to tease out the quotes from Giancarlo Stanton (and some of David Adler’s commentary), and how Stanton arrived at the batting stance change…

    I just said I was going to try it. Honestly, I had about 30 minutes of work, maybe 45 minutes, before the game,” Stanton told MLB.com Sunday, when he crushed his Major League-leading 45th home run against the Mets at Citi Field. “And then 10 minutes before the game, I was like, ‘This feels more comfortable.'”

    Stanton was already having a helluva year, so it’s interesting to me that he made the change when he did, typically a change like this follows a slump.  However, this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision – like it sounds from that quote – he did his homework, which you’ll read about shortly…

    “My best striking position is closed,” Stanton said. “It’s not smart to try to completely change something in the middle of the season. But if you are 100 percent committed to it … well, you’ve got to be. You’ve got to trust what you’re trying to do. If you change something, you want results right away, otherwise you try to go back. But I trusted it completely and let it ride.”

    Sounds contradictory doesn’t it?  To have the attitude that you can’t completely change something in the middle of the season – especially when you’re already doing well!!  But then he says you MUST commit to giving the change time – that is – IF you’ve done your homework beforehand.

    I’ve heard some parents and coaches say mid-season changes aren’t smart.  I don’t like to think that way…WHY?  Because if you don’t guide the hitter, the hitter will make changes on their own.  And if they don’t get highly resourceful on the subject, then this could lead to DISASTER with all the junk hitting info on the net these days.

    David Adler did fantastic research illustrating the evolution of Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance in this Tweet:

    In the earlier mentioned article, Adler states…

    “Stanton’s closing of his batting stance has correlated with his massive power surge. On June 18, he had 17 home runs in 282 plate appearances; since June 19, he has 28 in 236.

    When Stanton hits from those positions [open or straight up], his front side can come open before the pitch arrives, leaving him exploitable.

    The closed stance is a natural counter. When Stanton is already turned inward to start, his rotation drives him into the pitch, instead of causing him to fade away from it.”

    By the way, for those not doing the math:

    • From start of season to June 18th, he hit 1 homer every 16.5 plate appearances, and
    • From June 19th on, he hit 1 homer every 8.4 plate appearances

    He cut his rate in half!!!!  The closed stance was the ONLY change to his swing in that time frame, so this makes an interesting case study with a decent sample size of plate appearances.  See for yourself with the following David Adler Tweet:

    David Adler adds some terms of comparision you may be familiar with…

    “With his adjusted stance, Stanton has been driving the ball in the air more often. His rate of fly balls and line drives, per Statcast™, has risen from 41.5 percent prior to June 19 to 50.3 percent since. Stanton’s average exit velocity on those balls has increased from 97.6 mph to 100.8 mph, the highest in the Majors over that time.”

    I don’t care that Stanton is a beast, if you increase your Line Drive and Fly Ball Rates (Launch Angle), and Ball Exit Speeds that much, you’ll make a lot of Ground-ball teams VERY VERY upset.  Small hitters CAN and DO take advantage of this formula too.  Statcast has given hitters the cheat codes to increase offensive productivity!

    Furthermore, in the Adler article…

    “[His stance] gets him in the position he wants to be in. It looks like it’s keeping him on the ball more, and he seems like he’s seeing it better,” said Christian Yelich, who’s played alongside Stanton as long as any current Marlin — since 2013, when he was 21 and Stanton 23. “Some guys have different problems than others. You go about fixing them or covering them in different ways. It’s all about feel. That’s what works for him, that feel.”

    Look at that bold sentence once more because that is one of the most critical keys to this whole thing.  Yelich is also tapping into making extreme adjustments, for example, Stanton’s challenge in the past has been pulling off, maybe because of when he tragically got hit in the face a few years ago.  Whatever the reason, the extreme adjustment (a closed stance), helps him stay on the ball longer.

    CLICK HERE for a video I did on how to make adjustments…the scientific term for this is “Paradoxical Intention”.

    Now, here is where the article gets into the research that brought Giancarlo Stanton to the point of taking the stance change seriously…

    “But at a level of the game where emulation is fundamental, success begetting imitators, Stanton found his prototypes: Nolan Arenado, Matt Kemp, Adrian Beltre, prominent hitters who do close off. He recognized past greats, too: Hall of Famer Andre Dawson works as a special assistant to the Marlins, and he hit with a closed stance in his playing career. Stanton didn’t copy the technical aspects of their batting stances, but their accomplishments gave him precedent to actually make the change himself.

    Some on Twitter have written this change off as a band-aide, avoiding a true fix.  A true fix?  Are you kidding me?!  Cutting his home-run per plate appearance rate in half IS NOT a true fix!?  Dude!!  Success leaves clues.  These people are saying Giancarlo Stanton is “playing to the slice”, where a golfer who chronically slices the ball will angle his body at setup so they don’t have to fix the real problem…which is not squaring up the club face at impact.

    This is a poor attempt to protect an inflexible teaching philosophy, and sheer laziness on their part to get educated on their craft they claim to know a lot about.  You instructors seriously think Giancarlo Stanton is not “squaring the ball up” at impact since June 19th and is just “playing the slice”?  That is laughable.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

    This is the problem I have with instructors with inflexible hitting systems…they’re WILLFULLY IGNORANT to experimenting with things that could push their hitters forward, especially movements validated by science.  We’re ALL in this together, and we’re ALL helping hitters.  It’s NOT about your ego or protecting “your brand” coaches.

    But I digress…

    Here’s some insight into Giancarlo Stanton’s thought process with the change…

    “I just know the guys with success,” Stanton said. “Arenado and Kemp, those guys, you know you can have a high average with it. So that kind of gave me the green light to try it…I knew it could work. Not very many people did it. But I know people like Hawk and them did it in the old days — and it worked for them, too.”

     

    The Bottom Line…

    Giancarlo Stanton: Tweet About Closed Stance

    A day or two after re-tweeting Homer Bush’s Tweet about Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance, I received this response from @Omaha_Outlaws4…

    I understand your objections that a closed stance may cut off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement.  You’ve heard me talk a lot about “keeping the back foot sideways”, well, this plays right into that.

    Matt Nokes is religious on restricting hip movement to the point of impact with keeping the back foot sideways.  Homer Bush agrees in this interview.  So are the Backspin Tee guys Taylor and Jarrett Gardner.  LIGHT BULB! The closed stance does this naturally.

    The main benefit of restricting hip movement at impact (includes keeping back foot sideways) that you’ll hear from Nokes, Bush, and the Gardner Brothers, is to keep the barrel in the hitting zone longer.  This increases BA and Slug%.

    Here’s my advice:

    1. Chew and digest the science,
    2. Observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then
    3. Try it out!

    If it doesn’t work after giving it the ol’ college try, then toss it.

    As many of you know, I will gladly eat crow and change my hitting system IF you can show me the science, swing experiments, and many elite hitting examples that I can’t ignore the issue.

    This is an informal Part-1 to a Zepp swing experiment I’ll be doing on the Giancarlo Stanton closed stance in the near future.  So stay tuned…

  9. The Shocking Mistake Killing Run Production (MUST Read For Ground-ball Hitting Coaches)…

    4 Comments

    Ground-ball Hitting Approaches May Be Causing You To Lose Out On Producing MASSIVE Runs

    Joey Votto: Plane of the Pitch

    Joey Votto is one of the best at keeping his barrel on the plane of the pitch for a long time. Photo courtesy: RantSports.com

    Now, before getting your panties in a bunch, let me start off by saying, the ONLY time ground-balls are okay, is for situational hitting scenarios. Other than that, ground-balls should be banned.

    My friend and retired Major Leaguer Homer Bush, in his book Hitting Low In The Zone: A New Baseball Paradigm, uses Sabermetrics to show how hitters can hit .300 with consistent power, IF they can do two things consistently well:

    1. Elevate the low pitch, and
    2. Hit to ALL fields.

    CLICK HERE for an interview I did with him here.

    If you’re a Ground-ball Hitting Coach, then I address A LOT of your objections in this Ground-ball Rant post, which has amassed over 5,400 LIKES on Facebook.

    However, the biggest head scratcher for me is the fact that a large majority of pitching coaches around the nation teach their pitchers to keep the ball down in the zone.  WHY?  Because they want hitters striking the top half of the ball, which drives the ball into the ground.  Pitchers want hitters hitting ground-balls!  Then why are hitting coaches teaching hitters to hit the ball into the ground and/or swinging down on the ball?  By the way, the latter produces MORE “worm-burners”, NOT less.

    I know, I know, these coaches point to terrible defenses at the lower levels or that there are no “bad hops” in the air, but where those arguments lose traction is:

    • What happens when you face a team with a better defense?  FACT: teams – at any level – that tend to end up in Championship games can play catch better than others.  And,
    • If you’re a coach pinning your “hopes” and “dreams” on the other team making an error or booting a ground-ball, then you’re teaching your players to control the uncontrollable.  No elite athlete or coach in their right mind – in any sport – focuses on uncontrollables.  This means you’re teaching an inferior model.

    In this post, I wanted to share the growing MOUNTAIN of evidence being produced by Sabermetric sites, such as Beyond The Box Score, that are churning out, with increased frequency, Major League case study after case study showing that ground-ball hitting approaches are non-conducive to scoring MASSIVE amounts of runs, and non-productive for hitters at ALL levels and genders.

    Onward and “upward”…

    What Addison Russell’s swing adjustment means for 2016

    Addison Russell made a change to his swing during the 2015 season, which could alter his offensive impact significantly in 2016.

    By: Randy Holt

    “The declining ground-ball rate will likely be a bit more significant in the long-term, as those changes continue to go into effect, given that Russell’s changed stance means he isn’t swinging down at the ball so much. So it’s only natural, and perhaps beneficial, that that number comes down. His line-drive rate didn’t change significantly, but the uptick in his fly-ball percentage was nice. Especially if you’re of the belief that as Russell continues to grow and develop, his strength will increase, leading to a nice uptick from his 11.4% homer to fly-ball ratio.”

    Swinging down DOES NOT get the ball consistently AND productively in the air, getting the barrel on an upward plane with the downward traveling pitch does.  Ted Williams said this in his book The Science of Hitting.

     

    Scooter Gennett and ground balls

    Scooter Gennett’s offense has declined every year since he broke into Major League Baseball, are ground balls the reason?

    By: 

    It’s obvious that an increased amount of grounders is diminishing Gennett’s ability to tap in to his power, and is behind the drop in his offense over the last couple seasons. It’s easier said than done to put the ball in the air than on the ground, but without overwhelming speed it is tough for hitters to last by putting the ball on the ground. It is one of the main reasons we have seen his BABIP deflate from the .380 total he posted in his rookie season. To think that he could return to that total and sustain it is ridiculous, but the he also has gone from well above average to essentially average.”

    I included this BTBS post in my book on Amazon titled, “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground-Balls”.  Piggy-backing on this, here’s a more recent follow up about Gennett’s dramatic turnaround…

     

    Scooter Gennett: power hitter

    Home runs are up all around the league, and Scooter Gennett has joined the power party.

    By: 

    “In the interest of keeping up with the fads, the first thing I checked was his launch angle difference between 2016 and 2017. He went from 11.7 degrees to 15.0 degrees, which is certainly a change worth noting. It is not, however, in the range of launch angle darlings Yonder Alonso and Ryan Schimpf, who jumpted to 22.1 degrees and 30.2 degrees respectively. Despite not reaching the astronomical levels we’ve seen from some players this season, Gennett appears to have settled in a reasonable range that yields line drives, doubles, and a fair share of home runs as well.

    His move towards better contact based on the change in launch angle can be seen through a 5.8 percentage point decrease in ground balls in tandem with a 1.3 percentage point increased in line drives and 4.4 percentage point increase in fly balls. Even with a 21.6 percent HR/FB that’s bound to regress, the underlying improvement of putting balls in the air should allow his increased level of power to continue. That may manifest itself in more doubles than home runs, but that’s still a productive profile.

    The Reds got Gennett for nothing. He was in the midst of a multi-year slump in which he provided nearly zero additional value to the Brewers. Then Gennett, like so many others this season, added some lift on the ball and power to his game. The addition of power has helped him become a well above average hitter that should be able to provide 2-3 fWAR by the end of the season. That’s a huge win for the Reds, who simply claimed Gennett off waivers.”

    This is pretty damning evidence for those coaches promoting a primarily ground-ball offensive approach.  COACHES QUIT SABOTAGING YOUR HITTERS!!!

     

    Has Hanley Ramirez lost his power forever?

    Hanley Ramirez is having the worst offensive season of his career. Can he rediscover his power stroke, or are the underlying signs of decline too strong to counteract?

    By: 

    “Since it is usually advantageous to pull for power, it is no surprise that Hanley’s decreasing pull rate has coincided with his rapidly falling ISO and home run totals. Over the past three seasons, Ramirez has seen a simultaneous increase in ground ball rate and decrease in pull rate. These factors, along with increasing age, are probably the main causes of his diminishing power.

    So will the power come back? Probably a little bit. As his HR/FB ratio returns to normal levels, some of Hanley’s fly balls will likely turn into home runs. And since his hard hit rate has remained consistent, it is reasonable to expect a higher ISO going forward. However, if Ramirez’s launch angle remains as low as it has been thus far, a steady stream of ground balls can be expected, which will put major limitations on his power.

    Please re-read that last sentence.  On second thought, memorize and burn it into your brain.

     

    Bryce Harper is pounding the ball into the ground to no avail

    He’s gotta figure out how to elevate more despite pitchers giving him few pitches to elevate.

    By: Kevin Ruprecht, Jul 28, 2016

    “The batted ball distribution clearly reflects the launch angle, though perhaps the trend up in ground-ball rate started earlier than 75 games into the season.

    Harper is walking a ton and striking out less than last year, but his overall production has gone the way of his launch angles – down. His 116 wRC+ this year is a far cry from his 197 wRC+ last year. Pitchers are throwing more outside and lower than last year out of fear of his power, so Harper just isn’t getting many good pitches to hit. Harper will have to adjust to reverse this slump.”

    There are beautiful radar charts illuminating the differences in his launch angles in this post (just click the article “title” link above to see them).

    Evan Gattis fixed his ground ball problem

    With a move back to catcher and a more patient approach Evan Gattis seems to have cured what ailed him early in 2016.

    By: Chris Anders, Sep 26, 2016

    “Early in the season it looked like Evan Gattis might have been finished as a productive hitter. A player who is limited to DH and doesn’t hit the ball in the air enough to maximize his power is simply not an appealing roster option for most teams. Thankfully for both Gattis and the Astros the early season struggles seem to be merely a blip on the radar. As it turns out, a move back behind the plate and an increase in launch angle was all that was needed to re-energize his career.”

    Here’s a more recent Beyond The Box Score piece on Gattis about the difference in the two halves of his 2016 season…

     

    Evan Gattis’s power surge: Is it real?

    The Astros DH/catcher smacked a lot of extra-base hits in the second half of the year. Is this the new normal, or did he run into a few?

    By: Evan J. Davis, Jan 8, 2017

    “Where the swing might come into play is his batted ball types. Grounders fell nearly 13 percentage points between halves (47.1 percent in the first, 34.4 percent in the second), while fly balls jumped accordingly. Statcast confirms this: Gattis’s average launch angle jumped from 10.8 degrees in the first half to 13.1 degrees in the second. The sizable decrease in his pop-ups (from 5.3 percent to 3.9 percent), in tandem with the softly-hit and ground ball percentage drops, also suggests that Statcast wasn’t missing too many of his batted balls.

    Gattis was finding more optimal launch angles to hit the ball. He was getting more loft, and keeping the barrel through the zone.

    There’s a formula coaches, on how to consistently barrel the ball more often.  Sabermetrics have given hitting coaches the answers to the test!!!

     

    Franklin Gutierrez is wasting his hard contact

    It helps a player’s cause to hit the ball hard, but that alone won’t make him great. Just ask Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

    By: Ryan Romano, Sep 30, 2016

    “In 2015, Gutierrez put 46 balls in play in the lower part of the strike zone, according to Baseball Savant. 25 of those, or 54.4 percent, went on the ground, which ranked him in the 42nd percentile. In 2016, his ground ball rate on low pitches has leapt to 74.2 percent, moving him up to the 98th percentile. When given a higher offering, Gutierrez will still put it in the air, but that can’t compensate for the spike in grounders down below.

    If Gutierrez remains at this level of offense, he’ll be a solid player. Most teams will find a spot for a capable (in theory) defender who can hold his own at the plate. He won’t go back to being elite, however, unless he cuts down on the ground balls. Making hard contact is half the battle; the other part is making sure that contact goes where you want it to go.”

    The next piece for those of you Ground-ball hitting coaches addressing the objection that hitting for higher Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles contribute to more strikeouts (HINT: causation DOES NOT necessarily equal correlation here)

     

    Whit Merrifield is here to elevate and celebrate

    The Royals’ breakout infielder is the latest to embrace the launch angle revolution and is making sure he gets a chance to put the ball in play.

    By: Anthony Rescan, Aug 5, 2017

    “Arguably the most impactful change is what happens when Merrifield makes contact. Currently, his average, observed launch angle is up from 16.89° to 20.51° and he’s seeing a spike in exit velocity from around 84 mph to north of 87 mph.

    This has caused a massive shift in how his batted balls enter the field of play. Both line drives and ground balls have been siphoned off to fuel his fly ball spike.

    In addition to that, Merrifield has been much more successful at turning those fly balls into long balls. The effect of this change is seen across the board with Merrifield — a near-80-point spike in ISO [Raw Power – Slug% w/out singles factored into the equation] certainly isn’t anything to scoff at.

    Merrifield has also become more efficient at the plate. Though he’s experienced a slight dip in walk rate, he’s drastically cut his strikeouts. His previous mark of 21.7 percent has been struck all the way down to 13.1 percent. When looking at his plate discipline statistics from Pitch Info, we can spot the changes. His O-Swing rate has dropped two percentage points, but resulted in a 6.7 percentage point increase in O-Contact rate. He also is swinging at more pitches in the zone by a 3.8 percentage point margin, but his contact rate there dropped from 92.1 percent to 90.9 percent. Overall, his contact rate has jumped to 84.4 percent from 82.6 percent. So, he’s offering at less pitches out of the zone, but doing more with them and also swinging at better pitches.”

    Look coaches, the longer the hitter can match the plane of the pitch with the barrel, the more opportunity to drive the ball.  Increasing power doesn’t have to sacrifice swing quality.  Plate discipline and pitch recognition MUST also play a MAJOR role in the hitter’s development.

    Francisco Lindor is enjoying a big power surge

    It’s almost as if hitting the ball in the air is better than hitting it on the ground!

    By: Luis Torres, May 15, 2017

    “What really jumps out at you is the change in his ground-ball and fly-ball rates. He went from hitting way more ground-balls than fly-balls, to being a fly-ball hitter. His fly-ball rate went from 28 percent to 45 percent. That is a huge change.

    It used to be that coaches at all levels would encourage their hitters to swing down and keep the ball on the ground. In recent years, hitters are learning how ineffective that really is. Ground-balls will go for base hits more often than fly-balls will, but will go for extra bases less often. It is really hard to score by stringing together a bunch of singles.”

    At this point in the post, if you still find yourself a Ground-ball hitting coach, you may be thinking, “So should I teach my hitters to hit fly-balls?!”  Check out this FanGraphs.com article…

     

    Which is Better? A Ground Ball Pitcher or a Fly Ball Pitcher

    “Let’s take a look at a little bit of data to get started. Here are the results on each type of ball in play from 2014:

    Type AVG ISO wOBA
    GB .239 .020 .220
    LD .685 .190 .684
    FB .207 .378 .335

    You can see that line drives are bad news for pitchers any way you slice them. They lead to more hits and huge run values compared to the other types of balls in play. But there’s a trade off in the ground ball-fly ball department. Ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls but fly balls go for extra bases much more often when they do drop in for hits.

    In other words, if you’re a fly ball pitcher, you can usually sustain a below average BABIP, but you might get tagged for a few extra doubles, triples, and homers as a result. Ground ball artists, on the other hand, don’t often allow homers and extra base hits, but they allow singles to squeak through more often.”

    Let me clarify the above graph…ISO refers to Isolated Slugging% (aka Raw Power), which is like Slugging% but with singles factored OUT of the equation.  Weighted On-Base Average (or wOBA) measures a player’s overall offensive contributions per plate appearance.

    I think every hitting coach can agree on Line Drives being the ultimate hitting objective, but picking between the two “evils” of either a GB or FB is where hitting camps diverge.

    And according to the graph above, even though Fly-balls lose 32-points in Batting Average compared to ground-balls, I’ll take a boost of 358-points in Raw Power (ISO), and a jump of 115-points in a player’s offensive contribution per plate appearance (wOBA) ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

    I want to end with this beast of an article by The Hardball Times, authored one of my favorite authors Dan Farnsworth…

     

    Ground Balls: A Hitter’s Best Friend?

    “Alan Nathan [retired Physicist] has a great research article posted on his website detailing the math behind hitting a home run based on experimental measured ball flight. In it, he summarizes the results pertinent to this common teaching axiom:

    ‘For a typical fastball, the batter should undercut the ball by 2.65 cm and swing upward at an angle 0.1594 rad.’

    That value in radians converts to a 9.13° uppercut swing, representing the maximized swing path for energy transfer and backspin using a typical major league hitter’s bat speed.

    I do not believe this is common practice or knowledge in major league baseball, which is unfortunate. I have heard a lot of second-hand horror stories about the philosophies of many organizations in the game. Especially at the big league level, there is little evidence that a true ground-ball swing will lead to success. Line drives are the key to hitting, regardless of hitter attributes. Speed appears to have less of an impact on a hitter than what popular belief says. While speed may help boost a player’s batting average on balls in play, fast hitters do not have an automatic incentive to hit the ball on the ground, based on these results. They can turn doubles into triples rather than just outs into singles.

    The bottom line: leave swinging down to bad hitters at the amateur level, who have no chance at playing at the highest levels of the game. Otherwise, hit the damn ball in the air.”

    There is A LOT of great stuff in this Farnsworth article, so I advise you read the whole thing.

    And if you think teaching speedy hitters to hit the ball on the ground is a good thing, then let me share this fact from Rob Arthur from FiveThirtyEight:

    Let me repeat,

    The effect of speed starts to fade only when launch angles exceed 10-degrees, as exit velocity begins to take over as the biggest determinant of a batted ball’s fate.”

    My friend and retired Big Leaguer Aaron Miles once told me that even the Dee Gordon’s of the hitting world have to learn how to drive the ball at the Big League level because the infielders’ arms are well above average.

    Ground-ball hitting coaches, are you starting to run out of excuses yet?

    Let me leave you with some quotes from some “pretty good” hitters, talking about the importance of Launch Angles and Ball Exit Speeds

    Now look,

    If you still aren’t convinced that higher Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles are the way to go, then I chalk it up to willful ignorance.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?  Hopefully this post moved you to more of a conscious incompetence.  In other words, you now know what you don’t know.

    Don’t worry, I understand, you may not be familiar with how to teach your hitters how to elevate the ball with authority.  The good news is, there are resources.  Get educated because your hitters are DEPENDING ON YOU.

    There are quite a few individuals on Twitter teaching this approach (this is by no means an exhaustive list, if you know of others, then please post in the comments section):

    Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my online video course titled Pitch-Plane Domination.  Sorry, shameless plug 😛

    Mark my words, this hitting approach will be the norm in the next few years.  Just remember that I told you so 😉

    Also, if you’re on the Twitters, then use the hashtags #GBsSuck, #GroundballsSuck, or #PitchPlaneDomination to spread the “elevate to celebrate” gospel.

  10. Discover The “Paradoxical Intention” Secret To Making Adjustments

    5 Comments

    Here’s A Quick Way To Help Hitters Make Outcome-Based Swing Adjustments (you don’t have to be a rocket scientist!)…

    In this video, we’ll discuss:

    • Man’s Search For Meaning, by Dr. Victor Fankl and his theory of “Paradoxical Intention”
    • Making “horizontal” hitting adjustments,
    • Making “vertical” hitting adjustments, and
    • Making adjustments to the point of impact.

upper-left-arrow

FREE Webinar: "How To Train
12u Hitters. Weighing Around
100-Lbs, To Frequently Hit The Ball
300 Feet"