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Don’t Teach Rearward Barrel Acceleration Without Understanding Pitch Depth First

 

There are a few “gurus” out there promoting a rearward barrel acceleration, which I agree with.  However, in teaching young hitters the concept over the past few years, with no disregard for pitch depth, some of my most clean hitters – mechanically – were having challenges getting to the inside pitch.  Rearward barrel acceleration is good, but MUST not be a blanket teach for all pitch depths.  The best hitters, like Mike Trout, alter the timing of the barrel’s release off the back shoulder.

Mike Trout Swing Case Study: Hitting The Catcher's Glove

Mike Trout swing case study: hitting the “catcher’s glove”. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Enter the content of this video.

Here’s what I tried to do in the above Mike Trout swing case study:

  • Select Mike Trout home-run swings that were based off similar pitch type, location, and pitch speed,
  • Same game would assume same catcher and catcher’s position relative to the hitter,
  • Same camera view, and preferably the same camera zoom setting,
  • Comparing inner third of plate pitch location barrel path versus outer third, and
  • Same pitcher would help control timing variable.

This was A LOT to ask, so truth be told…unfortunately, not all these points are affirmed in this case study.  Let’s compare Mike Trout’s 200th and 201st career homers on September 29, 2017…

Pitch #1:

  • Gonzalez was the pitcher
  • 86-mph FB? outer third part of the plate, mid-thigh high
  • Homer to LCF

Pitch #2:

  • Vincent was the pitcher
  • 90-mph FB, inner third of the plate, mid-thigh high
  • Homer to LF

A couple notes on Mike Trout’s “alligator arm” swing on Pitch #2:

  1. Okay if late on the inner half of the plate (purpose is to barrel up ball and that’s what Mike Trout is doing on pitch #2),
  2. NOT okay if doing off a tee, if on-time during soft-toss, or during dry swings (basically when timing is irrelevant or minimal), and
  3. CLICK HERE for a recent post on how to fix alligator arms, and how to practice what Mike Trout is doing with hitting the different “catcher’s gloves”.
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Joey Myers

I’m a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), the International Youth and Conditioning Association (IYCA), and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).I’m also a HUGE supporter of the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).

I’ve spent 11+ years in the corrective fitness industry, and have too many alphabet-soup certifications to bore you with.I also played four years of Division One baseball at Fresno State from 2000-2003.

It’s NOT how you study, but what you study that counts.I apply human movement principles (or rules), validated by science, to hitting a baseball and softball.
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20 replies
  1. Joe
    Joe says:

    Joey,

    Good stuff as always. I can’t argue with Mike Trout’s success. I can’t find fault with your conclusions about bat path either. However, I have a problem with his head position. Though he doesn’t quite violate Kelly Starrett’s “one-joint rule,” he almost does. He looks restricted, especially on the inside pitch. If hitting is a guess, as suggested by Perry Husband or hitting is a prediction as concluded by A. Terry Bahill and T. LaRitz in the Carnegie-Mellon study over 30 years ago, why does Trout put his head on his rear shoulder like that if he can’t see the ball hit the bat? Ted Williams said that he couldn’t see the ball hit the bat, how can Trout? He can’t. So, why the head movement?

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      Joe, love your comments. However, I’m not sure I agree that Mike Trout is in a bad “one-joint rule” position. He seems to keep similar distance between both ears and their respective shoulders at and post impact.

      Reply
  2. Djura
    Djura says:

    Joey, you are complicating this….The rearward movement is difficult if your not preset for it but the movement is a measuring movement and only done correctly if the batter has the correct approach…Your over complicating it…

    ~DM

    Reply
  3. Djura
    Djura says:

    To be honest, I don’t like the framing or the terminology of the so called “rearward movement”….

    Not at all!!!! As an approach, the batter shouldn’t really think of going rearward….If you have the correct approach, you let it happen but only produced by the proper approach…

    By the way, we are talking about barrel moving rearward….that just happens!!!!

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      Djura, the reality in teaching this is there are numerous young hitters casting the barrel too early…almost like an away approach. The problem is they do this on ALL pitch depths. Hence, the need to drill this.

      Reply
  4. Joe
    Joe says:

    Djura,

    I don’t like the term. Some kids will think they just have to drop their barrel. It happens naturally if the sequence is set in motion properly. Front side shoulder, elbow, and hand must do their job, the rear shoulder, elbow, and hand must do theirs.

    Reply
  5. Djura
    Djura says:

    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Silvio_Ionta/publication/6195817_The_influence_of_hands_posture_on_mental_rotation_of_hands_and_feet/links/09e4150a3a37e1932e000000/The-influence-of-hands-posture-on-mental-rotation-of-hands-and-feet.pdf?origin=publication_detail

    Joey, look at this article…. it’s interesting… however I read some really interesting articles… if you want me to ever forward articles I find interesting I can… I would have at least two more that I think are really interesting….

    This article I thought was interesting especially the last few lines and this visual thing…. One connection I made was when your presetting, it seems like your resisting and as thus you know where the movements are and it’s already an imprint in your mind….

    ~DM

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      Djura, great article. What I’d love is if you find a great article, please post and share a quick summary of what you got out of it. I’m reading and working on so many things right now, I don’t have as much time for other things. Thank you my friend, that would be a HUGE help.

      Reply
  6. Djura
    Djura says:

    Yea, Joe I’m not crazy about it too… but I’ll concede to Joey when teaching these methods but yes I’m not excited about it…

    I do think that the early barrel movements and directions are good indicators that separate hitters …along with ball exit velocity….

    And Joe, I think your right with the lead and rear parts… To get the mind right, at the end of your load… I usually teach that at that point the move will get explosive fast but so as long as you start with the inside part of your lead arm first, the batter is going in the right direction…and perhaps they will figure it out from there…

    I actually put tape from the hands and stay inside to there armpit and even tap that whole area… and just make sure they know that’s the spark or fuse… that goes first FROM the end of the load…

    To make it even more confusing, ill tape other parts too… Once they notice the moving parts it’s like magic….

    Joey any thoughts…. Have you ever taped parts? Do you think it’s a good teaching method?

    ~DM

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      Djura, if the teaching method works, it’s effective. But may not work for all, but if you can find something that works for most, then you have a winner.

      Reply
  7. Joe
    Joe says:

    Joey,

    I more than realize that it would be considered heresy to criticize Mike Trout nowadays since he is considered to be the best player in the game. However, his head movement looks awkward. His swing on that inside pitch looks forced. I don’t think that head movement is efficient. But, as you have said many times a hitter can be effective without being efficient. Does a great athlete like Trout succeed despite inefficient head movement as do J. D. Martinez, Kris Bryant, and Andrew McCuthcheon?

    I think that Trout-like head movement is a product of the “Batting Tee Generation,” who were taught to put their head down and to the side in an attempt to see the ball hit the bat, which we both know is neurologically impossible. And Trout is attempting to see and hit 100+ fastballs yet. I find it interesting that you don’t see such Trout-like head movement with hitters from the past – Ruth, Williams, DiMaggio, Mantle, Maris, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Bonds, Griffey Jr., just to name a few. Wonder why. Could it be that a lot of them (maybe with the exception of Bonds and Griffey Jr.) weren’t brought up hitting off tees?

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      Joe, maybe my standard is pretty low with one-joint rule…compare Bryce Harper to Trout…he makes Trout look like Mays!!! I don’t like what Arenado does either.

      Reply
  8. Joe
    Joe says:

    Djura,

    I think that to use that cue wouldn’t be effective. If the sequence I described isn’t in place to cause the bat barrel to go rearward, a hitter would find it hard to do so, and likely just drop their barrel.

    Reply
  9. Matt
    Matt says:

    Great thoughts Joey. This stuff is hard to visualize this stuff in 2-D

    What are your thoughts on the initial barrel direction from the landing/loaded position? I’ve been trying to feel that and I think the first direction the barrel moves is slightly different based on the location of the pitch. (The start of the barrel turn or swivel)

    For the 3 locations you talk about:
    – Outside: First barrel move is the flattest – most behind the head and toward 3b dugout for righty
    – Inside: First barrel move is more toward the catcher even as far as the outside right shoulder of the catcher for a righty hitter.
    – Middle: First barrel move right in the middle of those two locations.

    Obviously these aren’t conscious moves in a live swing, but when I slow it down this is what I feel. I think the way the swing starts is how the plane is set and determines your ability to square it up.

    The danger I see in working with younger players especially is that only that “middle” swing pattern gets worked on and grooved. And that plane doesn’t work with all pitch locations.

    What’s your thoughts on this? I bring it up because I think it’s pretty closely related to what you’re explaining here.

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      Matt, right on! That’s another way of explaining it. I agree, I feel like most hitters are either taught to “swing down” (inside pitch approach), or deep barrel acceleration (outside pitch approach), but not taught the middle. That’s one thing I forgot to include in this post…when I throw LIVE or soft toss my hitters, then they default to middle approach and adjust from there. This is of course, they’ve done enough swings to feel each imaginary catcher’s glove. Making the conscious, unconscious.

      Reply
  10. Joe
    Joe says:

    Joey,

    Don’t know how Bryce Harper does it. Nolan Arenado is almost as bad. Trout doesn’t go to that extreme. Kris Bryant (Got a kick out of his father saying that they patterned his swing after Ted Williams. Nowhere near Williams’ swing.) and J. D. Martinez almost do, though. I think Trout just looks a little forced. Seems he’s restricting himself. He got exposed up and in during the ALDS a few years back. I think he corrected it to an extent, likely lays off that pitch. Don’t get to see him enough since he’s on the West Coast. Like you have said many times – great athletes being effective without necessarily being efficient.

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      Yeah Joe I agree. However, even though some of these guys may have one chink in their armor, that’s about it. They made it to this level for a reason. The more chinks in the armor, the less likely they move up the ladder.

      Reply
  11. Djura
    Djura says:

    No!No!No!!!!!!

    Everybody is complicating it…. Here I’ll fill you in…

    Don’t think of the barrel. That is outside looking in…. Trust me…

    You need palmer flexion of the lead hand where the knob of the bat is directed to the right of the ball… Than the knob or handle goes in a curve through the ball… Obviously if your holding your bottom 3 than your rear side just pops right through the ball because it has nowhere to go…

    Said another way… it doesn’t matter where the the ball is because your palmer flexing to the right of the ball….

    THE BARREL JUST KNOWS WHERE TO BE… perhaps after a little practice….

    Your welcome!!!! And please cite your sources… like … some old stickball guy who grow up in Queens…. That will do….?

    Joey, This is big as this leads to the scap row and I believe that when Hogan said he wanted 3 hands it’s specifically for the holding and than pushing the last part ONCE the the palmer flexion move gets the batter golfer to the the right of the ball…

    Only if I was a mind reader…. but once you do this… it must be it!!!!!!And I just told you!!!!!

    Hopefully we are starting from a protracted and depressed shoulder and…. with our pelvis tucked in with a short foot….

    So yes your complicating it when looking at the barrel…. just feel the handle go to the right and through the ball back to the inside… where the handle goes the barrel follows… at the end of our load the lead forarm starts it…than and only than we should feel the bat in our forearms and the snap in our wrist and fingers…. From the elbows down should be built in with a purpose….

    Good luck…

    Please comment…

    ~DM

    Reply
  12. Djura
    Djura says:

    I know what I said is complicated and has to be understood in a vacuum with back knee action which compresses the lead side among many other actions…back shoulder row to a certain extent…etc…

    But seriously nobody has any comments… Not even that it’s interesting…

    You dont have to agree or disagree but at least let me know someone is at least reading my comments or perhaps considering them…

    Hope all is well…

    ~DM

    Reply