Proper Use Lower Half Ground Force Hitting Mechanics Breakdown, Weight Transfer, & Footwork Drills For Youth Baseball Softball Beginner Swing
Discover how to use lower half ground forces in this hitting mechanics breakdown. Learn proper weight transfer and footwork drills for youth baseball and softball beginner swings.
3 Shocking Mistakes Killing Your Effortless Power
You guys are in for a treat… (also, make time to go through the comments at the end of the blog post. There are a ton with REALLY good information!!)
I wanted to share with you a 1991 article published in Hardball Magazine about hitting. Keep in mind that video motion analysis was virtually non-existent at that time. Video cameras resembled what Michael J. Fox held in the movie Back To The Future 😛 lol
The information contained in the following two pages is eerily similar to what we talk about here at HPL. Even down to the “buzz” words used. And just to let you know, the ‘3 Shocking Mistakes…” are covered in the below article. By the way, I’ve never come into contact with the gentleman I’m about to introduce until now…
The author of the published post, Jim Sullivan (J.D.), has accumulated the following credentials with his hitters over the last couple decades (from his website: Hitting4Contracts.com):
- 7 First Round Draft Choices,
- $20,000,000 (million) in Signing Bonuses,
- Players Drafted or Signed 60 Times, and
- Millions in Scholarships.
And he did this completely under the radar. As he said, to escape coaches punishing his hitters in their lineups. My hitters have received the same treatment, much like a lot of yours. Crazy how fragile a 40+ year old male ego is when it comes to hitting!
Improve your hitting strategy dramatically by applying human movement principles.
Learn not only how and what to train but also the science behind the methods.
One of the hitters J.D. worked with at both the amateur and professional levels was Troy Glaus:
“JD introduced me to key concepts that are essential to my approach to hitting. Concepts that you won’t find anywhere else. I first met him in 1991 and have since spent serious one on one hitting time with him (as both an amateur and pro). I have seen him greatly increase power in not only individual hitters but also entire teams.”
For those that don’t remember Troy Glaus, he was a World Series MVP, American League Home Run Champion, Four Time All Star, 1996 U.S. Olympic Team. Angels #1 Draft Pick 1997, # 3 overall.
J.D. reached out to me via comment on my baseball swing mechanics “Squish the Bug” experiment YouTube video. Without further adieu, here are the two pages of the published article in 1991…
What are your thoughts on the article?
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Great article on weight shifting Joey. You still see a lot of players not striding though – I believe it’s because the coaches of young kids want to see them make contact before they gain power. Personally … I think it’s better (by far) to teach a proper and dynamic swing and THEN learn to control it. It’s a ‘chicken and egg’ thing – what comes first … The contact or the power? Coaches have got to sell the development pyramid model to the kids and parents before you’ll see any changes.
Let me explain quickly … As a coach … it’s much safer, or less risky let’s say, to tell your kids to just stand stagnant in the box and slow down their bat, and swing with no stride (or with a little lift of the front heel and then dropping it), than it is to get them to attack the ball as the article suggested. At a young age, eliminating the stride phase will most often result in a greater rate of contact for sure, but it’s a dead end street for the kid. So the kid hits the ball weekly, or sort of OK … whichever … and the coach can look the eager young parents in the eye and say “He’s hitting the ball!” But this false sense of accomplishment will be short lived when he’s 14 and switches to a wood bat and can’t hit.
The way a ‘real’ coach does it is to teach the 7 or 8 year old to hit properly, and he may see some foul or missed balls initially, but he can look the parents in the eye and say … “He’s only 8 … wait until you see him in the next few years … he’s gonna kill the ball!” It’s the same sort of thing when you see coaches spend more time instructing the better players, and leaving the middle guys behind. They can get more miles and take more credit from someone who actually has natural ability, and save themselves the shame of working with a player that may not get instant results. I guess it’s all part of the ‘What-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ world we live in – but it’s more to gratify the coaches ego and validate his worth than it is to benefit the player, and stay true to the developmental model known to help players in the long run.
I 100% agree. Coaches are willing to trade long-term results with short term gratification. The player has ALL the risk in the latter scenario. Sorry I haven’t replied to your past email about Quin. I’ve been slammed these last few weeks. I’m so happy for him and you. I love that video of him blasting one against that college pitcher, and he’s only 15/16yo! I’ll reply this next week brother 😀
Great stuff! A true believer! Where has he been all my life? I agree with just about everything he said in the article except for what he said about Henry Aaron. If Aaron was perceived to be a wrist hitter it was because he lunged at times, moving his upper body over his front leg while keeping his hands back.
He alludes to skipping the back foot, which is your term, Joey. He says that the back foot comes off the ground but doesn’t say what direction the back foot travels. I believe that the back foot should skip forward into contact, transferring more energy by adding more forward momentum. In watching tape of Mickey Mantle, I saw that he would skip his back foot a little to the side when batting right handed, towards the dugout. My question is, should the back foot skip forward into contact?
Joe, yes, Jim was way ahead of his time. He caught A LOT of flack for his views on hitting. I would’ve hated to explain this stuff back then. Would’ve been very difficult. The “squish the bug” experiment was pretty clear about the benefit of skipping the back foot. I’ve seen it skipped forward, behind the hitter, and towards home plate. It would be worth testing, but I think they all accomplish the same goal.
Wow, bat to the future! Glaus was probably right, in 1991 that kind of instruction really couldn’t be found anywhere else. Sadly, 24 years later there’s still only a handful of instructors teaching the truth.
lol, “bat” to the future! You’re a clever one Ryan 😀 I totally agree, the industry hasn’t traveled very far since Jim put out this article.
Does he mean that there is no such thing as an axis of rotation at all? Also, he didn’t discuss when the head moves forward, and when it shouldn’t. He’s not advocating Lau’Hriniak weight forward, is he? I think these points need to be clarified, though what he advocated in 1991 ran counter to what was in vogue at the time.
Joe, JD has said he read your comment and will clarify. Basically he’s saying people were advocating back then (and now) there the axis of rotation should not shift at all. This would be like pure rotational hitting. JD says axis of rotation does not stand still in the case high level swings.
Hey everyone, this is JD. I wrote the 1991 article we are discussing here. I want to give a huge thank you to Joey for even considering, much less printing this old article. I hadn’t read that article in twenty four years so it was very interesting to read it again. I have always said I have not really changed what I believe since I gave my first lesson in 1987 or 1988. Reading the 1991 article confirmed that for me. As a complement to what is being done at The Hitting Performance Lab I just want to say that many times since You Tube has been around I thought about jumping into the mix. I would start watching some videos and I could not believe the insanity of what was being taught. Furthermore, when I read the comments I realized that people were buying into it all, hook, line and sinker. After a couple days I would just shut it down, I just couldn’t watch it. I would try it all again about a year later and again it was two or three days and out. It became an annual ritual of disgust. A few months ago I tapped into a few of Joeys clips and I really liked his approach and what he had to say. My number one rule of hitting is; It doesn’t matter who says it, a high school coach, a college coach, a professional coach, a major league ballplayer, a Hall of Fame hitter, the latest book, the latest DVD, a professional scout… it doesn’t matter who says it….. IT DOESN’T MAKE IT TRUE! I had what I called ’The Test Of The Best”. Countless hours of film of the greatest hitters of all time. Time after time what great hitters thought and said they did at the plate did not at all match up to what they actually did. So I filtered EVERTHING through “The Test Of The Best”. Joey, to me, seems to have that same approach. I have in no way seen all of Joeys videos and I can promise you we don’t agree on everything, but from what I have seen I would say that he is not going to accept anything as fact unless it can get through his tests, experiments and filters. I also really like the fact that Joey is not afraid to go right for the juggler on hitting’s sacred cows such as ‘knuckle alignment’ and ‘squishing the bug’ to name a couple. Attacking those myths is going to make you a lot more enemies than friends, it will HURT your business and you will take a lot of heat for taking contrary positions. It takes serious guts and thick skin to skewer the deep seeded beliefs of the vast majority of American coaches. My hat is off to Joey, The Hitting Performance Lab and all of you for having the resolve to stand up for what is right, no matter what the cost, to further the careers of hitters. Thanks again, JD
J.D., thank you for all the kind words. Here’s what I say, look to human movement rules validated by science first, then see how those rules are applied to high level swings. If we just look at high level swings and hitting “absolutes”, then we never know which are effective and which are not, and most important, WHY! We must have filters in place to evaluate the best, because as you know, the best CAN get better. And I think it’s ignorant to think that the best don’t have any room for improvement.
On taking on the sacred cows, we’re brothers in arms there. I somewhat know what you had to go through back in 1991 to take on the ignorance of the hitting world. Except I think you took way more heat than I have or ever will. There’s just too much technology nowadays for the naysayers to refute what we talk about at HPL.
Thanks for your sincerity and efforts. Yes, Joey has done a great job with his efforts to get players and coaches to match hitting with human moving science.
Thanks Joe, we still have a long ways to go, but I’m grateful to hitting friends and readers like you who help refine the message 😀
Thank you for taking the time to read the article. I will do my best to answer any questions you have. You have thrown out a lot of questions, some of which I feel are explained in detail in the article. When I sent the article to Joey I explained to him that I felt it was very important to read the article very carefully. The words ‘at impact’ and ‘at contact’ are very important. I had about 2,000 words and one picture to refute the most controversial hitting myth of the time. As you read the article remember it was 1991, and I had one goal, to show that hitters do not arrive at impact with their weight on their back foot. So the questions of when the head moves, etc. are just not applicable to the article. Also not sure what your point is on what I had to say about Aaron. Do you feel I am stating that I personally believe Aaron was a ‘wrist hitter’ or are you saying that Aaron never was considered a wrist hitter? Either way, I need you to clarify your point, as I feel I am very clear in the article on where I believe Aaron got his power. In addition, Aaron was definitely labeled a wrist hitter from the beginning (1957 article in Time Magazine “The Wrist Hitter”) and a big deal was always made of his 8 inch wrists and the strength he developed from his job delivering 25 pound blocks of ice carried with iron tongs. A quick Google Search of ‘Hank Aaron Wrists’ will reveal his label as a wrist hitter. Lastly you can save me an hour or two of writing if you could do me a favor and re-read the article in detail and watch the 2 short videos on my website that Joey has linked. You will get a good feel of what I am about and what my hitters look like. A great portion of the swings are live game homeruns of my 1st and 2nd round draft picks, these are not hitters that showed up one time to some cattle run camp. Most of them I started training anywhere from 10-14 years of age all the way through their pro careers. If after that you still feel I have any resemblance to Hriniak then let me know and I’ll start writing, never had to defend myself on that one. Thanks JD
J.D., great points. Just keep in mind you’re not being attacked, just being asked to clarify. You’re in friendly waters here, trust me, my hitting friends and readers are a great group to help distill down to the essentials of the message. Joe please re-read the 1991 article (I re-read three times), I think you’ll find J.D. is right on path to what we believe is the hitting truth.
Joe and Joey, my sincere apologies. Honestly I have never been in friendly waters in hitting and my defenses immediately pop up at the slightest challenge. That is a serious issue on my part. I really am sorry.
J.D., no need to be sorry, trust me I’m the same way. Call it hitting theory PTSD 😉
I apologize if my comments were misunderstood. I meant no negative criticism. I laud your efforts in the face of the linear hitting movement, led by Lau and Hriniak, back then. I find it fascinating that you were saying these things, hitting concepts, which are very apparent today, in 1991 and we are still discussing them now. I believe that you, Joey, and I are on the same page as far as hitting goes. Writing about hitting, especially on a medium such as this, becomes difficult – it’s a challenge to find the words to express one’s thoughts, though I will try.
As for Aaron, I realize he was called a wrist hitter. I think that is a misconception to an extent. He had a lot of forward momentum created by a long stride, which was indicative of a lot of hitters in the 1960s. I think that Aaron lunged at times because of his long stride. However, he kept his hands back, at times just flicking at the ball. Mays, Mantle, and Clemente lunged too because of their long strides. They too managed to keep their hands back. I think Barry Bonds emulated the hitters of the 1960s but reduced his stride to prevent lunging.
As for the axis of rotation, do you believe that it exists in a hitter? Is it stationary or does it move? Your picture in the article suggests, to me, that you are rotating around an axis. I believe that a hitter uses forward momentum, which is converted into angular or rotational momentum, then adds a bit more foward momentum with the skipping of the back foot into contact (Joey’s term).
Once again, my apologies. I meant no disrespect. I appreciate your efforts and you taking the time to reply to my comments.
Those are great observations on Aaron and the great hitters of the past! I need a little time to formulate it but would like to throw out a theory of my own (right along side and in agreement of your observations) of why he was labeled that way.
As for the axis of rotation question, that is an incredibly complex question! Is it stationary or does it move? Again, that is deep! You guys aren’t playing around here. I should have some time tonight to try to write an answer.
Thanks for your time. The hitters of the 1960s always interested me because they hit for power without the aid of weight training or steroids. Had to be a reason, which I believe was to be found in their mechanics. You can find them on youtube.
My theory on why Aaron was labeled a wrist hitter goes right along with what you are saying. I think the belief back then that it was ‘All Back Foot’ made it really difficult for them to explain away guys like Aaron and Clemente. We know that the greats all transferred to the front side at impact but within a fraction of a second the weight often recoiled back again to the rear foot. Most hitters, coaches etc. just couldn’t see that split second un-weighting with the unaided eye. With Aaron and Clemente the weight transfer was so great and the back foot, at times, so far off the ground that even back then there was no doubt that those two hit with their weight on their front foot. The thinking back then and well into the 80’s was steadfast that the bulk of your power somehow came from your back remaining in contact with the ground. When Lau came out and said “No, great hitters hit with their weight transferred to the front foot” the hitting world went ballistic! The biggest arguments against hitting with your weight on the front foot was that you would; 1). Have no power. 2) You would be unable to hit anything off-speed. Aaron and Clemente destroyed those arguments. Clemente was my favorite ballplayer as a kid and I can remember being told by coaches, “Don’t watch Clemente, he does everything wrong, his success is because he is such a great athlete. ” The only way they could explain away Aaron was also with the “Great Athlete Argument”. That he must have some tremendous athletic gift that allows him to break all the rules and still be a great hitter. In Hanks case, as you said, he had that ability to ‘keep his hands back’. and at times be at the end of his rope, weight has driven almost ’On Top” of the front leg and still be able to explode on the ball. Back then, with the belief that you could supply no power to the ball with your weight on your front foot, the only way to explain away Aaron was to say that it was ‘all wrists‘. Just my thoughts.
Great thoughts JD. Aaron and Clemente were not very big guys by today’s standards. Every Major Leaguer is gifted, but as I say, some just get away with ineffective mechanics. Not Aaron and Clemente, not me, are small sluggers. They had to do everything right, in order to compensate for being considered a “small” guy. As Joe said, keeping the “hands back” is more or less what I talk about in the Catapult Loading System (CLS). They did a great job of doing some or all of the following: 1) show numbers to pitcher, 2) downhill shoulder angle, and 3) hiding the hands from the pitcher. Doing most or all of these things enabled both hitters to still hit with consistent power even though they were out front. The CLS helps a hitter take slack out of the system, by pre-loading the springy fascia, and using the spinal engine in the proper way. Aaron and Clemente were onto something 😉
Ok, I think I have an explanation as to how these relatively small men, by today’s standards, generated so much power despite being prone to lunging due to their long strides. Today’s hitters do not take as a long of a stride for the most part.
If you watch Dimaggio, Williams, Mays, Mantle, Kaline, and Clemente, they all had long strides (Dimaggio did even with a wide stance). Yet, though often prone to lunging, they still were able to keep their hands back. Why? They all utilized elastic energy, pushing their arms and hands back past the so-called “universal launch position” of the rear armpit. Some of them, if not all, almost barred their front arm in doing so. Today, I think Bryce Harper does that. So, because they stretched their arms like that, going past their armpit, they had all of that back (their arms and hands), though they had moved so far forward with their long strides. Thus, they compensated for lunging at times by keeping their hands back. Does this make sense to you?
By the way, where is the launch position as you teach it – around the armpit? Even Gary Sheffield, after all of that pre-launch movement he did, still had his hands near his armpit at foot plant.
Hope this helps. Let me know what you think. Joey, feel free to jump in.
Joe, was I had read this before replying to J.D. lol 😛 It’s all about the Catapult Loading System (CLS) that allowed the hitters you mentioned to hit with consistent power even though they were out front at times.
Forgot Henry Aaron in the group.
Wow, that is an awesome observation. I have an entire section in my presentation where I show 20 or so pictures and film of greats with their arm, lets just say it like it is, it’s barred! These guys have absolutely no problem with their routes to impact. Your elastic energy term is what we referred to as flexion, I like your term better. As the lead arm lengthens out accompanied with the lateral attack of the body a great amount of energy is created. Joey, I could be wrong here but I think this what you are explaining with your ‘catapult loading system’. Contrary to what is believed out their, this type of arm barring does not in any way make your swing long and slow but exactly the opposite. The elastic energy created in the lead lats, delts and shoulder area produces and extremely fast, clean and powerful route to impact. As far as Launch/Power Position goes I don’t care where or how a guy starts as long as he can get close to the classic positions described by Lau (Launch 1980) and Lefebvre (Power Position 1979). If I can get a kid to a solid launch/power position coupled with the above described actions there is a good chance somebody is going to pay that kid to play baseball, college or pro. FYI there was a lot of teaching out there in the 80’s and 90’s that the lead arm starts at 45 degrees and NEVER goes beyond that. This teaching was eagerly swallowed by the herd mentality of the American coaching system and forced upon the hitters, becoming deeply engrained at the collegiate level. I still see remnants of it today.
J.D., I agree partially. Homer Kelly in his book The Golfing Machine talks about four “power accelerators”. The one you’re referring to is where the hitter (or golfer) pulls the front arm tight (with the top hand) like a bow and arrow. I don’t like the lead arm to completely bar out, or get to straight before a hitter turns. I like a very slight bend in it. Unlike a golfer, a hitter isn’t 100% sure of the pitch type, speed, and location, they have to get their barrel on the plane of the pitch ASAP. Once it’s there, then depending on those three things, the hitter is free to keep a bend in the front arm or straighten it out as necessary. If Major Leaguers were hitting off a tee in games, then much like golf, I’d teach getting that front arm to lock out early in the turn, but unfortunately with our sport, we’re dealing with different circumstances.
Doing that with the front arm does lengthen the swing, though. Mays, Mantle, and Aaron were superbly conditioned athletes, muscular but cut and not bulky.
So, where is the launch/power position? You didn’t say.
Personally, I teach that the front arm should be as close to being parallel to the ground.
This is taken from a hitting sheet I give my hitters that I made in the 90’s, has 6 pictures and 9 main phases of the swing with anywhere from 3 to 18 points main points under each phase. Under Launch/Power Position: Hands over back toe & armpit high- back elbow parallel or just below parallel to the ground- barrel slight wrap- barrel 45 degrees- weight still back-front shoulder down and in…. Much of today’s terminology such as toe touch, heel plant, torque.. especially torque, I have never used and never will. But for clarification, the Launch/Power Position above was pretty much written from what Lau and Lefebvre discovered 35 years ago. The above position, as they taught it, would be at what is presently referred to as toe touch.
Great description J.D.!
Thanks for the information.
I noticed that Dimaggio, Williams, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Kaline, and Clemente all had their bats vertical in the stance.
Joe, yes more vertical barrels back then. I teach what J.D. is, slightly tilted towards the pitcher and at a 45-degree angle. Basically, before landing, the hitter points the knob of the bat down at the catcher’s mitt.
I realize you advocate getting as much momentum as possible into contact, with the leg lift, long stride, and tilting the bat over the hitter’s head, but I think a longer bat path gets a young hitter into trouble with timing. It’s fine for Bautista, Donaldson, Cespedes, Cabrera, and guys like that but for every one of those guys there’s the Cubs’ Javier Baez, who can’t stay in the majors. Young players need to quite the athlete to do that.
Is longer slower? Perhaps. The hitters of the 1960s hit for power. Their bats were vertical.
Perhaps that had something to do with it. Do you remember Dick Allen? He was an exception.
Joe, it’s the Goldilocks Syndrome, in moderation. You can do things too much, not enough, but we’re looking for just right. I don’t teach all my hitters to have a leg kick. I just do that in my swing. Each hitter is different, but the objective is, they have to get moving forward.
Regarding vertical bat angles in the stance. I think if you look at the guys you mentioned you will see that, although they may have started close to vertical, they get very close to the 45 degree range at launch or just as they begin to fire to impact. I may be wrong but I don’t think I have seen a hitter that can consistently control the barrel without a major loop from a truly vertical position.
Hey Bob, just wanted to say that your comments to start this tread are awesome and right on the money! Comes down to winning vs. player development. Thanks for taking the time to read my ancient article.
Ok, yes, I agree. I thought you meant dipping the bat overhead like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, or Josh Donaldson. I agree with you. Once again it is difficult to find the words to express one’s thoughts , or correctly interpret well chosen words.
Yes, the CLS, it was. Today, we might say they were guilty of an early arm bar since they were going back with their front arm, not down and in with the front shoulder. But we are all in agreement on all of this.
In regard to the vertical bat in the stance: Do you mean the bat tilted towards the pitcher at a 45 degree angle at toe touch or at a 45 degree angle toward the opposite batters box?
J.D. and others, Once the weight is transferred to the front foot, what causes the explosion of the rotation? By the way, great knowledge of arms and weight transfer. Thanks
Regarding launch angle 45’s. I have at times used the term “double 45’s”. Two pictures would do the trick but I will do my best in words. Using a right handed hitter from a centerfield view. Assuming your computer or TV is close to square then the bat angle will run close to a diagonal across the screen with the knob of the bat pointing toward the bottom left hand corner and the barrel towards the top right hand corner. Facing the hitter, straight on from the first base side, you will again have a 45 with the same points of reference as above. I am not real strict on these angles, they are more general guidelines than a steadfast rule, I allow a huge amount of individuality in the hitters I train. In general you don’t see too many hitters that go much beyond midline of body with the very top of the barrel, if they do then you are getting into wrapped territory. Also you have a lot of hitter that come way short of that midline area and do just fine.
Totally agreed JD
Can someone give me the terms your group uses for orientation when taking about a hitter. What is your front view, side view, back view etc.?
J.D., I use chest view, pitcher’s view, and back view.
Forward/linear momentum is created by the stride. The foward momentum is stopped by the front foot planting. The gravitational reaction force created by the heel drop/foot plant and the kinetic energy traveling upwards through the body. This causes the torquing action of the pelvis while the arms and hands are still going rearwards, caused by the front shoulder going down and in the takeaway, pre-stride. This creates a counter torque and results in a separation between the lower and upper halves of the body, compressing the body’s springy fascia (Joey’s “catapult loading system”). In other words, the lower half is opening while the upper half is still closing. The larger muscles then snap the smaller muscles of the arms and hands forward, creating high angular/rotational velocity, as long as the hands and arms do not come out away from the body. The back foot skipping into contact creates additional forward momentum.
I hope that makes sense.
Got it. I think the bat going from 90 degrees to 45 is created by the actions of the hands on the bat handle. Joey did an article on that with Babe Ruth as an example, breaking the bat handle.” Check it out.
Wow, terms? That will take some time and this comment section always times out on me. Great question.
@ Joe and Sean
Regarding rotation, axis or rotation, moving axis of rotation and what causes the explosion etc.: I was really stressing 4 or 5 days ago on how in the world I was going to give an opinion in these areas with the written word. I was thinking it was going to take thousands of words to describe. What I have realized is that your group has a really deep understanding of hitting so I think I can answer the questions without painstakingly agonizing over every word trying to explain myself. It still is going to take a while though. I’ll start working on it.
Regarding Terms: Not a full list of terms, just front view, side view etc. Confusion can come in when, say a right handed hitter, one persons back view is directly behind home plate while another persons back view is from the third base dugout. I have seen front view confused in the same way with centerfield and first base dugout.
Front view – from CF
Back view – from directly behind the catches idea view – from opposite dugout and same side dugout.
Is that what you meant?
So by opposite dugout and same side dugout, you would mean that the first base dugout would be opposite a right handed hitter, yes?
Okay, lets see if I can make any sense at all regarding my thoughts on rotation, axis or rotation, moving axis of rotation, and what causes the explosion etc. I will attack these one or two at a time. First of all I believe in and teach a positive, aggressive, explosive backside drive or backside fire to impact. It results in what is essential referred to as hip explosion, rotation, hips whatever term a person uses. That said, I almost never use the term rotation with my hitters in describing what I want them to do. I do use it in general conversation or in situations like the article we are discussing because we need a quick, common term to describe the explosive action of the hips. As far as rotation goes. ( I am throwing this stuff out without detailed explanation) I believe that true, central axis rotation can ‘at times’ occur. You also have hitters that “Clear” the hips. When watched from a center field camera you will see the back hip literally ‘replace’ or “blow out” the front hip with the hip structure shifting (clearing) towards the third base dugout for a right handed hitter. Now, is that rotation? And if so is it around a ‘central axis‘? If it’s not rotation then what is it? Is it a ’Linear Backside Explosion’ into impact caused by the front leg stopping an aggressive lateral weight shift? To me, rotation does not need to be around a central axis (Pull up ‘Space Centrifuge’ on You Tube). Assuming the above pitch was an inside fastball, the same hitter may have a completely different approach on a pitch on the outer 4th of the plate where, if his hips fully ’Cleared’, he would have great trouble with the outside pitch. So, rotation is a no teach with my hitters. As stated above I teach a positive, aggressive, explosive backside drive or backside fire to impact. This explosion has to be ‘on time’ with a hitter able to burn on an inside fastball as well a being able to hold that split second when he has to. Power to all fields is essential, few things get scouts attention faster than op-field power. Again, rotation is a ’no teach’ for me because it is all taken care of in set-up. A hitter cannot think mechanics at the plate. He can’t think, when or where or how much to explode the hips. A strong set-up and the right aggressive mental approach takes away all the mechanical garbage lists stuffed into hitters heads and allows them to think one thing “KILL BALL!” If you give a hitter a mechanical checklist at the plate make sure the last thing on the list is “turn around and go back to the dugout”.
I totally agree J.D. about our coaching cues on this. I like to use a metaphor describing this “rotational” action. I borrowed it from Jim Lefebvre…and it illustrates centripetal (center seeking) and centrifugal (center fleeing) forces. Imagine a swinging tether ball…the ball stays in a circular/rotational pattern (centripetal) because of the string that’s attached to the center axis of rotation (the pole). But if you hit the ball hard, then someone cuts the string, the ball flies off in a tangent, away from the pole (centrifugal). In hitting, we need a little of both. Centripetal at the start, until the barrel lands on the plane of the pitch, then centrifugal, to get the barrel to “chase” the ball after impact. The tether pole is the head and spine, the string is the hitter’s arms and bat, and the tether ball is the baseball/softball. A hitter isn’t literally letting go of the bat, but the metaphor really works to give my hitters an idea of what they’re doing with their body.
Wrote this for Sean. You may not like some of terms but… And, no, no thinking in the box. Activates wrong part of the brain, a topic for another day.
Forward/linear momentum is created by the stride. The foward momentum is stopped by the front foot planting. The gravitational reaction force created by the heel drop/foot plant and the kinetic energy traveling upwards through the body. This causes the torquing action of the pelvis while the arms and hands are still going rearwards, caused by the front shoulder going down and in the takeaway, pre-stride. This creates a counter torque and results in a separation between the lower and upper halves of the body, compressing the body’s springy fascia (Joey’s “catapult loading system”). In other words, the lower half is opening while the upper half is still closing. The larger muscles then snap the smaller muscles of the arms and hands forward, creating high angular/rotational velocity, as long as the hands and arms do not come out away from the body. The back foot skipping into contact creates additional forward momentum.
I hope that makes sense.
I just want to thank all of you for reading my old article and especially Joey for posting it. It was an honor and a challenge to be part of your group for a week. You are a great group of guys that are dead set on hitting truth, stay that way. Accept nothing as truth, no matter how much sense it ‘seems’ to make, test everything against the greats, past and present. You guys made me really think about hitting, I have not had to do that in a long time. In all honesty, I had pretty much given up all hope for the American coach but your group has given me hope. I have studied hitting in depth for about 37 years and I have attended many ABCA National Coaches Conventions (Thousands of high school and college coaches from all over the country) and time and again witnessed the most ridiculous theories, systems, fads etc. adopted by the vast majority (well over 90%) of coaches. I have witnessed these same coaches, in mass, ridicule amazing presentations with overwhelming evidence (300-400 pictures coupled with frame by frame video) of what the greatest hitters of all time do at the plate. I have seen a lot of the latest, greatest theories come and go. These theories always come with the same argument, that the mechanics of the greats are outdated and this new swing is so biomechanically superior that in 5 years EVERY hitter in the majors will be swinging this way. After almost 4 decades of hitting theories vs. hitting observation, I’ll go with observation every time.
Booya J.D.!! I hear your frustration loud and clear. I’ve even heard people explain away Dustin Pedroia’s ability to average 44 doubles and 15 homeruns per season (CLICK HERE for the stats) as being “gifted”. Really!? All Major Leaguers are gifted with superb eye hand coordination, and are exception athletes. But are you meaning to tell me that Pedroia at 5’9″, 175-pounds is gifted physically?! His hitting mechanics are effective…they HAVE to be!! There’s no other way for him to compete and do what he’s done in the decade he’s been in the Big Leagues. I’m sorry, but human movement rules are human movement rules. As long as they’re validated by science, they’ll be a fad that will NEVER go away.
Couple last things and I’ll be moving on. I am not sure at what level your hitters are but I can assure you, if you stick to your guns, that you will have some MAJOR confrontations and on a regular basis and your hitters will be in the middle of it. You guys teach what ACTUALLY happens in the swing and that is just not going to fly with most coaches. What are you going to do when your star hitter, state player of the year, high draft pick, etc. comes back mechanically destroyed and unrecognizable from his from his first year of college or his first stint in short season A ball. Happens all the time! What are you going to do if the kid comes back with his knuckles lined up, back elbow pointing straight down to the ground, no load, lead arm cannot go beyond 90 degrees because anything beyond 90 is considered barring by many hitting instructors (even at the pro level!) throw in an early stride at the moment the pitcher ‘starts’ his wind-up. Any one of these, or combinations of, can end a career. If the kid confronts his coach, he’s done. If you confront the coach, kids done, if he does what his coach wants him to do he’s still done because he will not advance in the game. If he starts a sentence with “But my hitting instructor back home or you need to look at this video,,,,” he’s REALLY done! If any of you watched the videos of my hitters you will see guys with no stride and early stride at both the collegiate and professional levels. These positions are not by choice, they have been forced on the hitters by the college or organization they play for. In short, be ready for these situations, you have to find ways to ‘cheat’ those positions, keeping your hitter in good standing with the organization and still maintain a cut that will allow him to advance in the game, that is not easy! The best to you guys! Joey, your doing an amazing job, keep up the good work! Thanks again for giving an old, war scarred veteran of the hitting world new life and a hope about the future for hitting that I did not have a week ago!
J.D., your warnings are highly warranted and heeded. Yes, already have my hitters, parents, and myself been tested by their coaches. We’ve gone to a “do not tell” basis. If coach asks, just say you’re not working with anybody. If they ask the hitter to do something ineffective, do it in front of them, then go back to what you were doing before. Another path is using the minimum effective dosage…what’s the least amount of movement to still get the benefits of, say forward momentum, without showing up on the coach’s radar. It’s definitely a battle, but my hope is to crack into the majority (lower levels), then the upper levels will follow. I don’t think the reverse would be true…the higher level ego is too fragile.
Thank you for your time and willingness to share your knowledge and experience. As a high school coach for 34 years, 21 at the varsity level, I can relate, having kids come to me after going to so-called hitting instructors. I’ve seen and heard it all. I prided myself in the study of hitting but all too often it fell on deaf ears, theirs but also mine. Didn’t stop me though. Mickey Mantle once advised hitters to “take as little coaching as possible.” I guess it depended on who was giving the instruction. I grew up watching and emulating Mantle. Got my first hitting instruction from Ted Williams at his camp before he went off into managing the Senators. I was lucky.
In an email to Joey, I said it was one of the best discussions on hitting I ever had. It doesn’t have to stop. For all of our benefit, please jump in on future articles posted by Joey.
Once again, thanks a lot.
@ Joey and Joe
Hey Joe, for the fun of it pull up “Roberto Clemente 1971 ASG Home Run” on You Tube. It’s a 48 second clip of a bomb to right center. It encompasses so much of what we talked about. The commentary alone proves the hitting beliefs at the time. The shock and ‘Trademark’ of Clemente on his front foot and the warning to the youth of America not to copy it. His back foot has to be at least 12 inches off the ground.
Funny you bring this up, I just looked at it today before seeing your comment J.D. Here’s the YouTube link to that video: http://gohpl.com/1gUWhQX
Yes, Aaron did the same thing in the same game. A lot of elastic energy there. Barred his front arm and pushed his hands past his armpit by a lot. But he kept his hands back. But don’t forget, he was a superbly conditioned athlete, not big and bulky. I think his build and the type of conditioning he did made him “elastic.”
Agreed Joe. Body types, mobility/stability, injury history, etc. will limit or expand the force of human movement.
Yeah that 71’ All Star Game is fun to pull up. Home runs by Clemente, Aaron, Bench, Killebrew, Robinson and ‘THE” Jackson HR, 520 feet off the light tower!
Wow, The fact that you received your first instruction from Ted Williams is awesome! His book is amazing! I read through a large part of my hitting library every year, I have easily read ’The Science Of Hitting” at least 25 times. Just so you know, if I come across as anti-Williams at times, that is not at all the case. I FUME, though, at what has been taught in his name the last 13 years since his death. I personally believe the Ultra Rotational Hitting mechanics currently taught in Ted’s name are a total travesty and have nothing to do with what Ted taught. I feel that if he was alive he would have shut it down in a instant! If you have ever read ’The Mike Schmidt Study” by Schmidt and Ellis 1994 (Awesome Book!) on page twenty they have a chart where they plot the Early Weight Shift swing circa 1900 at the far left and the William’s rotational swing is at the far right, as in, Ted is as rotational as it can get, it can’t get more rotational. I look at that chart and you would have to extend the rotational side of the chart onto the next page to plot the modern rational system as it is taught. I am right at ground zero of where the Ultra Rotational System was first dump on the waiting public. I had a kid slotted as the #1 pick in the country and I lost him to the guy waving a letter over his head shouting ’Look, I have a letter from ’The Man’ that says I know how to teach hitting!’ Kid dropped all the way out of the first round, cost him $2,000,000 (Yes Two Million). I saw hitter after hitter utterly destroyed. Thus my distain for any terminology that has come out of the modern rotational system.
Boom J.D., hit the nail on the head. Sorry to hear about that hitter who lost a 7-figure contract because of bad instruction. I’ve read both books, and love both.
Yeah that was a tough one. Kid was slotted as the #1 pick since his junior year, everyone wanted him. Draft day came and twenty plus teams passed. He still signed for 1 million, top pick went for 3 million. As far as personal goals as a hitting instructor: 100 guys drafted or signed, 10 guys that make it up to the Bigs and one #1 overall draft pick. Probably never going to get another shot at that #1.
Bravo J.D.! I’d say that’s a heck of a run 😀
I too have read both books. I used to give out copies of the excerpts to my players.
Ted Williams never explained all that much to us. Just told you if you were doing it right. He was a great guy once you got past the gruff exterior.
As far as the hitting guy who claims to be the only one to teach what Ted taught, was he a former major league player?
Correct me if I was wrong but Reggie Jackson didn’t bring his back foot into contact. Ted williams did bring it forward all that much either.
Joe, you’re probably thinking of the same person teaching Williams’s stuff that J.D. is talking about. Williams’s back foot actually skipped towards the plate. Reggie Jackson, like Adrian Beltre, really focused on getting under the ball, so they had fantastic back knee angles, almost to a fault. Pedroia does the same thing. This would inhibit a skipping back foot.
That is Williams did NOT bring his back foot forward into contact all that much.
Watching Ted I am seeing about 6 inches or so of lateral drive after an extremely strong and efficient load, totally 100% to the front foot/leg at impact, full hips. All the cuts I see he is fully un-weighted from the back foot, some cuts his back foot is slightly off the ground and moving around a bit. Definitely not the 50/50 rotation taught today with both legs working in conjunction with each other, pushing against the hip structure equally at the same time. Good Williams cuts on YouTube… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7lCtdF7q4I
I agree but he doesn’t do it to the extent that Aaron or Clemente did.
Williams also had that arm barring or elastic energy going on too.
Williams was just amazing! They are all just great cuts! I think we have been looking at Aaron and Clemente more at the far end of there weight transfers, cuts that they have been a bit out in front on. They had that ability to kind of glide for a split second on pitches they were a bit ahead of, not break down, and explode on time. Earlier in their transfer, when those guys had to, they would stop their weight shift and burn an a pitch. That ability was what came to mind when you first mentioned ‘moving axis of rotation‘, as those type of hitters can fire early or late in their weight transfer depending on the pitch, creating a huge impact zone.
Great stuff. Can’t get enough of this discussion. Would you teach the arm bar as demonstrated by those guys in the 60s?
I can’t say I would ’teach’ it but I also won’t take it away. I have way more problems with guys coming up way too short than barred. I have never shortened a guys lead arm. The only time the term barred is in my vocabulary is when I am giving a seminar. I will show 20 or so pictures of great hitters pretty barred out just to make the point to coaches that you can’t make a kid swing with his hands starting at his ear hole. A lot of the myths in hitting make total sense, problem is they just are not true. Examples: If you swing up the ball goes in the air, makes sense but not true, swing down and the ball goes down, not true. The shorter or closer your hands are to impact the quicker you will be, in my experience not true. I think you threw out a question the other day, something like ’the barring (barring to me is not necessarily a 180 degree lockout) of the lead arm definitely makes the swing longer…. but does it make it slower?’ GREAT QUESTION! My experience is that when a hitter comes to me all short, with his hands about on his pec at launch, he is ALWAYS slow and long (Long in this case being the sweet spot is crossing the path of the pitch). In my naked eye observation, from this shortened position, as soon as the body begins rotation the hands are fired almost straight ACROSS the plate for about 3 or 4 inches, at this point the hitter is long, his brain knows his hands are going to get blown up and the body begins to attempt to yank the sweet spot back into the path of the pitch, energy at this point is being pulled inward toward the body or the same side dugout instead of being projected threw the path of the pitch. Lengthening out, you get your ‘elastic energy’ and the hands fire in a fast, clean, powerful route. The route may be a longer actual distance but done right it’s quicker. I would have awesome hitters go out to college and come back all shortened up, the shorter they were, the slower they were to impact, this is my best shot at the why. ( I have never tried to write a description of this actual action, I hope I am making some kind of sense and like I said it‘s naked eye observation and thinking it through.)
J.D., you make perfect sense. The shortened position you speak of at launch being longer to the ball is because the “slack” isn’t taken out of the system. By lengthening the lead arm, this helps to “pull the cable tight” and allow for a shorter Time To Impact. I do not teach 180-degree length though. According to the Conservation of Angular Momentum, this would cause for a slower turning speed, BUT a higher inertial mass. I tell my hitters to pull that lead arm as straight as you can with the back arm, but resist extension with the front arm.
Opps! Need to change the word ACROSS to TOWARD…… In my naked eye observation, from this shortened position, as soon as the body begins rotation the hands are fired almost straight TOWARD the plate for about 3 or 4 inches
Please feel free to pick my last post apart, I really want to know the ‘why’ on it. Thanks JD
Just did J.D., you’re right on the money!
I don’t see many hitters hitting like the 60s guys with their front arm straightened and their hands way past their armpit. When we played against hitter like that we pitched him up and in and had no problems. Perhaps it was because they were not the athletes the 60s guys were (just look at their builds – no bulky muscles from weightlifting).which brings me to a question I think I asked before: Where is the launch position in your teaching? Is there a universal launch position?
As far as your contention that the hands first move towards the plate – you’re not advocating knob to the ball are you? I wouldn’t think so. Yes, I would say that’s true then. Then, the hitter moves them towards his body more to get on pitch plane.
Joe, not knob to ball, knob to plate.
I laid out a launch description earlier in this tread. Scroll above to August 12, 2015 at 9:42 pm. And no I am not advocating knob to ball.
Didn’t think so. Thanks, I’ll check again. This has been one long discussion. I forgot.
Those 60s guys all went past their armpit. Mantle might have been the most compact, though.
I guess my question is why is shorter longer? The above described problem occurs when the hitters launch position is forced by a coach towards midline of the body. I get hitters, say a right hander, with their hands literally in the middle of their right pec, back elbow down, again because that is supposed to be quicker, lead arm between 45 and 90 degrees. They are forced to swing from there. Common sense says shorter should be faster but its not. I am wide open on this one guys, I need an answer.
Also, in our discussion, what are we considering a modern era hitter. Would Brett, Griffey be considered as modern or are considering only active players as modern.
Did you say that your question was, “Why is shorter longer?”
Well, if your hands start at the body’s midline or even at the rear pec, a hitter would have to take his hands back from there before launching his swing. Would I be correct in saying that?
I have an interesting story about a player I coached against while coaching high school. This player was all-everything and wound up at a DI school. He did what you said, started with his hands in the middle of his chest. I observed him doing that and said that we had to pitch him up and in because he couldn’t launch his swing quickly enough from there since he moved his hands back in his takeaway/load (I don’t like that term load) before launching his swing. Everybody pitched him low with off-speed stuff, which he crushed. We pitched him up and in with fastballs. He was 1 for 13 with a lot of pop ups against us in four games over two years. After our last game against him, since I heard he was being scouted by the pros and DI schools and my team wasn’t moving on in the post season tournaments, I offered a suggestion about where to place his hands. I told him how we got him out. He looked at me strangely, as did his high school coach, but he listened to what I said.
A few years ago I happened to run into him at a hitting facility where a parent rented a cage for me to do a lesson or two with a kid I had taught lessons to a year or two back. He happened to be teaching lessons in a cage right next to me. He recognized me or vice versa. I asked him if he corrected his swing and he said yes. He had a pretty good college career and played professionally in independent ball.
So, is that what you meant by “shorter is longer?”
Right on the numbers Joe, and GREAT story 🙂
That’s what I thought he meant – knob to the plate.
Regarding: Well, if your hands start at the body’s midline or even at the rear pec, a hitter would have to take his hands back from there before launching his swing. Would I be correct in saying that?…..That’s what you would think, but the coaches force the position allowing no drawback. A lot of this comes from Wards stuff on the 80’s. Adopted by the vast majority of the programs in the US. I still get hitters with these actions of a variance of. Here is a link to a small portion of his teaching, this just scratches the surface and the entire coaching establishment bought into it. You Tube…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pnrAPFumZ8. He alludes to pro hitters lengthening out but he taught no such thing in his videos. OSU was one of THE top programs in the county for a decade. Everybody wanted to copy them. Problem was, his top hitters STARTED at his stated positions, but lengthened out into solid launch position. These movements were absolutely not allowed in his system. The rest of the country taught and enforced it with an iron fist.
Not all that familiar with Gary Ward’s teaching. Isn’t he at New Mexico or New Mexi co State now?
The problem is trying to impose one system or another on a hitter. Hitting is much more complex than that.
As far as the position of the hands and arms prior to launch, I like what Bonds, Williams, Cabrera, and Adrian Gonzalez did/do?
I don’t agree with any of those positions of Ward’s touch system.
Ward had some good things to say if you read between the lines, but one must always beware of coaches who teach aluminium and composite bat mechanics. The bat may say 33 / 30 on it, but much of the weight has been shifted into the handle, and you can get away with the way he instructs using them – BBCOR or not. That’s my biggest beef with College ball. I can hardly watch it because I can’t stand hearing that “Ping” sound, and with all the florescent orange and green writing on them … I feel like I’m watching NASCAR! I don’t get it … there are a number of really good wood barrel and comp handle bats that come very close to wood, and they have a very long shelf life. It’s time to put these tin bats away after Little League. Anyway … I agree with your assessment of Ward in principle. This presentation can be filed under the heading: ‘Don’t let this happen to you.’
Great observation Bob. Wood bats filter out the hitting nonsense real quick!
Couldn’t agree with you more.
I just realized that you (Joey) have the capability to insert your posts farther up the thread, JUST saw your posts on the 17th. I didn’t want to even try to explain Lefebvre’s centrifugal vs. centripetal concepts but that was exactly what I was writing about. I also ’borrow’ from Jimmy a lot, using the pictures from his 1979 “The Making Of A Hitter” of Lacy and Cedeno to very simply explain the two centrifugal-centripetal terms and concepts. If I had to narrow the success that I have had over the years as a hitting instructor down to ONE statement, it would be this one:
SUMMATION OF INTERNAL FORCES
In a baseball swing, the power released into the ball
represents the culmination of an energy chain that
begins in the feet and “snowballs” as it passes through
the legs, upper body, arms and hands. This phenomenon
is what I refer to as the summation of internal forces.
Jim Lefebvre, 1979
I totally agree J.D., Jim’s The Making of a Hitter wrecked my life when I first read it in 1991, in a good way. I was 11yo at the time! I didn’t know it, but he explained hitting in a way, using science, that would connect full circle almost 25 years later. Great stuff.
Just curious, did you get the Lefebvre concepts from his original book, original tape or a more modern source?
From his original book, an old earmarked copy I bought at a small used bookstore in 1991 😀
THAT’S AWESOME!!! With the backround this groups has, maybe it’s common knowledge but, come on, what is the percentage of coaches that could attribute that statement to Lefebvre? All honor and respect Joey! I tip my hat to you for giving Jimmy credit for his ground breaking work almost 4 decades ago!
Thanks J.D. Jim was waaaaay ahead of his time.
1991? So what, you bought that book when you were like 3 years old? LOL… Everyone else was topping out with Green Eggs and Ham and you were dealing in centrifugal vs. centripetal?
Haha, yes, 11yo. Not that I came anywhere near Tiger Woods caliber, but it was said that a young 9yo Tiger Woods was drawing trajectories of golf ball flight…really!? At 9yo?!
A question for you about a different topic: Does the front hip begin to open before toe touch, at toe touch, or at heel plant?
This might freak all of you out but exactly when the hips start is just not an issue for me. The start of hip rotation does not start at the exact same time in all great hitters. To take your ‘toe touch’ term, the beginning of hip rotation is observed just before, at touch, or just after. Maybe there are hitters that don’t fire until there heal is on the ground, again, it doesn’t matter to me. Being on time is the only thing that matters. Even before the whole ultra rotational swing came into play I always contended that the most difficult correction I had to deal with in a hitter was a quick front side, it was a brutal fix. Now blowing the front side out early is TAUGHT and DRILLED into hitters, with the most ridiculous drills I have ever seen and I have seen a lot. Sorry, getting kind of ticked off here as I think of the hitters I have seen destroyed and awesome futures that were ended but remember, I truly am at ground zero of where this started and witnessed the whole thing. When a young hitter is taught to completely blow out the front side early to create maximum torque (there is no word I hate more in hitting) and then told that ’History is made on the inside part of the plate’(30 minutes on You Tube proves that statement false!) there is a very, very good chance a career is over, kid just doesn’t know it yet.
I agree J.D. Front hip opening is different among hitters. Some like Donaldson and Bautista open sooner, but bigger hitters may do it closer to toe touch. I agree, it’s all about timing. I found it difficult to coach a hitter to ‘explode the hips’. The brain doesn’t know what this means because what about the spine? What about the shoulders? What is their function when you ‘explode the hips’? The body MUST be pre-loaded first prior to exploding the hips. Or else you get a bunch of hitters opening their front shoulders way too early.
If you go up this thread to August 15, 2015 at 5:40 pm. I give a fairly detail description of how I approach the whole hip situation. My guys never have to think when or how on hips, It’s all taken care of with an extremely strong set-up and a very aggressive physical and mental attack to the ball. They attack the ball closed, staying on the pitch, everything is set HAIR-TRIGGER just screaming to explode. When their mind says NOW, everything explode on time, in sequence. All the what, where, when, how is programed out, it’s nothing but BALL!
Sounds crazy but it’s all just incredibly simple. Like I say at the end of my “Game On” video….”Nothing to it.”
Ted Williams said that about “history….” I guess history can be made on all sides of the plate if you hit it right.
I agree with what you said about thinking. It just happens. But I wouldn’t teach someone to teach someone to open their front hip before foot plant.
Your statement, “Nothing to it ,” reminds me of an ancient Chinese philosopher’s question, something written down 2,500 years ago. Hoping his pupils could put down their thoughts and seek harmony with nature (which can be seen today as a hitter seeking to conform his movements with the laws of human movement science – Joey’s mission), he asked, “Can you do nothing?” You referred to the simplicity in what you teach. That Chinese philosopher also said that, “Simple is complex and complex is simple.”
I have an interesting story for you. Once I worked for a hitting facility, doing summer camps. At a pre-camp dinner/get together, one of the heads of the organization was sitting at a table with other employees coming up with various hitting cues for a
t-shirt they hoped to sell to their campers. Those sayings included, “shake and bake,” “lock and load,” “load and explode,” “squish the bug,” and many others. It ended with “and hit a line drive through the pitcher’s legs.” They thought it was funny and sure enough we saw the t-shirt on one of our high school players – not funny at that point.
So, I am not an advocate of yelling things to hitters while they are trying to hit. That only makes them self-conscious, like a weekend golfer trying to get all of his movements right. Preparing them to react spontaneously while in the batter’s box should be the objective of all hitting instructors.
A famous psychologist from the 1960s, Abraham Maslow, wrote a book, TOWARD A PSYCHOLOGY OF BEING. In it he discussed the phenomenon that he called “peak experiences.” He described as best he could what it is like to experience a peak performance. Sports performance when right would fall under his classification of a “peak performance.” Nowhere did he ever discuss calling attention to some part of a movement. Just the opposite, he basically said that someone in such a state was not aware how they had performed the action they did. He did refer to that Chinese philosopher a lot, Lao Tsu, the founder of Taoism.
I must have read that book five times or more. Maslow, perhaps unwittingly, was the founder of modern sports psychology and performance psychology. So, because of these experiences, I know the problem caused by coaches calling attention to the various movements in a swing.
Somehow these comments keep coming. I am sure we have broken the record for Joey’s site.
Ted Williams said that “history is made on the inside part of the plate” because of the path that the swing takes – down, level, and up. The “up” part begins three or four inches behind the lead knee. So, if a hitter hits an inside pitch, he is doing so on the upward part of the swing. Do you subscribe to this view?
I’m a little lost on your question from this point **** on.
Ted Williams said that “history is made on the inside part of the plate*****” because of the path that the swing takes – down, level, and up. The “up” part begins three or four inches behind the lead knee. So, if a hitter hits an inside pitch, he is doing so on the upward part of the swing. —–Is that Ted’s description of the swing or someone else’s?
Also, Having some internet connection problems on this end, it’s kind of hit and miss.
I guess that would depend on the height of the pitch. It can’t apply to a pitch up and in. It would apply to a pitch down and in, no? I didn’t hear him say it but I was told that he said it.
I could be wrong, but that just doesn’t sound like Ted. Ted’s all over the place in his book as far as impact zone goes. Ted defines level as ‘Level to the incoming pitch’ That is perfect for me and that is what I use. But Ted speaks of loops, creating more loop, getting on top (cutting out the loop) but my biggest problem is that, not only in his book but at other times, he states that with his swing, if you are ‘late’ you will be under and if you are ‘early’ you will be over (pg. 66 Science of Hitting). This statement and model completely contradicts his level swing model. In general, if you ’bottom out’ anywhere below the path of the pitch you have then destroyed any serious length to your impact zone. If you are under the path you must come ‘up through’, intersecting the plane of the pitch not matching it, radically decreasing the length of impact.
Also, in regard to Ted’s quote of “History is made on the inside part of the plate”
Epstein also quotes Williams as saying, in regard to the other half, “There is just no history there.” Without much effort I can think of some great history that is not on the inside part of the plate-Aaron 715, Dave Henderson ALCS, Gibson off of Eck, McGuire 62, Bonds 71.
We can all say what we want about Bonds but one really interesting attribute Barry had was that he very rarely fouled balls back. The only time I would see him fouling balls off was when he was at a milestone-499, 599, 699, 754 and he was ’trying’ to go yard. At those times he seemed to try to slightly lift the ball and was under it deep in the zone, fouling balls off. One of the greatest statements on hitting I ever heard was from Bonds. I think it was Harold Reynolds asking him about his swing and Bonds made the statement” Look, I have NO BOTTOM to my swing”. So to answer your question, no, I do not subscribe to the earlier stated theory in your previous post. I am thinking that theory is more Epstein than Williams. I do everything I can to get my hitters behind the ball and drive through it, ZERO LIFT in their swings. It can be a lot of work, usually mental, to get rid of that pull side grounder.
Bam J.D., hit the nail right on the head 🙂
‘Zero Lift’ meaning staying in impact all the way through the zone. A lot of problems come in the front of the zone, what Boggs termed the C-D zone. (A-B being deep in the zone, B-C being middle.) In my experience, hitters want the ball in the air on the pull side and they try to lift the ball, jumping the zone and hitting a pull side grounder. It’s a total Catch 22, the more they lift the more grounders they get, the more grounders they get the more they try to lift. So for me, this one is mental. I have to get the hitter to lower his sites, or mental trajectory of what he wants to do with that pitch. I have a lot of success shooting for 110 mph waist high death shots. Barrel remains in the zone instead of jumping out. Difference between a bomb and a DP ball.
Hitting is filled with these Catch-22’s, I totally agree. In theory, “swinging up” (or jumping the zone) makes sense, but not in application. Just like “swinging down on the ball”.
I agree with the concept of “level to the ball.”
Some people misinterpreted that to be level to the ground, but how would you hit a low pitch?
I agree with Ted on where you hit the ball determines of the trajectory of the batted ball. I mean if you hit the top of the ball it’s going to result in a groundball.
As far as the “loops” you refer to, what page was that on in his book. I’d have to go back and check. Perhaps that can be interpreted as the bat being below the hands at contact.
The pictures on pages 47, 61, and 63 show the path of the swing as he advocated.
As far as you “Zero lift” concept, perhaps the problem stems from a hitter consciously trying to control the swing, willfully trying to steer it. Would that be what you mean? Can a hitter steer his swing once launched? I’m not quite sure what you mean here.
Remember Joe, just small shifts in barrel trajectory can affect the end result. I think “steering” the barrel occurs before the swing. The brain works better with external objectives, than the means to get there.
Could the pull side grounder be the result of the position of the upper body? If the upper half drifts over the front leg, that could result in groundballs. Whereas, hitting the ball in the air would require the body to be tilted rearward.
I’m not near my hitting library, I’ll try to find some page #’s for you in Ted’s book tomorrow. As far as the low pitch goes it’s all the same concept, get the sweet spot into the path of the pitch. I know I am using my own terminology here, it’s just how I communicate with my hitters. Please remember that I am in no way EVER condoning a down cut that crosses the path of the pitch. With that said I will often give low targets to hitters that swing too much up, and high targets to hitters that have been taught to swing down. While I am working with a hitter this approach allows a hitter rip away and not think mechanically. For arguments sake, let’s just say a hitter is swinging up at 10 degrees at a ball that is on a downward trajectory of 5 degrees. I change the plane of his swing with a low target- “Hit this ball so hard at the shortstops waist that he will NEVER forget your name!” On the low pitch a hitter a hitter will usually try to ‘Pick’ the ball into the air resulting in ground ball after ground ball. To get him through that pitch I will tell him to hit it as hard as he can at the height it is at, if it is a foot off the ground then he is trying to hit an absolute laser one foot high. All of a sudden the hitter is level and in the air, with power on that pitch instead of a grounder. More later, On vacation, got to go.
What is the role of the elbows, particularly the front elbow, in helping a hitter to get on pitch plane in your way of teaching?
Maybe we should carry this conversation over to emails because this thread is getting unmanageable.
Joe, please keep the conversation here. This thread will help others too.
So to continue. What I am mainly doing with these guys is cancelling out their exaggerated upper cut or down cut be giving them a target in the opposite extreme. In my experience the uppercut, or that last second lift that leaves a level cut too soon is mental, deeply ingrained in the hitter that wants the ball in the air. Most hitters have absolutely no idea that an uppercut on the pull side can most often result in a grounder. It can be very difficult to convince a new hitter that his uppercut is the cause of his ground balls. Usually what happens is I give them a low target but they still uppercut, grounder after grounder. I keep forcing them lower and lower, it can get a bit heated at times as they say they are shooting for my target and I say to them “Then why are you looking at the top of my cage just after impact.” After a while we get there and the kid smokes a few. He finally hits the ball with deep power and thinks he’s got it, gets over confident and quickly reverts to the uppercut. I keep forcing him back to level with a low target until he gets the feel. This target approach also works really well with a dead pull hitter that is around the ball. Just force him up the middle or the op-field gap. You have to use real baseballs (No soft rubber balls) because he will take everything off the handle area, pain is a very good teacher and he will very quickly find the correct route. More to come.
J.D. great tips in this comment. This opens a brand new box of worms for me and my hitters. I have some new stuff that’ll blow your mind, and it comes from Lee Comeaux, a golfing expert, basically about swinging slower but hitting the ball farther. Putting a hitter’s body in a better linked position that is like a freight train going 30-mph, rather than a motorcycle going 60-mph.
What do you mean by, “I keep forcing them lower and lower.”
RE: What do you mean by, “I keep forcing them lower and lower.” All I am saying there is that in a first session the deep seeded belief that a lift will put the ball in the air is so ingrained in the hitter that he will kind of fight me and keeps trying to lift. I keep forcing the hitter to aim at the low target. So if he is at, say 10 degrees and we need 5 degrees, I am forcing that 10 degrees ‘lower and lower’ until I get the 5 degrees or the needed plane. This is usually accomplished in the first hitting session, doesn’t mean it is going to stick and we will usually have to revisit this a few times, but I will have made my point that his uppercut is what is causing the problems. The hitter is usually happy because he has hit some balls harder than he ever has before, giving us something to build on for the next session.
Also in regard to staying through the front impact zone and not jumping out. I am in no way teaching a Hriniak style head down, but the head and body can have a lot to do with a ground ball induced by the barrel jumping out of the zone. If a hitters’ head begins to leave too soon it will generally bring the sweet spot out of impact with it. His eyes can still be on the ball but the head starts out too soon to watch the line drive or deep shot that he thinks he is going to hit. Again, the Aaron/ Schmidt goal of a knee high line shot goes a long way in keeping head where it is supposed to be and the barrel through impact in the front part of the zone.
The Lee Comeaux study sounds interesting, am I correct in assuming this correlates to the efficient utilization of weight in relation to bat weight, as in a slower bat speed can actually hit a ball farther with the proper transfer of energy?
Yes J.D., not to get too technical here because I’m going to do an interview with Lee soon, but it has to do with activating springy fascia properly use grip, and facilitating the S-shape of the spine. In other words, getting the hitter to tap into connective tissue to get the body moving as one unit, and allowing the hitter’s skeleton to take impact, and not the soft tissue of the body. I still don’t have a firm grasp of his stuff yet, but I feel it will revolutionize how we teach hitting.
I understand how “an uppercut on the pull side can result in a grounder.”
Do you think that head positioning is a contributing factor to them doing that? Do you think that the head determines the trajectory of the batted ball? What head position do you advocate?
I see by your picture in the article, and this is by no means meant to be critical, that your chin is down on your chest. Andrew McCutcheon of the Pirates does that. I am not an advocate of putting the head on the back shoulder like Derek Jeter did. I prefer teaching the chin up and eyes level. What do you think?
What do you mean by your statement that “the brain works better with external objectives than the means to get there?”
I am by no means a neuroscientist but, learned motor skills become unthinking habits, being stored as automatic sequences in the brain stem, cerebellum, and basal ganglia. In other words, “muscle memory.” You know how to swing. The swing is there. You just have to let it happen. The “means to get there” has been imbedded through repeition.
Joe, perfect example is what J.D. refers to with his hitters when he’s trying to “pound out” the uppercut swing plane by telling them to hit a knee-high seed at the 2nd baseman/shortstop. That’s an external cue the brain understands, and will put the body in the right position to make that happen. Just like what Dr. Gray Cook talks about with Functional Movements like squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull, twist, those are all functional movements the brain understands. You’ll get a kick out of the Lee Comeaux stuff.
Ok, here’s some page numbers with regard to the earlier post on Ted Williams’ and his loops. Science of Hitting: pages 35 bottom, 64, 66, 68. Epsteins book (pages 27, 51) strongly reaffirms Teds continual belief was that “if you’re late you’re under the ball, when you’re early you’re on top” essentially cutting UP THROUGH the trajectory of the pitch. As stated earlier: This statement and model completely contradicts his level swing model. In general, if you ’bottom out’ anywhere below the path of the pitch you have then destroyed any serious length to your impact zone. If you are under the path you must come ‘up through’, intersecting the plane of the pitch not matching it, radically decreasing the length of impact.”
Teds ‘impact zone’ pictures on 54 and 61 are great even with his *exaggerated* angle at about 13 degrees. Bottom line is that I cannot find anywhere in his illustrations and initial definitions (“A slight upstroke MATCHES THE TRAJECTORY of the incoming pitch” and ‘A slight upswing –puts the bat FLUSH IN LINE with path of the ball”) that allow the sweet spot to get below the trajectory of the ball. “MATCHES the trajectory” and “FLUSH in line” leaves no room for his contradicting statement and belief “if you’re late you’re under the ball, when you’re early you’re on top” (CAPS for emphasis, not yelling)
I still need to answer the lead elbow question but in the meantime: In regard to head position. I don’t believe head position DETERMINES trajectory but it can EFFECT it. As stated earlier I feel a lifting head can cut the swing short. I assume the head that is radically driven down, thinking Hriniak cuts at their extreme, can create a radical down cut. The problems I encounter are the head leaving too soon and the occasional hitter that radically tilts his head toward the plate at impact, greatly hindering his backside. There is actually a very popular hitting device that came out just a few years ago that I feel the only way to hit the suspended ball hard was to radically tilt the head, shoulders and barrel, it was killing my hitters. As far as my cut in the picture, I’ll take that swing. That was a homerun in 1984 against the University of Houston, picture was shot by a teammate, David Bresett. I didn’t ‘force’ my head down but I am still on the ball. Ball was hit to left-center so what are we, a few 1/100ths after impact. Essentially my back shoulder is what removed my head from the zone.
J.D., I think Lee Comeaux will clear up this head positioning stuff. He says that the head and C-Spine position are at the center of the universe of all movements. Like I said before, not clear yet on what he says, but it does make sense.
Can’t think of a better person to ask this question. I am assuming that you have read the Adair book, “The Physics of Baseball”. Adair, a Sterling Professor of Physics at Yale and then :”Physicist to The National League” was asked by Bart Giamatti to advise him on areas of baseball that could be addressed in physics. I haven’t read this one in a while and started looking through it last night when I kept reading in Epsteins book that upper-cutted, top spin ground balls are a ‘GOOD THING” because the top spin grounder ‘picks up speed’ as it travels through the infield. (This, after spending a good portion of the book saying that ground balls are a bad thing). This was bugging me last night and thought I remembered something about top spin in Adairs’ book (pg. 64-65). Turns out a top spin batted ball tops out at about 2000 rpm translating into a speed of 17 mph, he says even if doubled to 4000 rpm a decently struck ground ball (50 mph) will not ‘speed up’ from rotation as it contacts the surface of the ground. Anyway, seems like this book had a lot of good information when it came out 25 years ago, do you feel the information was good and, if so, is it still relevant today?
J.D., I have read Adair’s book. When it comes to maximizing Ball Exit Speed, think about top/backspin this way…a curveball is topspin, and a fastball is backspin. Can you name one pitcher, ever, who’s thrown their curveball faster than their fastball? It will NEVER happen on earth. The same is true from a top spin hit versus a backspin hit. As Adair says, a ball with backspin creates high pressure below the ball and low pressure above the ball. The opposite is true for topspin. This is also how an airplane takes flies (the same high/low pressure system). Objects, like hit baseballs, will always move from high to low pressure. So, since there’s low pressure above the ball, the ball climbs and reaches for distance. While topspin balls always find their way into the ground. If we took inventory of all the home runs ever hit, I’d put money that 95% were backspin. I love how when we’re guided by science, it helps to clear up a lot of the enigma that comes along with hitting. Did this answer your question?
Thanks for your time and effort, much appreciated.
I agree with you statements on head pisition. Yoy don’t want it going up and you don’t want it going out or on the back shoulder.
Nothing wrong with your swing. McCutcheon does it. I teach chin up eyes level. You can’t see the ball hit the bat. I was told by a kinesiology professor that the eye muscles can move that fast – that it is perceptual. So, the brain calculates where the ball is based on a library of seen pitches. So, why do people teach hitters to put their head on the back shoulder in attempt to see the ball? Too much tee work may be the cause of that.
Let me check on the swing plane post and those pages you listed. So, basically you are saying that the bat path stays level through contact? When does it turn up?
Interestingly, contrary to what Williams and Epstein state, the Schmidt/Ellis book states that top spin ground balls have a ‘tough time making it through the infield’. Personally the ball that gave the illusion of picking up speed was a slight backspin half hop laser on turf. The turf when I played was really short, hard and tight (blades per square inch) nothing like I see kids on today which looks like the old indoor/outdoor fake grass from Home Depot. The ball ‘seemed’ to just explode off the old stuff!
Could the “loop” Ted Williams was referring to the bat being below the hands at contact?
In one of the above posts you refer to 5 or 10 degrees. Excuse me if this is a dumb question, but how are you measuring those degrees?
We must not forget in all this talk of how to swing, that the perception of the outcome by the hitter is paramount, and will affect swing mechanics as much, or more, than anything else. I believe that a hitter must go up to the plate with the goal of not just clearing the fense, but putting it out into the lake, or over some buildings … or whatever. A players approach at the plate will have a direct impact on his posture, and everything else from there. I hear and read about these coaches who submit to the player … “ Just hit a single … Just get on … Don’t try to kill it … “ etc. This will KILL a kids technique. Let me explain …
Usain Bolt does not go into the starting blocks with the mindset that he’s going to run a 16 second 100 meter! If he did … (fill in the blank). He goes up there to do it in 8 seconds (or 7 if he could) – and his training and technique relects that approach. He’s not developing techniques to run slow!
If a player comes to the plate with the idea that he wants to hit it long, then he’ll prepare himself for that and be ready when the pitch comes and he will sieze the moment. As we are all aware … that moment goes by quickly, and if you are physically ready for it, and you have trained to take advantage of it … BAM! So I believe that if a player wants to develop a big league swing, he/she must think long.
Some coaches say look for the base hit, and if you get a pitch you can hit hard – drive it. But that methodology won’t be to your advantage if you are trying to develop high end mechanics, because the players swing mechanics will develop that way. The approach should be that the home run is first on your mind, and if you don’t get a pitch for that, or don’t catch it clean … take the double or triple. The single should be the last thing on your mind, and only come because the other options weren’t there, or you missed the sweet spot of the bat. And if that fails … take the walk.
Just as Bolt needs to uncover and train his mechanics to run his race in 10 seconds as opposed to 14, a batter must develop a swing based on how he wants the ball to carry off the bat. If you think “Hit the ball on the ground” when you get in the box … everything you do will sub-consciously pull you and take you in that direction in terms of mechanics. Or worse yet … you’ll actually practice and develop whatever techniques you need to accomplish this feat. We all talk about bat speed, and ball exit speed, and many other aspects of a ‘good swing’ – so your mind must be projecting the ball to be as far away from you as possible when it comes down, or you quite simply won’t develop those qualities. It’s sort of a “Build it and they will come” type of thing.
Bob, I totally agree. I don’t want to keep building up Lee Comeaux, but a couple of the conversations we’ve had, we’ve talked about this idea of the hitter have a goal in mind of where to hit the ball. And a couple of the simple techniques I’ve tried allowed me to state, within one mph, what my Exit Speed was after I hit it. With these techniques, I topped out at 93-mph off the tee with a woody, and averaged 88-mph BES. A week prior without the two techniques, I topped out at 90-mph off a tee with the Mizuno MaxCor $400 bat, averaging 83-mph BES. Unbelievable!
@ Bob and Joe
(At all times, unless otherwise noted the term LEVEL is always referring to ‘level to the incoming pitch, not level to the ground’.)
I was trying to avoid any disagreement on the angle of trajectory by using soft terms like “let’s just say” 10 degrees and he needs to get to 5 degrees. I have seen claims by good hitting instructors, regarding trajectory, anywhere from a perfectly flat zero degrees to way over 10 degrees. It just doesn’t matter to me. If I did care about the exact trajectory then, for me, it would be critical that the measurement is taken as the ball enters and travels through the impact zone. My hitting sessions are a bare minimum of 1 hour long, often going as much as 90 minutes. I throw on average 180 to 220 pitches per hitter, all cage cuts in my two videos are me throwing live to my hitters. I have no other explanation for it other than I just ‘SEE LEVEL’. My brain sees the swing in slow motion, stop action etc. I can see if a hitter is an inch around and cutting across the zone, if he is barley intersecting the trajectory by swinging slightly down or slightly up through the zone or if he barely jumps out of the zone. A critical part of every hitting session is to make sure he through the zone, with power for as long as possible, no cutting across, no cutting down, and especially no upper cut that does not perfectly intersect trajectory. My hitters get drafted because they hit it harder and farther than 98% of the crowd. For me hitting is ‘diamond cutting not cookie cutting’, it’s my job to bring out the brilliance in a hitter. Power is paramount, each hitter is an individual and how I extrude that power is different in each hitter. I 100% agree with Bobs quote, “I believe that a hitter must go up to the plate with the goal of not just clearing the fence, but putting it out into the lake, or over some buildings … or whatever.” I just reach that goal in different ways with each hitter. I have hitters that, in order to stick it over the trees need to think ‘knee high laser, I also have hitters that need to think hit the top of the light standard and hitters anywhere in between.
I love it J.D. 😀
@ Bob and Joe
Schmidt and Aaron got it out of the yard by thinking knee high death shots, Boggs tried to hit every ball at Fenway to dead center, above the speaker. Williams with his rotational uppercut had incredible success but as far as I can tell had about the same percentage of ground ball outs as Lau weight shift disciple George Brett did. Williams, “I tried to hit every ball I ever hit in the air, and I made more outs on the ground than in the air.” Over 50% ground ball outs…..make one think.
So, given the Robert Adair is correct and Epstein and Williams are wrong, would you be an advocate of the bat path depicted by the middle diagram on page 53 in the Schmidt book as opposed to the diagrams in the Williams book?
I get what you are saying about the cues. I agree with you and J. D. that telling a hitter to pound out the uppercut swing can have the effect of taking him off swing plane, with the result of hitting a top spinning ground ball. I’ll trust professor Adair on that.
Me too Joe.
J. D. and Bob,
I don’t think you can teach a hitter to go up there with a plan or approach. He doesn’t know what pitch is coming. Unlike running a sprint like Usain Bolt, hitting becomes a reaction to a moving object of various speeds and angles. It’s not a voluntary response like running, that’s unless you are being chased by your neighbor’s angry dog. It’s an involuntary response to a large degree. Through lots of reps, your brain, primarily the cerebellum, has accumulated a library of swings for all sorts of pitches. A hitter has to have many swings for all the pitches he sees. Telling the hitter to try for the objective would interfere with this I think. What if the pitch doesn’t match your approach or vice versa? You can always take it but you only have three strikes.
Joe, I agree with you on the “data collection’ side, which is VERY important, but you can have a profiling approach. Same thing happens with cops when they get a call in about a specific ‘seedy’ character’s race, gender, age, and stature. This cop then begins profiling the neighborhood for that person. I like to do a couple things with my hitters when we work on their strategic plan: 1) are they a ‘hunter’ or ‘fisherman’ (this post: http://gohpl.com/1M3oj8E), 2) are they looking for fast or slow stuff. The latter has to do with timing, the former has to do with a quick v. slow trigger. As the level increases, say in college and pro ball, then we add in looking for inner or outer 2/3 of the plate. Again, all this rests on the grounds of ‘data collection’ the hitter has gathered.
I can’t say I totally agree with the Schmidt/Ellis model of the correct swing plane, again it just doesn’t matter to me. To me, the Schmidt book and the Williams book are saying the same thing, get the sweet spot in the path of the incoming pitch, they just disagree on the pitcher’s release point and the actual trajectory of the ball. Schmidt/Ellis assume a much lower release point than does Williams. Schmidt also argues to the pitch ‘flattening out’ as the ball enters the impact area, Adair also alludes to what he calls the ‘hop’ of the fastball. Williams loses me when he abandons his ‘level’ definition for an ‘up through’ the trajectory cut. William’s illustrations (pg. 54 and 61) are great but they leave no room for his under/over argument. The illustration’s in Adair’s book show and explain the detrimental effects of the ‘up through’ trajectory cut effects, which we have previously discussed. Bottom line, if you get the sweet spot, with something behind it, into the path of the pitch then that pitch is going somewhere FAST!
I agree. I think that the back foot leaving the ground into impact has something to do with it. I like Carlos Correa’s (Astros rookie ss) swing. He seems to incorporate everything we talk about.
Can’t agree with you more. Know your pitcher and know yourself are the major mental rules of hitting. Just watch out for the guys like Greg Maddox who would throw three or four changeup in a row to get that guy looking the the fastball after a changeup. Kind of like the late Ken Stabler playing mind games with the computer printouts used by the Dallas Cowboys.
The main thrust of what I was trying to put forth has more to do with the development of technique, over time, than it does with game situations or strategy. You mentioned that it’s only through reps a player can develop his swing, and this is very true. However … training objectives are paramount. For example … if a player (while practising) pictures in his mind the ball going up the middle on the ground … that’s what he will direct his body to do, and he will develop whatever muscles, strength, speed, etc to be successful at doing that. If he plans on hitting it so that it drops fair before it reaches the outfielders, and that’s how he plans on reaching base … then his swing will develop to suit that objective – in terms of mechanics. He’ll bring his elbow in at a particular angle, drop his foot at a certain time, rotate at a set velocity, and so on to accommodate his goal of putting the ball where he wants it to go. The human body will simply adapt to what it has to do – and it won’t do any more!
When we talk about gaining maximum bat speed and ball exit speeds, and having a powerful swing (which is ultimately what all instructors want), I believe the best way to start that process in a hitter is with defining his goal as smashing the you-know-what out of the ball. You will have a very difficult time developing the mechanics and strength to lift 380 lbs as a weight lifter if you only have as your training objective to lift 300! If you lift 300 lbs, you will have reached your goal, but if you want to move up to 380, you must first decide to lift 380, then go about learning and developing ways to do it. It won’t happen by accident, or by mistake. So if you want to develop a fast bat and high exit speed, you must first visualize the ball flying 400 feet to dead center. Whatever happens in the game is secondary to that when trying to develop techniques for a powerful swing. If you aren’t ‘trying’ to do it, you will never practice it so that your body and mind can adapt to doing it in real life situations. I’m not saying it’s the ONLY thing you should practise, but if you want to hit the ball hard, you’d better come to the plate and know you can.
The approach for any hitter, in a basic, striped down definition, is to “Look for strikes”, and “Swing hard”. The ‘find a ball to hit’ part is all strategy, but the swing is physical, and all I’m saying is that a player will not be able to swing hard at the plate if they don’t do it in practise. And they will never be able to do it physically if they don’t imagine it first – or have a clear image of what they’re trying to do. Therefore … a hitters approach has a direct influence on his mechanics.
Amen Bob 😀
Not to drag this out but, as a kid in Little League and Babe Ruth League, I hit home runs while never expecting to do so. Didn’t try to do so. When I did, I struck out or popped up. In matter of fact, I was shocked that I would hit the ball so far.
When you get in the box, clear your head and do nothing.
Awesome Bob! If we had a nation of coaches and hitting instructors that had you approach we would be 1000% better and MLB wouldn’t have to award over 50% of contracts to ballplayers from other countries.
Ok, I have a few questions:
1) Toughest mechanical problem I come across is an ultra-quick front side, with the hip blown out way too soon, usually in an attempt to create todays “torque position”. How do you fix it?
2) I train a hitter at level, he absolutely can crush! But he gets in a game and totally uppercuts everything. Kid would hit 15 bombs if level but ends up hitting one. Correction?
3) How do you train serious, draftable, op-field power?
J.D., okay, so I don’t know all the answers to these, but here’s the short form of my opinion…#1 – yeah, “load and explode the hips” and “power comes from the hips” are terrible cues for a hitter, and that’s what’s causing it. I’d hit the Catapult Loading System hard, get them focusing on the upper half of the spine versus lower half. #2 – could be he’s tilting the bat too much. Check out this article: “Josh Donaldson: Changes in Approach & Mechanics”: http://gohpl.com/1EJ9O99. #3 – I think a lot of the issues with opposite field power stem from proper finger pressure on the handle. Bottom three fingers of top hand only, keep tight from start of swing through impact. A lot of cool stuff it does that I’ll address in a future post, and oppo field alignment is one of them. #4 – this pitch must be hitter slightly deeper than over the middle of the plate. For the hitter I’d address as a plate approach. At the higher levels, I’d have the hitter work on looking for dead red on the outer 2/3’s of the plate. This is a short answer for a complex issue, I know. #5 – I do a random pitches drill with my hitters where they look for either fast or slow stuff (and they don’t tell me what “plan” they’re on). The curveball breaking away is a tough pitch to swing at with 0 or 1 strike. I’d lay off, and shoot it to right with 2 strikes. #6 – my 2-strike approach would depend on data collection. What is the pitcher tending to throw ahead in the count (generally speaking), and what is he tending to throw the hitter (specifically). And #7 – one of my hitters was doing this consistently, and was caused by a racing back elbow, actually he wasn’t getting enough pelvic rotation caused by his knee action. Also, we started getting him to do finger pressure properly and now those oppo flares are being smoked, and his rollovers are now shooting into the LCF gap. Not all the time, but more consistently. Much better than before. Great thought provoking questions J.D.! I may be wrong, but I gave it my best shot.
4) Fastball on the outer ¼, what do you do with it?
5) Curveball middle out, what do you do with it?
6) Guy on the hill has 4 pitches with solid command of 3 of them, he is ahead in the count 1-2 or even at 2-2, what is your two strike approach?
Great questions! As far as #1, the key problem is “trying” to create the torque instead of just letting it happen. I posted something about Abraham Maslow and Taoism. Also mentioned, as Joey did, about how the brain works when hitting. The key is being conscious about trying to voluntarily do something as complex as hitting. Did you ever see the movie, THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE with Matt Damon and Will Smith? Watch it. You might find it on youtube.
#7 Hitter has continual pull side ground balls accompanied by op-field tailing flares, cause and solution?
Just so you know these questions are not traps. The only trap is me getting trapped in my own little narrow mind in these areas of hitting, I need outside input. The first question is brutal. The ultra-quick front side was my most difficult fix BEFORE the whole rotational hitting thing and that was before the hitter was trained that way. Now he is drilled mechanically and mentally that “This is what ALL great hitters do.” Now I not only have to fix the mechanical but I have to change the deep, and I mean DEEP seeded belief of the hitter. I have seen hitters go from a solid, all-conference #3 hitter their junior year to a totally tank senior year, dropped down to #9. They come to me to me for the fix, the dead pull, ultra-torque swing is so deep physically and mentally that they will absolutely fight me. Help!
Not to worry, I enjoy the discussion. Read my August 23, 3 pm post. No time now to answer all this I’ll get back to you. So, you are blaming the Epstein system? Ever see Juan Urine hit? I watched a clip of Willie Mays on youtube in slomo. Lots of elastic energy there. That was his key to keeping his head back.
Sorry, I meant hands. Mantle, Aaron. Clemente, and Williams too.
The Urine kid….bummer of a name.
J. D. ,
Sorry. Lol, these smartphones aren’t that smart with their autocorrect. I meant Juan URIBE! He steps in the bucket but still stays closed.
The funniest part is I spent 10 minutes trying to look him up. I’ve been away with my family for two weeks and haven’t watched any baseball at all. I was thinking he must be some guy that just came up and is lighting the league on fire. Thought it was pronounced Ur-Reen-Yeah.
Plays with the Mets now after being with the Dodgers and Braves this year. Jim Thome was another one who stepped in the bucket but kept his hands back. He said he used a heavy bat to keep him back.
With 2 strikes in that situation a hitter can eliminate the stride. Start with where the feet would be if he did stride, open the front foot to at least a 45 degree angle, counter-move/counter-rotate and swing. Take the movement out and look to go to the middle of the field or opposite field.
Is the hitter squishing the bug? Or, he may be putting his head on his back shoulder Ala Derek Jeter.
Sorry, my answer for #5 is for #6.
I’m always baffled when a coach tells the hitter that on two strikes they need to change their swing. It’s said that you need 10,000 hours to perfect any technique (that number confuses me too) – so I’m curious that when a coach tells a player to eliminate his stride, or move his bat to a different launch position, or choke up, or don’t counter-rotate pre-launch, etc … exactly when is the player going to practise these different swings? Where are these 10,000 hours going to come from? What if a player uses an open, upright stance and lifts and strides in with his front leg? I went to a College game this summer and 70% of the hitters did that! I don’t believe making any physical changes to your swing is a good idea. You don’t see a pitcher all of a sudden start pitching side arm when he has an 3 and 0 count.
Have you seen Miguel Cabrera go to a no stride in certain counts? Does a hitter need diffrrent swings for different pitches? Or, do you dance with the girl you brought to the dance?
Personally, I didn’t change my swing when I played. I would find it hard to do that. But I never faced a guy with a 100 mph fastball, 92 mph slider, and an 88 mph change.
I was just answering J. D.’s questions?
Did you catch the analysis of Andrew McCutcheon on the Sunday night ESPN game? Perfect example of what we have been discussing the past two months. Complete weight transfer to front side.
I think it’s time for me to move on. I just want to thank all of you for reading my old article and a special thank you to Joey for posting it and giving me a forum in his HPL blog. It was an honor and a challenge to be part of your group. You are a great group of guys that are dead set on hitting truth, stay that way. Thanks again, Jim
No, thank you Jim 🙂
It was my pleasure.
This has to be one of the best article’s written on hitting I have read to date. Concise and to the point. Bravo to the author.
David, you’re so RIGHT! Jim reached out to me shortly before I published this post, and I just had to share. Written in 1991 by the way. At the time, he was definitely ahead of his time. I feel bad for him because he had to deal with so many ignorant people than we do today. Since then, I feel the hitting philosophy market has softened some, and people are more open minded to what science has to say about hitting.