Baseball Hitting Case Study: Cole Watts – 17-years-old

 

Baseball Hitting Case Study: Cole Watts

Baseball hitting case study: Cole Watts Fight Position comparision

Cole’s dad Matt contacted me about setting up two in-person 45-minute lessons with a break between.  They were coming from the Bay Area, which is about a 2.5 hours drive from me.  Cole  had been getting instruction from a Mike Epstein certified instructor, and they both have been following my video blog.

According to dad, Cole’s results were hitting the ball hard into the ground, and at-best, a low level line drive.  In Cole’s baseball hitting case study, we’ll analyze:

  • Challenges faced,
  • Differences achieved after two sessions, and
  • How we trained

 

 Challenges Faced…

First, Cole is tall, 6 foot, 3 inches, and growing.  Being so tall, a hitter like him will be facing a “pitch plane” dilemma.  CLICK HERE to watch video analysis comparing 6’3″ Adam Jones to 6’2″ Victor Martinez, and how to fix Jones’s above average strikeout and ground-ball percentages.

When I hear a player is taller and having trouble driving the ball consistently, I look at how efficient they’re getting the barrel level on a downward pitch plane.  Are they:

  1. Making an aggressive move towards the pitcher (Un-weighting Principal)?
  2. Getting shorter (or lower) in the Fight Position (using Gravitational Forces)?
  3. Staying short through impact and finish (Adam Jones’s problem)?  And, are they
  4. Loading the spring correctly?

 

Differences Achieved AFTER Two Sessions

After our baseball hitting sessions, here’s where Cole made some changes:

  1. Gaining stride distance – committing body weight to front leg,
  2. Getting lower into Fight Position – flexing front knee more at landing,
  3. Body lag – opening lower half at Fight Position & blocking his shoulders.

Benefits…#1 will give Cole more bat speed and allow his head to stay still during the Final Turn.  #2 will empower Gravitational Forces to amplify Cole’s pelvic turn.  #3 will naturally spring load his body (body lag) to transfer more energy into the baseball.  The one thing we weren’t able to fix – in our short time together – was staying shorter through his impact and finish.

 

How We Trained…

How we train is just as important as what we’re training…if not more!  At the end of our baseball hitting sessions, our 5-swing rounds consisted of training one mechanical variable with three mechanical constants.  Defined…

  • Mechanical Variable – if we’re working “showing the numbers”, then on odd swings 1, 3, and 5 we show the numbers.  On swings 2 & 4 we don’t.
  • Mechanical Constant – if we’re working on “showing the numbers”, then this is done on ALL 5 swings.

I call each mechanical piece, a layer.  We start simple with one layer, which by itself becomes a variable.  As we add another layer, then the old one becomes a constant, while the one added is the next variable.  This is called interleaving.  Only one variable layer at a time.  The rest will be constants.  Here were his layers, using the fine Art of Variance:

  • Stretching his stride out beyond his “gamer” front marker,
  • Landing shorter with committed body-weight,
  • “Flashlight” on middle front thigh, open towards the pitcher,
  • Showing (or “blocking”) his numbers longer.

We sandwich the wrong mechanic with the right one, so the brain can note the difference.  If Cole wanted repeatable power, then hitting “tall” on the pitch plane wouldn’t work.  He made so much progress in a short amount of time.  Keep working hard kid!

Adam Jones: TWO Actionable Tactics To Decrease Strikeouts

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Compare & Contrast Key Offensive Statistics

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

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

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

 

Actionable Tactic #1: How Low Can You Go?

Victor Martinez on pitch plane

Victor Martinez pitch plane photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

 

Actionable Tactic #2: Bringing Sexy Back

Adam Jones taller Fight Position

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanley Ramirez Hitting a Curveball Do’s & Don’ts

 

Hanley Ramirez: How-To Crush A Curveball

Hanley Ramirez Fight Position: photo courtesy: MLB.com

This post will clarify why the “Snapping Towel” concept is far superior than a hitter who “Sits Back.”  An efficient swing uses the Un-Weighting Principal, or Forward Momentum.  Basically, it’s a hitter getting a “head start”, and making an aggressive move towards the pitcher.

CLICK HERE to watch the Troy Tulowitzki Experiment and see how un-weighting can boost bat speed.

Most coaches, instructors, and even decent Major League hitters HATE what I’m about to tell you.  They say, early head movement speeds up the pitch.  They say, you can’t commit your body-weight to the front leg because you’ll be out in front of off-speed and breaking stuff.

This video blog post will REVEAL, they’re dead wrong:

  • WHY the Snapping Towel?
  • Importance of “getting shorter” in Fight Position, and
  • How-to train crushing a curveball.

 

WHY the Snapping Towel?

Hanley Ramirez at contact on a home-run

Hanley Ramirez low pitch contact photo courtesy: MLB.com

Would you rather have head movement before or after front foot landing?  The question isn’t IF the head is going to move during the swing, it’s when.  Thanks to proprioception.

Imagine how you snap a towel…here’s the “Snapping Towel” effect applied to Hanley Ramirez’s 2013 homer to left field off a Cliff Lee cutter going 85 mph:

  • Head moves forward and slightly down before landing,
  • Floats (slight pause) right before his Free-Fall forward,
  • Commits body-weight to front leg during Fight Position (landing), and then
  • Effectively snaps back into a spine angle up and over the catcher (notice head DOES NOT move here).

Can Hanley Ramirez’s Fight Position get better?  Sure!  He’s not using Gravitational Forces like he can by flexing his front knee a little more at landing.  I call this “getting shorter”.  Which brings us to the next point…

 

Importance of “Getting Shorter” in Fight Position (landing)

Josh Donaldson "Getting Shorter"

Josh Donaldson “getting shorter” photo courtesy: MLB.com

Because Hanley Ramirez DOES NOT “get shorter” into the Fight Position, he compensates by reaching for the Cliff Lee cutter.  Landing taller forfeits setting the pitch plane early.  And a compensating shoulder angle on a low pitch (more parallel to ground) limits force production.  It’s like letting the air out of a balloon.

But most importantly, in respect to hitting the curveball…

Getting shorter into the Fight Position also creates a defense mechanism to breaking and off-speed stuff.  Jaime Cevallos calls it, in his book Positional Hitting, a “cushion” or “double cushion”.  JK Whited of Baseball Rebellion calls it “pushing the pause button”.

 

 

How-To Train Crushing a Curveball

Mike Trout tilted shoulders on low pitch homer

Mike Trout tilted shoulder angle on low pitch homer (he’s the BEST at this) photo courtesy: MLB.com

Here are my top ways to train a hitter to crush the curveball, like Hanley Ramirez.  First of all, utilize the Break-It-Apart Drill to get hitters comfortable operating from a “paused” Fight Position.  Use the Rule of Variance in one or a mix of these THREE ways:

  1. Timing – move pitcher’s L-screen up or back 10-20 feet from hitter after a round of five swings.  OR keep L-screen where it’s at, and have two home-plates for hitter to move to between rounds,
  2. Plate Discipline – carve the plate up into inner or outer 2/3’s (green light to swing), and other 1/3 of the plate is where the hitter takes (red light).  This is for a zero or one-strike approach.
  3. Mixed pitches – pitcher doesn’t tell hitter what’s coming.  No pitch is off limits.  Hitters, please wear helmets 😉
  4. Pitch RecognitionDr. Peter Fadde’s interview post on this is HUGE, along with Perry Husband’s interview post on Effective Velocity.

#1 focuses on making adjustments to a change in speed (or reaction time).  #2’s objective is looking for a specific pitch in a specific location (not recommended strategy in games until High School Varsity).  #3 is the name of the game.

Corey Dickerson

Corey Dickerson: 3 Human Movement Laws That Dominate

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

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

FanGraphs.com says this about OPS & OPS+:

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

Corey Dickerson: #1 Most Critical Hitting Position

Corey Dickerson photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

 

Laws That Dominate #1: Gravitational Forces

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

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

Following…

 

Laws that Dominate #2: Transferring Forward Momentum

Corey Dickerson "floating" to his Fight Position

Corey Dickerson “Float” photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

 

Laws that Dominate #3: Spine Engine Mechanics

Corey Dickerson Fight Position

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

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

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

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

What Can Bryce Harper Learn From Mike Trout?

 

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

Bryce Harper VIDEO: Missing Repeatable Power?

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Gold medal winning Shot Putter Randy Barnes

Randy Barnes photo courtesy: PBS.org

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

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

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

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

Mechanical Disadvantage #2: Minimal Spring Loading

Bryce Harper VIDEO: NOT springy loaded

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

 

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

Bryce Harper Locally Flexing his C-Spine

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edwin Encarnacion: Awaken the Sleeping Giant Within

 

Edwin Encarnacion Video: How-To "Blocking" Guide

Edwin Encarnacion “Blocking” photo courtesy: MLB.com

I recently worked with Christopher Solis one-on-one, from Pasadena, CA.  He just signed with the University of Sioux Falls, South Dakota this Fall to play for the Cougars division-two baseball team.  He’s in his third year of eligibility, and found me after watching a video I did analyzing Lou Gehrig’s swing.

We talked about a lot of current hitters, but one in particular was Edwin Encarnacion.  In this video, we’ll be discussing:

  • What “Blocking” is (according to German Champion discus thrower Robert Harting),
  • How Edwin Encarnacion “Blocks”, and
  • Building Chris Solis 2.0.

 

What “Blocking” Is (According to German Champion Discus Thrower Robert Harding)

From what I’m told, the current German discus throwers “block” very well.  Other throwers end up spinning around and hopping after they throw.  What’s the significance of Blocking?

My friend Rob Suelflohn (top-5 national Shot Putter in mid-80’s) sent an email about a Facebook comment from former Shot Put world record holder Brian Oldfield, about Blocking:

“I have been looking back one of my experiences with Gideon Ariel at Casa de Cota and remembered throwing from a force plate that measured the P.S.I.’s [pounds per square inch] in my foot work/technique. I don’t know the exact pressure I put on each step of the transition but I think it went something like this. The first left foot pivot out of the back of the circle beginning the drive was 500 PSI’s then lunging down to the middle of the circle to the next right foot  pivot created a 750 PSI pressure . Finally, a shorter deeper step at the toe board registered 1000 PSI’s. I used my speed and torque down through the “J” phase pushing on the earth until the earth pushed back.” 

 

How Edwin Encarnacion “Blocks”

This home-run was Edwin Encarnacion’s 26th of the 2014 season, and a walk-off.  Interesting to note, he was out in front of this 85-mph hanging breaker.  And this is where “Blocking” becomes really important.  Two things:

  1. The swing is a snapping towel – move forward to landing (Fight Position), then snap back (Blocking) through the turn, and
  2. Blocking is a combination of falling and pushing into the ground (Gravity), and the ground pushing back (Gravitational Reaction Forces).

“Sit back” hitters will have a difficult time with Blocking because they’re moving forward during the Final Turn.  A hitter would have to be at least 6’3″ and 230-40 lbs to get away with sitting back.

 

Building Chris Solis 2.0

In our time together, we focused primarily on footwork.  Getting to the proper Fight Position, then Blocking, or pushing into the ground as hard as we could to initiate the Final Turn.  In the after video, we were able to:

  • Get him “shorter” with his back leg through the turn (90 degrees versus a 104 degree angle),
  • Detach, or un-weight, his back foot during his turn, and
  • Shift his head/spine angle back (Blocking helps with this).

Blocking is how to fix the “racing back elbow” or “bat drag” so rampant in Little League.  If you watch a racing back elbow hitter – not necessarily arm barring – you’ll see a bent front knee throughout the swing.  Blocking with the front side is virtually non-existent, and their swing is inefficiently being driven by the backside.  The racing back elbow is the back shoulder joint fighting to get into a stable position during the Final Turn.

We have to re-condition the front side to Block like Robert Harting and Edwin Encarnacion.

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

 

George Springer: Can Gravity BOOST Power

George Springer photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

 

How-To Transfer Energy?

Albert Einstein once said,

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

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

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

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

 

How George Springer & Usain Bolt Exploit the Forces of Gravity

Usain Bolt Energy Transfer

Photo courtesy: WarriorsOfHealthMQ.BlogSpot.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Can Springer be more Efficient at Transferring Energy?

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

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

Brandon Moss Analysis Shows Timing Adjustment Must Be Made…

 

Brandon Moss REVEALS Slow Pitcher Timing Secret

Brandon Moss photo courtesy: Zimbio.com

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

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

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

 

Make the Complicated, Uncomplicated

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

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

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

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

Brandon Moss photo courtesy: MLB.com

 

How-To Adjust to Slower Pitching According to Brandon Moss

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Troy Tulowitzki Stride Length Experiment

 

Question: Does Stride Length Kill Bat Speed?

Troy Tulowitzki Stride Length Killing Your Bat Speed?

Photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

Background Research

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

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

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

Hypothesis

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

Troy Tulowitzki Experiment

Equipment:

Setup:

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

Data Collected:

Results of Tulo Stride Length Bat Speed Experiment

Pay particular attention to the bold typeface

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Last 6 Swing Zepp Baseball app

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

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

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

 

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Does Ryan Braun Hit Backwards?  Common Mistake #1 (of 4)…

 

In the first installment of the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make video series, featuring Ryan Braun, we’re analyzing why “Sitting Back” isRyan Braun: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make Part-1 so destructive to friction-free mechanics.  The WHY boils down to a strange word…

According to IdeaFit.com,

Proprioception is the body’s ability to transmit a sense of position, analyze that information and react (consciously or unconsciously) to the stimulation with the proper movement (Houglum 2001).”

The brain does whatever it needs to balance physical movement.  Let’s discuss the following compensations caused by “Sitting Back”:

  • Eyes and head shift forward during Final Turn,
  • Lunging, and
  • Front shoulder flies open.

 

Eyes and Head to Shift Forward During Final Turn

Ryan Braun’s friction-free swing is like snapping a towel.  Throw the towel end towards the intended target, then quickly snap it back.  We’re getting eye-head movement out of the way early, then shifting our spine up and back towards the catcher –  snapping the barrel into the impact zone.  Ryan Braun does this!

Sitting back makes the hitter do the opposite…

  • Keep the hitter back till the last possible second, then
  • The hitter has to shift their weight forward to counter-balance because of proprioception, and
  • As a result, shifts the head and eyes forward.

 

Lunging

What’s your definition of lunging?  When Ryan Braun lands his front foot, his knee virtually floats above his ankle. My definition of lunging is when the front knee continues to float over or passed the ankle during the Final Turn.  It’s a very ineffective position to hit in because the head will continue moving forward.

Here’s how sitting back causes lunging:

  1. Hitter shifts weight to back leg,
  2. Reaches out softly with the stride foot, like a cat (and oftentimes too early)
  3. Waits till ball is on the way, then
  4. Because the body isn’t balanced, the brain shifts the hitter’s weight forward with no hope of getting back,
  5. So the hitter continues forward until he or she hits (or misses) something.

 

Front Shoulder Flies Open

Unlike Ryan Braun, most ‘Sit Back’ hitters:

  1. Have hand dominant swings.  Since the shoulders are closest to the hands, they have to start earlier to get the hands working.
  2. Don’t set up the natural rotation counter-rotation relationship of the pelvis and shoulders* before the front foot hits the ground.  This causes the shoulders to compensate and open prematurely.
  3. Open their hips and shoulders at the same time.  If this happens, a hitter will max out at 60-70% of their ability to transfer energy efficiently from body –> to barrel –> to ball.  This put smaller hitters at a disadvantage by dramatically decreasing power output.
  4. Have a difficult time keeping the front shoulder in with off speed and breaking balls.  It’s easy for pitchers to disrupt a Sit Back hitter’s timing.  Their brain is focused on too many things at once: timing, proprioception, and pitch speed/location (because of late head-eye movement).

*CLICK HERE for an in-depth look at spine engine mechanics according to Dr. Erik Dalton.  Read below the subtitle, “The Spring-Loaded Spiraling Spine”.

CLICK HERE for Part-2 to the Hitting Backwards video saga, where we’ll analyze Adrian Gonzalez and Common Mistake #2: loading the swing incorrectly…