Pitching Instruction: 3 Simple Factors to Great Hitting (Madison Bumgarner Approved)

 

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner using human movement science in the 2014 World Series. What can hitters learn from him?

I want to focus on Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, and how the pitching instruction he’s received may help hitters develop repeatable power.  Pitching instruction for hitters!

I read somewhere that when Ted Williams was asked how a hitter could get more efficient with their swing.  He responded by saying to study a pitcher’s delivery.  In this pitching instruction for hitters post, we’ll look at 3 human movement laws, the:

  1. Head start,
  2. Spinning ice skater, and
  3. Compressed spring.

 

The Head Start

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner “falling” photo courtesy: HNGN.com

Known to proven movement science as the Conservation of Linear Momentum, aka Forward Momentum (FoMo) or the Un-Weighting Principle.  Madison Bumgarner employs Gravitational Forces with a nice easy fall down the mound.  Gravity doesn’t care if you’re a Shot Putter…Trapeze Artist…Lacrosse player…or a hitter.  As sure as the sun rises and sets, Gravity will be there to flow-with OR fight a hitter’s movements.  Here’s what happens when we:

  • FIGHT Gravitational Forces (wide no-stride, sit back) – Reciprocal Inhibition occurs.  Muscles and connective tissues typically used to accelerate movements will reverse, slowing them down.
  • FLOW-with Gravitational Forces (FoMo) – Free ride.  Makes the Final Turn seem easier.  Increases max bat speed.  And turns a hitter’s body into a projectile missile.  Thanks Bob Hall from Canada for the latter metaphor!

Madison Bumgarner Pitching Instruction for Hitters Factor #1: Mad-Bum has a nice easy fall down the mound with minimal push with the back leg.  Too much push activates Reciprocal Inhibition.  Hitters employ a fall by committing the body-weight to the stride leg at landing, or the Fight Position.

 

The Spinning Ice Skater

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner high angular photo courtesy: ConcordMonitor.com

Known to proven movement science as the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Madison Bumgarner is also known as the Candor.  As you can see from the photo of him above, his arms are stretched completely away from his body.  Imagine an ice skater who jumps off the ice, bringing her arms in, and spinning really fast.  She’s increasing what’s called her angular momentum, or rotational speed.

Now, imagine the same ice skater as she’s falling back to the ice from her jump, and she lengthens out her arms and one of her legs to slow down her body’s rotation.

This is referred to as increasing her moment of inertia, or inertial force.  You can’t maximize both rotational speed and inertial force at the same time.  They have an inverse relationship.  When one is up, the other is down.  Although, we can optimize both…

Madison Bumgarner Pitching Instruction for Hitters Factor #2:  Mad-Bum opens his “wings” like a condor right before his torso begins rotation.  As his torso starts rotating, he bends at the elbows and cuts his inertial force in half.  This gives his turning speed a boost.  Hitters like Hunter Pence, can do this by keeping a slight bend in the front arm at the initiation of the Final Turn.  Once the barrel’s on the plane of the pitch, then it becomes more important to increase inertial force (extending the front arm) rather than turning speed.

 

The Compressed Spring

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner showing his numbers photo courtesy: MLB.com

According to Thomas Myers (no relation) from AnatomyTrains.com, fascia is:

Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. Fascia is the 3-D spider web of fibrous, gluey, and wet proteins that hold them all together in their proper placement. Understanding fascia is essential to the dance between stability and movement – crucial in high performance, central in recovery from injury and disability, and ever-present in our daily life from our embryological beginnings to the last breath we take.”

Fascia is to the human body like steel is to the building industry.  It’s very stiff and resist immediate change in shape.  CLICK HERE to see if Andrew McCutchen loads this springy connective tissue.

Madison Bumgarner Pitching Instruction for Hitters Factor #3: 

Mad-Bum compresses the spring in two ways:

  1. Slight uphill shoulder angle, and
  2. Shows hitter his numbers.

A hitter like Hunter Pence will do this slightly different in three ways:

  1. Slight downhill shoulder angle,
  2. Shows pitcher his numbers, and
  3. Hides the hands from the pitcher.

Buster Posey: ADD 6-mph To Bat Speed Using The Shoulders

 

Buster Posey VIDEO: Not ALL In The Hips [Experiment]

Buster Posey showing his numbers photo courtesy: MLB.com

Question: Is Increased Bat Speed ALL in the Hips?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether Buster Posey’s hips OR spinal mechanics is what increases bat speed.

Background Research

Most elite hitting instructors, pros, and Hall of Famers think it’s ALL in the hips.  The “it” is a mystery even to them.  It shouldn’t be this way.  When we look at proven human movement science, we find that just firing the hips isn’t good enough.  My question to those people is, what about the piece of hardware above the pelvis, attaching it to the shoulders – the spine?

Before getting into the experiment and analyzing Buster Posey’s swing, we need to lay ground work first.  Watch this THREE videos first:

  1. Miguel Cabrera and the timing of torque.
  2. Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista: how spine engine mechanics are amplified by Gravitational Forces, and
  3. Adrian Gonzalez: how-to naturally spring load the body.

Hypothesis

Albert Pujols showing numbers similar to Buster Posey

Albert Pujols NOT showing his numbers like he could. Definite hip hinge (tilt) towards the plate. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Based primarily on my research and study of Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine, and Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains, I believe a hitter like Buster Posey, that shows the pitcher their numbers – while keeping the hips in neutral – creates the separation (or spinal torque) needed before landing to produce natural friction-free repeatable power.

Rather than just focusing on the hips to go first, and the front shoulder to stay on the pitcher.  In the experiment, for the sake of brevity, I’ll differentiate between the two with “showing numbers” or “NOT showing numbers”.

Buster Posey: Not ALL in the Hips Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball 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
  • Tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • Forward momentum was eliminated in this experiment, and I hit from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • First 100 baseballs hit was “NOT showing numbers”, focusing on hips first, and front shoulder pointing at the pitcher at landing
  • Second 100 baseballs hit was “showing numbers”, focusing on showing numbers, slight down shoulder angle, and hiding the hands
  • There was about 30-45 minute break between both Buster Posey Experiments

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Buster Posey Experiment: Zepp Baseball App comparison

Difference after 100 swings…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • Average bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 73-mph
  • Average bat speed for showing numbers at landing: 79-mph (+6-mph)
  • Highest bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 82-mph
  • Highest bat speed for showing numbers at landing: 88-mph (+6-mph)
  • Hand speed max for NOT showing numbers was: 27-mph
  • Hand speed max for showing numbers was: 29-mph (+2-mph)

As you can clearly see, “NOT showing numbers” puts a hitter at a clear repeatable power DISADVANTAGE.

 

Notes

Andrew McCutchen showing his numbers like Buster Posey

Andrew McCutchen: showing numbers, slight down shoulder angle, hiding hands, hip hinge (tilt) towards the plate. 2013 NL MVP. 3rd in MLB OPS in 2014. All 5’10”, 190 pounds of him! Photo courtesy of MLB.com.

  • I don’t go out and take 200 swings in a given day, so I was getting fatigued by the time I got to the last hundred swings (“showing numbers”) part of the experiment.  Goes to show this isn’t about muscles, but connective tissue.
  • Remember, I purposely eliminated forward momentum from the Buster Posey Experiment because I wanted to reveal how “showing the numbers” can effect a hitter’s bat speed.  CLICK HERE to see the results of a Forward Momentum Experiment I did using the Zepp Baseball App.
  • “Showing the numbers” IS NOT adding more rotational ground to make up during the Final Turn.  It’s a natural way of super-charging connective tissue over muscles.
  • A slight bend at the waist (hip hinge) towards the plate – before landing – improves efficiency, not detracts from it.  Just look at Posey, McCutchen, and Pujols pictured hitting home-runs in this post.  This is how an athlete takes the slack out of the posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, butt, and back).  ALL shapes and sizes use it.
  • During NOT showing the numbers, I felt like I had to guide my hands more.  It took more effort to extend through the ball instead of rotating off (rolling over), than with showing the numbers.
  • Make sure when “showing the numbers”, the hitter isn’t losing sight of the incoming pitch with the back eye.
  • Also, make sure when using a slight down shoulder angle that the head stays in-line with the spine.  The angle is slight, about five to ten-degrees.

 

The Bottom Line?

When we analyze hitters like Buster Posey, we NEED to hold our analysis to a higher standard.  Proven human movement science.  We have to go away from mechanical fixes based on “feelings”.  The “Oh, I’ve been working on this and it seems to work”, isn’t good enough.  Neither is, “Ted Williams said so!”  Or, “I watch 25-hours of high level hitting footage in a day, so listen to me.”  That stuff DOES NOT matter.  Science does.  I want to see the data, NOT listen to feelings.  The heavy lifting has been done for us.  It’s up to us to apply it.

Baseball Training Aids Review: The Speed Hitter

 

Baseball Training Aids Review: The Speed Hitter

Derek Shelton – Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach – spokesperson in Speed Hitter video

It’s featured advertising on MLBNetwork.  Derek Shelton, the Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach, is the spokesperson in the video ad (CLICK HERE to see video).

Go to the SpeedHitter website, and you’ll see endorsements from:

  • CC Sabathia (son uses),
  • Aaron Boone (son uses),
  • Kerry Wood (son uses), and
  • David Segui.

I’ve also seen the Speed Hitter being used – this past summer – in Little League All-Stars game on-deck circles.  Does it work?  In this baseball training aids video blog post, we’ll talk about:

  • Speed Hitter baseball training aids review,
  • Barrel path science, and
  • A better alternative

 

Speed Hitter Baseball Training Aids Review

Two main objectives of Speed Hitter baseball training aids (softball included) allegedly address a hitter’s contact point and barrel path.  A hitter is suppose to swing it and hear the “pop” of the ball where contact is made.  The Speed Hitter is priced between $59.99-79.99 + shipping.  Baseball training aids that are highly endorsed and visible often raise red flags for me.  THREE reasons WHY:

  • Endorsements – A majority of Pro-level athletes simply CANNOT teach what they do (or did)*,
  • Expertise – MLB hitting coaches carry A LOT of high “lose-your-job” risk instructing big money ballplayers, and
  • Marketing – Big money ads, in the proper places, can lend massive credibility to a defective concept that as a result, users tend to overlook.

*This actually has to do with what Neuro Linguistic Programming calls Unconscious Competence.  Players simply perform on ‘auto-pilot’.  On the other hand, Conscious Competence is being able to instruct someone else to exactly model what you’re doing.

Barrel Path Science

Baseball Swing Path

Image from Ted Williams’s The Science Of Hitting. We want the hitter’s barrel path to match the plane of the pitch, not chop down OR put an extreme uppercut on it.

Speed Hitter baseball training aids are flawed for FOUR-reasons:

  1. Point of contact and barrel path -for the most part – are two different things,
  2. Point of contact – ranges from slightly out front of the hitters front foot (inside pitch) to slightly behind it (outside pitch).  CLICK HERE to watch Harold Reynolds change his point of view on where contact actually is made on video,
  3. Barrel path – should be as long as possible starting in front of the catcher’s glove, extending about 6-12 inches passed contact (Power-V), and
  4. Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach and Speed Hitter spokesperson Derek Shelton doesn’t have an efficient swing himself (wraps the bat in the ad).

Addressing #2 above – The main objective of the Speed Hitter is to use the hands to be “short to the ball”.  The problem is an efficient swing isn’t focused on accelerating the barrel at the point of contact.  It’s before that, if we look at the inverse relationship between turning speed and moment of inertia in Conserving Angular Momentum.  CLICK HERE for the latest video I did on fixing bat drag and the science of turning faster.

Addressing #3 above – Being “short to the ball” cuts off a hitter’s ability to get on the plane of the pitch early.  Having a barrel on pitch plane early is key, just in case the hitter is late on a pitch.  CLICK HERE for a Chris “Crush” Davis post I did revealing “5 Problems with being ‘Short to the Ball'”.

 

A Better Alternative…The Swing Blaster

Baseball Training Aids: Swing Blaster Review

Keenan Wolf, one of my H.S. Frosh hitters, after one 45-minute session using a Swing Blaster demo this past summer. Swings are synced.

FIVE benefits of using Swing Blaster baseball training aids (good for softball as well) are:

  1. Early Barrel Acceleration – focuses on getting the barrel on pitch plane ASAP.  It’s not about being quick to the ball, it’s about being quick to pitch plane.
  2. Lengthens Hitter’s Pitch Plane – Gives hitter the ability to hit pitches harder – and keep them fair – that they may be late on otherwise.
  3. EIGHT levels of difficulty – there are eight little ‘washers’ that increase or decrease the level of difficulty to hear the audible “click”.
  4. Take soft toss – You can use the Swing Blaster to take short range soft toss.  A hitter CANNOT do this with Speed Hitter baseball training aids.  DO NOT hit LIVE batting practice with it unless the hitter has good bat control.
  5. MADE IN USA

How does it work?

The Swing Blaster gives a hitter audible feedback in the form of a “click” when max barrel speed has been reached.  It’s simple…

If the hitter hears the “click” AND contact at the same time, then they’re doing it WRONG.  If they hear a “click” FOLLOWED by contact, then they’re doing it RIGHT.  Whereas Speed Hitter baseball training aids have it backwards.  They want the hitter to hear the “pop” at contact.  To be effective, this isn’t when a hitter should be accelerating the barrel.  The barrel should already be accelerated at impact.  Impact is when a hitter’s arms are lengthening out or adjusting in to increase turning speed or inertial force.

The price?  Get yours today for only $34.99 + shipping on Amazon…I’m not sure if Swing Blaster will be raising the price soon, but for now you’ll be SAVING at least $25 than buying a Speed Hitter.  CLICK the following link to

buy-button2

#1 Youth Baseball Swing Fix To Deflating Bat Speed

 

Awhile back I posted the following to my Hitting Performance Lab Facebook fan-page (CLICK HERE if you haven’t “Liked” my fan-page yet…new content daily):

[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/HittingPerformanceLab/posts/565739680222497/” width=”400″/]

This video blog post will target one of the worst youth baseball swing offenders to deflating bat speed…bat drag.  In this article, we’re going over:

  • What is Bat Drag?
  • The science of Bat Drag (to hitting an unknown moving pitch), and
  • One way to fix Bat Drag.

 

What is Bat Drag?

#1 Youth Baseball Swing Fix To Deflating Bat Speed

Notice the difference in Charles’s barrel angle.

This is when the front arm “bars out” before the Final Turn.  Also known as “Casting.”  And it’s an oftentimes frustrating youth baseball hitting fix.

I received an email awhile back from James Brown (NOT the singer), that said:

…”I watched a video that perry husband had at the hitting hot stove at the abca in Dallas that showed analysis of the Homerun derby, and the furthest home runs by each individual competitor happened when their lead arm was extended early.  I think swing mass and leverage has a lot to power to the ball…  Think about having your hand slammed in a door.  Would you want a door with a short distance from hinge to knob, or a long distance?  Short would close faster, but do less damage.  Long will impart more force at a slower speed.”

James Brown’s email response was after I produced this youth baseball Shin-Soo Choo: Can Front Arm KILL Bat Speed? video post.

Here’s how I responded…

 

The Science of Bat Drag (to hitting an unknown moving pitch)

…”I see what you’re saying and agree…to hit the ball the farthest, a straight front arm would be ideal. Look at golfers for instance. But here’s the problem…a hitter in a game doesn’t know with 100% certainty: pitch location, speed, and pitch type.

So a hitter needs to turn quicker for the first half of the Final Turn, to get the barrel on the plane of the pitch as soon as possible.  Then extend on the pitch plane, depending on pitch location and speed.”

In the home run derby, hitters know the pitch speed, type – and for the most part – location.

I agree with Perry Husband in that hitters should make it a goal to get to impact with a long front arm.

However, I don’t agree in getting a hitter to bar that front arm out early on, pre-turn.

It’s a simple Conservation of Angular Momentum issue.  CLICK HERE for a short 2-minute Circus Physics video from PBS on this movement Principle.

An ice skater speeds up by tucking her arms in towards her rotating middle.  She slows down by extending her arms away from her rotating middle.

What’s going on here?

Rotating speed goes up when the rotation is tighter (bending the arms), but inertial mass decreases.  Inversely related, when the arms go out, her inertial mass increases, but her rotating speed decreases.  This is how Angular Momentum is conserved.

So, unless like Perry teaches, Pitch Recognition and Strategic hitting game plans against specific pitchers is supplemented, I don’t see the logic in teaching hitters to early arm bar, pre-turn.

Why?

Because barring the front arm out early will slow rotation down (think arm extended ice skater), and on higher perceived velocities to the hitter, high or inside the strike-zone, why would we want our hitters to turn slower at the beginning of the turn?

The bottom line? Youth baseball (or softball) swing game mechanics are slightly different than in batting practice.  “Five-o-clock” hitters typically aren’t very effective in games.  And let me tell you, all my pitching friends LOVE pitching to early arm bar hitters because they have a weakness to exploit.  Just like hitters that swing down on the ball and extreme upper cutters do.

One Way to Fix Bat Drag

Youth Baseball ALERT: Stop Arm Barring

See Cutch pulling his top hand, while bottom hand restrains that pull forward (look at muscles in left forearm and triceps). Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Typically, I have my youth baseball hitters practice the Catapult Loading System when we have an arm barring issue.  The finer points before a hitter lands in the Fight Position are:

  • Showing pitcher your numbers,
  • Hiding hands from pitcher, and
  • Slight downhill shoulder angle.

Another piece I’ve just added to the puzzle comes from Homer Kelly in his book The Golfing Machine.  The following quote may shed additional light on “educating the hands” to combat arm barring…

“Power Accumulator #1 (for right handed golfer) – is the bent right arm. Even though the right biceps is active, the backstroke is always made with the right arm striving to remain straight. But the straight left arm restrains this continuous extensor action of the right triceps with an effortless checkerin action. Consequently , during release, the right arm can straighten only as the left arm moves away from the right shoulder.”

You see, the problem with bat drag at the youth baseball level isn’t the move itself, but how the compensation is triggered.  What’s happening before the front arm bars out?  Is the hitter properly activating the springy fascia within the torso?

If you “Click here to ‘Get Instant Access'” button below, you can get a free video that explains:

  • Why the following advice: “Power is all in the hips”, “Load and explode the hips”, and “The hips lead the way” won’t produce the repeatable power you’re looking for…

  • Where power really comes from – the answers to how the body actually loads are validated by science…

  • The 3 Do’s & Don’ts that will help you execute this simple strategy without any hitches in swing quality…

Adam Jones: TWO Actionable Tactics To Decrease Strikeouts

 

Adam Jones: High K%? Do These 2 Things...

Adam Jones “stay through” photo courtesy: MLB.com

I wanted to compare two hitters who have reversed walk and strikeout percentages.  Adam Jones and Victor Martinez.  Can efficient OR inefficient mechanics have an effect on a hitter’s strikeout rate?  In this post we’ll:

  • Compare & contrast key offensive statistics,
  • Actionable tactic #1: how low can you go?
  • Actionable tactic #2: bringing sexy back…

The clip I used of Adam Jones is him hitting an outside 90-mph fastball to center-field.  According to FanGraphs.com Jones is 6’3″, 225 pounds.  A BEAST!  Whereas Victor Martinez is hitting an inside 93-mph fastball to right-center-field.  FanGraphs.com lists V-Mart at 6’2″, 210 pounds.

 

Compare & Contrast Key Offensive Statistics

In this article I used Michael Brantley’s example, of how to boost Batting Average, or Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP).  Although Adam Jones is a BEAST and does a lot right statistically speaking, there’s two mechanical elements that may lend themselves to improvement.  In the following stat table I want to pay particular attention to:Adam Jones v. Victor Martinez

  1. How virtually non-existent Adam Jones’s walk percentage is,
  2. How Jones’s Strikeout% fairs to V-Mart and the League Average, and
  3. The difference between both hitters’ Ground-ball% (GB%).

I’m using Victor Martinez’s mechanics as a model for Adam Jones.  Why?  When you want to reduce strikeouts, look to the guy who is the best in the game.  Victor Martinez has hit 30 homers, as of this writing, and only struck-out a “lean” 39 times…ALL season.  There are two key mechanical differences that I feel may be contributing to these numbers…

 

Actionable Tactic #1: How Low Can You Go?

Victor Martinez on pitch plane

Victor Martinez pitch plane photo courtesy: MLB.com

In baseball, the mound lifts a pitcher’s release point by 10-inches.  On top of that, the pitcher has to throw the ball to a squatting catcher.  To increase margin for error, and cut down on strikeouts, a hitter’s body has to get low on the pitch plane early.  THEN, stay on the pitch plane at least six to twelve inches passed impact.  In other words, get shorter, and stay shorter.

Getting low isn’t as important with fast-pitch softball.  The pitcher’s release point (mid thigh to hip) is almost on line with the catcher’s glove.  The pitching rubber will remain on flat ground and same distance from the plate, so hitters will experience less pitch plane arc at the higher levels.

As you see in the video, Adam Jones gets low but doesn’t stay low on the pitch plane like Victor Martinez does.  V-Mart starts low, glides forward, then stays low through his Final Turn.  This mechanical inefficiency – of Adam Jones – may contribute to his higher than average GB%, Strikeout%, and virtually non-existent Walk%.

 

Actionable Tactic #2: Bringing Sexy Back

Adam Jones taller Fight Position

Adam Jones “taller” Fight Position photo courtesy: MLB.com

The Catapult Loading System NEEDS the following three ingredients, up to the Final Turn…hitter:

  1. Shows numbers (their back) to pitcher,
  2. Hides hands from pitcher, and
  3. Has a slight down shoulder angle.

These three ingredients charge the springy fascial connective tissue in the body.

Victor Martinez shows his numbers longer than Adam Jones does.  I showed in this Tony Gwynn video that Gwynn keyed in on keeping his front shoulder in, which allowed him to stay on the ball longer.  Keeping the “spring” loaded longer may explain the difference in the GB% above.  Jones starts on plane, but finishes off (he “stands” up).

The key to efficient mechanics on a downward pitch plane is to get low.  Evidenced in the video, also showing the hitter’s numbers longer can have a reducing effect on higher than average strikeout and ground-ball percentages.

Michael Brantley: How-To BOOST BABIP

Michael Brantley: NEVER Worry About Batting Average Again

 

Michael Brantley: How-To BOOST BABIP

2014 Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

Last week, I received a question from Brian Petrick that birthed this post:

“What do mlb players need to do to hit for a higher avg consistently and cut down on k’s. Not many .300 plus hitters today.”

I have to thank my Sabermetrics friends at RockiesZingers.com – namely Richard Bergstrom – for introducing me to a key metric that better measures how consistently a batter hits the ball rather than Batting Average.  Enter BABIP.  FanGraphs.com says this about BABIP:

Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) measures how often a ball in play goes for a hit. A ball is “in play” when the plate appearance ends in something other than a strikeout, walk, hit batter, catcher’s interference, sacrifice bunt, or home run. Several variables that can affect BABIP rates for individual players, such as defense, luck, and talent level.”

In this video post, we’re going to analyze:

  • Why analyze Michael Brantley (lefty hitting outfielder of the Cleveland Indians)?
  • What’s the difference in his 2013/2014 swings? AND
  • How can he improve his repeatable power?

 

Why Analyze Michael Brantley?Michael Brantley 2013-2014 Key Offensive Stats

According to FanGraphs.com he’s 6 foot, 2 inches, 200 pounds.  Not a big guy by today’s standards.  2014 was the first time he was selected to the American League All-Star team.

Michael Brantley’s 2013-2014 stats were a perfect example to answer Brian Petrick’s question from earlier (photo of stats to the right)…

  • 138 point jump in OPS (On-Base + Slug%),
  • BABIP has gone well above average,
  • GB% went down, LD% went up, and FB% went down, while
  • Home-run to fly-ball% more than DOUBLED!
  • Walk% went up, and
  • Strikeout% almost cut in half!

Yes, according to my stat table, the 2014 season isn’t done yet.  But the amount of “hits” he accumulated in 2013 (158) is virtually the same as 2014 (151).  Hits are a major part of the BABIP equation.  So, what is he doing differently with his mechanics?

What’s the Difference in his 2013/2014 Swings?

Michael Brantley 2014 contact position

Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

After Brian Petrick sent me that question, I obsessed over how-to build consistency into a hitter’s swing (increase BA & BABIP) that could also cut down on strikeouts.  My hypothesis was to get the barrel on pitch plane EARLIER (closer to the catcher), which would translate to more margin for error afforded by the batter.

Take a batter being late on a fast-ball, for example:

  • If the barrel entering the impact zone is closer to the catcher, driving the pitch to the opposite field is an option.
  • However, if the same barrel enters the impact zone closer to the pitcher, the hitter is more likely to swing and miss or hit the ball weakly.

Both Michael Brantley’s 2013 & 2014 swing videos show he’s entering the pitch plane closer to the catcher, and staying long through impact.  But upon closer inspection, we can see he’s “staying shorter” longer through the Final Turn, in 2014.  It looks like he’s
“standing up” in his 2013 swing.

You see, the torso sets the upward swing plane, NOT the hands.  By bending his back leg more at impact (around 10-degrees closer to a right angle than in 2013), makes a HUGE difference in consistently staying on plane of the pitch longer.  Take a quote from page 36 of Homer Kelly’s book, The Golfing Machine:

“A rotating motion will pass through a given point if the axis is tilted properly, instead of having to apply a compensating vector force to drive the rotating element off its normal plane towards the desired plane line.”  

Homer Kelly, an aeronautical engineer for Boeing back in the 1930’s, applied scientifically proven human movement principles to the golf swing.

 

How Can he Improve his Repeatable Power?

Michael Brantley: 2013 contact position

2013 Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

According to FanGraphs.com, Zip (U) and Steamer (U) statistics predict Brantley will hit 20-21 homers in 2014.  This would double what he did in 2013.  The same predictive stats show he’ll finish between .846 to .849 in OPS (On-Base + Slug%).  Conservatively, this would be a dramatic 118 point rise!

With the following FOUR mechanical tweaks, we could see Michael Brantley – with his body type – hitting over 30 homers per year:

  1. Forward Momentum,
  2. More downward shoulder angle,
  3. Showing numbers better, and
  4. Hiding hands from pitcher more.

You saw the difference bending the back leg more at impact does to key offensive numbers like BABIP, BA, and Strikeout%.  Also just as important is how close to the catcher a batter’s barrel enters the pitch plane, and how well his “stay through” is after contact.  Brantley already does these well.

However, at the very least, if Michael Brantley engages the natural springy fascial material within his body (mechanical tweak #’s 2-4 from above), then he can be one of the top-10 hitters in the league!

Corey Dickerson

Corey Dickerson: 3 Human Movement Laws That Dominate

Comparing Corey Dickerson 2014 OPS & OPS+ stats to Mike Trout & league average

I wanted to analyze a young lefty slugging Colorado Rockies outfielder by the name of Corey Dickerson.  Standing and weighing in at 6-foot, 1 inch, and 205 pounds, Dickerson isn’t a big guy by today’s standards.  And comparing key offensive indicators (photo on right), puts him in decent company…

FanGraphs.com says this about OPS & OPS+:

OPS is the widely used metric measuring a hitter’s contact, patience, and and power.  Since OPS+ adjusts for league and park effects, it’s possible to use OPS+ to compare players from different years and on different teams.”

Corey Dickerson: #1 Most Critical Hitting Position

Corey Dickerson photo courtesy: MLB.com

How efficiently a hitter gets into their Fight (landing) Position can dramatically effect their OPS and OPS+.  In analyzing Corey Dickerson swing, we’ll see how he uses THREE scientifically proven human movement laws to dominate his Fight Position:

  1. Gravitational Forces,
  2. Transferring Forward Momentum, and
  3. Spine engine mechanics.

We’ll also look at what repeatable power elements are missing in his swing…

 

Laws That Dominate #1: Gravitational Forces

Imagine standing in the middle of a trampoline.  Push your body weight into the canvas by bending your knees slightly, and jump 2-inches off the surface.  Now, use all your body weight, squatting down like your butt’s going to touch the canvas, and jump 2-feet in the air.  Notice how pushing harder into the surface, gave you a higher jumping result?

These are Gravitational Forces at work.  By pushing into the ground (trampoline canvas), the surface pushes back with an equal and opposite force.  Corey Dickerson amplifies Gravitational Forces by “getting shorter” and dropping his body-weight into the earth when he lands into his Fight Position.  The ground gives thanks by giving him a push back!

Following…

 

Laws that Dominate #2: Transferring Forward Momentum

Corey Dickerson "floating" to his Fight Position

Corey Dickerson “Float” photo courtesy: MLB.com

In science, this is commonly referred to as the Conservation of Linear Momentum.  In Corey Dickerson’s case, here’s how it works:

  1. First, he transfers his weight back and Floats (timing) before falling forward,
  2. He gets a swing “head start” by moving his body-weight towards the pitcher, and
  3. Then commits to weighting his front leg before transferring Forward into Angular (rotating) Momentum at the Final Turn.

Corey Dickerson lands with an open hip-knee-toe to set up the turning of the pelvis.  His front knee is bent and stacked almost over his ankle allowing him to push into the ground (Gravitational Forces).  This will make way for what’s called “Blocking” during the Final Turn.  Next…

 

Laws that Dominate #3: Spine Engine Mechanics

Corey Dickerson Fight Position

Corey Dickerson “Fight Position” photo courtesy: MLB.com

Blocking the shoulders from opening too soon is critical to repeatable power.  Tony Gwynn calls this “staying on the ball”.  And Corey Dickerson does the basics (a la Gwynn).  He’s not loading his torso’s springy material optimally.  I believe he’s leaving 10% of his repeatable power on the table.  Here’s how he can improve his Fight Position:

  1.  Raise back elbow above top hand during fall, to get a more downward shoulder angle,
  2. Show his number to the pitcher more clearly, and
  3. Hide his hands from the pitcher a little better.

The Fight Position is one of THE most critical points in the swing.  As you can see, Corey Dickerson uses THREE (2.5, lol) scientifically proven human movement laws before he lands his Fight Position.  To me, at least 70% of hitting faults can be fixed here.  Make sure you’re swinging smarter by moving better!

What Can Bryce Harper Learn From Mike Trout?

 

(PLEASE NOTE: this video post was done in 2014, before Bryce Harper won the NL MVP in 2015. At the end of the post I give an UPDATE)

Bryce Harper VIDEO: Missing Repeatable Power?

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

This article explains why Mike Trout will repeatedly out-slug Bryce Harper mechanically, unless Bam-Bam adds efficiency to his swing.

I picked this match-up because they have one year separating their experience in the Big Leagues, they’re similar physically, but Mike Trout slugs almost 100 points higher!  According to Baseball-Reference.com:

  • Bryce Harper is 6’3″, 225 pounds,
  • Mike Trout is 6’2″, 230 pounds,
  • Harper’s 162-game average Slug% = .464, and
  • Trout’s 162-game average Slug% = .554.

In this video, we’ll compare Mike Trout, and look at how Bryce Harper DOES NOT:

  • Get a “head start” using Gravity,
  • Spring load his body, and
  • Follow the One-Joint Rule.

 

Mechanical Disadvantage #1: DOES NOT Get a “Head Start” Using Gravity

Gold medal winning Shot Putter Randy Barnes

Randy Barnes photo courtesy: PBS.org

Bryce Harper starts from a dead stop.  We know stop and go traffic burns fuel quicker than freeway driving.  Because it’s inefficient.  A “head start” is how we get more efficient during a swing.  Think about receiving the baton in a 4X100 meter relay race.  Throwing a 16-pound Shot Put over 70 feet.  Or hitting a golf over 500 yards.

Effective hitters use Gravitational Forces to get their swing started and spice up their Final Turn.  Mike Trout does this.  Consider this Un-Weighting Principal test…

Imagine standing tall holding a forty-pound dumbbell in your hand hanging by your side.  Now lift the weight up in front of your face.  What muscles did you feel working?  Shoulder?  You’re right!

Now, get back to your standing position.  Take a medium step forward and when your foot hits the ground, start to lift the dumbbell in front of your face.   What muscles did you feel working?  Would it be easier to lift that 40-pound dumbbell with the first or second scenario?

Mechanical Disadvantage #2: Minimal Spring Loading

Bryce Harper VIDEO: NOT springy loaded

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

Our body loads using springy fascial tissue.  According to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains, fascia:

  • Is what the bones and muscles float in,
  • Gives muscles their shape,
  • Is a spider web or cotton candy-like material, and
  • Is made of mostly springy collagen fibers.

In comparing Adrian Gonzalez, Bryce Harper has an explosive swing, but in reality doesn’t engage his body’s own natural springy material as much as A-Gon.

 

Mechanical Disadvantage #3: DOES NOT Follow the One-Joint Rule

Bryce Harper Locally Flexing his C-Spine

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

Dr. Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD.com talks about this quite a bit.  He’s referring to the head and spine position during dynamic movement.  There are two types of vertebrae bending or flexing:

  1. Local Flexion – would be dropping the chin to the chest or ear to the shoulder, and
  2. Global Flexion – keeping the head and spine aligned as one unit, while bending forward or sideways.

In an efficient swing, number one is BAD, and number two is GOOD.  Why?  CLICK HERE and watch the next four minutes of this YouTube video (3:13-7:13) of Dr. Kelly Starrett demonstrating the One-Joint Rule.  He doesn’t include flexing the head sideways (ear to shoulder).  But you’d get the same ineffective force producing result as taking the chin to the chest.

As the above picture clearly shows, Bryce Harper actually goes ear to shoulder at and through contact.  Unless something changes mechanically, “Bam-Bam” will continue to trail Mike Trout in repeatable power.  However, with his body type, these changes can BOOST Harper into the 35+ homer per year category.

UPDATE: I wrote this article in 2014.  Bryce Harper has made one big change to his mechanics…in this video, Darryl Hamilton points out some interesting points (not all I agree with):

I don’t agree with Darryl Hamilton that Bryce Harper is minimizing his Forward Momentum from 2014 to 2015, I think it’s the same.  Although, I do agree Harper is more “squatted” when he starts.

I think the biggest change is with his back foot NOT coming off the ground as much, or traveling as far forward as it was in 2014.  This has allowed Harper to stay on the plane of the pitch longer with his barrel, and therefore hit more dingers in 2015.

However, I still don’t like how Bryce Harper breaks the ‘One-Joint’ Rule.  He’s still leaving repeatable power on the table…and that’s scary to think after his 2015 offensive output 😛

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.

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.