Batting Cages May Be Dangerous To Repeatable Power

“Textimonial” from Kyle – Stephen’s dad – the same night (he’s in white, I’m in blue)

I know you what you’re thinking, “Okay, so what’s wrong with hitting at the batting cages?

We’ll get to that…

But before we do, let me set the stage for what I’m about to share with you…

A glimpse into an online hitting lesson I gave to my hitter Stephen at The Feedback Lab.

I was granted permission from Kyle Harrington (Stephen’s dad), to share his 12-year-old son’s latest online hitting session with me (session #3 of 6).  They’re out of New Jersey (and I’m in Fresno, CA)…

 

What Was To Be Corrected

  • Hiding his hands from the pitcher
  • “Downhill” shoulder angle pre-turn, and
  • Maintaining 90-degree back leg angle during turn and finish.

 

Stephen 2-Months Later…

In the above video, I mentioned the difference between comparing a swing off the tee versus at the batting cages.  It’s not really an apples to apples comparison, BUT if they can repeat what we’re trying to get them to do off a tee, then the feeling to repeat it is there.  Here’s what his analysis showed:

  • Great downhill shoulder angle,
  • Much better with hiding his hands from the pitcher (could polish a little here), and
  • Much better body angle on his finish.

3-Points Worth Noting…

  1. Dad had mentioned to me, in the past 2-months, that they’ve been testing hand, butt, and hamstring tension, which might have also had an effect on Stephen’s outcomes.
  2. Stephen will be working on a better barrel launch angle using variance training mentioned in the above video.  Pay attention to the Bat Angle Experiment I referenced in the video.
  3. I give feedback based on Tony LaRussa’s “Pat & Pop Method”.  First give a “pat” on the back (what they did or are doing well), then reveal the “pop” (what they’ll be working to improve their swing).

Coaches, this is critical!!  Athletes don’t just need to be broken down all the time.  Build them up first, then offer up the constructive criticism.

 

The Danger in Batting Cages

And I’m not talking about Happy Gilmore style…

Someone smart once said:

“Practice like you play, so you play like you practice.”

Most coaches have their players do what’s referred to as “massed practice”at the batting cages.  For example, if you needed work on hitting off speed and breaking pitches, a massed practice would look like the following scenario…a pitcher throws each hitter:

  • 15 fastballs, then
  • 15 curveballs, and
  • Lastly 15 changeups…

But this isn’t what it’s like in the game.  The hitter rarely knows, with 100% certainty, which pitch, speed, and location they’re getting.  So practice MUST reflect this dynamic in training.  And hitting at the batting cages limits the amount of variance we can work into our practice.

I do a few things with my more advanced hitters (mechanically speaking), to mix things up:

We may not practice all these at once.  Coaches, our objective with our hitters is to move them to the verge of “meltdown” with variance.  Then bring them back.  Then rebuild.  I hope this helps!

 

In this post I am going to talk about:

  • The importance of traction when going fast,
  • A possible energy leak related to the baseball cleats, and
  • I want to hear from you…

 

The Importance of Traction When Going Fast

When a car goes around a turn, traction is required to prevent sliding.  In the following video, watch how the tire blew out, and the wheels without the tire couldn’t provide adequate traction.

 

A Possible Energy Leak Related to the Baseball Cleats

Watch the slow motion YouTube video of Albert Pujols’s swing, in the BIG video at the top of this post…

Look at the lead heel between 9 and 10 seconds. The heel slides forward about an inch, while the forefoot is stationary.

To his credit, Albert Pujols does get his lead foot stabilized just before contact.

Albert Pujols is one of the best hitters of our generation, and even with the initial sliding of his heel, he hits a home run.

Note from Joey Myers – I read an interesting quote from Dr. Gray Cook, the co-founder of the Functional Muscle Screen (or FMS), and he said that, “You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe.”  If the foot, especially the landing foot, loses contact with the ground during the turn, then the smaller hitter will have energy transfer issues.  A good solid foundation with the front foot is key.

 

I Want to Hear from You…

What would have happened on a softer surface?

Should we be considering cleats of different lengths for different batter’s boxes?

How does Pujols produce his linear speed in such a short distance?

Give me your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” section below…

Here is a Method that Helped Hank Aaron to Consistently Hit Dingers…

 

Hank Aaron Reveals Ways To Hit A Homer - Back Foot

Note the elevation of Aaron’s rear foot at impact. Photo courtesy: YouTube user ItsZaneV2

According to Baseball-Reference.com, Hank Aaron averaged almost 33 homers over 23 seasons (755 all-time homers).  And at ONLY 6’0″, 180-pounds, I would say that’s quite an accomplishment!

The above 24-minute video is a home-run derby hosted by Mark Scott.  You can purchase the Legends Home Run Derby 3 Volume Set (I only see volumes 1 & 3 though) on Amazon to watch it on your TV.

This particular one pits Hank Aaron against Al Kaline.  I wanted to get your reaction on some of the swings, but before I do that…I figured some of you wouldn’t have time to watch the whole 24-minutes, so I included some time-stamps below for quick reference.

 

Time Stamps…

(abbrev.: HA = Hank Aaron, AK = Al Kaline, & MS = Mark Scott)

Hank Aaron Reveals Ways To Hit A Homer - Forward Movement

Note Aaron’s aggressive forward move. Photo courtesy: ItsZaneV2

  1. MS comments on AK’s swing: “crowds the plate, closed stance” (2:53) – notice how he steps in the bucket
  2. HA asked to comment on AK’s swing: “sweeps at the ball” (3:01)
  3. AK describes HA’s swing: “relaxed, waits till last minute, ‘pops’ his wrist into the ball and it really jumps” (6:25)
  4. MS comments on AK’s swing: “long stride”, then HA adds: “get out there, get that ball, that’s what you’re suppose to do” (7:43)
  5. HA homer chest view (10:33)
  6. HA gapper back view (11:15)
  7. HA gapper – fly out – to left center, back-chest view (14:33)
  8. HA homer, chest view (14:45)
  9. HA homer, chest view (15:05)
  10. HA homer, chest view (18:05)
Hank Aaron Reveals Ways To Hit A Homer - Barrel Path

Note Hank Aaron’s early on pitch-plane barrel. Photo courtesy: ItsZaneV2

 

Interesting to Note…

  • How far and high Hank Aaron’s back foot comes off the ground during his turn
  • How much forward momentum both hitters get
  • How early the barrel starts on the pitch plane
  • How much both hitters get on their front sides…

What do you think?  Please leave your comments or questions under the “Leave a Reply” section

Batting Baseball FAQ on Tracking & Timing

Batting Baseball: Discover 4-Secrets To Tracking & Timing

Bob Gibson photo courtesy: BleacherReport.com

Thank you Dr. Mitchell Fung for your questions during our hitting session this week.  I also had a reader bring this up recently, so I figured the following Batting Baseball FAQ was worth doing (works for softball too):

  • Broad v. Fine Focus,
  • Fast v. Slow “Stuff”,
  • Fisherman OR Hunter? and
  • “Start slow and early”.

 

Broad v. Fine Focus

According to Wikipedia, Coach Bob Bennett retired with a 1,302-759-4 win-loss record. #26 was the first number ever retired by Fresno State. He was once president of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as well. He was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame and College Baseball Hall of Fame (2010).

I was lucky enough to learn batting baseball tips from Coach Bennett as a player for three years, and to have had multiple conversations over lunch, with him since.

When it comes to batting baseball vision and tracking, Coach Bennett talked about having Broad v. Fine Focus.  Broad Focus would be looking at a spot on the pitcher’s chest, overall physique, or delivery.  It’s basically a rest period for the eyes.

You see, the eyes are highly attracted to movement.  They LOVE to dart and “space out”.  And HATE to stop and stare at one object for any length of time.  Broad Focus is good until after the pitcher breaks his or her’s hands.

Then…

A hitter uses Fine Focus by shifting the eyes to the pitcher’s release point window.

 

Fast v. Slow “Stuff”

I tell my lower level batting baseball hitters to look for either fast or “slow stuff”.  95+% of the time, at the Little League level, hitters should be looking for fast stuff.  It’s rare getting a pitcher to throw slow stuff for consistent strikes.

I use the Batting Baseball Random Pitch Drill, where hitters:

  • Are to look for either fast OR slow stuff (they can’t tell me),
  • Have to stick to their “plan” through a 5-swing round (then evaluate after), and
  • Have to hold their “mechanical layers” together (whatever they’re working on).

CLICK HERE to read a Cal Poly baseball study as to why “massed practice” doesn’t develop good game hitters.  The Random Pitch Drill is geared for zero-or-one-strike counts.  Of course, with 2-strikes, the hitter has to cover ALL pitches.

 

Fisherman OR Hunter?

Baseball Batting: Hunter or Fisherman

Are you a fisherman OR a hunter? Photos courtesy: FloridaSportsman.com & Elllo.org

One of my friends and blog readers from Canada, Bob Hall, shared this batting baseball tip with me awhile back.

He took a “beast” of a hitter, his son Quin, to a showcase camp where a scout revealed a simplified hitting strategy.  You’re either a:

  1. Fisherman – throws bait out and waits for fish to bite, OR
  2. Hunter – that stalks their prey…

I tell my hitters, when the pitcher is wild, then be a fisherman.  When they’re throwing a lot of strikes, then become a hunter.  I work this in with my hitters during the Random Pitch Drill…somedays I’m wild OR am trying to bait them in biting on slow stuff (when I know they’re looking for fast), and in these cases, they become a fisherman.

 

“Start Slow & Early”

Batting Baseball: What Changed in Jose Bautista's Swing?

Photo courtesy: YouTube user Logue1022

This was the “magic pill” Jose Bautista swallowed (featured commentary in the video above) before the 2010 season.  It’s a batting baseball glimpse into explaining how he changed his swing.

I explain this to my hitters in this way…imagine an Olympic archer looking to use precision to hit the bullseye of a target.  He or she uses the bow string to load that arrow with potential energy.  They start slow and early.  Once the decision is made to release all that potential energy (the arrow/bow string), BOOM!  The arrow explodes to its target.

The batting baseball hitter needs to think about preparing their swing the same way.  Take it from Joey Bats, one of the smallest big hitters in baseball!

 

Sadaharu Oh: 5'10" 173-lbs, 868 Dingers Over 22-Years - How?

Sadaharu Oh photo courtesy: rnishi.wordpress.com

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the “Barry Bonds” of Japanese baseball, Sadaharu Oh:

  • Is 5-foot, 173-pounds, and
  • Hit 868 homers in 22 years (that’s almost 40/season!!)…

How did he do this?

Sadaharu Oh Analysis: Your Mission, if you Choose to Accept it…

Watch the above hitting footage, and identify – what you think – are the two most critical things contributing to his consistent power at the plate over a 22-year span.

Of course, Sadaharu Oh probably wouldn’t have put up those kind of numbers against today’s Major League pitchers.  BUT still…his body type…that many homers…for that long???!

Also, did you know he has a hitting book out?  It’s called “A Zen Way Of Baseball“.

I had an interesting conversation about Oh with one of my colleagues about if he were playing today, and was recruited over to the MLB, that coaches/instructors would probably make him a slap happy version of Ichiro Suzuki.

This actually makes A LOT of sense when you look at conventional American baseball/softball wisdom to make a “small left handed hitter” into a situational groundball inducing machine.  There NEVER would have been a “Sadaharu Oh”!

I agree there are roles to play in a lineup, and of course there’s a time and place for situational hitting, but if we taught ALL our hitters effective hitting mechanics, then what kind of metrics could a small slugger put up in-between?

Could we have a Dustin Pedroia-type who hits a 162-game average 15 dingers and 44 doubles?!  In addition, to be a bunting, hit-and-run, move ’em over extraordinaire!  Why can’t EVERY hitter experience repeatable power…?

A couple things to keep in mind when analyzing and commenting:

  • Use human movement science as a rule of thumb (un-weighting, spinal engine mechanics, springy fascia, etc.),
  • Be open minded and positive in the comments (no “spitting” on someone’s shoes PLEASE),
  • Clarify by giving a “time stamp” in the video to see what you may be talking about…

You can post your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” section below…

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head movement during stride

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head position at stride forward. Camera angle is different, but watch videos below and note how V-Mart’s head doesn’t move with the front foot. Pictures courtesy: PastimeAthletics.com

Hint, hint…it has to do with balance!  This is a bonus to our Why Your Balance Fails series on balance.  I will be discussing:

  • The balance of pyramids,
  • The lateral movement of dancers, and
  • Mike Trout Slow-motion perfect balance during the stride…

 

The Balance of Pyramids

Pyramids have a capstone that is centered over the base.

Pyramid

In baseball, good balance occurs when the head is centered between the feet.

 

The Lateral [to the side] Movement of Dancers

I asked a woman who was a modern dancer for several decades who is making a film on movement,

What is the proper way to move to the side?”

Her response was,

The body has to move with the foot.

 

Mike Trout Perfect Balance During the Stride

Hitting requires balance…

But the stride requires dynamic balance, or balance while in motion.

A couple things I want to point out in the following slow motion swing of Mike Trout…notice how:

  • Mike Trout’s leg moves forward, so that the head is centered between the feet during the stride,
  • His body moves with his front foot, and 
  • Efficient his swing looks….

To Contrast and Compare, here is Victor Martinez. An extremely successful hitter, with a gift of incredible hand-eye coordination and strength…

Let’s compare them both at the moment the front foot touches the ground:

  • Trout- Head between the feet.
  • Martinez- Head closer to the back foot.
  • Trout-Shoulders angled down.
  • Martinez-Shoulders angled up (or level).

However, they both reach perfect position at the moment the bat hits the ball. And they both have the same backward lean with the head in line with the front leg…

Who has better dynamic balance?

Mike Trout.  To move more like him, the cue is move the body with the foot”.

(Note from Joey Myers: the camera angles are a little goofy, but I urge you to look at other “chest view” video of Victor Martinez, and you’ll see the same result.  Like Dr. Stanley said, he’s got SUPER hand-eye coordination!  BUT here’s the thing, he doesn’t angle his shoulders down, show his numbers to the pitcher or hide his hands as well as Mike Trout does before landing.  And as a result, his front shoulder has a tendency to “peel out”.  Adding these ingredients into V-Mart’s swing could have won him the 2014 AL MVP ;-))

In case you missed Parts 1-3 of the Why Your Balance Fails series, then here they are:

 

Albert Pujols Video: A Big Misunderstanding

Albert Pujols slightly out front of an 89-mph cutter photo courtesy: MLB.com

People always want to know how to hit the ball harder, with more consistency.  And it all starts with how the head moves during the swing.  Who better to look at for consistency than Albert Pujols, AKA “The Machine”…

According to Baseball-Reference.com, a few key offensive stats based on his 162-game average are:

  • On-Base + Slug% (OPS) – .991…league average is .730
  • Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) – .303 (Fangraphs.com)…league average is .300
  • Homers – 40
  • Doubles – 43

Albert Pujols may not be the same hitter he was with the Cardinals…BUT…what he has working for him is friction-free head movement during the swing.  An oftentimes, misunderstood topic.

In this video post, we’ll hold head movement during the swing to the fire of science:

  • Albert Pujols: understanding the 1/3 Vision Rule,
  • Why breaking the One-Joint Rule bleeds force at impact, and
  • Two most common head position mistakes & how to fix…

 

Albert Pujols: Understanding the 1/3 Vision-Rule

One of my readers, Blake Blackwell, took his son to a Tom House pitching camp.  For those who don’t know Tom House, he’s the founder of the National Pitching Association.  Blake said that Tom House was teaching his pitchers to gear pitch movement for the last 1/3 of the distance to home-plate.

Why?

Studies show that Professional hitters lose sight of the ball within the last 5-7 feet of ball flight.  Consider the 1/3 Vision-Rule…

  • First 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the pitcher’s release point out of the corner of the front eye,
  • Middle 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the ball with both eyes, and
  • Last 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the ball with the corner of the back eye.

Late breaking movement adds to the pitcher’s deception because a hitter like Albert Pujols isn’t picking up pitch detail during the last 1/3 of ball flight.  You see, peripheral vision (out of the corner of the eye) is about picking up motion, not detail.

Understanding this is important to hitting because you’ll learn…

 

Why Breaking the One-Joint Rule Bleeds Force at Impact

Bryce Harper losing spinal integrity

Bryce Harper “kinking the hose” by dropping his left ear to his shoulder.  Photo courtesy: MLB.com

And upsets vision…

CLICK HERE to watch a demonstration of the One-Joint Rule I did with Shak, a Kansas University Jay-hawks wide receiver.  Dr. Kelly Starrett from MobilityWOD.com says this about the One-Joint Rule:

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

He then adds…

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

 

Two Most Common Head Position Mistakes & How-to Fix…

Here they are:

  1. Chin to chest (a la Andrew McCutchen), AND
  2. Ear to rear shoulder (a la Bryce Harper).

How do we fix these?

First you have to understand the spine can move Globally or LocallyCLICK HERE to watch this demonstration.

Then, the hitter must understand that their head can ONLY move like it’s rotating on a “spit” (the spine), from side to side.  Unless we’re talking about Global Extenting or Flexing.  In other words, the spine can Globally Flex towards the plate – say on a low pitch – but the head MUST stay in line with the spine as it turns towards contact.

At lastly, train this head movement with variance:

  • Setup up five swing rounds,
  • On swings 1-3-5, practice keeping the head on a “spit”, turning the head to get the nose behind the barrel (the right way), and
  • On swings 2-4, practice moving the chin to chest OR ear to rear shoulder (the wrong way).

Note the difference.  I guarantee Albert Pujols makes a conscious effort to keep efficient head movement during his swing.  Can you see why pitchers armed with the 1/3 Vision-Rule, and hitters getting excessive head movement by breaking the One-Joint Rule can really affect repeatable power?

 

Batting Practice Secrets To Fix Swinging Too Hard (a la Yoenis Cespedes)

Yoenis Cespedes caveman swinging. This tightens the head, neck, and shoulder muscles, which pulls the head off the ball. Photo courtesy of Metro.us

Batting practice and training seems to be met with a caveman’s mentality…Me see ball.  Me swing bat hard.  Me crush ball far.  I can always tell when a young hitter is swinging too hard by the following:

  1. Pulling the head,
  2. A clenched jaw, and/or
  3. NO balance upon the follow through.

One great Big League example of caveman swinging is Yoenis Cespedes of the Boston Red Sox.  In this video, we’re going to talk about how to correct swinging harder:

  • Problem with Reciprocal Inhibition relating to improper batting practice,
  • Cadence is key, and
  • Proprioception and swinging blind…

 

Problem with Reciprocal Inhibition Relating to Improper Batting Practice

Watch this simple demonstration on Reciprocal Inhibition (RI) from a Physical Therapist (start at the 0:38 mark):

Consider this:

  1. Imagine bicep curling a 25-pound dumbbell…bicep contracts while brain tells muscle on opposite side (tricep) to contract less,
  2. Now think about holding the same 25-pound dumbbell in mid-curl, arm is at a 90-degree angle, and forearm is parallel to the ground…
Reciprocal Inhibition

The quad (green) contracting more, while the hamstring (red) contracts less in this stretch. Photo courtesy: BandhayYoga.com

What’s happening there on #2 above?

It’s called an isometric muscle contraction, and is when both the bicep and tricep are contracting equally on both sides.

Your brain is smart.  One of it’s many jobs is to manage tension around a joint (i.e. the elbow).  To protect it.  When you have bicep tendinitis, the length-tension relationship is upset.  What happens is, the brain tells a muscle to tighten protecting a particular joint, until length-tension balance is restored…

How do you fix this?

According to the Physical Therapist in the above video link, you strengthen the muscles opposite the tight area.  The brain can then contract the tight area less and restoring the length-tension relationship around the joint.  And this ADDS more efficiency to dynamic movement…

Otherwise, this would be like driving your car with the parking brake on!

During batting practice (or in games), when we swing too hard, we’re driving the car with the parking brake on.  It seems counter-intuitive to what we normally would think.  But bio-mechanically speaking, this would be like the #2 scenario of the bicep -mid-curl above.  We see the head pull out and jaw tighten because the brain is protecting the joints in the neck (C-Spine) and jaw from overload.  And this can cause the hitter NOT be balanced in the follow through.

Cadence is Key

Did you know there’s a specific cadence, or tempo, to repetitive human movement?  According to the book Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, by Danny and Katherine Dreyer, consider these two popular long distance movements:

  • Running – count how many times the right arm swings forward per minute.  It should be between 85-90 times.  Whether uphill or downhill.
  • Cycling – count each time the right knee floats up per minute while pedaling.  Should be 85-90 times.  Top cyclists change gears uphill or downhill to keep within these guidelines.

Faster than that, and tempo gets disrupted…parking brake gets applied.  Batting practice is no different when it comes to a specific tempo.  I once read someone say in a hitting forum that you have to swing as hard as you possibly can…wait for it…under COMPLETE control…

 

 Proprioception & Swinging Blind

Batting Practice Secrets To Fix Swinging Too Hard (a al Yoenis Cespedes)

Yoenis Cespedes swinging blind photo courtesy: MLB.com 😛

I know that’s a big scary word, but experiencing it is easy…stand on one foot, now shut your eyes.  You’ve just experienced Proprioception.

The best fix for swinging too hard is…drum roll please….

Swinging with your eyes closed.  Remember what I wrote about a hitter swings as hard as possible…under COMPLETE control?

This is how to practice taking the parking brake off during batting practice and games.

Also, remember the symptoms of swinging too hard I mentioned at the beginning of this video post…?  Here are the fixes:

  • Pulling the head – the chin should be somewhere slightly out front of impact,
  • A clenched jaw – get the hitter to keep a small gap between their molars as they’re swinging, AND
  • NO balance upon the follow through – have the hitter practice swinging as hard as they can with their eyes closed, while keeping balance.  If they fall over, then they’re swinging too hard.

The latter one, please DO NOT have them do this around any sharp or breakable objects that might hurt them :-/  You see, Yoenis Cespedes can win two All-Star home-run derbies in a row because he knows what pitch is coming, at what speed, and what location (for the most part).  He can get away from pulling his head.  In a game?  It’s a different

 

BONUS Material

Want to help put the batting practice parking brake on vacation?  Here are my two favorite corrective exercises that a majority of my new hitters have a problem with:

  1. Passive Leg Lower (hip mobility) – week one: 1 set X 12 reps each leg, week two: 1 set X 15 reps each leg, week three: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, and week four: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg…do once daily.  Will increase running stride length, which indirectly can help them run faster.
  2. Ankle Circles (ankle mobility) – do three circles clockwise AND counterclockwise at each ankle position…do at least 2-3 times per day everyday.  Can get rid of shin splints and plantar fasciitis.

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

 

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

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

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

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

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

 

The Head Start

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner “falling” photo courtesy: HNGN.com

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

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

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

 

The Spinning Ice Skater

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner high angular photo courtesy: ConcordMonitor.com

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

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

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

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

 

The Compressed Spring

Pitching Instruction Secrets For Hitters (Madison Bumgarner)

Madison Bumgarner showing his numbers photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

Madison Bumgarner Pitching Instruction for Hitters Factor #3: 

Mad-Bum compresses the spring in two ways:

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

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

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

Dustin Pedroia: #1 Way To STOP Stepping Out…

 

Dustin Pedroia: How-To Fix Stepping In The Bucket

Dustin Pedroia showing numbers but stepping in the bucket. Photo courtesy: ESPN.Go.com

I took Mixed Martial Arts classes before it was considered MMA back in Junior High and High School.  We practiced A LOT of grappling and lock & holds.  One thing my Sensei (teacher) used to say when grabbing someone on the wrist, the common opponent response is to pull back, or fight against the resistance

This week’s Dustin Pedroia video post will look at this fighting against the resistance concept.  I’ll show you how fix stepping in the bucket using a little known human movement science technique called Reactive Neuromuscular Training (or RNT).

In this video blog post, we’re going to discuss:

  • Problems with stepping in the bucket,
  • Stepping out as a legit hitting strategy?  And,
  • The #1 fix to stepping out.

Dr. Mark Cheng, kettlebell and corrective movement training expert, calls RNT “reverse psychology for the body”.  He adds that “RNT operates on the premise that the body will do what it needs to maintain balance – homeostasis”.  Essentially, we’re going to be training what Dr. Mark Cheng refers to as “feeding the mistake”

 

Problems with Stepping in the Bucket

Stepping in the bucket is most prevalent at the Little League and youth softball levels.  In can also be used as a legitimate strategy (crowding the plate) at the higher levels – we’ll get into that in a bit.  At the youth levels, it can be caused by a few things:

  1. Fear of the incoming ball,
  2. Problems getting around on an inside pitch, and probably the root cause…
  3. Not setting up the Fight Position (landing) correctly, and
  4. Takes away outer plate coverage.

What about using…

 

Stepping Out as a Legit Hitting Strategy?

Dustin Pedroia using Step in the Bucket strategy

Look at Dustin Pedroia’s back foot compared to his front. Use batter’s box inside chalk line as a point of reference. Photo courtesy: BattersBox.ca

Let me be clear, I’m not condoning the use of stepping in the bucket.  In all youth hitters, it needs to be fixed.  BUT, I’m going to show you an example of a player who uses it to his advantage as he crowds the plate…

2nd-baseman Dustin Pedroia from the Boston Red Sox.  According to Baseball-Reference.com he’s 5 foot, 8 inches tall.  165-pounds, soaking wet.  In a 162-game average season, Dustin Pedroia hits 15 homers and 45 doubles per season.  His Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP – .307) and On-Base Plus Slugging% (OPS – .810) are above average.

Imagine what Dustin Pedroia could do if he was 6-foot, 200-pounds!

His home ballpark is Fenway, where it’s 315 feet down the left-field line.  Very advantageous to a right handed hitter.  How does stepping in the bucket work for him?

  1. He’s almost crowding the plate (look at back foot in photo to right),
  2. Because of #1, stepping out helps clear his pelvis before landing,
  3. Shows his numbers a long time, and
  4. As a result of #3, he can hit the ball to the opposite field like Derek Jeter.

So, let’s find out…

 

The #1 Fix for Stepping Out

As mentioned earlier, we’re going to infuse the Stepping in the Bucket Drill with RNT.  Or what Dr. Mark Chang refers to as “feeding the mistake“.  Here’s how you set up the Dustin Pedroia Stepping in the Bucket Drill:

  • You’ll need a workout band of light resistance from your local Sporting Goods store,
  • You’ll make a slip knot for the ankle,
  • The other end a partner can hold or can be secured using a wall anchor in the garage like in the video,
  • You want the band pulling the foot in the direction of stepping out (“feeding the mistake”),
  • At landing we want alignment with the heels.