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.

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.