Adrian Beltre VIDEO: Can Driving the Ball Be This Simple?

Adrian Beltre staying low on pitch-plane to a fault. Photo courtesy: OnlineAthens.com

This weekend I worked with a professional hitter Zack Esquerra, from the San Diego area, who was recently released after a couple years in the Diamondbacks organization on this very topic.

In this post,

We’ll go over how easy it can be to drive the ball by simply changing the position of the back leg during the Final Turn.  We’ll use Adrian Beltre’s swing as a model and go over:

  • Adrian Beltre: pitch-plane mastery,
  • Role of back leg during the Final Turn, and
  • #1 drill to fixing a faulty back leg angle…

 

Adrian Beltre: Pitch-Plane Mastery

Adrian Beltre is a great example of a smaller hitter (5’11”, 220-pounds) having to do it right to compete with bigger ones.  Here’s what he does so well:

  • Gets low,
  • Back leg angle (stays low),
  • Barrel is short to plane of the pitch, and
  • Barrel stays on pitch-plane…

Interesting to note, Adrian Beltre is below average with his ground-ball and strikeout percentages, and above average with his home-run to fly-ball ratio.  Most of the hitters I first see – Zack  included – have this reversed!  Here are a few of Adrian Beltre’s key offensive Metrics:

Adrian Beltre Key Pitch Plane Metrics

Check out this slow motion clip of Adrian Beltre (different clip from the main video above)…look how he almost “snipes” the catcher’s glove!

 

Role of Back Leg During Final Turn

Homer Kelly says this in his book The Golfing Machine:

“The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

Homer Kelly’s statement has as much to do with hitting as it does with the golf swing!  During the Final Turn, Adrian Beltre uses his flexed back knee (and straightened front one) to slant his body up towards the downward traveling pitch.  This was an immediate challenge with Zack’s swing, but once we quickly corrected it, we saw ball flight go from knee level line drives and in the ground, to head level line drives and driving the ball in the gap.

 

#1 Drill to Fixing a Faulty Back Leg Angle

CLICK HERE to view this post to learn more about the Art of Variance.  Here’s how to do the Back Foot Variance Drill:

ONE FINAL NOTE: Adrian Beltre stays on the plane of the pitch so well during the Final Turn, I think he does it to a fault.  You’ve seen the pictures of him sometimes finishing with his back knee on the ground (pictured above)?  This can be caused by trying to stay low on the pitch-plane with too wide a base.  In other words, his back foot doesn’t follow his front much after the stride, resulting in his feet being too far apart.  He would be more efficient if he “skipped” the back foot forward a little bit during the Final Turn and maintained more of a bend (90-100 degrees) in the back leg.

Baseball Training: 3 Easy Steps To More Barrel Time On Pitch Plane (Dylan’s Case Study)

 

Baseball Training VIDEO: #1 Hitting Mistake To Boosting BABIP [Case Study]

One of my online lessons Dylan from South Florida. Notice the change in front knee bend at landing (swings are synced).

I’ve heard during baseball training a thousand times, “Be short to the ball!”  If I put a nickel away every time I heard that, then I’d have my 3 old son’s first year at Stanford saved up.  A barrel on pitch plane longer means:

  • Higher BABIP (or Batting Average on Balls In Play), AND
  • Cutting down on strikeouts.

In this baseball training video, we’re going to lengthen barrel time on pitch plane by tweaking these THREE things:

  • Importance of landing gear (setting the stage),
  • When does the barrel accelerate? (enter pitch plane early), AND
  • Timing of Power-V (stay on pitch plane)…

Difference in pitch plane between baseball and fastpitch softball?  Yep!  Pitch plane is an imaginary line from the pitcher’s release point to the catcher’s glove.  In baseball, the pitcher’s release point is raised 10 inches (by regulation).  In fast-pitch, a pitcher’s release point is at about the pitcher’s hip, while standing on flat ground.  So there’s not as distinct a downward pitch plane in fast-pitch softball, as there is in baseball.

 

Importance of Landing Gear (setting the stage)

Baseball Training: Vlad Guerrero Fight Position (landing)

Vlad Guerrero (.316 career BABIP) landing with bent front knee. Photo courtesy: Past Time Athletics (YouTube)

Foot work is pretty high on my action item list in sitting down with a new hitter.  Initial baseball training boils down to getting on the plane of the pitch by bending the knees:

  • Fight Position – at landing front knee should be bent and stacked over the ankle.
  • Final Turn – front leg straightens while back leg bends to about 90-105 degrees.

Consider something Homer Kelly said about this in his book The Golfing Machine:

“KNEE ACTION – Knee Action is classified on the basis of (1) combinations of bent and straight conditions and (2) the Reference Points selected at which these combinations occur.  The combination and the Reference Points selected will determine the slanting of the Hips during the Pivot.  The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

 

When Does the Barrel Accelerate? (enter pitch plane early)

Baseball Training: Victor Martinez getting on pitch plane early

Victor Martinez (.316 career BABIP) quick on the pitch plane…check out how close his barrel is to catcher’s glove! Photo courtesy: ExplosiveBaseballSwing.com

“Be short to the ball!” is one of those cues that gets misinterpreted.  Most baseball training pro instructors, players, and coaches preach being short to the ball.  But what they should be saying is be quick to the pitch plane with the barrel.  Because of the following natural factors…

  1. Gravitational Forces,
  2. Conservation of Angular Momentum,
  3. Centripetal Forces (center-seeking) AND Centrifugal Forces (center-fleeing)…

…A barrel CANNOT efficiently accelerate, being pushed by the hands to a moving ball.  Watch/read these other Hitting Performance Lab posts for WHY:

 

Timing of Power-V (stay on pitch plane)

Baseball Training: Troy Tulowitzki Power-V

Troy Tulowitzki (.320 career BABIP) in the Power-V well passed contact. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

The last baseball training piece to boosting BABIP and reduce strikeouts is to keep the barrel on pitch plane.  “Power-V” is another misinterpreted coaching cue.  Hitters are sometimes told to be at extension with both arms at impact.  This is false.  The Power-V should be achieved 3-9 inches passed impact, depending on pitch location and speed. This ensures maximum inertial force transferred from body to barrel to ball.

The bottom line?

The #1 baseball training MISTAKE to increasing BABIP and cutting down on strikeouts is to “be short to the ball”.  What you want the hitter to do is:

  • Set plane early by landing with a bent front knee,
  • Maintain plane during Final Turn by straightening front knee and bending back one,
  • Be quick with barrel to pitch plane, and
  • Stay on plane by getting to Power-V passed impact.

Derek Jeter: Exercises Proven To Increase Batted Ball Distance

 

Derek Jeter: These Exercises Accelerate Swing Efficiency

Danilo Collins, 16yo, from FL

I was recently introduced to Danilo Collins (pronounced Duh-nee-lo).  A 16-year-old baseball player in Florida.  Over email, he sent impact and follow through pictures (and video) of his swing, saying:

“Hey Joey, I have had this exact problem ever since I started filming my swing. During my final turn, at or near contact I find that my upper body tenses up. My shoulders shrug up, my face tenses up and tilts awkwardly, and my back arches in a weird, unnatural way.”

In this video blog, I want to address Danilo’s swing concerns using Derek Jeter as a model.  We’ll answer these three questions:

  • What does an efficient impact & follow through position look like?
  • What can impact & follow through tell us about movement dysfunction?
  • What exercises can a hitter do to correct this?

If we can get a hitter moving better, they’ll perform better.  Movement dysfunction puts performance on the back burner.  Let’s see how Derek Jeter’s swing compares…

 

What Does an Efficient Impact & Follow Through Position Look Like?

Last week, I posted this to my Facebook fan-page using Danilo and Derek Jeter’s impact pictures, and received great feedback:

[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/HittingPerformanceLab/posts/571869122942886/” width=”400″/]

Here’s the jist of the Facebook feedback, in comparing Danilo to Derek Jeter:

  1. Batting tee is set too far back for true point of contact,
  2. Detachment of front arm from rib cage – no extension, and
  3. Too much focus on turning faster.  By extending front arm at contact, then back arm after contact Danilo will increase his inertial force (CLICK HERE to see another blog post on this).

Those great Facebook comments aside, I want to focus on something else that most don’t

 

What Can Impact & Follow Through Tell Us About Movement Dysfunction?

I feel fixing movement dysfunction is just as important as efficient swing mechanics.  Without correction, the body loses the ability to move efficiently.  This dramatically decreases batted ball distance.  Here’s what to key in on at impact and follow through using Derek Jeter as a reference point:

  1. Maintaining strict alignment of head and spine (core stability), AND
  2. Staying low on the pitch plane using back leg (core stability & glute activation).

If we compare Danilo to Derek Jeter, we can see a huge difference in the back leg angle, and how well the head, rib cage, and pelvis stack on top of each other.

 

What Exercises Can a Hitter Do to Correct This?

Derek Jeter: These Exercises Accelerate Swing Efficiency

Derek Jeter photo courtesy: ChrisOLeary.com

I mentioned Core Stability & Glute Activation.  I want you to do something for me:

  • Stand up with your feet under your shoulders,
  • Squeeze your butt cheeks together as hard as you can (notice your pelvis change position?), and
  • Now, tighten your abs as hard as you can like you’re doing a standing crunch (did this bring your rib-cage down?)

Danilo is arching his back and extending his back leg, resulting in his lower back taking on sheer forces.  In the middle, taking a vacation, are his glutes.  To look like Derek Jeter in the Impact and Follow Through photo to the right, Danilo will have to do these TWO corrective exercises 1-2 times daily:

  1. Super Plank (core stability) – week one: 1 set X 45 secs hold, week two: 1 set X 60 secs hold, week three: 2 sets X 45 secs hold, and week four: 2 sets X 60 secs hold.
  2. Single Leg Floor Bridge (glue activation) – week one: 1 set X 12 reps each leg, week two: 1 set X 15 reps each leg, week three: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, and week four: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg.

The reps and time can change for younger hitters.  Be sure to let the hips down slowly (4-secs) for each repetition for #2.  After 4-weeks on #1, turn up the heat by doing a Super Plank-Pushup.  Make sure to practice the same rules from the Super Plank.  The key is NO rotation of the pelvis.  You should be able to set a drink of water on the back of the pelvis when doing the movement, without spilling.

FINAL NOTE on Derek Jeter’s swing: we want head-spine alignment, but with a slight angle up and back over the catcher for more repeatable power.  Derek Jeter is more vertical like Tony Gwynn.

Baseball Training Aids Review: The Speed Hitter

 

Baseball Training Aids Review: The Speed Hitter

Derek Shelton – Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach – spokesperson in Speed Hitter video

It’s featured advertising on MLBNetwork.  Derek Shelton, the Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach, is the spokesperson in the video ad (CLICK HERE to see video).

Go to the SpeedHitter website, and you’ll see endorsements from:

  • CC Sabathia (son uses),
  • Aaron Boone (son uses),
  • Kerry Wood (son uses), and
  • David Segui.

I’ve also seen the Speed Hitter being used – this past summer – in Little League All-Stars game on-deck circles.  Does it work?  In this baseball training aids video blog post, we’ll talk about:

  • Speed Hitter baseball training aids review,
  • Barrel path science, and
  • A better alternative

 

Speed Hitter Baseball Training Aids Review

Two main objectives of Speed Hitter baseball training aids (softball included) allegedly address a hitter’s contact point and barrel path.  A hitter is suppose to swing it and hear the “pop” of the ball where contact is made.  The Speed Hitter is priced between $59.99-79.99 + shipping.  Baseball training aids that are highly endorsed and visible often raise red flags for me.  THREE reasons WHY:

  • Endorsements – A majority of Pro-level athletes simply CANNOT teach what they do (or did)*,
  • Expertise – MLB hitting coaches carry A LOT of high “lose-your-job” risk instructing big money ballplayers, and
  • Marketing – Big money ads, in the proper places, can lend massive credibility to a defective concept that as a result, users tend to overlook.

*This actually has to do with what Neuro Linguistic Programming calls Unconscious Competence.  Players simply perform on ‘auto-pilot’.  On the other hand, Conscious Competence is being able to instruct someone else to exactly model what you’re doing.

Barrel Path Science

Baseball Swing Path

Image from Ted Williams’s The Science Of Hitting. We want the hitter’s barrel path to match the plane of the pitch, not chop down OR put an extreme uppercut on it.

Speed Hitter baseball training aids are flawed for FOUR-reasons:

  1. Point of contact and barrel path -for the most part – are two different things,
  2. Point of contact – ranges from slightly out front of the hitters front foot (inside pitch) to slightly behind it (outside pitch).  CLICK HERE to watch Harold Reynolds change his point of view on where contact actually is made on video,
  3. Barrel path – should be as long as possible starting in front of the catcher’s glove, extending about 6-12 inches passed contact (Power-V), and
  4. Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach and Speed Hitter spokesperson Derek Shelton doesn’t have an efficient swing himself (wraps the bat in the ad).

Addressing #2 above – The main objective of the Speed Hitter is to use the hands to be “short to the ball”.  The problem is an efficient swing isn’t focused on accelerating the barrel at the point of contact.  It’s before that, if we look at the inverse relationship between turning speed and moment of inertia in Conserving Angular Momentum.  CLICK HERE for the latest video I did on fixing bat drag and the science of turning faster.

Addressing #3 above – Being “short to the ball” cuts off a hitter’s ability to get on the plane of the pitch early.  Having a barrel on pitch plane early is key, just in case the hitter is late on a pitch.  CLICK HERE for a Chris “Crush” Davis post I did revealing “5 Problems with being ‘Short to the Ball'”.

 

A Better Alternative…The Swing Blaster

Baseball Training Aids: Swing Blaster Review

Keenan Wolf, one of my H.S. Frosh hitters, after one 45-minute session using a Swing Blaster demo this past summer. Swings are synced.

FIVE benefits of using Swing Blaster baseball training aids (good for softball as well) are:

  1. Early Barrel Acceleration – focuses on getting the barrel on pitch plane ASAP.  It’s not about being quick to the ball, it’s about being quick to pitch plane.
  2. Lengthens Hitter’s Pitch Plane – Gives hitter the ability to hit pitches harder – and keep them fair – that they may be late on otherwise.
  3. EIGHT levels of difficulty – there are eight little ‘washers’ that increase or decrease the level of difficulty to hear the audible “click”.
  4. Take soft toss – You can use the Swing Blaster to take short range soft toss.  A hitter CANNOT do this with Speed Hitter baseball training aids.  DO NOT hit LIVE batting practice with it unless the hitter has good bat control.
  5. MADE IN USA

How does it work?

The Swing Blaster gives a hitter audible feedback in the form of a “click” when max barrel speed has been reached.  It’s simple…

If the hitter hears the “click” AND contact at the same time, then they’re doing it WRONG.  If they hear a “click” FOLLOWED by contact, then they’re doing it RIGHT.  Whereas Speed Hitter baseball training aids have it backwards.  They want the hitter to hear the “pop” at contact.  To be effective, this isn’t when a hitter should be accelerating the barrel.  The barrel should already be accelerated at impact.  Impact is when a hitter’s arms are lengthening out or adjusting in to increase turning speed or inertial force.

The price?  Get yours today for only $34.99 + shipping on Amazon…I’m not sure if Swing Blaster will be raising the price soon, but for now you’ll be SAVING at least $25 than buying a Speed Hitter.  CLICK the following link to

buy-button2

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

 

Baseball Hitting Case Study: Cole Watts

Baseball hitting case study: Cole Watts Fight Position comparision

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

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

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

 

 Challenges Faced…

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

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

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

 

Differences Achieved AFTER Two Sessions

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

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

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

 

How We Trained…

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Jones: TWO Actionable Tactics To Decrease Strikeouts

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Compare & Contrast Key Offensive Statistics

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

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

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

 

Actionable Tactic #1: How Low Can You Go?

Victor Martinez on pitch plane

Victor Martinez pitch plane photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

 

Actionable Tactic #2: Bringing Sexy Back

Adam Jones taller Fight Position

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Brantley: How-To BOOST BABIP

Michael Brantley: NEVER Worry About Batting Average Again

 

Michael Brantley: How-To BOOST BABIP

2014 Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

Last week, I received a question from Brian Petrick that birthed this post:

“What do mlb players need to do to hit for a higher avg consistently and cut down on k’s. Not many .300 plus hitters today.”

I have to thank my Sabermetrics friends at RockiesZingers.com – namely Richard Bergstrom – for introducing me to a key metric that better measures how consistently a batter hits the ball rather than Batting Average.  Enter BABIP.  FanGraphs.com says this about BABIP:

Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) measures how often a ball in play goes for a hit. A ball is “in play” when the plate appearance ends in something other than a strikeout, walk, hit batter, catcher’s interference, sacrifice bunt, or home run. Several variables that can affect BABIP rates for individual players, such as defense, luck, and talent level.”

In this video post, we’re going to analyze:

  • Why analyze Michael Brantley (lefty hitting outfielder of the Cleveland Indians)?
  • What’s the difference in his 2013/2014 swings? AND
  • How can he improve his repeatable power?

 

Why Analyze Michael Brantley?Michael Brantley 2013-2014 Key Offensive Stats

According to FanGraphs.com he’s 6 foot, 2 inches, 200 pounds.  Not a big guy by today’s standards.  2014 was the first time he was selected to the American League All-Star team.

Michael Brantley’s 2013-2014 stats were a perfect example to answer Brian Petrick’s question from earlier (photo of stats to the right)…

  • 138 point jump in OPS (On-Base + Slug%),
  • BABIP has gone well above average,
  • GB% went down, LD% went up, and FB% went down, while
  • Home-run to fly-ball% more than DOUBLED!
  • Walk% went up, and
  • Strikeout% almost cut in half!

Yes, according to my stat table, the 2014 season isn’t done yet.  But the amount of “hits” he accumulated in 2013 (158) is virtually the same as 2014 (151).  Hits are a major part of the BABIP equation.  So, what is he doing differently with his mechanics?

What’s the Difference in his 2013/2014 Swings?

Michael Brantley 2014 contact position

Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

After Brian Petrick sent me that question, I obsessed over how-to build consistency into a hitter’s swing (increase BA & BABIP) that could also cut down on strikeouts.  My hypothesis was to get the barrel on pitch plane EARLIER (closer to the catcher), which would translate to more margin for error afforded by the batter.

Take a batter being late on a fast-ball, for example:

  • If the barrel entering the impact zone is closer to the catcher, driving the pitch to the opposite field is an option.
  • However, if the same barrel enters the impact zone closer to the pitcher, the hitter is more likely to swing and miss or hit the ball weakly.

Both Michael Brantley’s 2013 & 2014 swing videos show he’s entering the pitch plane closer to the catcher, and staying long through impact.  But upon closer inspection, we can see he’s “staying shorter” longer through the Final Turn, in 2014.  It looks like he’s
“standing up” in his 2013 swing.

You see, the torso sets the upward swing plane, NOT the hands.  By bending his back leg more at impact (around 10-degrees closer to a right angle than in 2013), makes a HUGE difference in consistently staying on plane of the pitch longer.  Take a quote from page 36 of Homer Kelly’s book, The Golfing Machine:

“A rotating motion will pass through a given point if the axis is tilted properly, instead of having to apply a compensating vector force to drive the rotating element off its normal plane towards the desired plane line.”  

Homer Kelly, an aeronautical engineer for Boeing back in the 1930’s, applied scientifically proven human movement principles to the golf swing.

 

How Can he Improve his Repeatable Power?

Michael Brantley: 2013 contact position

2013 Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

According to FanGraphs.com, Zip (U) and Steamer (U) statistics predict Brantley will hit 20-21 homers in 2014.  This would double what he did in 2013.  The same predictive stats show he’ll finish between .846 to .849 in OPS (On-Base + Slug%).  Conservatively, this would be a dramatic 118 point rise!

With the following FOUR mechanical tweaks, we could see Michael Brantley – with his body type – hitting over 30 homers per year:

  1. Forward Momentum,
  2. More downward shoulder angle,
  3. Showing numbers better, and
  4. Hiding hands from pitcher more.

You saw the difference bending the back leg more at impact does to key offensive numbers like BABIP, BA, and Strikeout%.  Also just as important is how close to the catcher a batter’s barrel enters the pitch plane, and how well his “stay through” is after contact.  Brantley already does these well.

However, at the very least, if Michael Brantley engages the natural springy fascial material within his body (mechanical tweak #’s 2-4 from above), then he can be one of the top-10 hitters in the league!

Aluminum Bats: Easton Maco Torq

Easton Mako Torq Aluminum Bats: WORST Mistake You Can Make Right Now

 

Aluminum Bats: Easton Mako Torq

Photo courtesy: Easton.com

Let me be clear about the objective of this article.  There are bats, and there are hitting aids.  Easton Mako Torq aluminum bats have attempted to fuse both together.  This is fine, but the price point is high ($280-550) when compared to a simplified alternative.

We HAVE to scrutinize hitting aids with science, like we do efficient hitting movements.  If you haven’t heard of Easton Mako Torq aluminum bats yet, then here you go…

Key product marketing differentiation says they use “360-degree Torq Rotating Handle Technology”.  Easton’s claim is to stop a hitter from rolling their hands over at contact.  Their launch video says these aluminum bats help to be “short to the ball”, “square up more pitches”, “get to the zone faster”, and “stay in the zone longer”.

Let’s answer these THREE questions:

  • Is rolling over a big problem?
  • What do cues like being “short to the ball” really mean? And,
  • What is a better more affordable hitting aid than the Easton Mako Torq?

 

Is Rolling Over a Big Problem?

HUGE!  Three reasons why:

  1. Youth level coaches instruct players to hit the ball on the ground because fielders can’t play catch,
  2. Misinformed coaches have “hands” dominant swing approaches, and
  3. Coaches use rapid fire “quick hands” toss drills.

Point #1 doesn’t transfer to the bigger field, where 95+% of ground-balls are outs.  The hands DO NOT create bat speed on their own.  They merely amplify energy transfer originating in the torso.

Point #3 isn’t practicing like we’re going to play. A hitter has around 20-30 seconds between each pitch, so the goal is NOT how many balls we can hit in five seconds.

What Do Cues like Being “Short to the Ball” Really Mean?

Mako Torq Aluminum Bats: Short to the ball? (Ryan Braun)

Ryan Braun photo courtesy: MLB.com

The marketing for Easton Mako Torq aluminum bats promise – that by using their bat – a hitter will:

  • “Be short to the ball”,
  • “Square up more pitches”,
  • “Get to the zone faster”, and
  • “Stay in the zone longer”.

Let’s briefly break these claims down…

“Be short to the ball”

It’s not how short a hitter can be to the ball, but how quickly they can get the barrel on the plane of the pitch.  Easton Mako Torq aluminum bats DO NOT help with this.

“Square up more pitches”

If rolling handle technology can counteract a hitter from rolling their wrist over at contact, then this may be true, sometimes.  Squaring up more pitches has MORE to do with a hitter’s timing.  Also, where a hitter makes contact in the impact zone can be the difference between hitting the sweet spot consistently or not.  Unfortunately, the Easton Maco Torq DOES NOT help with timing or a hitter’s contact point.

“Get to the zone faster”

Getting to the zone (impact zone I assume) is all about the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Since a hitter doesn’t know which type of pitch, speed, and location beforehand, it’s a race – after a decision to swing has been made – to get the barrel on the pitch plane as soon as possible.  In order to spin faster, the hitter MUST stay tight in the turn until the barrel is on plane.

“Stay in the Zone longer”

Here’s where I think Easton Mako Torq aluminum bats hit the mark.  IF – and it is a BIG “if” – these bats can stop rolling over, then a hitter’s “stay through” will get better.  But at a price ($280-550).  And once the hitter has to swing a normal “one-piece” bat, then I’m not sure if the anti-roll over mechanics would transfer.  I don’t see higher levels adopting Easton Mako Torq aluminum bats.

 

What is a Better More Affordable Hitting Aid than the Easton Mako Torq?

Aluminum Bats: Prohammer Bat

ProHammer Bat photo courtesy: PHBat.com

Easton Mako Torq aluminum bats are an expensive fusion of bat and hitting aid.  If you’re looking for a hitting aid that:

  • Provides great feedback for rolling OR not rolling the wrist at contact
  • Hitters can use for dry swings, tee, soft toss, and LIVE batting practice…
  • Improves eye-hand coordination with a slim hit-able surface…AND…

Post UPDATE: By the way, about a couple months after publishing this YouTube and article (when it began to gain serious traction – and as of this ‘update’ the video has been viewed almost 80K times on YouTube), one of Easton’s engineers contacted me VERY unprofessionally.  Clearly he had a bone to pick.  Saying I had zero ground to stand on, and how could I ‘bad mouth’ their precious Mako Torq technology…that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  What’s laughable is that this “engineer” couldn’t supply me with credible studies that supported their claims…he said they had them, but he wouldn’t share.  Hmmmm…

Let me be clear, I LOVE Easton bats, and preferred them well over Louisville Slugger’s. However, I don’t agree with their opinion on Torq technology benefits.

From what I’ve heard, Easton purchased the patent from a High School player who made the technology, in wood shop class, to alleviate pain in his wrist when swinging.  IT WORKED!!  If Easton would have marketed it based on that, there would be no discussion.  But I feel they stretched the technology truth a bit too much.  You be the judge.

Paul Goldschmidt: Can a Bleeding Barrel Kill Hitting Potential?

 

Paul Goldschmidt Youth Hitting Case Study

My 9yo hitter Collin bleeding his barrel. Swings are synced, before (on the left) & after (on the right)

In this video, we’ll look at 2013 National League MVP runner up Paul Goldschmidt’s swing and relate it to one of my younger hitters.  We’ll talk about:

  • What is a bleeding barrel (1-week before & after case study),
  • The “Goldy” standard, and
  • How-to fix a bleeding barrel at home.

 

What is a “Bleeding Barrel” (1-week before & after case study)

I’ve been working on this with one of my young hitters, Collin.  Bleeding the barrel is when the barrel starts to launch (turn into the hitting zone) before the hitter’s front foot touches down.

It’s caused by a premature turning of the shoulders, and is very inefficient when it comes to transferring energy.  In order to load powerful springy fascia and connective tissue in the torso, the front shoulder must stay in and down towards the back hip, at front foot touch down.  CLICK HERE for similar analysis comparing Josh Donaldson (Oakland A’s) to Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays).

The week following my young hitter Collin’s AFTER video, he was bleeding his barrel again.  The cause?  His dad said a coach was doing rapid-fire soft toss before games.  Needless to say, Collin’s dad had a talk with the coach.

 

The “Goldy” Standard

Paul Goldschmidt: Bleeding Barrel - A Power Killer?

Paul Goldschmidt photo courtesy: MLB.com

Notice Paul Goldschmidt (pictured to the right) at front foot touch down:

  • His barrel angle is up (70-degree angle), and
  • He’s showing his numbers to the pitcher  (see video above).

Most importantly, taking care of point #2 above will stop the bleeding barrel.

Can Paul Goldschmidt do better?  According to Baseball-Reference.com, he stands at 6’3″, and weighs 245 lbs.  With this line, he can get away with inefficient mechanics and still hit for decent power.  His average home-run total per 162-game season is only 29.  For how big he is, he can average over 40 homers per season.

Here are a couple things I’d love to see change in Goldy’s swing:

  1. More forward momentum,
  2. Better down shoulder angle (side bending in the spine),
  3. Hide his hands a little more from the pitcher, and
  4. Extend up and back over the catcher more (he was a little out front on this pitch).

 

How-To Fix a Bleeding Barrel at Home

Remember to use Variance in the following scenario.  Three steps to stop the bleeding barrel:

  1. Break Swing into 2-Steps (1-2 second pause between): 1) Fight Position (landing), and 2) Final Turn – focus on showing the hitter’s numbers to the pitcher at the Fight Position, and keep a barrel angle around 45-55 degrees.
  2. Check-Swing Drill – get hitter to show they can keep from bleeding the barrel to impact.
  3. Put Swing Together – once they get here, then progress them from tee, to soft toss, to LIVE batting practice.  If they can hold together their mechanics, then the brain has ingrained the movement.

CLICK HERE to get more information on my online hitting lessons program The Feedback Lab.

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

Online Baseball Lessons: Dead Simple Plan I Used To Help Aidan in Illinois…

 

…when I’m in California!!

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

Aidan B. (15 yo) all AFTER photos courtesy: Dad

Aidan B. (15 yo) signed up for online baseball lessons back in the middle of April 2014 when I opened The Feedback Lab.  What is The Feedback Lab?

It’s the #1 strategy to repeatable power. It’s clear focused step-by-step video feedback & accountability in less than 48-hours.

The 90-Day Sprint empowers parents and coaches to help young hitters achieve their full potential of consistent power through scientific movement principles, and sticky coaching strategies proven with empirical research.

This baseball lessons blog post will show the dead simple plan we used to build repeatable power into Aidan B.’s swing.  We’ll go over:

  • Aidan’s before and after swing (2-week difference),
  • The “WHY” behind the change, and
  • 2-steps to spinal extension & “getting shorter”.

 

 Aidan’s Before & After Swing (2-week difference)

This video is a snapshot of Aidan’s swing from June 6-17th, 2014).  The swing was captured during soft toss.  In my notes,

  • BEFORE – on June 6th, Aidan had an excessive side bend at the waist after contact, and had a back leg angle of 115 degrees after impact.
  • AFTER – on June 17th, Aidan was extending up and over the catcher with his spine, and had a 105 degree bend in his back leg after contact.

Baseball lessons result?  More repeatable power.

 

The “WHY” Behind the Change

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

The challenges Aidan B. from Illinois was having were faulty spine engine mechanics, and not getting on plane with the pitch…here’s the baseball lessons breakdown:

  • Spine Engine Mechanics (according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky) – During the Final Turn, the spine NEEDS to freely spring up and back over the catcher (extend through the head).  This is because we’ve already engaged two of three possible spine engine movements: 1) Side bending (down shoulder angle), and 2) Axial rotation (showing pitcher our numbers) before stride foot lands.
  • Get on Pitch Plane – And in order to get on a level plane with a downward traveling pitch, we must “get shorter” with the back leg.  The back foot placement has a role of swing stability as well.

To see the latter point in action, CLICK HERE for my YouTube video analysis of Barry Bonds.

 

2-Steps to Spinal Extension & “Getting Shorter”

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

  1. Back Foot Variance Drill – sets the back foot into a more stable position to get a good efficient stacked spinal lean.
  2. Lean Drill – using RNT (Reactive Neuromuscular Training) to “feed the mistake”.

If you’re interested in baseball lessons online (or softball), then CLICK HERE to get more information about The Feedback Lab.