ASK THE EXPERTS: Jeremy Frisch, Taylor Gardner, & Matt Nokes Cover The Shocking Mistakes Killing Your Swing 

Let’s start this party off with Mr.,

Jeremy Frisch – Owner of Achieve Performance

Jeremy Frisch is owner of Achieve Performance training in Clinton Massachusetts and former assistant strength and conditioning coach at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Massachusetts. Jeremy’s focus is on long-term athlete development where he works with children as young a 5 years of age up through college level athletes.

He’ll answer the following question I often get from my readers…

“What is an effective way to strengthen a swing, say mechanics are good but need more body strength for speed?”

Believe it or not, improving strength in the young athlete is easier than one might think. Young athletes need nothing more than their own body-weight or medicine ball to get stronger. When I train an young athlete’s I am looking at doing 4 exercises.

  1. Total body exercise
  2. Upper Body exercise
  3. Torso exercise
  4. Lower body exercise
Total body Exercise

In my opinion the bear crawl is one of the best all around total body exercises a young athlete can do. The bear crawl improves coordination, trains stability of the core and shoulder girdle and strengthens the lower body all at the same time. The bear crawl can be done in multiple directions, distances and speeds. Because of the difficulty of the exercise young athletes often fatigue quickly therefore very short distances should be used like 10-15 yards at a slow pace.

Upper body exercise

My go to exercise for training the upper body is so simple that many coaches don’t believe me. The exercise is simple: the bar hang. Hang from a chin-up bar or monkey bars with the arms straight for as long as possible. Develops unbelievable strength from the grip through the shoulder and core, not to mention develops mental toughness because the kids can always dig a little deeper and hold on for a few more seconds. Climbing and hanging is a long lost art in children’s lives. Maybe if kids were a bit stronger and more agile in the upper bodies these days we would see less elbow and shoulder injuries.

Torso Exercise

The medicine ball is a fantastic tool for developing rotation power needed to throw and swing a bat. A medicine ball and a brick wall makes a perfect combination to develop a powerful swing. The athlete stands sideways in a stance similar to their batting stance rotate the ball back and using a motion similar to a swing, throw the ball off the wall as hard as possible. Aim for both sides 3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions

Lower Body Exercise

One of the best and most affordable ways to develop great leg strength and as a bonus speed , running form and all around conditioning are hill sprints. Look to find a steep hill 15-25 yards long and sprint up full speed. The key with hill sprints is to make sure the athlete has the appropriate rest between sets. Too many coaches use hill sprints as a torture device to punish their athletes. All that does is make them tired slow and miserable. Baseball is a game of speed and power and hill sprints can develop that speed and power in the lower body. Each sprint should be followed with a slow walk down the hill followed by at least a minute to 1:30 rest. Look to get 10-15 full speed reps with good rest per workout 2 x per week.

You can see more of what Jeremy is doing at the following places:

 

Taylor Gardner – Co-Founder of The Backspin Batting Tee

Taylor Gardner is an Edison Award Winning Inventor of the Back-Spin Tee, who currently has the biggest social media following of any batting product in the world. With the help of his brother, former professional player and coach, he was able to break into the Major League Hitting World by bringing simple physics to the minds of many players and coaches. Now working across the world, Taylor is expanding his product line and instruction to bust the game’s biggest myths.

He’ll answer the following question I often get from my readers…

“Of all the issues you cover on hitting mechanics, what 2 do you consider to be the most compelling for most hitters?”

Of all the hitting mechanics that I have had the privilege of learning and teaching, there are two that stand out the most.

  1. The element of the stride in relation to getting on time and its importance into the weight shift, and
  2. The mechanism of lining the shoulders on path with the incoming pitch.
The Stride

The stride portion of the swing has seen many variations and is a highly talked about subject. I see a lot of hitters performing their style of a stride, but few seem to understand how to simplify the stride mechanism without destroying other vital parts of the swing. The stride itself is a combination of a step, and a weight shift…That’s what makes it a stride. If you simply reach your front foot forward with no regard for weight shift, it is a step, and practically adding another movement to the swing making your swing take longer than necessary.

I see a lot of young hitters believe that they are late on a ball because they reach their foot out, then weight shift, then attempt to align to the ball, and then swing. Yes, after doing all those movements, they are late…BUT…it’s because they started too soon!

During the stride a hitter can weight shift, and align their bodies to the pitch (yes, even getting into an advantageous position of lag) all in sync. Once the hitter lands all they must do is swing from there. It cuts the timeline down tremendously. Hitters can track the ball deeper than they ever had before and still take a powerful swing without sacrificing their rhythm or connected movements.

Think of how a quarterback throws a pass, or for the matter- a pitcher throwing a ball. They do a lot of great movements during their stride phase, so that when they land, they can simply “throw”. We like to call it “Land-throw timing” or “Land-swing timing” for the hitters.

Lining the Shoulders

Lining the shoulders on the ball is the second mechanism I see that a lot of hitters could benefit from learning more about. Yes, you can begin to get your shoulders lined up to the pitch during your stride phase, but to be more in depth, even if your stride doesn’t put you on perfect timing with the pitch (and most hitters are slightly early even on their best hits), you still must get your shoulders lined up to the pitch to stay on path for contact.

The barrel of the bat will be parallel to the shoulder plane at contact when done correctly. HOWEVER, this is where I see players and coaches trying to get on plane TOO SOON! If you drop your barrel on what seems to be on path early in the swing (Sounds like a good thing right?), but are unable to complete your weight shift/stride, or even track the ball long enough to decide where to swing, you will leave a huge hole in your swing that pitchers can pitch around.

I take some blame for this whole “Launch Angle” Revolution. My product was the first to talk about the importance of launch angles, and since, we have seen many people take our Trademark – “On Path, Bottom Half” to the extremes. You want to be on path with the pitch coming in, hitting the bottom half of the ball ON TIME. On time isn’t just hitting ball to center field, it also stands for

  • Shifting your weight on time,
  • Lining your shoulders on time, and
  • Releasing the energy into the bat on time.

Not early, and certainly not late. I understand hitting a baseball or softball is the single hardest thing to do in sports, however if you do not continue to understand the simple timing elements that lead to an appropriate swing, we will accidentally continue to make hitting a ball even harder than it already is.

You can stay up to date on what Taylor and the Backspin Tee are doing at the following places:

 

Matt Nokes – Founder of One Hitting Solution

Matt Nokes coaching “Around The Zone” Soft Toss

Matt Nokes is a 10-year MLB Veteran, playing for the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers.  In that time he was a Silver Slugger Award Winner and All-Star Catcher.  Since then he’s been working hard helping hitters as the founder of his company ONE HITTING SOLUTION.  

For over 20 years as a hitting coach he’s been researching and finding out what transforms hitters 99 out of 100 times, he’s developed 12 simple natural hitting Rules, Action Steps, Do’s NOT Don’ts, that he calls the 12 Touchstones because they’re the rehearsals that bring to the surface only the relevant “In The Zone Feelings”.

No more random adjustments 50 times a day fiddling with your mechanics. This program is a 6-week transformational reset suppressing all the clutter, myths and half truths you’ve learned over the years from coaches, parents and now YouTube.

The bottom line is these 12 Touchstones solve 99 out of 100 problems before they ever come up.  You become intentional and take action in the form of rehearsals that weave a triple braided chord of:

  1. Brutally efficient.
  2. Laser focused hitting mindset with the true MLB Plan as the proper context and perspective.
  3. Timing – the 3rd and final chord wrapped tight around the other 2 skill sets.

The glue holding all 3 together to execute your only mandate: Never Miss Your Pitch.  Click Here:   But first watch this short powerful video to give you an idea for what’s in store for you and you’ll be given the opportunity to schedule a FREE Strategy Call with Matt Nokes.

In this post, Matt Nokes answers the following question I often get from my readers…

“Of all the issues you cover on hitting mechanics what 2 do you consider to be the most compelling for most hitters?”

On the most primitive level, if you’re going to express timing with one physical mechanical expression it would be transferring into the ball on time. You can’t separate your weight shift from your swing [that’s called quitting], so it’s critical if you want to develop properly you need to learn to coordinate your stride and transfer.

The 1st way I’d practice getting your weight into the ball is by learning the basic movement of the “step to swing”. You can use a tee without a ball for a point to aim at but it’s good to begin rehearsing the movement without the distraction of whether you hit the ball hard or not.  Hitting the ball at this point is irrelevant.

You want to learn the movement first and then begin adding variables.  If you decide to NOT use a tee, make sure you visualize where the ball would be and don’t let your eyes wander.  You body follows your head but your head follows your eyes and if your eyes are wandering then you’re in trouble, and will most likely wobble in your rotation.

The 2nd way is adding the performance variable using a tee with the “Tall and Fall” drill:

 

The 3rd way would be to add a measure of timing. Once you’ve coordinated your stride and transfer then any soft toss drill will add a some more variables for timing but it’ll be easy enough for your automatic mind to handle without much trouble:

  1. Swinging across your face. Crossing your face is a swing rehearsal cue that ensures you don’t pull your head.  The alternative is to chase your face, and if you do that you’ll be pulling off the ball without much success. Swinging across your face may be the most powerful way to stay on the ball, direct your energy into a fine point and keep the ball fair on the inside pitch.
  2. What are your favorite drills to hit off speed pitches?
My best advice on hitting the curve-ball…Don’t miss the fastball

That sounds like a joke, but it’s not. The best hitters are always ready for the fastball don’t miss it.  Frank Robinson [Hall of Fame] changed the course of my career by teaching me the MLB Plan and a big part of it was never missing the fastball. Frank went on to say “you show me a good curve-ball hitter and I’ll show you a guy with a slow bat.

Ok now that we have that mindset on the books, let’s talk about hitting the off speed pitch.  First you need to practice good timing but without going too deep into timing philosophy there’s a few good ideas and rules to follow along with some solid methods for practicing…

Slow pitch in the batting cages.

A great place to start for hitting off speed pitches is also one of the most convenient places to start and that’s in an automatic batting cage [in the slowest cage].

Most young hitters have trouble hitting in the slow cages because they’ve never been taught to deal with all the timing variables and they’re often discouraged when they have trouble, but they give up before they learn how to let the ball travel.  It’s a mindset and a good way to think of a slow pitch is how you’d hit in slow pitch soft ball.

Trust me…Timing is a skillset that is easily taught but it’s counterintuitive because it’s not a popular topic in the mainstream hitting community.  It’s more popular to say timing can NOT be taught…but that’s a myth.

Seeing the ball up is another cue for hitting the off speed and helps you visualize the trajectory of a potential off speed pitch, so you can still look fastball but won’t freeze on the strike curve-ball. One of the first obstacles to overcome is understanding what causes hitters to vapor lock or freeze on the curve ball.

The higher release point of a “strike curveball” often freezes hitters  because it appears to look like a fastball thrown so high that the hitter immediately quits on it right as it’s released from the pitcher.

Now when a hitter is looking for a normal fastball between the waste and knees and gets a curveball in the dirt, they don’t automatically freeze on a ball in the dirt because it initially looks like a fastball. By the time you recognize it’s a curveball its usually too late and you’re feeling “I can still hit this”.

If you see the ball up you’re able to look for your fastball [you can always adjust down on a fastball] but by looking up the only curveball that’ll look good is the hanging strike curve-ball that usually makes you freeze early in the count.

 

Finally, there’s the technique I call one of the “Touchstones” called “Buying time”

Buying time involves going out and getting the ball by getting deeper into your legs, which gives the ball more time to travel into your hitting bubble within your reach.

Every 7/1000th of a second the ball travels a foot, so if you’re off 21/1000th of a second the ball is traveling 3 feet.  So buying time by falling deeper into your legs before you hit, gives the ball a little time to get closer, and your lower center of gravity allows you to access your farthest reach without leaking if you execute the “Touchstone” correctly.

Either way, you often have to go out and get the ball farther out front without interrupting the flow of your land swing timing.

You can see more of what Matt Nokes is doing at the following places:

But before I let you go…

Answering Baseball Stride Drills Reader Question: “How Important Is Forward Momentum I Know We Must Go Forward But Does It Matter If Stride Is Big Or Small?”

“…Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She  went for a walk in the forest.  Pretty soon, she came upon a house.  She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.  At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge.  Goldilocks was hungry.  She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

“This porridge is too hot!’ she exclaimed.  So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.  ‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said.  So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.  ‘Ahhh, this porridge is just right,’ she said happily and she ate it all up…”

More in a bit on how Goldilocks and the Three Bears relates to baseball stride drills, but first…

In the following post, we’re addressing the following concerns regarding baseball stride drills (also works for softball):

  • Stride direction and amount,
  • Stride type (experimenting with the ‘Float’),
  • Head movement from stride, and
  • Controlling center mass in stride.

Before getting into the how to baseball stride drills guide, I want to preface that the PURPOSE of a stride shouldn’t be power.  CLICK HERE for a Zepp swing experiment that may confirm this.  If it’s power you seek, then I’d advise looking at the Spring Loaded category.  What purpose does a stride serve?  A stride is for timing and initiating directional force.  CLICK HERE for this post on that.

Let’s get started…

 

Baseball Stride Drills Direction & Amount

Watch this video from Chris Welch at ZenoLink.  Using data and science, he’s found reasonable markers in guiding baseball stride drills

 

Here are highlights from baseball stride drills video above:Baseball Stride Drills: Stepping in Bucket Drill Using Bands

  • Stride length should be about 3.75-times hip width (hip-center-to-hip-center)*,
  • At landing, stride direction is to be closed about 10-degrees (straight forward toward pitcher is zero-degrees), and
  • Stride landing foot position to be about 65-degrees open (pointing perpendicular to home plate is zero-degrees, and straight at pitcher is 90-degrees).

(*Denotes 3.75-times hip-center-to-hip-center is length of stride measured from back foot to stride landing.  NOT the measurement of the stride itself.)

Chris says in the video that if a hitter is under or over striding, then they’re hampering body’s ability to create torque.  Stride landing MUST align ball of the foot with ball of the foot.

CLICK HERE for a post I did on how to fix “stepping in the bucket” using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT).  With the image to the right, it’s another one of my baseball stride drills using colored bands to fix stepping in bucket or crashing the plate.  If the hitter is crashing too much with their stride, I get them to feel stepping out, and the reverse is true if they’re stepping out.  I use variance to get them in the middle (blue band).

…Goldilocks Golden Rule. 

 

Stride Type (‘Experimenting with the Float’)

For most intensive purposes, there are 3 stride types:

  • Leg kick – medium (Mike Trout) or large (Josh Donaldson),
  • Slide step – most Big League hitters use this.  Aaron Judge, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, and Andrew McCutchen just to name a few.
  • Toe-tap – I recommend this for my younger hitters. Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, and Victor Martinez employ this.

Of course, there are variations to these, but these are the three broad categories of stride types.  I call the stride the ‘float’ and ‘fall’.  The ‘float’ is a momentary shifting of weight back towards the catcher before falling forward.  Matt Nokes calls this the ‘Ride’ and ‘Stride’.  Some hitting coaches don’t like this idea, but the reality is this is human movement.  The Chinese have been practicing exactly this move in Tai Chi for thousands of years…in stepping to my right, I have to make a brief weight shift to the left first.  CLICK HERE for a post analyzing this dynamic move.

I included a lot of video examples (CLICK HERE) of MLB hitters using these different stride types to help guide your baseball stride drills. In that post I concluded with this:

“When it comes to [baseball stride drills], Forward Momentum is the objective.  How we get our hitters there doesn’t really matter.  Just give them examples of how to accomplish more FoMo, and allow them to tinker and test until they find something they’re comfortable with doing.”

…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

 

Head Movement from Stride

There’s been few online Hitting Guru #57’s saying we want minimal to zero head movement when hitting.  They claim, the more the head moves, the less your eyes see the ball.  And they point to Barry Bonds as their champion.  On paper, this conclusion looks great, and with Bonds as their poster child seems argument seems pretty reasonable.

However, what science says and what the top 50 hitters in the Major Leagues are doing reveals something completely different.  The opposite actually.  Listen, I agree minimal to zero head movement when hitter’s stride foot lands.  And if baseball stride drills are done correctly, this should be a natural result.  But I don’t agree with minimal to zero head movement GETTING TO stride landing – BEFORE the turn starts.

In this post titled, Softball Hitting Tips For Kids: Why Late Head Movement Fails & Early Head Movement Succeeds, we discuss:

  • The Myth of ‘keeping the head still’,
  • Proprioception & dynamic movement,
  • First baseman stretching to receive a throw, and
  • Watching TV upside down.

The biggest bomb NUKING minimal to zero head movement argument, is this 2013 article by Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs.com titled, Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012.  Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraph’s batting component of WAR (this is a big deal metric).

He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season, in which each player hit a home-run.  Farnsworth says the main complaint coaches have with early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true, however during the stride the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  In the Head Movement piece of the article, Farnsworth concludes:

“Next to no relationship here.  I think this one can be considered dead, simply based on the fact that all of them moved forward to some degree.”

Did you catch that?! Farnsworth revealed in his research of top-50 hitters in 2012, that ALL moved their head forward to some degree.  You see, head movement is inevitable in ALL dynamic movement.  Early is okay, late is not.   Don’t sit there and point to hitting outliers like Barry Bonds, and tell me the top-50 hitters of 2012 all had it wrong.  It was true then as it is now.

Besides, did you know fresh out of the box, humans come with “video stabilizer” eye software?  Ask an ophthalmologist.  In addition, your knees, ankles (Achilles tendon), and hip joints act as shock absorbers too.  If we start our hitters in an athletic position, and most importantly, they land in one, then the hitter will be fully optimized for minimizing the ball “speeding up”.

If you’re still skeptical, then check out this post titled, Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum.  We discuss:

  • Balance without thinking,
  • Debunking a common objection & a study, AND
  • Perfect swing examples.

Not too much, not too little, just right…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

And last but not least…

 

Controlling Center of Mass in the Stride

Center of Mass (COM) in the human body is located at the belly button.  This was established in the womb.  The umbilical cord is the center of an unborn child’s universe.  I say this to demonstrate the importance of COM in controlling human movement.

Now, we don’t want baseball stride drills to promote too large or too small of a stride.  Remember? Goldilocks Golden Rule.  Chris Welch from Zenolink said the stride should be about 3.75 times hip-center-to-hip-center, and aligned are back ball of the foot to front ball of the foot at stride landing.  How do we teach this though?  In this post I received the following question from one of my readers…

One specific issue I see in a lot of my players is timing and getting over the front knee too far at contact. What are some good tee drills for staying back and any idea how I can get them to feel it when done correctly.”

In the post titled, Discover Science Of Successful Learning Secret To Fix Lunging (or any swing flaw for that matter!), as it relates to controlling the COM of our hitters, we discuss:

  • Reader question about lunging,
  • “Bean Bag” study from Make It Stick book,
  • WHY we separate PROCESS from PERFORMANCE with hitters learning something new,
  • How it takes time to change ineffective movement momentum into effective, and…
  • Training 4-5 days per week, for AT LEAST 5-mins each day.

And remember the …Goldilocks Golden Rule.

Matt Nokes Reveals Ways to “Lean In & Compress Ball”, Swing in Same Direction of “Swing Motor”, & Quickly and Easily Get On-Time

I don’t give much of my time to others’ hitting instruction online…

And it’s not because I think I’m God’s green gift to baseball and softball.  Actually,

Since January of 2013, I took a needed break learning hitting mechanics from others in the field, no matter how popular.  I wanted to shed the hitting “BEER GOGGLES” that have stubbornly held this industry back for decades.

People ask me if I know anything about Tewks, Epstein, “Teacher Man”, etc.  I don’t.  And that’s the honest truth.  I see their posts on Twitter and Facebook, but don’t give them anymore thought.

Matt Nokes Snap Drill

Matt Nokes talking about “leaning in and compressing the ball”. Photo courtesy: Matt Nokes’s YouTube channel

The main reason?  I’m still learning my own system!!

Besides, everyone has a different approach, view, and style.  As you probably know, the language can get quite confusing.

Back in 2013, I decided to stick to resources on Bio-mechanics, Physics, Psychology, etc.   Because THIS is where the answers are.  It’s not opinion, or someone’s theory or philosophy based on playing or coaching experience.

My #1 rule is to digest information that is validated by science.  Don’t seek the footsteps of others, but seek the resources the “others” sought.  In other words, don’t just take my word for it.

That being said, there are a couple hitting coaches I do listen to, and one is Matt Nokes.  I think he has an unmatched passionate curiosity for hitting, authentically wants to help hitters, is open to new ideas (can’t say that for many online gurus), and gets dramatic results with his hitters in a reasonably short amount of time.

As always, I’ve taken video notes for you, so you can skip around to what interests you most.  Some of the things you’ll learn in the video are:

  • Swing intention: what Matt Nokes means when he tells his hitters to “lean on it and compress it” (this will upset the ‘bug squisher’ coaches out there),
  • Why hitters MUST swing in the same direction as their “swing motor” (and it’s not what you think),
  • The “Snap Drill” that will easily and quickly get your hitters on-time (an Ah-ha moment for me!), and
  • Much more…

Enjoy!

  • About 1:00 minute mark, Matt didn’t think about Bat Speed when he was playing, he was trying to “lean on it and compress it”.  He calls this “directional force”, in which he says it takes 8,000 pounds per square inch in one direction, to hit a ball 400-feet.
  • About 2:15 minute mark, Matt talks about how hips, knees and feet are the base, core is the motor, and arms are swing levers.  What happens when swinging off the plane of the core motor.  Swing in same direction as swing motor.
  • About 3:30 minute mark, Matt distinguishes between keeping the barrel above hands as a cue versus what really happens.  Don’t miss this.  He uses this oftentimes blanket-used-coaching-cue to get the hitter flattening his/her barrel to the pitch plane.  Barrel MUST match shoulder plane.
  • About 5:30 minute mark, Matt defines an approach as summing up what you’re trying to do mechanically into a one or two word cue.  Ever changing because getting new info, new feelings, new observations.  Talks about 2-3 minute “priming” movements before heading into battle.
  • About 10:15 minute mark, great hitters don’t “keep their hands inside the ball” in a way that creates what Matt calls slack.  He refers to the Fence Swing Drill that exaggerate swinging down.
  • About 12:00 minute mark, Matt talks about transferring force with a bent landing knee, comparing to a Pole Vaulter’s pole when it sticks into the ground before propelling the athlete up.  Landing bent allows for adjustment.  “The front knee isn’t straightened, it gets straightened.  The back leg doesn’t turn, it gets turned.  The core moves the legs.”
  • About 14:45 minute mark, Matt breaks down how to “flatten” the swing.  Tells hitter minimal movement from lower half swings, just focus on moving shoulders, hands, and bat.  Matt gives limited parameters, and let’s hitter learn the lesson…in other words, he doesn’t map out step by step how to move the way he wants the hitter to move.  Gives hitter an outcome and allows them to fill in the blanks.
  • About 16:30 minute mark, Matt talks about swing approach like what you’d do to chop down a tree.  You wouldn’t think about how did I swing the ax yesterday.  You’d just start swinging it!  Finishing low with the hands and following the line of impact. I call this driving the big nail (Matt’s bat in the video) flush into the wall.  At about 20:00 minute mark, Matt adds to this and tells hitter to “lean on this” and “compress it” (referring to his bat).  He says that he just gave hitter permission to hit the crap out of the ball.
  • About 18:30 minute mark, compares big picture hitting cues to Fence Swing Drills.  The latter being ineffective as a default way to hit.  You have to hit with big picture in mind of what you want to do to the ball.  Swing intention.
  • About 21:00 minute mark, Matt begins to talk about timing.  Timing is a distance, and to make it simple by synchronizing timing from release to contact.  Matt talked about how he took a guy hitting the ball 360-380 feet to hitting it 480-feet in 2.5 months…over the fence, 400-feet off a tee.  “Feel” contact…stay sideways and feel contact by leaning and compressing the ball.  Matt talks about the “Snap Drill”. This is golden!  He also talks about the “Ride” part of “Ride & Stride” that Matt promotes within his system.

If you remember one thing from this video, it’s from the 21st minute on… 🙂  Golden.

Unlike most MLB players and coaches, Matt Nokes has an intuitive sense of the swing.  He can explain it from a “real” point of view, and transition that into “feel”.  His system seems to fill in the blanks that I’ve always had about the swing.  The good news about his principles is they’re very simple and easy to implement.  Matt has a very common sense approach to hitting.

Thanks Matt!

Want To Move Better? Simple Adjustments To Move Like Today’s Best Hitters

Tai Chi Combat's Master Wong: Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility

Watch Tai Chi Combat’s Master Wong in point #4 below: Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility. Photo courtesy: Master Wong, from his YouTube video Tai Chi for Beginners.

What Smokin’ Joe Frazier, China’s Tai Chi, the Headspace meditation app, and Ted Williams have in common will become clear moving through this post, I promise.

But first, here’s the glue that connects all these seemingly random things

I recently stumbled onto a post titled, “Want to Move Better? Use These 5 Simple Adjustments to Start Moving Freely” by Ryan Hurst, who’s co-founder of GMB Fitness (Gold Medal Bodies). They focus on Gymnastic type movements.

The first time I read through it, I thought, well this could help hitters…

The second time I read through it, I thought, dang, this could REALLY help hitters

And then the 3rd, 4th, and 5th times, in my head I screamed, “DUDE!!”

Which is WHY I’m bringing it’s information to the attention of my coaches.

Here’s what I have for you…

  • Some quick notes from each of the five main points of the Ryan Hurst GMB Fitness post above,
  • Supporting videos that help put the ideas into “hitting” terms, and
  • A few resources I think are becoming more popular in helping hitters control their breathing (VERY IMPORTANT as you’ll soon see).

ENJOY!

 

1. Slow It Down for Instant Awareness

  • Being mindful is really the key to better movement.
  • Pay attention to how your hips are moving, your weight distribution, your eye gaze, and your breath.
  • Slow down your movement and you’ll be able to pay better attention to the details.

I’m not sure on the name, but I once heard boxer Joe Frazier used to practice a super slow motion punch that would last 20-minutes!  Talk about slowing it down for instant awareness.

Here are swings from different angles to practice specific movements in slow motion…

2. Use Your Hips for Instant Power

  • Hips are your body’s center of mass.
  • The better you can initiate motion from this point, the more efficient your movements will be, as you’ll move with less wasted action.
  • With any stepping motion, rather than your feet propelling you forward, you want your hips to lead.

Yes, I agree with Ted Williams when he said the “Hips Lead the Way”.  But even before the pelvis begins to turn for a hitter, the front hip MUST lead the way during the stride.

Watch this short 1-min Justin Turner slow motion swing video I put together for you, and key in on how his front hip initiates his pre-turn movement in the stride…

3. Use Visual Aim for Instant Control

  • Head is hardwired to follow your eyes, and the body is hardwired to follow your head. Basically, the body will follow the eyes.
  • If your eyes are not gazing in the right place, you won’t be able to control your body properly.
  • If you want to move better, think of it this way: your eyes should always be pointed where you want your spine to be.

This is WHY hitters who “pull their heads”, go chin to chest, back ear to back shoulder, or nose to sky at impact is not good.

My good friend Matt Nokes at Hitting Solutions calls this “swinging across your face”…this cue will help correct pulling the head.  The best hitters “keep their head in the fire”, as Nokes says.  Control the head, and hitter controls the direction and “squaring-up” of impact.

Watch this head movement modeling video of a few top MLB hitters…

4. Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility

  • The correct transfer of your weight is the beginning of a smooth and controlled motion.
  • While side stepping (or lunging) to your right, notice that you shifted your weight to the left a split second before you went to the right? It’s a natural loading response that you do without even thinking about it.
  • With any movement, if your body’s natural weight transfer mechanisms are not working properly, it will hurt your balance.

This is natural weight transfer behavior coaches!! If any hitting coach tells a right handed hitter to NOT shift their weight towards their right leg before striding to the left, then RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!

Watch the following three-in-a-half minute video from Master Wong, founder of Tai Chi Combat (over 1.4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel!!), performing a beginner’s Tai Chi movement.  Notice the split second weight shift one way, in order to go the other way…

5. Breathe for Instant Poise and Calm

  • Difference between holding the breath and bracing during movement…for skill-based movements holding your breath isn’t going to help.
  • Breath holding and hyperventilation are signs of anxiety, but in that wonderful body-mind connection loop, it can also create anxiety.
  • Poor breathing creates feelings of anxiety, anxiety, creates tension, and unmediated tension causes poor movement. Smooth and purposeful breathing leads to smooth and purposeful movement.

This is “bigly”!  The leading resources for this are the following guided meditation apps:

  • Headspace (I’ve been using this one for the best 3 years), and
  • Calm

I can’t speak for the Calm app, but Headspace is not Eastern “woo-woo”.  It focuses on controlling the breath, being aware of the breath, and the use of visualization practice.

These are second-to-none resources for reducing rapid breathing during competition or any other signs of anxiety.

I think this quote bares repeating because it’s VERY important for hitters:

“Smooth and purposeful breathing leads to smooth and purposeful movement.”

Watch Perfect Action Over And Over, Subconscious Mind and Muscle Memory Will Start To Incorporate The Actions…

(Disclaimer: my swing isn’t perfect, so please be nice in the comments.  However, 95% of it embodies what the best do, and is a sufficient representation of what we talk about on this blog)

I had heard of Sybervision back in the early to mid-1990’s, when someone told me about a Baseball With Rod Carew instructional VHS hitting video you could watch over and over of him hitting, and “magically” you’d start moving just like him!

At least that’s what I thought about it at the time, but there actually is some merit to it.

Some call Sybervision the Neuropsychology of self discipline, and has a basis in visual modeling — how we  learn and assimilate (neurologically, psychologically, and cognitively) skills and behaviors from the observation of others.

Sybervision Swings

Ichiro from the Head Movement video using Sybervision.

It is based on research conducted by Steve DeVore, and Dr. Karl Pribram, a brain scientist (who postulated the holographic brain theory) at the Stanford University’s Neuropsychological Research Laboratories.

One of the grand-dads of two hitters I worked with this past summer, Paul Rosemont, said this of Sybervision:

“The Sybervision concept is that if someone watches perfect action over and over, their subconscious mind and muscle memory will start to incorporate the actions. It’s ideal to view it before practicing but just viewing it is still supposed to work. The system was used years ago on college and Olympic level athletes.”

By the way, Paul took the time to have my swings edited into the above video we’re sharing with you today, using the Sybervision technique.

Along the same lines, utilizing shorter clips of Big Leaguers, and without the different views, one of my online lesson dads Victor Canseco made the following two videos using the same Sybervision concept.  They’re cropped to specific aspects of the swing, to help his son Harrison get the concepts we were working on with him…

 

Back Foot Skip

Please CLICK HERE for the Back Foot Variance Drill I use with my hitters.

 

Head Movement & One-Joint Rule

Please CLICK HERE for the One-Joint Rule Drill I use with my hitters.

Thank you Paul and Victor!

If You’re Teaching ‘Squish The Bug’, Then You’re OLD

This video is a definitive guide when it comes to WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is an inferior hitting mechanic.

Right now, if you find yourself asking if people STILL teach this, then sadly, the answer is yes.

I ran into one just the other day on the socials.  Nothing but pseudo science and circular reasoning.  Pretty mind numbing experience actually.

Here’s fair WARNING for the small few out there still teaching hitters to ‘squish the bug’…

If after watching this video, you’re still not convinced, then you’re old.

Consider what Henry Ford once said,

And while we’re at it, look at what Ayn Rand said,

In the above video, we discuss the:

  • Science,
  • Experimentation, and
  • Application…

…validating WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is DUMB, and no hitter should ever have to go through something as horrifying as that 😛 lol

Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

Also, here’s a recent case study post I did on skipping the back foot titled, “How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood.

DON’T BE OLD.

Leg Kicks May Be Dangerous To Pitchers (And Hitters That Don’t Perfect Them)

Before I get into the Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown video featuring Mark DeRosa & Cliff Floyd above…

I wanted to give you a heads up of what’s in this post:

  • Lesson learned from my school of hard knocks,
  • How to fix striking out every at-bat in tournament, and
  • Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown.

 

Lessons Learned from School of Hard Knocks

Rhys Hoskins: MLBNetwork Swing Breakdown

Rhys Hoskins says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can. Photo courtesy: Sports Bay Area

I recently worked with a newer 12/13u hitter of mine, where he shared he had a terrible tournament, where he struck out virtually every at-bat the weekend before.

This immediately raised a red flag for me.

The easy thing to do for a player – and a dad or mom – is to point to a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

As a hitting coach, if this isn’t your first rodeo, then you know this is not the case a majority of the time.

Quick back story,

My last year of Little League was insane:

  • Hit .880 regular season, .770 in All-Stars,
  • 30+ dingers,
  • 40+ doubles, and
  • Struck out a grand total of 3 times in the span of 6 months.

By the way, looking at old VHS video of that swing, I was doing what I teach now.  All those strikeouts were early in the regular season, and once I settled down, they vanished entirely.

I was ignorance on fire!

Brace yourself for the “fall”…

The next year I made the move to the big field, with no pitching distance transition like there are nowadays.  I found myself swinging and missing A LOT.

I got so frustrated with myself,  and what do you think my dumb brain thought was the problem?

Right-O!! Mechanics.

Do you know the REAL cause?

Let me give you a clue…the word starts with a “T” and ends with “-iming” 😛 lol

I was being driven by my fear of getting “caught up” to by other players.  And yes, the whispers started in Middle School when I struggled to recover my old swing.

Do you know how much of a nightmare that is for a hitter who’s super driven to succeed like I was?

This fear drove me into the bookstore to read every book on hitting I could get my hungry teenager hands on.  Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Charlie Lau, Mike Schmidt, and on and on.  Nothing seemed to help.  I obsessively watched film of that swing trying to figure out what I was missing or leaving out.

Hey, at least I wasn’t out stealing cars!

It was a 4-year mind-fudge that ended in recovering my batting average – somewhat – but not my power the last two years in High School.  Thinking back now, it’s a miracle I ended up with a scholarship at Fresno State.

The point of this story is, negative tournament outcomes don’t necessarily mean a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

Back to my young hitter…

 

How To Fix Striking Out Every At-Bat in Tournament

So I had three questions I planned asking my hitter, in diagnosing the challenges he had with his last tournament:

  • The first one is, were you focusing on the new stuff we worked on last lesson (which was a week before), during game at-bats?
  • If the answer is NO to that question, then I would ask, how many strikes did you swing at, OR not swing at?
  • If they’re swinging at good pitches, then on the swings you took, how many were “on-time”?

If they pass the first three questions, then we look at seeking and fixing the ineffective swing mechanic.

However, this particular hitter failed question one.  I hadn’t warned him about bringing new swing techniques into game at-bats.  I told him that in games, your focus MUST be on swinging at good pitches and getting on-time.  It’s to compete.

I teach hitters my painful lesson.

The good news is, this hitter will be on the up and up again, and won’t have to go through the frustration, struggle, and anger I went through attempting to fix something I knew nothing about at the time.  And frankly, the only one who had a clue was Ted Williams, but his message was drowned out in the other white noise I was hearing, reading, and watching.  Paralysis by over analysis.

Now, let’s tie in the Rhys Hoskins video above…

Rhys Hoskins Swing Breakdown

Below you’ll find video notes I took.  Afterward, I’ll only focus on about a couple of these, I think others will make for good conversation in the Comments section below…

  1. About 1:20 min mark, DeRosa: “Hands go along for the ride…not a lot of hand load”
  2. About 1:40 min mark, DeRosa brings up examples of “violent hand loads” featuring: Cecil Fielder, Vlad Guerrero, Gary Sheffield…and Manny Ramirez, Buster Posey, Justin Turner, and Daniel Murphy used as examples of “not a lot of hand load”
  3. About 2:20 min mark, DeRosa: asks Rhys is he’s conscious about his pre-swing hand movement. Rhys says all he’s worrying about is having some separation between his body and where his hands are during load
  4. About 2:50 min mark, Rhys: “The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”. Cliff Floyd talks about having a leg kick is a perfection type of approach. Pitchers are trying to disrupt a leg kicker: tempo, changing speeds, etc.
  5. About 3:20 min mark, Floyd says Rhys has something you can’t teach: “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…Floyd says it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.
  6. About 4:00 min mark, Cliff Floyd goes into more detail about a hitter focusing on perfecting the timing of a leg kick, and not worry about anything else, or else you’re screwed.  Rhys talks about getting “inside the pitcher’s rhythm in the on-deck circle”.  Cliff Floyd comments: “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.
  7. About 5:10 min mark, Mark DeRosa is wanting Rhys to explain the use of his hands and back elbow.  Cliff Floyd says if you want the kid to go into a slump keep talking about hands and elbows.  Rhys says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can.
  8. About 6:10 min mark, talks about “knee to knee” “hover” leg kick.  More balance, don’t get over backside.

A lot more good than bad in this video.  I wanted to focus on the timing aspect though…

Just to be upfront with you, I’m not one of those instructors that teaches a leg kick to ALL my hitters.  I think this is a BIG mistake.  If my hitter doesn’t have what I call a “Float” (aka stride type) built into their swing already, then I ask them to experiment a little.  Or if what they’re using isn’t effective at getting them on time and dynamically balanced, then we get resourceful.

We experiment with:

  • A leg kick (medium or high),
  • Slide step, and
  • Toe-tap.

By the end, they find that one of these techniques allows them to time the ball better, and it may not be what they started with.  We’re looking for what they’re comfortable with, and can execute the swing dynamically balanced.

You heard Rhys Hoskins say,

“The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”

This was after DeRo prodded him to explain what his hands and back elbow are doing.  Cliff Floyd got on DeRo that he’s going to force Rhys into a slump with all this hands talk! lol

Floyd also said that a lot of time and energy needs to be spent on perfecting the timing of the leg kick.  He added, “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.  This is very important.

Some of my good hitting friends online, who I highly respect in their knowledge, don’t believe timing can be taught or calibrated. I respectfully disagree.

If you can teach a pair of chickens to play ping-pong, then yes, timing can be taught.  True story by the way – with the chicken (read Don’t Shoot The Dog: The New Art Of Teaching And Training).

I’ve also heard pitching coaches on the Socials say they lick their lips when seeing a hitter with a leg kick.  And you heard Cliff Floyd address a pitcher’s job is to disrupt a leg kicker by changing their delivery tempo, changing speeds, etc.

But then Floyd turns around and compliments Hoskins saying, “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…and adds, it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.

Calibrating a hitter’s timing and pitch recognition training are a deadly combination for pitchers who salivate over seeing a leg kicking hitter.  I asked this coach whether he’d salivate over facing Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, or Mike Trout.  He didn’t answer.

Coaches, if you don’t give hitters tools for their toolbox, then they’re up there hitting blind.  Don’t make them hit the pinata blind folded!

 

Here are some resources to take back to your hitters on timing and pitch recognition:

You can teach timing.  You can teach pitch recognition.  Woe to the pitcher that pitches to hitters who train both.  The winds of change are a blowin’ for hitters over pitchers.  When troubleshooting with your hitters, remember:

  • The lesson from my school of hard knocks,
  • How to fix striking out every at-bat in a tournament, and
  • Timing lessons from Rhys Hoskins.

Discover The Back Foot Variance Drill Secret

I wanted to share a couple things in this post…

  • An updated video of the Back Foot Variance Drill, and
  • A testimonial from one of my online lesson dads from Tennessee (I’m in California!).

 

Back Foot Variance Drill UPDATED

Since putting this drill together a few years ago, I’ve improved on it to reflect what the best are really doing.  Here’s an outline of what we talk about in the above video:

  • Objective: to shift body-weight into ball and un-weight the back foot,
  • Squishing bug?
  • Variance Drill – fix hitters who skip too much v. not skipping, and
  • Options: skip backwards (scissoring).

 

Back Foot Variance Testimonial

I prescribed the Back Foot Variance Drill to Lawrence (Jr.) back on July 9th, along with the Babe Ruth Drill (forward momentum), and the Snapping Towel Drill (angling the body back over the catcher during turn).

Before I show you a couple BEFORE/AFTER images of his swing, please read what dad emailed me…

“Joey

Wanted to sit down and let you and your readers know how much of an impact you make on players lives. The key is to listen and follow what you say. 

First my background. I played at the Juco level, independent ball and amateur ball until i was 39. I pride myself on knowing the game and thought I was a pretty good hitter and taught hitting. I walked away with three amateur world series rings and no regrets on my playing career. 

I have taught my son hitting since he was 4.  As any parent has, I am proud of my son with probably some dad goggles on. But fact is he is a gifted physical specimen at 15, he is 6’1 and 175-lbs

For this I’m just going to focus on the facts. He ran into some hitting issues I was having trouble correcting this Spring. But I know hitting, right? And my son still listens to me so I should be able to help him. But it was not happening, we both were getting frustrated. As a freshman he still hit over .300 in varsity. But something was off.

Then while researching, (yes people if you or your coach does not have a growth mindset do yourself a favor and go do something else.) I ran across you this Spring. After studying what you were saying and swallowing my pride I decided to have you give my son video lessons online. 

Best thing I ever did for my son. We are only half way through the lessons taking our time to digest and work on what you have suggested, but here are the results. This after 3 months and 2 lessons

My son exit velocity before you was 86-mph it now sits at 91-mph. He recently did a show case with perfect game. On the hitting metrics they use he is between the 93-98 percentile on all players they have seen. In batting practice he would routinely hit the ball 325-350 feet using wood or bbcore. He is now hitting balls in excess of 400 feet.

While taking batting practice on a high school field yesterday dimensions of 320 down the line and 370 to center he hit 16 out of 45 pitches out including 3 in excess of 400 feet. I sent you video of a game he played last night. To have you evaluate, that home-run was to dead center which was 360 feet. The ball was a line drive and landed in the road over 40 feet behind the fence.

Yes the catapult loading system works. He is hitting baseballs with a wood or bbcore bat at 2.5x his body weight. Using those bats and at his age is just as impressive as 3x body weight. 

I mentioned before he is a big kid at 15. But he is still a kid, he has not begun to physically mature yet. He does not shave, no hair on chest, no definition of muscles. I fully expect to see within the year as he starts maturing he will be hitting baseballs over 500-ft. In three months working with you he has gained over 50 feet consistently. It now looks like he is on the little fields again taking bp.

Thank you for what you do and giving my son confidence moving forward, you helped a young man more than words I’m writing will ever be expressed.

Here is what he accomplished since we started using you. Named all world series team for the 15u babe ruth world series where his team finished second. Playing for 15u south east team Rawlings led team in batting average for the summer. That team went 6-1 in the wwba perfect game world series where he was named to the all tourney team. 

Named all tourney to perfect game summer showdown as well. Before you he had played in three events with perfect game with no all tourney nominations. He has also been approached as a rising sophomore by a high level D1 head coach that is interested in him. 

Thanks Joey for everything, and for not only being a great person to get to know, but being so knowledgeable on the scientific metrics on hitting. 

All the best
Lawrence Sutton”

Thank YOU Lawrence for such a glowing testimonial.  And thank you Junior for being such a respectful and coach-able student of the game.  By the way, originally Lawrence (dad) left this as an UNSOLICITED message on my phone, and I asked him to put it down on virtual paper, so I could share it with you.

Before sharing the BEFORE/AFTER images, let me address naysayer objections I frequently read on the Socials, speaking out against my book, “The Catapult Loading System: Teaching 100-Lb Hitters To Consistently Drive The Ball 300-Feet”, this email clearly dispels:

  • “In High School homers virtually disappear because of BBCor bats”,
  • “15yo High School hitters can’t hit balls in excess of 400-feet at 175-pounds”,
  • “Sure, your system may increase power, but it will be at the cost of Batting Average and Strikeouts”, and
  • “This kid is just a freak [or they may use the word ‘mutant’]”

All this is FAKE NEWS Coaches!!

The last one always makes me laugh…I say take me to VEGAS then, because I’m running into A LOT of mutants!! Buahahaha

And you know why homers “virtually disappear” with BBCor bats in High School?

Because many of these coaches are teaching their hitters to HIT THE BALL ON THE GROUND!  Please STOP!  It’s insane these coaches don’t want their offense to score more runs and win more games.  Ground-balls SUCK for hitters!  The reverse is true for pitchers by the way 😉

I have faith, “winners” will make the adjustment and not whine, complain, and come up with every excuse in the book as to why hitting the ball HARD IN THE AIR doesn’t work.  Sad.

Boosting Ball Exit Speed and Launch Angles is a formula folks.  With hard work, attention to detail, and dedication, more hitters can achieve what we’re sharing.  The Catapult Loading System takes care of the former, and Pitch-Plane Domination the latter.

Here’s a BEFORE/AFTER image of Lawrence’s back foot skip (too much) on July 9th…

Lawrence’s feet are too close together in these swings…

Here’s a BEFORE/AFTER image of his August 25th 360-foot dinger…

This angle is a challenge, but use the catcher’s belt as a reference point to the back foot in both images. In addition, look at the gap between his feet.

Now, as you remember, we made three changes to Lawrence’s swing back in early July:

  • Increase forward momentum,
  • Create more space between his feet, and
  • Increase spinal tilt during the turn…

…so it’s hard to tell which one of these was THE ONE thing that made the biggest difference.  My argument for the Back Foot Variance is this:

  1. In past swing experiments, Forward Momentum hasn’t been shown to increase Bat Speed at Impact significantly.
  2. Increasing spinal tilt is great, but doesn’t work if the hitter’s feet are close together – like a golfers.
  3. The greater the distance between the feet (although not too much), the more consistent the hitter can get to the bottom half of the ball.

Also, if you read this Washington Post article titled, “Bryce Harper: A Swing of Beauty”, you’ll discover:

“Glenn Fleisig, an expert in the field of biomechanics, said the majority of hitters he’s studied transferred 90 percent of their weight to their front foot and kept 10 percent on their back leg at contact. Harper, of course, would move 100 percent of his weight forward at contact when his back leg lifts. That, Fleisig said, would enable him to generate a ground rotational force equal to 150 percent of his body weight.”

At Bryce Harper’s current weight of 215-lbs, that would be 322.5-lbs of force transferred at impact!  Any weight transfer less than 100% would be an inferior model, so that’s why ‘squishing bugs’ isn’t optimized.

Coaches, be careful who you’re following.  Make sure they’re sticking close to the human movement principles that are validated by science.  If not, then quickly abandon ship.

Please keep me updated on your hitters’ progress using the Back Foot Variance Drill below…

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

STOP Pulling Off The Ball, Increase Batting Average, and Boost Power By Using The Closed Stance?

I know, I know,

Some well meaning coaches will think, “Well, a closed stance cuts off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement”

I get it.  I used to believe the same thing a couple years ago,

…But what I found in my research was counter-intuitive, yet very promising for hitters.

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

Giancarlo Stanton using his “closed stance”. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

My process is to chew and digest the science, observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then try it out!

As you’ll soon find out, Giancarlo Stanton did his homework before making this particular change in his swing.

Since there may be many of you raising the same objections I started with, I wanted to discuss:

  • Addressing the above “Study of Planes” video, then we’ll move on to…
  • Analyzing the small change that has netted BIG results for Giancarlo Stanton this season.

 

Study of Planes

My good friend Seo Perales shared the above video with me a few years ago.  By the way, he’s a multiple level black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu.

We love comparing notes because we both like to seek and explore human movement principles that are validated by science.  The only difference is, in his line of work as a Jujitsu instructor, he wants to learn how to break down the body, and I’m into maximizing its effect.

The above video demonstrates the science of movement planes.  What are considered weak and strong planes of movement from a Judo perspective.

I think you’ll find the video enlightening.

Now, you may be thinking, “A Judo video? Really?!  What can I learn from a video about Judo?”

If you find yourself camped out in ONLY baseball or softball circles, then you’re missing out on A LOT of useful information that will take your hitters to a whole other level.

The video is very applicable to hitting.

Furthermore,

My good friend Lee Comeaux from Texas, who teaches professional and amateur golfers, also brought the power of movement planes to my attention about a year ago…

He told me draw an “X” in the batter’s box from opposite corners, and have the hitter stand on either line when hitting.  He’s very versed in Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains.  He says hitters standing on one diagonal leg of the “X” encourages the springiness of fascia.  He taught this to his 15yo daughter, who has hit over .600 the last couple years playing Fast-Pitch Softball in Texas, which is one of the hotbeds for both baseball and softball competition in the country.  Oh and by the way, she also hit a half dozen homers as well.

The second part of this post, I wanted to share the tipping point in addressing Giancarlo Stanton’s new closed stance…

Giancarlo Stanton & The “Dreaded” Closed Stance

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me in writing this post, came from this MLB.com article by David Adler titled, “Closing time: Stanton’s stance fueling surge: Marlins slugger’s home run tear lines up with change to batting stance in June”.

You can go there and read the full article, but I wanted to tease out the quotes from Giancarlo Stanton (and some of David Adler’s commentary), and how Stanton arrived at the batting stance change…

I just said I was going to try it. Honestly, I had about 30 minutes of work, maybe 45 minutes, before the game,” Stanton told MLB.com Sunday, when he crushed his Major League-leading 45th home run against the Mets at Citi Field. “And then 10 minutes before the game, I was like, ‘This feels more comfortable.'”

Stanton was already having a helluva year, so it’s interesting to me that he made the change when he did, typically a change like this follows a slump.  However, this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision – like it sounds from that quote – he did his homework, which you’ll read about shortly…

“My best striking position is closed,” Stanton said. “It’s not smart to try to completely change something in the middle of the season. But if you are 100 percent committed to it … well, you’ve got to be. You’ve got to trust what you’re trying to do. If you change something, you want results right away, otherwise you try to go back. But I trusted it completely and let it ride.”

Sounds contradictory doesn’t it?  To have the attitude that you can’t completely change something in the middle of the season – especially when you’re already doing well!!  But then he says you MUST commit to giving the change time – that is – IF you’ve done your homework beforehand.

I’ve heard some parents and coaches say mid-season changes aren’t smart.  I don’t like to think that way…WHY?  Because if you don’t guide the hitter, the hitter will make changes on their own.  And if they don’t get highly resourceful on the subject, then this could lead to DISASTER with all the junk hitting info on the net these days.

David Adler did fantastic research illustrating the evolution of Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance in this Tweet:

In the earlier mentioned article, Adler states…

“Stanton’s closing of his batting stance has correlated with his massive power surge. On June 18, he had 17 home runs in 282 plate appearances; since June 19, he has 28 in 236.

When Stanton hits from those positions [open or straight up], his front side can come open before the pitch arrives, leaving him exploitable.

The closed stance is a natural counter. When Stanton is already turned inward to start, his rotation drives him into the pitch, instead of causing him to fade away from it.”

By the way, for those not doing the math:

  • From start of season to June 18th, he hit 1 homer every 16.5 plate appearances, and
  • From June 19th on, he hit 1 homer every 8.4 plate appearances

He cut his rate in half!!!!  The closed stance was the ONLY change to his swing in that time frame, so this makes an interesting case study with a decent sample size of plate appearances.  See for yourself with the following David Adler Tweet:

David Adler adds some terms of comparision you may be familiar with…

“With his adjusted stance, Stanton has been driving the ball in the air more often. His rate of fly balls and line drives, per Statcast™, has risen from 41.5 percent prior to June 19 to 50.3 percent since. Stanton’s average exit velocity on those balls has increased from 97.6 mph to 100.8 mph, the highest in the Majors over that time.”

I don’t care that Stanton is a beast, if you increase your Line Drive and Fly Ball Rates (Launch Angle), and Ball Exit Speeds that much, you’ll make a lot of Ground-ball teams VERY VERY upset.  Small hitters CAN and DO take advantage of this formula too.  Statcast has given hitters the cheat codes to increase offensive productivity!

Furthermore, in the Adler article…

“[His stance] gets him in the position he wants to be in. It looks like it’s keeping him on the ball more, and he seems like he’s seeing it better,” said Christian Yelich, who’s played alongside Stanton as long as any current Marlin — since 2013, when he was 21 and Stanton 23. “Some guys have different problems than others. You go about fixing them or covering them in different ways. It’s all about feel. That’s what works for him, that feel.”

Look at that bold sentence once more because that is one of the most critical keys to this whole thing.  Yelich is also tapping into making extreme adjustments, for example, Stanton’s challenge in the past has been pulling off, maybe because of when he tragically got hit in the face a few years ago.  Whatever the reason, the extreme adjustment (a closed stance), helps him stay on the ball longer.

CLICK HERE for a video I did on how to make adjustments…the scientific term for this is “Paradoxical Intention”.

Now, here is where the article gets into the research that brought Giancarlo Stanton to the point of taking the stance change seriously…

“But at a level of the game where emulation is fundamental, success begetting imitators, Stanton found his prototypes: Nolan Arenado, Matt Kemp, Adrian Beltre, prominent hitters who do close off. He recognized past greats, too: Hall of Famer Andre Dawson works as a special assistant to the Marlins, and he hit with a closed stance in his playing career. Stanton didn’t copy the technical aspects of their batting stances, but their accomplishments gave him precedent to actually make the change himself.

Some on Twitter have written this change off as a band-aide, avoiding a true fix.  A true fix?  Are you kidding me?!  Cutting his home-run per plate appearance rate in half IS NOT a true fix!?  Dude!!  Success leaves clues.  These people are saying Giancarlo Stanton is “playing to the slice”, where a golfer who chronically slices the ball will angle his body at setup so they don’t have to fix the real problem…which is not squaring up the club face at impact.

This is a poor attempt to protect an inflexible teaching philosophy, and sheer laziness on their part to get educated on their craft they claim to know a lot about.  You instructors seriously think Giancarlo Stanton is not “squaring the ball up” at impact since June 19th and is just “playing the slice”?  That is laughable.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

This is the problem I have with instructors with inflexible hitting systems…they’re WILLFULLY IGNORANT to experimenting with things that could push their hitters forward, especially movements validated by science.  We’re ALL in this together, and we’re ALL helping hitters.  It’s NOT about your ego or protecting “your brand” coaches.

But I digress…

Here’s some insight into Giancarlo Stanton’s thought process with the change…

“I just know the guys with success,” Stanton said. “Arenado and Kemp, those guys, you know you can have a high average with it. So that kind of gave me the green light to try it…I knew it could work. Not very many people did it. But I know people like Hawk and them did it in the old days — and it worked for them, too.”

 

The Bottom Line…

Giancarlo Stanton: Tweet About Closed Stance

A day or two after re-tweeting Homer Bush’s Tweet about Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance, I received this response from @Omaha_Outlaws4…

I understand your objections that a closed stance may cut off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement.  You’ve heard me talk a lot about “keeping the back foot sideways”, well, this plays right into that.

Matt Nokes is religious on restricting hip movement to the point of impact with keeping the back foot sideways.  Homer Bush agrees in this interview.  So are the Backspin Tee guys Taylor and Jarrett Gardner.  LIGHT BULB! The closed stance does this naturally.

The main benefit of restricting hip movement at impact (includes keeping back foot sideways) that you’ll hear from Nokes, Bush, and the Gardner Brothers, is to keep the barrel in the hitting zone longer.  This increases BA and Slug%.

Here’s my advice:

  1. Chew and digest the science,
  2. Observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then
  3. Try it out!

If it doesn’t work after giving it the ol’ college try, then toss it.

As many of you know, I will gladly eat crow and change my hitting system IF you can show me the science, swing experiments, and many elite hitting examples that I can’t ignore the issue.

This is an informal Part-1 to a Zepp swing experiment I’ll be doing on the Giancarlo Stanton closed stance in the near future.  So stay tuned…

Scientific Truth Every Coach Ought to Know About Using Batting Weights To Warm-up In The On-Deck Circle

This post may blow the minds of those that didn’t get the memo…

Chris Dozer, who’s father to one of my 10yo online lesson students, sent the following Wall Street Journal article titled: “Watching Your Weight Before Hitting Plate”.

Weighted Bat Swing Comparison

WITH weighted bat warm-up, hitter barreled the ball LESS often. Photo courtesy: SportsScience YouTube video

You can read the article in full by clicking the previous link, but I wanted to include important bullet points from the article and Sports Science video above:

  • “Studies conducted over several decades have concluded that the ritual popular among professionals and emulated by amateurs doesn’t increase bat speed.  It may actually slow it down…’the best is your own bat'”
  •  According to the Zepp app, average professional bat speeds range from 75 to 90-mph, average High School and College bat speeds range from 65 to 80-mph, and average youth bat speeds range from 40 to 70-mph.
  • PLEASE NOTE: there are other batting weight studies with small sample sizes (ranging from 7 to 60 players) comparing High School, College, and recreational hitters in laboratory settings (not LIVE batting practice).  Adrenaline or others batter’s routines could have influenced performance in these. Basically the variable wasn’t properly isolated…that being said, a study with 20 college baseball players found “their performance was statistically unchanged.”
  • Dr. DeRenne, found using a 28-ounce batting weight changed the balance point of the bat and slowed down bat speed.
  • In Sports Science video above, a college hitter in 2008 hit 10 machine pitched balls WITHOUT using a batting weight before, and had an average bat speed of 69-mph, and routinely connected with the sweet spot.  After using the batting weight, then taking another 10 swings off the same pitching machine, his average bat speed dropped to 68.3-mph, and on each swing he missed the bat’s sweet spot by several inches.
  • The above video talked about how because the hitter swings the bat at a slower pace using a batting weight, more red slow twitch endurance muscle fibers get recruited, thereby decreasing the amount of white fast twitch muscle fibers which fire two to three times faster.  Warming up with batting weight in on-deck circle is actually priming the wrong muscles before stepping in the box. 
  • The experience of a single batter can’t be generalized to others, but the results resembled other studies.
  • “People are always looking for an edge,” Dr. Szymanski said, “but just because a professional athlete does something doesn’t mean it’s good or helpful or right.”

 

The Bottom Line?

Now, a 0.7-mph drop in average bat speed doesn’t seem like a lot, but as you saw, it makes a BIG difference in barreling the ball.  As retired Physicist Dr. Alan Nathan says:

  • If ball hits bat 1-inch off sweet spot = then 1 to 2-mph DECREASE in Ball Exit Speed (that’s 4 to 8-feet less distance!)
  • If ball hits bat 2-inch off sweet spot = then 2 to 3-mph DECREASE in Ball Exit Speed (that’s 8 to 12-feet less distance!)
  • If ball hits bat 3-inch off sweet spot = then 3 to 4-mph DECREASE in Ball Exit Speed (that’s 12 to 16-feet less distance!)

So, not only are hitters losing bat speed using a batting weight on the on-deck circle, but by barreling up the ball LESS OFTEN, they’re losing batted ball distance as well.  Aside from swinging the hitter’s own bat, I’d say swinging a lighter bat – faster – would help the body recruit more of those white fast twitch muscle fibers before stepping in the box.

Your thoughts?