Create Pre-Turn Hand Tension Like Babe Ruth

 

Babe Ruth Reveals Hand Tension?

Look at the hands of Babe Ruth… Photo courtesy: PhotoBucket.com (user: BillBurgess)

Question: Do Relaxed Hands Really Lead to Higher Bat Speeds?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether having relaxed hands or “hand-tension” – pre-turn – increases or decreases bat speed.

Background Research

To me, it just always looked like the all-time greats – Babe Ruth – were squeezing the handle of the bat into sawdust before going into their turn.  I’m basing this experiment off the following research and study:

1. Pavel Tsatsouline

From the Tim Ferriss podcast titled, “Pavel Tsatsouline on the Science of Strength and the Art of Physical Performance“, where Tim interviews Pavel.  Pavel trains elite athletes and military, but is best known for commercializing the use of the kettlebell in America.

In the podcast, Pavel talks about how the hands can be used to recruit more muscle tissue and connect larger areas of the body.

2. Homer Kelly

In his book, The Golfing Machine, Homer Kelly talks of four power accumulators…in particular, the first power accumulator (p.70 in the 7th edition):

“…is the Bent Right Arm – the Hitter’s Muscle Power Accumulator.  Even though the Right Biceps is active, the Backstroke is always made with the Right Arm striving to remain straight.  But the straight Left Arm restraints this continuous Extensor Action of the right triceps with an effortless Checkerin Action.  Consequently, during Release, the Right Arm can straighten only as the Left Arm moves away from the Right Shoulder.  This results in a smooth, even Thrust For acceleration of the Lever Assemblies from an otherwise unruly force.”

3. Front Arm Fascial Lines

Thomas Myers talks about Front Arm Fascial Lines in his book Anatomy Trains.  These lines travel from the bottom three fingers (pinky, ring, and middle), across the chest, to the bottom three fingers of the opposite hand.  It’s these three fingers that connect these springy fascial lines found within the torso to whatever we hold in our hands.  It’s this hand tension, or finger pressure, that has fixed stubborn bat drag issues in my own hitters.

 

Hypothesis

Because of the previously mentioned research, I think the swing with Babe Ruth “hand-tension” will result in higher bat speed, and possibly other performance metrics, like max hand speed, time to impact, etc., that will be measured using the Zepp Baseball App.

Babe Ruth: “Hand-Tension” Experiment

Babe Ruth Hand-Tension Experiment Setup

Here was how I setup my 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 WITHOUT pre-turn “hand-tension”.
  • Second 100 baseballs were hit WITH pre-turn “hand-tension”.

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Babe Ruth Hand Tension Experiment Results (Zepp)

Check out the difference in average Bat Speed and average Time To Impact…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Babe Ruth Hand Tension Experiment

Look at the difference in the Bat Vertical at Impact and Attack angles. This is the reason for the higher Fly Ball & Line Drive percentages…

When using pre-turn Babe Ruth “hand-tension”:

  • +3 mph average bat speed
  • Higher Max Bat Speed numbers
  • More horizontal bat angle at impact (matching pitch plane)
  • +6 degrees in attack angle
  • More productive outcomes (line-drives & fly-balls).

Notes

  •  I had trouble finding a proper slot for my hands WITHOUT pre-turn hand tension.  With it, I found more consistency with “educated” pre-tension Babe Ruth hands.
  • In the video, you can clearly see a better barrel launch angle when I had pre-turn “hand-tension”.
  • In the video, you can see an earlier barrel on the pitch-plane (probably as a result of the better barrel launch angle).
  • WITHOUT hand tension, my Zepp bat speeds swung wildly from swing to swing.  Whereas with pre-turn hand-tension, my bat speed numbers were more stable, staying within the 72-78 mph range.
  • I warmed up using the ProHammer bat, to prime my swing to not roll over when I started the Experiment.  Interesting to note that WITHOUT pre-turn hand tension, I began rolling over for the first 10-15 swings.
  • My upper half felt much more connected during the swing when I had pre-turn hand-tension.
  • The -1 degree vertical angle at impact was a much better improvement using pre-turn “hand-tension”.  Now, most of my Line Drives were about 8-12 feet off the ground.  My back foot was drifting forward a little much, so taming that and maintaining a 90-degree angle with the back leg, would push that vertical angle at impact even lower.  And as a result, would angle my drives up more.

The Bottom Line?

The Babe Ruth Pre-Turn “Hand-Tension” Experiment highlighted what Homer Kelly calls “educating the hands”.  This Experiment suggests that the old dogma of keep your hands “loose” before you turn holds no water.  This is another example of backwards thinking that’s been taught for decades.  All my hitters, from pro and college to Little League, say how much more bat speed they have when they use pre-turn “hand-tension”.  I urge you all to repeat the same experiment and report what you find in the comments below.  Test…Test…Test these dogmas, so we can finally put the ol’ dog to bed.

*EXPERIMENT UPDATE*: Thanks to my friend Lee Comeaux, who is a professional golf instructor, for further simplifying the finger pressure technique…have the hitter squeeze the bottom three fingers (pinky, ring, and middle) of the top hand ONLY, from the moment the hitter picks up their stride foot to all the way through impact.  This alone has cleared up stubborn bat drag issues with my hitters from TEN to SIXTEEN years old.

Alex Gordon: Top Out Bat Speed By Striding Closed?

 

Alex Gordon VIDEO: Avoid This Stupid Mistake?

Alex Gordon Game 7 Double in 2014 World Series, striding open photo courtesy: MLB.com

Question: Does Striding Front Leg Closed Increase OR Decrease Bat Speed?

I was taught my whole playing career to stride front foot closed.  Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether striding with the front leg closed will have a positive or negative effect on bat speed.

Background Research

Here are a couple posts to further your understanding of spinal engine mechanics, as we move to discover what effect striding with a closed front leg will ultimately have on bat speed…

Also, CLICK HERE to watch this video from ZenoLink’s Chris Welch on stride principles.

Hypothesis

Based primarily on my research and study of Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine, I believe landing with an open front leg – like Alex Gordon – will result in increased bat speed and farther batted ball distance.  Landing closed with the front leg – like Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (who popped out to end the 2014 World Series) – will result in an inefficiency to hitting inside and high pitches.  And will allow other compensations to occur such as rolling over, pulling the head, and the front shoulder flying open.

Alex Gordon: Striding Open/Closed Experiment

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 one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • Forward momentum was eliminated in this experiment, and I hit from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • First 100 baseballs hit I was striding with a CLOSED front leg
  • Last 100 baseballs hit I was striding with an OPEN front leg
  • There was about 15-30 minute break between both Alex Gordon & Salvador Perez Experiments

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Alex Gordon: Top Out Bat Speed By Striding Open?

First 100 balls (striding CLOSED), last 100 balls (striding OPEN)

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Observations from the Zepp Baseball app screen capture above:

  • Striding OPEN added 1-mph of bat speed on average
  • Interestingly, striding CLOSED added 0.024 “Time To Impact” on average

Not much change there…but the devil’s in the details…

Alex Gordon Closed/Open Stride Experiment

Breakdown of Alex Gordon Striding Closed Experiment (swings & bat speed)

  • Striding CLOSED shifted bat speed downstream into the [< 69] to [70-74-mph] ranges
  • Striding OPEN shifted bat speed upstream into the [75-79] to [80+ mph] ranges
  • Striding CLOSED top out bat speed was 81-mph…80-mph (once) and 81-mph (twice)
  • Striding OPEN top out bat speed was 83-mph…80-mph (6-times), 81-mph (3-times), 82-mph (3-times), & 83-mph (once)

 

Notes

Alex Gordon: Top Out Bat Speed By Striding Closed?

Salvador Perez never had a chance striding closed against Madison Bumgarner photo courtesy: MLB.com

  • Striding open with the front leg definitely increased top out bat speed (83-mph v. 81-mph).
  • There was a better chance to maintain higher bat speeds with striding open.
  • During the Alex Gordon Experiment, when striding front leg open, my front foot was at a 45-70 degree angle.
  • I also felt that I had an easier time accelerating the barrel down (towards catcher’s glove) when my stride leg was open, which helped keep my bat speed more consistent.  I felt like I had to pull across my body (or chop down) striding with a closed front leg, which made my bat speed more erratic during the first part of the Experiment.
  • I purposely eliminated forward momentum from the Experiment because I wanted to isolate how much striding closed took away from bat speed.  In addition, I wanted to preserve accuracy in execution with the two different mechanical scenarios.

 

The Bottom Line?

Spinal engine mechanics drive all human movement, according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky.  When we do things to hinder efficient spinal engine mechanics, reciprocal inhibition takes over depressing a hitter’s ability to maintain higher bat speeds over longer periods.  In addition, striding with a closed front leg will cause a hitter to be inefficient getting to inside and higher pitches.  A great number of coaches teach hitters to stride with the “front foot closed”.  This is the very reason the following compensations occur that these coaches waste their time trying to correct!!

  • Front shoulder flying open,
  • Head pulling out, and
  • A shorter hand and barrel path to the ball, resulting in the
  • Barrel having limited time on the plane of the pitch, which increases mis-hits and strikeouts.

This is why I think Salvador Perez had a hard time handling Madison Bumgarner.  MadBum kept busting him up and in.  Because Salvador Perez strides closed I believe this stunted his chances of knocking in Alex Gordon from third at the end of the game.

Buster Posey: ADD 6-mph To Bat Speed Using The Shoulders

 

Buster Posey VIDEO: Not ALL In The Hips [Experiment]

Buster Posey showing his numbers photo courtesy: MLB.com

Question: Is Increased Bat Speed ALL in the Hips?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether Buster Posey’s hips OR spinal mechanics is what increases bat speed.

Background Research

Most elite hitting instructors, pros, and Hall of Famers think it’s ALL in the hips.  The “it” is a mystery even to them.  It shouldn’t be this way.  When we look at proven human movement science, we find that just firing the hips isn’t good enough.  My question to those people is, what about the piece of hardware above the pelvis, attaching it to the shoulders – the spine?

Before getting into the experiment and analyzing Buster Posey’s swing, we need to lay ground work first.  Watch this THREE videos first:

  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

Albert Pujols showing numbers similar to Buster Posey

Albert Pujols NOT showing his numbers like he could. Definite hip hinge (tilt) towards the plate. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Based primarily on my research and study of Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine, and Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains, I believe a hitter like Buster Posey, that shows the pitcher their numbers – while keeping the hips in neutral – creates the separation (or spinal torque) needed before landing to produce natural friction-free repeatable power.

Rather than just focusing on the hips to go first, and the front shoulder to stay on the pitcher.  In the experiment, for the sake of brevity, I’ll differentiate between the two with “showing numbers” or “NOT showing numbers”.

Buster Posey: Not ALL in the Hips Experiment

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 one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • Forward momentum was eliminated in this experiment, and I hit from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • First 100 baseballs hit was “NOT showing numbers”, focusing on hips first, and front shoulder pointing at the pitcher at landing
  • Second 100 baseballs hit was “showing numbers”, focusing on showing numbers, slight down shoulder angle, and hiding the hands
  • There was about 30-45 minute break between both Buster Posey Experiments

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Buster Posey Experiment: Zepp Baseball App comparison

Difference after 100 swings…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • Average bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 73-mph
  • Average 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
  • Hand speed max for showing numbers was: 29-mph (+2-mph)

As you can clearly see, “NOT showing numbers” puts a hitter at a clear repeatable power DISADVANTAGE.

 

Notes

Andrew McCutchen showing his numbers like Buster Posey

Andrew McCutchen: showing numbers, slight down shoulder angle, hiding hands, hip hinge (tilt) towards the plate. 2013 NL MVP. 3rd in MLB OPS in 2014. All 5’10”, 190 pounds of him! Photo courtesy of MLB.com.

  • I don’t go out and take 200 swings in a given day, so I was getting fatigued by the time I got to the last hundred swings (“showing numbers”) part of the experiment.  Goes to show this isn’t about muscles, but connective tissue.
  • Remember, I purposely eliminated forward momentum from the Buster Posey Experiment because I wanted to reveal how “showing the numbers” can effect a hitter’s bat speed.  CLICK HERE to see the results of a Forward Momentum Experiment I did using the Zepp Baseball App.
  • “Showing the numbers” IS NOT adding more rotational ground to make up during the Final Turn.  It’s a natural way of super-charging connective tissue over muscles.
  • A slight bend at the waist (hip hinge) towards the plate – before landing – improves efficiency, not detracts from it.  Just look at Posey, McCutchen, and Pujols pictured hitting home-runs in this post.  This is how an athlete takes the slack out of the posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, butt, and back).  ALL shapes and sizes use it.
  • During NOT showing the numbers, I felt like I had to guide my hands more.  It took more effort to extend through the ball instead of rotating off (rolling over), than with showing the numbers.
  • Make sure when “showing the numbers”, the hitter isn’t losing sight of the incoming pitch with the back eye.
  • Also, make sure when using a slight down shoulder angle that the head stays in-line with the spine.  The angle is slight, about five to ten-degrees.

 

The Bottom Line?

When we analyze hitters like Buster Posey, we NEED to hold our analysis to a higher standard.  Proven human movement science.  We have to go away from mechanical fixes based on “feelings”.  The “Oh, I’ve been working on this and it seems to work”, isn’t good enough.  Neither is, “Ted Williams said so!”  Or, “I watch 25-hours of high level hitting footage in a day, so listen to me.”  That stuff DOES NOT matter.  Science does.  I want to see the data, NOT listen to feelings.  The heavy lifting has been done for us.  It’s up to us to apply it.

Troy Tulowitzki Stride Length Experiment

 

Question: Does Stride Length Kill Bat Speed?

Troy Tulowitzki Stride Length Killing Your Bat Speed?

Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether Troy Tulowitzki’s longer stride increases or decreases bat speed.  Not just a longer stride, but I want to see the torso moving forward as well.

Background Research

Troy Tulowitzki had a wider stance in 2013.  In 2014, he’s adopted more of a narrow stance and a longer stride length.

Forward Momentum may be a new concept to hitting, but not to other explosive rotational athletes.  It’s also known as the Conservation of Linear Momentum and the Un-Weighting Principal.  The idea is that the hitter is getting a “head start”.  Other high level athletes using Forward Momentum:

  • Olympic Throwers (Discus, Javelin, and Hammer)
  • Olympic Shot Put
  • 4 X 100 meter relay sprinters
  • Circus Trapeze Artists
  • Lacrosse Players
  • Hockey Players

Hypothesis

I think the addition of forward momentum, or a longer stride length, will contribute to more bat speed because this gives the hitter a “head start”, making the body feel lighter while moving.  This allows the body to turn harder, and ultimately increase bat speed.

Troy Tulowitzki Experiment

Equipment:

Setup:

  • 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
  • NO-stride stance was width of feedback markers
  • Forward movement stance was open, and feet set a little wider than shoulder width
  • Tee was set a baseball or two behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • 101 baseballs were hit using both the NO-stride and longer stride sessions

Data Collected:

Results of Tulo Stride Length Bat Speed Experiment

Pay particular attention to the bold typeface

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Last 6 Swing Zepp Baseball app

NO-stride: last 6 batted balls (Zepp Baseball app)

  • 0.624 mph average bat speed increase with a longer stride.
  • Apex of bell curve for NO-stride swings ranged from 77 mph to 83 mph*.
  • With a longer stride, you’ll see the bell curve shifted, 81 mph to 85 mph*.
  • Three more 90 mph+ swings using a longer stride, in addition to increasing my Personal Record 2 mph.

*Based on six or more batted balls repeated in specific mph (bold typeface in the chart above)

 

Notes

Longer Stride: last 6 batted balls (Zepp Baseball app)

Longer Stride: last 6 batted balls (Zepp Baseball app)

  • Before the experiment I did a 7 minute Dynamic Warm-up.
  • I didn’t just increase my stride length, I moved my whole torso forward.
  • I began the experiment with the NO-stride swings.
  • I took a 20-30 minute break between the two sessions.
  • During the last twenty swings of the longer stride session, I hit five-of-eight 90 mph+ balls.

From the Zepp Baseball screenshots to the right, it’s interesting to note, my bat speed kept up, even increased with forward momentum and a longer stride.  In other words, I wasn’t as tired at the end of hitting over 200 baseballs.

Now that Troy Tulowitzki is using a more narrow stance and generating forward momentum with a longer stride, he’s able to increase his bat speed.  This may explain the surge in opposite field home-runs in 2014.