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!

How-To Make Changes & Get Results Faster Coaching Baseball

 

Coaching Baseball: Nick M. Grandslam

One of my hitters Nick M. hitting a Grand-Slam, photo courtesy: Mom

This article will highlight one of the scientific principles of successful learning, according to Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick.  FYI, this will work for coaching softball as well.

In my research, I’ve uncovered THREE ingredients to coaching baseball:

  1. Study and apply scientifically proven human movement rules,
  2. Use sticky coaching strategies proven through empirical research, and
  3. Provide necessary feedback mechanisms to stay on track.

We’ll be attacking one of today’s major dilemmas in youth hitting – how do I take my players’ refined “batting practice” swings into the game?  The problem is in how we train young hitters.  We’ll talk about:

  • The myth of “massed practice” to long-term learning,
  • The fine art of variance as a teaching tool, and
  • How-to INFUSE variance into hitting practices.

 

The Myth of “Massed Practice” to Long-Term Learning

What is “massed practice”?  It’s when we work on one thing, say hitting to the opposite field – for an entire practice.  For example, in Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick, he talks about an experiment the Cal Poly University baseball team ran.  They split the hitters up into two practice groups.  Group One did massed practice by hitting 15 fastballs, then 15 curve-balls, then 15 change-ups.  Group Two practiced hitting each pitch at random.  At the end of the experiment, Group One did better in the short run, while Group Two did better in the long run.

Why?

Because Group Two practiced how they’d play, and played how they’d practiced.  We may gain immediate gratification from coaching baseball using massed practice, but we fall short in the long run, because hitting pitches in a game is so varied.  We need to practice, what Peter C. Brown calls, variance when coaching baseball.  It’s more frustrating this way, but the results are worth it.

 

The Fine Art of Variance

Coaching Baseball Liam hitting

One of my hitters Liam W., photo courtesy: Mom

I know this might sound like a no-brainer.  But it’s NOT.  I’ve fallen victim to massed practice too!  We’re taught to strengthen weaknesses.  If a hitter has a hard time hitting to the opposite field, then dedicate a whole practice to opposite field hitting.  The outcomes in batting practice are immediate, but as the empirical research says, the results are fleeting.

Another study mentioned in the book, split up a class of grade-schoolers into two groups.  Group A practiced throwing beanbags into a bucket three feet away.  Group B practiced throwing beanbags into two buckets, one 2-feet and another 4-feet away, and with NO 3-foot bucket.  At the end, they were all tested throwing beanbags into a 3-foot bucket.  Any guess who did better?  Group B.

Why?

Their brain had more points of reference to pull from.  “Throw a little farther than two, but less than four.”  Whereas Group A had only one option.

 

How-To INFUSE Variance Into Hitting Practice

There are so many ways to do this, so I’ll only mention the few that have worked for my hitters.  Here’s what coaching baseball using the variance hitting strategy looks like:

  1. Un-Weighting Part-1 – fix stride foot at Fight Position (watch video above for demonstration)
  2. Un-Weighting Part-2 – un-anchor back foot during Final Turn (watch video above for demonstration)
  3. Varied Pitches Off Batting Tee – after every swing move the tee either up or down, and/or pull side or opposite side setup (watch video above for demonstration).  Rarely place ball over middle of the plate.  As beanbag study suggests, if hitter can hit inside and outside pitch correctly, then they’ll be prepared to hit the pitch down the middle.
  4. Timing The Pitch – Every five swings or so move the L-Screen forward or backward to simulate a change in fast-to-slow pitching and vice-versa.  I find that after footwork, timing is the next most difficult concept to master.

We’re failing as coaches because we aren’t mixing it up enough.  Practice how you play, and you’ll play like you practice.  Myself and the Hitting Performance Lab community would love to hear your thoughts on coaching baseball or softball using variance.  Any other ideas?  Please post below…

In the Final PART 3 How To Run Faster: Agility Training Video Series,

How To Run Faster: Agility Training…I bring you on a nickel tour of what I use to hammer speed and agility training into my baseball athletes. In a Step-By-Step breakdown of speed mechanics, here’s some of what Jim Kielbaso and the IYCA covers in the Course:

  • Arm Action
  • Lower Body Mechanics
  • Backpedaling — breaking out of a backpedal, changing directions into a backpedal
  • Shuffling and Lateral Quickness
  • Crossover Running
  • And much more…

The Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course contains the exact same techniques Jim Kielbaso was brought in to teach the University of Kentucky Basketball team before their National Championship season in 2012.

Just as efficient hitting mechanics can overcome bigger more athletic body types, sprint mechanics can do the same.  Sure speed can be genetic, but it can also be taught and refined.  Jim does a great job in this field.  CLICK HERE to get more information on the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course.

In The PART-1 How To Run Faster Video, You’ll Learn:

 

  • How Jim Kielbaso* teaches acceleration mechanics,
  • Coaching cues, and
  • How you can do this yourself.

How To Run Faster Video Secrets*Jim Kielbaso was brought on to teach the University of Kentucky Basketball team speed training and agility training before their National Championship season in 2012.

I’ve received quite a few emails about how to run faster…I’m not a “speed expert”, but I look to those who are and Jim Kielbaso’s Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course is it.  Mechanics is everything, and Jim backs all his stuff with REAL science.

 

Have you ever wondered what it is that separates the fastest, most agile athletes from all the rest?

While there are literally thousands of how-to run faster programs out there designed to get athletes bigger, stronger, and more powerful, very few of them are able to teach you how to lay a solid speed training and agility training foundation from which they can build upon.

With the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course, you finally have a tool that will help develop the fundamental movement skills your athletes need in order to develop them into the quickest and most agile athletes they can be!

CLICK HERE to get more information on the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course.

Check out PART 2 on how-to run faster: speed training & agility training as we look at one of the best drills for practicing what Jim talked about in this video…