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I’ve Lied To You For 5-Years Now About The Best Hitters Baseball Bat Path…

Breaking down Khris Davis

Khris Davis is 5'10" with a ton of power. How does he generate it?Sean Casey shows how his back elbow and bat path help him get it done.

Posted by Diamond Demos on Tuesday, September 18, 2018

 

…And I’m sorry.  But I will say this, most are being misled on the best hitters baseball bat path.  The principle you’ll discover shortly also apply to fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball.

In this best hitters baseball barrel path post, we’ll look at:

  • How the best hitters are using the Catapult Loading System,
  • WHY current one-size-fits-all SUPER deep barrel path approaches are losing, and
  • Hitting different “catcher’s glove” examples of inner, middle, and outer third of the plate pitches…

 

How the Best Hitters are Using the Catapult Loading System

…according to Diamond Demo video above: “Breaking down Khris Davis”.

We published last week’s Khris Davis swing analysis post because of the Diamond Demo “Breaking down Khris Davis” video.  The overwhelming response I received from readers sharing this video with me truly validates the Catapult Loading System seen in the best hitters.  Don’t think so?  Take a look at the following split screen snapshots from the above video (recognize ANY of the hitters??)

Best Hitters Baseball Swings: JD Martinez, Aaron Judge, & Jose Altuve

Observe stride landing positions of JD Martinez, Aaron Judge, & Jose Altuve – ‘showing numbers’, ‘downhill shoulders’, & ‘hiding hands’. Photo courtesy: Diamond Demo video “Breaking down Khris Davis”

And,

Check out stride landing positions of Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, & Mike Trout – ‘showing numbers’, ‘downhill shoulders’, & ‘hiding hands’. Photo courtesy: Diamond Demo video “Breaking down Khris Davis”

We won’t spend a lot of time rehashing last week’s post, BUT I do want to bring up an important point that was talked about in the above Diamond Demo segment.  And it has to do with best hitters baseball barrel path…

Starting at about the 2-min, 15-second video mark, and continuing to the end, they talk about this idea of Khris Davis getting his barrel in the zone early, and keeping barrel in the zone late.  And this is where I’ve lied to you for the last 5-years!  I used to teach my hitters this same one-size-fits-all SUPER deep barrel path.  But what I found was this IS NOT true of the best hitters baseball bat paths…

 

WHY Current One-Size-Fits-All SUPER Deep Barrel Path Approaches are Losing

Let me tell you a story of how I stumbled onto this principle…

In January of 2018, I was working with one of my hitters, who has been working with me since he was 7 years old.  He’s 15 years old now, in the 8th grade, and consistently hits with a low to mid 80’s Ball Exit Speed off the Backspin Tee, using a wood bat.

His mechanics are pretty clean compared to my other hitters.  At the time, I was teaching my hitters the same one-size-fits-all SUPER deep barrel acceleration path, as many of you are now.  One day, we were working on hunting pitch zones, inner third pitches specifically, and he responded,

“Coach, I don’t feel like I can get to that inside pitch effectively.  Am I showing my numbers too much?”

This got me thinking, so I jumped on Twitter to look at the best hitters baseball bat paths.  Specifically, I was looking for hitters, like the ones on the split screen images above, crushing 94-mph+ on the inner third of the plate, and guess what I saw??

The ones who demonstrated the Catapult Loading System principles well (namely ‘showing numbers’), still did so at stride landing on inside heat! Did you catch that?!  ‘Showing numbers’ was irrelevant to crushing the inside pitch.  CLICK HERE for a post I did debunking that.  So what were they doing different on the inner third?

It had to do with what we call hitting a different “catcher’s glove”.  I won’t go into the details of that here because I already did at the following post titled: “Accelerate Barrel Rearward Like Mike Trout”.  The best hitters baseball barrel path isn’t about a one-size-fits-all approach to all pitches and timing.

Here’s the DANGER for hitters using a one-size-fits-all SUPER deep barrel acceleration approach…

Signs that pitcher’s are smartening up to countering this seemingly effective low in the zone barrel approach?  Pitchers are now using this, which Perry Husband calls Effective Velocity (EV), to exploit hitters with longer barrel paths.

In short, 2018 homers are down, in addition to having a few months in the season where overall offensive strikeouts outweigh hits in the Big Leagues.  This is troubling.  To give a clue, check out Perry’s video explaining why Chris Davis (Orioles) is having issues with this one-size-fits-all barrel path…

 

If hitting coaches don’t smarten up to this soon, then they’ll be rendered obsolete, irrelevant to the hitting community, and ultimately out of a job.  That’s not an exaggeration, and is where the puck is going, believe me.  Now, let’s look at the behavior of different “catcher’s glove” approaches on inner, middle, and outer third of the plate pitches…

Hitting Different “Catcher’s Glove” Examples of Inner, Middle, & Outer Third of the Plate Pitches

Inner 1/3 Pitch Barrel Path (“Belly Button” Catcher’s Glove)

Mike Trout Homer #38 – 88.1-mph Front View

Chest View

Mitch Haniger Homer #26 – 95.9-mph FF Front View

Chest View

Trevor Story Homer #34 – 93-mph in Front View

Chest View

Middle 1/3 Pitch Barrel Path (“Back Foot” Catcher’s Glove)

Matt Carpenter Homers #36 – 84.9-mph Change-up Front View

Chest View

Javier Baez Homer #33 – 87.4-mph SL Front View

Chest View

Khris Davis Homer #42 – 93.9-mph FF Front View

Chest View

Outer 1/3 Pitch Barrel Path (“Real” Catcher’s Glove)

Mookie Betts Homer #31 Front View

Chest View

Christian Yelich Homer #32 – 88.7-mph Slider Front View

Chest View

Michael Conforto Homer #27 – 94.4-mph FF Front View

Chest View

Now, how do we train this?  I’m going to give you two complimentary drills we use to sync the optimal “catcher’s glove” with the proper direction of force (See – aren’t you glad you read my post to the bitter end!?):

  1. “Shorten Swing” Like An Elite Hitter (Not What You Think), and
  2. How To Optimize Directional Force Using The “Pounding Nail” Drill.
Khris Davis Swing Analysis

Ball Exit Speed & Launch Angle Hacking With Khris Davis [Part-2]

 

Khris Davis swing analysis, and not to be confused with “Chris” Davis, the 1st baseman for the Baltimore Orioles! …they’re having two COMPLETELY different years 😛 lol

Khris Davis Swing Analysis

Khris Davis swing analysis stride landing position photo courtesy: MLB.com

This Khris Davis swing analysis is Part-2 to our series looking at one my 9yo online lessons, Ethan.  In case you missed it, here you go:

  1. Ethan case study The Feedback Lab online hit training video,
  2. Khris Davis swing analysis video [YOU ARE HERE],
  3. How to drills to fix (COMING SOON).

In the above Khris Davis swing analysis video, we’re going to look at:

  • Khris Davis stat analysis comparing 2015 & 2016 seasons to 2018,
  • Khris Davis swing analysis comparing 2015 & 2018 swings (when things seemed to have changed), and
  • Human movement principles 9yo Ethan is working on that Khris Davis does well.

 

Khris Davis Stat Analysis Comparing 2015 & 2016 seasons to 2018

I wanted to share a recent and insightful Beyond The Box Score post on Khris Davis’s 2018 season titled: “Khris Davis is swimming against the current: As home runs continue to decline this season, Davis has counteracted the trend”

From the article, and since 2016, Khris Davis has improved tremendously, and here are just a few highlights:

  • 2016 avg. Launch Angle = 12.9 degrees…2018 avg. Launch Angle =  17.7 degrees, and
  • 2016 avg. Ball Exit Speed = 91.7-mph…2018 avg. Ball Exit Speed = 92.7-mph.

I think everyone understands how important hitting the ball hard is, but a lot out there are rejecting Launch Angles!  They matter, check out this “Parabolic motion – range of a projectile” video (thanks Lee!)

 

Optimized is key!  Goldilocks golden rule, not too high, not to low…just right!

Furthermore,

Khris Davis is someone who has been good at hitting despite, as some will say, being poorly built for it – he’s 5-foot, 10-inches, 195-pounds. Compare him to Aaron Judge who’s 6-foot, 7-inches, and 282-pounds.

What’s also telling, according to Fangraphs.com, Khris Davis has steadily moved away from hitting ground-balls, pulling the ball less, and built a more frequent opposite field hitting approach.  Compare 2015 to 2018 (stats experiencing most significant impact):

  1. 2015: GB% = 42.5%,
  2. 2018: GB% = 36.1%
  3. 2015: Pull% = 41.4%
  4. 2018: Pull% = 36.1%
  5. 2015: Oppo% = 20.1%
  6. 2018: Oppo% = 24.5%

 

Khris Davis Swing Analysis Comparing 2015 & 2018 Swings (when things seemed to have changed)

PLEASE NOTE: very similar pitch type, speed, location, and swing timing in above video:

  • 2015 (w/ Brewers): 96-mph middle/middle, and
  • 2018 (w/ A’s): 94-mph middle/middle-slightly in.

Mechanically speaking, here are a couple things I noticed:

  • Seems to be “stepping out”, slightly opening hips more at stride landing, while keeping shoulders “blocked”,
  • Slight difference in back foot behavior (could be a timing thing),
  • Back knee angle (about 10-degree difference),
  • Head in circle just after impact, could be direct result of change in back knee angle, and
  • Getting shorter from start to the turn (camera angle could be slightly different).

 

Human Movement Principles 9yo Ethan is Working on Khris Davis does well

If you remember in the Ethan case study The Feedback Lab online hit training video, his hitting homework was to work on the following positions at stride landing:

  1. Showing numbers, and
  2. Slight downhill shoulder angle

In the above Khris Davis swing analysis video, we covered:

  • Khris Davis stat analysis comparing 2015, 2016 seasons to 2018,
  • Khris Davis swing analysis comparing 2015 & 2018 swings (when things seemed to changed), and
  • Human movement principles 9yo Ethan is working on that Khris Davis does well.

Stay tuned for Part-3, where we discuss drills…

Answering Baseball Stride Drills Reader Question: “How Important Is Forward Momentum I Know We Must Go Forward But Does It Matter If Stride Is Big Or Small?”

“…Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She  went for a walk in the forest.  Pretty soon, she came upon a house.  She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.  At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge.  Goldilocks was hungry.  She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

“This porridge is too hot!’ she exclaimed.  So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.  ‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said.  So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.  ‘Ahhh, this porridge is just right,’ she said happily and she ate it all up…”

More in a bit on how Goldilocks and the Three Bears relates to baseball stride drills, but first…

In the following post, we’re addressing the following concerns regarding baseball stride drills (also works for softball):

  • Stride direction and amount,
  • Stride type (experimenting with the ‘Float’),
  • Head movement from stride, and
  • Controlling center mass in stride.

Before getting into the how to baseball stride drills guide, I want to preface that the PURPOSE of a stride shouldn’t be power.  CLICK HERE for a Zepp swing experiment that may confirm this.  If it’s power you seek, then I’d advise looking at the Spring Loaded category.  What purpose does a stride serve?  A stride is for timing and initiating directional force.  CLICK HERE for this post on that.

Let’s get started…

 

Baseball Stride Drills Direction & Amount

Watch this video from Chris Welch at ZenoLink.  Using data and science, he’s found reasonable markers in guiding baseball stride drills

 

Here are highlights from baseball stride drills video above:Baseball Stride Drills: Stepping in Bucket Drill Using Bands

  • Stride length should be about 3.75-times hip width (hip-center-to-hip-center)*,
  • At landing, stride direction is to be closed about 10-degrees (straight forward toward pitcher is zero-degrees), and
  • Stride landing foot position to be about 65-degrees open (pointing perpendicular to home plate is zero-degrees, and straight at pitcher is 90-degrees).

(*Denotes 3.75-times hip-center-to-hip-center is length of stride measured from back foot to stride landing.  NOT the measurement of the stride itself.)

Chris says in the video that if a hitter is under or over striding, then they’re hampering body’s ability to create torque.  Stride landing MUST align ball of the foot with ball of the foot.

CLICK HERE for a post I did on how to fix “stepping in the bucket” using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT).  With the image to the right, it’s another one of my baseball stride drills using colored bands to fix stepping in bucket or crashing the plate.  If the hitter is crashing too much with their stride, I get them to feel stepping out, and the reverse is true if they’re stepping out.  I use variance to get them in the middle (blue band).

…Goldilocks Golden Rule. 

 

Stride Type (‘Experimenting with the Float’)

For most intensive purposes, there are 3 stride types:

  • Leg kick – medium (Mike Trout) or large (Josh Donaldson),
  • Slide step – most Big League hitters use this.  Aaron Judge, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, and Andrew McCutchen just to name a few.
  • Toe-tap – I recommend this for my younger hitters. Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, and Victor Martinez employ this.

Of course, there are variations to these, but these are the three broad categories of stride types.  I call the stride the ‘float’ and ‘fall’.  The ‘float’ is a momentary shifting of weight back towards the catcher before falling forward.  Matt Nokes calls this the ‘Ride’ and ‘Stride’.  Some hitting coaches don’t like this idea, but the reality is this is human movement.  The Chinese have been practicing exactly this move in Tai Chi for thousands of years…in stepping to my right, I have to make a brief weight shift to the left first.  CLICK HERE for a post analyzing this dynamic move.

I included a lot of video examples (CLICK HERE) of MLB hitters using these different stride types to help guide your baseball stride drills. In that post I concluded with this:

“When it comes to [baseball stride drills], Forward Momentum is the objective.  How we get our hitters there doesn’t really matter.  Just give them examples of how to accomplish more FoMo, and allow them to tinker and test until they find something they’re comfortable with doing.”

…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

 

Head Movement from Stride

There’s been few online Hitting Guru #57’s saying we want minimal to zero head movement when hitting.  They claim, the more the head moves, the less your eyes see the ball.  And they point to Barry Bonds as their champion.  On paper, this conclusion looks great, and with Bonds as their poster child seems argument seems pretty reasonable.

However, what science says and what the top 50 hitters in the Major Leagues are doing reveals something completely different.  The opposite actually.  Listen, I agree minimal to zero head movement when hitter’s stride foot lands.  And if baseball stride drills are done correctly, this should be a natural result.  But I don’t agree with minimal to zero head movement GETTING TO stride landing – BEFORE the turn starts.

In this post titled, Softball Hitting Tips For Kids: Why Late Head Movement Fails & Early Head Movement Succeeds, we discuss:

  • The Myth of ‘keeping the head still’,
  • Proprioception & dynamic movement,
  • First baseman stretching to receive a throw, and
  • Watching TV upside down.

The biggest bomb NUKING minimal to zero head movement argument, is this 2013 article by Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs.com titled, Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012.  Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraph’s batting component of WAR (this is a big deal metric).

He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season, in which each player hit a home-run.  Farnsworth says the main complaint coaches have with early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true, however during the stride the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  In the Head Movement piece of the article, Farnsworth concludes:

“Next to no relationship here.  I think this one can be considered dead, simply based on the fact that all of them moved forward to some degree.”

Did you catch that?! Farnsworth revealed in his research of top-50 hitters in 2012, that ALL moved their head forward to some degree.  You see, head movement is inevitable in ALL dynamic movement.  Early is okay, late is not.   Don’t sit there and point to hitting outliers like Barry Bonds, and tell me the top-50 hitters of 2012 all had it wrong.  It was true then as it is now.

Besides, did you know fresh out of the box, humans come with “video stabilizer” eye software?  Ask an ophthalmologist.  In addition, your knees, ankles (Achilles tendon), and hip joints act as shock absorbers too.  If we start our hitters in an athletic position, and most importantly, they land in one, then the hitter will be fully optimized for minimizing the ball “speeding up”.

If you’re still skeptical, then check out this post titled, Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum.  We discuss:

  • Balance without thinking,
  • Debunking a common objection & a study, AND
  • Perfect swing examples.

Not too much, not too little, just right…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

And last but not least…

 

Controlling Center of Mass in the Stride

Center of Mass (COM) in the human body is located at the belly button.  This was established in the womb.  The umbilical cord is the center of an unborn child’s universe.  I say this to demonstrate the importance of COM in controlling human movement.

Now, we don’t want baseball stride drills to promote too large or too small of a stride.  Remember? Goldilocks Golden Rule.  Chris Welch from Zenolink said the stride should be about 3.75 times hip-center-to-hip-center, and aligned are back ball of the foot to front ball of the foot at stride landing.  How do we teach this though?  In this post I received the following question from one of my readers…

One specific issue I see in a lot of my players is timing and getting over the front knee too far at contact. What are some good tee drills for staying back and any idea how I can get them to feel it when done correctly.”

In the post titled, Discover Science Of Successful Learning Secret To Fix Lunging (or any swing flaw for that matter!), as it relates to controlling the COM of our hitters, we discuss:

  • Reader question about lunging,
  • “Bean Bag” study from Make It Stick book,
  • WHY we separate PROCESS from PERFORMANCE with hitters learning something new,
  • How it takes time to change ineffective movement momentum into effective, and…
  • Training 4-5 days per week, for AT LEAST 5-mins each day.

And remember the …Goldilocks Golden Rule.

Your Typical Hitting Coach Doesn’t Want You To Watch This Sierra Romero & Aaron Judge Hitting Analysis Swing Comparison

 

Sierra Romero v. Aaron Judge Hitting Analysis Swing Comparison

Comparative Fight Positions of both Sierra Romero and Aaron Judge. Dang, they look good! Photo courtesy: YouTuber: Sports Gaming & MLB.com

Let me be up front with you in this post…

Some hitting coaches still think the baseball and softball swing are drastically different.

I disagree…Big League.

Human movement is human movement.  Sure there are undeniable anatomical differences in body type between males and females, and differences in reaction time from sport to sport…

But there’s virtually zero difference in explosive human movement when the swing objective is hit the ball as hard as you can, as far as you can…consistently.

In this video analysis, I wanted to compare the swings of Sierra Romero and Aaron Judge.  Don’t worry if you don’t know one or the other…you will by the end of this post.

Actually, you know what, if you don’t know either of these hitters, then SHAME ON YOU!!! 😛 lol

Kidding aside, and in my opinion, more baseball players can learn A LOT by watching Sierra Romero swing the bat than any Big Leaguer.  It’s a bold thing to say, but it’s true.

In comparing Sierra Romero to Aaron Judge, we’ll compare the following components of an effective swing:

 

Who is Sierra Romero?

Besides being my favorite swing model for Fast-Pitch Softball hitters, and according to the USSSA Pride website:

  • 5-foot, 5-inches in height.
  • Sierra finished her rookie professional Fast-Pitch Softball season batting .339 in 109 at-bats with 18 runs scored, 37 hits, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 5 HR, 21 RBI and a .397 OBP.
  • First player in NCAA softball history (at Uni of Michigan) to record 300 runs, 300 hits and 300 RBI in her career.
  • Owns NCAA record in career runs (300) and grand slams (11). Ranks fourth all-time in career RBI (305) and slugging percentage (.882) and eighth in home runs (82) and walks (225).
  • Joined the USA Junior Women’s National Team (2012), ISF Junior Women’s World Championship Silver Medalist (2012).

 

Who is Aaron Judge?

Besides this guy being a friggin’ BEAST of a human being!?  Here are some major talking points, according to Wikipedia.org and FanGraphs.com:

  • 6-foot, 7-inches tall, and 282-pounds (imagine the parents that had to feed this guy!!) lol
  • Was a three sport athlete in High School (Football, Basketball, and Baseball).
  • Played at my Alma-mater, Fresno State, from 2010 and got drafted by the Yankees 32nd overall by the Yankees in 2013.
  • As of April 2017 Exit Velocity metrics, Judge clocked game batted balls of at least 115-mph SIX TIMES!!  Joey Gallo was second with two.
  • Did I mention this guy is a BEAST?!

This video from MLB.com titled, “Aaron Judge: Burden of Proof” says it all:

 

The Bottom Line…?

In comparing the swings of Sierra Romero and Aaron Judge, there are many BIG WIN mechanical similarities.  They both hit for power and precision.  The softball swing isn’t any different than its baseball counterpart.  Power and precision don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  Size doesn’t matter, however if you’re a beast like Aaron Judge the capability of hitting the ball farther with consistently higher Ball Exit Speeds is greater.  What is clear however, is if you move better, then you perform better.

In the day and age of advanced technology and access to specific experts on human movement and Physics, there’s no room for coaches who resist getting educated.  If you aren’t growing, then you’re dying.