Bat Tee Interview

Backspin Bat Tee Co-Founder Interview: If One Of The Best, Mike Trout, Is Giving Up An Average 20-mph Of Ball Exit Speed, How Much Do Mere Mortals Give Up Doing The Same Thing?

 

Here are the Backspin bat tee co-founder interview with Taylor Gardner topics that we discussed:

  • What do bat tee adjustments mean to you when it comes to talking to your hitters?Bat Tee Interview
  • True or False: Hitters MUST straighten their front leg to be effective…
  • What if hitters used a more precision approach like golfers when operating between 90-degrees?
  • Instead of writing off the arm bar as it doesn’t work, why not ask how can it work?
  • Is there ever a time when ‘swing down’ or ‘barrel above the hands’ bat tee cues can work?
  • If one of the best, Mike Trout, is giving up 20-mph of ball exit speed, how much do mere mortals give up doing the same thing?
  • Where can people find more about you Backspin bat tee guys?

The following is the bat tee transcription of the video above.  This is a sneak peak at the expert interviews we’ll be including in Volume-2 of the Swing Smarter book series.  Enjoy!

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Joey Myers  00:07

There he is.

Taylor Gardner  00:09

Oh,

Joey Myers  00:10

You hear me? Okay.

Taylor Gardner  00:12

Oh, yeah!

Joey Myers  00:13

Oh, there’s the baby. You got that mixed up? I don’t think that’s supposed to go in your mouth.

Taylor Gardner  00:21

Probably should.

Joey Myers  00:24

Look at you.

Taylor Gardner  00:26

Yeah.

Joey Myers  00:27

Causing your parents so much so many sleepless nights.

Taylor Gardner  00:30

Yeah, momma needed a shower time and dad had an interview here.

Joey Myers  00:38

Double interview.

Taylor Gardner  00:40

Yeah. Oh my

Joey Myers  00:45

Look at that, first time I think we’ve done a zoom interview.

Taylor Gardner  00:49

Oh it has been working out, better adjust my camera?

Joey Myers  00:55

No, I think you’re good. What do you need to adjust?

Taylor Gardner  00:57

All I was going to bring it down a little bit. I think I always fall down.

Joey Myers  01:01

Yeah, I think you’re good. Okay. Are you ready? Let me do the official bat tee start. Hello and welcome to Swing Smarter Monthly Newsletter. This is your host Joey Myers from HittingPerformanceLab.com and probably for the half a dozenth interview. I have Taylor Gardner here from Backspin Bat Tee. Welcome to the show. Taylor looks like you brought a little friend.

Taylor Gardner  01:26

That’s right. Yes. Yeah. She has been influenced by any good or bad and…

Joey Myers  01:37

there. There we go. You froze for a little bit. Say it again? Say No. So, she’s been influenced by what?

Taylor Gardner  01:46

I said. No, we got we got a fresh template here. She hasn’t had any good or bad instruction to start working with this.

Joey Myers  01:54

Yeah, yeah. Tie the right arm behind your back and… is your brother? Is he lefty? Or is he righty?

Taylor Gardner  02:03

He’s a switch hitter. You can do both.

Joey Myers  02:05

He does both. But what about throwing? Is he a righty?

Taylor Gardner  02:07

He’s righty.

Joey Myers  02:09

Okay, cool. Well, hey, I wanted to get you on the on the other side of the screen here and wanted to talk about making bat tee adjustments. So that we could go into the hitting side we could go into the strategy side we can go into any different things. So, what do adjustments mean to you when it comes to talking to your hitters?

 

What do bat tee adjustments mean to you when it comes to talking to your hitters?

Taylor Gardner  02:30

The adjustment is, must be understood and adjustment is something if a hitter is already attempting to be on time, it’s really hard to make adjustments if you’re not in the time window to start with. If you’re going up there to hit and you’re just purely reacting your adjustments are also reacting maybe even twice as long or twice as late as they should be.

Taylor Gardner  02:56

Within the understanding that people were syncing up release point we have the timing window of the pitch coming in. Maybe we’re sitting on fastball and all sudden we a pitcher throws a changeup, and whether you recognize the spin or the speed or the trajectory angle, whether an off-speed pitch, what do you do?

Taylor Gardner  03:15

Well, if your plan was there to help you your approach is there to help you not hurt you, so within your plan or approach if you’re on time for fastball, and oh no it’s an off-speed pitch. What do you do? Well, easy answer is, you don’t stop your swing. I know we get told a lot of wait, let that curveball get a lot deeper. Now we’re talking about changing depths and it’s really hard to change depths of timing on the fly. So as instead of being reactive to making your adjustment proactive and making your adjustment one thing that my baby down actually brought a bat here to show you…

Joey Myers  03:55

Use the baby as a bat…how cute she is.

Taylor Gardner  04:02

One thing that we see a lot with hitters. He was left-handed here. I do apologize. Is they’re sideways, they’re pretty lined up with a pitcher in some fashion bat tee stance, and then we start to ride and stride as they start to witness that. Okay, this ball isn’t a perfect fastball down the middle. What do I do?  Well, we see them not only continue to take their head and posture to the ball, but you see a lot of hitters start turn in and sit with the ball.

Taylor Gardner  04:33

As opposed to going uh oh, I’m a little early, let me pull out and then have to release my arms and hands to hopefully start to see hitters actually sit with that ball. Then because, you sit, any movement takes time. And if the plane is correct, you’re on time for the pitchers fastest pitch and then if you’re making an adjustment is to bite. This is where a lot of young hitters especially they don’t do a good job of buying time.

Taylor Gardner  05:00

They end up staying on their backside and opening up too soon and all they have left is like it with their own risk. And yeah, you can hit a ball and do that, and you probably get on base and feel good about yourself. But the faster you know that speed starts to go up and level and the more drastic change of off speed, you get a 90 mile an hour fastball and 80-mph changeup. That’s a little different than facing a 75 mile an hour fastball and 70 mile change-up.

Taylor Gardner  05:27

As a pitcher supposed to extend those timelines, adjustments and variables, the hitters have to as well. The ability to be ready for the fastest pitch and also be able to buy time while staying in a good posture position on the ball is something that we see really good hitters do and you know, quite frankly, amateur hitters don’t do as well.  Oh, sure at some level. Yeah, won’t be a good fastball hitter.  Every great hitter is known to be a great fastball hitter.

Taylor Gardner  05:55

If you’re looking off speed looking for that, that slow curveball every fast ball is going to beat you. On the timeline you got to be prepared for the pitches, pitchers fastest pitch as the fastest timeline. Therefore, your plan is there to help. Yeah, he’s going to be perfect every time, well of course not, it’s baseball. It’s tough. But at least the plan was in place to help you be on time for fastball and buy time for off speed.

Taylor Gardner  06:23

For example, this last weekend, my nephew, faced his first knuckleballer. 13 years old didn’t know this pitcher had a knuckleball it wasn’t his main pitch, so you know first at bat I don’t know hit a fastball for double, second a bat gets a strike or two on him a ball or two and then all the sudden, whack!  He hits a single, steals second base eventually gets to third base and the coach at third goes, “good job Maverick you know you really sat well in your legs on that change up”, he goes “wasn’t a changeup coach, it was knuckleball”. He goes, “Oh, when did you realize it was a knuckleball?”  “After I hit it!”

Taylor Gardner  06:59

It reminded me that he took a good plan to the plate, ready for fastball he happened to adjust instinctively to this crazy knuckleball, but it was more about controlling this contact depth. I’m not quitting on my swing. Did he sit more in his legs, sure.  Did he have a locked out-front leg? No. But he found a way to keep his spinal engine and posture on the ball. By the time he pulled the trigger. Sure, the ball got a little deeper, he barreled it up, he got a good hit out of it. At the end of the day, it didn’t fool him, this random pitch that he really has never seen, didn’t make him react and freeze.

Taylor Gardner  07:36

It didn’t make him react it to slow down and touch it, his reaction was to stay on the ball and give it a chance. And it sounds easy to do until you start seeing a pitch come flying at your body. For us older coaches that aren’t playing anymore, I think sometimes we forget that. There’s a little fear involved. And so, a good plan leads to good adjustments. And sometimes knowing how to get over that fear or filter out your situation really helps that plan starts to stick together better.

Taylor Gardner  07:57

And therefore, those bat tee adjustments really become valuable. As far as other types of adjustments. And that was one type of sitting in your legs, other types of adjustments. We’ve seen Mike Trout sit in his legs; we’ve also seen him bend over a little more at his waist a little side tilt. That’s another way of buying time. Adjustments to me, in our world is a place to buy time, every movement takes time. But unless you’re ready to line your posture up for the ball on time to begin with, adjustments are just going to slow you down. You’ve got to make sure those adjustments are there to help you not hurt you.

Joey Myers  08:48

Well, you said a couple bat tee things that would blow a couple people’s minds they were listening to this… number one is sitting on your backside and swinging from that position number one, and number two, that you don’t have to straighten out your front leg that you can keep that bent. And I love that and that’s something that I’ve learned from you and your brother and Matty, Matty Nokes that the legs really set direction like the lower half basically sets directional force, it does contribute to some of the power.

Joey Myers  09:16

And we’ve learned discussions on that over the last couple of years saying you know, probably between 20 and 30%, it probably contributes to the power of the overall power thing. But the idea that you can use your knees bending your knees at front knee to adjust to pitch height like those are bat tee adjustments that we can make that if you’re from a train of thought that says you have to straighten it you have to brace that leg out, right, I mean that’s really not… We’re trying to like you said buy time.

 

True or False: Hitters MUST straighten their front leg to be effective

Taylor Gardner  09:46

Right. Speaking while the bracing the front leg, the front leg can obviously we can see it YouTube it, Google it. Now of course you can hit with a straight front leg and even sitting in your legs may still turn out to be a brace straightening front leg, you still bend your knee and still walk and brace into that front knee.

Taylor Gardner  10:06

But I think a lot of times as coaches and instructors that usually come to… an issue that I’ve seen come around is their teaching to push the leg straight, as opposed to letting the hip pull the leg straight.  Pitchers do a really good job of this, they don’t just land in their front leg and then push straight up.  Is their vertical ground force? Of course, there is.

Taylor Gardner  10:29

Now in hitting though, there may be little more of that vertical into horizontal ground force, it sounds funny to say, but you’re not just going to push up away from the ball every time. Sure, could you get away with it, of course, and there’s nothing wrong if you are on time and you get the barrel to it, great job. But like you like to say Joey, if it happens too much to ignore, I’ll just start paying attention.

Joey Myers  10:52

Yeah, and on that note, that was the one big bat tee thing that I pulled from you, we’ve been friends for probably over 6, 7, 8 years now, was that idea of staying sideways and keeping that back foot from completely turning over. Like a lot of coaches will say pivot that back foot, pivot that back foot, and meaning, that back heel will turn towards home plate. And it’ll continue to keep rotating. And so, I think we’ve developed almost a generation or two of hitters that are over rotating the lower half.

Joey Myers  11:23

And you say, using Matt Nokes’s lingo is stay sideways, stay sideways, I think is a great one.  And to your point, or to our point that it happens too much to ignore, and you can’t just write it off. Some of our buddies in the past have said well, that hitter can do that because he XYZ that hitter can do that because it’s… no it happens if you take the top 100 hitters, 50 hitters, you’ll see half of them stay sideways and maybe the other half, get to this neutral with it. So that happens a little bit too often to be ignored.

Taylor Gardner  11:57

For anyone that’s listening, if you’ve ever played golf and if you haven’t fine taken a baseball bat take it slow, practice golf swing, go YouTube, Rory McElroy, Tiger Woods, anyone you want. Golfers have figured out how to stay sideways with their back foot.  Now, their balls on the ground and it’s generally between them. Like ball being on a bat tee for hitters.  They’re more allowed to buy but positions of contact with golf. However, you’re going to see baseball players do it too. But since the contact point in baseball can be further out front. Sure, you’re going to see that that back foot rotates a little more before contact. I get that told a lot. “Well, look at this hitter.”

Taylor Gardner  12:33

Yes, but look what happened the first 80% of his swing before contact, he was still sideways, he was still… now was he turning his shoulders, was he loading his core, the spiral engine. Sure, but the back foot was still sideways to hit, the back foot ends up becoming a bit of a rudder.  I won’t even take that too literal. But you wouldn’t start with your back foot facing the catcher, you wouldn’t face with your back foot facing the pitcher. There’s a reason, it’s a natural position for the body.

Taylor Gardner  13:05

The ball is thrown in front of us and quite honestly, ball comes in and it is in front and to the side of us.  If you’ve ever swung an axe, it makes sense to shift your weight and leverage up. That’s why we want to have a little more shift, not only for taking your head to the ball and be able to judge depth before moving very good and feeling your depth and putting a nice sense to it.

Taylor Gardner  13:34

But at the same time spinning against my back foot. Step on my dog… [laughs] spinning too soon. Now the ball is essentially to the side and behind us. Not that you can’t hit from here we opened up too soon. My swing’s wanting to go this way, I crossed my face this way, we want to cross our face into contact with the ball. Again, golfers understand this and their balls in front of them. They want to cross the face you don’t want to spin out and then cross their face too late that ends up turning into a slice and anyone who has played golf, probably vouch for that, my goodness I’m spinning off the ball. balls on never fixed.

Joey Myers  14:19

Well, and what I love the golf analogy is because in golf, you have a ridiculously small margin for error, you have we’re talking in hundreds of yards, not hundreds of feet and your little ball that’s got to get hit by this clubface and then the square center center contact with the clubface in the ball the straighter the ball is going to go. You can take that clubface and slightly like a couple of millimeters you can slightly pull it in like you’re going to hook it or slightly away like you’re going to slice it and those little, teeny millimeters by the end of that 200-yard journey is going to be way pull or slice.

Joey Myers  14:55

What I always tell my hitters, I say when we’re teaching this concept of staying sideways and keeping that back foot from over rotating is, we have to play almost like a golfer, where a golfer’s looking at one shot to the pin, I call it one degree of fair territory. And outside of that 359 degrees of foul territory, because in golf, the objective is the least number of strokes to get it in the hole. In baseball, of course, we have 90 degrees to play with, but we want to act like we’re doing like golf, we want to act like there is a smaller margin, and we have to operate within that smaller bat tee margin, right?

What if hitters used a more precision bat tee approach like golfers when operating between 90-degrees?

Taylor Gardner  15:29

Along those lines, that it’s incredible you say that because the whole outside pitches, let it get deep, inside pitchers you’re magically allowed to pull for some reason, we’re talking about different depths there. Where in golf, obviously, the ball’s not moving, but to their benefit, they’re more precise, they have time to get their stance set up, time to adjust their face angle. So yes, maybe we don’t have that luxury in baseball, but we do have the luxury of knowing our contact depth.

Taylor Gardner  15:58

Do I like hitting the ball more? You know, some hitters like hitting the ball more off their front hip, some even further out front, some like hitting it a little deeper, more or middle of the other ball, whatever it is that you are super comfortable. That’s your decision. That’s what you’re going to battle with the best. And, again, based on your timeline. I have a lot of young hitters, and we constantly have to work on reminding them. Where is your preferred contact?

Taylor Gardner  16:29

And not to make them look like robots, but you’ll see them when uh, I don’t know, maybe like right there or up here. It’s like, Oh, you got to know, if you don’t know, you’re guessing, like your close, good job of being on time. We want to be on time with our contact point. This is a lot more precise. And as you know, aim small miss small, it’s may not always show up in baseball, maybe you had a day where you didn’t hit well. But you know what my plan was good. My adjustments were sound. And maybe I was just a little early or tad late, whatever that may be over under the ball.

Taylor Gardner  17:06

But you can sleep well at night knowing, man I had it at 99% today. And you don’t realize how much you haven’t figured out. You start thinking about more precision, besides movements. And then suddenly you go out three years ago, I was going to battle with a 50%. efficiency.  That shocks a lot of hitters and I really do think a lot of good college players get to pro ball and maybe it doesn’t pan out for whatever reason.

Taylor Gardner  17:32

I think a lot of them whether they can say it or not verbiage that happens to a lot of if they get exposed, we get told at every level of baseball, you better swing faster Jerry, you better figure out how to get that faster pitching, you better, have quicker hands, whatever. Of course, we must make those adjustments because we’re being exposed. What if we got ahead of that being exposed?

Taylor Gardner  17:56

I don’t know if you saw the video that I posted on the baseball Illuminati page. I was actually crow hopping of doing run and guns, a nine-year-old ballplayer shuffle stepping out 25 feet in front of them throwing the ball 60-mph our reaction time stupid fast. So never seen anything that fast in their lives. As far as timing wise. And you know what he did? It took him a bit. He filtered it out. He figured out when to go when to shift, how to track the ball.

Taylor Gardner  18:26

And yeah, that ball was getting to him quicker than any pitch he’s ever going to see in baseball. And he started barreling balls up.  Our brain’s a supercomputer y’all know that problem is if that supercomputer is putting in the wrong formula, it’s still going to, there’s still going to be a glitch. You still have to help it out.

Joey Myers  18:44

Shoot, I’d even go another step with the wrong formula and just saying that it’s becoming impossible, or you hear that from coaches? Well, that’s impossible, that’s not going to happen, or that’s not reality, or it’s not going to happen. And instead of saying that something’s not possible, why not ask why? or How can it be possible, right? We’ve talked about the front arm shape and trying to get that thing extended out. Whereas everybody in their mother seems to teach this bent front arm, right.

Joey Myers  19:13

The question that I always get when I put that post out there, people will go well, you know, I’ve tried to test it out and beer league softball and works there, but it doesn’t work in the big leagues and whatnot. And if you go way back, Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, all those guys locked out. So instead of saying, oh, that doesn’t work, today’s pitchers throw too hard and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Why not ask how can we make that work? Yes. How does that work? Right?

 

Instead of writing off the arm bar as it doesn’t work, why not ask how can it work?

Taylor Gardner  19:42

What if we made 90 miles an hour feel slower? Nothing’s any easier to hit. But what if? What if it wasn’t impossible.  And clearly, it’s not, people do it every day. It’s not impossible.  I’d like to say maybe the way we’re rationalizing it and maybe even practicing. Maybe we’re not doing our own job as a baseball coach, making, maybe it’s 75 miles. Now, if you’re struggling, maybe that’s what it is, whatever it is get ahead of that curve, not that you’re going to just start jacking home runs. But don’t be late. There’s no excuse for being late. There’s no excuse for not filtering out and understanding your environment.

Taylor Gardner  20:19

Maybe you don’t get to face a live picture every day or practice, that’s fair. I’m sure you have your work cut out for ya. But there’s no reason to get your doors blown off, when you have all of the potential to be as early as you want. Once you’re late, once the ball gets behind your timeline, and it gets behind your back. Pitcher starts in front of us. We as hitters, let ourselves be late. Maybe because we’re trying to do some crazy swing, like, oh, let it get deep and snap it or something, I don’t know.

Taylor Gardner  20:50

But whatever it may be, again, kind of back to the approach and those adjustments. Got to clean that up. And maybe you got to study more time. Maybe you got to study more spinal engine springy fascia and figure out where to get your running position. To your arm bar point… I think a lot of… uh oh, we have a wandering baby…

Joey Myers  21:13

Wait till she starts walking…

Taylor Gardner  21:15

I know I can’t wait!  I understand folding your levers and engaging muscles, getting correct shapes. That makes sense. But when you see arm bar, and it starts to walk out, or to do slow motion. Yeah, looks funky in slow motion to arm bar. When you engage the body and it starts out, it starts to feel a little more natural golfers do the same thing. Luckily for us that in golf, you get to start with it extended and just connected to your body from there.

Taylor Gardner  21:55

But this bat is heavy, I completely understand why people want to hold it close to their body, it is rational. And it’s still close to the body. It’s not like we’re arm barring out here. If you’re still arm barring across our core, this bat is behind you, want lag and you want leverage, leverage, and just loose and lever sometimes, your hands are so close to your body. And even so close this way to the middle of your body. By the time you do a swing, yeah, you’re getting the barrel off your foot. And it may be a strong position depending upon position.

Taylor Gardner  22:34

But if I never got the benefit of the lag, and a clearing, and time to speed up the bat, it takes time to speed up the bat. This is not an instantaneous thing. I know this swing only takes like point two seconds; I get it.  That’s slow through the world of everything happening, there is plenty of time and so that hand, grips on the bat. For most people they’re bottom hand is the weaker hand.  Not doing anything left-handed if I have to. But you want your dominant arm to do his job.

Taylor Gardner  23:09

Not that you have to do it all with a dominant arm. But you certainly don’t want your weaker arm to be your dominant arm. Now, how do you get them in position? Well, as you get a swing, if it happens to lock out, you’re getting the benefit of lag and leverage. How is that wrong? If I understand timing, if I understand off your positions and swing plane. And armbar is nothing in the scheme of arguments. I’m linked into the lever.  If I do it correctly, then of course, I have more leverage and more bat speed.

Taylor Gardner  23:42

But bat speed takes time. And so, when I see a lot of kids, they start here and the lever pull even more on their hands get across the face really soon, elbows way behind their hand and not even close to be slotted. And next thing you know, you’re chopping down or they slice it, and more important, their swing radius and swing arc may only go so far. Versus if I clear, I can get a further reach. And it’d be right within my wheelhouse of comfortability.

Joey Myers  24:13

If we go back to your contact points, right, knowing what your contact points are. When we work with our hitters on what we call our horizontal approach, or our line-to-line approach. Being able to hit the ball the other way, pull it, and go up the middle things like that. We talked about that there are two main things to be aware of… one is what you’ve already said is your contact point. But number two is when that barrel enters the hitting zone.

Joey Myers  24:38

And it’s going to be different for we call middle in and middle away. It’s going to be different. So middle away and middle down. That snapping early getting the barrel in the zone early makes sense. It’s a great middle down of the strike zone middle away approach. But when it comes to middle in the middle up, it doesn’t make sense, and I use those bad cues that I thought were bad about four years ago. Swing down, barrel above the ball, we do use those but only for middle in, middle up.

 

Is there ever a time when ‘swing down’ or ‘barrel above the hands’ cues can work?

Taylor Gardner  25:05

But right. Speaking along those lines… Yes, have you ever had a kid trying out a new baseball bat and Oh man, he’s struggling with the weight or it was too long for him. But that’s some of the stuff you’ve been told, just remember that when this bat is laying horizontal, is heavier, as far as where the balance is. There’s a reason we stack the barrel. And there’s a reason we hold this bat up, you can hold it with one finger.

Taylor Gardner  25:34

That’s how life, if you will, work how to control the bat, Matt Nokes talks about this, why, the barrel above the hands, it’s taken me a while, the feel can be down, in fact there is a down move in the swing, hold your posture. It’s called your head. The balls is below you. Yes, we want to swing on plane. Of course. But how you get to that barrel entering the zone. And before it starts that actual upswing? That is paramount.

Taylor Gardner  26:07

That also was still wrong with the down early method. Yeah, you’ve got there. But did you give up timing, to get to position at contact.  Did you give up adjustments, because your only move is to get there. If you were able to just keep your hands and be ready for that high and inside pitch, as Perry husband would say we get to focus on EV tunnels.

Taylor Gardner  26:34

If I’m ready for that, then great. And then I can always adjust if I need to.  Wait adjustment patterns, that kind of dynamic plan. Not everyone would agree with me on this, but just from a third party perspective, if the high and inside pitch is the ball that we have to get the barrel out there quickest to, it makes sense to me to be on time with that and adjust down and away with that, because you have more time or space, ball is further away from me to do so, obviously, you get in the baseball stuffs like, well, if you’re looking middle middle, and then that gets tougher if you’re looking away if you’re looking wherever.

Taylor Gardner  27:19

I don’t want to get into the approach part of it. But it just makes sense to me that you can practice, play around practicing with looking high and in, get that pitch locked in, and then we’ll work it down to middle middle, get that adjustment pattern locked in. Maybe for some people, it’s not so much that they have to change their approach, maybe they just need to be comfortable getting to all these pitches vertically, you might not have to worry about what my timing is good, I’m swinging at the right pitches, just getting jammed a lot on high.

Taylor Gardner  27:51

Well, maybe it’s just because you’re dumping your barrel too soon.  It’s okay, you got to find where that issue is, and not fight it. But again, let your plan help you get there. The barrel above the hands is a great plan. It helps me already be ready for that movement pattern… sure, maybe you get to that pitch well maybe you’re facing speeds you can handle and you’re struggling with low and away. So maybe you do have to think about releasing that barrel sooner. Okay, nothing wrong with that.

Taylor Gardner  28:23

I would give everyone hesitation to just go out and put out a YouTube video saying this is the one and only way, of course it’s not. But we must understand all of it so that when you hear someone say something, to filter through what they’re saying, you’ll see why he’s doing it, that makes sense.  When you come out and some of these instructors say just one swing plane for every pitch. And if I just wait longer than I can see it longer. We know that’s not exactly be true.  Eyes don’t see the ball much longer just because we’re not swinging.

 

If one of the best, Mike Trout, is giving up 20-mph of ball exit speed, how much do mere mortals give up doing the same thing?

Joey Myers  28:56

Well and what’s also interesting is what the actual hitting operating system is when you can watch somebody, when you have been around the block and you’ve seen a lot of these different teachings, you can see what their main operating system is. And I know you and I were similar in this and we want to maintain high ball exit speeds.

Joey Myers  29:16

When you get a hitting guy that’s talking about a certain thing like hey, we need to get that at high and inside pitch with the bend in the front arm we need to get there, well we know that Perry Husband said Mike Trout, one of the best in the world will go down is one of the best top five probably, ever top five top 10 and down and away average ball exit speed is 101 miles an hour, not his top out but his average. And that’s where he’s locked out with that elbow at contact.

Joey Myers  29:45

And then at up and in, he’s reduced to a high school baseball player at 80 to 83 miles an hour. So he’s losing almost around 20 miles an hour ball exit speed that’s 80 feet. That’s 80 feet of batted ball distance that he’s giving up by looking away and adjusting in. Well, some people go well, that’s fine. But here’s the deal. And this is what I tell my players I say, Mike Trout is a once in a lifetime player. He’s just one of those people that we will look back on when he’s done with his career. And we will say he’s one of the best. One of the best ever is giving up 20 miles an hour ball exit speed.

Joey Myers  29:50

20 miles an hour.

Joey Myers  30:24

You know what the amateurs are probably giving up. 30-35 miles an hour ball exit speed?  He’s one of the best he can get away with it. You’re going to be given up a lot more.

Taylor Gardner  30:34

Yeah. I can’t remember if it was you or someone else had brought to my attention. It was before COVID happened. I think it was the baseball season before. And they asked, who hit their highest exit speed most often? Try and word that correctly. And I was like, Oh, I don’t know. And there’s Jose Altuve. And Aaron Judge. I was like, oh, okay, wow, two different types of hitter’s sizes body length. They said, Oh, you know how often they hit their hardest exit speeds?

Taylor Gardner  31:06

And at first, I’m like, Oh, these big leaguers? Oh, man, I bet 20% of their hits or they’re popping out near their top exit speeds. It was less than 2%. Wow, less than 2% of all of their hits, on miss hits in the realm of hitting is as hard as you can. What does that mean, though? Does that mean maybe they’re slowing their swing down and touching the ball? No, I don’t think so. And in my opinion, obviously get fooled on some pitches. Okay, fine.

Taylor Gardner  31:33

But I think most of their base hits that they reported, I think their miss hits are that powerful. And once you start to realize that homeruns are the best result, okay, but maybe your best result is a hard line shot, single or double, whatever. However hard you get whatever type of hit is your hardest hit, which for most people is a low launch angle, I dunno, maybe 0-5, maybe 10 degrees. And then that makes sense. Balls coming down about 5, 7, 8 degrees.

Taylor Gardner  32:03

And you can imagine that plane, you’re going to give up exit speed when you raise or lower your launch angle. And I see a lot of people don’t understand that. Oh, no. My hardest hits home runs.  Not exactly. I want to say the highest ball ever recorded was a ground ball. Double play.  It’s okay. It’s okay that if your exit speed fluctuates, based on how well you struck that ball for a single, double, triple based on how high or low you hit it, that’s fine. And you want to start tightening those windows up.

Taylor Gardner  32:33

But Backspin tee, you know Taylor, Joey, you can’t control your launch angles, not saying you can control your launch angles. It’s just like I’m not saying you can even hit why I’m saying though, is you can work on the precision of contact and work on your precision posture and swing plane. And when it lines up, you smoke a ball at the pitcher’s head, you did your job. And when the next at-bat, it probably feels the same and you hit a homerun, guess what you did your job. You hit the ball far. But more importantly, your plan gave you the ability to fall as hard as potentially could that swing.

Taylor Gardner  33:08

And that’s Oh man, how many young kids have you seen? You throw them one change-up… They’re crushing balls… you throw them one change up. And then the next 10 swings are crap. They just can’t find it… it just ruins their world. It’s like, oh, man, you got to filter that out. Trust the plan and get to the next pitch. It’s okay.

Joey Myers  33:29

Yeah, exactly. That’s crazy. Yeah, that’s a good one to end on. And that’s another call for another day. I want to be respectful of your time because you’ve got a little one that’s down there. And she’s been great. By the way.

Taylor Gardner  33:40

She’s sleeping now.

Joey Myers  33:41

She’s asleep. Yeah, she’s asleep. I’m talking too loudly. I’m talking to you loudly. But hey, I want to let you get back to the baby and get back to the family. hopefully get some sleep. Maybe she’ll take take a nap with her. But hey, where can people find you? socials, website, any kind of deals that you got going on right now? Go ahead. And…

 

Where can people find more about you guys?

Taylor Gardner  34:04

Yes, so find us on Google backspin bat tee to find backspintee.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, we have a 20% off code at the moment. If you use the code BATBROS. For those of you that follow the baseball bat pros, I’m very good friends with them. They are great people Bill Taylor and them and they’re amazing people. But you’re also going to find our bat tee in Dick’s Sporting Goods here soon. So be on the lookout.

Taylor Gardner  34:28

Hopefully, Academy is a follow that as well for those that maybe that’s closer to here. And we’re trying hard to get Mark word shields and some other big retail stores. But the Dick’s Sporting Goods we’re shipping that out here in a couple days. Extremely excited to make that next jump to the big retail because we’ve done so well on the individual bat tee sale and it’s time to make that move.

Joey Myers  34:50

Yeah, congratulations, buddy. I’ve been with you for a lot of this bat tee journey. I think we jumped on probably we start building our relationship maybe your second year I think you guys are. So, so I’m just excited for you guys. And I know you guys have been just like all of us been through our ups and downs and stuff and it sounds like you guys are starting to starting to rise again. So yeah,

Taylor Gardner  35:12

Yeah, it all started with Joey Myers experiment video, my bat tee versus the other tee, and we didn’t know each other so you have to watch that video.

Joey Myers  35:20

Again. See how they turned out? Yeah, it was in a very bias thing, I was probably, we had run into each other a couple times. We talked on the phone maybe once or twice and I was like, you know what, let’s try this out. Let’s do a bat tee experiment on it. I think it turned out well for you guys.

Taylor Gardner  35:34

Yeah, I think well back to the precision of contact, just changing that visual. You had a more funnel effect with the Backspin Bat Tee, and with the traditional tee, it was a little more scattered and it just makes you wonder, not promoting my bat tee over another tee… Tee just are you working on your precision and in your vision obviously has a lot to do with that so, pick up a Backspin Bat Tee, give it a shot, if you don’t like don’t like it, then I’ll give you your money back. Yeah, definitely.

Joey Myers  36:01

Right. Then percent off and you get 20% BATBROS. B-A-T-B-R-O-S, and that’s all caps, correct? Cool. All right, brother. Well, thanks. Keep up the good bat tee work. Congrats on everything and congrats on the little girl. My first time seeing her.

Taylor Gardner  36:13

Thank you bud.

Joey Myers  36:14

Alright brother. Take care of yourself.

Taylor Gardner  36:16

Have a good one.

Joey Myers  36:17

Have a good Easter.

Taylor Gardner  36:18

Thank you.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Hitting Baseball Drills: What Leads to Hitting More “Predictable” Line Drives and Less Strikeouts?

Hitting Baseball Drills Line Drive Mystery?

Hitting Baseball Drills Mike Trout photo courtesy: MLB.com

In this hitting baseball drills line drive mystery post, we’re going to answer the question above by diving into the following:

  • What does “predictable” mean and why does probability matter?  And,
  • Difference between ‘Launch Angle’ and ‘Attack Angle’…

What does “Predictable” mean and Why does Probability Matter?

Let’s define terms. What is probability?  Dictionary.com says this:

“The extent to which something is probable; the likelihood of something happening or being the case.”

Why does probability matter?  I have parents ask me, “What is the probability that if my kid does the hitting baseball drills you’re telling us, he or she will hit a line drive?”  What do you think an extraordinary yet reasonable line drive rate is?  We’ve talked about Major League average line drive rate being 20%.  That’s the gold standard for highest level in the land.  A high failure rate in hitting can be expected.  We’ve all heard the maxim that you can fail three out of ten times in the Big Leagues and make it into the Hall of Fame.  Probability of success in hitting DOES NOT match that of in the classroom.  Or shooting free throws.  Or a quarterback’s completion percentage.  Success measured in hitting isn’t even close to these examples.  Keeping probability in perspective matters when measuring hitting success.

Now, let’s look at the word predictable.  Hitting more “predictable” line drives.  What does predictable mean?  Dictionary.com, what say you?

“Behaving or occurring in a way that is expected.”

What “predictable” is for some hitting coaches may not be for others.  Consider this…Coach A uses horoscopes, astrology, and sorcery to teach his hitters how to hit line drives.  And after 20 years of teaching like this, he swears his hitters hit predictable line drives.  This is all he knows.    All he knows.

Let’s look at Coach B, who applies human movement principles validated by REAL Science to hitting a ball.  And after 20 years of teaching hitters like this, she swears HER hitters hit line drives predictably.  So which coach is more effective with their hitters?

If the hitting baseball drills answer doesn’t immediately jump out at you, then you may be the first one dead during a zombie apocalypse.  Of course I was exaggerating the two coaching strategies for effect (well, at least one of them).  This seems to be the duality of hitting logic I see online.  “Listen to ME because I said so”.  No standard.  Just listen to me because I slept in the same bed as Ted Williams in XYZ hotel.  Or I’ve binge watched millions of hours of slow motion hitting video of only the best hitters.  Or I have the MLB record of 9th inning doubles in the month of August.  Blah blah blah.

“Behaving or occurring in a way that is expected.”  20% line drive rate is expected.  So in 20-years of coaching, would Coach A or Coach B do better?  Let’s say Coach A’s astrology hitters came in at an average 12% line drive.  This is exceptional to him because it’s the pinnacle of what he’s experienced.  But what Coach A doesn’t know is Coach B’s science hitters clocked in at a 20% average line drive rate.  Coach A doesn’t have a clue until he talks to Coach B.  Lesson here?  We don’t know what we don’t know.  Now you know!

I can tell you, when it comes to THIS means THAT … hitting predictable line drives and striking out less comes from applying human movement principles that are validated by real science to hitting a ball. Hitters hit more predictable line drives when they follow principles outlined in: Physics, Engineering, Biomechanics, body work, Geometry, and Psychology.

Of course there is bad Science.  Just read Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks.  But there are irrefutable principles that have been proven for decades, if not hundreds of years.  Take Gravity for one.  Jump out of a plane and you’ll fall 100% of the time – as long as you call earth home.  Look, there are 50 ways to skin a cat, but there is always one most efficient way…

Astrology Coach A may say something like this about Science:

…yes u can argue with science. Science is religion not fact. It’s guessing and testing not thinking and proving. Very little is proven fact in science. Science is only science until better science comes along. For example. The science of hitting….. there’s ppl out there that say he wasn’t completely right. Then there will be someone new saying the same of your doctor…..i find it funny scientists who can’t hit anything telling ppl the proper way to hit.”

And Science Coach B may respond with something like this:

“Science is neither religion or guessing and testing. It is the discipline of seeking knowledge in pursuit of the truth and understanding. Whether being applied to medicine, the weather or the baseball swing, that understanding is only as good as the currently available information (data), and yes a process of observation, testing and retesting as tools improve necessarily updates our knowledge and improve our understanding. It does not rely on faith as religion does. It relies on evidence and data. “Hard anywhere” is a result. It doesn’t explain or teach how in fact one hits the ball hard anywhere consistently. That requires some understanding of how the biomechanics of the swing works and can be made most efficient for each player.  If you want to argue with “science” as you refer to it, you are welcome and encouraged to do so…but bring your superior evidence and data to the argument!” 

I want to keep Coach A’s name anonymous, so as not to expose him to ridicule, thrown tomatoes, and bunny ears.   Look, there are hundreds of different ways to teach hitting baseball drills. A lot of coaches believe this, and I agree.  But I’d argue there is a more effective way.  What is it?

Consider this scenario…imagine you and I sitting down at the kitchen table to talk hitting.  One hour before, we were both involved in a feverish game of Octopus Tag (you don’t want to know).  And are famished!  What’s on the menu?  A big fat bowl of creamy tomato soup.  But before we begin nourishing our bodies with sweet Lycopene, I give the choice of eating your soup with three primitive caveman tools.  WARNING: you can only pick one…

  1. Spoon,
  2. Fork, or
  3. Knife

Which tool would you choose to eat your soup?  Think hard.  I’ll wait… okay, time’s up!!  You chose the spoon didn’t you.  How did I know?  Astrology?  Horoscope-ology (is that a word)?  No, of course not.  I knew because that was the most effective tool for the job.  Hitting is the same.  Anything less than applying human movement principles validated by REAL Science to hitting baseball drills, is like eating delicious creamy tomato soup with a fork or even dumber, a knife.  One can pull it off.  But others would look at you like you were a wooden dummy.

Remember, we’re looking at “behaving or occurring in a way that is expected.”

Let’s look at another puzzle piece to helping hitters consistently hit line drives…

Difference between ‘Launch Angle’ and ‘Attack Angle’?

Here are the definitions of both attack angle and launch angle…

According to FanGraphs.com, Attack Angle is…

“The attack angle, or swing plane, is the angle that the bat is moving at when it hits the ball.”

And according to MLB.com, Launch Angle is…

“Launch Angle represents the vertical angle at which the ball leaves a player’s bat after being struck.”

There is no such thing as a ‘Launch Angle” swing, since every batted ball produces a Launch Angle, even a bunt.  Attack and Launch Angles are just numbers without a brain.  They’re a mode of measurement. They’re different, but similar.  More like first cousins. That’s it.  Period.  End of story.

But I can see where the hitting baseball drills confusion is.  The Launch Angle “swing” is a case of guilty by association.  In the past, coaches preaching launch angles, maybe using HitTrax or Rhapsodo, tended to instruct their hitters to hit the top back third part of the cage.  Did you get that?  Imagine that for a second…top-back-third-part-of-the-cage.  The coaching logic goes like this … if most doubles and dingers are hit within twenty to thirty degree launch angles, then let’s teach hitters to do just that.

Problem is, when the majority of hitters – especially the young ones –  attempt this, they end up hitting more popups.  I know because I taught it too!!  And like the Big Bang, just like that, the ‘Launch Angle’ swing was spoken into existence.  But I can tell you, THIS does not mean more predictable line drives.  Let me explain…

What is an Optimized Attack or Launch Angle?

The angle the barrel takes to the ball is an Attack Angle. The Launch Angle is angle ball takes off the bat.  Which begs the question, “What is an optimized Attack or Launch Angle?”

According to Fangraphs.com, the league average Attack Angle from 2015 through 2017 are: 11.4, 12.0, and 13.8 (in degrees), respectively.  The average Launch Angles in the same time frame were: 10.5, 11.1, and 11.0 (in degrees), respectively.  Launch Angle is a little more tricky than Attack Angle.  A hitter can control their Attack Angle.  Not so much their Launch Angle.  Fangraphs.com adds…

“…we see a relatively weak correlation between attack angle and launch angle, because launch angle is also strongly dependent a hitter’s aim, timing, and bat speed. While we don’t have any direct measurements of aim or timing, we can see that players with flatter swings (lower attack angles) have more margin for error when it comes to timing, and therefore tend to have higher contact rates than players with uppercut swings (larger attack angles).”

And the optimal home run Launch Angle seems to be about 24-degrees.  Ironically, the optimal Attack Angle for home runs is about 24-degrees.   But think about this, in the Big Leagues a fastball being thrown at 95-mph, typically is coming DOWN at a 5-degree angle.  So if the hitter’s Attack Angle is UP at 24-degrees, then yes we may see more dingers and doubles, but at the expense of hits, Batting Average, and higher strikeouts percentages.  The extreme uppercut example isn’t a good demonstration of the “slight uppercut” Ted Williams was talking about in his book The Science of Hitting.  Food for thought.

Furthermore, a fantastic post on the topic of the longest home run ever, comes from Dr. Alan Nathan in a post at PopularMechanics.com titled, “What’s The Longest Possible Home Run”. Alan Nathan is a professor emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois.  The professor has spent a career tracking physics, especially as it relates to baseball. He says two primary factors guide how far a ball is going to fly: exit velocity and launch angle.  From the Popular Mechanics post:

“Consider Nathan’s ideal home run, hit with 120-mph exit velocity at a 26-degree launch angle. If Giancarlo Stanton hit that ball on a 70-degree day, at sea level, with no wind and 50 percent relative humidity, then Nathan’s calculations show the ball will travel 492 feet…If you start changing those atmospheric conditions, that number can go up a lot.  An out-blowing wind at 5 mph, which is not a lot of wind, can add 24 feet to a fly ball, so now you are at 516 ft. If instead you go to Denver (lower air density at a higher elevation) and that goes up to 533 feet.”

Now, I know what you may be thinking…

How does the Brain get the Body to Optimize Attack (AA) and Launch Angles (LA)?

Perry Husband of HittingIsAGuess.com dragged me to the following hitting baseball drills conclusion.  We talked about this already, but league average line drive rates in the Bigs is 20%, so this should be our primary focus.  Physics says, the hardest ball hit requires center-center contact between barrel and ball.  And remember league average fly-ball and ground-balls rates hover around 40% each.  The best hitters in the game are missing center-center contact 80% of the time – LOSERS!!  Kidding!

Dingers and doubles are what we call “quality misses”.  Aim small, miss small.  Hit the ball back through the “tube”.  Shoot for the ten to fifteen degree Launch Angle (our 20% line drive rate), and rest assured hitters will accumulate more of these quality misses.  Dingers and doubles without sacrificing swing quality.  Practicing this may not be sexy, but the results are, believe me.  Because if hitter shoots for dingers and doubles, they’ll hit more pop flies – I can tell you.

Remember, we’re looking at “behaving or occurring in a way that is expected.”  Consistent.  Predictable.  Higher probability of line drives.  Here’s the how and the hitting baseball drills lesson…

To optimize AA, we focus on optimizing the net outcome of LA.  Our hitter’s default focus is back through the “tube”.  Path ball takes from pitcher’s hand to catcher’s glove.  Distance from the ground sets the “tube”.  Hitter works on hitting it back through the tube.  If it’s an inch off the ground … ball comes off bat an inch off the ground.  If the tube is set at 4-feet off the ground, then ball comes off bat 4-feet off the ground.  So if it comes back through the tube, it’s coming back through the tube at 10 to 15 degrees. That is our optimized default launch angle we want to see our hitters practicing every single swing they take.

If it is not back through the tube, then we want them making the Dr. Victor Frankl Man’s Search For Meaning paradoxical intention adjustments. If they hit the ball above the tube (pop fly or quality miss above), then we want them to make an adjustment down below the tube next time.   Why do we want to include an adjustment for quality misses (doubles and dingers) above the tube?  Because if they try for them, they’ll miss higher.  Not good.  We praise them for the quality miss, but remind them to get back to the tube.  The same is true if they hit it below the tube (a grounder), then we want them to make an adjustment above the tube.

I know I sound like a broken record, but the body is always a step or two behind the brain.  So we have to exaggerate the adjustment cue in order to get the body to do what the brain wants it to.  Thoughts move quickly. We want to make sure that we get the big old bag of bones, muscle, springy fascia, and organs on par with the brain. Tell body to overshoot where we want it to go, in order to get it in the middle.

Case Study: does Teaching Hitters to Hit Top Back Third Part of Cage Work for Hitters in Games?

I argue no, it does not. And I will also say that I was there a few years ago, teaching the same thing to my hitters.  If I was talking to two years in the past Joey Myers today … he would think I was crazy.  And in his finite wisdom, would demand whose hitting baseball drills Kool-Aid I was drinking. But I can assure two-years in the past Joey Myers that hitting the back third part of the cage isn’t what we want our hitters practicing.

I mentioned I taught this exact thing a few years ago, and what I found, especially with a lot of my junior high and high school hitters, was that focusing on the double and dinger caused a majority of my hitters to hit more … you guessed it … pop flies. Some were flying out three and four times a game. And at that time we were telling our hitters to get the ball off the ground, and that all ground balls sucked eggs. There are still a lot of coaches out there, progressive ones, good coaches, that still subscribe to that.  But the problem is probability of averages.  “Behaving or occurring in a way that is expected.”  Consistent.  Predictable line drives.

Again, you look at the best hitters in the game, league average 20 percent line drive rate, 40 percent fly ball, and 40 percent ground ball. 80 percent of the time, the best hitters in the world miss hit the center of the ball. Center ball meeting center bat. The best hitters in the game are missing 80 percent of the time. So think about that. If we shoot for a ten to fifteen degree launch angle, hit it back through the tube, then our misses are going to be more quality.  Net results?

A higher probability of lines drives.  Back to at least league average.  So if we’re shooting for a 10 to 15 degrees Launch Angle, and we miss slightly under that center point, what ends up happening is that 20 to 30 degree launch.  We’re going to accumulate more doubles and dingers by shooting for the middle.  Shooting for the tube.

And when it comes to quality ground-balls, I think in the big leagues, when the ball exit speeds get above 94 miles an hour defensive errors go up. They significantly increase. Now, why is that? Well, because the ball’s speeding up and it’s moving faster than the best can react to get to the ball.  And the less bounces, the more likely the ball will get to an outfielder.  More bounces slow the ball down significantly.  So the speed the ball comes off the bat matters “big tyne”, as Domingo Ayala would say.  According to a “Fun With Statcast (Exit Velo)” post at Medium.com, here’s what happens to batting average when ball exit speeds increase:

  • 92-mph = .261
  • 94-mph = .311
  • 96-mph = .369
  • 98-mph = .425
  • 100-mph = .508
  • 102-mph = .565
  • 104-mph = .635
  • 106-mph = .701
  • 108-mph = .718

Then they level off on any ball exit speeds above that.  So not all ground-balls are bad.  Especially if we’re hitting them over 94-mph.  And by the way, the stats you just read reflect Major Leaguers!!  If you have a kid in Junior High or High School hitting 92-mph ground-balls, then the batting average for that hitter at that level will be much higher than what’s reflected above.   Major Leaguers are MUCH better fielders.

Bottom line?  Our focus should be in hitting the ball hard. Ball exit speed MUST be a big part of the equation. It’s king.  Optimized launch angles don’t mean as much with slow ball exit speeds.  We can get away with it for a little while, but the ability to hit more extra base hits, hit the ball to the wall or over the wall is going to be a major challenge at higher levels.

And if it’s one thing that high school coaches hate, are their hitters hitting an excess of fly balls.  They would take a ground ball, even if it’s a weak one any day of the week.  Why?  Because they bank on that fielder either miss playing it, or over throwing it. They’ll say that there’s more that can go wrong with the ground-ball than a fly ball, which is true. Fielder has to field and throw cleanly, and the receiver has to catch it. Three things can go wrong with the ground ball than a fly ball. They just have to catch it.  I’d disagree that “just catching” the ball is easy though.

As an outfielder who played at the Division 1 level in college, I can tell you it’s not that easy to track and catch a ball in the air.  You’ve got to take the right route. You’ve got to read it correctly off the bat. You’ve got to listen to the sound of contact. Solid, or not quite. If the ball is hit hard, we were taught to take your first step back. You don’t want a line drive going over your head. There’s a lot that goes into catching a ball in the air. So I will disagree that it’s easy to catch a fly ball. And I think most that say it’s easy, never played outfield on a regulation big field against higher level hitters.

In addition, with a skill like hitting that is reactive, versus pitching which is proactive, control isn’t what hitters are gifted with.  Only control what you can control. And to hear these coaches say hit the ball on the ground because the defense might make an error.  In a sport with less control, why would you pin hopes and dreams on “might” make an error.  You can’t control that.  So only focus on what you can control.

“Behaving or occurring in a way that is expected.”  Consistent.  Predictable line drives.  Our hitters CAN control improving their Ball Exit Speeds and optimize their Attack Angles.  In Chapter-3, we discussed what leads to hitting more “predictable” line drives and less strikeouts.  We dove into the following:

  • What does “predictable” mean and why does probability matter?  And,
  • Difference between ‘Launch Angle’ and ‘Attack Angle’…
Baseball Analytics: Miguel Cabrera Launch Angles

How Fast (or Slow) Until a Data-driven Swing Replaces an “Old School” One? (Baseball Analytics Shenanigans)

Baseball Analytics: Miguel Cabrera Launch Angles

Baseball Analytics Photo courtesy: HittingNow.com

Why extremes are ALMOST never good

(Estimated reading time: 18-minutes)

How did we get here with baseball analytics? The ‘Launch Angle’ era.  Where did it originate?  What was the tipping point of choosing Sabermetrics over traditional scouting?  You’ll find out in the coming post.  But first,

We’ll be discussing what a data-driven swing looks like – we’ll be covering:

  • Story of Minor League hitting coaches having almost ZERO hitting experience,
  • Pros of a data-driven swing,
  • Cons of a data-driven swing, and
  • How it’s bad (or good) to track ball exit speed and launch angle in the batting cage.

Once upon a time in the Minors…

Story of Minor League hitting coaches having almost ZERO hitting experience

I have an interesting story to talk about. A true story. In an almost magical land called the Minor Leagues.  At the time, a little birdy playing for a National league professional organization whispered in my ear.  This little birdy told me…

Their are budding baseball analytics hitting coaches sprouting up in some professional organizations – having almost zero hitting experience.  No this isn’t fake news.  These whirlybird propeller seeds are traveling by wind from the sparkling land of economics … planting their baby hitting coach seeds in fresh dark batter’s box soil.  With a little gray water, bright sunlight, and the swift tap of a fairy’s wand… instantly sprouts an economics hitting fairy!

These magical Econ-hitting fairies are now happily coaching professional hitters on what they need to be feeling as a hitter … regardless of whether they’re hitting line drive after line drive … AND, with no more playing experience than Little League.  Imagine the Mathlete schooling the High School Baseball Jock in everything hitting.  And the Jock MUST listen or … YOU’RE FIRED!

Okay, so I may have embellished the story a bit.  The Minor Leagues ARE NOT magical lands – just ask any Minor Leaguer.  It wasn’t a little birdy that shared the story – it was a professional baseball human being.  And sorry to kill your hopes and dreams, but magical Econ-hitting fairies aren’t born by adding gray water, sun, and the tapping of a fairy wand.  C’mon man, everyone knows those aren’t real!  Magical Econ-hitting fairies, I mean.  Fairy wands are VERY real.

It is true though – how this story sounded in my head. It was an interesting story coming from a single-A ballplayer.  That is, the state of  professional baseball in the so-called ‘Launch Angle’ era.  It does beg the question…

How are these baseball analytics Econ-hitting fairies, who have zero college, professional, or Major League experience, finding themselves coaching professional hitters on what they need to be doing, and how they need to be doing it?  Listen, this may sound counter to what I just spent a few sarcastic paragraphs mocking.  But listen closely…

As a coach you DO NOT need to have extensive experience to teach hitters to be effective in their movements.  Just as long as you understand how to apply human movement principles that are validated by real science to hitting the ball. In other words, as long as you understand the rules of the human movement game, you can help hitters at all levels succeed, regardless of experience.

So what is happening?

From my understanding, these data-driven Econ-hitting fairies with extensive backgrounds in economics DO NOT understand the rules of the human movement game.  Let me take you back to the future…

For those with your head in the sand the last two decades, there’s been a revolutionary baseball movement since 2001.  Just after Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball.  You may or may not have read the book, but may have seen the movie starring the always dreamy Bradley Pitt.

At the heart of the story is former General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane (played by Bradley Pitt). Beane reached out to Paul DePodesta, a Harvard alum, with a background in economics.  And coincidentally had a knack for baseball statistics.  DePodesta would soon become Beane’s first analytics department.

And it was here, Billy Beane transformed a low budget, bottom of the barrel, SEEMINGLY professional franchise known as the Oakland Athletics, into a real David and Goliath story.  Beane and DePodesta used key player statistics to recruit.  Stats that optimized scoring more runs, and as a result would win more games.  Like how often a hitter gets on base – or On-base Percentage.  And how often a hitter gets an extra base hit – known as Slugging Percentage.  Think about it.  How do you score more runs?  Get more runners on base, and have hitters who can drive them in.  Nowadays there are more advanced stats that measure run scoring value, but the point is this changed the game forever.  For the better, and for the worst.  I’ll get into why in the coming pages.

Furthermore…

This helped the baseball analytics powered A’s be highly competitive against top budget franchises.  I apologize, but I’m going to spoil the ending … this was until other big market teams caught on.  Oops!  The cat was out of the bag.  Yuge budget teams like Boston and New York were able to take the same system, but now pay BIG sums of money for the same undervalued players Oakland was getting at a steep discount.  Yes, Oakland shot themselves in the foot.  It wouldn’t be the last time.  The jig was up.  The A’s magic run was over.  But not before Billy Beane and the A’s proved the system worked.  Regardless of a franchise’s budget.  Like a fairy’s wand, player valuation metrics transformed the game.

And it was a good thing at the time, because you had players and coaches still in the game or retired, that were helping teach the game through their personal experiences.  They’re now considered “old school” coaches.  Filling a gap on the coaching side of things that the Econ majors and analytics departments weren’t able to do.  It was a healthy debate between old and new school methods.  Friction and debate in a system are a good thing.  But now this friction is like the political climate between Republicans and Democrats.  Toxic.

This healthy balance of baseball analytics debate went MIA somewhere along the way.  Like crabgrass in your lawn, metrics soon took over.  Pushing many of the experienced baseball minds out of the game.  Labeling them dinosaurs.  Or maybe, the experienced minds couldn’t keep up.  Or didn’t want to keep up.  In my humble opinion, player valuation using metrics has its place.  But it should not be the totality of scouting, recruiting and developing players.  I’m not a Math-hater or numbers-denier.  I love Math.  Love Geometry, Economics, and Statistics. I did hate Algebra 2 though.    My point is, data without context is not optimized.  Data is a puzzle piece.  NOT the whole thing.

Teaching hitters isn’t just about metrics.  Doesn’t have to be completely data-driven.  AND, teaching isn’t just about old school teaching methods.  It’s a blend of both. Mutually inclusive. Not mutually exclusive.  We can use data AND we can also use old school teaching methods to help hitters at all levels. We don’t have to be on one side or the other.  You don’t have to be Tom OR Jerry.  Bert OR Ernie.  Han Solo OR Chewbacca.  When it comes to hitting, the following will replace ‘Or’ with ‘And’.

Let’s make the Mathletes happy and discuss the…

Pros of a data-driven swing

Here are some pros to a data driven baseball analytics swing. Famed business management consultant, Peter Drucker once said,

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

You business owners and managers understand this. You understand that you can optimize certain operations. You can optimize certain metrics in a business, it could be using Profit First in finances, it could be building Software as a Solution (SaaS) in technology, it could be optimizing sales funnels in marketing.  Optimization is working on the right things, and then doing those things right.

How can numbers help hitters?  Swing experiments.  In online marketing, we can run what’s called split A/B test.  Meaning, we can test whether a green button gets more clicks than a pink one over a period of time.  Like online marketing, we can split A/B test the swing by running swing experiments.

One of the things we used to accomplish this, when we started HittingPerformanceLab.com back in 2013, was technology such as the Zepp swing app, a knob tech swing analyzer.  Like BlastMotion and SwingTracker today. We can compare key swing metrics, whether it’s bat speed, attack angle, or time to impact and contrast two different swing movements.  It’s the ultimate baseball analytics split A/B test for hitters!

Here are the 5 steps to applying the Scientific Method to running swing experiments…

We start off with a QUESTION: “Are loose hands fast hands to a hitter?”  We can do a swing experiment using a BlastMotion or SwingTracker bat knob sensor. And we can test that. We can test it comparing apples to apples.

We then form a HYPOTHESIS on how we  think the experiment will turn out: “I think loose hands ARE fast hands”.  And then,

We go down the rabbit hole of RESEARCHING other studies that confirm and deny our hypothesis.

Then we COLLECT THE DATA from using the Zepp, BlastMotion, SwingTracker, or a PocketRadar for measuring ball exit speed.

For example in our ‘loose hands are fast hands’ swing experiment … we would take one hundred swings with loose hands. And one hundred swings doing the opposite.  In this case, using what we call finger pressure.  So the top hand, bottom three fingers squeezed tight, eight out of ten squeeze, from the moment the hitter picks up their front stride foot, to the swing follow through. Then we counterbalance those swings. This helps remove any warm-up or getting tired biases out of the experiment.

We break the two hundred swings into twenty five swing chunks, and layer them so that loose hand swings are symbolized with the letter ‘A’, and finger pressure swings are symbolized with the letter ‘B’. Remember, each letter represents one 25-swing chunk.  The first 100 swings will be broken into the following sequence: ABBA. And the last 100 swings will be broken into the following reverse sequence: BAAB.  This is how to do split A/B testing, from a hitting perspective.

After all 200 counterbalanced swings, we extract the averaged out data from the BlastMotion, SwingTracker, Zepp device, or PocketRadar.  Then we can base our CONCLUSION on the averages.  Which factor, loose hands or finger pressure swings contributed to better bat speed, hand speed, time to impact, attack angle, etc.?  By the way, Finger Pressure won out in our own swing experiments.

Simply put, here’s the Scientific Method…

  1. Question
  2. Hypothesis
  3. Research
  4. Data
  5. Conclusion

Essentially, we use the above process, take one hitting myth, and test it against its opposite. Don’t get me wrong, no swing experiment is perfect.  Experiment findings are based on probability.  Experiments are repeated by others, and the findings are either proven or proven false.  Over time, this increases or decreases confidence in the findings.  The bottom line is this, using the Scientific Method may not be perfect, but it’s one step in the right direction.  It gives us a process and path towards the truth. Take of from Peter Drucker: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

We satisfied the Mathletes – somewhat – talking about the Pros of a data-driven swing, especially when it comes to Moneyball. Billy Beane, all that stuff.

Now, let’s make the old school athletes happy and look at the…

Cons of a data-driven swing

Outside of applying the Scientific Method to optimizing the swing, here are the Cons to a baseball analytics data driven swing. Typically, in a data driven swing, not enough attention is given to the context of the numbers.

I always say, numbers don’t have brains. People do. Here’s the problem … take the example of our Econ-hitting fairy story.  Knowing zero about hitting.  Having virtually zero experience hitting.  Teaching hitters based on hearsay. Basically guessing on connecting the dots.  This presents quite a challenge.  It would be like asking me to re-roof your house … I have a lot of skill sets, but that ain’t one of them!  You’d be better off making YouTube your friend and doing it yourself!

In today’s game, these hitters are in the Big Leagues because their statistics work for ‘Launch Angle’ era Econ-scouts. On paper, the numbers work.  Aaron Miles played 9-years in the Big Leagues, from 2003-2011.  Played for almost half a dozen teams.  Most notable, he played with Albert Pujols on the St. Louis Cardinals.  He was a switch hitting middle infielder and third baseman.  Standing in at 5-foot, 8-inches, 180-pounds.  Beautiful .281/.320/.352 career average slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage).  Note that he played when the baseball analytics ‘Launch Angle’ era was just getting warmed up.  When there was a somewhat healthy balance of old and new school.  That’s the context.

Let me set the scene…

I’ve had a few enjoyable phone conversations with Aaron Miles over the years.  Great dude.  Not afraid to challenge the status quo.  He told me a pretty revealing story once.  Which will say a lot about the hitting times we find ourselves in.  I asked him what decision he made in the past that now – looking back – he sees was a mistake?

He was slumping one year, and was briefly demoted.  Before the demotion, he knew he was a small-ball situational hitting guy being smaller, faster, and a switch hitter.  But with the demotion, he didn’t have much to lose, so he decided to air out his swing.  Again, this was the start of the ‘Launch Angle’ era.  Interestingly, he began smashing more extra base hits.  At one point, a coach came up to him saying something to the effect of, “C’mon Miles, you’re a role player, don’t swing beyond your role”.

Remember, at this time there was still a strong old school hitting mentality present in the game.  So what did Miles do?  What any rational, logical, smart Big Leaguer would do in that scenario … he got back to being a role playing hitter.  You see, the respect for the “numbers community” wasn’t as high as it is now.  So in Aaron’s case, old school hitting was more representative of the times.

Here’s the point…

Here’s how Aaron Miles answered the question of what decision he made in the past that now – looking back – he sees was a mistake…  In this day and age of rewarding hitters that get on base more often and get more extra base hits … he expressed that he would have given the “air-it-out” swing more time.  Maybe he could have added another year to his career.  Maybe 2?  3?  4 maybe?  Who knows!  Give up some strikeouts.  Hit more dingers and doubles.  This formula seems to work out better for hitters in the Launch Angle era.

Let me be clear.  This blog post isn’t about giving up a hundred strikeouts and fifty batting average points a season to hit for more power.  What we believe is having your cake and eating it too!  Power AND average.  Mutually inclusive, NOT mutually exclusive.  Just like Batman AND Robin!

Getting back to our baseball analytics Econ-hitting fairy friends taking numbers out of context…

They’re looking at a hitter’s high ground ball percentage – say 50 percent, while league average is 43 percent. And they’re telling that hitter to get the ball in the air.  You may agree with this. And I can see where you’re coming from.  But there’s a catch…those numbers don’t mean anything, if you don’t understand what mechanics are causing a higher than average ground-ball rate.

Let me give an example…

Christian Yelich in 2015 had a ground-ball rate of 62.5-percent!  Remember league average is 43-percent.  Then, that rate steadily dropped in the years that followed 56.5, 55.4, 51.8, and in 2019 he finally arrived at a league average 43.2-percent ground-ball rate.  Do you know how many doubles he hit in those respective seasons, starting in 2015?  30, 38, 36, 34, and 29 doubles in 2019 – where he had about 100 less plate appearances than prior years.  Dingers? Starting in 2015 with 7, 21, 18, 36, and 44 in 2019.

Yes, hitting less ground-balls will lead to more extra base hits.  But what in a hitter’s mechanics (or timing) cause an above average ground-ball rate?  Do you know?  Off the top of your head, what can you point to mechanically?  Believe me, if you tell a hitter to get the ball in the air without looking at mechanical ground-ball choke points, then you’ll most likely get an extreme uppercut.  Not to mention, most young hitters will make unnatural compensations to get the ball in the air.   This collapses consistency!  Low batting average and high strikeouts will be the ultimate result.  Believe me.

Baseball analytics numbers by themselves are dumb. Numbers don’t have brains, people do. So hitting coaches have to understand how mechanics translate into metrics. Back to our Econ-hitting fairy friends. That’s the problem.  Not having the ability to translate metrics into mechanics.  To optimize the numbers, we have to understand the context.  The good news for our Econ-hitting fairy friends?  This can be learned and applied in today’s ‘Launch Angle’ era.  Regardless of playing level experience.

How it’s bad (or good) to only track ball exit speed and launch angle in the batting cage

There are some hitting coaches that will say tracking ball exit speed and launch angles in the batting cage is really dumb, is REALLY not smart.  And then there are those who do it all the time.  And their hitters are successful versus doing nothing.

Look, I treat the batting cage as a Laboratory.  It’s a place to experiment.  To work out the kinks.  To be free to make mistakes and learn.  Use data to measure and manage swing mechanics.  Logical coaches get this.  Others?  They’re just guessing.

Same polarized perspective about tee work. Some coaches don’t like hitting off batting tees.  Because at the end of the day, the hitter has to translate what they’re doing mechanically to a LIVE pitch.  Agreed.  But when teaching something new, a batting tee has its place.  It can also help coaches understand cause and effect in mechanics.  How?  By isolating the variable.  If you can’t isolate the variable, you’re guessing.  And guessing is an anti-optimization strategy.  If you don’t know what’s causing what, then how do you know what works and what doesn’t?

Isolating the variable?  Brilliant.org defines it:

“Isolating a variable means rearranging an algebraic equation so that a different  variable is on its own. The goal is to choose a sequence of operations that will leave the variable of interest on one side and put all other terms on the other side of the equal sign.” 

I know, rough definition when comparing against baseball analytics.  Let me rephrase … in relation to hitting mechanics, it’s finding out what in the swing contributes to the majority of power…  Hitting more line drives…  Getting on-time more often…  How would one go about isolating those mechanical variables?  I can tell you it’s not hitting LIVE pitching.  WHY?  Because LIVE pitching is too random.  Humans.  Pitch speed.  Pitch depth.  Pitch height.  Pitch type.  Pitch distance.  Pitch reaction time.  All this can be controlled in a swing experiment off a tee.

I believe, there’s a time and place for the tee.  I subscribe to the Goldilocks Golden Rule – not too hot, not too cold…I like my hitters using the tee just the right amount.  The brain has to organize in a certain way.  With LIVE pitching, there is a lot of data collection the hitter has to take in.  Pitch recognition.  Tracking.  Timing.  Learning a new mechanic also taxes the brain.  High cognitive load.

Consider this…

What if I asked you to write your first and your last name in half the letters. In other words, what if I asked you to write every other letter of your name? So for me, JOEY MYERS, I would write it as J-E-M-E-S.  Now, I’ve never done that before.  So, if I was timing myself, the first five out of ten tries would be slow. The more I practice though, the faster I’d be writing half my name.  Why?  Because I’m writing it in half the letters!

But it takes a little time for my brain and body to connect and figure this out.  To learn how to do it.  Learn how to do something that I’m not used to doing.  It is the same exact thing when learning something new mechanically. Keep this in mind when thinking about your seven, eight, nine year olds learning something they’re not comfortable doing.  Hitting off the batting tee is an okay thing to do in the beginning. When something’s new.

Again, the batting tee shouldn’t be something you spend a lot of time using, but it is a proper regression-progression when compared to dry swings, soft toss, or LIVE toss.  In connecting tee work to ball exit speeds and launch angles … they give us a unit of measure off the tee with a uniquely controlled environment.  Apples to apples comparison.

Launch angles are a data point. A lot of these coaches don’t like the launch angle swing. Well, launch angle is a number. The launch angle is the angle of the ball coming off the bat. It’s hard for hitters to control it.  However, hitters can control their barrel Attack Angle.  The angle the barrel takes to the incoming pitch.  Launch and Attack Angles don’t have to be the same. And most likely they aren’t going to be.  But hitters can better control the latter, not so much the former.

What’s measurable is manageable.  We can use swing experiments to do it. Hitting off the tee shouldn’t be something we hang our hat on, but it is something that gives us a data point, a standard data point that we can give baseball analytics context to.  Not like analyzing metrics without looking at context.  Remember numbers don’t have brains, people do.  What are the causes of an above or below average fly ball, ground ball, or line drive percentage?  Home run to fly-ball ratio?  Higher percentage of pulling the ball or going the other way too much? What is the mechanical causation-correlation relationship making those metrics above or below average?

We’ll find out in upcoming blog posts…

We covered A LOT:

  • Story of Econ-hitting fairies in the Minor Leagues – having almost ZERO hitting experience and knowledge.  What’s going on here?
  • Pros of a data-driven swing – what’s measurable is manageable.  Using the Scientific Method: 1. Asking a question, 2. Forming a hypothesis, 3. Doing the research, 4. Collecting the data, and 5. Formulating a conclusion,
  • Cons of a data-driven swing – numbers by themselves are dumb. Numbers don’t have brains, people do. Hitting coaches have to understand how mechanics translate into metrics.  What does a hitter with an above average ground-ball rate mean?  How do you bring him or her to average or below average? And…
  • How it’s bad (or good) to track ball exit speed and launch angle in the batting cage – if you’re not collecting data and comparing with strategic swing changes, then you’re guessing. Tracking ball exit speeds, attack angles, and launch angles are part of data collection.  And using a tee is essential when isolating the variable and teaching something new.
Baseball Swing: Alex Rodriguez Interviews Barry Bonds

Perfect Baseball Swing By Swinging Down?

 

 

This baseball swing video where Alex Rodriguez interviews Barry Bonds was a two parter to this video post. Here are four of the interview’s finer points:Baseball Swing: Alex Rodriguez Interviews Barry Bonds

  1. “X” factor. Why top hand and back shoulder have to communicate with front leg,
  2. Per-fect swinging down because it’s easy to go up,
  3. 200+ Stikeouts as long as you hit 40-homers? And,
  4. How bunting can ‘line up’ your hitting.

 

Here are my interview time stamped notes…

  • At about the 1-min, 40-sec mark, Alex Rodriguez asks Barry Bonds about the “Ferris wheel” v. “merry-go-round” swings.  Bonds says he’s more of a down-angle swinger. “Down” means to flatten out the barrel path.  Not talking about swinging straight down.
  • At about the 3-min mark, Barry Bonds goes into what he calls the “X” factor and the “center-line”.  Back shoulder going to communicate with front leg.  And front shoulder with back leg.
  • At about the 4-min, 15-sec mark, Alex Rodriguez asks Barry Bonds if he hits off his back leg.  Causes head to fly open, front shoulder, and uppercut.  Bonds talks about using top hand as “guide” hand, bottom is power.  Top hand (back shoulder) and front leg have to communicate.  If they don’t, then head can pull open.
  • At about 6-min, 30-sec mark, Alex Rodriguez asks Barry Bonds about the advice Barry give him about not dipping his back shoulder too much.  Bonds expects hitters to work chopping ball off ground during tee work.  It’s easy to go up.  Over exaggerate down on a consistent basis. “Per-fect” the down level swing.
  • At about 9-min mark, Alex Rodriguez asks Barry Bonds about in today’s game it’s okay to strikeout over 200 times per season, just as long as you hit 40-homers.  A-Rod asked Bonds how he developed the discipline and balance at the plate.  Game has changed.  Don’t blame the players, they adapt to the environment.  In Barry’s day, had to hit .300, strikeout less than 100 times per season or you were sent down.  Bonds was told growing up to be a great hitter.  Home-runs don’t matter.  Tony Gwynn was a big influence to Barry. Use line to line, that will open the gaps.
  • At about 11-min, 30-min mark, Barry and A-Rod talk about bunting against the shift.  Bonds adds that bunting can always get you lined up for hitting.  Playing “catch” with the baseball.  Bunting slows things down.  My buddy Aaron Miles tells a story about this.
  • At about 13-min mark, Alex Rodriguez asks Bonds that if he was graduating from Arizona in 2020, gets drafted by the Giants in a Sabermetrics heavy environment, would he have listened to his dad?  Baseball is a eye hand coordination sports.  Computers are limited on what they can predict.
  • At the 15-minute mark are Alex Rodriguez’s “takeaways”.
FernandoTatisJrBaseballSwingAnalysisPart YouTubeThumbnail

Arm Bar Like This Fernando Tatis Jr Baseball Swing Analysis?

 

 

Here’s what we’re talking about in this Fernando Tatis Jr baseball swing analysis:

Fernando Tatis Jr Baseball Swing Analysis Part-2

Fernando Tatis Jr Baseball Swing Analysis Part-2 photo courtesy: MLB.com

  • Distance between feet – Getting to a balanced position on our stride,
  • Staying sideways with lower half – most still want to pivot on back foot instead of with the hip, and
  • Front arm shape – Arm bar a problem?

The following is the transcription from the above video.  Time stamped of course, so you can skip ahead if you’d like. And in case you missed Part-1, then check it out Here.

Enjoy!

00:38

Remember, in part one, we went over some fangraphs stats, Fernando Tatis Jr. We talked about catapult loading system principles and how he uses them in his swing. And we also talked a little bit about staying sideways there as well. We will go in a little bit more depth in this video.

 

Distance between feet – Getting to a balanced position on Fernando Tatis Jr baseball swing’s stride

 

00:56

Let’s talk about the distance between the feet and getting to a balanced position in the stride. First, I wanted to give you a little context between these pitches, the one on the left, I think both of these are 2020. The one on the right we talked about in part one, but this one is a low and in breaker. Slower than average pitch.

 

01:18

And then this one over here, if you remember was a fastball up and in. Just to give each context there. On the left, we’ll go… there’s three swings over here. The first one will be this one, and then the other two I don’t have the pitchers view on, so we will look at the distance between the feet.

 

01:37

One of the things that elite hitters have in common is they get distance between their feet at stride landing and during their turn. A lot of young hitters tend to either be too narrow, don’t get a long enough stride or if they skip their back foot they skip too far, creating more of narrow feet during the turn itself.

 

01:55

Elite hitters don’t do that, elite hitters will create distance between their feet. It makes for a more athletic position and allows them to be able to, if they want to use their knees to get to pitches down in the zone like a Cody Bellinger or an Anthony Rizzo or Dustin Pedroia, they can do that.  With narrow feet during the turn, it’s not going to happen.

 

02:16

So as this also applies to getting to balance at your stride landing, you’re going to notice that in Fernando Tatis Jr baseball swing, that he is not going to be very heavy on that front foot as he lands. You can see that, and we’ll get to this a little later in the video, this idea of shifting foot pressure. But if we look at this little ride or float, we like to call the float, Matt Nokes calls the ride and then the stride or the fall we call it the float in the fall.

 

02:49

You can see that there isn’t a 100% commitment to the front leg yet. It’s a little bit more uncommitted, feeling out, being more controlled, and there’s different drills that you can do for this you can put weight on the front foot, like a band pulling the front foot forward or the band pulling the hitters body forward wrapped around their waist, and the coach is out in front pulling the bands, and the hitter’s got to resist the band.  Got to resist gravity from landing too hard and heavy on that front foot.

 

03:17

But that’s what you’re going to see. You’re going to see that distance between the foot and as he begins his turn, you will see him maintain the distance between his feet. Look out over here. Very light and hover-y with that front foot at landing. And you see there’s a little bit of a glide or skip of the back foot.

 

03:46

Here’s another swing.  You can see this really controlled fall, it is a fall because you will see him unweight that back leg completely with the skipping of that back foot or the scissoring into that back foot. But at first before the stride foot lands, you’re going to see this very tentative with the weight. He’s going to get to the end of his hip, front hip and that’s going to allow him to rotate without having to shift more during the turn as he rotates.

 

04:31

A lot of hitters, young hitters, will get to landing and then they’ll continue to shift forward with their hips as they’re turning the barrel.  In both baseball and softball. We want to get to the end of that hip, front hip. As we land, that’s it. There’s no more shifting of the hip, of the weight. We should be done shifting, then as we start to turn, that head should stay still, shouldn’t move anymore once a stride foot hits the ground.

 

05:07

Here’s the fourth swing.  You can see this hover, he’s still committing his weight forward, but it’s controlled. Again, we can stand out in front of this hitter, and we can wrap a band, resistance band around their waist, we can hold the handles and pull them forward and they have to resist our pull forward, that is a way to help with this… not committing that weight 100% at stride touchdown.

 

05:37

We’ll get the hip to the endpoint, which is right there. And then as the turn starts, and on this pitch Tatis is a little bit out in front looks almost like a Jose Bautista swing. But that is a way to stay balanced and making sure we maintain distance between the feet.

Staying sideways with lower half – most still want to pivot on back foot instead of with the hip

05:57

Now let’s talk about staying sideways. There’s this tendency for hitting coaches out there, and for usually the older kids, the younger ones that are under coached tend to do this correctly. But the ones that have been over coached a little bit will tend to want to pivot on that back foot. And these coaches are teaching them to pivot on the back foot to get the hips through. And that’s not what we’re looking for.

 

06:20

The hips aren’t, rotation of the hips, maximum rotation of the hip isn’t where power is coming from, not most of the power anyway.  The hips and the pelvis are about 33% of the equation when it comes to the spinal engine. Thoracic spine, the spine is split into three, the cervicles – the neck, thoracic – the middle, the bigger part of the spine, and then you have the lumbar is the lower part.

 

06:43

Those three sections, along with the shoulders, and the pelvis surrounding that are where most of the power is. The pelvis and the hips are a very small percentage of that, 33% or so, if you split it in three. What we see is this shifting foot pressure, you’ll see where you got foot pressure on the outside of the back foot, inside of the front foot up to landing.

 

07:14

And then same over here. This is a different angle. But you can see the inside of the front foot here, can see it over on the right and outside, it’s starting to shift. And then as the turn starts, the foot pressure on the part of the foot will shift completely opposite side. Back one will go from outside to inside. You can see the insides already starting to shift here on the left pane. Same thing on the right pane, you’re also going to see the front foot do the opposite, it’s going to go from the inside to the outside.

 

07:47

Staying sideways and making sure we get to the end of the front hip at landing. We’re going to see that bowing in here. The inside of the back foot when we see kids turning that back foot. By this point, the foot is almost vertical. And they’re turning what we say is with the middle of the foot instead of the inside of the foot. What we should see is what Fernando Tatis Jr baseball swing analysis is doing, one on the left you’re seeing a little bit more vertical but then he pushes that heel down and stays inside.

 

08:25

Remember this pitch was the breaker the slower breaker down and in. He was a little bit out in front of this you can tell just by where the barrel is entering the zone. It’s not knocking off the real catcher’s glove, which is back here. It’s actually between the back-foot catcher’s glove and the belly button catcher’s glove. A little bit out in front, over here on the right, can see the same inside back foot, you can see the front foot clearly go from inside to outside, pushes that back heel behind him.

 

08:59

The hips are for direction, not for 100% complete rotation.  That’s not where the power is coming from, the hips set directional force. Here’s another swing, same thing outside of the back foot inside of the front foot. You’re going to see that all the way until about landing, and then we’re going to see the shift happen inside of the back foot outside of the front foot. push that back heel behind them.

 

09:29

Fourth swing, outside of the back foot, inside of the front foot going to stay sideways, we’re not going to pivot on that back foot. Like most young hitters do that coaches have taught him to do that. The youngest hitters 7, 8, 9… They tend to do this on their own if we don’t touch them. Same shifting the foot pressure. This one he actually scissors is a little bit more out in front than he was on that first swing, and you can see big time skip and hop, don’t like the hop so much, but this is just a compensation, you didn’t see that in the other three swings, but he is scissoring here to keep his balance on this swing.

 

10:13

You can see our lower half, combination of distance between the feet. This allows the hitter to keep a balance into their stride by staying sideways, and in doing so, shifting our foot pressure from outside of the back foot, inside of the front foot to, during the turn inside of the back foot, outside of the front foot allows the pelvis in the lower half to control and guide our directional force.

Front arm shape – Arm bar a problem?

10:46

Alright, let’s talk about is the arm-bar okay?  I hear a lot of coaches out there like to teach the adjustable swing, meaning look away, adjust in, or look in and adjust the way. And when you start facing better pitching that just doesn’t work. We can’t get to balls and be able to maximize our ball exit speed inside with an elbow bent at 90 degrees.

 

11:08

You’ll see in the four swings of this Fernando Tatis Jr baseball swing analysis; he’ll do a very good job of maintaining the shape of that front arm.  Maintaining the shape of the front arm will allow consistency in the performance of the swing. And the longer the front arm, the longer the lever is, an engineering principle, the more the force gets multiplied at the end of the lever. It’s both power or ball exit speed, batted ball distance, and consistency.

 

11:40

We can get to an inside pitch, or a pitch up in the zone with a straight barred out front arm, but it’s when the hitters barrel enters the zone is what really matters. It’s not about the length of the front arm if it’s getting locked out. As much as it is when the barrel enters the zone, and the coaches that teach the barrel to get into the zone super early, knocking off the real catcher’s glove. Are going to have a hard time getting the barrel to the ball on the inner half part of the plate or getting to the ball on the middle up part of the zone.

 

12:16

But it’s not because of the front arm shape, it is because of when the barrel is entering the zone. The best hitters in the world change, instinctively, we can teach it but instinctively change when their barrel enters the zone. That’s another topic for another video. But let’s look over here at our first swing. Fernando Tatis Jr baseball swing analysis, you’re going to see that front arm shape almost from the start of the turn.

 

12:45

Again, this one is a breaking ball that was probably 80-ish miles an hour, located down and in the part of the zone.  You can see the arms fully locked out, see where the barrels at?  Barrel is tight to the back shoulder. And then you’re going to start to see him unwind and release the barrel, like I said earlier in this video, is going to be somewhere between the back foot catcher’s glove… If you can if you can imagine a catcher’s glove in line with his back foot, and a catcher’s glove in line with his belly button.

 

13:15

He releases it somewhere in the middle of those, being a little bit out in front of this ball and this ball being on the inner, the lower inner part of the zone. See the front arm shape there, is a different angle, but you can still see he pulls in just a little bit here you can see he’s a little bit bent. But he works it to get in, it’s very minimal. That will screw up consistency a little bit, if we have a hitter that’s doing this all the time. Fernando Tatis Jr is doing this to be able to catch up to this fastball.  And this one was remember, located up and in, in the zone, a fastball up and in…

 

13:27

A little bit, but we don’t see a 90-degree chicken wing getting to this ball especially at a contact. You can see that front arm shape is complete, almost completely barred out to get to this ball.  And he’s got something we’ll talk about another video wrist snap, beautiful wrist snap, you can see in this swing, same thing. Watch that front arm shape. From the start of the turn, you see the front arm shape, almost completely barred out slight bend can be argued with it.

 

14:25

Can see barrel’s entering the zone, again we don’t have a pitcher’s view of this pitch, but you can see is entering the zone off his back foot. He’s releasing that barrel off his shoulder and then slamming it into the back-foot catcher’s glove, not in the real catcher’s glove because real catcher’s glove you can see is farther away. But he’s releasing it off his back-foot catcher’s glove.

 

14:51

But look at the shape of that front arm. Got a lot of consistency there and you have a long lever so that at impact it’s going to amplify the force at the end of that lever. Last swing, front arm shape, started the turn, you can see it’s almost completely barred out. He’s a little out in front on this one, remember, probably more out in front than the other three swings.

 

15:27

You can see the blur of the bat, is happening again, he’s releasing this into the belly button catcher’s glove. Because he’s out in front, we’ll see that on timing. When they’re out in front, we’ll see the barrel get released later into the zone, not early. Later. You see that front arm shape is completely barred out on this one. Trout does this too. If he’s out in front, and the balls middle away or middle down, you’ll see that straight up front arm, but he’s a little different when it comes to middle in, middle up especially if it’s something hard. Plus velocity, you’ll see a 90 degree bend in that front arm…

 

16:04

But you can see boom, completely arm barred with the front arm at impact. This is going to amplify the force at the end of that lever. And because he’s keeping a consistent long shape with that front arm to get to this ball, it’s going to lead to some consistency. And in this Fernando Tatis Jr baseball swing analysis, those of you who have been charting him in the 2020 season, have seen the consistency throughout the season. Albeit a shortened 60 game college season. We’ll see what happens in the playoffs.

 

16:38

Just a quick recap of this Fernando Tatis Jr baseball swing analysis video,

  • We talked about the distance between the feet getting into a balanced position on our stride.
  • We also went into staying sideways with the lower half a little bit more depth, because most still want to pivot on the back foot instead of with the hip, the front hip we talked about.
  • And front arm shape, is the armbar a problem?  And we saw in four separate swings that Fernando Tatis Jr. in his baseball swing does a very good job of keeping a longer front arm, which helps with consistency and batted ball distance.

Make sure that we’re swinging smarter by moving better, and before I let you go…

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Hitting Training: What is Directional Force?  And WHY is it Important?

 

 

This hitting training interview with Matt Nokes was pulled from the seventh issue of our Swing Smarter Monthly Newsletter.  What is that?  On a monthly basis,

  • We pick a hitting theme,
  • Write a Newsletter around the theme,
  • Give favorite hitting drill addressing the theme,
  • Prescribe corrective exercises to amplify the drill’s goal, and as if that wasn’t enough,
  • We also include 2 expert interviews on the subject…

EVERY month!

This hitting training post is POWER packed!!  The above video, Matt put together special for this episode.  The following is the 30-minute audio interview…

Here are some of the hard hitting training points we cover in the Nokes interview (pun intended of course):

  • What’s the Major Benefit to “Staying Sideways”,
  • What is Making the Hips Turn?
  • Dangers to Performance of Over-Rotating the Lower Half,
  • What is Directional Force?  And Why is it Important?  And,
  • Around the Zone Drill for Staying Sideways.

What follows is copy and pasted transcript from the 30-minute hitting training audio interview.  If you want to download the pdf version, so you can print it out, and highlight the heck out of it, then you can download that here: https://gohpl.com/33XxDcI

Enjoy!

Hitting Training - Matt Nokes Staying Sideways

Hitting Training – Staying Sideways image courtesy: Matt Nokes

 

Joey Myers  00:00

All right, hello and welcome to Swing Smarter Monthly Newsletter. This is your host Joey Myers from HittingPerformanceLab.com, and on with me as a special guest a special surprise Mr. Matt Nokes, former Major Leaguer, two time All Star, Silver Slugger award winner.

 

Joey Myers  00:14

And the day that I met Matt was probably three or four years ago, I was introduced, the Backspin tee bros… Taylor and Jarrett Gardner, and we were talking hitting the whole time down in San Diego. I think it’s when they had the all-star game there in San Diego. And we were even talking hitting training in parking structures at the different levels. We went to a library we went all over the place. So Matt Noakes, welcome to the show.

 

Matt Nokes  00:41

Good Joey. First, thank you for inviting me.

 

Joey Myers  00:44

You got it, sir. Hey, I wanted to kick off. I wanted to talk about because we’re going to be looking at the idea of staying sideways with the lower half, directional force, all that. So, I wanted to get your view, since you introduced it to me and introduced it to the backspin tee guys, what’s the major benefit of staying sideways? And maybe a detriment to not staying sideways? Maybe over rotating? Which I see a lot of young hitters do?

 

What’s the Major Hitting Training Benefit to “Staying Sideways”

 

Matt Nokes  01:13

Well, I think there are several reasons. I mean, it’s a whole system, right? It’s your lower body. And it’s been misinterpreted for so many years. Because of well, the communication wasn’t necessary.  Let’s just say when a major leaguer’s talking to another major leaguer, they’re just spouting out hitting training words that don’t mean a whole heck of a lot. Or it could mean 50 different things. But they’re talking to someone who’s been watching their teammate. They know what they’re going through. It’s what they say just a little bit. They know what they’re saying.

 

Matt Nokes  01:53

And so a lot of the conversation is nonverbal. And so, this whole thing of using your hips, it’s just something that has been brought up to people. And if you think about it, when you’re hitting, for people who haven’t been hitting, or who don’t know how to hit, they don’t see the patterns that you and I see or that a high school, college, pro player, or major leaguer, they don’t see the patterns that we see.

 

Matt Nokes  02:27

And so, the varying levels of, there’s a huge amount of information that you need to know just to see certain things. Right? And so, it’s what, it’s why there’s this confusion. And people just haven’t really taken the time to, or they just didn’t feel like, feel the need to explain any more. Because, as one of my good friends Darrell Evans always said is well, I can’t tell you everything.

 

Matt Nokes  02:56

Like he’ll explain some awesome conflict. I go, why don’t you tell me that, you know, 20 years ago when we were in the big leagues? Because I can’t tell you everything, because you knew.  He hit 400 or over 400 home-runs. But there were some hitting training things that he didn’t question. And things that I questioned, and vice versa, I wish I would have had that information from the beginning.

 

Matt Nokes  03:22

And it’s not so much that we see the patterns, because everyone sees oh, you know, that front leg straightens out at some point, that must be important. Okay, well, it kind of straightens out when you block. Sometimes it doesn’t when your way into your legs.  But the point is, it’s blocked, blocking. And because there’s rotation, it’s going to straighten out, close to contact.

 

Matt Nokes  03:54

Like everybody knows, if you ever thought about straightening out your front leg thinking that that’s going to be key, that’s going to be one of my adjustments. One of my adjustments, that I’m going to get three hits tonight, you know that, that would be like the worst thing to think about, right? You would leak. You would just pole vault, leak your way up and out over the top.

 

Matt Nokes  04:17

So having said that, it’s not enough to see a pattern, you have to be able to go beyond that and see the model, you have to be able to model what’s going on, you have to know get to see hitting training in three dimensions as opposed to, drawing triangles, you need to see the pyramid.  You need to see more of really what’s happening to understand it. So, when you look at somebody hit, you see their hips turning.  It’s like no, they do turn, you know, I mean, I am watching them turn, but you have to look past that and say, what is making it turn?

What is Making the Hips Turn?

 

Matt Nokes  05:03

And when it comes to, why does it turn? And when it comes to all the other comments about using the ground, which is, you hit from the ground up and lead with ground force, and it starts from the bottom and goes up, back foot turns, the back-knee turns, hips turn, in the core turns the shoulders turn, and then you swing.

 

Matt Nokes  05:26

That makes sense if it was geared that way, but it’s not. Because your power source is your well, is your trunk, your upper body, or let’s call it the core. But I think it’s even more general than that, I think you just hit with your upper body, but you use a weight shift, and you need something to swing against.

 

Matt Nokes  05:47

Like, if you’re hanging on a rope, you can’t really turn.  I mean you could, but you just wiggling.  If you get your feet on the ground, then you can turn your upper body. Anybody that sat on a machine to work their core rotationally, they know that when you sit into the machine, it clamps your lower body down, or your upper body one or the other. So that you can forcefully rotate.

 

Matt Nokes  06:20

Okay, so that’s the hitting training concept. If you want to rotate, you need something to rotate against. And yet, we still see the core, I mean, the hips turn, okay? Well, that’s because they’re attached. And at contact, you’ve unloaded your backside. And because you’ve unloaded it, of course, it’s free to turn. But it’s that much more important that you get in a really good position.

 

Matt Nokes  06:55

The idea of a sideways approach is, you have to get in a good position, it needs to be a consistent position. And you have to be on time. What that does is it helps you be on the ball. So that may just sound some random, random to some people. But I’ll give you a hitting training illustration, or I’ll give you an analogy. Let’s say you’re hitting soft toss from the side, I mean, directly from the side. And you know how easy that is. Now, I’m a left-handed hitter, how easy it is to crush the ball over the shortstop head.

 

Matt Nokes  07:39

The opposite way, if it’s coming from the side, because you just shift right past it, you smoke it!  You know you’re not supposed to pull the ball, but what happens to your lower body.  Think about what is your lower body do when you get soft toss from the side?  It firms up and is basically, it’s certainly not as open as it does, from the front, or I’m sorry, like on an inside pitch.

 

Matt Nokes  08:09

So basically, it’s that feeling of being on the ball. It’s really important that you are sideways, in order to be on the ball. So that you’re in position into a consistent position, you know how when you’re hitting…let’s say soft toss again, when you hit your first ball, and you think, my shoulder needs to be a little bit more closed. And then you hit it again go, oops, my hips are at position, my foot’s in the wrong position, you make those fine-tuning adjustments.

 

Matt Nokes  08:38

Well, you can do that. On soft toss because you can almost automatically manage variables, which you have to manage. Because you’re in a controlled setting, it’s unlikely, you back it up to 60 feet, and the same hitting training variables that you could manage automatically, without even thinking, the scenario enables your automatic mind to relate it to something you already know or to just be familiar with the motion for it to be common sense. And you can do it.

 

Matt Nokes  09:15

But when you add more variables, well then you have to make sure that your routines and how you practice, that you have those things in mind so that you’re prepared to not pull off the ball. But if you do pull off, you know how to make an adjustment to position yourself.

 

Matt Nokes  09:35

And it’s one last thing, it’s like if you had never seen a Phillips head screwdriver, never seen it or never even seen a screwdriver. And you were showing me that this is how I’m going to hang a painting. And you found the stud finder, and you found the stud, and then you basically shorten it, you screwed it. You twisted in a screw into the wall. And then hung the painting with that wire, right? It’s kind of hung and then even it up.

 

Matt Nokes  10:04

So how do you use the screwdriver? Well, there’s some utility there. You know what you’re doing? Because you’ve seen it, it didn’t take a lot of examples. You’re holding the screwdriver in your hand, you’re like, I know how to do this. And how long does it take you to become an expert? With that movement? I mean, he says well, it doesn’t take expert movement. Oh, yeah?  How does a monkey do that? Or a child?

 

Matt Nokes  10:34

Where a monkey could do other complex things. But not that, because they can’t look at it and see the utility. But you and I, and everyone on the planet can be basically an expert in five minutes. Context matters.

 

Joey Myers  10:54

And you know what’s unique about our sport is that we only have 90 degrees of fair territory to work with. And whereas you look at bowling you maybe it’s what three and a half feet a lane and then even in golf, you can argue that you only have one degree of fair territory and 359 degrees of foul territory, because you get rewarded for the shortest number of strokes to the pin.

 

Joey Myers  11:16

One of the hitting training stories that you told was really cool on this. I don’t know if it was Frank Robinson, or who it was that you were talking to. But I think you had gone away from staying sideways. And you started to like, what most coaches and young kids do is over rotate the lower half. And then you said you broke away from what you were naturally doing. And you slumped, and then you came back.  Tell that story?

Dangers to Performance of Over-Rotating the Lower Half

 

Matt Nokes  11:39

Yeah. Okay. So, I always think it’s important to add empirical evidence, which is that which can be verified or falsified by your senses, or your experience, your personal experience at the highest level. My first year in the big leagues…well, anyway, I just got up to the big leagues. And it was the all-star break. And I was sitting at the all-star break with 20 home runs, hitting like .320. And like 57 RBI’s, you could say I was doing well.  And I was hot. And I was young.

 

Matt Nokes  12:24

And Dave Bergman and Bill Madlock, teammates of mine, were shagging balls at first base. And I guess they were talking to each other. And they came up to me, and they said, man Nokesy, you must really feel on the ball. And I said, Yeah. Because your back foot stays sideways. And well, I didn’t know what to make of that. And because I had worked that out that I just knew I was on the ball. I thought, okay, I thought they were saying, well, it’s unorthodox Matt, but you make it work.

 

Matt Nokes  13:01

I get to the All-Star game. And I’m watching up on the diamond vision. That’s what they called it then.  And watching the highlights and stuff. And I started to notice that that back-knee pinch.  You got to remember; I wasn’t really familiar, familiar with the exact things that were going on.  And most major league guys really aren’t as much as you would think.  They have a general sense. But there are things that they don’t, I mean, they know what it feels like. And they can replicate because of that, and they understand that through feel.

 

Matt Nokes  13:40

I thought, man that back knee looks like it’s rotating. So maybe the back foot turns too.  I’m sitting at 20 home-runs, maybe I would have had 30 or 40 home runs by now. I thought, man, I’m going to really drop that knee and kind of now they’re saying you got to try the back knee, that kind of thing. It’s just as bad as rotating back foot. Even though it does collapse, because…it does collapse because it’s passive.  It’s passive because you unloaded it, and your upper body doing the rotation.

 

Matt Nokes  14:17

And for the next couple of weeks, I focused on that I focused on my back-knee kind of collapsing and my back-foot rotating. And I didn’t get a hit for two weeks. But I felt great in batting practice, I was hitting home runs, I was launching balls, as usual. And my timing was good because, so I couldn’t really see the difference in batting practice in order to make an adjustment because I was crushing balls still, but I knew there was something missing.

 

Matt Nokes  14:49

In pitchers shagging were used to me hitting a certain way, actually approaching. They said something wrong. I mean, you’re hitting balls well, but it’s just not coming off the bat the way used to. And I agreed. I haven’t had a hit in a couple weeks. And finally, Dave Bergman and Bill Madlock came up to me after a couple of weeks, because I’m sure you know, they had their own life, their own hitting training problems they were dealing with, and they didn’t notice why I was going into a slump.

 

Matt Nokes  15:21

And they came up and said, what are you doing? Like, what do you mean? You’ve never rotated your back foot like that, ever? And I go, oh, didn’t you? Didn’t you say I was being unorthodox. I just thought I’d make it better. And they go, you idiot. No, that’s your problem. And so, they’d have to say much other than it just shocked me so much that I got back in the batting cage, just start smoking balls, keeping it sideways. And oh, I hit two home runs that game. And then from then on, I was, I knew that that was a hitting training rule. That was a principle I needed to follow it. Even though back then I didn’t really understand it.

 

Joey Myers  16:09

That is one of the, of all my young hitters from I mean, now I just work with 11 or 12, all the way up to junior high, high school, college and stuff. I don’t work with any hitters lower than that. But usually the ones lower than that age, typically, if they haven’t been over coached, do that naturally. They do stay sideways, right? They get coached out of it, for the most part.

 

Matt Nokes  16:32

Absolutely.

 

Joey Myers  16:33

And I would say the ones that have been coached out of it, and I’m just getting them. And it’s probably about 40 to 50% of them over rotate that lower half. You talk about this idea of directional force. Talk a little bit about that.

What is Directional Force?  And Why is it Important?

 

Matt Nokes  16:47

Well, you know, it takes 8,000 pounds per square foot, or I’m sorry, per square inch into the baseball to hit baseball 400 feet. And I have no question that even High School players generate way, way more energy than that swinging a bat, that large of an arc, the sweet spot of the bat is moving, you can generate a lot of force with a baseball bat.

 

Matt Nokes  17:16

It’s not that they can’t generate the energies that can’t direct the force. And it’s going all over the place. They’re not getting the bulk of the energy through the ball in one direction. And, yeah, so basically…

 

Joey Myers  17:34

Being sideways helps with that.

 

Matt Nokes  17:36

Yes, because it stabilizes your lower half, so that your upper body rotation is pure, there’s no leak in it. Your energy is not going in a lot of directions. You brought up the point about, there’s a lot of fair territory and foul territory. So that’s confusing, because the basic 90 degrees, it’s that you’re hitting the ball in. There’s that sliver, where you get a hit, you know, maybe 10 degrees, 36 degrees, it pretty much everything is either a popup or ground ball, right?  And then you got a lot of foul territory, it’s not cricket.

 

Matt Nokes  18:18

And then you can hit a ball to the left that you thought you should have pulled, or you could hit ball the right, they just thought you should have hit the other way, or whatever it is, that can get confusing, because you don’t necessarily understand right out of the box, where the direction of force should be, or you’re not aware of your personal direction of force, until you experience it until you create a scenario where you can actually rehearse it.

 

Matt Nokes  18:46

Because if you get a hit, you don’t think you need to go into it very much more. But if you’re hammering a nail, there’s going to be some consequences. The nail is going to go flying, if you don’t hit it with the right force in the right direction. But with hitting, it’s confusing, because you can still get a hit and lose a lot of energy, you can still hit it hard and lose a lot of energy. But ultimately, so that’s confusing in itself, you hit a ball the other way, one time, you pull the ball the other time. And you think you did it right, even though you lost energy in both directions. And yet, you don’t get a hit.

 

Matt Nokes  19:26

The amount of time that you’re actually driving the ball consistently goes down. But you’re not concerned with direction of course, because you’re hitting the ball in all directions. It just gets confusing.  You don’t know what’s wrong, you don’t know what’s going on, what’s wrong, what’s right, what hitting training is working, what’s not.

 

Joey Myers  19:44

And you have a hitting training drill, the around the world drill. You can explain that one. That’s a pretty good one, I think for demonstrating what you’re talking about the direction of force.

Around the Zone Drill for Staying Sideways

 

Matt Nokes  19:54

Yeah, well, in short. Every major leaguer, and advanced hitter has a feel for certain things. And if you get to that level, you figured out a way to rehearse or do a drill. So that it reinforces good habits. Good positions, good timing, good directional force, you may not be aware of it, but you just see the results, the empirical results.

 

Matt Nokes  20:23

And, yes, so the around the zone is around the world there. If you begin from the side, and you get the ball, coming from the side. There are rules, and why the rules? Well, there are rules because you can’t just do the drill any way you want, there’s a certain way that it’ll be effective, there’s a certain technique that will be effective, if you don’t do it that way, you’re not going to get anything out of it.

 

Matt Nokes  20:54

It’s the same for every drill, every rehearsal, if you don’t know what you’re doing, how you’re supposed to do it, what it’s for, what you’re doing, how you’re supposed to execute it, why you’re doing it, and what it’s going to feel like, what feel you’re searching for, then you’re just wasting your time.

 

Matt Nokes  21:15

And as a young player, I remember some of my great coaches as a young player, you know, they just see me work and work and work and hit it. And I’m hitting up 300 balls into the net, and they’re like, stop!  You need to be strategic when you’re doing it, like, what are you trying to accomplish right here? I don’t know. I just figured if I just keep hitting, it’ll come to me.  No, all that’s going to do is lead to a million different desperate fixes. That’s all that’s going to do.

 

Matt Nokes  21:45

And then I’m addressing every system, with timing, the mechanics, and your mindset.  Not addressing those, in keeping the balance between them. There are certain rules. You get a ball from the side. You want me explain it?

 

Joey Myers  22:01

Yeah. So when you say side, you mean chest on? So perpendicular to the hitter?

 

Matt Nokes  22:06

Yeah. Okay. You get, I’m a left-handed hitter. So, imagine you’re in the right-handed batter’s box, and then just behind it, and so you’re throwing it from the side. And so maybe you’re throwing it at my back hip, or that kind of thing. The way you set up the drill, and I call a drill with a ball and a rehearsal without the ball, and there’s reasons for that, which I’ll go into later.

 

Matt Nokes  22:31

But setting up the drill, so you’re throwing on it. What I say is, okay, the arc that the ball’s coming in on forms the line.  And you need to pay attention to that line, and then draw 90 degrees from that line from where you’re standing Joey.  The ball’s coming in at me, and then from you out to center field is, would approximately be 90 degrees.

 

Matt Nokes  23:01

And I say, okay, now where’s your 45 degrees? And then as long as you hit it inside of the 45, you’ll crush it with your weight, you’ll get your weight into the ball, because you’re shifting into the swing, and past the line that you see. And that may be complicated. Because there’s a certain amount of information that you need to know to actually kind of visualize it and understand why it works like that…

 

Joey Myers  23:29

And I can include a link to your drill video too. [The following is the “Around the Zone Soft Toss Drill” video as promised:

 

Matt Nokes  23:31

Yeah, okay, yeah, I break it down. And I show you, I mean, you go 46 degrees, it’s going to be a topspin ground-ball. And so, you have to address the drill, you have to follow the rule, that’s the easiest way, if I’m going to give a player action steps and not just try to convince them of some hitting theory. And I was like hey, let’s get into action. Let’s not worry about hitting theory until you already feel what you got to do.

 

Matt Nokes  24:01

Because once you feel it, then all of a sudden, your intuition about why you’re doing it, and what it’s fixing will be enhanced, and you’ll be able to see things that you couldn’t ordinarily see. You go from the side. And so now the ball, let’s say I’m hitting in that as a left-handed hitter. Initially, I’m hitting the ball, right down the left field line. And then as you work your way around, but you know, maybe at eight, eight or 10 ball down in the left field line, opposite field, because it’s being thrown from the side, as long as I shift my weight perpendicular to the line and get beyond the line. I’m getting my weight to the ball.

 

Matt Nokes  24:45

Because good timing is transferring your weight into the ball on time and what you’ll find is you’ll gain incredible power increases because you’re transferring to the ball on time, you’re able to regulate that system really well and make fine tuning adjustments, and you’re actually hitting the ball in the correct direction.

 

Matt Nokes  25:11

For those of you who don’t quite understand it, I can give you an example of, one extreme example, if I was getting that same ball, that I would normally hit down the left field line, which is opposite field, if I’m throwing a ball from the side, I’ve seen guys in the batting cage, and I would walk in the cage, and they’re hitting balls up the middle of that, and I walk by a coach and they say, Hey, do you see anything Nokesy? And, you know, okay, and, and then I’ll take the tee and put it out front.

 

Matt Nokes  25:45

Well, they have the tee in the center of their legs, like inside, and like, behind the front foot, or between the legs, and they’re hitting the ball up the middle. Well, if you got a ball that far back, you got to hit that ball the other way. But it’s not very exciting to hit a ball on into the net three feet away, it’s just not that exciting.  But that’s the direction you need to be hitting, you need to get your weight beyond that ball, to transfer your weight in the ball, because we’re talking about directional force.

 

Matt Nokes  26:19

But what a player will do is they’ll run away from the ball, shift, try to stay on their back foot to clear, to give them some kind of room to hit that ball, to hit that ball up the middle.  Because they’re thinking about what they’re doing incorrectly, they’re trying to hit a ball up the middle that they’re not supposed to hit up the middle.

 

Matt Nokes  26:41

And so you just work that drill correctly. And then you start moving your soft tosser, you start moving them around, until eventually they’re in the front, and you’re hitting it down the right field line. And actually, when you do it correctly, you can’t hook it foul. Now you think what do you mean?  You could literally have someone right in front of you. Throwing it at your front hip, he can’t hook it foul. Why? Because you’ve got your weight into the ball and your weight is in the ball at contact, you’re in line.

 

Matt Nokes  27:11

It may not even be a lot of lag, just enough lag to get that whip. It’s just pre final whip. It’s just pre where you rollover, it’s always going to be if your weight is into the ball.  Think about it, if you don’t shift your weight into the ball on time. That’s a slap. That’s a hook. That’s called quitting. So yeah. What you’re getting yourself out of is from quitting.

 

Matt Nokes  27:37

And that’s what happens when someone is trying to hit a ball that’s deep between their legs and trying to hit it up the middle. The only way to hit that ball up the middle is to quit.

 

Joey Myers  27:49

Got it. That’s a great drill. And again, I’ll add the drill video that you have on YouTube in the post. Well, hey, man, I would love to do a part two at some point, but to be respectful of your time. Where can people find you? Are there any special projects you’re working on right now? Just a little bit about where people can go to get more information on you.

 

Matt Nokes  28:10

Yeah, thanks, Joey. You can go to MattNokes.com. I have courses available. And I have a free advanced hitting workshop. And after if you’d like to consult with me, there’s a link at the end of the workshop. But you can also go to CallNokes.com and schedule a call with me. We figure out what’s working what’s not, and create a blueprint. And if I can help you I certainly will. You can also go to YouTube and find my videos you punch my name in, punch in Matt Nokes and you can find a lot of my videos on YouTube like case studies and things like that. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks, Joey. Thanks for inviting me on the program.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Giancarlo Stanton Swing Breakdown: Driving at Targets Like on a Fairway?

 

 

Giancarlo Stanton Swing Breakdown

Giancarlo Stanton swing breakdown photo courtesy: ESPN

“Directional force”

I can’t believe I missed this Giancarlo Stanton swing breakdown video.  I remember how on fire he was July of 2018, when he made a certain change to his stance.

Some of the things you’ll discover in this video:

  • Hard work with a purpose,
  • His pitch hunting approach,
  • Line drives on a “fairway” strategy,
  • WHY a closed stance, and
  • How to hit Jacob DeGrom…
Here are some thoughts and time stamps from the above video…

  • At the 0:45 minute mark, A-Rod makes the observation that Giancarlo Stanton works hard.  Before, during, and after games, like A-Rod says, “Almost working too much.”  I don’t agree with that.  As long as the player digs the hard work, and works on the right things.
  • At the 1:00 minute mark, Giancarlo Stanton gives a little insight into his approach at the plate.  Focusing on what he expects to see from the pitcher.  I’m assuming this is based on data collection.  Pitch patterns and sequencing.  Based on what the pitcher is trying to do to him.  “Altering” Stanton’s homework a bit.  Wants the video analysis he watches to be as fresh as possible, so at least 30-mins before going out to the game.
  • At the 1:45 minutes mark, A-Rod asks how Giancarlo Stanton’s hitting strategy changes based on ballparks – in reference to his trade from Marlins (big park) to the new Yankee stadium (small park).  Is he trying to lift more or just hit line drives?  Stanton says he’s still trying to hit line drives.  Still have to put barrel on the ball for the short corners. A-Rod tells Stanton that when he used to hit there, he’d pick out sponsorship signs as targets to drive to.  Act like a fairway and have targets?  Giancarlo Stanton said he likes the bullpen and Toyota sign as a target at Yankee stadium (RCF) – keeps him “inside the ball”.  Gives his hands a chance to strike, and get good barrel on the ball.
  • At the 2:44 minutes mark, A-Rod asks Giancarlo Stanton about the change in his stance – to more closed.  Why did he do it?  It keeps his direction towards the bullpen.  Less chance to pull off – shoulder and hip.
  • At the 4:00 minute mark, Stanton is asked what his ideal pitch and location is.  Slightly in from middle and 92-mph, 4-seamer, straight.  Interesting to note, Perry Husband has said a majority of pitchers throw to 88 to 93-mph perceived velocity.  They throw to barrels by slowing their fast stuff down and speed up their slow stuff – based on pitch location and sequencing.  I’m not shocked Giancarlo Stanton picked 92-mph, regardless of FB, CB, CU, etc.  It’s ideal timing zone of most Major League hitters.
  • At the 5:20 mark, A-Rod asks Giancarlo Stanton how he hits Jacob DeGrom so well.  And btw, DeGrom does well with Effective Velocity according to Perry HusbandBe patient and lock in what Stanton is trying to do, not what DeGrom is trying to do.  Sometimes you’ll get what you want and sometimes not.  He’s thinking right center against DeGrom.
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Christian Yelich Video Says Baseball Swing Trainer Barry Bonds Taught Him A Drill That Changed His Career…

 

 

Typical baseball swing trainer BEWARE!

I agree with ‘swing down’…

Baseball Wwing Trainer: 'Swinging Down' in the 'Launch Angle' Era?

Christian Yelich and Barry Bonds swing comparison. Photo courtesy: Jomboy Media YouTube channel

Let that sink in for a bit.

Some are pissed I just said that.  But those who’ve followed me for some time are nodding their head in confirmation because they know better.

Because guess what?  It depends.

‘Swing down’ shouldn’t be used as a baseball swing trainer blanket teach.  I have two things for you…

  1. Jomboy Media VIDEO: “Christian Yelich says Barry Bonds taught him a drill that changed his career” (watching it will reveal its relevance to this post), and
  2. Below is Chapter-2 of the new book I’m working on.  It’s a longer post, but I think you’ll like it.  Goes well with the Yelich-Bonds video above, like grass fed red meat and a fine red wine.

Thank you Grandpa Mike for sharing the baseball swing trainer video.  You know who you are.  Enjoy!

———-

WHAT AN OLD SCHOOL SWING FEELS LIKE & THE PROS AND CONS?

In Chapter-2, we’ll look at what an old school swing feels like and the pros and cons.  We’ll be discussing:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics,
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics, and
  • So, how do we interweave brainless data and confusing real v. feel hitting cues?

How Can Someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they Say about Hitting is Wrong?

Now, some of you out there have seen the video of Alex Rodriguez demonstrating how he swung down. Maybe you saw the preseason interview of Mike Trout discussing how he gets on top of the ball.

Or how about Albert Pujols on the MLB Network revealed he swings knob down to the ball?

‘Swing down’.  ‘Getting on top of the ball’.  ‘Knob to the ball’.  ‘Keep barrel above hands’ is another one.  Nowadays, these are some of THE most despised baseball swing trainer hitting coaching cues on the market.  I was one of them.  “Was”.  About 2-3 years ago.  Now I have a different perspective and approach.  These cues DO work.  But it depends on the case.  And if reading or hearing those words made your blood boil…you can change too, believe me.  Here’s how…

First, let’s clear up and define “swinging down”. Well yeah, the hands do go down to the ball. And depending on how high or low the ball is, the hands will go down more or less. This is true.  But coaches HATE these cues for a different reason.  Here’s the thing… if you watch players like A-Rod, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols physically demonstrate what swinging down means to them, you see them using a chopping motion. Yes. The barrel and hands travel down to the ball. But not ‘hands drop’.  That’s different, and is a swing flaw we MUST fix.  In the high level swing, we see the barrel go down before coming up.

Here’s my beef with ‘swinging down’…

When swinging down is translated by the baseball swing trainer into a NEGATIVE attack angle.  Meaning the barrel is going down towards the impact point.  Is not coming up.  And this is what hitting greats like Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols are demonstrating in interviews.  And where the confusion starts.  If you watch their actual swing on film, slow motion swing, what you’re going to see is a POSITIVE attack angle.  Meaning, barrel elevating up to incoming ball descending down. Yes, even in Fastpitch Softball (more about this in Chapter-7).  Barrel coming up to impact, positive. Barrel going down to impact, negative.  We clear?

So if what these great hitters are saying and demonstrating isn’t what they’re actually doing, then what’s REALLY going on?

Well, here’s the thing … it’s the mysterious case of real versus feel What’s really happening on video doesn’t square with what the high level hitter feels they’re doing.  Two completely opposite things.  Take Mike Trout.  Let’s look at his real (9-year career average batted ball numbers before start of 2020 season):

  • Ground-ball rate: 36.8% (League average is 43%)
  • Fly-ball rate: 40.8% (League average is 37%)
  • Line drive rate: 22.4% (League average is 20%), and
  • Homerun to fly-ball ratio: 21.4% (League average is 9.5%).

Significantly below average ground-ball rate.  Check.  Slightly above average fly-ball rate.  Check.  Slightly above average line drive rate.  Check.  And well above average home-run to fly-ball ration.  Checkmate!  This proves his performance – the real – doesn’t jive with his feel of ‘getting on top of the ball’.  I want you to go to YouTube, search “Mike Trout slow motion swing”, and watch…

His barrels goes down, then comes up to the ball.  Up.  Positive barrel attack angle.  Not down.  Not on top.  Not a negative attack angle.

Before the baseball swing trainer gets upset I’m telling Mike Trout, “You know ‘nothin’!”  Here’s the beautiful crazy of this whole thing.   Coaches, understand this … the body is always one or two steps behind the brain. Thinking happens fast. There’s zero friction with thoughts.  Nothing. It just goes, goes, goes, goes, goes.  No heavy bones, muscle, organs, and fascia required to move before a thought can fire off!

The secret to unlocking the real v. feel mystery can be revealed through a psychology term called paradoxical intention…

Pros to Old School Feel Mechanics

We have to understand what Mike Trout is REALLY saying.  Bring context to the numbers.  Remember Chapter-1?  Trout will say, “I’ll take 10 swings off the tee or during batting practice to feel like I’m getting on top of the ball”. You see, his natural tendency is to uppercut. An extreme uppercut because he uses a significant shoulder tilt to effectively feast on balls down in the zone.  And this works well with pitchers targeting down in the zone, and away.

Although, this is different than the slight uppercut Ted Williams talked about in his book The Science Of Hitting.  Williams talked about barrel meeting the plane of the pitch.  Trout’s natural tendency runs counter to this.  And what he tells himself, remember the body is one or two steps behind the brain, is to do the exact opposite of what his natural tendency is.  He tells himself to get on top of the ball. And what’s the result?  The barrel ends up somewhere in the middle of extreme uppercut and negative attack angle downswing.  That’s what he’s trying to get for his real… to get to the middle.

The true old school baseball swing trainer hitting tragedy…

Some say hitters like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Pujols, and Trout are – or were – fantastic at doing, but not very good at translating what they did into teaching. Take Barry Bonds. Who was the Florida Marlins hitting coach in 2016.  Then they let him go.  Former Marlins President David Samson said this,

“Bonds was worst hitting coach of my career.”  

So why wasn’t Barry Bonds able to translate the way he hit to his prized pupils like Giancarlo Stanton?  Bonds is the career Major League home run leader after all. Some say he can do, but he doesn’t know how he does what he did.  I disagree these hitters aren’t good at teaching.  Again it’s a translation issue.

Dr. Victor Frankl, Psychologist and survivor of four Nazi death camps, in his book Man’s Search For Meaning, calls this “paradoxical intention”.  Hitters like Trout and Bonds use extreme physical cues to establish a consistent slight upward swing plane.  This strategy is a “trick” played on the body, which is a step or two behind.   Paradoxical intention.  Take any hitter with an extreme uppercut, tell them to chop down (negative Attack Angle “feel” cue), and their barrel path ends up in a slight uppercut.  Just like Ted Williams said – like magic!  Feel cues are fantastic for making simple swing adjustments.

If you’re coaching youth hitters, let’s get into that world for a moment…

A lot, and I mean A LOT of youth players ages 7 to 12 years old uppercut.  Extreme uppercuts. Casting.  Loooong swings.  They don’t need to be taught this!  This is typical, before they’ve built enough strength in their bodies.  In their core.  In the dynamic nature of the spinal engine.  They tend to cast the barrel out.  Meaning, the barrel casts away from the body, leaving the back shoulder too early. This causes a long swing.  Thanks to gravitational forces, centripetal and centrifugal forces*.  As they swing, they end up underneath the ball.  On inside pitches, they end up getting jammed a lot.  And swing under a lot of pitches up in the zone.  A LOT.

(*Centripetal Force is a center “seeking” force. Like twirling a rock on a string. The rock exerts force back to the two fingers holding the string. Centrifugal Force is a center “fleeing” force. Letting go of the twirling rock on a swing, causes the rock to shoot off in a tangent direction away from the original circle.)

There are other factors causing an extreme uppercut, like hands drop or constant deep barrel dumping.  But with youth hitters, the rules of Physics are bigger offenders. Here’s the good news … swing an overloaded bat.  Overloaded bats help young hitters build strength to do that.  Regardless of mechanics.  More on that protocol later in the book.

Those are the pros of an old school feel mechanics. Now, let’s look at the cons…

Cons to Old School Feel Mechanics

These are what the baseball swing trainer “metrics people” will typically bring up. You’re so out of touch.  No numbers to support your gut feelings?  What does that mean?  How can I trust your “gut”?  Because you played or coached 20 years in the Big Leagues?  That’s not good enough!!  What’s measurable is manageable.  If you can’t use numbers to support your gut, then I’m not listening.  This is a common conversation you’ve probably seen, heard, or participated in.

The old school coaching cues we just discussed in the pros to old school swing section can also be included in that gut conversation.  It’s bad if the old school cues are used as a default. In a one size fits all way. For example, Johnny’s coach sees Pujols demonstrate a chopping down swing on MLB Network’s Diamond Demos. That coach goes to Johnny’s 10 year old team practice on Monday evening, and tells every one of his hitters to swing like Pujols does. Chop, chop, chop. And he tells them with the conviction, vigor, and energy of a Sunday Pastor, that they can hit like Pujols.  How can you argue with Senor Alberto?  From his lips to coach’s ears out of coaches mouth to kids’ ears.  If Albert Pujols said it and it worked for him, then we MUST take the message literally!  He is Prince Albert for jimminies sake!

Here’s the problem with that. Remember when I mentioned the translation issue?  By feeding the ‘swing down’ or ‘chop down’ mantras as a default hitting strategy to every 10 year old on your team, I’m sorry to say it, but you will lose. Let me illustrate with a thought experiment…

Apply the “one-third rule” to your team. In this example, assume a third of your hitters pop the ball up a majority of the time. Another third of hitters hit line drives a majority of the time.  And the remaining third are majority ground-ball hitters.  So, what if you tell the whole team to swing down or get on top of the ball?  A blanket statement to all.  Default old school baseball swing trainer hitting cue.  What do you think is going to happen?

Based on what was discussed with Dr. Victor Frankl’s paradoxical intention – remember extreme uppercut, tell them to ‘get on top’, and they end up in the middle?  Slight uppercut.  Inline with incoming pitch.  Here’s what will happen to our team if we tell all to chop down … a third of the team that used to pop the ball up a majority of the time, will hit more line drives. Those middle third hitting line drives a majority of the time, are going to hit more ground-balls. And the ground-ball a majority of the time group, are going to hit even more worm burner ground-balls.  So how did the thought experiment turn out with a blanket statement old school hitting cue?

The only group on the team that benefits are the beginning fly ball hitters. The ones hitting fly-balls a majority of the time.  Those are the only ones you’ll see a significant difference, for the better.  Look ground-balls are great.  Especially hard ones when the defense can’t play catch.  But what happens when they can play catch?  When would your team come across a team that can play catch?  That’s right!  In all-stars.  In playoff and championship games.  Not good if you just converted line drive hitters into ground-ball hitters.  And ground-ballers into hitting more worm burners.  Read our infamous Ground-ball Rant post.

Now, let’s cook up a different scenario.  A more simple yet elegant solution.  Instead of giving a blanket statement, a blanket swing down, chop down to the whole team. But instead, I let the line drive hitters do their thing. Just keep doing what you’re doing. I took the fly ball hitter and told them to swing down, chop down.  And I instructed the ground-ballers to hit the ball in the air.  Like pop the ball up instruction.  How do you think that baseball swing trainer thought experiment would go?

If I did that…now my pop-fliers AND ground-ballers are both hitting more line drives.  Remember Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning paradoxical intention?  Overall, my whole team is hitting more line drives. Now my line drivers aren’t lonely.  They have more competition to deal with.  Competition makes everyone better.  Hungrier.  Especially when they’re experiencing success.  Does that make sense?

The cons of an old school swing are when we apply a blanket statement shared by one of the best hitters on the planet.  Don’t do that.  Bad coach.  You DO NOT pass go, and you DO NOT collect $200.

One swing fits all cues are a bad. And you wouldn’t know this without data to measure and optimize. Gut feelings and hunches are like throwing darts in the dark.  It’s like shooting an arrow and calling whatever you hit – after the fact.  It’s guessing.  If you aren’t collecting numbers using a PocketRadar, Rhapsodo, HitTrax, BlastMotion, or SwingTracker, then you’re flying blind. You aren’t going to know. And those hunches will just be hunches.

Same goes for blindly following what a Hall of Famer or future Hall of Famer says or said about hitting.  Become a scientist.  Test, test, test.  Blindly following a leader without question, will make you nothing more than a sheep.  Question, question, question.  Even question me and EVERYTHING in this book.

So far in Chapter-2, we talked about:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics, and
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics…

We talked about how what’s real and what’s feel are two totally different things. The scenery can be very confusing. The waters choppy.  How does a coach cut through the clutter and calm the waters?  The simple truth to make hitting easier – it’s not easy, but we can make it easier – is called paradoxical intention.  Doing the exact opposite of what just happened to get the middle.  Extreme swing up?  Tell them to swing down – hit a chopper.  Extreme swing down?  Tell them to swing up – hit a pop-fly.  There’s more to it of course, and we’ll get into it more later.  Let’s move on to…

How do we Interweave Brainless Data and Confusing Hitting Cues?

This DOES NOT cause that, and that DOES NOT cause this.  Question: Coincidentally, if I wear a green shirt and it rains, then is it reasonable to think I can make it rain by wearing a green shirt?   This is the exact dilemma many instructors find themselves in with what they teach.

Some teach ONLY using data.  Some teach ONLY using old school hitting cues.  Some claim to base their teachings on millions of hours watching ONLY the best hitters.  Some validate Science with their hitting theories (proudly saying their system can’t be found in Science!!).  And others validate their hitting philosophy with Science, which is what we do.  Who’s right?  Who’s wrong?  Can we use a mix?  And if so, how do we know if we’re on the right track?

Are you throwing dynamite in the air and expecting rain?

I want to share a true story from the book Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. The story will illuminate how to filter the hitting information available today. Interestingly…

Right before the Great Depression hit the Oklahoma panhandle, rain was plentiful.  This caused Doctors and Lawyers to quit their practices and join the ranks of farmers to buy land and plant crops that were being subsidized by the US government.  In other words, the gold-in-them-hills was harvesting and selling wheat and other bumper crops of the era.

Millions of acres of 6-foot high beautiful Buffalo blue grass were plowed under to make room for crops.  Fast forward to the beginning of the Great Depression, the rain dried up, and so did the crops.  Unbeknownst to the “new” farmers who moved to the area, typically rain was sparse in the location, and by coincidence, they had just experienced a rare wet 5-10 year period.

Now there’s NO rain.  And you know the 6-foot high beautiful Buffalo blue grass they cut down?  Well, it used to hold the soil down despite seasonal 60 to 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts.  So NO rain coming.  NO crops growing.  Super high winds are eroding dry barren soil and tossing it up in the air.  Grazing cattle have nothing to eat but tumbleweeds brought over by Russians (people often sprinkled salt to eat them as well).  The livestock soon get sick and die.  The drought is fatal for the majority who stay, others move west.  This is where we get John Steinbeck’s book “Dust Bowl”.

Stick with me, because here comes the lesson…

The farmers who stayed behind were so desperate for rain, they hired self proclaimed rain experts to “create” rain, literally out of thin air.  The belief at the time was that an explosion in the air could bring clouds, and with clouds, rain would fall from the sky.  In plenty.  So what did these self proclaimed rain experts do?  What any self proclaimed rain expert would do!!  They sold the idea that if they lit a stick of dynamite, timed the throw just right, they could get a perfectly timed explosion that would bring rain-a-plenty.

…And as luck would find it, the “racket” seemed to work a couple times.  This only fed the foolishness we all see now – hindsight is 20/20.  Yes, this wasn’t a proud time in American history.  You have to understand, people back then were DESPERATE.  Their hope blinded them to the MANY times throwing dynamite in the air didn’t work.  People lost limbs, fingers, etc. from timing the throw wrong.  Head scratcher  I know.

When it comes to baseball swing trainer, we have to be careful of the causation-correlation relationship.  Is studying video and teaching only what the “best” hitters are doing enough?  I would argue it is not.  How do you know what you’re looking at, if you don’t know what you’re looking for?  We see Pujols demonstrating a negative attack angle swing on MLB Network.  But then we see him NOT do that in real-time.  We bring that same Pujols gold nugget to Johnny’s team, blanket teach it, and the end result looks nothing like what we see Pujols do during competition.  This DOES NOT cause that, and that DOES NOT cause this.

I’m going to reveal a secret about why coaches are terrible at the causation-correlation relationship.  Like shooting a random arrow and calling whatever is hit.  Here’s a quote summing it up from Scott Adams, in his book Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America:

“There are three important things to know about human beings in order to understand why we do the things we do. [1] Humans use pattern recognition to understand their world. [2] Humans are very bad at pattern recognition. [3] And they don’t know it.”

So how do we escape this seemingly inescapable prison of baseball swing trainer misdiagnosis?  After reading thus far, you know it.  Be less subjective and more objective.  KeyDifferences.com says this about subjective versus objective:

“Subjective means something which does not show the clear picture or it is just a person’s outlook or expression of opinion. A subjective statement relies on assumptions, beliefs, opinions and influenced by emotions and personal feelings.  An objective statement is based on facts and observations.”

Use the Scientific Method.  Develop a hitting Question…make a predictive Hypothesis…do the Research…collect the Data…form a Conclusion.  Swing experimentation.  We apply human movement principles validated by REAL Science to hitting a ball.  Scientific principles pulled from:

  • Physics,
  • Engineering,
  • Biomechanics, and
  • Body work.

How do we figure out if this DOES cause that?  Or if that DOES cause this?  Not by wearing a green shirt!   To know what you’re looking at, you have to know what you’re looking for.  DO NOT validate Science through your hitting philosophy.  DO validate your hitting philosophy through Science.  Set a higher standard for your hitters.  It’s okay – watch your millions of hours of video…employ those expensive measuring gadgets…and flaunt those old school hitting cues.

But above ALL of that … understand what the rules to human movements are FIRST.  Once you know that, all other domino’s fall where they’re supposed to.  In conclusion of Chapter-2, we looked at what an old school swing feels like and the pros and cons.  We discussed:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics,
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics, and
  • So, how do we interweave brainless data and confusing real v. feel hitting cues?

In Chapter-3, we’ll answer the question of what leads to hitting more predictable line drives and less strikeouts.  Where we’ll dive into:

  • What does “predictable” mean and why does probability matter?  And,
  • Difference between ‘Launch Angle’ and ‘Attack Angle’…

Onward…

———-

Gary Sheffield Talks Hitting

Gary Sheffield Talks Hitting Mentioning 1 Shocking Swing Mistake He Didn’t Make…

 

 

Gary Sheffield Talks Hitting

Check out the iconic Gary Sheffield barrel tilt-waggle – almost parallel to the ground! Photo courtesy: MLB Network

In this Gary Sheffield Talks Hitting video, 500 Home Run Club member Gary Sheffield talks about his hitting style, plate approach and adjustments to different ballparks with Mark DeRosa, Bill Ripken and Robert Flores on MLB Central.  Some of what you’ll find in the video:

  • 1 shocking swing mistake Sheffield didn’t make,
  • Pitch recognition that Gary Sheffield is talking about,
  • Change your stance depending on the field?
  • What does focus on staying to the right of your left side mean? And,
  • Making swing adjustments because of injury to compete…

For your convenience below, I’ve time stamped my notes, so you can jump to wherever the conversation interests you…

  • At about the 3-minute, 20-second mark, Sheffield talks about how after hitting 40+ homers between his AA and AAA season, he was brought up to MLB club and the powers at be tried to “flatten his bat” (for him a mistake he didn’t make).  Because they wanted a leadoff speed guy who hits the ball to right field.  When he got to San Diego, they wanted him to pick up the ball at 3rd base, they didn’t expect him to hit.  This was disrespectful to Sheffield.  He went from a guy not just trying to get on base, but to do damage.
  • At about the 4-minute mark, Gary Sheffield talks about his famous bat tilt-waggle, and how it’s all in the fingers. To get a nice relaxed crisp move with the fingers.  Like dancing.
  • At about the 5-minute mark, Sheffield talks about picking pitcher up at release to differentiate what he’s throwing.  Pitch recognition.  He doesn’t care what the pitcher does before that moment.  He said he looked for the heater and nothing changed on that approach throughout his career.  He wants the pitcher to fool him.  He doesn’t want to miss on the fastball.  All he wants to know is what is the pitcher’s out pitch – the one he goes to the most when he needs it. Doesn’t swing at fork balls.  He groups the fastball and slider together – as one pitch.
  • At about the 7-minute mark, Gary Sheffield talks about how he adjusts his stance depending on the park he’s playing in.  Examples…in San Diego the dimensions are fair, so he uses all fields.  At “fair” parks he didn’t feel like hitting the ball oppo made him lose something.   In Florida with the Marlins, he got closer to the plate and became strictly a pull hitter because of short fence in left field. Homers came by way of left and left center, rarely to center.  Goal of double digit homers to opposite field, so he was almost guaranteed 30 to 40 homers per year.  Billy Ripken made the comment that he’s never heard of anyone else who did this, except maybe when hitting at Fenway.  Dodger stadium was “fair” to him.  Mentioned at night it got dewey there, ball didn’t fly as far.  His strength was center field in LA.
  • At about 9-minute mark, Sheffield talks about his right elbow position to be ready to “punch”.  Athletic position.  Legs up under him.  When hitting he just thinks about his left side.  Tells his kids to cut the left side out.  Focus on being to the right of your left side.  Walking in the batter’s box sideways, so he knows he’s in the same spot every time.  He wants to work sideways, so he can stay behind his left side.
  • At about 11-minute mark, Sheffield his swing is dominant front arm.  Front arm goes straight to the ball.  Billy Ripken talks about “squashing a bug“.  They all comment on Gary Sheffield’s bat waggle and how parallel the barrel got to the ground at one point in the swing.  Sheffield talked about an injury he had to his right foot, plantar fasciitis, that required him to skip/hop his back foot.  Had to unlearn later.  Interesting confession on making an adjustment to compete.
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Hitting Drills For Kids: How To Keep Hitters Productive At Home Despite COVID-19

 

 

(Correction in above hitting drills for kids video: I said this started last Wednesday, March 25th, but I couldn’t get this up in time, so the next day it was!  CLICK HERE to view Today’s Hitting Workout Of the Day – WOD.

 

Self quarantine.  “Shelter-in-place”.  Losing a job.  Tireless work.  Medical care workers, military, police and fire departments.  Sacrificing sport seasons.  Seniors in High School and College losing their 2020 year.  Politicians bickering – as usual.

I totally understand.  It SUCKS.  And I’m sorry who’ve lost a job or loved one because of this nasty virus. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your families.  I hope and pray things get better soon.

But you know what coach?  We’re going to get through this.  Together.  Genghis Khan once said:

“One arrow alone can easily be broken but many arrows are indestructible”.

I understand the uncertainty out there.  And if you’re like my family, we have two little blessings (7yo boy and 4yo girl), running around at home.  The challenge is, we have to keep them in productive mode, or else they’re fighting like cats and dogs.  And at the same time my wife and I are juggling work from home in good ol’ shelter-in-place California.

I’m not going to lie, it’s REAL easy to keep the kiddos on their devices all day.  But I don’t believe that’s the best thing for their little developing minds.  Same is true for the teen-osaurs!

Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:

  • How to keep hitters productive at home despite COVID-19,
  • At-home hitting drills for kids challenge rules,
  • Today’s Hitting WOD, and
  • BONUS extra credit to sweeten the deal…

 

How To Keep Hitters Productive At Home Despite COVID-19

One of my online hitting lesson dads posted this Twitter “to-do” list to keep the kiddos busy at home… (he elaborates on this schedule in the comments below)

I would be honored to be a part of your at-home schedule!

 

At-Home Hitting Drills for Kids Challenge Rules

WHEN

The challenge will run from Thursday March 26th, through Easter Sunday, April 12th.  Wishful thinking is that this COVID-19 thing is under wraps by then, and things become as normal as circumstances allow.

Check-in EVERY day at about 8:00AM pacific standard time.  That day’s Hitting WOD will stay up that whole day.  PLEASE NOTE: Each day I’ll take down yesterday’s Hitting WOD and replace with today’s.  So, if you’re busy, I’d suggest stopping in and at least taking notes, so you don’t miss out.

WHAT

Each day, I’ll update this page under “Today’s Hitting WOD” subheadline with a/an:

  • Featured post,
  • Expert interview transcription, or
  • Drill video…

…you can use this as hitting homework.  “Baseball with dad or mom” as Tyson put it in his Tweet.  Each day will guide you in one of 5 areas:

  1. Building more power,
  2. Hitting more line drives,
  3. Getting on-time more often,
  4. Moving better to perform better (body work training), or
  5. Sticky coaching cues.

Like Crossfit, think of this as a Hitting “Workout Of the Day” – or Hitting WOD.

HOW

Every single day, we’ll keep it simple.  I’m just asking at least 5-minutes per day to do the Hitting WOD.

By the way, on some days, I’m going to do random giveaways.  Online hitting lessons.  An autographed copy of my Amazon bestselling book. Possibly hitting aids.  We’ll see what happens.   The more you share this on the socials, the better chance you have at winning!  Best part is, it won’t cost you a thing!

 

Today’s Hitting WOD (DAY-17 and Final Day)

Today’s hitting drills for kids videos are coming to an end.  Sadly.  But the good news is… Today and tomorrow (Easter) I want to giveaway one FREE online hitting lesson from our own The Feedback Lab program…


How can you win?  Simply by leaving a comment below.  I pick a random comment and declare the winner on the Monday after Easter.  Good luck and I hope you all have a Happy and Safe Easter!  PLEASE NOTE: this offer is closed and we’re no longer taking winners.

 

BONUS Extra Credit to Sweeten the Deal

Hitting Drills For Kids: Swing Smarter Newsletter Monthly

Before this whole Chinese Coronavirus thing picked up steam, I was working on a low-cost monthly membership called Swing Smarter Newsletter Monthly.  I will be putting a TON of time and effort into each issue.

Once per month, we’ll be offering up:

  • One training tip video on how to fix a certain flaw,
  • One or two expert interviews from “mad” scientists like: Perry Husband, Matt Nokes, Taylor Gardner, Ryan Lehr, Dr. Tom Hanson, and many others,
  • 1-month in review curated content on Sticky Coaching or Moving Better to Perform Better, and
  • Hitting aid review, how it MUST be used for success, & discounts…

The monthly membership fee was going to be $9.95 per month.  We’re also offering a 30-day money back guarantee to take the risk away.  Cancel within that period and we’ll give you your money back.  No worries.  No questions asked.  No hard feelings.

Click the button below to grab access to Swing Smarter Newsletter Monthly