Tony Gwynn: Don't Let This Happen

 

Tony Gwynn Hitting Video: It's Never Too Late!

Tony Gwynn photo courtesy: Sports.ESPN.Go.com

Baseball lost one of the hardest working hitters EVER.

In this video blog, I want to answer the question of why Tony Gwynn couldn't hit for repeatable power.

I'm keying in on a two interesting points mentioned in an article at Deadspin.com, “How Tony Gwynn Cracked Baseball's Code And Became A Legend, after his passing.

We'll talk about:

  • How baseball history is made on the inside pitch,
  • How the front shoulder is crucial to repeatable power, and
  • Why Mr. Padre's swing didn't have built-in power.

 

How Baseball History is Made on the Inside Pitch

The Deadspin.com article mentioned a 1992 All-Star game conversation Tony Gwynn had with Ted Williams about how Williams preached that baseball history was made on the inside pitch.  Quoted from the Deadspin article:

“The year before Williams offered his counsel, Gwynn hit .315 on pulled balls; the year after, .587. And in the five years following it, he hit .368, won four batting titles, and made a very serious run at being the first hitter since Williams to hit .400, which he may have done if not for the 1994 strike.”

Increased average, check!  But, according to Baseball-Reference.com, over his 20 year career Tony Gwynn only hit over 10 home runs five times in a season.  Although, four-out-of-five of those seasons were after the Ted Williams conversation.  His career high was 17, in 1997. In the video, I offer an explanation of why it wasn't too late for Gwynn to develop power after that Williams conversation.

 

Front Shoulder Crucial to Repeatable Power

Tony Gwynn "Staying on the ball"

Tony Gwynn photo courtesy: MLB.com

The last point, mentioned in the Deadspin article, was in a conversation George Will had with Tony Gwynn in his book Men At Work, where Gwynn explains – during video analysis of his swing – if he was “staying on the ball”:

To know if he is swinging correctly, he counts the frames from when the pitcher lets go of the ball until his, Gwynn's, front shoulder “opens up”—turns to the right…There's one… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten… There,” he says with satisfaction at the high count, “ten frames. That means I'm staying on the ball. I'm keeping my front shoulder in and staying back. If I open it up before then, I'm through, I'm out in front.” 

How interesting.  Mr. Padre may have been ahead of his time here.  In the coming swing breakdown, you'll discover how to not lose the repeatable power opportunity that Tony Gwynn did.

 

Why Tony Gwynn's Swing DID NOT Have Power Built-In

Tony Gwynn Vertical Spine Angle at Contact

Tony Gwynn photo courtesy: MLB.com

What I reveal in the video, is proven human movement science.  I'm standing on the shoulders of giants, body workers like Ida Rolf, Judith Aston, Thomas Myers, and Dr. Erik Dalton.  I borrow from Dr. Serge Gracovetsky and his theory on Spinal Engine mechanics, and Dr. Kelly Starrett's work in optimizing human movement.

Nowadays, we have a solid framework for producing power in the body through dynamic movement without having to worry about this hitting theory or that.  Here are my top THREE fixes that would have built repeatable power into Tony Gwynn's already consistent swing:

  1. Down shoulder angle (spinal engine mechanics)
  2. Hiding hands from the pitcher (loading springy connective tissue in the torso), and
  3. Better spine angle at and after contact (pictured to the right, spine is too vertical).

My family's thoughts and prayers go out to his family.  We lost a good hard working man.

Paul Goldschmidt: Can a Bleeding Barrel Kill Hitting Potential?

 

Paul Goldschmidt Youth Hitting Case Study

My 9yo hitter Collin bleeding his barrel. Swings are synced, before (on the left) & after (on the right)

In this video, we'll look at 2013 National League MVP runner up Paul Goldschmidt's swing and relate it to one of my younger hitters.  We'll talk about:

  • What is a bleeding barrel (1-week before & after case study),
  • The “Goldy” standard, and
  • How-to fix a bleeding barrel at home.

 

What is a “Bleeding Barrel” (1-week before & after case study)

I've been working on this with one of my young hitters, Collin.  Bleeding the barrel is when the barrel starts to launch (turn into the hitting zone) before the hitter's front foot touches down.

It's caused by a premature turning of the shoulders, and is very inefficient when it comes to transferring energy.  In order to load powerful springy fascia and connective tissue in the torso, the front shoulder must stay in and down towards the back hip, at front foot touch down.  CLICK HERE for similar analysis comparing Josh Donaldson (Oakland A's) to Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays).

The week following my young hitter Collin's AFTER video, he was bleeding his barrel again.  The cause?  His dad said a coach was doing rapid-fire soft toss before games.  Needless to say, Collin's dad had a talk with the coach.

 

The “Goldy” Standard

Paul Goldschmidt: Bleeding Barrel - A Power Killer?

Paul Goldschmidt photo courtesy: MLB.com

Notice Paul Goldschmidt (pictured to the right) at front foot touch down:

  • His barrel angle is up (70-degree angle), and
  • He's showing his numbers to the pitcher  (see video above).

Most importantly, taking care of point #2 above will stop the bleeding barrel.

Can Paul Goldschmidt do better?  According to Baseball-Reference.com, he stands at 6'3″, and weighs 245 lbs.  With this line, he can get away with inefficient mechanics and still hit for decent power.  His average home-run total per 162-game season is only 29.  For how big he is, he can average over 40 homers per season.

Here are a couple things I'd love to see change in Goldy's swing:

  1. More forward momentum,
  2. Better down shoulder angle (side bending in the spine),
  3. Hide his hands a little more from the pitcher, and
  4. Extend up and back over the catcher more (he was a little out front on this pitch).

 

How-To Fix a Bleeding Barrel at Home

Remember to use Variance in the following scenario.  Three steps to stop the bleeding barrel:

  1. Break Swing into 2-Steps (1-2 second pause between): 1) Fight Position (landing), and 2) Final Turn – focus on showing the hitter's numbers to the pitcher at the Fight Position, and keep a barrel angle around 45-55 degrees.
  2. Check-Swing Drill – get hitter to show they can keep from bleeding the barrel to impact.
  3. Put Swing Together – once they get here, then progress them from tee, to soft toss, to LIVE batting practice.  If they can hold together their mechanics, then the brain has ingrained the movement.

CLICK HERE to get more information on my online hitting lessons program The Feedback Lab.

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

Online Baseball Lessons: Dead Simple Plan I Used To Help Aidan in Illinois…

 

…when I'm in California!!

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

Aidan B. (15 yo) all AFTER photos courtesy: Dad

Aidan B. (15 yo) signed up for online baseball lessons back in the middle of April 2014 when I opened The Feedback Lab.  What is The Feedback Lab?

It's the #1 strategy to repeatable power. It’s clear focused step-by-step video feedback & accountability in less than 48-hours.

The 90-Day Sprint empowers parents and coaches to help young hitters achieve their full potential of consistent power through scientific movement principles, and sticky coaching strategies proven with empirical research.

This baseball lessons blog post will show the dead simple plan we used to build repeatable power into Aidan B.'s swing.  We'll go over:

  • Aidan's before and after swing (2-week difference),
  • The “WHY” behind the change, and
  • 2-steps to spinal extension & “getting shorter”.

 

 Aidan's Before & After Swing (2-week difference)

This video is a snapshot of Aidan's swing from June 6-17th, 2014).  The swing was captured during soft toss.  In my notes,

  • BEFORE – on June 6th, Aidan had an excessive side bend at the waist after contact, and had a back leg angle of 115 degrees after impact.
  • AFTER – on June 17th, Aidan was extending up and over the catcher with his spine, and had a 105 degree bend in his back leg after contact.

Baseball lessons result?  More repeatable power.

 

The “WHY” Behind the Change

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

The challenges Aidan B. from Illinois was having were faulty spine engine mechanics, and not getting on plane with the pitch…here's the baseball lessons breakdown:

  • Spine Engine Mechanics (according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky) – During the Final Turn, the spine NEEDS to freely spring up and back over the catcher (extend through the head).  This is because we've already engaged two of three possible spine engine movements: 1) Side bending (down shoulder angle), and 2) Axial rotation (showing pitcher our numbers) before stride foot lands.
  • Get on Pitch Plane – And in order to get on a level plane with a downward traveling pitch, we must “get shorter” with the back leg.  The back foot placement has a role of swing stability as well.

To see the latter point in action, CLICK HERE for my YouTube video analysis of Barry Bonds.

 

2-Steps to Spinal Extension & “Getting Shorter”

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

  1. Back Foot Variance Drill – sets the back foot into a more stable position to get a good efficient stacked spinal lean.
  2. Lean Drill – using RNT (Reactive Neuromuscular Training) to “feed the mistake”.

If you're interested in baseball lessons online (or softball), then CLICK HERE to get more information about The Feedback Lab.  

 

 

 

Shin Soo Choo Missing Power?

 

Shin Soo Choo Missing Power?

Shin-Soo Choo photo courtesy: MLB.com

Shin Soo Choo is well-above average when it comes to On-Base Percentage, .389 over a ten-year span.

He also averages 37 doubles per season over the same career span.  However, his 162-game average for home-runs is ONLY 19.

Keep in mind that Shin Soo Choo is 5'11”, 205 lbs. (all stats are according to Baseball-Reference.com).  Let's look at:

  • When to bend, when not to bend (rotating speed v. moment of inertia),
  • How Shin Soo Choo may be dumping bat speed pre-impact, and
  • How-to increase rotational speed at home.

 

When to Bend, When NOT to Bend (rotating speed v. moment of inertia)

We're talking about the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Take Olympic ice skater Adelina Sotnikova, who won gold in the 2014 Winter Olympics for instance.  Here's how she increases her rotational speed:

delina Sotnikova 2014 Winter Olympics

Adelina Sotnikova photo courtesy: NBC Sports

  • She moves her arms into her center of rotation (Rotating speed increases, moment of inertia decreases).
  • To go slower, she moves her arms and a leg away from her center of rotation (Rotating speed decreases, moment of inertia increases).

Moment of Inertia (or MOI) just means a body's tendency to resist angular (rotating) acceleration.  Rotating speed and the moment of inertia have an inverse relationship.

 

How Shin Soo Choo May Be Dumping Bat Speed Pre-Impact?

Let's apply the answer of “when to bend” to hitting…in hitting a pitched ball, we don't know what:

  1. Location,
  2.  Speed, or
  3. Plane the pitch is arriving on beforehand.
Shin-Soo Choo Arm Barring

Shin-Soo Choo photo courtesy: MLB.com

Unlike golf, hitters have a split second to commit and accelerate their barrel.  So in the first part of the Final Turn, a hitter MUST accelerate the barrel quickly with the torso using a bent front arm.

The second part of the Final Turn – when the barrel gets on plane of the pitch – the front arm begins to straighten to increase the moment of inertia (resisting rotational acceleration).

And of course, the front arm straightening at impact will depend on pitch location…lower or outside the zone, more straight at impact…versus, inside or higher, more bent at impact.

A hitter's post-impact objective, MUST be to get both arms extended.  This would ensure proper transition of Centripetal (center-seeking) v. Centrifugal (center-fleeing) Forces.

Therefore, keeping the front elbow bent from the start of the Final Turn is critical to increasing turning speed and barreling the ball, particularly in high EV zones (Effective Velocity – Perry Husband).

 

How-To Increase Rotational Speed at Home

Here are a couple spine engine mechanics we could work on at home that would give us a repeatable power advantage at the plate (and what Shin Soo Choo isn't doing).  Before the stride foot touches down, we need to:

  1. Have a downward shoulder angle,
  2. Show the numbers better, and
  3. Keep a slight bend in the front arm.

Fixing this can take Shin Soo Choo's 162-game average of 19 homers to over 30 for sure.  Basically, it makes his swing more adjustable to higher perceived velocities, if we're talking about Perry Husband's EV system.

Does Jose Abreu Use a Unique MLB Power Technique?

 

Jose Abreu Power Secret Found In Unlikely Place?

Jose Abreu photo courtesy: MLB.com

I received an email recently from a top-5 Shot Putter in the mid-80's named Rob Suelflohn.  He threw for over 70 feet!  A pretty special feat.  CLICK HERE to see YouTube footage of Rob.

He contacted me after watching a couple of my analysis videos.  Shortly after, he purchased The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power course to refine his Shot Put technique, as he still competes in Masters Shot Put competitions.

Wait…a Shot Putter buying my course on hitting?!

What really struck him about my mechanical breakdown was that I was speaking his same language, even though I was discussing a completely different competitive human movement.

Or is hitting really that different than Shot Put?

This video compares Jose Abreu to Randy Barnes (holds world record in the Shot Put).  We'll look at:

  • Methods v. Principles,
  • Top Secret Power: Springy ‘X' Pattern
  • Jose Abreu v. Randy Barnes

 

Methods v. Principles

Randy Barnes Shot Putter 1996 Olympics

Randy Barnes 1996 Olympics (won gold) photo courtesy: PBS.org

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,

“As to the methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” 

In hitting, methods are the drills we do.  Just do a search for “baseball (or softball) hitting drills” on YouTube and you'll find plenty.  Principals are human movement rules governing EVERY athlete in motion.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it,

“The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” 

What principles do rotational athletes like Jose Abreu and Randy Barnes have in common to efficiently create repeatable power?

 

Top Secret Power: Springy ‘X' PatternSpringy 'X' Pattern

One of the principles they use is something I call the Springy ‘X' Pattern.  Imagine a big ‘X' on your chest connecting shoulder to opposite hip.  The same goes for the backside.  To load springy connective tissue, called fascia, shorten one leg of the ‘X' while the other leg lengthens.

Springy fascia is (according to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains):

  • What the bones and muscles float in,
  • Gives muscles their shape,
  • A spider web or cotton candy-like material, and
  • Made of mostly springy collagen fibers.

 

Jose Abreu v. Randy Barnes

Returning to our original question of does Jose Abreu use a unique MLB power technique?  Nope.  He uses a unique power technique to human movement!  This is also why – according to Wikipedia – Randy Barnes qualified for the 2005 World Long Drive Championship in golf.  Golf!!  He's mastered the principles of explosive rotational power.  CLICK HERE to put proven human movement science to work in YOUR swing today…

Could the Forces of Gravity be the Key to Unlock Power?

 

George Springer: Can Gravity BOOST Power

George Springer photo courtesy: MLB.com

In this video, we're comparing two athletes from two different sports, rookie outfielder George Springer of the Houston Astros and world record holding Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt.  We'll look at how gravity can affect energy transfer forces in human movement, and discuss:

  • How-to transfer energy?
  • How George Springer & Usain Bolt exploit the forces of gravity, and
  • Can Springer be more efficient at transferring energy?

 

How-To Transfer Energy?

Albert Einstein once said,

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”

According to this short PBS video on Circus Physics above, there are THREE forms that energy comes in:

  1. Potential (PE) – Gravitational potential energy, the potential to fall.  Or the body's make up of height, weight, and muscle mass.  Non-moving.  During motion, PE is zero.
  2. Kinetic (KE) – energy of motion.  At rest, KE is zero.
  3. Elastic (U) – stored in the bar (acrobat video above) or in connective tissue found in the body.

Keep in mind that the total amount of energy does not change.  It just takes different forms.  There are hitter compensations that upset the natural flow and transfer of energy from body to barrel to ball.  George Springer has a movement compensation, but before we get to that, let's talk about…

 

How George Springer & Usain Bolt Exploit the Forces of Gravity

Usain Bolt Energy Transfer

Photo courtesy: WarriorsOfHealthMQ.BlogSpot.com

Let us now compare the use of Gravitational Potential Energy between the two athletes…

According to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky, Physicist, Electrical Engineer, and best known for his theory on spine engine mechanics, in an email conversation I had with him, said this about the relationship between gravity and spine engine mechanics:

“The coupled motion* has nothing to do with gravity. It works in space as well. It is a property of the spine or any flexible rod for that matter.  But the interaction with gravity makes interesting results which are exploited by every sport.”

(*Dr. Gracovetsky is talking about the coupled motion of the spine.  CLICK HERE and watch from the 2-6 minute mark for a graphical explanation)

Dr. Serge Gracovetsky also talks about when running, at heel strike, there's a compressive pulse that's NINE-times your body weight!  As you see in the picture of Usain Bolt, his body is lifting completely off the ground and preparing to fall back to the ground, due to the forces of gravity.  He's exploiting these forces to transfer large amounts of energy into efficient motion (Kinetic Energy).

Check out this YouTube video titled “Usain Bolt – Science of Olympic Gold”, for more in-depth analysis (only 1 min, 54 secs long).

In my video, you'll notice George Springer “get shorter” from the start to the Final Turn of his swing.  There is one energy transfer leak going on though…

 

Can Springer be more Efficient at Transferring Energy?

Yes he can.  The one glaring energy leak is in a front arm bar.  In a past article, I talked about the science of spinning faster.  This is definitely something that Springer can change that will optimize energy transfer from body to barrel to ball.  Things he does really well:

  • Ability to follow the pitch,
  • Use of Gravitational forces and forward momentum, and
  • Great angle back towards the catcher.
Brandon Moss

Brandon Moss Analysis Shows Timing Adjustment Must Be Made…

 

Brandon Moss REVEALS Slow Pitcher Timing Secret

Brandon Moss photo courtesy: Zimbio.com

This Brandon Moss analysis comes from a conversation I had with Coach Justin Karr and his 12-U Bakersfield Sliders Black team.  Thanks Coach Karr, I hope this helps your troops!

I want to compare what Brandon Moss does differently hitting a slower pitcher, like knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, to a hard throwing “King” Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.  We're going to:

  • Make the complicated, uncomplicated,
  • Learn how-to adjust to slower pitching according to Brandon Moss, and
  • Discuss what a hitter can do to adjust timing.

 

Make the Complicated, Uncomplicated

First of all, executing flawless hitting mechanics mean nothing if timing is off.  I love how Dr. Kelly Starrett describes learning complicated movements (or strategies) in his book Becoming A Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance:

 “When it comes to learning complicated movements efficiently, the key is to make them uncomplicated.  We do this by breaking them down into precise, manageable steps.  Then we emphatically encourage like-your-life-depends-on-it focus in performing each step.  This is the path to a tight learning curve.  It's the foundation required for optimal performance.”

We focus on one aspect at a time.  In respect to the calibration of timing, we have to forget swing mechanics and focus solely on adjusting the timing.

Brandon Moss homers off R.A. Dickey knuckle-ball

Brandon Moss photo courtesy: MLB.com

 

How-To Adjust to Slower Pitching According to Brandon Moss

In the video, I compare and analyze two 2013 home-run swings by the Oakland A's first baseman Brandon Moss:

  1. 77 mph knuckle-ball from R.A. Dickey Moss (left-handed) hit over the center field fence (418 feet*), and
  2. 93 mph fastball from “King” Felix Hernandez Moss hit over the right-center field fence (387 feet*)

(*Home-run distances according to the ESPN Stats & Information Group)

 

CLICK HERE to revisit a video blog article I did, featuring Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout, where I went over:

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

For an average velocity pitcher, each hitter MUST figure out at what point in the pitcher's delivery that they start their swing.  Then experiment starting the swing at a later point with a slower pitcher.  This will be slightly different for every hitter as the Josh Hamilton article shows.

The main point is, the hitter has to make a a conscience effort to change their timing.  They can't just use the same timing for every pitcher.  Hitting is a game of inches…being one inch ahead or behind can mean barreling the ball or not.

Also, if the whole team's offensive numbers are suffering against a slower pitcher, then the adjustment DOES NOT necessarily have to be a mechanical one.

One more interesting point…notice how far Brandon Moss cranked the Dickey knuckle-ball?  418 feet!!  “King” Felix?  387 feet…a pitcher's velocity doesn't dramatically contribute to batted ball distance.  It's bat speed that does.  According to a forum at eFastball.com, for every 1 mph of added pitching velocity, 1 foot of batted ball distance is the outcome.  BUT for every 1 mph of increased bat speed, 4 feet of batted ball distance is the result!!  Don't let low velocity pitchers slow your bat speed down hitters!

“Staying Closed” for Fastpitch Softball & Baseball (NOT What You Think)

 

Josh Donaldson: Stay Closed & ADD Bat & Ball Exit Speed

Looks as if Josh Donaldson is reaching out with his barrel to touch the catcher's glove! Josh Donaldson photo courtesy: www.todaysknuckleball.com

In this article, we'll compare the swings of Oakland Athletic's (now Blue Jays) Josh Donaldson and Toronto Blue Jay's Jose Bautista (aka Joey Bats).  In the video, we'll discuss:

  • Donaldson v. Bautista metrics,
  • What “staying closed” means to spine engine mechanics, and
  • Where Josh Donaldson might be leaking force at impact.

 

Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista Metrics

This section is split up as follows:

  • Physical
  • Swing analysis
  • Key offensive stats

 Physical

Tale of the tape (according to Baseball-Reference.com):

  • Josh Donaldson – 6'0″, 220lbs
  • Jose Bautista – 6'0″ 205lbs

Swing Analysis

Both hitters:

  • Use a distinctive leg kick,
  • Have an early start to their swings (pick up front foot when pitcher breaks the hands)
  • Use forward momentum,
  • Stay tight in final turn,
  • Use Catapult Loading System (down shoulder angle & show numbers to pitcher), and
  • Start their first name with the letter “J”.

Key Offensive Stats

Here are FIVE key offensive stats based on a 162-game average (Baseball-Reference.com in May of 2014):

  1. On-Base Percentage (OBP) – JD* = .351, JB** = .365
  2. Slugging Percentage (SLG) – JD = .467. JB = 489
  3. On-Base + Slug (OPS) – JD = .818, JB = .854
  4. Doubles – JD = 36, JB = 28
  5. Homers – JD = 24, JB = 31

*JD stands for Josh Donaldson

**JB stands for Jose Bautista

So why does Jose Bautista come out on top even though he's outweighed by 15lbs?  Consider this…

Josh Donaldson: CLICK HERE to see a scatter graph of his dinger disbursement in 2013 (according to ESPN Stats & Information Group).  In the 158 games he played in 2013 (24 homers) his…

  • Average true distance was 391.3 feet, and
  • Average speed off the bat was 103.7 mph.

Jose Bautista: CLICK HERE to see a scatter graph of his home-run disbursement in 2013 (according to ESPN Stats & Information Group).  In the 118 games played (hand/wrist injury) in 2013 (28 homers) his…

  • Average true distance was 400.3 feet, and
  • Average speed off the bat was 104.8 mph.

The bottom line?

Jose Bautista Staying Closed

Jose Bautista photo courtesy: MLB.com

Joey Bats played 40 less games in 2013, but still outhit Josh Donaldson.  So let's answer the question of how Bautista hit each homer, on average, 9 feet further, and drove the ball 1.1 mph faster off the bat.

Let's begin building a case as to where Josh Donaldson may be bleeding force at impact…

 

What “Staying Closed” Means to Spine Engine Mechanics

Most confuse the meaning of the coaching cue “staying closed”.  The hitter DOES NOT “stay closed” with the bottom half.  For maximum energy transfer, the pelvis should open when the body weights the front foot after striding.  Both hitters seem to prematurely open their pelvis before the heel hits the ground.  This isn't efficient!  We'll talk about:

  • The truth about staying closed,
  • The importance of heel strike to locomotion, and
  • Swinging in sand: effortless power or powerless effort?

The Truth About Staying Closed

Jose bautista Impact

Jose Bautista photo courtesy: MLB.com

In the video, we apply two of three coupled motion of the spine actions, according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky's book The Spinal Engine:

  1. Side bending (evidenced by a down shoulder angle), and
  2. Axial rotation (hitter shows numbers to pitcher, while pelvis stays parallel to the plate)

In the video, we clearly see both hitters do this.  Donaldson more than Bautista.  I mentioned both hitters prematurely open their pelvis before heel strike.  Let's look at the gravity (pun intended) of doing or not doing this…

The Importance of Heel Strike to Locomotion

In the book, Gracovetsky offers one of several meanings for maintaining a healthy spine using spinal engine mechanics (p. 168):

“…the compressive pulse generated at heel-strike is essential to the locomotion process.  The shape of this pulse must be very specific if maximum energy is to be transferred from the earth's gravitational field to the rotating pelvis.”

Both hitters “stand tall” before falling forward and “getting shorter” into the turn.  This lifting of the torso is like running versus walking.  When running, our heel hits the ground creating a compressive force that is equaled to NINE-times our body weight, Dr. Gracovetsky says.  Gravity pulls our body down (Un-Weighting Principal), and at heel strike, the ground pushes back in a compressive force.  The greater the force, the faster the pelvis opens.

The following is where I foreshadow the problem with Donaldson…

Swinging in Sand: Effortless Power or Powerless Effort?

Josh Donaldson Staying Closed

Josh Donaldson photo courtesy: MLB.com

Dr. Serge Gracovetsky offers this example in the book (pgs. 168-169),

“Running or walking on soft sand is not easy and is very tiring,  In this particular case, the energy leaks into the sand, the impact force is reduced, and the compressive pulse through the spine is attenuated [disabled] as the total energy recovered is reduced.”

The compressive force is softened by the sand, which doesn't allow the pelvis to turn using efficient spine engine mechanics.  To maneuver, the brain has to recruit big muscles to do the work.  This is why you get a workout walking on sand…it's powerless effort, rather than effortless power.

Donaldson is basically turning his pelvis using muscle mass (like walking in the sand).  Whereas Bautista looks more effortless because he's using efficient spine engine mechanics, gravity, and gravitational reaction forces…

 

Where Josh Donaldson May Be Leaking Force at Impact

In the video, you'll see Donaldson start opening his pelvis five frames before he weights his front foot.  His front foot looks like it almost “hovers” over the ground for 3-4 frames.  Opening the pelvis without a true compressive force (gravity and gravitational reaction forces) would be like hitting a baseball while standing on sand!

Bautista starts opening his pelvis only two frames ahead of weighting his front foot.  Joey Bats experiences a higher compressive force at landing than Donaldson does.  This is why “staying closed” with the upper half, and committing the body to landing on the front foot is crucial to an average increase of:

  • 9 feet to batted ball distance, and
  • 1.1 mph to ball exit speeds.

Post UPDATE: after Josh Donaldson was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, this post was picked up by the Canadian National Post (Just above the Jose Bautista image).  Also, there was an “upgrade” to his hitting mechanics since this post was first published in 2014.  CLICK HERE for a link to an Athletics Nation article talking about a difference in J.D.'s 2013 & 2014 swing mechanics.  In 2015, Josh Donaldson reverted back to his minimalist “barrel tilt” 2013 hitting mechanics.

Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez: A Killer MLB Power Strategy You Can Use Too…

 

Carlos Gonzalez Spine Angle

Carlos Gonzalez photo courtesy: MLB.com

I'm comparing two Colorado Rockies hitters, Carlos Gonzalez (aka Car-Go) and Nolan Arenado (2014 franchise record 28-game hit streak).  What repeatable power advantage does a guy like Car-Go have that Arenado may not?  Is it height?  Weight?

Neither.  Look how similar Car-Go and Arenado are physically (resource: Baseball-Reference.com):

  • Carlos Gonzalez – 6 foot, 1 inch, 220 pounds
  • Nolan Arenado – 6 foot, 2 inches, 205 pounds

In this video, we're going to:

  1. Compare 5 key offensive numbers (based on a 162-game average),
  2. See what Car-Go and Arenado's swings have in common, and
  3. Reveal the killer MLB power strategy.

 

Comparing 5 Key Offensive Numbers…

Here are key offensive numbers from the charts below, between Car-Go and Arenado:

  1. On-Base% (OBP)…Carlos Gonzalez = .355, Nolan Arenado = .309
  2. Slug% (SLG)…Car-Go = .527, Arenado = .432
  3. On-Base%+Slug% (OPS)…Car-Go = .882, Arenado = .741
  4. Doubles (2B)…Car-Go = 36, Arenado = 40
  5. Home-runs (HR)…Car-Go = 29, Arenado = 15

Sure we have more data points for Car-Go (7-years) than Arenado (2-years).  However, looking at how efficient each moves when swinging the bat, we'll be able to assess the potential for Arenado's performance in the future.  In addition to learning how Gonzalez may be able to improve.

CLICK HERE to get a brilliant Sabermetrics point of view for Car-Go 2.0.

What Car-Go & Arenado's Swings have in Common

Nolan Arenado

Nolan Arenado photo courtesy: MLB.com

These are the human movement rules in common from the analysis:

  • Vision
  • Forward Momentum
  • Tight Turns
  • Engage Catapult Loading System

 

The Killer MLB Power Strategy

In comparing the two swings, what steps would Arenado have to take to hit for more consistent power like Carlos Gonzalez?  One of the secrets to repeatable power lies in the spine angle, which is achieved by the bend in the back knee.  The spine's angle can allow a hitter to:

  • Get the barrel level on the downward plane of the pitch (slight upswing),
  • Stay in the impact zone longer (increased margin for error),
  • Keep the eyes and head from moving forward during the Final Turn,
  • Fully transfer linear (forward) into angular (turning) momentum (increased bat speed).
  • Drive the ball!!

Troy Tulowitzki Stride Length Experiment

 

Question: Does Stride Length Kill Bat Speed?

Troy Tulowitzki Stride Length Killing Your Bat Speed?

Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether Troy Tulowitzki's longer stride increases or decreases bat speed.  Not just a longer stride, but I want to see the torso moving forward as well.

Background Research

Troy Tulowitzki had a wider stance in 2013.  In 2014, he's adopted more of a narrow stance and a longer stride length.

Forward Momentum may be a new concept to hitting, but not to other explosive rotational athletes.  It's also known as the Conservation of Linear Momentum and the Un-Weighting Principal.  The idea is that the hitter is getting a “head start”.  Other high level athletes using Forward Momentum:

  • Olympic Throwers (Discus, Javelin, and Hammer)
  • Olympic Shot Put
  • 4 X 100 meter relay sprinters
  • Circus Trapeze Artists
  • Lacrosse Players
  • Hockey Players

Hypothesis

I think the addition of forward momentum, or a longer stride length, will contribute to more bat speed because this gives the hitter a “head start”, making the body feel lighter while moving.  This allows the body to turn harder, and ultimately increase bat speed.

Troy Tulowitzki Experiment

Equipment:

Setup:

  • Feedback markers = my bat length, plus two baseballs
  • Distance from plate = end of the bat touching inside corner of plate, and knob of bat touching my mid-thigh
  • NO-stride stance was width of feedback markers
  • Forward movement stance was open, and feet set a little wider than shoulder width
  • Tee was set a baseball or two behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • 101 baseballs were hit using both the NO-stride and longer stride sessions

Data Collected:

Results of Tulo Stride Length Bat Speed Experiment

Pay particular attention to the bold typeface

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Last 6 Swing Zepp Baseball app

NO-stride: last 6 batted balls (Zepp Baseball app)

  • 0.624 mph average bat speed increase with a longer stride.
  • Apex of bell curve for NO-stride swings ranged from 77 mph to 83 mph*.
  • With a longer stride, you'll see the bell curve shifted, 81 mph to 85 mph*.
  • Three more 90 mph+ swings using a longer stride, in addition to increasing my Personal Record 2 mph.

*Based on six or more batted balls repeated in specific mph (bold typeface in the chart above)

 

Notes

Longer Stride: last 6 batted balls (Zepp Baseball app)

Longer Stride: last 6 batted balls (Zepp Baseball app)

  • Before the experiment I did a 7 minute Dynamic Warm-up.
  • I didn't just increase my stride length, I moved my whole torso forward.
  • I began the experiment with the NO-stride swings.
  • I took a 20-30 minute break between the two sessions.
  • During the last twenty swings of the longer stride session, I hit five-of-eight 90 mph+ balls.

From the Zepp Baseball screenshots to the right, it's interesting to note, my bat speed kept up, even increased with forward momentum and a longer stride.  In other words, I wasn't as tired at the end of hitting over 200 baseballs.

Now that Troy Tulowitzki is using a more narrow stance and generating forward momentum with a longer stride, he's able to increase his bat speed.  This may explain the surge in opposite field home-runs in 2014.