Question: Do More Expensive Bats Increase Bat & Ball Exit Speeds?

 

Baseball Batting Practice: Mizuno Bat Model Zepp Swing Experiment

Mizuno MaxCor -3 baseball bat ($150-400 on Amazon)

In this baseball batting practice Mizuno bat model 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 comparing the performance of two different Mizuno bat models, but the same 34-inch, 31-ounce size:

 

Background Research

MIZUNO MAXCOR ($150-400)

According to the Mizuno website, the focus of this bat is maximizing Ball Exit Speed and backspin.  Some key features are (Mizuno site):

  • Viscoelastic Sleeve: Creates a wider circumferential sweet area.
  • New Variable Wall Thickness Alloy Core: Increases the sweet area across the length of the barrel, using aircraft aluminum alloy used to keep overall weight low.
  • Dynamic Damper: Transition piece from barrel to handle absorbs vibration for better feel.
  • New Improved Synthetic Leather Grip: Provides tack and great feel.
  • Lower more balanced swing weight for increased swing speed.
  • BBCOR certified, approved for NCAA & NFHS play
  • Barrel Diameter: 2 5/8″
Baseball Batting Practice Mizuno Bat Model Experiment: Generation Model

Mizuno Generation -3 baseball bat ($70-200 on Amazon)

MIZUNO GENERATION

According to Mizuno’s site, the Mizuno Generation baseball bat was designed with two things in mind:

  1. A bigger sweet spot, and
  2. Balance – (lighter swing weight, which can result in faster bat speeds).

Key features of the baseball batting practice Mizuno Generation bat (Mizuno site):

  • Patented wall thickness technology varies the wall thickness across the barrel, creating a massive sweet area for ultimate forgiveness
  • Single wall aerospace grade aluminum alloy used for maximum combination of performance and durability
  • Balanced swing weight for increased swing speed and bat control
  • Digi-Grip for great feel and durability
  • BBCOR certified, approved for USSSA
  • Barrel Diameter: 2 5/8″

Another factor in this baseball batting practice Mizuno bat model experiment will be breaking in a non-wood bat.  CLICK HERE for a good YouTube video on how to break-in a composite bat.  Now, both Mizuno bats are not composites, but I’m sure the breaking in process with any non-wood, will have an affect on Ball Exit Speeds.

We’ll adjust the data to address breaking in the bat in the Notes section.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above baseball batting practice Background Research from Mizuno (albeit promotional materials), and the fact the MaxCor is double the price, I’d expect a much better performance in Bat and Ball Exit Speeds using the MaxCor model bat versus the Generation.

 

Baseball Batting Practice: Mizuno Bat Model Experiment

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: Zepp Baseball App

CLICK Image to Purchase Zepp Baseball App

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • All baseball batting practice swings 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.
  • We deleted radar gun mis-reads that registered below 30-mph on the gun.
  • Therefore, we deleted 11 mis-reads from the Mizuno MaxCor bat data, and averaged all MaxCor BES readings to 89 swings.
  • Also, we deleted 7 mis-reads from the Mizuno Generation bat data, and averaged all Generation BES readings to 93 swings.
  • The two tests in the experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  Swinging the “Mizuno MaxCor” were letter ‘A’, and
    “Mizuno Generation” 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 Batting Practice: Mizuno Bat Model Experiment

According to the Zepp app, the Mizuno MaxCor came out supreme in all areas except the Attack Angle…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

ZEPP READINGS:

  • Avg. Bat Speed at Impact increased by 3-mph using the Mizuno MaxCor,
  • Avg. Max Hand Speed increased by 2-mph using the Mizuno MaxCor,
  • Avg. Time to Impact decreased by 0.063,
  • Avg. Bat Vertical Angle at Impact decreased by 1-degree using the Mizuno MaxCor, and
  • Avg. Attack Angle decreased by 4-degrees using the Mizuno MaxCor.

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

  • Avg. Ball Exit Speed increased by 4.6-mph using the Mizuno Generation bat,
  • Top out Ball Exit Speed was 95-mph using the Mizuno Generation bat, and
  • Top out Ball Exit Speed was 90-mph using the Mizuno MaxCor bat.

 

Notes

  • Now, we can’t compare apples to apples baseball batting practice data using the Zepp app and Bushnell radar gun.  If I had one more Bushnell radar gun capturing my bat speed readings perpendicular to my chest, then that would’ve been an interesting comparison.
  • I felt much more balance with the Mizuno Generation.  I also felt like I was more consistently hitting the sweet spot, as their marketing suggests.  For some reason it was tough feeling a consistent sweet spot using the MaxCor, maybe because of the “Dynamic Damper: Transition piece from barrel to handle absorbs vibration for better feel”.
  • It takes about 100-200 swings to break in a non-wood bat, at least according to the following YouTube video on How-To Break-in a Composite Bat.  I’m going to share a Zepp app screenshot comparing the first 100 swings using the Mizuno MaxCor (from this experiment), to the first 100 swings using the Mizuno Generation (from the Baseball Swing Tips: Mizuno Bat Size Experiment):
Baseball Batting Practice: Mizuno Bat Model Experiment

Look at the near identical performance Zepp data between the two bats when we compare their first 100 swings…

  • How about comparing the Ball Exit Speeds of the first 100 swings…according to this Google spreadsheet, the Mizuno MaxCor Avg. Ball Exit Speed was: 83.5-mph.  And according to this Google spreadsheet from a couple weeks before, Avg. Ball Exit Speed using the Mizuno Generation 34/31 was:  88.3-mph.

The Bottom Line?

Well, according to the baseball batting practice Mizuno bat model experiment data, it looks like the Generation model holds the performance edge when it comes to Ball Exit Speed, almost a 5-mph difference.  That’s about 20-feet of extra distance!  From how the experiment turned out, I’d save the $200 and buy a Mizuno Generation.  Now, this data doesn’t mean EVERY expensive bat will under-perform it’s more economic brethren, it just means you need to tinker and test to find the truth.

Question: Does a Slight “Downhill” Shoulder Angle Before Landing Boost Baseball Swing Load & Bat Speed?

In this baseball swing load “shoulder” angle experiment using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze what would happen to Bat & Hand Speed when we took 100 swings with a slight “Downhill” shoulder angle (about 8-10-degrees) versus another 100 swings with level shoulders.

The Feedback Lab parent testimonial about his 14 year old daughter Mia:

“Hey Coach,

It has been way too long but I wanted to share some information that happened yesterday. We are heading up to Chattanooga, Tennessee, the largest showcase in the southeast today. Yesterday was our last day to hit before the showcase and Mia was struggling with her power. We hit about 60-70 balls and Mia was hitting about 10% over the fence (she is usually 40%+). I was looking to make sure she was showing her number, which she was, hiding her hands, which she was, landing with a bent knee, which she was and etc., etc. It was getting late and we had to go and I told Mia she had only 6 balls left. I told her to show me her stance and I noticed that her front shoulder was equal to her back shoulder. I then told her to lower her front shoulder and raise her back one. That was the only change we made to her swing, Mia then hit the next 6 balls over the fence and 2 of them were bombs. I cannot believe the difference this one small change made.

Thanks,
Primo”

 

Background Research

Baseball Swing Load: Miguel Cabrera WSJ Info-Graphic

Wall Street Journal Info-Graphic at: http://gohpl.com/1NFi8qi

The best resource for getting educated on spinal engine mechanics is to pick up Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine.  For a teased out version of this,

CLICK HERE for a post I did that compared the pitching delivery, hitting, and an overhead tennis serve using this “bending sideways” technique.

Another good book from multiple authors on the subject of spinal engine mechanics, locomotion biomechanics, and springy fascia, check out the book Dynamic Body by leading author Dr. Erik Dalton.

Also, here’s a great Wall Street Journal post about Miggy Cabrera titled, Miguel Cabrera: The Art of Hitting.  Check out what the illustration says in the middle of the red circle above…

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above baseball swing load experiment research and one of the other countless online hitting testimonials I get about “bending sideways” benefits, I think using a slight “Downhill” Shoulder Angle will boost Bat Speed at Impact by at least 3-mph, and Hand Speed Max by 2-mph.

 

Baseball Swing Load: “Downhill” Shoulder Angle Experiment

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: Zepp Baseball App

CLICK Image to Purchase Zepp Baseball App

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Tyler Doerner, my intern for the summer and a hitter in HPL’s The Feedback Lab, is a redshirt college Freshman.  He did the baseball swing load shoulder angle experiment.
  • Tyler broke the swing into two steps: 1) get to landing position, pause for 1-2 seconds, 2) then swing, to better control the shoulder angle during the tests.
  • So, there was an absence of forward momentum in this experiment.
  • The two tests in the experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  “Level Shoulders” were letter ‘A’, and
    “Downhill Shoulders” 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 Swing Load: Zepp Screenshot of Shoulder Angle Experiment

Look at the significant jumps in average Bat Speed at Impact & the Attack Angle…

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • There’s a significant 4-mph JUMP in average Bat Speed at Impact with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle.
  • Average Hand Speed Max only increased by 1-mph with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle.
  • There was a small change in Time To Impact, in favor of the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle.
  • Not a big change in the Bat Vertical Angle at Impact.
  • And there was a significant 3-degree angle change in Attack Angle with “Downhill” Shoulder Angle.

Notes

  • We found a slightly bigger increase in average Bat Speed at Impact with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle compared to my Hypothesis (4-mph versus 3-mph).
  • I thought there was going to be a bigger difference in Hand Speed Max, than how it turned out.
  • What was surprising was the 3-degree angle change of the attack angle.  A 10-degree Attack Angle is a typical line drive.  Once you start to get into the 15-20 degree range, you’re looking at more of a home-run launch angle.
  • The “Downhill” Shoulder Angle is actually something we’re working in Tyler’s swing.  He tends to let go of his angle a little too soon.
  • I find that before and after Ball Exit Speed readings with my local hitters who’re familiar with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle, can increase from 1-3-mph when this it the only mechanic we’re working on.

The Bottom Line?

In this baseball swing load shoulder angle experiment, we can clearly see with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle that there’s a significant 4-mph jump in Bat Speed at Impact, AND a surprising 3-degree boost in the Attack Angle.  The “Downhill” Shoulder Angle is a piece of what I call the Catapult Loading System.  The BIG-3 are:

  1. Downhill shoulder angle,
  2. Hiding hands from the pitcher, and
  3. For #3…

 

Amy Gill and Andrew Marden from KSEE24, a local sports news station here in Fresno, CA, put this video together of an HPL Batted Ball Distance Challenge held about a month ago.

We worked primarily on testing showing the numbers, and the results were interesting…

Twelve total hitters, ranging in ages from 8-17 years old.  Nine of them had been exposed to the HPL system.  Two of them had not, and one had minimal exposure.

The familiar ones (control group) gained or lost between -1 to +1-mph of Ball Exit Speed, while the three “newbies” gained between 3 and 10-mph of Ball Exit Speed in one 30-minute session.  That’s between 15 to 50-feet of added batted ball distance!!

 

The Definitive Guide To Measuring, Tracking, & Boosting Ball Exit Speed

Josh Donaldson: 120.5-mph Ball Exit Speed

Josh Donaldson 120.5-mph Ball Exit Speed homer on April 23, 2015. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

On April 23rd, 2015…

The Toronto Blue Jays’ 3rd baseman, Josh Donaldson, hit a two-run homer to left off Chris Tillman that was clocked at 120.5-mph!

And as of August 18th, according to ESPN’s HitTrackerOnline.com, was the highest Ball Exit Speed home-run in 2015.

CLICK HERE to see the 120.5-mph Josh Donaldson two-run dinger.

By the way, this topped Giancarlo Stanton’s highest Ball Exit Speed homer, in the same year, by 3.2-mph (117.3-mph).

How does Josh Donaldson do it?

I mean, come on!

Giancarlo Stanton, also referred to as “Bigfoot”, stands at a gargantuan 6-foot, 6-inches tall, 240-pounds.  And from what I hear, has about 3-4% bodyfat.

On the other hand, Josh Donaldson stands in at mere 6-foot, 220-pounds.

Talk about David & Goliath!

But what little realize about David was that he was an expert marksman from long range.  So he never had to go toe-to-toe with Goliath.

David had a better strategy.  And so do small sluggers like Josh Donaldson.

In this post, we’ll be talking about Ball Exit Speed (BES), also known as Speed Off the Bat (SOB), or simply Exit Speed.  We’ll learn:

  • What affects Ball Exit Speeds?
  • What is the Desirable Minimum Effective Dosage (MED) for Ball Exit Speed? And
  • How-to increase Ball Exit Speed…

What Affects Ball Exit Speeds?

“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

Recently, I’ve been using a Bushnell Radar Gun to measure the Ball Exit Speeds of my hitters, off the tee, before and after each session.

It’s not radar gun accuracy we’re looking for here, but an apples to apples comparison.  Here’s what we’re comparing, using the radar gun, before and after each hitting session:

  1. Did the hitter beat a personal record (PR), and/or
  2. How consistent and stable their Ball Exit Speed readings are, or whether they’re jumping all over the place.

Unlike bat speed, there are many things that can affect the speed of the ball coming off the bat:

  • Bat Composition (BESR rating) – Wood v. non-wood.  End loaded v. more balanced weight. Bat size and weight.
  • Ball Composition (COR rating) – Plastic balls v. rawhide.  Corked core v. rubber.  Higher v. lower seams.
  • Hitter’s Body Mass – Dropping a 50-pound plate on your foot will turn out worse for you, versus a 10-pound one.
  • Ball Spin Rate – Backspin and topspin, in addition to the coveted knuckleball will all affect BES differently.
  • Effective Mechanics – the better a hitter is at effectively using human movement rules that are validated by science, the better energy transfer from body to barrel to ball.
  • Pitching Velocity – From what I’ve heard and seen, pitch speed can add between 10-20-mph to Ball Exit Speeds, say from off the tee.
  • Fatigue – sleep, over-training, nutrition, and supplementation.  CLICK HERE for Zach Calhoon’s recovery shake mix.
  • Warm Up Factor – I noticed in my latest Zepp swing experiment, that I didn’t consistently hit 90+mph Ball Exit Speed, off the tee, until I reached about the 75 swing mark.
  • Learning New Hitting Mechanics – I’ve noticed with my hitters that when we introduce a brand new hitting movement into their swing, their Ball Exit Speeds drop between one to four-mph.  But if it’s something we’ve covered before, then they may actually increase by one to four-mph.
  • Timing – If a hitter is too late, and doesn’t allow his or her bat speed to mature, then Ball Exit Speeds will be lower.  If a hitter is too early, and their bat speed has begun to decelerate, then Ball Exit Speeds will also go down.
  • Environment – Humidity dampens Ball Exit Speeds (pun intended).  So does a head wind, duh.  On the other hand, hitting in dry hotter climates OR in Denver, Colorado, Ball Exit Speeds will increase because the air is less dense.
  • Hitting the Sweet Spot – Hitting the ball on the end of the bat, or closer to the hands will decrease Ball Exit Speed, while consistently hitting the sweet spot will boost it.
  • Bat Speed at Impact – Most of the time Ball Exit Speeds will be higher than Bat Speed at Impact.  With my Zepp swing experiments off the tee, it looks to be about a 6-mph difference.

 

What is the Desirable Minimum Effective Dosage (MED) for Ball Exit Speed?

“The smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome.” – Tim Ferriss on MED, 3-time NY Times Bestselling Author

According to this Wall Street Journal article titled, Yankees Dive Into the Numbers to Find Winning Patterns,

“Computers can track a ball’s exit velocity, launch angle, hang time and spin rate, 100 mph, the
speed necessary for most home runs; 75 mph, commonly the break-even pace for a ground ball to skip through the infield for a hit; and four seconds, the inflection point for fly ball hang-time, with any remaining in the air that long before getting caught.”

You may be wondering, what is the launch angle for a typical home-run?  According to the following Sports Science video, about 20-degrees:

According to a Beyond the Boxscore article titled, Do Hard Hit Ground-balls Produce More Errors?, that there is no significant increase in errorsat the Major League level, until Ball Exit Speeds reach and go beyond 95-mph.

This NY Times article titled, New Way To Judge Hitters? It’s Rocket Science – Sort Of, reports about Ball Exit Speed that:

  • The threshold for hitting a homerun is 95-mph,
  • Ball Exit Speed is being used to evaluate upcoming professionals, and can decide who starts,
  • Managers can use Ball Exit Speeds to see if there’s a drop off in a hitter’s Ball Exit Speed, which may reveal the player is hurt or needs to adjust their mechanics, and
  • Teams can shift their infielders back with hitters clocking higher Ball Exit Speeds.

And lastly, an article from eFastball.com titled, Bat Speed, Batted Ball Speed (Exit Speed) in MPH by Age Group, had this to say:

“MLB average exit speed is 103 mph, bat speed ranges roughly from 70-85 mph. 1 mph of additional exit speed makes the ball go 5 more feet. This would be roughly 4 feet for 1-mph bat speed – which is less than the 7-8 feet we have heard from other studies.”

Based on the information above, ideally the MED Ball Exit Speed, for the average Little Leaguer, would be 40-mph BES (40-mph BES X 5-feet = 200-feet of distance).  I want my Little Leaguers to get to 50-mph BES, for the fields that have 220-foot fences.  And of course launch angle is a huge factor in this.

And on the big field, it looks like 95-mph Ball Exit Speed is the MED because that means the hitter has the ability to hit the ball 475-feet (95-mph BES X 5-feet of distance).  Furthermore, the fact that Beyond the Boxscore’s observations about errors not increasing until Ball Exit Speeds reach 95-mph.

How-to Increase Ball Exit Speed

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

So, what advantage does a small slugger like Josh Donaldson have over Giancarlo “Bigfoot” Stanton?

Here’s the secret to boosting Ball Exit Speeds…

Tinker and Test.

Remember, Peter Drucker’s quote above?

“What gets measured gets managed.”

Here’s what to do to ensure a healthy increase in Ball Exit Speeds:

  • Get yourself a Bushnell Radar Gun and/or a Zepp baseball app,
  • CLICK HERE to read the definitive guide to running swing experiments,
  • Choose an HPL “Topic” in the navigation bar above, or search for one in the upper right hand corner of the website, and start testing.
  • Stop analyzing big hitters.  Instead look at the small sluggers, and see what they’re doing to compete, such as: Cano, McCutchen, Donaldson, Bautista, Vogt, Beltre, Braun, Pedroia (averages 44 doubles and 15 homers a season), Victor Martinez, Edwin Encarnacion, David Wright, Hank Aaron, Sadaharu Oh, and Mickey Mantle.

Do you have anything to add to the discussion?  Please REPLY below…

Question: How is Bat & Ball Exit Speed Effected by Bat Size?

 

Baseball Swing Tips: Mizuno Generation Bat Size Experiment

This was the model I used in the bat size experiment…

In this baseball swing tips experiment using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze what would happen to Bat Speed at Impact and Ball Exit Speed if I used a Mizuno Generation 33-inch, 30-ounce BBCOR versus a 34-inches, 31-ounces, same model.

 

Background Research

CLICK HERE for an article titled “The Physics of Baseball”.  Read under the subhead titled, “Swing speed vs. bat weight”.

The following information I received from a long time PocketRadar rep.  It’s what he does for a living.

In this baseball swing tips Mizuno Generation bat experiment, a good rule of thumb when looking at ball exit speed is:

A 1-mph of ball exit speed (BES) increase, adds 4-feet of distance to a batted ball (a 1:4 ratio).

So for instance, if an 9 year old hits the ball with 50-mph of ball exit speed, then they have the capability of hitting the ball 200-feet (50 X 4 = 200).

On the professional side of things, I’ve heard that scouts are actively looking for 95-mph+ ball exit speed in games because that hitter has the ability to hit the ball at least 380-feet.  That’s hitting the ball out down the lines, and to the gaps, at most ballparks.

It’s also interesting to note that you can add about 5-15-mph to ball exit speeds taken off a tee, to simulate what it would be in a game.  That extra 5-15-mph will depend on the pitcher’s velocity.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above baseball swing tips experiment research, I think swinging with the Mizuno Generation 34/31 will, on average, increase my ball exit speed.  I think that my bat speed will come down a bit using the 34/31 over the 33/30 because of the added weight and length.  Also, “trading up” a bat size will depend on how much forward momentum a hitter uses.  The less FoMo, the harder it will be to trade up.

 

Baseball Swing Tips Mizuno Generation Bat Size Experiment

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: Zepp Baseball App

CLICK Image to Purchase Zepp Baseball App

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • A friend of mine, Juan Ortiz, took Ball Exit Speed gun readings while inputting into this Google Doc spreadsheet.
  • You’ll notice on the baseball swing tips experiment spreadsheet that there are missing numbers, these were radar gun mis-reads (where the radar gun lost coverage of the batted ball’s trajectory).  We eliminated ten mis-reads using the 33/30, and thirteen mis-reads using the 34/31.  We then adjusted the average swings in each test.  For instance, we eliminated 13 mis-reads using the 34/31, so spreadsheet added all swing ball exit speeds for that test, then divided by 87 total swings.
  • However, the Zepp app readings were all averaged over 100 total swings.
  • Dimple ball feedback markers were set at the bat’s length plus two baseballs
  • The two tests in the experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  “33/31 Mizuno bat swings” were letter ‘A’, and
    “34/31 Mizuno bat swings” 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.
  • Now, we took readings with the Zepp app and with the Bushnell radar gun.  Please note, these aren’t an apples to apples comparison, so we’ll be looking at them in separate detail.

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Baseball Swing Tips: Mizuno Generation Bat Size Experiment

Check out the little baseball swing tips experiment changes in average Bat Speed Impact & Time To Impact…

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • Zepp app findings – as you can see, there was an average increase of 1-mph  in Bat Speed at Impact using the 34/31 Mizuno Generation bat.
  • Zepp app findings – there was also average 0.057 sec drop in Time To Impact with the 34/31 Mizuno Gen. bat.
  • Bushnell BES radar gun findings (Google Doc) – there was an average Ball Exit Speed increase of 2-mph when using the 34/31 Mizuno Gen. bat.

Notes

  • I did not expect to see a major difference in Time To Impact like we did in the baseball swing tips bat size experiment.
  • I thought that average Bat Speed at Impact when using the 34/31 Mizuno Gen. bat was going to be less than the 33/30, but it actually increased by 1-mph!
  • In looking at the BES Google Doc spreadsheet, I topped out at 95-mph (twice) using the 33/30.  And topped out at 94-mph using the 34/31.  Btw, a week prior, one of my 12yo hitters wanted to see what “Coach Joey” could hit in ball exit speed.  And after about 5-6 swings, I hit 92-mph off the tee with wood.  Not tooting my own horn here, just interesting to see a ballpark difference between wood and the Mizuno Gen. BBCOR bats.  Also, I’m only 5’10” on a “good day”, and 165-pounds.  Add about 10-mph in a game, and I’m hitting 102-mph BES, which translates to 408-feet of batted ball distance.  My point is, you don’t have to be a big hitter to crush the ball B-)
  • What else is interesting in looking at the baseball swing tips experiment spreadsheet, that after about 75 total experiment swings, I started to consistently hit more 90+mph’s and find my highest BES readings.  Similar to how many pitches it takes a pitcher to actually “get warm”.  This is why we counter-balance the experiments now, to sidestep the “warm-up factor”.

The Bottom Line?

In this baseball swing tips experiment, using two different sized Mizuno Generation -3 BBCOR bats, we found that (for me), the 34/31 added 1-mph of Bat Speed at Impact and 2-mph to Ball Exit Speed, on average.  I was amazed to learn that using the bigger bat actually cut down on Time to Impact.  Some interesting findings and ones I hope others will test for themselves in the future.  My parents ask me the “bat size” question all the time.  So, by investing in a Bushnell radar gun or PocketRadar gun, you can gather some pretty convincing data as to which bat to use.

Question: Do “Squish the Bug” Baseball Swing Mechanics Depress Bat Speed?

 

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: TylerD

Here are the two test swings from my intern for the summer, redshirt college Frosh, Tyler Doerner…

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if the baseball swing mechanics “squishing/squashing the bug”, during the turn, increases or decreases bat speed.  The term “squishing the bug” means rotating the back foot, on the ground, during the turn.  Like you’re squishing a bug.

This can be a very sore subject, and hotly debated with a passion, in the Church of Baseball.  Surprisingly, it’s still widely taught throughout the lower levels.  Although a few images off the internet of effective swingers like Cano, Bautista, McCutchen, etc. will reveal “squishing the bug” isn’t what the best are doing.

So we wanted to test it…

My intern for the summer, redshirt college freshman Tyler Doerner did this experiment.  This post is for you Joe (you know who you are ;-)…

Background Research

One of the main objectives of whether to skip the foot, or keep it on the ground, has to do with transferring linear momentum, better known as un-weighting or forward momentum.  Check out these four HPL posts for a baseball swing mechanics background on this:

  1. Troy Tulowitzki Zepp Swing Experiment: Stride Killing Bat Speed?
  2. Ryan Braun: Common Mistakes Hitters Make #1
  3. Baseball Hitting Video: Gain Distance the Easy Way PART-1
  4. Perfect Swing Hacking with Forward Momentum (feat. Mike Trout)

Now, for you academics, CLICK HERE to watch a short 2-minute PBS video on Circus Physics and the Conservation of Linear Momentum.

So, after reading/watching the above videos and posts, we should be at a common understanding of Forward Momentum.

The next objective of “squishing the bug” versus “skipping the back foot” during the turn, boils down to allowing the body to transfer energy effectively.  This has to do with springy fascia in the body…

In Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains, he talks about a cotton candy like springy material that the bones and muscles float it, and what gives muscles their shape called fascia.

Specifically in the book, he talks about the Front & Back Functional Lines.  CLICK HERE for a post I did on this, featuring Ted Williams and Matt Kemp.

In the following video, Thomas Myers explains this idea of Tensegrity, or Tension-Integrity.  There are compression and tension forces acting on the body at all times.  Within the body these two opposing forces are always searching for balance…

For a hitter, if the body moves forward, but the back foot and leg stays behind, then these forces don’t get optimally transferred from body to barrel to ball.  In other words, the backside gets “left behind”.

Hypothesis

Based on the above research, I think “squishing the bug” baseball swing mechanics will have a depressing effect on bat and hand speed because it doesn’t allow for full transfer of momentum and release of elastic energy in the springy fascia.

 

“Squish the Bug” Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: Zepp Baseball App

CLICK Image to Purchase Zepp Baseball App

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Forward momentum was taken out of this baseball swing mechanics experiment by hitting from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • Back two “baseball markers” were set at about 3 baseballs apart
  • The two tests in the experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  Say “squish the bug” was letter ‘A’, and “skipping back foot’ was 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):

Squish the Bug Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment

There were significant changes in Average Bat & Hand Speed, Time to Impact, and surprisingly, the hitter’s Attack Angle in this baseball swing mechanics experiment…

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • +8-mph difference in average Impact Bat Speed, siding on “Skipping Back Foot”,
  • +3-mph difference in average Hand Speed Max, siding on “Skipping Back Foot”,,
  • -0.019 difference in average Time To Impact, siding on “Skipping Back Foot”, and
  • +4-degree difference in average Attack Angle, siding on “Skipping Back Foot”.

 

Notes

  • I think the “Squish the Bug” baseball swing mechanics experiment results were overwhelmingly clear.
  • Tyler did not technically keep his back foot posted to the ground during the “squish the bug” tests, so there still was an element of un-weighting going on with his backside.
  • In which case, measuring Ball Exit Speed (or how fast the ball came off the bat) may have netted interesting data to consider, compared to Impact Bat Speed.  However, with the results with the other readings of Avg. Hand Speed, Time To Impact, and Attack Angle, I think we can put the “Squish the Bug” baseball swing mechanics myth to bed 😀
  • The data and results suggests that when a hitter “leaves behind their backside”, there’s a slowing down of forward momentum, and the body naturally decelerates because the springy fascia is forced to stretch, but not release.
  • Keep in mind what I call the Goldilocks Syndrome.  The back foot can skip too far (porridge too hot), and it can also not skip at all (porridge too cold).  We want the back foot to skip just right.

The Bottom Line?

In this “Squish the Bug” baseball swing mechanics experiment, “Skipping the Back Foot” showed a notable difference in average Bat & Hand Speed, Time To Impact, and the hitters Attack Angle.  I want to encourage you to tinker and test this for yourself.  The objective of these swing experiments is to put modern hitting theory to the test, literally.  We NEED to test based on data, not feelings.  Share these results with friends.

Boost “Top Out” Bat Speed By “Hiding The Hands”, Like JD Martinez…

 

Proper Baseball Hitting Mechanics Zepp Experiment: Hiding Your Hands Like JD Martinez

JD Martinez hiding his hands from the pitcher. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

 

Question: Does Hiding the Hands Increase Bat Speed versus NOT Hiding Them?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if hiding the hands from the pitcher prior to stride landing boosts bat speed, over not hiding them.  Some may call this the “Scap Row”.

And we’ll see what proper baseball hitting mechanics look like with MLB Player of the Week (July 6th) JD Martinez of the Detroit Tigers.

My intern for the summer, red-shirt college freshman Tyler Doerner did the experiment.

Background Research

Most hitting instructors may call this the Scapula Row, or Scap Row for short.  “Hiding the hands” is essentially the same thing, but is a much more sticky coaching cue.

“Hiding the Hands” has to do with loading the springy fascial material in the body.  Without this springy fascia your bones and muscles would drop to the ground.  It’s what gives muscles their shape, and what the bones and muscles ‘float’ in, according to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains.

“Hiding the Hands” also allows a hitter to be in proper baseball hitting mechanics to achieve high angular velocity early in the turn.  This has to do with the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Achieving high angular velocity, early in the turn, is critical to Time To Impact and covering more plane of the pitch with the barrel.

On the contrary though, arm barring (or high moment of inertia) early in the turn would cause a challenge for hitters getting to pitches high in the strike zone and inside, according to Perry Husbands work on Effective Velocity.  Here’s a quote from the preceding SBNation.com link about Effective Velocity:

“His [Perry Husband’s] interest lies not in how fast a given pitch travels, but how fast it appears to a hitter.”

Hypothesis

Based on the above research, I think proper baseball hitting mechanics, a la “Hiding the Hands”, from the pitcher (pre-turn) will have a big impact on bat speed versus not hiding them.  I think results will be similar to what the “Showing the Numbers” Experiment revealed, where we saw an average bat speed increase of 6-mph over 200 swings.

 

Proper Baseball Hitting Mechanics: JD Martinez “Hiding Hands” Experiment

SwingAway Pro XXL Model

Tyler uses a SoloHitter in the Experiment. The SwingAway Bryce Harper is swinging on is similar.

Equipment Used:

  • Zepp Baseball app,
  • Solohitter (like the SwingAway which I like better),
  • Camera Phone, Coaches Eye app, and Tripod, and
  • 33 inch, 30 ounce wood bat.

Setup:

  • Forward momentum was eliminated in this experiment, and hitting from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • First 100 baseballs were hit “NOT Hiding the Hands”
  • Second 100 baseballs were hit “Hiding the Hands”
  • There was no break between tests because Tyler was trying to beat the rains coming

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Proper Baseball Hitting Mechanics Zepp Experiment Results: Hiding the Hands

In this proper baseball hitting mechanics “Hiding the Hands” Zepp Experiment, see how “Hiding the Hands” slightly won out in Bat & Hand Speed, and Time to Impact rather than “Not Hiding the Hands”…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • As you can see, “Hiding the Hands” beat almost every category…
  • On average, 1-mph change in Bat Speed,
  • On average, 1-mph change in Hand Speed, and
  • On average, .005 change in Time To Impact.

“Hiding the Hands” didn’t have a significant jump in bat and hand speed, or Time To Impact than “NOT Hiding the Hands.”  But there was a difference in top-out bat speeds:

  • Top-4 “Hiding the Hands” bat speeds (in mph): 85, 84, 84, and 82.
  • Top-4 “Not Hiding the Hands” bat speeds (in mph): 82, 81, and the rest were less than 79.

So, top out bat speed increased by 3-mph, and there were consistent higher bat speeds with “Hiding the Hands”.

Notes

  • The results of the proper baseball hitting mechanics “Hiding the Hands” Zepp Experiment may have been skewed because Tyler didn’t take a break between tests.
  • The following experiments will be using what one of my readers and motor learning and performance researcher Brad McKay suggests, which is counterbalancing the experiment.  Essentially it’s breaking experiment swings into 25 swing blocks, and ordering them a certain way.  For example, “Hiding the Hands” would be block “A”, and “Not Hiding the Hands” would be block “B”.  The 200 swings would be broken into 8 blocks and ordered accordingly: ABBA BAAB.  As Brad McKay says, “The issue with not counterbalancing is that you don’t actually know the effect of time because it is confounded with condition. In other words, you might always do better on the second block of 100 because of a warm-up decrement or a practice effect.”  Thank you Brad for the experiment tip!  We’ll do better next time 😀
  • About JD Martinez…this FanGraphs.com link titled, “JD Martinez on His Many Adjustments” is a great example of players today opening their eyes to how the body really moves, and not what some talking head thinks.  Basically, JD Martinez subscribed to swinging “down on the ball” until he got injured in 2014, I believe.  Then he started analyzing teammates’ and opponents’ swings that were crushing the ball, and found out they weren’t swinging down at all.
  • A week or two after the 2015 All Star break, according to FanGraphs.com, JD Martinez had 27 homers.  His season high before that? 23, in 2014.  To me, JD Martinez is a big slugger at 6’3″, 220-pounds.  But when big sluggers do small slugger things (like being more effective with mechanics), even bigger things can happen.  JD Martinez does a great job of “Showing his Numbers” and “Hiding the Hands”.  This compresses the springy fascia material in the body.

The Bottom Line?

In this proper baseball hitting mechanics “Hiding the Hands” Zepp Swing Experiment, “Hiding the Hands” doesn’t seem to give a hitter a significant jump in Bat and Hand Speed, or Time to Impact.  But definitely an increase nonetheless.  But what using proper baseball hitting mechanics, like “Hiding the Hands”, does appear to do, is boost top-out bat speeds.  AND, make those top-out bat speeds repeatable.

There’s Big Bat Speed in an Effective Softball Batting Grip (works for Baseball Too!)

 

Question: Does a ‘door knocking knuckle’ batting grip increase bat and hand speed?

Softball Batting Grip: Gorilla Powered

The Softball Batting Grip of a Gorilla! (and yes, baseball players can use it too!)

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to see if using the “gorilla grip” or “door knocking knuckle” softball batting grip produces more bat and hand speed.  One of my online lessons, Tyler Doerner, a redshirt freshman at Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana is interning for me this summer, and will be doing the experiment.

 

Background Research

This experiment is based on a book by Rod Delmonico called Hit and Run Baseball.  The book was written in 1992, and Coach Delmonico talked about a grip test that I do with my hitters to show them proper grip (included in video above).

To show how important grip is to swinging a bat, check out this podcast interview with kettlebell strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline.  He goes into depth, particularly grip strength training, about the connection between the grip and mid-section.

Also, Jedd Johnson’s Ultimate Forearm Training for Baseball Players has had a huge influence on me and the importance of grip.  Jedd has put together a pretty comprehensive training manual for both grip and forearm training for ball players.  Jedd played college ball, and is co-founder of DieselCrew.com, where he’s done amazing feats of grip strength himself.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above research and my experience training hitters over the years, I think the “gorilla grip” will add more bat and hand speed, than the “door knocking knuckle” grip.  The problem with the “door knocking knuckle” softball batting grip, is that it doesn’t take into account different hand sizes.

When my hitters use the “door knocking knuckle” grip method, the elbows awkwardly hug together in the stance.  It puts the hitter in an unathletic starting position.

 

Softball Batting Grip Experiment Setup

Equipment Used:

Softball Batting Grip Experiment: Zepp

Zepp Baseball App

Setup:

  • Solohitter was set slightly behind the front feedback marker, and ball height was about the hip.
  • First 100 baseballs were hit using a “Door Knocking Knuckles” softball batting grip.
  • Second 100 baseballs were hit using a “Gorilla Grip”.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App Screenshots)

softball-batting-grip-experiment

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • “Gorilla Grip” ended up, on average, 2-mph faster bat speed,
  • “Gorilla Grip” ended up, on average, 2-mph faster hand speed, and
  • “Gorilla Grip” ended up, on average, .005 seconds faster Time To Impact.

Notes

  • Tyler had little to no break in between the 100 swings because there was rain coming where he was, and he had to rush to get the experiment done, so even if he was tired during the “Gorilla Grip” test, the metrics didn’t show it.
  • An average increase of 2-mph bat speed can add 8-16 feet of batted ball distance.  1-mph of bat speed = 4 to 8-feet of batted ball distance, depending on pitching velocity.
  • The bottom line about the “Gorilla Grip” is that a 7 year old all the way up to a 21 year old can grip the bat handle in the same part of the hands.  It doesn’t matter the hand size.  The “Gorilla Grip” still works.  The same cannot be said for the “door knocking knuckle” softball batting grip.

In Conclusion

Try this test for yourself, and definitely tinker and test.  What I’d like to see from this same experiment in the future, is to have ample physical rest for the “Gorilla Grip” test, and see where it goes from there.  That being said, from the results of this softball batting grip experiment, I think we can put the “door knocking knuckles” grip MYTH to bed.

SwingAway Baseball Swing Trainer: How-To Build A Swing You Can Be Proud Of…

 

Baseball Swing Trainer: SwingAway MVP

The SwingAway MVP Bryce Harper model

I’ve wanted to do a “how-to experiment” post for a long time.  But in the past, technology hadn’t quite caught up,

…and NOW it has!

Mark Twain once said:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

I want:

  • …To lay out the landscape, in this Baseball Swing Trainer post, about using the SwingAway for conducting hitting experiments,
  • …This article to empower you to take up arms with me, and turn conventional hitting wisdom on its stubborn little head, and
  • …To inspire you to use modern technology to build a swing we ALL can be proud of.

I’m embarrassed to share the following story…

I did my first hitting experiment in the sixth grade with a buddy, for a school project.

My friend and I ran an experiment to see if a wood or aluminum bat could hit the ball farther.

One day after school, we pitched to each other at the Little League diamond we played our games at.  We used two aluminum Easton baseball bats and a Ken Griffey Jr. signature Louisville Slugger woody.  One aluminum bat was 32-inches and 24-ounces, and the other was 31-inches and 23-ounces.  And I can’t remember what the woody measurements were, but it was comparable.

I think we might have hit about 50 balls with each bat (150 balls total), and get this…measured the distance with our feet! 😀 lol

Based on our results, guess which bat hit the ball the farthest?  Wood or aluminum?  The wood bat!!!  Waaa??

Well, it was only because we weren’t being very scientific with our scientific experiment.  One of the big reasons we didn’t get a good grade on the project was because we DID NOT isolate the variables

  • We threw LIVE batting practice to each other.  We should have used a baseball hitting trainer like a batting tee or SwingAway (wasn’t around at the time).
  • We both took turns hitting, and didn’t separate our individual batted ball distances.
  • We used different sized bats.
  • We measured using our own feet…I was a men’s 8/9 at the time, and my buddy was an 11. We should’ve used a rolling tape measure.
  • We only took a small data sample size. We should’ve hit 100 balls with the wood bat, and then 100 with aluminum.  AND we should have only used one of the aluminum bats (preferably the one closest in size and weight to the woody).  So 400 swings total (200 swings for me, 200 for my friend).  Then compared apples to apples.

Remember, failure is only a detour, not a dead end 😉

The good news is,

You don’t have to be a scientist to run a hitting experiment.

What follows is the exact formula I use now, to run my hitting experiments using the SwingAway baseball swing trainer.  My hopes is that you pick up arms, and join me in the fight…

 

The Definitive Guide to Conducting a Baseball Swing Trainer Experiment

Up until now, here are SIX hitting experiments I’ve run:

 

Equipment & Setup

You can read the full list at the above swing experiment links.  But here are a couple pieces of equipment that will have a drastic effect on bean counting and saving time doing the experiment itself…

Zepp Baseball App
Baseball Swing Trainer: Zepp Baseball App

Zepp Baseball App

Great tool for collecting data.  It’s not perfect, but all we need is an apples to apples comparison.  Unfortunately, the Zepp app DOES NOT allow you to separate experiment swings from recreational ones.  You have to delete ALL swings before doing an experiment, unless you want to do the bean counting yourself.

You’ll also need to create two email accounts with Zepp to separate the two experiment tests.  Zepp allows you to “Add a Hitter” in one account, but it doesn’t allow you to separate that data from other hitters or swings and average the data out.

SwingAway Baseball Swing Trainer
Baseball Swing Trainer: SwingAway Pro XXL

SwingAway Pro XXL model

I just started using a SwingAway for my swing experiments.  I used to hit the ball off an ATEC Tuffy Batting Tee, but it was taking me 2 1/2 to 3 hours to run my experiments.  Fatigue could set in and skew the results.  Some experiments where you’re looking at ball flight (like Bent Back Knee experiment above) will most definitely need to be done off a batting tee.

Using the SwingAway baseball swing trainer took me only 1 1/2 hours!  NO need for:

  • Ball cleanup,
  • Ball setup, or
  • Waiting more than a few seconds for the ball to return to its stationary position.

This saved me a ton of time.  All you need is a 10 X 10 space to conduct your SwingAway baseball swing trainer experiment.

Baseball Swing Trainer Experiment Optimization Tips…

  • Limit Variables – The main objective of a baseball swing trainer hitting Experiment, is to isolate what you’re trying to test.  Like my sixth grade experiment from earlier, there were too many variables that we didn’t control.
  • Priming the Pump – I always start an experiment by warming up my body with a pre-practice routine, similar to this Dr. Stanley Beekman’s post.  You don’t have to do all included exercises, so pick about eight of them.  I’ll also take about 10-15 swings focusing on the specific mechanic I’m going to be testing that day.  For example, if I was testing showing the pitcher my numbers versus not, then I’d do 10-15 swings both ways, so 20-30 swings total before officially starting the experiment.  We prime the pump so nobody can see, “Well, your numbers sucked in the beginning because you weren’t warmed up.”
  • Counter-Balancing – The two tests in the experiment should be counterbalanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  Say “showing the numbers” was letter ‘A’, and “not showing the numbers” was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings are to be completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being warmed” up factors.
  • More Data Points – I take at least 100 swings for both tests in the experiment, so 200 swings total (not counting warm-up swings).  So, taking the “showing numbers” as an example, I’d take 100 swings showing my numbers, and then take another 100 swings not showing my numbers.  The Zepp App is a useful technology, but isn’t super accurate.  But the more data you collect, the closer to the “real” numbers you’ll get.
  • Break the Swing Apart – If you aren’t confident that you can repeat a specific mechanic consistently for 100 swings, then break the swing apart, like I talk about in this YouTube video.  I did this in the showing the numbers experiment above.
  • Collect Ball Flight Data (optional) – for some mechanics, like testing the back leg angle during the turn experiment, it’s critical to collect ball flight data on the Zepp app.  Zepp allows you to manually input where you hit the ball after each swing.  Testing the grip on the bat would be another example.  Also, adding Ball Exit Speed readings could enhance the baseball swing trainer experiment, Bushnell Velocity Radar Gun (about $80), or Stalker Radar Gun ($500+).  ESPN’s HitTrackerOnline.com uses the latter in all MLB ballparks.  Just remember, accuracy isn’t as important as an apples to apples comparison.
  • Recovery – I usually will give my body about 30-minutes rest between the first 100 swing test and the second.  I now use supplement timing like Zach Calhoon maps out in these posts.  I sip on Zach’s “concoction” throughout the full experiment to keep my muscles fueled.  I then take Vitamin C and E capsules afterward to help with soreness.
  • Brainstorming Experiments – Don’t have any ideas on what to test?  I did the heavy lifting for you.  And by no means is this an exhaustive list of possible experiments. CLICK HERE for my brainstormed list.
  • Take Notes – make note of my “notes” in the above experiments.  Basically, the notes section are things that you noticed while doing the tests that may not be apparent to the person reading about the experiment.

 

In Conclusion…

In this baseball swing trainer post about using the SwingAway for hitting experiments, I wanted to lay out the landscape and empower you to help me take up arms.  I want to turn conventional hitting wisdom on its head, and use modern baseball swing trainer technology to build a swing we ALL can be proud of.

Let’s revisit the Mark Twain quote from earlier:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

I need your help and can’t fight this fight alone.  I want you to take action…

My challenge to you is let’s band together and conduct 30 Experiments in the next 30 days.  If all of us do at least one swing experiment, then we should be able to knock this goal out by July 15th.

Just post your baseball/softball hitting experiment results below in the comments section.  Reply with:

  • What experiment you ran (from the brainstorm list above)?
  • How many swings per test (i.e. 100/100), and what order did you do the test?
  • What bat did you use (length, weight, and wood/aluminum)
  • Hit off tee or Swingaway baseball swing trainer?
  • What metric changes were significant (bat speed/hand speed/bat vertical angle at impact/attack angle/ball flight/ball exit speed)?

Thanks in advance for your baseball swing trainer experiment comments!

Jose Bautista Staying Closed

“Blocking” Like Jose Bautista: A Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed Experiment

 

Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed: Jose Bautista "Blocking"

Image on left is Jose Bautista at landing, and image on right is referred to in Discus Throwing circles as “Blocking”…

 

Question: Does Landing Bent with the Front Knee & then Straightening it, Add Bat Speed?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if “Blocking”, or using Ground Reaction Forces (GRF), produces a significant gain in bat speed.

 

Background Research

Check out this YouTube video from ZenoLink about “Blocking”, or GRF:

 

CLICK HERE for a Wikipedia article defining Ground Reaction Forces.  Quote from post:

“The use of the word reaction derives from Newton’s third law, which essentially states that if a force, called action, acts upon a body, then an equal and opposite force, called reaction, must act upon another body. The force exerted by the ground is conventionally referred to as the reaction, although, since the distinction between action and reaction is completely arbitrary, the expression ground action would be, in principle, equally acceptable.”

CLICK HERE for another baseball hitting drills for bat speed post I did about Edwin Encarnacion: A How-To “Blocking” Guide.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above baseball hitting drills for bat speed research and study, I think “Bent Knee Blocking” will produce more bat speed than “Straight Knee Blocking”.  For some of you, this may be obvious.  But the data comparing the two is quite interesting to see.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed Experiment: “Blocking”Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed: SwingAway MVP Bryce Harper model

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers = my bat length, plus two baseballs
  • Distance from plate = end of the bat touching inside corner of plate, and knob of bat touching my mid-thigh.
  • SwingAway was set slightly behind the front feedback marker, and ball height was about the hip.
  • First 101 baseballs were hit with a landing leg angle of about 170-degrees.
  • Second 101 baseballs were hit with a landing leg angle of about 146-degrees.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App Screenshots):

Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed: Blocking Experiment

Check out the differences in average bat speed and hand speed (red arrows)…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • 6-mph average bat speed difference between “Straight Knee Blocking” versus “Bent Knee Blocking”,
  • 2-mph average hand speed difference between “Straight Knee Blocking” versus “Bent Knee Blocking”,
  • The Average Time to Impact was about the same,
  • The average Bat Vertical Angle at Impact had a 6-degree difference, and
  • There was only 1-degree of difference between the Attack Angles.

Notes

  • I broke my swing into two steps (stopping momentum), to make sure I could accurately isolate the difference in the front knee action.
  • The “Bent Knee Blocking” 6-mph average increase  is equivalent to 24-48 feet of batted ball distance (depends on the speed of the pitch).
  • What was interesting was the huge shift in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact.  I suspect it’s because of the higher landing position, and the barrel compensated down to accommodate hitting the sweet spot.
  • Looking at the nominal increase in Attack Angle and the wide degree shift in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, it looks like “Straight Knee Blocking” would lead to more mishits.
  • Like in this “Blocking” Experiment, baseball hitting drills for bat speed need to be put to the test.  We can’t just feel something will increase bat speed.  We must look at what the data says.

 

In Conclusion

From the Baseball Hitting Drills for Bat Speed Experiment data, we can see that “Bent Knee Blocking” produces more average bat and hand speed than “Straight Knee Blocking”.  The other thing that landing with a bent knee does (approx. 146-degrees), is shrink the strike-zone.  Or at least create an illusion that it’s shrinking, to the umpire.  I call this “Getting Shorter”.

Coupled with forward momentum, the hitter is making a “cut”, much like a wide receiver would on an “L” route.  Except instead of the wide receiver changing from the Sagittal (forward/backward) to the Frontal (sideways) Plane of motion, the hitter changes from the Frontal to Transverse (twisting) Plane of motion.  And in order to do this, the “plant leg” needs to be bent in order to transfer Ground Reaction Forces efficiently.  You’ll NEVER see an NFL wide receiver “cut” with a straight plant leg…they plant bent, then push into the ground to change directions.

Getting Under The Ball Like Stephen Vogt – A Baseball Swing Plane Experiment

Baseball Swing Plane: Stephen Vogt

August 2014  Stephen Vogt (21) hits a solo home run. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Vogt side note: CLICK HERE to watch video of him doing referee impersonations, he’s apparently known for, on Intentional Talk.  That’s Johnny Gomes in the background 😀

Question: Can the Back Leg Angle Affect Ball Flight During the Final Turn?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze the effect the back leg angle has on ground balls, line drives, and fly balls.

Background Research

Two posts I’ve written that talk about the back leg angle:

In the above posts, pay particular attention to what Homer Kelly says about Knee Action.

As of the beginning of May 2015, Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics, is ranked 2nd overall in OPS at 1.179 (according to MLB.com’s sortable stats).  Can he hold this up all year?  Maybe, maybe not.  But the metrics I’m about to reveal have a solid base in his back leg angle mechanics.

He has a very distinct back leg angle during the Final Turn and follow through (see image above).  Here’s how his metrics stacks up over four seasons, against the league average (according to FanGraphs.com):

  • Ground ball% – Stephen Vogt (32.6%), League Average (44%)
  • Line Drive% – Stephen Vogt (20.7%), League Average (20%)
  • Fly Ball% – Stephen Vogt (46.6%), League Average (36%)
  • Home-run/Fly-ball Ratio – Stephen Vogt (10%), League Average (9.5%)

So he’s well below the league average in ground-balls, slightly higher in line drives, and has  a 0.5% higher home-run to fly-ball percentage.  The latter meaning what percentage of his fly-balls go over the fence.  Lastly, as you can clearly see, Stephen Vogt has an above average fly-ball percentage.  Remember, fly-balls aren’t always bad.  Most times, they’re more productive than ground-balls in sacrificing runners over or bringing them in to score.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above research and with my own experience, I think that having the back leg angle bent in an “L” (or 90-degree angle) during the Final Turn and follow through will produce more elevated line drives and fly balls.  Whereas a straighter back leg angle (closer to 180-degrees) will produce more low level line drives and ground balls.

 

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: “Staying Low”

Babe Ruth Hand-Tension Experiment Setup

Here was how I setup the experiment “work station”

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers = my bat length, plus two baseballs
  • Distance from plate = end of the bat touching inside corner of plate, and knob of bat touching my mid-thigh.
  • Tee was set slightly behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh.
  • First 100 baseballs were hit with a 90-degree back leg angle during the Final Turn and follow through.
  • Second 100 baseballs were hit a straighter back leg angle (about 170-degrees) during the Final Turn and follow through.

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App Screenshots):

Baseball Swing Plane Zepp Experiment: "Staying Low"

Fig.1: Here are the averages of both sessions. Pay particular attention to the “Bat Vertical Angle at Impact” and “Attack Angle” preferences…

According to the Zepp app user guide, let’s define the following terms:

  • Bat Vertical Angle at Impact – This is the Vertical angle (Up or Down) measured in degrees, of your bat barrel in relation to the knob of the bat, when it makes impact with the ball.
  • Attack Angle – Attack Angle is the direction the bat barrel is moving (Up or Down) at impact. A positive number would mean your barrel is going UP at impact, zero is LEVEL and a negative number is the barrel going DOWN at impact.

Check out the ground-ball, line drive, and fly-ball comparison:

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: Ball Flight

Fig.2: Check out the difference in ball flight between the two sessions. Pay particular attention to the ground-ball percentages.

Data Analysis & Conclusion

I wasn’t paying too much attention to bat and hand speed on this experiment.  I only focused on the metrics indicating a change in ball flight.

  • Attack angle had a 3-degree difference according to Fig.1.
  • Bat Vertical Angle at Impact also had a 3-degree difference according to Fig.1.
  •  27% difference in ground-ball% according to Fig.2.
  • 24% difference in fly-ball% according to Fig.2.

Notes

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: Cage Labels

This were the rules I used for ball flight in the cage during the Experiment.

  • Here’s a picture (image to the right) of the cage I hit in and the labels for each batted ball outcomes.
  • I’m not sure why the Bat Vertical Angle at Impact was larger for the “Straight Back Knee”.  Maybe it had to do with my back knee starting bent towards impact, but then the barrel compensated by “pulling up” to accommodate the straightening back knee.  This disturbance in the pitch plane is NO bueno.
  • I found myself reverting back to old habits (Bent Back Knee) during the Straight Back Knee session.  There were at least a dozen balls I hit that had more bend than I wanted during that session.
  • During the “Bent Back Knee” session, about 65% of my fly-balls were “shots”, and didn’t hit the back of the cage to be considered a line drive.
  • I find with small sluggers like Stephen Vogt bend their back knee between 90-105 degrees during the Final Turn.  With fastpitch softball, the angle of the back knee isn’t quite so drastic because of the reduced plane of the pitch.  If I can get my softball players to be 105-120 degrees with the back knee angle, then I’m happy.

 

In Conclusion

So the back knee angle during the Final Turn does have a significant impact on ball flight.  More bend equals, more airtime for the ball.  I’ve seen Little Leaguers to Pro hitters straightening out their back legs.  And they often wonder why they aren’t driving the ball.

In terms of driving the ball like Stephen Vogt, think of the back leg angle as angling your body like a “ramp”.  Also, take a look at smaller sluggers (6’0″, 225-lbs on down) like: Adrian Beltre, Stephen Vogt, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Andrew McCutchen as great examples of back knee bend.