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Matt Kemp: Unique Ted Williams Power Secret

Matt Kemp faulty “braking” Functional Lines? Yep, look at his left shoulder higher than his right during the finish. Photo courtesy: ThinkBlueLA.com

Imagine if I asked you to take a ride in my 2-year-old son’s favorite sports car and ultimate luxury vehicle, the Lamborghini Aventador…cherry red.

Costs about $400K, has 720 horse-power, and goes zero to sixty-mph in 2.8 seconds.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.  What if I also told you it had no brakes.  The manufacturer just “forgot” to install them.  If you know I have a lead foot, then would you still want a ride?

I tell my hitters that someone like Matt Kemp or Ted Williams are using both rotational and anti-rotational systems during the swing.

Think of them as acceleration and braking systems, and both are important to a friction-free swing.  Our focus today will be optimizing these systems during the stroke.  We’re going to highlight:

  • The science of accelerating & braking systems,
  • Matt Kemp & Ted Williams (who has the more efficient braking system?)
  • How to tune-up your acceleration & braking system.

 

The Science of Accelerating & Braking Systems

Graphic of Thomas Myers's Functional Lines in his book Anatomy Trains

Front & Back Functional Lines from Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains. Photo courtesy: AnatomyTrains.it

Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains talks about 9 different fascial lines found throughout the body that inter-weave and inter-relate during human movement.  We’ll be highlighting one in particular called the Functional Lines (pictured right).  CLICK HERE for a brief background on springy fascia.

Thomas Myers says that Functional Lines mainly come into play in the following athletic events:

  • Shot Put, Javelin, Discus, and Hammer Throws,
  • Tennis,
  • Golf, and of course
  • For hitters like Matt Kemp & Ted Williams

Thomas Myers says,

“These lines enable us to give extra power and precision to the movements of the limbs by lengthening their lever arm through linking them across the body to the opposite limb in the other girdle.”

Imagine a big “X” painted on your chest and back, connecting the right shoulder to the left hip, and vice versa.  Thomas Myers refers to them as Front Functional Lines (FFL) & Back Functional Lines (BFL).  He uses a couple different examples to illustrate the braking system in action:

“Pitching a baseball or bowling a cricket are perfect ways to engage these lines: the wind-up involves a shortening of the BFL and a stretching of the FFL, while the pitch itself reverses that process, shortening the FFL and stretching the BFL.  In the final act, the BFL acts as a brake to keep the strong contraction along the FFL and the momentum of the arm from going too far and damaging joints involved in the movement.”

You still following me?  It’s okay if not.  We’ll simplify in the next section…

Matt Kemp & Ted Williams (who has the more effective braking system?)

I want to compare Matt Kemp to Ted Williams because they have similar body types, according to Baseball-Reference.com:

Simplifying the acceleration/braking systems, we can just follow the front shoulder to see who is being more efficient with their Functional Lines.  Consider Ted Williams:

Ted Williams front shoulder path

Follow yellow arrows tracking Ted Williams’s front (right) shoulder path…photo left to right: 1) Down, 2) Up, and 3) Down again.

Now, check out the difference with Matt Kemp:

Matt Kemp front shoulder path

Follow yellow arrows tracking Matt Kemp’s front (left) shoulder path…photo left to right: 1) Slightly Down, 2) Up, and 3) Up again.

That’s right, Matt Kemp finishes with his left shoulder up!  Not convinced?   Check out the photo of his finish at the beginning of this post.  He’s not being very efficient with his braking system.  Matt Kemp is leaving repeatable power on the table (which is scary!)…to polish, he’d have to:

  • Get more downhill shoulder angle before landing,
  • Show more of his numbers to the pitcher, and
  • Focus on finishing “barrel down” with his top hand release.

 

 How-to Tune-Up Your Acceleration & Braking Systems

There are a couple quick exercises and stretches that Thomas Myers recommends to tune-up both Functional Lines:

  1. Engage BFL (Alternating Supermans) – 2 sets X 12 reps each side.  Focus on moving the body as a whole.  Arm and leg are to be lifted at exactly same time.  Head stays in line with spine.  Don’t arch head back like in video.
  2. Engage FFL (Alternating Supermans) – same as #1, but do Alternating Supermans on your back.
  3. Stretch BFL (Triangle Yoga Pose) – Hold position on each side for a deep breath count of 5-10.
  4. Stretch FFL (1/2 Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch w/ Rotation) – hold position on each side for about 60-seconds.  Keep the abs and “down knee” glute contracted during stretch.

Do the above four 1-2 times daily for 3-weeks.

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Joey Myers

I’m a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), the International Youth and Conditioning Association (IYCA), and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).I’m also a HUGE supporter of the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).

I’ve spent 11+ years in the corrective fitness industry, and have too many alphabet-soup certifications to bore you with.I also played four years of Division One baseball at Fresno State from 2000-2003.

It’s NOT how you study, but what you study that counts.I apply human movement principles (or rules), validated by science, to hitting a baseball and softball.
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19 replies
  1. Steve
    Steve says:

    Joey – thanks again – great response to my last comment. Two observations:
    1) You description of ‘barrel down’ at finish is perfect – my local ‘pros’ can’t figure this out.
    2) Ted Williams hips are awesome – that relates the Chas’ superthrust – Do you have any comments on how that could generate more power for Kemp without any sacrifice?

    always great to review,
    steve

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      Steve, I know the one-handed release came about through the Charlie Lau philosophy. I always liked the way it made me feel like I was getting through the ball. As long as this kind of hitter understands that the barrel must finish low, they optimize the finishing movement (braking system).

      Aside from Kemp not being as efficient with his Accel/Brake Systems, he arm bars as well. The “super-thrust” thing has to do with bending the back knee during the Final Turn. By “skipping” the back foot slightly forward during the turn, Kemp will get a better pitch-plane angle, better hip turn, and keep the head still.

      What’s scary is Kemp has an over .350 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) after 9 years of MLB experience. This loosely measures how hard a hitter hits the ball. I think the elements I mentioned in the video/blog post will significantly boost his repeatable power. I hope this answers your questions Steve.

      Reply
  2. Bill
    Bill says:

    Ted Williams is my B-O-A-T, in my opinion if you’re following the best, disregarding several others isn’t all bad. Along that same thought and what he says in his book, unless you’re Mickey forget the other side, imagine the work you double on the dominate hand without switching. I’ve wondered why Ruth, DiMaggio, Williams all looked like a twisted washrag on follow through. You’ve put it in perspective for me here.

    I had to do it in order to think about it. It seems that the one handed follow through creates the high back shoulder. A ton of pros to kids use it.  When I kept both hands on it made the high front shoulder simple. When you freeze with the high back shoulder and slowly transition to a high front, there’s about 6 inches of swing left. I immediately worried about the outside pitch however. Turns out you can still get to it by doing what I call ‘following the ball with your hands’ into the two-handed, high front shoulder. (I harp on my kid about keeping both hands on the bat, a lot disagree.). The question for me remains, how much impact does the follow through have on a batted ball? (We’ve all seen Fraizer hit it out with no hands, and Harper break a bat and it still fly out of the ballpark.). Maybe you or Sports Science can do a piece on it. 😉 Great realizations here, thank you for the post!

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      My pleasure Bill, and you raised a lot of great points here. I don’t teach all my hitters to a 2-hand finish, but I do encourage it. Fixes quite a few things that can be thorns on the journey to an effective swing. Physics says a hitter can let go of the bat just before impact, and nothing changes with force production. However, biomechanics says directional force matters. A 2-handed finish helps with the latter, and like you said helps to safely decelerate the spinal engine and springy fascia.

      Reply
  3. Joe
    Joe says:

    Joey,

    Got into a discussion the other day as to the definition of “landing.” In regard to the downward shoulder angle, are we differentiating between landing and heel plant? They are not the same, correct? In other words, is the front shoulder at a downward angle at landing (toe/ball of foot touch) and at heel plant? Or, is the front shoulder down at landing and, then, begins to shift upward at heel plant due to the ground force travelling up the kinetic chain? Is the front shoulder still angled down at heel plant?

    Reply
    • Joey Myers
      Joey Myers says:

      I think that’s splitting straws there, whether down shoulders are down at toe touch or heel plant. I will say that before the hitter begins turning, the shoulders better initiate from a downhill position.

      Reply
      • Joe
        Joe says:

        Joey,

        Heel plant, not toe touch, results in ground reaction force travelling up the proverbial kinetic chain. It happens very fast. If the front shoulder is still down the hitter’s timing is off. Once again it’s semantics but it would be wise to distinguish between toe touch and heel plant. The heel plant stops all of the actions that preceded it, transforming them into something different. We are talking about instructing kids, right? What is landing to them, toe touch or heel plant? I would think that defining each movement of the sequence would benefit those we are instructing.

        Reply
        • Joey Myers
          Joey Myers says:

          Of course, “variance” in the timing of the move is highly recommended. However you have to teach it to get the end result. The heel strike isn’t a hard action, it’s a soft action…landing toe (or ball of foot) first is crucial to this. Achilles tendon helps to cushion the heel strike. So depending on the timing of the hitter, too late/too early/or on time will vary if down shoulders switch earlier or later. Timing is the “X” factor in the equation, that’s why training variance is key. Get hitters to feel/do all available options and scenarios.

          Reply
  4. Joe
    Joe says:

    Joey,

    That’s what I’m saying. Just distinguish between toe touch (“landing”) and heel plant. I was told that Ted Williams wasn’t aware of the significance of the heel drop. He landed kind of flat footed.

    Reply
      • Joe
        Joe says:

        Joey,

        I think it’s relevant.
        That heel plant gets the ground reaction process started (yes, the spinal engine starts everything). Epstein’s stuff came out in the ’90s. The first hitter I noticed with a pronounced heel drop was Albert Pujols. I don’t think he was a devotee of the Epstein hitting system, though.

        Reply
        • Joey Myers
          Joey Myers says:

          But Joe, the heel drop isn’t a teach. I NEVER teach it, unless like I said, the hitter is landing heel first. Ground reaction forces are only 20-30% of power. When we walk, we don’t think about heel drop, we just do it. Hitting should be the same.

          Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Pole.  The above video clearly demonstrates what was happening in his swing that some observed.  CLICK HERE for a post I did on the swing of Ted […]

  2. […] pre-loaded to as close to landing as possible (watch main video above on how to do this).  This is how springy fascia in the torso is […]

  3. […] 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 […]

  4. […] 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 […]

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