Josh Hamilton Part-2: How to Optimize Vision, Tracking, and Timing

 

Josh Hamilton Video: Coaches Don't Tell You This (About Timing)

…In this Josh Hamilton video we’re focusing on what most coaches don’t tell you (or simply don’t know) about calibrating the timing of a hitter.  You can have the best hitting mechanics, but if timing is off, results can be frustrating.

In this video, we’ll analyze:

  • When does a swing start?
  • Leg kick or slide step? and
  • How to practice timing?

 

When Does a Swing Start?

Short answer?  About when the hitter picks the front foot up.  When walking, you can’t take a step forward without picking up your foot and putting it back down.  This is why I hate “no-stride” coaching cues.  Here’s how walking bio-mechanics work:

  1. Front heel hits the ground signals pelvis to open.
  2. Same timing signal travels up the spine to the shoulders, telling them to counter-rotate the pelvis.
  3. This is why your opposite arm and leg come forward at the same time.

This simple timing mechanism is important to hitting.  Hitting experts call this torque, but really, it’s how humans are designed to move against gravity using the spine for locomotion.  CLICK HERE for a more in–depth study on walking bio-mechanics according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky.

 

Leg Kick or Slide Step?

It ALL depends on a batter’s moving parts…

  • Leg Kick a-la Josh Hamilton forces the hitter to start the swing sooner.  Hamilton starts his when the pitcher breaks the hands.
  • Slide Step a-la Mike Trout can start their swing later.  You’ll see these types of hitters picking their front foot up when the pitcher lands and/or begins forward movement with the arm.

 

How to Practice Timing

SEVEN ways a hitter can practice “collecting data”:

  1. LIVE arm: whether seated – on a bucket, kneeling, or standing.
  2. Soft toss or LIVE: throw baseballs, whiffle, dimple, tennis, golf, or dried pinto beans.
  3. Broad focus: have hitter pick out a point in the pitcher’s delivery to start the swing.
  4. On-Deck circle: work on when to pick front foot up.
  5. Sit in on Bullpens: hitter passively (no swings) sits in on pitcher bullpens (with a helmet on of course).
  6. Pitcher’s BP: have pitchers trade off throwing batting practice (advanced).
  7. Intra/Inter-squat games.

Above-all, be safe.   The truth about Josh Hamilton timing?  It takes reps, reps, and more reps.  CLICK HERE for Part-3 Matt Holliday: The Death Of Plate Discipline.  In case you missed Part-1 Mike Trout: Why Your Consistency Won’t Improve, CLICK HERE.

Mike Trout: “You’ve Got To Hit It First, Then Look Where It Goes”

 

Mike Trout: 3 Reasons Why Consistency Won't Improve

Posted to Hitting Performance Lab’s Facebook page…

…This three-part video series will analyze how to optimize vision, tracking, and timing.  This Part-1 video, featuring Mike Trout, will be unwrapping how the best mechanics in the world mean nothing without proper vision.  In this game, we live and die by how consistent we are.

In this post, we’ll go over:

  • Physically impossible to keep eyes on the ball,
  • How much and when head movement is okay, and
  • Building consistency with vision.

CLICK HERE for an interesting academic study on six elite female shot putters.  Results found head movement during rotation can influence the movements of the limbs and trunk.

Physically Impossible to Keep Eyes on the Ball

In a study by A. Terry Bahill, titled “Baseball Players Cannot Keep Their Eyes on the Ball”, his findings say this:

“We have shown that no one could keep his eye continuously on the ball as it flies from the pitcher to the plate.  For our professional athlete, the ball was always more than 2-degrees off his fovea before it came within 5-ft of the plate.  However, when the ball is off your fovea, you can still see with peripheral vision.  However, with peripheral vision, the ball would only appear as a white blur, you would not see details.”

The finding that was most interesting in the study, using University students as a control for the study, was:

“Most of our student subjects tracked the ball with either head movements alone or eye movements alone, but not both…After the ball crossed the plate, the students usually made large eye or head movements, whereas the gaze of the professional athlete was quite steady…The stance of our professional athlete was very repeatable.  At the beginning of the pitch, his head position was the same (within 1-degree) for each of the three experimental pitches we recorded.  When he was looking at the ball in the beginning of the experiment, his eyes were rotated 22-degrees to the left; his head was rotated left 65-degrees (yaw), was bowed down 23-degrees (pitch), and was tilted right 12-degrees (roll).”

The professional hitter in the study was right handed.

What’s interesting with hitters like Mike Trout, is that they have to use a bit of head and eye movement when tracking the incoming pitch.  Not one or the other. However, nobody on earth, EVER, has been proven to keep both eyes on a pitched ball continuously to home plate.

In the study, A. Terry Bahill said, in order to do that, the ball would have to be traveling at around 25-mph, in which case, it would NEVER reach home plate in softball or baseball.

 

How Much and When Head Movement is Okay

Olympic throwers move their heads forward (including Javelin, Discus, and Hammer).  Lacrosse players do too.  And so do Pitchers!

For a hitter like Mike Trout, forward head movement, dropping the “eye-line”,  are okay…until landing.  I say, get head movement out of the way early.  Mike Trout does strikeout quite a bit, which may be attributed to the dropping eye line.

The hitter told to “Sit back”, keeps the head still early, but moves it after the landing position and during the Final Turn.  This is not good for improving consistency.

 

Building Vision Consistency like Mike Trout

How-to improve consistency with vision:

  • Understand the swing is a “snapping towel” (forward first, then back),
  • Keep head in-line with spine,
  • Use the study finding parameters above, to know how much head and eye movement keeps consistency, and
  • Maintain a moderate swing tempo and relax the jaw (not over-swinging).

CLICK HERE for the Josh Hamilton Part-2 Video: Coaches Don’t Tell You This (About Timing)…

In This Softball Hitting Drills: Andrew McCutchen #1 Fix Video (4 of 4),

 

…of the Do This For Longer Drives softball hitting drills series, we’ll talk about:Softball Hitting Drills: Andrew McCutchen #1 Power Fix

  • #1 Fix to consistent power,
  • Science of compressing the spring, and
  • How Andrew McCutchen and others get springy…

 

#1 Fix to Consistent Power

According to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains, consistent power doesn’t come from conventional softball hitting drills teaching:

  • Load hands back towards catcher,
  • Pull front arm,
  • Fire back hip,
  • Push back knee forward and/or down, or
  • Pull knob straight to the ball.

According to Dr. Erik Dalton in his collaborative book Dynamic Body, the brain-body connection doesn’t work in this way:

“Modern Science reveals the brain does not recognize individual muscle activities due to lack of practical purpose.”

 

Science of Compressing the Spring

The secret to consistent power lies in springy connective tissue called Fascia…Cotton Candy Springy Fascia

  • Cotton candy or spider web-like material,
  • The bones and muscles float in it,
  • Is made up of mostly stiff collagen…which to the body, is like steel to the building industry,
  • Compression and tension forces are acting within the body at all times, and
  • Compressing the spring happens in an “X” pattern across the front and back of the torso.

I call it the Catapult Loading System.

 

How Andrew McCutchen and Others Get Springy

Watch how similar the following athlete movements are…front shoulder down and back to back hip…

Andrew McCutchen – 2013 NL MVP:

Andrew McCutchen Gets Springy

Paul Rabil – USA Lacrosse, fastest throw on record:

Paul Rabil Springy Lacrosse Throw

Jurgen Schult (German) – Discus World Record Holder (since 1986):

Jurgen Schult (German) - Discus WR Holder

So, when doing softball hitting drills, charge the body’s springy fascial tissue.  This is the #1 fix to consistent power.  CLICK HERE if you missed Part-3: losing force transfer with a bad head-spine connection.

In This Andrew McCutchen Baseball Hitting Drills Video (3 of 4),

 

…of the Do This For Longer Drives series, we’ll talk about:Andrew McCutchen Baseball Hitting Drills Video

  • Breaking the One-Joint Rule,
  • Whether Cutch is ‘kinking the hose’, and
  • How-To re-pattern the impact position.

 

Breaking the One-Joint Rule

From the book, Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance, Dr. Kelly Starrett (KStar) says:

“The musculature [in the spine] is designed to create stiffness so that you can effectively transmit energy to the primary engines of your hips and shoulders.  If you don’t preserve trunk stiffness while moving from your hips and shoulders, you will lose power and force.    The is the basis for the one-joint rule: you should see flexion and extension movement happen at the hips and shoulders, not your spine.”

 

Is Cutch ‘Kinking the Hose’?

Just as kinking the hose while watering the lawn stops the flow of water.  Bending at the spine halts the transfer of energy at impact.  KStar says this about losing head-spine alignment:

“Hinging at one of the segments [vertebraes in the neck]…when we put a hinge across the central nervous system, the body recognizes that as a primary insult, or threat to the body, because you’re basically guillotining or kinking the nervous system.  You’ve kinked ‘the tube’, so it [force production] just drops off.”

 

How-To Re-Pattern the Impact Position

Follow this 12-week exercise progression (at least five days per week):

  • Super plank – week one: 1 set, hold for 30 secs, week two: 1 set, hold for 45 secs, week three: 2 sets, hold for 45 secs
  • Loaded super plank – week four: 2 sets, for 30 secs, week five: 2 sets, for 45 secs, week six: 2 sets, for 60 secs
  • Hip hinge with stick (patterning) – week seven: 2 sets X 12 reps, week eight: 2 sets X 15 reps, week nine: 3 sets X 12 reps
  • Loaded hip hinge (dead-lift) – week ten: 2 sets X 12 reps, week eleven: 2 sets X 15 reps, week twelve: 3 sets X 12 reps

Maintain head-spine alignment.  Perfect reps.  Use Coach’s Eye or Ubersense phone app (free) for feedback.   CLICK HERE for Part-4 for the #1 power fix…also, CLICK HERE if you missed Part-2: the faster turn.

In This Andrew McCutchen Baseball Hitting Video (2 of 4), 

 

…of the Do This For Longer Drives series, we’re going to: Andrew McCutchen Baseball Hitting Video

  • Discuss when barring the front arm is okay,
  • Explore the science of spinning fast,
  • See how effective The Cutch is at turning, and
  • Look at how to work on this at home.

CLICK HERE to watch the – 2 min, 5 second – PBS Circus Physics video about the Conservation of Angular Momentum, or turning faster.

 

Straightening the Front Arm Out…Good or Bad?

Also referred to as bat drag, arm barring, or casting.  Let me clarify:

  • Arm barring GOOD: to make an impact adjustment to outside or lower pitches, and through extension
  • Arm Barring BAD: before and during the front heel touching down, and before  barrel whips back towards catcher’s glove

 

The Science of Spinning Fast

IF straightening the front arm out before the front heel touches down proves for a faster turn, then why doesn’t controversial 2014 Gold Medal winning ice skater Adelina Sotnikova do this during one of her big turning jumps?

Because it’s ineffective for humans to quickly turn this way.  When Adelina wants to slow down, she extends her arms and legs away from her body.  In hitting, it’s important to turn fast, stay compact, and do it early.  Before the barrel gets onto the plane of the pitch.  In which case, the front arm needs to stay slightly bent.

WHY?

Because if the hitter bars the front arm out early, they will spin slower, which will force the hitter to make a decision to swing the bat sooner.  Translation, the hitter has LESS reaction time!  AND will be vulnerable to inside and higher pitches in the zone because of their higher perceived velocity to the hitter, according to Perry Husband’s EV system.

If we keep a slight bend in the front elbow, then we have the option to keep it bent and spin faster (if we need to on the inside or high pitch), or we can let the front arm extend on pitches down or outside because these pitches are perceived slower (via Perry’s EV system), and the hitter has more time to get to those pitches.

 

Did Cutch Pass the Turning Speed Test?

In the above Andrew McCutchen baseball hitting video, science clearly says that ‘Cutch’ can in fact turn faster during his Final Turn.

However in this Andrew McCutchen baseball hitting video, he can get away with it because of his shorter arm span in comparison to a hitter with a longer one, like Miguel Cabrera.  Cabrera would have to stand farther off the plate to make an early arm bar work.  Similar to what Ken Griffey Jr. did.

And as we’ll discover what force bleeding compensation he makes – possibly – because of his early arm barring in Part-3 of the Andrew Mccutchen baseball hitting video: Do This For Longer Drives video series.

 

How Do We Practice a Faster Turn at Home?

  1. Break the swing into two-steps: 1) To the Fight Position (Landing), and 2) the Final Turn
  2. Use a mirror or batting tee
  3. Video analysis feedback – either Coach’s Eye app (free for android) or Ubersense app (free for iphone)
  4. Hitter “hides their hands from the pitcher”, while keeping a slight bend in the front arm
  5. Going into the Final Turn, the hitter will try and “crush the catcher’s glove” without extending the front arm

CLICK HERE for Part-3: Do This For Longer Drives: Andrew McCutchen baseball hitting video series, where we look to see if Cutch breaks the One-Joint Rule…If you missed Part-1, then CLICK HERE.

In This Andrew McCutchen Video (1 of 4),

 

Andrew McCutchen Un-Weighting Principal…We’re going to look at how ‘Cutch’ (5’10” 190 lbs*) used Science to beat Paul Goldschmidt (6’3″, 245 lbs*) for the 2013 NL MVP.  McCutchen has to stay close to human movement science in order to compete with big guys like Goldschmidt.

(*according to Baseball-Reference.com)

In this Part-1 video, we’ll:

  • Demo the Un-Weighting Principal,
  • See how Cutch either DOES or DOESN’T use this in his swing, and
  • Look at how to work on this at home.

For a different angle on this, CLICK HERE to watch the – 1 min, 58 second – PBS Circus Physics video about the Conservation of Linear Momentum (aka, the Un-Weighting Principal).

A few notable explosive rotational athletes who also use this human movement rule:

  1. Olympic throwers (javelin, hammer, and discus)
  2. Olympic shot putters
  3. Olympic jumpers (high, long, and triple)

 

WHY the Wide Stance?

I get tired of hearing about instructors pushing the wider [non-athletic] stance.  This makes it difficult to create any forward movement in the swing, and see it’s benefits (read below).

I ask my students…what position – with your feet – would you want to cover a fast wide receiver?  How about guarding an agile soccer striker?  Or jumping to slam dunk a basketball?  Hitters need to start from an athletic stance – feet slightly wider than shoulder width.

“Sitting back” isn’t very effective when it comes to dynamic human movements.

As a famous Samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi once said:

“In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance.” – Musashi, The Water Book

 

Un-Weighting Principal Benefits:

  • Feel lighter in Final Turn
  • Easier to move heavy objects
  • Get a ‘head start’

 

How Does Andrew McCutchen Do This?Andrew McCutchen Un-Weighting Principal

  • Front hip moves forward
  • Head movement is okay to heel strike
  • NO push, natural fall forward

 

How-To Practice at Home (feedback marker setup)

  1. Back marker (dimple ball or duct tape) inside back foot
  2. Front marker is hitter’s bat length, plus one or two baseballs in front
  3. Get “front hip” to front marker
  4. Set tee slightly behind front marker

CLICK HERE to watch Part-2, Andrew McCutchen: Do This For Longer Drives.  We’ll look at how effective Cutch’s Final Turn is…or isn’t.

Baseball Hitting Tips: Barry Bonds Getting Shorter

In This Baseball Hitting Tips Video,

 

…we’re going over howBaseball Hitting Tips: Barry Bonds Getting Shorter

  • To use the body – not the hands – to get “on-plane” with the pitch,
  • Barry Bonds makes hitting the long ball look easy, and
  • Most young hitters get the #1 long ball secret wrong (and how to correct it).

A few weeks ago I worked with a 12-U Little League team from Bakersfield California called the Sliders.  They recently came to Fresno for a tournament and DOMINATED.

One of the moms Sheri – her son is Alex in the above video – emailed me a testimonial:

“The boys won first place! Ben, Paul and Dylan hit their first home runs ever! They went undefeated for entire tourney! We’re going to round table pizza to treat all the boys!”

The three young men who hit their first home-runs had worked with me for the first time, a week before the tournament.  Now, this wasn’t all me, but wasn’t a coincidence either.  Before I worked with them, all three boys naturally had a little forward momentum working for them.  And, Sliders Coach Justin Karr has been working the baseball hitting tips system with his team for over a year now.

In the baseball hitting tips video, Barry Bonds gets on plane with the pitch very well by lowering his body.  He does this by creating an “L” with his back leg to and through contact.  Whereas the moment Alex’s front heel hits the ground, he ‘stands up’ causing ball flight to be low.  Alex would have to get “on-plane” with his hands, which is very inconsistent.

 

Snapping Towel (Lean) Drill Setup:

  • NEED: light exercise band with handles, AND decent sized carabiner,
  • Loop exercise band handles to carabiner, then to chain link fence, OR
  • Parent/Coach holds exercise band handles, and finally
  • Have hitter loop band under armpits.

In the baseball hitting tips video above, I mentioned breaking the swing apart into two steps:

  1. To the Fight Position (landing), and
  2. The Final Turn.

You’ll see Olympic Hammer Throwers lower their backside as well.  This enables the release of the hammer at an optimal forty-five degree angle.  CLICK HERE to watch a World Record holding Hammer Thrower lower his backside while rotating.

Robinson Cano Baseball Hitting Mechanics Video Reveals...

In This Baseball Hitting Mechanics Video,

 

…We’re comparing the “Fight” position of one of my young hitters to Robinson Cano. You’ll discover a little known technical flaw limiting explosive rotational power. Cleaning this up gears the body for a more effective turn.

We’re going over:

  • What is an optimal “Fight Position”
  • Hitter compensations associated with a bad Fight Position
  • How-to get into a good Fight Position

It’s amazing how many flaws happen before the Final Turn evens takes place.  I would say 75% of the mechanical breakdown can be solved before the Final Turn takes place.  Robinson Cano has such a friction-free swing that it’s critical we copy his pre-turn positioning.  He’s one of the most consistently powerful guys in the game, and not very big by today’s standards.

Here’s Robinson Cano in the 2013 home-run derby:

Backside Baseball Hitting Mechanics Robinson Cano

Back view: Notice how his hands push back towards first base dugout, and elbow comes up and out of the way…

Baseball Hitting Mechanics: Robinson Cano

Front view: see how he’s hiding his hands from the pitcher and showing his numbers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Quick Tips For A Faster Turn,

 

Robinson Cano Baseball Hitting Mechanics Video Reveals...

…We’ll be comparing one of my eleven-year-olds Ian to Robinson Cano:

  • If he’s “hiding his hands” from the pitcher,
  • How his front elbow is creating barrel path mayhem,
  • How Robinson Cano uses the Catapult Loading System, and
  • What does Ian need to work on?

In this Robinson Cano Baseball Hitting Mechanics Video…

I wanted to show a snapshot in time of one of my eleven-year-old hitters.  Ian is working on staying short with his limbs – pre-landing position – in order to turn faster.  His front arm tends to move back towards the catcher too much, which causes it to bar out and turn his torso slower.

We can break the swing up into two steps: 1) To landing (or the Fight Position), and Final Turn.  75% of consistency and power is taken care of in Step One.  Here’s the drill Ian will use in the video for correction…

 

Break It Apart Mirror Drill

  1. Get into stance with front shoulder facing mirror or picture window,
  2. Get to fight position (Landing), and
  3. Make sure you’ve hidden your hands from view – like a boxer would when he’s going to deliver the knock out blow.

CLICK HERE or watch below, another one of my Robinson Cano baseball hitting mechanics YouTube videos that I did for SwingSmarter.com:

In This Baseball Hitting Mechanics Video,

 

…I analyze one of my eighth graders Zack, and we uncover the #1 simple tip can overcome bad hitting technique:Baseball Hitting Mechanics Video: #1 Simple Tip to Overcome Bad Hitting Technique

  • “How to make your everyday stance your fight stance, and your fight stance your everyday stance” – Musashi, a famous Japanese Samurai swordsman
  • The Snapping Towel Effect: getting the body moving,
  • The Snapping Towel Effect: the snap back, and
  • How Zack can improve…

CLICK HERE for an MLB case study YouTube video I did on David Ortiz looking into how Big Papi used the same Snapping Towel Metaphor in the 2013 Playoffs.

I’ll be doing a lot of baseball hitting mechanics video case studies of my own hitting students.  Some where I do before and afters of their own swing.  And other times, comparing their swing to a small-bopper I think is relevant to them.  I think these case studies help coaches and instructors eliminate the excuse of how young hitters can’t develop high level mechanics.

The main objective of the Hitting Performance Lab is to show we’re not arguing about linear versus rotational mechanics.  It’s that we’re discussing human movement.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female.  Young or mature.  Baseball or softball.  We’re talking about how the human body is designed to efficiently move.