How Your Central Hitting “Operating System” May Be Causing You To Lose Out On Scoring More Runs

How To Maximize A Hitter's Contribution To Run Scoring Process  

Photo courtesy: MopUpDuty.com

Recently, I had a conversation with a coach on Facebook who thought the following quote from Josh Donaldson was “horrible advice”:

“If you’re 10-years-old and your coach tells you to get on top of the ball…tell him NO.”

I’m not getting into the positive or negative of Donaldson’s statement, but the coach’s responses that followed his “horrible advice” comment got me thinking.  Come to find out, the loud and clear message was this coach despises when hitters strikeout. Often referring to this offensive outcome as “disgusting”.  What was interesting was this one principle was central to how and what he teaches his hitters.

So I wanted to do a hitting “operating system” thought experiment.  In reading what follows, please keep in mind what the main objective to offense is, according to FanGraphs.com

“In baseball [or softball], we care about run scoring (and prevention) and so when looking at offensive statistics, we want to find statistics that tell you something about how much a player contributes to the run scoring process…again, we care about a player’s contribution to run scoring and if you treat everything equally you’re not getting a very accurate measure of those contributions.” 

In this thought experiment, we’ll discuss…as a hitting instructor, what would happen if:

  • The Time To Impact Metric was Central to the “Operating System”?
  • Minimizing a Hitter’s Strikeouts were Central to the “Operating System”?
  • Maximizing Batting Average were Central to the “Operating System”? And,
  • Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

Now, that being said…as a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

The Time To Impact Metric was Central to the “Operating System”? 

If you’re new to this term, here’s the definition of Time To Impact according to Zepp:

“TIME TO IMPACT is the amount of time (in seconds) from the start of the downswing until impact of the bat with the ball. The closer to ZERO your swing is, the quicker your bat is to the ball. The faster the time to impact, the longer the hitter can wait to start the swing. Time to Impact also measures how short a player’s swing is. Time to Impact measures their coordination of both their hand and the bat barrel to maximize swing efficiency to the ball.”

CLICK HERE for amateur, High School, and Pro ranges for both baseball and softball.  What would be the top 2-3 priority hitting concepts guided by this principle?

  1. Point-A to B barrel path (shortest distance between two points). Default hitting strategy would be “Knob to the ball”.  “Swing down”. “Barrel above the hands”.
  2. Most likely using more linear elements in the swing for both upper and lower half (i.e. ‘showing numbers’ will be a no-no).  Maybe similar to a Charlie Lau style of hitting.
  3. Minimalist view of the swing…wide feet, no stride, minimal hand and head movement, etc.  May not believe a hitter can train timing, so the view is that it’s all about bettering the hitter’s reaction time.

Look, there’s a healthy range for Time To Impact, not taking too long, and not being so quick the barrel is not in the impact zone long enough.  You can see that range in the previous Zepp link.  Remember, we want to formulate hitting principles that encourage how to maximize a player’s contribution to the run scoring process 

Moving on,

As a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

Minimizing a Hitter’s Strikeouts were Central to the “Operating System”? 

What if you despised hitters striking out so much, you often referred to this outcome as “disgusting”, like our coaching friend above.  What would be the top 2-3 priority concepts guided by this principle?

  • Protecting hitters from swing and misses at all cost.  Very defensive just make contact swings, especially with 2-strikes.  May subscribe to barrel on plane of pitch early and stay on plane longer.  Less margin for error.
  • Believes in hitting ball hard and on a line.  However, low liners and ground-balls are preferred, especially with 2-strikes.  Don’t care as much about extra base hits, doubles maybe, but not homers.  They aren’t worth the risk.  Swings taught at the advent of astro turf fit this type of hitting perfectly.  Hard and on the ground.
  • Mechanics may look like: wide no-stride feet, bug squishing, minimal head movement from start of swing to finish, choking up (especially with two strikes).  Very defensive type of swing.  On board with boosting Ball Exit Speeds, but will not agree with optimizing Launch Angles.  Besides hitter strikeouts, this coach absolutely hates getting the ball in the air (too much of an out risk for them), unless it’s a low level line drive.  High batting average and low strikeouts are very important to this coach.

Listen, if this is you, I’d highly advise checking out this VERY popular post titled, “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground Balls”.  I’m not going into every argument here, but the math and geometry don’t lie in demonstrating ground-balls are gross.  The main reasons are:

  1. Ask any pitcher, and most (if not all) will tell you they’re taught to keep the ball down in the zone, to get the ground-ball.  So, if the default strategy – or safety net to the line-drive – is to hit ground-balls, then you’re teaching hitters to do what pitchers want them to do.
  2. Because of reason #1, there are 5 fielders on the infield (yes, the pitcher is considered a fielder) with less space to cover.  There are only 3 outfielders with A LOT of space to cover.  And lastly,
  3. Most double plays are turned on the infield (probably THE WORST hitting outcome in the sport), and if you’re pinning hopes and dreams on an infielder making an error or ball taking a weird bounce, then you’re focusing on things you can’t control.  High level coaches and players don’t think that way.  WHY? Because it’s silly.

Again, we want to formulate hitting principles that encourage how to maximize a player’s contribution to the run scoring process.  A defensive swing doesn’t do this. 

Next, as a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

 

Maximizing Batting Average were Central to the “Operating System”?

In Golf, precision is key.  The least strokes possible.  Being able to control the club head has a lot of value because one small deviation at impact is exponentially compounded hundreds of yards from the tee box.  The last hitter to hit .400 was Ted Williams in 1941.  Tony Gwynn came close in the strike shortened year of 1994, hitting .394, and hitting around .370 in three separate full seasons.  And Gwynn had a mere fraction of the power Williams did.

Before I get to what a hitting coach would focus on here, I wanted to address the elephant in the room.  In the day and age of Sabermetrics, Batting Average isn’t a useful statistic in deciding a player’s value.  In a FanGraphs post titled, “Stats to Avoid: Batting Average”, they put forth two reasons to avoid looking at BA as a useful metric:

  1. “Batting average ignores a segment of offensive actions just because they aren’t “hits,” and 100 years ago, someone decided a hit and a walk were fundamentally different.”  And,
  2. “The second major flaw is that batting average treats every hit equally even though certain hits are more valuable than others. Batting average treats a single and a double like the same thing, even though a hitter who only hit doubles would help his team score a lot more runs than a hitter who only hit singles.” 

That being said, maybe a better stat would be Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). Not the best, but better than BA.  FanGraphs.com defines BABIP as:

“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.”

Okay, so what would be the top 2-3 priority concepts guided by this principle?

  • Getting on the plane of the pitch early with the barrel, and maximizing that time.
  • Place a high emphasis on barrel control, both horizontally (across the field) and vertically (optimizing Launch Angles).  The best hitters in the world can put the ball where they want, when they want, during batting practice.
  • This Joey Votto interview post describes this approach, it’s titled, “Joey Votto: Why Coaches SHOULD NOT Be Obsessed With Launch Angles”

I LOVE this approach, and I feel coaches have done a poor job of training their hitters in it in the past (including me).  Teaching hitters to hit the ball where they want, when they want.  Why can’t we have hitters in High School batting .600 to .800?  Or Little Leaguers hitting .880?  I know it can be done because I did it when I was 12yo, in addition to hitting 30+ homers.  Using Batting Average (BA), or better yet Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), is a great start to encourage how to maximize a player’s contribution to the run scoring process.

The challenge I have with it though, neither of the BA or BABIP metrics take walks and/or homers into account.  Remember “contribute to run scoring process”.  Which leads me to, as a hitting instructor, what would happen if…  

 

Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

Have you read the book MoneyBall by Michael Lewis, or watched the movie with Brad Pitt?  If you haven’t…THEN WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!!!!  lol, kidding.  OPS stands for On-Base Percentage PLUS Slugging Percentage.  There are better metrics, but this is a good one to start with if this is new to you.  FanGraphs.com defines it as:

“On-base Plus Slugging (OPS) is exactly what it sounds like: the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and their slugging percentage. Many sabermetricians don’t like OPS because it treats OBP as equal in value with SLG, while OBP is roughly twice as important as SLG in terms of its effect on run scoring (x1.8 to be exact). However, OPS has value as a metric because it is accepted and used more widely than other, more accurate statistics while also being a relatively accurate representations of offense.”

It’s one of the best metrics to formulate hitting principles that encourage how to maximize a player’s contribution to the run scoring process.  On-Base Percentage (OBP) measures how often a player gets on base.  And Slugging Percentage (Slug%) measures how many extra base hits a hitter hits.  ISO, or Isolated Slugging (aka “raw power”, takes singles out of the equation), is better than Slug%, but I don’t want to complicate matters. Remember, the object of this game is to get runners on, and knock’em in.

 Okay, so what would be the top 2-3 priority concepts guided by this principle?

  • High frequency of hitting the ball hard.  Increase Ball Exit Speed, or how fast the ball comes off the bat.  However high Ball Exit Speeds with low Launch Angles are no good.  A few years ago Giancarlo Stanton hit a ball 123.8-mph…on the ground, one-hopper to the second baseman…double play. Ouch.
  • Optimize launch angle range between 15 to 25 degrees.  This is the ideal line drive range, and optimizes batted ball distance.  Some hate talking about Launch Angles, but every batted ball has a launch angle, even bunts.
  • Mechanics that optimize both of these are key.  How do we optimize Ball Exit Speeds?  (Hint: that’s what Power Hitter 2.0: Engineering The Alpha does).  What mechanics optimize Launch Angles and hitting more line drives?  (Hint: that’s what The Pitch-Plane Dominator does).  And importantly, my hitters don’t sacrifice swing quality for power.  We get both!  My hitters lower their strikeouts, mis-hits, fly-balls, and gross ground-balls with these online video courses.

I think there’s success on whatever part of the spectrum coaches find themselves on.  However, what if you lived on a planet that used forks and knives to eat soup?  What would happen if an alien came down and surprised them with a spoon?  Teaching hitting is the same.  There may be thousands of ways to teach hitters, but one way is most effective.  What is that way?  Applying human movement principles validated by REAL science, NOT “because-I-said-so ‘bro-science'”, to hitting a ball.   Have a higher standard for your hitters.

We as coaches have to reverse engineer the our swing strategy based on what the game values, which are runs!  The more runs your team can score (and prevent), the more WINS you get.  Don’t lose sight of that coaches.

‘Showing Numbers’ to Pitcher is a Quick Way to Solving Consistent Power Problem

Question: How does ‘Showing Numbers’ to the Pitcher Effect Bat Speed at Impact versus ‘NOT Showing’ them?

Aaron Judge Showing Numbers to the Pitcher

Aaron Judge (Showing Numbers), unloads a solo home run to center field on 10/17/17 to put the Yankees on the board in the 7th inning.

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if a hitter showing their numbers to the pitcher at landing adds to or takes away from key swing performance metrics like Bat Speed at Impact, Time To Impact, and Attack Angle.  This swing experiment is revisiting two other experiments done analyzing the same thing.

 

Background Research

Since we’re REVISITING two previous swing experiments on ‘Showing Numbers’ versus NOT, here are the original posts and data to get you up to speed:

In 2016 ‘Show Numbers’ swing experiment, this was what the averaged out Zepp data looked like:

  • 5-mph INCREASE in Bat Speed at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • 0.5-mph INCREASE in Hand Speed Max with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • .003 second DECREASE in Time to Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • 3* INCREASE in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’, and
  • 1.5* INCREASE in Attack Angle with ‘Showing Numbers.

Now, let’s see how the Ball Exit Speed averages compare:

  • 76.02-mph BES when ‘NOT Showing Numbers’,
  • 77.32-mph BES  when ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • That’s a 1.3-mph average INCREASE when ‘Showing Numbers’, and
  • Translates between 5.2-feet to 7.8-feet of EXTRA batted ball distance – depending on if you calculate using 1-mph BES = 4-feet of distance OR 1-mph BES = 6-feet of distance.

In this experiment, if you look at the ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, they were actually ‘Showing Numbers’.  In other words, the subject in the swing experiment, Preston Scott, already shows his numbers well causing a challenge to not show them.  Therefore on the ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he showed them more.  I think that’s why we didn’t see as much of a difference in Ball Exit Speeds.

In 2014 ‘Show Numbers’ swing experiment, this was what the averaged out Zepp data looked like:

  • Bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 73-mph,
  • Bat speed for showing numbers at landing: 79-mph (+6-mph),
  • Highest bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 82-mph,
  • Highest bat speed for showing numbers at landing: 88-mph (+6-mph),
  • Hand speed max for NOT showing numbers was: 27-mph, and
  • Hand speed max for showing numbers was: 29-mph (+2-mph).

Between both swing experiments, we saw an average Bat Speed at Impact increase between 5 to 6-mph.  In 2016 we saw a .003 second drop in Time To Impact ‘Showing Numbers’, while in 2014 we saw a .003 increase.

The research on increasing bat or ball exit speed can be seen in the following two books on springy fascia and spinal engine mechanics:

You can also get application of previously mentioned books through the following HPL video blog posts.

  1. Miguel Cabrera and the timing of torque.
  2. Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista: how spine engine mechanics are amplified by Gravitational Forces, and
  3. Adrian Gonzalez: how-to naturally spring load the body.

For those versed in Anatomy, for explosive movement on the Transverse Plane (twisting), there must be a protraction of the front scapula (‘showing numbers’), and a retraction of the back Scapula (what’s often referred to as ‘Scap Row’).  Scap Rowing by itself doesn’t engage full range of springy fascia.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above research, I’m expecting to see a dramatic bump in Bat Speed at Impact, Hand Speed Max, and possibly a reduction in Time To Impact.  I think Attack Angle and Bat Vertical Angle at Impact will remain unchanged.

 

Showing Numbers Swing Experiment Part-3

Equipment Used:

SwingAway Bryce Harper model

This is the SwingAway Bryce Harper model hitting station used for the ‘Showing Numbers’ experiment.

Setup:

  • SwingAway Bryce Harper bungy suspended ball was set equal to the landing foot, and ball height was about knee height.
  • I broke each swing down into three steps: 1) Get to landing, 2) Pause for 2-secs, and 3) Swing.  The reason for this was to better control whether I was showing numbers or not.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • The ‘Showing Numbers’ swing shoulders were set to about 2’o’clock, if pitcher is 12’o’clock.  The ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swing shoulders were set to about 12’o’clock.

 

Data Collected from Zepp Baseball App:

'Showing' v. 'NOT Showing' Numbers to Pitcher Zepp Numbers

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages:

  • Bat Speed at Impact INCREASE of 3-mph ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • Hand Speed Max DECREASE of 1-mph ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • Time To Impact INCREASE of 0.014 ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • Bat Vertical Angle At Impact DECREASE of 4-degree ‘Showing Numbers’, and
  • Attack Angle INCREASE of 6-degrees ‘Showing Numbers’.

The drop from previous ‘Showing Numbers’ swing experiments was surprising, in addition to a small 1-mph drop in Hand Speed Max.  There was also a slight increase in Time To Impact.  The interesting numbers were the ones that indicate Launch Angles, both Bat Vertical Angle at Impact and Attack Angle.  We hadn’t experienced such a dramatic uptick in those in past experiments.

A couple notes…

  • The past two experiments were done in a cage, off a tee, so I could see ball flight, and maybe that had an effect on the swing metrics.
  • Some hitting coaches speak highly of Time To Impact and want to reduce at all cost, but I disagree. There’s a healthy range for that, you don’t want it too short or too long.  I’m not going to get into why here, maybe in another post.
  • To explain the dramatic increase of the barrel’s upward trajectory in ‘Showing Numbers’, I may have been getting more of a downward shoulder angle at landing.

Controversial Swing Experiment Video: What Happens To Ball Exit Speeds When We Eliminate Use Of Lower Half?

Do you consider yourself an open minded coach?  If not, then this post MAY NOT be for you.

Do you consider yourself a coach willing to try new movements before criticizing them?  If not, then this post MAY NOT be for you.

Fair WARNING…this video will make most feel uneasy because it strikes at the heart of their teaching.  I believe the quality of our lives and the success we experience in it, depends solely on the questions we’re willing to ask our-self.

In this video, the Backspin Tee Gardner Brothers (Taylor & Jarrett Interview here) recently did a small thought provoking swing experiment that looked at how much value the pelvis contributes to the swing.  Most popular hitting instructors treat the pelvis like a JoBu shrine in the movie Major League.  Don’t get me wrong, the pelvis has a role, but I disagree on the importance most put on it.

Using the Scientific Method…

 

Question

Backspin Tee Swing Experiment on Not Using Hips

Taylor Gardner doing a Jumping No Hips Swing

They looked at how much value (measured in Ball Exit Speed) the pelvis contributes to the swing by restricting its movement.

 

Background Research

Taylor read my book The Catapult Loading System: How To Train 100-Pound Hitters To Consistently Drive The Ball 300-Feet, and it got him thinking about how much the pelvis actually contributes to power compared to the shoulders?  Earlier I mentioned how much the movement of the pelvis in the swing is worshiped by so many hitting coaches.  “Fire the hips!” “Hip Thrust baby!” Sadly, the torsional forces are taken to the point of being unhealthy for a young hitter’s low back.

Consider what Charlie Weingroff, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist and trainer in New York City said this:

“Only your thoracic spine (which consists of the 12 vertebrae in your upper and middle back) is designed to rotate significantly — about 40 degrees in each direction, according to Weingroff — when under compression. The lumbar spine (lower back) should rotate no more than about 12 degrees.”

Let me give a clue, coaches want better separation, torque, lag, etc. in their hitters right?  We see that a high level right handed hitter’s pelvis starts rotating counter-clockwise at the start of the turn, leaving the shoulders temporarily behind, this is the essence of “lag” or “torque”.  But what coaches aren’t seeing is what’s happening before the ‘hips lead the way’?  The compression and tension forces happening in the torso beforehand, to make that move possible.

If hitting coaches would do their homework on basic bio-mechanical locomotion and function of the spinal engine as a whole, then they’d find they’re missing  60-70% of the performance puzzle (as you’ll soon see), and quite possibly wearing a hole in the lower backs of their hitters.

I constantly see well intention coaches posting videos on Twitter of their young hitters savagely twisting the pelvis and low back (lumbar), in addition to the hyper-extension of the lower lumbar.  Quite frankly, it’s painful to watch.  CLICK HERE for an exercise to correct this.

Did you know there’s a much safer way to achieve those high BES numbers and more?  Some books to get you started on the right track:

By the way, Dr. Serge Gracovetsky is a Physicist and Electrical Engineer.  He said the Spinal Engine can operate in space without Gravitational Forces.  His research shows arms and legs aren’t necessary for locomotion, they’re an improvement.  Please read that sentence again because it’s important to understand locomotion.

Can explosive high level athletes perform without the aid of Gravitational Reaction Forces?  Check out the following videos:

Derek Jeter makes jump throw…

Jeter is jumping up and away from his target, taking his momentum in the opposite direction of first base. This should put him at a disadvantage, but it doesn’t hurt him too much, as you can see.

Big air motocross freestyle jumps…

Notice how these athletes use the head to control their body.  No Gravitational Reaction Forces to help here either.  But man can these athletes put a big smile on your face while watching this video!

Don’t seek the footsteps of others, seek the footsteps they sought.

 

Hypothesis

The Gardner brothers thought this mini swing experiment would show more of a minimal role of the pelvis in the swing, compared to the “pelvis worshiping” hitting coaches out there.

 

Experiment Setup Details

  • 4 different hitters (Taylor – High School level hitter College Track & Field athlete, Jarrett – professional pitcher, Rookie in pro ball, home-run record holder at Div-1 college)
  • Took Full Swings prior to experiment swings (the Control group), so they could compare to when the lower half was restricted
  • Backspin Tee used on all swings (I know, shocker!)
  • Chair used to hit ball while falling
  • Pocket Radar to measure BES
  • Used 2 judges for checks and balances
  • Goal was to eliminate use of lower half
  • Every one used the same metal bat, a Copperhead C405 34 inch, 30 ounce (-4)

 

Data Collected

Based on control swings, this graph shows average BES as % of the control swings, Highest BES as %, & Lowest BES as % of each of the four hitters. Photo courtesy: BackSpinTee.com

 

Graph shows top BES per hitter on control swings, when Stationary No Hips, when Jump Float No Hips, Falling Float No Hips, Lead Leg Only No Hips, and Avg. BES. Photo courtesy: BackSpinTee.com

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Small sample sizes can cause a lot of problems, so there definitely needs to be more data points to make a conclusive decision.  However, with the data we have, the fact four different hitters participated on all swing experiments, in looking at the last graph, you can see that when the lower half was restricted, Ball Exit Speeds were around two-thirds of top exit velocity of control swings (normal swings).  Think Jeter making his jump throw!  So from this small sample size, we can say the pelvis contributes about one-third to the Exit Speeds of these four hitters.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.  Be nice, be respectful.

Zepp Swing Experiment: Here’s a Quick Way to Fix a Flat Bat at Landing (and WHY!) 

Question: How Does a Flat Bat at Landing Effect Bat Speed, Ball Exit Speed, & Time To Impact?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app and Pocket Radar Ball Coach, I wanted to employ the Scientific Method to analyze how a hitter’s “Flat Bat at Landing”, or toe touch,  adds or takes away from key swing performance metrics including Bat Speed at Impact, Time To Impact, Attack Angle, and Ball Exit Speeds.

Let me define what I mean by ‘Flat Barrel’ versus a ‘Vertical Barrel’…

  • A ‘Flat Barrel’ at landing is anything less than a 30-degree angle (like Cargo in the above video as an example),
  • A ‘Vertical Barrel’ at landing is anything more than a 30-degree angle.

Now that we’ve defined the parameters, let’s look at the…

 

Background Research

Notice where the “dot” is drawn on the two static images left side, and where it’s drawn on the two dynamic images right side. Photo courtesy: GymSmartsCommunity.com

My background research is more experiential, rather than academic.

I have hitters do a mini-experiment by holding the bat in their bottom hand, laid flat (parallel to ground) over their back shoulder.  And then ask them to hold the bat, using the same hand, but vertical.  I then ask them which bat position is heavier/lighter?  Of course they say the vertical bat is lighter.  I then ask WHY?  And I get a few different answers…

What is the answer?  Because we’re not adding or taking weight away from the bat by doing this…

It has to do with center of mass of the bat in relation to the hitter’s.  A ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ pushes its center of mass behind the hitter’s. A human’s center of mass is generally around the belly button.  To find the bat’s center of mass you can balance it between your thumb and forefinger.

I’ve also observed when adjusting a hitter’s ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ to a more ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’, there’s a bump in Ball Exit Speed, which I measure at the beginning (before instruction is given) and end of a hitting lesson.  My hitter’s also share they feel quicker to impact, have a little more ‘pop’, and that it’s easier getting the ball in the air.

It’s also interesting to note that I see quite a bit of early barring of the front arm when the hitter lands with a flat barrel.  I also see the hitter “wrapping the bat” around their head.  In my opinion this is a compensation to manipulate the shifted center mass of the bat from behind the hitter.

CLICK HERE to watch this video on how to fix a ‘Flat Bat at Impact’.

 

Hypothesis

Carlos Gonzalez & Cody Bellinger Illustrating Flat versus Vertical Bat at Landing

Look at the difference in bat angle at landing between Carlos Gonzalez (left) – “Flat” and Cody Bellinger (right) – “Vertical”. Just because a Big Leaguer does it doesn’t mean it’s effective or optimized. Oftentimes they succeed despite ineffective mechanics. Photos courtesy: MLB.com

In support of the Background Research above, I’m hallucinating that we’ll see a bump in Bat and Ball Exit Speeds, in addition to a reduction in Time To Impact.  I also think that we’ll see a more positive move in the barrel’s Attack Angle.

 

Flat Versus Vertical Bat at Landing Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length…I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent.  One was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length ahead of the back marker.
  • Backspin tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • We stayed as consistent as we could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I broke each swing down into a couple steps: 1) Get to landing, 2) Pause for 2-secs, and 3) Swing.  The reason for this was to control the bat either flat or vertical at landing.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • The objective of ‘Front Facing Swings’ was to start the ‘belt buckle’ pointing at the pitcher, and to minimize pelvic movement.
  • Experiment Day-1 on 7/5 we completed 150 total swings (75 ‘Flat Barrel at Landing’ & 75 ‘Vertical Barrel at Landing’).  Experiment Day-2 on 7/10 we completed 50 swings (25 ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ & 25 ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’).
  • We had to break the 200 total swings into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later, because of time constraints.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App & Ball Exit Speed Readings):

‘Flat Bat Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Flat Barrel at Landing swing averages of the averages: 76-MPH Bat Speed at Impact, 26.5-MPH Hand Speed Max, .209 Time To Impact, -32* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 8.5* Attack Angle.

‘Vertical Barrel Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Vertical Barrel at Landing swing averages of the averages: 76-MPH Bat Speed at Impact, 27-MPH Hand Speed Max, .206 Time To Impact, 30.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 8.5* Attack Angle.

CLICK HERE for the Ball Exit Speed Google document.  The findings?

  •  Flat Barrel at Landing AVERAGE Ball Exit Speed = 79.01-MPH
  • Vertical Barrel at Landing AVERAGE Ball Exit Speed = 81.08-MPH
  • Difference = 2.01-MPH Ball Exit Speed bump with more Vertical Barrel at Landing

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

  • We saw NO change to Bat Speed at Impact between the two swings,
  • We saw a 0.5-MPH boost to Hand Speed Max when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw a .003 second reduction in Time To Impact when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw a +1.5-degree increase to Bat Vertical Angle at Impact when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw NO change to the Attack Angle between the two swings, and
  • We saw a 2.01-MPH increase in Ball Exit Speed when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’.

Based on the above Data Analysis it looks like my Hypothesis was proved right when it came to a boost in Hand Speed Max and Ball Exit Speed, and decrease in Time To Impact, but wrong when it came to Bat Speed at Impact and Attack Angle.  I think the increase in Ball Exit Speed can be attributed to the decrease in Time To Impact.

When we see ineffective movement at the Big League level, we have to understand that these high level hitters are succeeding despite ineffective movements, not because of them.

Zepp Swing Experiment Attempting To Put Value On Role Of Pelvis In Swing

Question: How Much Does Pelvis Add to Bat Speed at Impact?

According to InnerBody.com, the pelvis is a sturdy ring of bones that protects the delicate organs of the abdomino-pelvic cavity while anchoring the powerful muscles of the hip, thigh, and abdomen. Several bones unite to form the pelvis, including the sacrum, coccyx (tail bone), and the left and right coxal (hip) bones. Photo courtesy: OrthoInfo.aaos.org

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to employ the Scientific Method to analyze how much turning the pelvis (some refer to this as the hips) adds to Bat Speed at Impact.  The ‘Front Facing Swings’ are an attempt to isolate out the role of the pelvis in the swing, so we can analyze how much the pelvis adds to swing performance.

Just a heads up, the “pelvis” and “hips” are not the same thing.  The hips are a small part of the pelvis.  However, most coaches refer to “hips” when instructing the swing, when most likely they mean “pelvis”.

 

Background Research

For those coaches with a Growth Mindset that want to find out more about the science of locomotion.  I’d recommend reading the following technical books:

If working through the weeds isn’t for you, then you can click the following HPL posts that synthesize the information contained in the previously mentioned books:

I’ve done two swing experiments revealing the role of the shoulders in the swing that tested the value of ‘Showing Numbers’ versus ‘NOT’.  These showed an average increase to Bat Speed at Impact – Showing Numbers – of between 5 to 6-mph.  In addition, one of the experiments showed an average increase to Ball Exit Speed of over 9-mph ‘Showing Numbers’! That’s between 38 to 48-feet of ADDED batted ball distance by ‘Showing Numbers’:

This Zepp swing experiment is attempting to put value on the role of the pelvis in the swing.

 

HypothesisThe Science of Hitting by Ted Williams

Ted Williams, in his book The Science Of Hitting, said the ‘hips lead the way’.  This observation is irrefutable when watching slow motion video of elite hitters.  A majority of coaches teach primarily a ‘hips only’ strategy, which I disagree with.  I feel ‘firing the hips’ is over-taught and over-valued, while the role of the shoulders is under-taught and under valued.  The objective of this experiment is to see what benefit the pelvis (or hips) add to swing performance.

I predict ‘Regular Swings’ will have a substantial increase in Bat Speed at Impact than the ‘Front Facing Swings’.

 

Performance Benefit of Pelvis Swing Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length…I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent.  One was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length ahead of the back marker.
  • Tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • We stayed as consistent as we could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Front Facing Swing’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Regular Swing’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • The objective of ‘Front Facing Swings’ was to start the ‘belt buckle’ pointing at the pitcher, and to minimize pelvic movement.
  • Experiment Day-1 on 6/19 we completed 75 total swings (25 ‘Front Facing’ & 50 ‘Regular’).  Experiment Day-2 on 6/26 we completed 125 swings (75 ‘Front Facing’ & 50 ‘Regular’).
  • We had to break the 200 total swings into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later, because of time constraints.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

‘Front Facing Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Front Facing Swing Averages

‘Front Facing Swing’ AVERAGES for the following metrics: 77-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 30-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.177-secs Time To Impact, -24.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 3* Attack Angle.

‘Regular Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

‘Regular Swing’ AVERAGES for the following metrics: 81.5-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 33-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.130-secs Time To Impact, -28.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 0* Attack Angle.

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

  • 4.5-mph INCREASE to Bat Speed at Impact in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • 3-mph INCREASE to Hand Speed Max in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • 0.047 DECREASE to Time To Impact in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • -4-degree DECREASE to Bat Vertical Angle at Impact in ‘Regular Swings’, and
  • -3-degree DECREASE to Attack Angle in ‘Regular Swings’.

 

Notes

  • The increase in Bat Speed at Impact and Hand Speed Max confirmed my hypothesis, and didn’t surprise me since the first piece of The Spinal Engine to interact with Gravitational Forces is the pelvis.
  • It’s also interesting to note, that you can see from the side-by-side video of the swing, that I wasn’t able to keep the “belt buckle” ‘front facing’ as much as I would have liked to on ‘Front Facing Swings’, so possibly the pelvis could have added a bit more.  I was feeling inside right knee tightness when forcing pelvis to stay facing forward.
  • The DECREASE in Time To Impact with ‘Regular Swings’ could have been due to the increased step and/or unfamiliarity with the movement, while doing ‘Front Facing Swings’.
  • In past swing experiments testing ‘Down Shoulders’ and ‘Showing Numbers’ I increased my Attack Angle – in the positive.  I think the 3-degree increase in positive Attack Angle for ‘Front Facing Swings’ was due to better execution of those elements.
  • We were testing Ball Exit Speed in the beginning but had equipment malfunction (batteries went dead).  I was too many swings in when the equipment was fixed, so we threw BES out in this experiment.  I’d love to see BES measured in a future review of this swing experiment.
  • One last thought, because my pelvis inwardly turned toward the catcher – drastically – on ‘Front Facing Swings’, we saw quite a drop-off in production.  Does this give evidence that an inward turn before the swing may be inferior to keeping the pelvis in neutral (or belt bucket facing plate)?

Here is a Method That is Helping Nelson Cruz ADD Ridiculous Batted Ball Distance

Nelson Cruz: 'Showing Numbers'

Nelson Cruz ‘showing numbers’ hitting a 2-run monster shot traveling 463-feet with a launch angle of 23.7-degrees off 75-mph CB on 09/23/16. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

(‘Showing Numbers’ Experiment REVISITED) 

Question: Is Increased Bat & Ball Exit Speed ALL in the Hips?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether ‘Showing the Numbers’ to the pitcher is more effective than ‘NOT Showing’ them when it comes to measuring Bat and Ball Exit Speeds.

In this swing experiment, I had professional hitter of mine that I’ve been working with for a few months, Preston Scott, do the hitting.

 

Background Research

I’m revisiting an earlier experiment I did, looking into whether power was ALL in the hips.  You can CLICK HERE to read and watch the experiment findings.

Not to beat the springy fascia horse, but you can get more background information on why this swing experiment turned out like it did by reading through the following video blog posts.

  1. Miguel Cabrera and the timing of torque.
  2. Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista: how spine engine mechanics are amplified by Gravitational Forces, and
  3. Adrian Gonzalez: how-to naturally spring load the body.

 

Hypothesis

From the research into Anatomy Trains (Thomas Myers), The Spinal Engine (Dr. Serge Gracovetsky), and from my past swing experiment, I expect to see similar results…maybe even slightly lower numbers favoring ‘Showing Numbers’.

I say slightly lower numbers because in the first experiment I didn’t counter-balance the swings.  In other words, I took 100 consecutive swings ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ first, then took another 100 consecutive swings ‘Showing Numbers’.  This may have caused a “getting tired” or “not warmed up yet” effect, therefore biasing the experiment results.

The big UPDATES to the experiment will be:

  • Adding the measure of Ball Exit Speed,
  • Counter-balancing the swings, and
  • Professional Preston Scott taking the swings, not me.

I’m interested to see how this experiment turns out…

 

ADD Ball Exit Speed Swing Experiment

Equipment Used:

  • Zepp Baseball app (to measure Bat Speed, Hand Speed, Time to Impact, & Attack Angle),
  • Bushnell Radar Gun (to measure Ball Exit Speed, or BES),
  • Backspin batting tee,
  • Two yellow dimple baseballs (feedback markers),
  • Android GS6 video camera and Tripod, and
  • 34 inch wood bat.

Setup:

Preston Scott: Showing versus NOT Showing Numbers

Preston Scott: ‘NOT Showing’ versus ‘Showing Numbers’

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length
  • Tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • Forward momentum was eliminated in this experiment, and Preston hit from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • We stayed as consistent as we could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length ahead of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • On ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, Preston kept his shoulders in line with the blue band on the ground in front of him (towards the pitcher).  And on ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he kept his shoulders in line with the red band that was set at about a 30-degree angle from the blue band.
  • Preston Scott was sipping a protein shake throughout the length of the experiment to aid in recovery.
  • On both experiment days, Preston had finished “leg day” at the gym, so our warm-up was brief, followed by about 15-20 swings off the tee.
  • We had to break the 200 total swings (4 sets of 25 swing chunks each day) into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later because of time constraints.
  • It’s important to note, Preston and I were working on improving his mechanics slightly different both days (having nothing to do with ‘showing numbers’), but even though Day 1 (November 7, 2016), and a week later, Day 2 (November 14, 2016) swings may look a bit different, the slightly differing mechanics were used for BOTH ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ and ‘Showing Numbers’ tests, so as not to muddy the experiment results.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

‘NOT Showing Numbers’ Day 1 & 2 side by side comparison…

NOT Showing Numbers Day 1 & 2 (100 swings total)

‘NOT Showing Numbers’ Averages of averages: 71-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 27.5-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.165 Time To Impact, -25* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 4.5* Attack Angle

‘Showing Numbers’ Day 1 & 2 side by side comparison…

Showing Numbers Day 1 & 2

‘Showing Numbers’ Averages of Averages: 76-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 28-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.162 Time to Impact, 28* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 6* Attack Angle

Also, CLICK HERE to access the Google Drive spreadsheet with all Ball Exit Speed (BES) readings from the experiment.

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Starting with Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

  • 5-mph INCREASE in Bat Speed at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’
  • 0.5-mph INCREASE in Hand Speed Max with ‘Showing Numbers’
  • .003 second DECREASE in Time to Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’
  • 3* INCREASE in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’
  • 1.5* INCREASE in Attack Angle with ‘Showing Numbers

Now, let’s see how the Ball Exit Speed averages compare between the two mechanics:

  • 76.02-mph BES when ‘NOT Showing Numbers’
  • 77.32-mph BES  when ‘Showing Numbers’
  • That’s a 1.3-mph average INCREASE when ‘Showing Numbers’
  • Translates between 5.2-feet to 7.8-feet of EXTRA batted ball distance – depending on if you calculate using 1-mph BES = 4-feet of distance OR 1-mph BES = 6-feet of distance.

 

Notes

  • In this experiment, if you look at the ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, they were actually ‘Showing Numbers’.  In other words, Preston already shows his number to the pitcher well causing him a challenge to not show them.  Therefore on the ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he showed them more.  I think that’s why we didn’t see as much of a difference in Ball Exit Speeds.
  • One of the big objections from some is that ‘Showing Numbers’ causes an increase in Time To Impact.  These results show it doesn’t – it actually decreases Time To Impact.  WHY is this? It has to do with ‘taking slack out of the system’ as it relates to compression/tension forces acting within the body.
  • Preston Scott generally does a great job of ‘Showing Numbers’, even before I started working with him, so he felt like he really had to try and keep from pulling the ball too much when ‘NOT Showing Numbers’. And as you can see in the video, he was still ‘Showing Numbers’ somewhat, even when he wasn’t suppose to!

One Of The Best Baseball Hitting Drills For Little League Helping STOP “Racing Back Elbow” Bat Drag

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Little League: Jace Bat Drag

Look at my 11u hitter Jace’s racing back elbow, and the fix a week later. On the left side, he weighed in at 68-lbs, and right before our session, hit his first official homer distancing 180-feet!

Question: Does ‘Top Hand Finger Pressure’ Effect Bat & Hand Speed, and Time To Impact versus Keeping the Hands Loose? (Pre-Turn Hand Tension Revisited)

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to revisit a past experiment I did titled “Babe Ruth Reveals Hand Tension?”  And analyze whether having relaxed hands OR ‘finger pressure’ affects Zepp metrics.

Growing up, I was taught baseball hitting drills for Little League – which are still being taught, that loose hands are quick hands.  Modern research REVEALS that may not be the WHOLE story.

I wanted to revisit the previous ‘Babe Ruth experiment’ because in that test, I wasn’t actively holding the finger pressure through impact.  In this experiment, I will be.

In the Conclusion of this post, I’ll also give a couple examples of my hitters who were suffering from really stubborn bat drag (one for over 1.5 years), and how we used ‘finger pressure’ to correct it within 1-2 weeks.

 

Background Research

In the Babe Ruth Pre-Turn Hand Tension Zepp swing experiment, I used the following Research links:

  • Pavel Tsatsouline Tim Ferriss podcast revealing how the hands can be used to recruit more muscle tissue and connect larger areas of the body,
  • Homer Kelly’s book The Golfing Machine went into describing one of the four power accumulators in the golf swing, and
  • Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains, and how Front Arm Fascial Lines are responsible for connecting what an explosive rotational athlete is holding in their hand(s), with the other springy fascial lines inter-weaving throughout the rest of the torso and body.

I also wanted to point out that a few months after publishing the ‘Babe Ruth Pre-Turn Hand Tension’ experiment I met Lee Comeaux, now a good friend of mine, who is a professional golf instructor out in Texas.  He’s been studying Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains for over a decade now.

He simplifies the concept we now call top hand finger pressure.  So THANK YOU Lee!  CLICK HERE to visit Lee’s (Roy) YouTube channel.  And by the way, Lee has a 13u daughter playing fastpitch softball in Texas, and last time I heard she was hitting .800 using the same principles we talk about here.

So yes, this works for both fastpitch and baseball hitters!

Please watch the following interview with Thomas Myers titled, “Tensegrity Applied To Human Biomechanics”:

  • Defining tension & compression Forces (0:10)
  • Applying tension to the structure makes it stronger and more stable (5:55)
  • Applying tensegrity to the human body and tightening up as a benefit to taking on impact (12:35)

I’ve also heard Thomas Myers talk about synovial fluid in our joints.  It’s our lubrication system.  And it’s liquid, between the joints, when we’re relaxed…in the above video, he called this “adaptability”.

However, when we catch a ball in a glove, for instance, we squeeze our hand around the ball turning the synovial fluid to a solid state.  This concept becomes important when we’re talking about ‘finger pressure’ when hitting.

I tell my hitters it’s the difference between the ball feeling like it’s hitting a cinder block (the bat), or a wet pool noodle.

Hypothesis

Baseball Hitting Drills for Little League: Zack Racing Back Elbow Fix

This is my Sophomore in H.S. Zack and his racing back elbow BEFORE & AFTER. This was a 1 week fix employing ‘finger pressure’.

I’m a little biased in this experiment because I’ve seen the research AND how this has worked miracles with my own hitters employing ‘top hand finger pressure’. However, I wanted to conduct another formal experiment comparing the  following Zepp metrics:

  • Bat Speed at Impact,
  • Hand Speed Max,
  • Time To Impact,
  • Barrel Vertical Angle at Impact, and
  • Attack Angle…

…between the two swings.  Whereas the aforementioned ‘Babe Ruth Pre-Turn Hand Tension‘ experiment I held the hand tension before the turn, then let it go.  This experiment I’ll be keeping top hand finger pressure from the moment I pick up my front foot to stride, to all the way through impact.

I predict, by using ‘top hand finger pressure’ longer, we’ll see an effective jump in all metrics rather than the conventional of ‘loose hands are fast hands’.  I also predict holding finger pressure longer will be more effective than the previously mentioned experiment metrics for Pre-Turn Hand Tension.

At the end, I’ll show how ‘finger pressure’ has STOPPED bat drag in two of my hitters at the Conclusion of the experiment.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills For Little League: ‘Finger Pressure’ Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • We used the Zepp Labs Baseball app to gain swing data.
  • I stayed as consistent as I could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length plus two baseballs in front of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the baseball hitting drills for Little League ‘finger pressure’ experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Finger pressure’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘loose hands’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being sufficiently warmed up” factors.
  • On the finger pressure swings, I used top hand bottom three finger pressure only, which consisted of tightening up the top hand bottom three fingers (pinky, ring, & middle) from the time I picked my stride foot up, to all the way through impact.  The bottom hand was doing what I call the ‘butterfly grip’…tight enough to keep a butterfly from getting away but not too tight to crush it.
  • Loose hands consisted of trying to maintain a ‘butterfly grip’ throughout the whole swing.
  • Throughout the baseball hitting drills for Little League swing experiment, I was drinking a Lime Cucumber flavored “Pepino” Gatorade (very good btw) and a chocolate milk to replenish my body’s protein, sugars, and electrolytes during the 2-hour experiment.
  • I did an 8 exercise dynamic warm up in this baseball hitting drills for Little League experiment before taking about 15-20 practice swings off the tee.

Data Collected (Zepp App Screenshot)

Baseball Hitting Drills For Little League: Finger Pressure Zepp Experiment

Notice the slight change in bat and hand speed metrics, AND the difference in Time To Impact…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Baseball Hitting Drills for Little League: Bat Path

You can clearly see the negative Attack Angle.  This was a finger pressure swing.

  • Using ‘Finger Pressure’ gained an average of 1-mph Bat Speed at Impact
  • Using ‘Finger Pressure’ gained an average of 1-mph Hand Speed Max
  • Using ‘Loose Hands’ decreased Time To Impact by a whopping 0.017 (17/100th’s of a second)
  • Bat Vertical Angle & Attack Angle showed no differences between the two swings.

These were interesting findings in this baseball hitting drills for Little League finger pressure Zepp swing experiment.

My Hypothesis proved correct in that we saw an increase in average Bat Speed at Impact and Hand Speed Max employing ‘finger pressure’, however it wasn’t a huge change.

Also in my Hypothesis, this experiment didn’t turn out more effective for finger pressure than it did for Pre-Turn Hand Tension (PTHT) in the Babe Ruth Experiment, where I gained an average of 3-mph Bat Speed at Impact using PTHT.

You’ll notice the major decrease in Time To Impact using the ‘loose hands’ method.  Excluding the racing back elbow bat drag hitter, from these results and the Thomas Myers research, we can say using a hybrid of the two methods…loose hands at the start of the turn, and finger pressure slightly pre-, at-, and post- impact would be more effective than not.

On the contrary, for the bat drag hitter with a racing back elbow issue, I think finger pressure MUST be used before the turn happens because these hitters evidently have a ‘fascial connection’ issue between what they’re holding in their hand, and their turning torso.

In other words, they may not intuitively use finger pressure like other hitters without the racing back elbow issue.  So this would be one of the smarter baseball hitting drills for little league.

Besides, according to the Zepp app Time To Impact Goals for Pro hitters are right around .140 anyway, so my .131 with finger pressure is still more effective.

One last thing to note, coming from my experiential knowledge in working with my hitters, I consistently see a 2-3-mph boost in Ball Exit Speed when using finger pressure versus NOT in one 45-minute session.

This just means I’ll have to REVISIT this baseball hitting drills for Little League finger pressure Zepp swing experiment again, but collecting and comparing Ball Exit Speed data.

If you have any other thoughts or questions about this baseball hitting drills for Little League Zepp swing experiment, please respond below in the comments…THANKS in advance!

Question: Does Having a ‘Hunched Posture’ Boost Bat Speed Over NO Hunch?

Baseball Hitting Drills Off Tee: Hunter Pence v. Derek Jeter Spine Position

Look at the difference between the spinal positions of Hunter Pence & Derek Jeter. Photos courtesy: MLB.com

In this baseball hitting drills off tee experiment using the Backspin batting tee, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze the benefits of swinging with a ‘hunched posture’ versus ‘NO hunch’, by taking:

  • 100 swings with a ‘hunched posture’ (Global Spinal Flexion) – think Hunter Pence, and
  • 100 swings with ‘NO hunch’ (Spinal Lordosis) – think Derek Jeter…

 

Background Research

First I wanted to start off with the application of what a ‘hunched posture’ looks like in the MLB.  Look at the following hitters/pitcher, and note the similarities in the shape of their backs (or spine) before they begin rotation:

There are many more, especially in the 1960’s and ’70’s.  These hitters/pitcher either start with the ‘hunch’ or move into it before they start turning.

For the science, I recommend you read Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine.  I will go over a few talking points about the Posterior Ligamentous System (or PLS).  Think of the PLS as a connective tissue harness you’d use to scale down a large building.

In Dr. Gracovetsky’s aforementioned book, I’d like you to read under the subheading “Lifting While Lordosis Is Maintained” p. 82., and nd “Lifting While Lordosis Is Reduced” on p. 83.

I’m paraphrasing, but Dr. Gracovetsky says when the bend in the lower back is maintained (NO hunch), then we’re using a “muscle-predominant strategy”, and when the lower lumbar curve is taken out (hunch), then we’re tapping into the “muscle relaxation response”.

What Dr. Gracovetsky found in his research and study was that when a person picks something up from the ground that is heavier than we’re used to picking up, the back will round (hunch), muscles will turn off, and the PLS system will kick in.

You can experience the two systems (muscle v. ligament) by trying to see how long you can sit up straight in your seat…once your muscles get tired, then you’ll take on the hunched posture, letting the PLS take over.  This is why it’s so comfortable to sit slouched, and hard work to ‘keep your back straight’.

The reason for this ‘spinal safety net’ as Dr. Serge Gracovetsky alludes to, is to put the vertebrae of the spine into a safer position, also known as decompression.

My friend D @SelfDecompress on Twitter is doing just this with his clients.

One last note on the research…

CLICK HERE and read under the sub-heading “The Hitting ‘Governor'” in this HPL article about how our brain puts a limit on performance because of movement dysfunction.

Hypothesis

Based on Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s research and study,  it is my forecast that taking on a ‘hunched posture’ before the turn, will increase average bat speed over not hunching.

I also add the same results is because of the information I included under ‘The Hitting Governor’ sub-heading in the aforementioned HPL article.

In other words, by hunching the back, thereby decompressing the vertebrae of the spine, we remove ‘The Hitting Governor’ Effect, and allow the body to optimize turning speed.

Not to mention we make the swing safer for our rotating athletes’ bodies.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills Off Tee: ‘Hunched Posture’ Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • We used the Zepp Labs Baseball app to gain swing data.  Our concern is for an apples to apples comparison between the two sets of 100 swings.
  • All swings for the baseball hitting drills off tee ‘hunched posture’ experiment were taken off a Backspin batting tee.
  • I stayed as consistent as I could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length plus two baseballs in front of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the baseball hitting drills off tee ‘hunched posture’ experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Hunched posture’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘NO hunch’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being sufficiently warmed up” factors.
  • Throughout the baseball hitting drills off tee swing experiment, I was drinking a Strawberry Lemonade Gatorade (because I like it!) and a chocolate milk to replenish my body’s protein, sugars, and electrolytes during the 2-hour experiment.
  • I did an 8 exercise dynamic warm up before taking about 15-20 practice swings off the tee.

 

Data Collected (Zepp App Screenshot)

Baseball Hitting Drills Off Tee: Low Back Bend Zepp Swing Experiment

Please pay particular attention to the differences in Time To Impact & Attack Angle from the Zepp metrics…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

As you can see from the baseball hitting drills off tee Zepp screenshot and metrics above, the big differences between the two groups of 100 swings were the average:

  • Time To Impact: the ‘hunched posture’ was .004 seconds less than ‘NO hunch’, AND
  • Attack Angle: the ‘hunched posture’ was 4-degrees more positive than ‘NO hunch’

It looks like my baseball hitting drills off tee swing experiment Hypothesis was wrong in thinking there would be a boost to average bat speed with the ‘hunched posture’ swings.  However, there were three MAJOR benefits to swinging ‘hunched’:

  • According to Dr. Gracovetsky’s research, we can conclude it’s safer on the spine,
  • A DECREASE in Time To Impact, which buys a hitter more time to make a decision to swing, and
  • A more POSITIVE barrel Attack Angle, which puts a hitter into a better position to hit more consistent line drives.

Question: Does The BackSpin Batting Tee Help Hitters Elevate The Ball?

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: Backspin Tee

Backspin batting tee photo courtesy: TheStartingLineupStore.com

In this baseball batting cage drills experiment using the Backspin batting tee, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze what would happen to a hitter’s spray chart (ME!!) by taking:

  • 100 swings using a conventional tee (ATEC Single Tuffy Tee), versus
  • Taking another 100 swing using Taylor and Jarrett Gardner’s BackSpin batting tee.

I’ve done a couple posts promoting what Taylor and Jarrett are doing with the Backspin Tee because I really believe in their product and what it can do for young hitters in getting the batted ball off the ground.  Whether we’re talking baseball, fastpitch-softball, and slowpitch-softball…

And to let you know, this experiment has been brewing in my head since the summer of 2015, but the stars just didn’t align…until NOW!

 

Background Research

Here are two baseball batting cage drills posts mentioned earlier, to give some background on the research for The Backspin batting tee:

Hypothesis

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: ATEC Tuffy Single Batting Tee

ATEC Tuffy Single Batting Tee photo courtesy: TheStartingLineupStore.com

Okay, so I cheated a little bit…

Before the OFFICIAL baseball batting cage drills swing experiment, I’ve been using the Backspin batting tee with my local hitters and the results have been positive.

And now, I’m making my Hypothesis official…

I think by using the Backspin batting tee, it will allow the hitter to cut down on ground-balls, and will empower them to get more effective at putting the ball in the air (line drives primarily).

In addition, I think that not only will the tee reduce a hitter’s ground-balls, but will contribute to above average line drive launch angles.  Average line drives would be within the reach of a fielder.

 

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: Backspin Batting Tee Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: Backspin Tee

Closeup of the ‘inverted’ rubber cone that holds the baseball or softball. Photo courtesy: TheStartingLineupStore.com

  • I had two of the same laminated images of the batting cage I was hitting in (Hitting Spray Chart images below).
  • After each swing, I’d use a Sharpy pen to mark where the batted ball hit first (on the ground or the location on the batting cage netting), right after coming off the bat.
  • All swings for the baseball batting cage drills experiment were taken off either a Backspin or ATEC Tuffy Single tee.
  • I used the Backspin batting tee rubber cone for baseballs (they have one for softballs as well).
  • I stayed as consistent as I could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for both tees.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length plus two baseballs in front of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the baseball batting cage drills experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  Hitting off the “Backspin Tee” was letter ‘A’, and off the “Conventional Tee” was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being sufficiently warmed up” factors.

Data Collected (Hitting Spray Charts)

Backspin Batting Tee Spray Chart:

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: BackSpin Tee Spray Chart

The Backspin tee spray chart is cleaner and resembles a bit of a tornado

Conventional Tee Spray Chart:

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: Conventional (Regular) Tee

As you can see, the spray chart is a bit messy…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  •  The Backspin batting tee spray chart looks much more tidy than the “regular” tee chart (the former looks like a tornado),
  • You can see when using the conventional tee, I tended to pull the ball to left side of the cage.
  • There are definitely a higher concentration of batted balls in the above average line drive spots (not within reach of the fielders), using the Backspin batting tee, and
  • There were more balls hitting the ground or bottom of the cage when using a conventional tee.

 

Notes

  1. Addressing the excessive of pulled balls using the conventional tee, I thought maybe my tee was moving on me (getting too far out front).  I even tried pushing the regular tee slightly deeper than the position I started it in for a couple swings, to counter this, but that wasn’t the issue.
  2. Now, here’s where it gets interesting…remember in the “Setup” section above, I hit on the Backspin Tee (‘A’) FIRST.  I started to notice a pattern after switching tees…I didn’t have an issue getting the ball in the air with the Backspin tee, sometimes getting into the pop-fly territory.  But what I found was after taking a Backspin tee 25-swing chunk, the first 10-15 swing launch angles off the conventional tee mimicked what I was getting with the Backspin Tee.  As the conventional tee round approached the last 10-15 swings, the launch angle slowly creeped downwards into the average line drive arena.  So when I repeated TWO conventional tee 25-swing chunks (the BB in the ABBA pattern), by the time I got to the end I was having a hard time getting the ball back up again using the conventional tee.  And on the last BAAB 25-swing chunk pattern (last 100 swings), I noticed the same thing emerge.
  3. It was like the “magic” of the Backspin tee wore off after 10 swings into hitting on the conventional tee. My Hypothesis?  If I took 100 STRAIGHT swings on a conventional tee, then 100 STRAIGHT on a Backspin tee, I’m willing to bet there would be WAY more ground-balls and average line drives using the conventional tee than I got in this baseball batting cage drills experiment.
  4. The other weird thing (in a good way) I noticed hitting off the Backspin batting tee, was that it trimmed up my spray chart (making it look more like a tornado rather than a cinder block).  I rarely pulled the ball towards the left side of the cage hitting off the Backspin tee.  And the ones I did pull that way, I’d be willing to bet it was after hitting off the conventional tee. CRAZY!

The Bottom Line?

Well, the baseball batting cage drills experiment data showed that not only did the Backspin tee elevate ball launch angles, but it also cleaned up horizontal outcomes.  Meaning, I didn’t hit the ball to the left side of the cage as frequently when using the Backspin tee than I did with the conventional tee when the ball is located virtually in the same position every swing.  Also, the “Backspin tee effect” lasted a good 10-15 swings into switching over and using the conventional tee!

Question: Does a Modified Bat Knob Increase Bat & Ball Exit Speeds?

Baseball Hitting Drills for Contact: ProXR Bat Experiment

ProXR bat knobs are similar to an axe handle, but are more rounded…

In this baseball hitting drills for contact bat knob experiment using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app & Bushnell radar gun, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze what would happen to Bat and Ball Exit Speeds when using the same model and sized wood bat, but the only difference being that one bat has a regular knob, and the other a ProXR knob.

 

Background Research

Baseball Hitting Drills for Contact: ProXR PSI comparison

A Washington University study found there was a 20% to 25% reduction in compression forces in the hands when using a ProXR technology.

My fascination with this all started when Grady Phelan, the Founder and President at ProXR, LLC, wrote this LinkedIn post titled, Baseball’s Broken Hamate Plague.

After I reached out, Grady was open to the idea of doing a Zepp and Ball Exit Speed baseball hitting drills for contact experiment.

Grady shared the following research about his ProXR technology over email…

“One of the experiments we did early on with ProXR, as part of our due diligence before we went to market, was to measure the compression forces in the hands during a swing. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with some researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, Bio-Mechanics lab here in St. Louis. We connected a conventional bat and a ProXR bat to digital pressure sensors and had a batter take some swings. We were able to dial into the area of the hypothenar (the heal of your hand below your pinky) and compare the difference in compression.

What we found was a 20% to 25% reduction in compression forces when using a ProXR technology. The peak compression happens immediately AFTER intended contact when the hands roll over the central axis of the bat and the knob.  The smaller peaks in between the high compression peaks are from the batter getting the bat back into the load position and we took out the time in between swings to condense the chart.”

Around the same time, I saw this USA Today article titled, Dustin Pedroia is on a hot streak with an odd-looking bat designed to help hitters.  I asked Grady if this was his bat, and he replied:

Baseball Hitting Drills For Contact: Dustin Pedroia Victus Ax Handle Bat

Dustin Pedroia swing Victus axe handle bat. Photo courtesy: Sports.Yahoo.com

“Pedroia is actually using something called an axe that is being put on a Victus bat. There is some minor confusion in the market given the axe’s similar look with ProXR.

Here’s the top-line difference between ProXR and the Baden product: if you’ve ever swung an actual axe (chopping wood), which the Baden product is based on, you know that the swing path is linear, meaning it drives the hands to the point of contact AND (this is probably the most important point) the swing ends at contact. This is critical. The oval shape of an axe handle and the general configuration of the axe handle evolved over thousands of years specifically to drive the axe head to the point of contact (this also applies to swords, hammers and other linear-path swing implements). The oval shape locks the hands into alignment with the swing path and PREVENTS the hands from deviating from that swing path. In sharp contrast, you know a baseball swing is rotational – meaning the bat must fully rotate around the batters body and the hands MUST roll over the central axis of the bat to compete the swing. This gives hitter the ability to both, make adjustments during the swing and complete the rotational swing path. Putting an oval axe handle on a baseball bat is counter-intuitive to the requirements of a rotational baseball swing. Imagine trying to adjust your swing on a breaking ball or change-up when the shape of the handle is resisting those adjustments.
In contrast, ProXR was designed from the ground-up specifically for a rotational baseball bat swing. It reduces compression in the hands and gives batters improved performance. Additionally, we tested our designs before we went to market and continue to do ongoing research and testing. As a side note, ProXR was accepted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 because it is the first angled knob bat ever used in regular season games.”

Hypothesis

Based on the ProXR technology research, I was convinced the bat would alleviate compression forces in the hands, particularly the hitter’s bottom hand.  However, my biggest question was, are we sacrificing performance to be safer?  I think the ProXR technology, although safer, will sacrifice some performance.

The reason I labeled this a “baseball hitting drills for contact” experiment will become clear in the “Notes” section of the post, so stay tuned…

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Contact: ProXR Bat Knob Experiment

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: Zepp Baseball App

CLICK Image to Purchase Zepp Baseball App

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • All swings for the baseball hitting drills for contact experiment were taken off the tee.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length plus two baseballs in front of the back marker.
  • CLICK HERE for the Google Drive excel document with all the Ball Exit Speed (BES) readings and calculations.
  • We deleted radar gun mis-reads that registered below 30-mph on the gun.
  • Therefore, we deleted 3 mis-reads from the ProXR bat knob data, and averaged all ProXR BES readings to 97 swings.
  • Also, we deleted 2 mis-reads from the regular bat knob data, and averaged all regular bat knob BES readings to 98 swings.
  • The two tests in the baseball hitting drills for contact experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  Swinging the “ProXR Knob” were letter ‘A’, and
    “Regular Knob” were letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being warmed” up factors.

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Baseball Hitting Drills for Contact: ProXR Bat Knob Experiment

A slight baseball hitting drills for contact advantage goes to the ProXR Knob…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

ZEPP READINGS:

  • Avg. Bat Speed at Impact increased by 1-mph using the ProXR knob bat,
  • Avg. Max Hand Speed didn’t change,
  • Avg. Time to Impact decreased by 0.004 swinging the ProXR knob bat,
  • Avg. Bat Vertical Angle at Impact decreased by 2 degrees using the ProXR knob bat, and
  • Avg. Attack Angle decreased by 4 degrees using the ProXR knob bat.

BUSHNELL BALL EXIT SPEED READINGS (CLICK HERE for Google Excel Doc):

  • Avg. Ball Exit Speed decreased by 0.4-mph using the ProXR bat knob, and
  • Top out Ball Exit Speed was 93-mph using both the ProXR and conventional bat knob.

Notes

  1. In ProXR founder Grady Phelan’s initial testings of professional players, some of the players recorded a 3 to 10-mph bat speed increase using his ProXR knob.  Now, I have a theory as to why my numbers were much smaller…
  2. For all 208 swings I was playing with two baseball hitting drills for contact mechanical elements in my swing: 1) squeezing the bottom three fingers of my top hand only, from the moment I started my swing (picked up my front foot), through impact.  And 2) having more of a “hunched over” posture at the start of the swing.  I did this for all swings, so as not to “muddy up” the experiment.
  3. The finger pressure may have neutralized the affect of the ProXR knob, since most of the “shock” at impact was taken by my top hand.  Whereas a normal hitter not using top hand finger pressure would absorb the shock in the hamate bone, in their bottom hand, using the regular knob bat.
  4. Playing around with both baseball hitting drills for contact elements of #2 above, I compared the Ball Exit Speed numbers from my previous experiment looking at the difference between the Mizuno Generation ($200 bat) to the Mizuno MaxCor ($400) bat where I wasn’t using the two mechanical changes.  Interestingly, my average Ball Exit Speed with the $400 alloy MaxCore was 83.5-mph and top out exit speed was 90-mph.  With the wood bats, my average Ball Exit Speed was 89 to 90-mph, and my top out exit speed was 93-mph.  That’s a 6.5-mph jump in average & 3-mph boost in top out exit speed using a wood bat over a non-wood!!  That’s 26 more feet on average, and 12 more feet in top out distance added using finger pressure and the “hunch”!
  5. By using the two principles in #2 above, I was able to hit the “high-note” more consistently.  I also had less “mis-reads” in this experiment, using the radar gun (5 total out of 208 swings), versus the Mizuno bat model experiment (18 total out of 200 swings).  This is why I labeled this experiment “baseball hitting drills for contact”.
  6. After about 50 swings in the the ProXR bat knob baseball hitting drills for contact experiment, I could tell you what my Ball Exit Speed readings were going to be after each cut, +/-1 mile per hour.  Crazy!

The Bottom Line?

Well, according to the baseball hitting drills for contact ProXR bat knob experiment data, it looks like the ProXR knob holds a slight edge in performance versus the convention knob. Coupled with the fact that the ProXR knob reduces compression forces on the hands by 20 to 25% has me convinced that ProXR bat knob technology is a can’t lose tool for a hitter’s toolbox.