Get Rid of Pitch Recognition, Plate Discipline, & Timing Challenges Once and For All 

Photo courtesy: News.Missouri.Edu

In this post,

I answer the following three fan questions:

  • How do you practice picking up the pitch early?
  • Do you have players swing at everything during batting practice or let them be selective? What drills are good for teaching a player to hit a ball where it is pitched? And,
  • Why is Timing not taught throughout majority instructors? Great mechanics are good but without Timing principles, you just look good going back to the dugout. What are some of the different ways you would teach/describe Timing?

The following is a compilation of resources I wish I had when I was still playing.

Coaches, if you aren’t taking full advantage of these, then you’ll be slowly losing ground in games over the next 5 years, that I can assure you.  Get out ahead!

Onward…

 

How do you practice picking up the pitch early?

Check out the feedback software you can use to work on getting GREAT at pitch recognition.  Dr. Peter Fadde calls this ‘video occlusion’, which allows a hitter to focus on pattern recognition for the first 10-20 feet of ball flight.  CLICK HERE for a blog interview I did with Dr. Fadde for more information on the benefits of his ‘video occlusion’ training.

As Jaime Cevallos said in this interview, “pitch recognition” is an untapped area for players these days.

The greatest thing about the GameSense software, is that coaches can keep track of their players’ use of the software with real numbers.  What’s measurable is manageable.

As a player, I would’ve eaten this up when I was younger.

And yes, it requires a subscription, and the pricing plans differ depending on usage.  On the homepage, GameSense is offering a free trial, so you can check it out and see if it’s right for you.

CLICK HERE to grab your FREE trial of the GameSense app that focuses on pitch recognition training…i.e. picking the ball up early out of the pitcher’s hand.

By the ways, gS Pitch-IQ was named one of the best products at the 2017 ABCA convention in Anaheim!

 

Do you have players swing at everything during batting practice or let them be selective? What drills are good for teaching a player to hit a ball where it is pitched?

I’m not sure I’d ever let hitters swing at everything during batting practice.  Everything we do at practice, as coaches, MUST have a purpose.  And that purpose MUST prepare our players for the game environment.

CLICK HERE to watch YouTuber Trevor Ragan compare the benefits of training “ugly” in a post I did showing how to EFFECTIVELY transition grooved batting practice swings into game ones.

Here’s why swinging at everything in the cages DOES NOT translate into games…motor skill learning in a competitive environment MUST follow these three steps:

  1. READ – i.e. pitch recognition and spin
  2. PLAN – i.e. timing
  3. DO – the swing

You see, when a hitter swings at everything in the cages, most of what they’re working on is in the “DO” portion.  There’s very little READ or PLAN present, which is required in a game environment.

“Massed Training”, as defined by SchoolOfThinking.org, is said to be a far less effective strategy for retaining knowledge or developing skills. In other words, practicing the same thing over and over again WITHOUT a break and evaluation period is inferior to spaced and/or ugly training.  CLICK HERE for my Hitting Outcomes Evaluation Checklist.

So what does being selective in the cages look like:

  • After every 5-swing round, the hitter is asked, “How many strikes did you swing at?”  (and they’re affirmed or corrected based on their answer)
  • You can also do what I call is a Reverse Strike-Zone round.  This is where they MUST swing at “balls” – within reason, you don’t want them throwing their bat in the cage – and taking “strikes”. WHY would you do this?  It helps define a hitters strike-zone/hitting zone, and offers a better variety of body movement which the body’s springy fascia LOVES!!  This will melt their brain by the way 😛 lol
  • CLICK HERE for this post I did on plate discipline – splitting the plate up into 2/3’s and 1/3 is another great way to teach your hitters to be more selective.
  • This answers the second part to the reader question above…you can also turn on READ, PLAN, DO by limiting what parts of the field you want the hitter to hit to, OR limit certain elevations you want the hitter to hit at, regardless of pitch type, location, and speed.  Addressing the former…you can setup targets out in the field preferably in spots where you don’t find any fielders (gaps/down the lines), and hitter has to hit the target as hard as they can.  Addressing the latter…I’ve seen some coaches place shagging screens about 30 to 50-feet from the batter’s box creating a barrier to hitting ground-balls, and the objective is to hit the ball hard over the screens.
  • Random pitch type rounds – an example of this is randomly throwing either a 2-seam fast-ball or a curve-ball, and having the hitter stick to seeking out one pitch over the other for one 5-swing round.
  • 2 or 3-plate drill rounds – where the hitter moves from different plate distances between or during 5 swing rounds.  The plates can be placed about 3 to 5 feet apart.  This is a GREAT timing drill.
  • Doing situational hitting rounds…hit-and-runs, move runner over, and bunts/drags/pushes.

I’m sure other coaches have cool deviations of the above, so please SHARE in the comments section below.

The point is, hitters should have a purpose when taking batting practice, NOT just swinging at everything, IF they want to match the game environment.

 

Why is Timing not taught throughout majority instructors? Great mechanics are good but without Timing principles, you just look good going back to the dugout. What are some of the different ways you would teach/describe Timing?

Totally.  I tell my hitters that the most effective mechanics in the world don’t mean a thing if they can’t get on-time.

Surprisingly, some hitting instructors don’t think timing can be taught?  I disagree.

Now, let me clear up a common misconception…do you know the difference between timing and reaction time?

I got the following demonstration from my good friend Taylor Gardner, co-inventor of the Backspin Tee.  Do this with your hitters…

Tell them to stand in front of you, and hold a baseball/softball an arm’s length away from you at about the height of their head.

Then tell them you’re going to drop the ball at a random time…try varying the times you drop the ball, and you’ll find it’ll be a challenge for them to catch it.  Repeat two more times.  This my friend is a demonstration of reaction time.

Then tell them you’re going to drop the ball after counting to 3 (no tricks here coaches)…count to three, then drop the ball.  Repeat two more times.  This my friend is a demonstration of timing.  And as you may guess, this will be much easier to catch for your players.

Timing can be taught with the right methods.  Here are my top three:

  1. The TWO or THREE plate drill mentioned above,
  2. Switching bat sizes and weights between or in the middle of 5-swing rounds, and
  3. Switching ball types at random…using baseballs, softballs, whiffles, golf whiffles, racket balls, Smush balls, and tennis balls.

Thank you Mike Ryan from Fastball USA for the last two.  A hitter will have to re-calibrate their timing between swinging a longer heavier bat than a lighter shorter one.  The different balls mentioned will fly through the air at different speeds making for a perfect off speed practice environment.  This can be really challenging for the hitter, and a lot of fun.

But be careful coaches, slowly layer in the difficulty, don’t do ALL three above at the start.  Some hitters excel quickly, while others take more time.

Do you see how important training beneath the READ, PLAN, & DO umbrella is?

I hope this helps coaches!!

Please share any other effective methods you do with your hitters that improve what was talked about above.  THANKS in advance!

How To Turn Pitchers’ Bullpens Into Pitch Recognition Dominance For Hitters

PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid: Jaime Cevallos

Prototype of Jaime Cevallos’s new pitch recognition training aid called: PitchView

I’m happy to announce the RE-arrival of Jaime Cevallos onto the hitting scene!

He’s a good friend of mine, and has some cool stuff to share.

He’s working on a new training aid that helps with Pitch Recognition that I think will revolutionize how that is trained at practices.

He’s also working on a new companion book to his latest book Positional Hitting.

We dig into quite a bit in this interview, so please let me know in the comments if you’d like us to do a Part-2 sometime.

Jaime Cevallos Interview (1-hour, 1-min total time for interview)…here are the time-stamps of the audio interview, so you can skip around:

  • I asked Jaime, “How do you explain to people what it is you do?” Talks about his interest in movement, and how he got invited to Golf’s Safeway Open as a swing coach [about 1-min mark]
  • Talked about how Jaime’s book Positional Hitting was a fantastic transition for me from when I used to teach Down & Through. Here’s the Jaime Cevallos Four Hour Work Week Blog post featuring him titled: How I Did It: From $7 an Hour to Coaching Major League Baseball MVPs [about 3-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, I understand you started in golf analysis before jumping into the baseball swing…what were your takeaways from golf that made a difference with the baseball swing?”  The pain from quitting baseball, made him obsessive about figuring out the swing. Importance of bent back arm impact position of good Golfers – noticed similar thing in baseball.  Comparing Ben Hogan to Babe Ruth and how similar their swings were.  Learning the “Slot Position” and spotting patterns.  [answers about 10-min mark]
  • The challenge of teaching amateur hitters to hit the ball as hard and as far as you can, and that only fixing ineffective mechanics – or not.  Teaching high level mechanics to youth hitters.  Player definitely needs to be curious about hitting, hard work not necessarily needed at a young age. How many young hitters would read Charlie Lau’s book at 12yo?  If teaching doesn’t allow hitter to not be robotic, then most likely it’s the coaching cue that’s the issue. [about 14:30 mark]
  • I asked Jaime, A question I get asked all the time is, do you believe the baseball and Fast-Pitch Softball swing are two totally different things?” Differences being reaction time and stride timing…no real difference in what you’re trying to accomplish with the swing. Understanding cricket and how golfers don’t care about Golf “Ball Exit Speed”, they care more about precision and accuracy.  [about 21-min, 30-sec mark]
  • Jaime quote that addresses those coaches that ask, “So how many Big League AB’s do you have?” Should we take what MLB hitting instructors say as gospel? Here’s Jaime’s quote I mentioned in the interview, MLB hitting coaches are motivated by keeping their job, not developing innovative principles. If they change a franchise player’s swing, and that player gets worse, their name is forever blacklisted. Word will spread that he makes good hitters bad. And regardless of how many hitters he has helped, the one he “ruined” will be the bane of his career. GMs will attach his name with money flying out the window. He can just take a seat next to Jose Canseco in the list of people who will never be offered a contract. Because of this, MLB hitting coaches develop vague hitting methods, appearing to help when the team is doing well, yet standing on no specific method when the team is struggling. It’s common for them to wait until a player on the team gets hot, and associate themselves to that player as much as possible. I’ve seen it time and time again.”  We’re in a swing instruction revolution.  The MLB hitting coaches are catching up.  [about 28-min mark]
  • If you have something of value you can offer to a professional ball player, then go and seek them out in the winter to work with them.  It doesn’t matter if you have baseball experience, if you have a passionate curiosity for finding out the swing, then go for it!  The fallacy credibility indicator of “30 years of coaching”…it’s not the year in your coaching, it’s the coaching in your years.  The willingness to take chances and experiment with your teaching/coaching young hitters.  [about 31-min mark]
  • Jaime talks about his new product the PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid. Biggest area of opportunity to solve a problem in a sport. Hitting is four different skills: Eye Hand Coordination, Mechanics, Strength & Speed, and Pitch Recognition.  Jaime feels eye-hand coordination is pretty much tapped out.  How juggling at a young age helped Jaime’s eye-hand coordination, however he feels it didn’t help him that much in hitting – more so in fielding.  What steroid-era taught us about the Strength & Speed category.  Swing mechanics is going through a revolution – opportunity here right now.  Pitch Recognition is untapped right now. [about 36-min mark]
  • The WHY, HOW, and WHAT of the PitchView PR Training Aid. How PR is currently being trained now.  Protecting the hitter freeing them up to actively learn how to make their PR better during pitcher’s bullpens.  Connecting release motion to flight of the ball to hitters movement (timing).  Currently working with Berkeley University baseball team as a LIVE case study.  Your team record will depend on how effective and efficient your practices are.  [about 40-min mark]
  • I mentioned Dr. Peter Fadde and his Pitch Recognition software GameSense, CLICK HERE for this written interview I did with him.  And CLICK HERE for Perry Husband in this interview about his Effective Velocity program on tracking and timing. [about 45-min mark]
  • Jaime mentions the new book he’s working on that will be a fantastic compliment to his last book Positional Hitting.  This book will talk more about feel to transition the positions of the swing.  [about 48-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, If you could put anything on a ballpark jumbo-tron, in any MLB ballpark, what would you put on it?”  Don’t give up. What this means to him isn’t what you think. Focus on movement – perfect most important movements.  [about 51-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, What advice would you give the beginning Positional Hitting Jaime?” He wouldn’t change much, but would tell himself not to swing as much.  He’s someone who wants to perfect the swing, doesn’t necessarily enjoy teaching.  Swing motion is pretty hard on the body especially one-sided dominant hitters.  Raul Ibanez told Jaime at 35yo to save your swings.  Jaime’s work on Gymnastics now to take care of his body.  You need to start swinging from the other side – your body just needs it, and makes your preferred swing better. GymnasticBodies.com [about 55-min mark]

Where you can find more about Jaime Cevallos online:

Here’s a short video of the PitchView in use:

You Don’t Have To Be A Pro To Be An Effective Hitting Coach (BEST-Of 2016 Blog Posts)…

The Catapult Loading System Book

Get The Catapult Loading System book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle by CLICKING the image above…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

I know I’m a little late,

But I’ve been working on getting the new book, The Catapult Loading System, published on Amazon these past 4 weeks or so.

Before getting into this BEST-of 2016 post, I wanted to discuss that…

With the New Year typically comes New Year’s resolutions.

And this year my goal for the content at the Hitting Performance Lab is as follows:

  • More posts from knowledgeable industry experts via webinar, audio, or written,
  • I will be conducting many more swing experiments, and
  • Tackle more of the tough questions – via video – my readers have submitted through the emailed survey (I have over 350 of them!!!!).

Rest assured, it’s going to be a good year for your hitters.

Now, for the BEST-of 2016 post…

In looking at my Google Analytics for January through December of 2016, the following three posts were – by far – the most popular (sorted in descending order)…

 

#3: Batting Timing Drills: 2 Little Known Ways To Get “On-Time”

The Timing of a Wave

A hitter’s timing is like a wave, building slow and early, picking up momentum, then crashing with force.

If you didn’t catch this post, then please CLICK HERE.

I did this post a few years ago, but after sharing it on social media a couple times, it became the “village bicycle”.

This post includes my two favorite timing drills:

  1. Float Variance Drill, and the
  2. Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill.

In my opinion, timing is more important than effective hitting mechanics.

WHY?

Because you could have the most effective mechanics in baseball or softball but if you can’t make timing adjustments, then you will not last long in the sport.

Many coaches/instructors I highly respect in their knowledge of hitting, don’t believe you can teach timing.

I disagree.

My hitters are drilled from the beginning on timing.  They’re frequently quizzed on their ability to adjust their timing.  And their timing gets better, oftentimes within three to five 5-swing rounds.

The key is using the two drills [videos] included in the above link.

#2: Blaze Jordan (14u): 6-Ft, 217-Lbs Hits TWO 500-Foot Moonshots, But…Did You Catch The Performance Of The Small Slugger That Beat Blaze Jordan?

Hudson White Home-Run Derby

Hudson “The Hawk” White making it rain 😀

If you didn’t catch this post, then please CLICK HERE.

I remember seeing everyone ooooo-ing and ahhhh-ing over 14 year old, 6-foot, 217-pound Blaze Jordan on Facebook about the two 500-foot monster home-run derby shots he hit at the Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

But nobody was talking about how 14 year old, 5-foot 7-inch, 130-pound Hudson “The Hawk” White hit 11 consecutive homers in the same home-run derby, beat Blaze Jordan, and came in second overall!  Not to mention, the average homer Hudson hit was 398-feet.

On Facebook, people actually wanted me to dissect Blaze’s swing, and NOT Hudson’s!

Wa??!

Don’t get me wrong, to have the ability to hit a ball 500-feet (twice) as a 14u, you have to be doing something right in your swing…

BUT,

Hudson is tripling his body-weight in batted ball distance – 130-pounder hitting the ball 400-feet…wouldn’t you want to see what he’s doing?

Here’s what Hudson’s dad said:

“Hello, i just wanted you to know that i have followed you for years and teach your principles to my 14u son who just came in second place at the 15u power showcase in Arlington Texas ahead of the world champion Blaze Jordan . he also broke the world record for most consecutive home-runs in a row at 11. he was a year younger and 50 to 100-lbs smaller than all the other contestants who were made up of the best hitters in the country. It was the most amazing thing that anyone had ever seen . i wanted to share the video with you and hopefully you can help make it go viral. all the hype is about Blaze Jordan for hitting a 503 ft home run, but for a smaller younger kid to go out and break the world record for most consecutive and beat blaze in the final round to come in 2nd place is a major feat. my son is a lead off hitter. so all hit hits were 395-ft line drives. this is your student. this is the result of your teachings. i am very grateful!”

And the #1 blog post of 2016 was… (drum roll please)

#1: Baseball Hitting Drills For Kids: The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground-Balls

Backspin Batting Tee

The Backspin Batting Tee Pro Model

aka “The Ground-ball RANT”.

If you didn’t catch this monster post, then please CLICK HERE (20-min read for average reading speed).

I did this post at the beginning of 2016 and coaches LOVED it, garnering over 4,200 Likes on Facebook!  To say this post went viral was an understatement.

The main reason I felt I had to write it was the dialog the two Backspin Tee co-founders, Taylor and Jarrett, shared with me in their conversation with a pair of college coaches (from same school) at an ABCA conference a year or two ago.

It went something like this…

Backspin Tee Bros: “What do you teach your hitters to do?”

College Hitting Coach: “To hit the top of the ball and get backspin.”

Backspin Tee Bros: “What do you teach your pitchers to do?”

College Pitching Coach: “To keep the ball down in the zone.”

Backspin Tee Bros: “What part of the ball do you want the hitters hitting?”

College Pitching Coach: “The top half.”

Backspin Tee Bros: “Why the top half?”

College Pitching Coach: “So the hitter drives the ball into the ground.”

Backspin Tee Bros: “So what part of the ball do you want your hitters hitting now?”

College Hitting Coaches: “Uh, well, I guess I’ll be teaching them to hit the bottom half now.”

Buahahahaha! 😀

Excluding Hit & Runs and Move Runner Over scenarios, WHY the heck are we teaching our hitters to hit the top half of the ball, when that’s what pitchers want hitters doing?!

I make many more arguments in the above linked RANT, but I think the above dialog puts the argument as a whole to bed.

By the way, over 8,000 Backspin Tees have been sold over the last couple years and only a dozen have been returned.  CLICK HERE to see how a swing experiment I ran turned out between the Backspin Tee and a regular tee.  And if you haven’t invested in a Backspin Tee yet, then please CLICK HERE.

You Too Can Get Your Hitters To Sharpen Plate Discipline, Re-Calibrate Timing, & Barrel The Ball More Often In Two 5-Swing Rounds Per Week With Distraction TrainingDistraction Training: HittersCODE.com

(SAFETY DISCLAIMER: those that have had or are prone to epileptic seizures, SHOULD NOT use these goggles)…

Ongoing studies are revealing distraction training using Strobe Goggles are giving dramatic results from little use.

Here are a couple studies that were conducted…

PLEASE NOTE: The players and coaches were reminded of individual swing issues before and after each experiment period.  During they were not.  They were reminded of breathing, composure, and head position during the distraction.  Generally and very often as encouragement and reinforcement.

A recent 6-week test was 5 swings without the goggles, 5 with, and 5 without, so 15 swings total per week. These hitters increased Ball Exit Speeds between 2 to 5-mph after the 6-week period.

Another recent 8-week study had hitters using goggles for 1-hour throughout the week, totally 100-150 swings per week.  Swings without the goggles were mixed in throughout the week as well.  These hitters averaged 14.3-mph Ball Exit Speed increases at the end of the 8-week period.

We can safely say that between those numbers we’ve seen a relative increase in positive performance output using the goggles.

My good friend Ken Carswell (KC) at HittersCode.com is SUPER busy cooking up brand new training gear disrupting how coaches practice:

  • Plate discipline,
  • Timing, and
  • Barreling the ball more often

…with their hitters.

If you remember, I did an interview with KC earlier in 2016, CLICK HERE to read that.

The Hitter’s CODE stands for:

  • Cognitive
  • Occlusion
  • Distraction
  • Environments

If you remember, video occlusion training is what Dr. Peter Fadde talked about in this interview I did with him – CLICK HERE.

Also, CLICK HERE to see how Perry Husband uses a pinch of distraction training to calibrate tracking and timing in this HPL interview.

Basically, KC the “Mad Scientist”, is putting together a “smart” hitter’s helmet that will benefit the three categories I mentioned before.

Here’s a taste of what’s coming (and is already here) with the distraction training helmet:

  • Strobe Goggles as shown in the video above (Phase-1 and is a prelude to the helmet),
  • Audio Distraction – this includes rhythm, disruption rhythm, crowd noise – boos v. cheers (Phase-1 and is coming when helmet is ready to launch at 2017 ABCA January conference in Anaheim, California),
  • Phase-2 and details are in the works…

Believe me, distraction training WILL BE the FUTURE of hitting.

KC will reserve a spot for those interested in the distraction training helmet, so CLICK HERE to RESERVE YOUR SPOT today!

How To Get Pitch Plane Domination Out Of Minimal Back Foot Rotation

 

Roberto Perez 1st Homer 2016 WS Game 1 to LF

This is Roberto Perez’s 1st dinger in Game 1 of the 2016 World Series. It was to LF, and look at the back foot. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

I wanted to do a follow up on the Matt Nokes post from a few weeks ago.

I received quite a few emails, like the following, from coaches who were a little confused as to what Nokes’s referred to as ‘back foot sideways’…

So I decided to do a short video (I know, a rarity these days :-P), seeing if I could bring some clarity to the issue.

Brian Clahane from Canada had emailed a comment about the Nokes post:

“Hey Joey, It’s Brian again…So you really have me thinking about this back foot sideways thing. I have been watching video and looking at still flip screens I have of hitters and I have to tell you I only see evidence of it on outside pitches or pitches hitters were late on.(Mccutchen and Miggie quite often when going other way)

I sent you this video of Cano to look at 1-because I know you use him as an example a lot and 2-because I found it under your name even though Chas Pippitt doing breakdown. Video shows what I keep seeing in that back foot rotated forward and normally as in this case off ground completely (not sideways).  If I am misinterpreting what keeping back foot sideways at contact means, please explain because it’s driving me crazy thinking I’m missing something! I just keep seeing back foot forward at contact.  Thanks, Brian”
The following video Brian had linked in the email from Chas:

 

The bottom line…

Roberto Perez 2nd Homer Game 1 2016 WS to LCF

Here’s Roberto Perez’s 2nd dinger in Game 1 of 2016 WS. It was to LCF. Look at his back foot. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

  1. When looking at video, the chest view IS NOT helpful.  Look for pitcher’s, catcher’s side, or over head views.
  2. The principle is to get the pelvis (or hips) perpendicular to impact, NOT to the pitcher.
  3. The back foot skips in some cases, and not so much in others. I’ve seen it skip away from home plate, toward the front foot, and toward the plate (not as often). In other words, you don’t have to have one without the other.
  4. What may also help are these two shifting foot pressure videos (Mickey Mantle AND RopeBat).
  5. One of the cues I liked came from Mark Meger from the Matt Nokes post, “With our 13U kids we do emphasize the rear hip drive but we shun turning that back foot. That should happen after contact as shown here.”
  6. The sideways back foot will deviate slightly depending on an inside v. outside pitch.
  7. This falls in line with this post on the 90-degree to the spine rule.
  8. In YouTube, search “[favorite player’s name] 2016 highlights”, and watch the behavior of the back foot at impact, and make note of batted ball direction.
  9. Also, it doesn’t seem ONLY .300 hitters do this because Roberto Perez, in the images above, is a career .220 hitter.
  10. My observation is the back foot acts like a “governor” to the rotation of the hips.  It’s like it helps anchor down the back hip from over rotating the impact zone.
  11. Doing this helps to align the body on the plane of the pitch better, and may cut down on rolling over versus a full rotation of the hips, on every pitch.
  12. Zepp experiment coming soon from HPL on this 😉

Please post any concerns, counter-arguments, and/or observations below…

A Simple Way To Make Adjustments, Build Swing Tempo, AND Elevate The Ball That Works For Mike Trout & Josh Donaldson

I have a treat for you…

A “grab-bag” of golden nuggets…

The following 11 hitting tips come from my most popular social media non-HPL links of 2016.

To give you an idea,

I typically promote 1 non-HPL link per day on the socials, so that’s 365 links getting put in front of my 20K+ followers.

I get a front row seat to see what coaches think interesting and worth their time.

The following creme-of-the-crop link montage, is arranged in descending order, least clicks to the most.

You’ll find these somewhat of a random sort, but they all relate to hitting, albeit indirectly in some cases.

Happy learning!

 

#11: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: How Mike Trout Approaches Hitting

This is the featured video above.

Sean Casey interviewed Mike Trout during Spring Training of 2016, where Trout discusses his hitting routine…I jotted down 9 key notes for you:

  1. First few rounds he works on hitting to RCF,
  2. Stay up the middle,
  3. A few times hit the ball to LCF, to stay square with the pitcher,
  4. He mentions not getting too ‘chicken wing’,
  5. Tee work: set it high and ‘get on top of the ball’ (to counteract dropping the shoulder and barrel too much),
  6. 10-20 swings trying to hit a ground-ball every time,
  7. In games, sit fastball, react to off-speed and breaking balls,
  8. On top of the plate, back of the batter’s box, and
  9. Work up the middle in games.

All these tips are pretty solid…

…for Mike Trout.

When I posted this, and made a note that Mike Trout is definitely not looking to optimize hitting the high pitch in games,

AND

He’s most definitely NOT trying to ‘get on top of the ball’ in games (both in reference to tip #5 above)…

There were a few men on Facebook that got their panties in a bunch, saying I was calling Mike Trout a liar…yada, yada, yada.

If we look at Mike Trout’s Sabermetrics at FanGraphs.com, the reality is, he’s THE BEST at hitting the low ball…and THE WORST at hitting the high ball.

So WHY does he practice hitting off a high tee?

Another look at Mike Trout’s metrics, and we see he’s:

  • Well below average in Ground-ball percentage (39.6% v. league average is 44%),
  • Above average in Line Drive percentage (22.1% v. league average is 20%),
  • Above average in Fly-ball percentage (38.2% v. league average is 36%), AND
  • Well above average in his Fly-ball to Home-run ratio (19.6% v. league average is 9.5%).

What does this mean?

It’s a ‘what’s real’ AND ‘what’s feel’ sort of thing…

Because he’s definitely NOT trying to hit ground-balls in games (contradicting hitting tips #5 & #6 from above).

So am I calling Mike Trout a liar…

And, WHY would he practice like this?

Earlier, notice how I said,

“All these tips are pretty solid…for Mike Trout.”

No, I didn’t say that because Mike Trout is a mutant, and only Mike Trout can do that and get away with it.

When coaches say this, it’s a cop out.  It means they have no REAL clue what’s REALLY going on.

Here’s where I’m going with this,

And it’s VERY important…

And also WHY I made popular link hitting tip #11 the featured video…

What John Doe Coach missed in the interview was when Trout mentioned he has a tendency to ‘chicken-wing’ and ‘drop his back shoulder and barrel’ too much.

In other words, uppercut too much.

Mike Trout is using these seemingly counter-intuitive hitting tips to make adjustments to his swing’s extreme tendencies.

I’m not calling Mike Trout a liar.

He’s a friggin’ smart competitive athlete.

He knows himself and his swing, and makes the necessary adjustments to stay in the black, and not get too far in the red.

There’s no secret,

Mike Trout is trying to get the ball in the air.

It’s like the advice Lightning McQueen heard in the animated movie Cars, “Turn left to go right”…when attempting to correct a spin-out.

 

#10: Hitting A Baseball – “The Hardest Thing To Do In Sports”

CLICK HERE for this article by Axon Sports.

Some of the things you’ll gain by reading this:

  • “Hitting is timing.  Pitching is upsetting timing.” – Warren Spahn,
  • Why “Keep your eye on the ball”, or “Watch the ball hit the bat” is humanly IMPOSSIBLE according to research, and
  • Awesome info-graphic breaking down the reaction time of a hitter.

 

#9: Hamstring Flexibility: 6 Tips to Loosen Up

CLICK HERE for the full article by GMB Fitness.

98% of my hitters are immobile in the hip.

And oftentimes, this comes in the form of tight hamstrings.

This is a great post looking into factors and strategies you can employ to improve the flexibility of your hitter’s hamstrings…and maybe yours 😉

 

#8: Bryce Harper is pounding the ball into the ground to no avail

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

This article was written July 28th, 2016 with a sub-head that reads:

“He’s gotta figure out how to elevate more despite pitchers giving him few pitches to elevate.”

This was when B.H. was struggling to lift the ball early in the season.

The article talks about how Harper’s dramatic launch angle change (down), led to a dramatic increase in his ground-ball rate.

The post discusses how pitchers are throwing him more outside and down in the zone.

The bottom line?

…Is that a ground-ball focused hitting strategy SUCKS!!!

It doesn’t matter how hard you hit the ball, if you can’t elevate, you’ll hit A LOT of worm burners that end up as outs at the higher levels.

#7: Are overbearing parents ruining the Westlake baseball program?

CLICK HERE for this LA Times post.

The parent and player behavior is probably not going to surprise you…

However, I want you to ask yourself the question as you read this,

“How did the coaches respond to the parents that clearly didn’t work?”

How could coach be more effective in dealing with parents in this environment, if a million dollar bet was on the line?

Look, maybe the athletes are spoiled brats, or maybe the coaches just don’t have an effective strategy for dealing with this situation.

In other words, don’t label the players or parents “mean” right away…

Be creative, brainstorm, and future pace how you’d handle this situation.

Because chances are, you will run across this scenario, in some form, in your lifetime.

#6: Clayton Kershaw UMPIRE VIEW of pregame warm up

You will get better at Pitch Recognition watching this video.

In the spirit of the playoffs, this video features arguably one of the best pitchers in history, Clayton Kershaw.

Do this for me…

Watch this video for a couple minutes, trying to pick up the “shape” of each pitch he throws, like what Perry Husband talks about in this article.

Then pick a series of pitches, see which pitch Clayton Kershaw signals to the catcher, look at his release, and close your eyes.

This would be like Dr. Peter Fadde’s video occlusion training featured in this post.

Then try to pick another series of pitches, don’t look at him signal to the catcher what he’s throwing, and test yourself.

This is such a cool game to do with hitters.

 

#5: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blasts 33 HR in 60 Swings in Home Run Derby in the DR (Round 2 November 2014) 

I know this isn’t Vlad G. the first, but there are a lot of similarities to their swings.  A few notes to look out for while watching him hit…

  • Toe-tap for timing
  • Aggressive move towards the pitcher with stride
  • Back foot stays sideways until follow through
  • Great knee action at landing (front), and during the turn (back)
  • Showing numbers to pitcher as close to landing as possible
  • Downward shoulder angle as close to landing as possible.

What do you see?

 

#4: Donaldson gives a hitting demo

Cool MLB.com interview with Josh Donaldson on developing timing and rhythm at the plate, with Sean Casey.

A couple notes from the video below:

  • Find out what’s comfortable for you
  • Leg kick: engaged into back hip not back knee
  • Leg kick: control when get front foot down
  • Being on time, not about getting front foot down on time
  • Soft focus on the pitcher, recognize pitch better at the plate ( stay relaxed)
  • Hit with music on, adds a smooth tempo to the swing
  • Watch Manny Ramirez setup to swing, “boring” rhythm at the plate (again relaxed mindset)
  • Put the work in (Sean Casey)

 

#3: Which is Better? A Ground Ball Pitcher or a Fly Ball Pitcher

CLICK HERE for this FanGraphs.com post.

I included the following chart from this post on my Ground-ball RANT post

Fangraphs Ground-ball metrics

Most understand Line Drives MUST be the main hitting objective (for a majority of swings), however I want you to compare the Ground-ball metrics to the Fly-ball metrics from the chart above:

  • A 32-point increase in Batting Average with Ground-ball over a Fly-ball,
  • A 358-point INCREASE in ISO (or raw power) with Fly-balls over Ground-balls…AND
  • A 115-point INCREASE in weighted On-Base Average with Fly-Balls over Ground-balls, which according to FanGraphs.com…

“Weighted On-Base Average combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value. While batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage fall short in accuracy and scope, wOBA measures and captures offensive value more accurately and comprehensively.”

So, WHY are we still teaching hitters to hit ground-balls, and NOT to elevate?  Beside situational hitting of course.

What’s more…

 

#2: Scooter Gennett and ground balls

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

I love the sub-header, which reads:

“Scooter Gennett’s offense has declined every year since he broke into Major League Baseball, are ground balls the reason?”

After careful metric analysis, Shawn Brody the post’s author, says:

“In my mind, Gennett should be closer to his 2014 level of production, which is something he could return to if he put the ball in the air more often.”

Hitting consistent ground-balls will land you on the bench at the higher levels, unless of course you have plus running speed.

In which case, analysis shows that any launch angle above 10-degrees, makes faster running speed irrelevant.

So, what if a hitter hits the ball just plain hard?

Maybe the following #1 link post from my 20K+ followers will shed light on that…

 

#1: Jon Lester shows importance of launch angleBackspin Tee: Launch Angles

CLICK HERE to read this Cubs.com post.

The great case study article discusses how Jon Lester ranks second among Major League hitting pitchers with an average Ball Exit Speed of 92.5-mph.

So, what’s the problem?

Quoted from the article:

“…(He ended up with four hits on the season in 71 plate appearances, a .065/.108/.065 line.) Part of it is that, like many pitchers, contact was an issue — Lester’s 42.3 percent strikeout rate was above the 37.7 percent average for pitchers.”

How could Lester hit the ball so hard without finding much hitting success?

Again, quoted from the article:

“…it’s because 19 of Lester’s 24 tracked batted balls failed to get above 7 degrees of launch angle. Sixteen of those 19 failed to even achieve positive launch angle, which is to say that he pounded the ball into the ground constantly.”

In other words, to get the ball in the air, the hitter MUST have a positive launch angle.  About 10-degrees positive will get the ball to the outfield grass…on the “big” field.

If the hitter has a negative or less than 10-degree positive launch angle, THEY WILL:

  1. Hit A LOT of worm burners,
  2. Strikeout more,
  3. NOT get many hits, and
  4. Professionally speaking, NOT make it past A-ball (if they’re lucky enough to make it that far).

Even if they’re lighting up the BES radar guns.

Here’s a BONUS link for ya…

CLICK HERE to read a Cut4 article highlighting Giancarlo Stanton hitting the hardest ball ever recorded by Statcast at 123.9-mph, but it was hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Here’s the lesson folks…

Line drives tend to be between 10-20 degree positive launch angles (see image above).

Dingers tend to be between 20-40 degree positive launch angles (see image above).

Of course, whether it’s over the fence or not will depend on the Ball Exit Speed.

It’s not enough to hit the ball hard.

Teach hitters to elevate.

Get barrel on path of incoming pitch.

Focus on striking bottom half of ball.

That, my coaching friend, is how to decrease strikeouts, mishits, and weak fly-balls…AND increase BA, ISO, and wOBA.

The ‘Hip Thrust’ That Matt Nokes Is NOT Talking About

 

Matt Nokes: Cal Ripken Jr.

Look at Cal Ripken’s lack of back foot rotation. Photo courtesy: Gene Sweeney, Jr./Baltimore Sun

In this Matt Nokes post, I wanted to bust a MYTH that Homer Bush brought up in his interview last week…

And that is…

The MYTH that rotating the back hip through the zone is necessary for power.

This past week, I re-tweeted this from @HyattCraig (who is awesome btw), of one of two Miguel Cabrera homers in a game, and this particular one he hit to CF:

The next day after that Tweet, I found this private message from a follower on Twitter:

“Joey, Honest question. I love most everything you post and It goes with all of the philosophies I teach as an instructor, but this particular post I don’t quite understand. Are you saying a backwards step of sorts and having limited pelvic rotation are positives? I don’t feel like this is practical for anyone that isn’t 6’3 225 when the pitcher is providing the power at 93. If you have time could you please clarify this for me?”

My response:

“Thanks for asking about that. A couple things, we do have to be careful about taking from big slugger analysis. I don’t mind what the back foot does as long as its un-weighting AND not skipping forward too much. Miggy has a great line following the batted ball, it has to do with optimizing centrifugal (center-fleeing) forces. As an example, the belly button should point where the batted ball has exited. Coach Matt Nokes talks quite a bit about full rotation not being an absolute to hitting.”

Which brings me to the above video, where Coach Matt Nokes walks us through numerous examples of elite hitters not fully rotating their back foot (and pelvis) until after impact.

Also, let me define full rotation of the pelvis (or hips as some refer to it as), at least from what I see/hear/watch from other people out there…

Full pelvic rotation is getting the hitter’s belly button to face shortstop (for a righty, or 2B for lefty) on any pitch…inside, middle, and outside.

I’ve found this gospel preached from those who don’t ‘buy into’ or understand the loading of springy fascia in the torso, since to them, the shoulders would be seen as ‘inactive’, before the hitter starts turning.

Therefore the pelvis has to do all the heavy lifting.

This method is far from optimal, and NOT very safe for the lower backs of youth hitters across the nation,

AND even more disturbing…
WILL continue to keep Orthopedic surgeons in business.

CLICK HERE for a post I did explaining how the swing isn’t rotational OR linear, but that’s it’s actually linear, rotational, then linear again.

The purpose of this post, is to open up discussion about whether rotating the back hip through the zone is necessary for power IS or IS NOT a myth…

Lastly,

I wanted to share one of my favorite Coach Matt Nokes drills for practicing what he preaches.  It’s his “Around the Zone” soft toss (coaches please be careful with this):

What say you…?

Tim Tebow Hitting Analysis: Get To The Big Leagues Without Playing College Or Pro Baseball?

Before we get to the Tim Tebow hitting analysis…

I wanted to take you BACK TO THE FUTURE!!

We all know the quote by Ted Williams that hitting a baseball is one of the single most difficult things to do in sports.  FP Softball ladies included.

Do you remember Michael Jordan hitting a double in an April 1994 MLB exhibition game…?

Arguably the best athlete ever, summarized by the Chicago Tribune that:

“…he was quitting because he couldn’t develop at the rate he wanted due to complications caused by the baseball strike”.

Or how about one of the best cricket players in the world, Kieran Powell, trying to make it to the Big Leagues…?

Did you hear him say that the hardest thing in baseball, “is to keep the bat on plane” 😉

Or how about Shaq O’Neal’s Versus show, where he took on Albert Pujols in a Home Run Derby for charity…?

We know Jordan retired permanently from baseball in 1995…

Shaq couldn’t even beat Pujols in a home-run derby where he was handicapped with a Little League distance home run fence

…and time will tell if Powell’s determination to be a Big Leaguer will continue.

Now we have another high profile athlete jumping into the quest for the Big Leagues, but this time a football player.

The NY Mets just signed him to a Minor League deal (CLICK HERE for this Cut4 article).

Tim Tebow Hitting Analysis

I’ll say, Tim Tebow has a pretty good finish. Must be from his golf game 😉 Photo courtesy: USAToday.com

In the above Tim Tebow hitting analysis video,

  • Using recent August 2016 MLB tryout footage, I compare Tim Tebow’s swing to Victor Martinez,
  • Analyze what Tebow’s swing has going for him, and
  • Discuss what he MUST change in order to be successful in baseball…

Here’s a quick rundown from the Tim Tebow hitting analysis…

PAT (‘Pat’ on the back):

  • Athletic Position – triple flexion at the hip, knee, and ankle.
  • Head Position at Impact – no sign of breaking the One-Joint Rule.
  • Knee Action – gets and stays shorter at landing and through the swing, definitely can get under the ball.

 

POP (‘Pop’ in the mouth – constructive criticism):

  • Limited forward momentum for such a big body – too much muscle use.
  • Abbreviated barrel path – he gets decent extension post-impact, but he’s too short to the ball. This may hurt him the most.
  • Catapult Loading System (CLS) – minimal showing numbers to pitcher, downhill shoulder angle, and hiding hands.

Heard “Keep Your Eyes On The Ball!” OR “See The Ball Hit The Bat!”…?

 

Ted Williams Seeing Ball Hit Bat.

Ted Williams said ‘on the rare occasion’ he could see the ball hit the bat. Photo courtesy: BaseballHall.org

Me too…

Well, we’re about ready to debunk both of these well worn coaching cues by sharing the results of a scientific study.

This study was sent to me by one of my readers (and friend) Joe Yurko…THANK YOU 😀

Here’s where you can find the full cited study:

A. Terry Bahill and T. LaRitz, American Scientist, 72, 1984, pp. 249-253

I recently presented the study to my Toastmasters club as a “Technical Paper”, and we recorded it so I could share the findings with you.

Sorry, I wasn’t mic’d up, so the audio isn’t the best, but I think you’ll get the message.

CLICK HERE for the Powerpoint slides I used for the speech.

In this video presentation, we go over:

  • Statement of the problem,
  • How it was solved,
  • Data Conclusions,
  • Experiment Applications, and
  • The study’s limitations…

In a nutshell, the study goes into debunking the two coaching phrases:

  • “Keep your eyes on the ball”, and
  • “See the ball hit the bat” (which Ted Williams said he could do “on the rare occasion”)…

The study findings will SHOCK you.

What’s more…

There was one Powerpoint slide I accidentally skipped over during the speech, and you can view the information on elusive slide #11 in the above-mentioned Powerpoint link.

The forgotten slide contains the following study findings:

  • Slowest pitch for hitter’s eye not to fall behind would be 21-mph assuming no wind and thrown at a 45-degree angle. To see the ball hit the bat? Would need an anticipatory saccade*…jump from first 1/3 of the plate to last 1/3, but you’d miss the middle 1/3 distance to plate.
  • *Saccade suppression – look at your image in mirror, look at your left eye, then look at right eye…did you see the eyes move? Process that turns off visual system during saccadic eye movements…otherwise, we would think the world is flying around us.
  • Hitter uses predictive abilities to track the ball the last 1/3 of ball flight…using peripheral vision.

I’d love to hear your comments about this below…

Reader Question: “How to get youth hitters to be more aggressive to hit and not look to walk?”

 

There were times when I was playing Fall Ball as a Sophomore in High School, privileged to be playing against Juco competition,

That I found myself falling into an 0-2 hole quite frequently.

I’d say to myself, “WTFudge, why have I been in the hole my last 4 AB’s?”

Then, I’d make a conscious decision to swing at the first pitch,

No matter what the pitch was, or where it was located.

In other words, I decided to make a bold adjustment, going from being too passive at the plate, to being too aggressive…

In hopes that with future at-bats was I would land somewhere in the middle.

In those days it was just a feeling that I got…

Fast forward to a few years ago,

A good friend of mine Bob Hall, whose son Quin (a physical incarnate of Bo Jackson), had just finished performing at an MLB scouting camp in Canada.

Quin was about 15 years old at the time, and Bob shared the advice Quin received from one of the leading scouts at this camp.

And this is what we’re discussing in the above video:

  • The Hunter mindset, versus
  • The Fisherman.

My goal with this video post is to give coaches a practical strategy to use with your hitters (that I use with mine), which will give them a solid game plan at the plate.

PLEASE NOTE: like anything else, you have to work with your hitters on this at practice, if they have any chance at getting better at it.

 

The Hunter Mindset

Vladimir Guerrero Hitting

Vlad Guerrero – “The Hunter”. Photo courtesy: ProSportsBlogging.com

What does a hunter do?

They stalk their prey.

When would we use this mindset against a pitcher?

When they’re around the strike zone.

We SHOULD NEVER default to such hitting rules as, “NEVER swing at the first pitch.”

This is how I dug myself into holes during my career.

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Boxscore article which asks the question, “Does hitting performance change based on the number of pitches a hitter sees during a plate appearance?”

Look at what happens to Batting Average in:

  • 0-2,
  • 1-2,
  • 2-2, and 3-2 pitching counts…

Like a snake, strike fast when a pitcher is around the zone.

Think of some of the greatest Dominican, or Latin America, hitters.  As the saying goes, “You don’t get off ‘the island’ unless you swing the bat.”

 

The Fisherman Mindset

Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants launches his 762nd career home run off of Ubaldo Jimenez

Barry Bonds – “The Fisherman”. Photo credit should read DOUG PENSINGER/AFP/Getty Images (Newscom TagID: gettylive963981) [Photo via Newscom]

What does a fisherman do on the boat all morning?

Sit…AND wait.

When would we use this mindset with a pitcher?

When he or she cannot find the zone.

This approach requires a little more plate discipline not to swing out of the zone, AND

To know the strike zone.

Because when the pitcher throws one over, the hitter MUST be trained to jump on it.

Think about Barry Bonds from 2001 to 2004.  According to Baseball-Reference.com, he walked a total of 755 times.  That’s an average of 188 BB’s per year!

What’s more…

He hit a total of 209 homers, for an average of 52 dingers per year, in the same span.  Last time I checked PED use DOES NOT help with plate discipline.

How about his consistency over that same time period?

Bonds’s Batting Average over those four years, starting with 2001 was: .328, .370, .341, and .362 respectively.

How about how many times he struck out?

We have power hitters like Chris Davis and Ryan Howard routinely striking out 200+ times per season.

How about Bonds…?

  • 2001: 93 K’s
  • 2002: 47 K’s (he struck out one more time than homered)
  • 2003: 58 K’s
  • 2004: 41 K’s (he hit more homers than struck out!!)

By the way, his 162-game average strikeouts are 83.  83!!!  Over 22-years in the Big Leagues!

My point is, when Bonds got his pitch…he GOT IT!

He knew how to be a ‘fisherman’.

But can plate discipline be taught?

Sure it can!

It’s a muscle in the brain, and like any other body muscle, can be focused on and strengthened.

Here are my favorite 4 resources for training vision, tracking, and plate discipline: