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If You’re Teaching ‘Squish The Bug’, Then You’re OLD

This video is a definitive guide when it comes to WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is an inferior hitting mechanic.

Right now, if you find yourself asking if people STILL teach this, then sadly, the answer is yes.

I ran into one just the other day on the socials.  Nothing but pseudo science and circular reasoning.  Pretty mind numbing experience actually.

Here’s fair WARNING for the small few out there still teaching hitters to ‘squish the bug’…

If after watching this video, you’re still not convinced, then you’re old.

Consider what Henry Ford once said,

And while we’re at it, look at what Ayn Rand said,

In the above video, we discuss the:

  • Science,
  • Experimentation, and
  • Application…

…validating WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is DUMB, and no hitter should ever have to go through something as horrifying as that 😛 lol

Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

Also, here’s a recent case study post I did on skipping the back foot titled, “How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood.

DON’T BE OLD.

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

STOP Pulling Off The Ball, Increase Batting Average, and Boost Power By Using The Closed Stance?

 

I know, I know,

Some well meaning coaches will think, “Well, a closed stance cuts off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement”

I get it.  I used to believe the same thing a couple years ago,

…But what I found in my research was counter-intuitive, yet very promising for hitters.

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

Giancarlo Stanton using his “closed stance”. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

My process is to chew and digest the science, observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then try it out!

As you’ll soon find out, Giancarlo Stanton did his homework before making this particular change in his swing.

Since there may be many of you raising the same objections I started with, I wanted to discuss:

  • Addressing the above “Study of Planes” video, then we’ll move on to…
  • Analyzing the small change that has netted BIG results for Giancarlo Stanton this season.

 

Study of Planes

My good friend Seo Perales shared the above video with me a few years ago.  By the way, he’s a multiple level black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu.

We love comparing notes because we both like to seek and explore human movement principles that are validated by science.  The only difference is, in his line of work as a Jujitsu instructor, he wants to learn how to break down the body, and I’m into maximizing its effect.

The above video demonstrates the science of movement planes.  What are considered weak and strong planes of movement from a Judo perspective.

I think you’ll find the video enlightening.

Now, you may be thinking, “A Judo video? Really?!  What can I learn from a video about Judo?”

If you find yourself camped out in ONLY baseball or softball circles, then you’re missing out on A LOT of useful information that will take your hitters to a whole other level.

The video is very applicable to hitting.

Furthermore,

My good friend Lee Comeaux from Texas, who teaches professional and amateur golfers, also brought the power of movement planes to my attention about a year ago…

He told me draw an “X” in the batter’s box from opposite corners, and have the hitter stand on either line when hitting.  He’s very versed in Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains.  He says hitters standing on one diagonal leg of the “X” encourages the springiness of fascia.  He taught this to his 15yo daughter, who has hit over .600 the last couple years playing Fast-Pitch Softball in Texas, which is one of the hotbeds for both baseball and softball competition in the country.  Oh and by the way, she also hit a half dozen homers as well.

The second part of this post, I wanted to share the tipping point in addressing Giancarlo Stanton’s new closed stance…

Giancarlo Stanton & The “Dreaded” Closed Stance

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me in writing this post, came from this MLB.com article by David Adler titled, “Closing time: Stanton’s stance fueling surge: Marlins slugger’s home run tear lines up with change to batting stance in June”.

You can go there and read the full article, but I wanted to tease out the quotes from Giancarlo Stanton (and some of David Adler’s commentary), and how Stanton arrived at the batting stance change…

I just said I was going to try it. Honestly, I had about 30 minutes of work, maybe 45 minutes, before the game,” Stanton told MLB.com Sunday, when he crushed his Major League-leading 45th home run against the Mets at Citi Field. “And then 10 minutes before the game, I was like, ‘This feels more comfortable.'”

Stanton was already having a helluva year, so it’s interesting to me that he made the change when he did, typically a change like this follows a slump.  However, this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision – like it sounds from that quote – he did his homework, which you’ll read about shortly…

“My best striking position is closed,” Stanton said. “It’s not smart to try to completely change something in the middle of the season. But if you are 100 percent committed to it … well, you’ve got to be. You’ve got to trust what you’re trying to do. If you change something, you want results right away, otherwise you try to go back. But I trusted it completely and let it ride.”

Sounds contradictory doesn’t it?  To have the attitude that you can’t completely change something in the middle of the season – especially when you’re already doing well!!  But then he says you MUST commit to giving the change time – that is – IF you’ve done your homework beforehand.

I’ve heard some parents and coaches say mid-season changes aren’t smart.  I don’t like to think that way…WHY?  Because if you don’t guide the hitter, the hitter will make changes on their own.  And if they don’t get highly resourceful on the subject, then this could lead to DISASTER with all the junk hitting info on the net these days.

David Adler did fantastic research illustrating the evolution of Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance in this Tweet:

In the earlier mentioned article, Adler states…

“Stanton’s closing of his batting stance has correlated with his massive power surge. On June 18, he had 17 home runs in 282 plate appearances; since June 19, he has 28 in 236.

When Stanton hits from those positions [open or straight up], his front side can come open before the pitch arrives, leaving him exploitable.

The closed stance is a natural counter. When Stanton is already turned inward to start, his rotation drives him into the pitch, instead of causing him to fade away from it.”

By the way, for those not doing the math:

  • From start of season to June 18th, he hit 1 homer every 16.5 plate appearances, and
  • From June 19th on, he hit 1 homer every 8.4 plate appearances

He cut his rate in half!!!!  The closed stance was the ONLY change to his swing in that time frame, so this makes an interesting case study with a decent sample size of plate appearances.  See for yourself with the following David Adler Tweet:

David Adler adds some terms of comparision you may be familiar with…

“With his adjusted stance, Stanton has been driving the ball in the air more often. His rate of fly balls and line drives, per Statcast™, has risen from 41.5 percent prior to June 19 to 50.3 percent since. Stanton’s average exit velocity on those balls has increased from 97.6 mph to 100.8 mph, the highest in the Majors over that time.”

I don’t care that Stanton is a beast, if you increase your Line Drive and Fly Ball Rates (Launch Angle), and Ball Exit Speeds that much, you’ll make a lot of Ground-ball teams VERY VERY upset.  Small hitters CAN and DO take advantage of this formula too.  Statcast has given hitters the cheat codes to increase offensive productivity!

Furthermore, in the Adler article…

“[His stance] gets him in the position he wants to be in. It looks like it’s keeping him on the ball more, and he seems like he’s seeing it better,” said Christian Yelich, who’s played alongside Stanton as long as any current Marlin — since 2013, when he was 21 and Stanton 23. “Some guys have different problems than others. You go about fixing them or covering them in different ways. It’s all about feel. That’s what works for him, that feel.”

Look at that bold sentence once more because that is one of the most critical keys to this whole thing.  Yelich is also tapping into making extreme adjustments, for example, Stanton’s challenge in the past has been pulling off, maybe because of when he tragically got hit in the face a few years ago.  Whatever the reason, the extreme adjustment (a closed stance), helps him stay on the ball longer.

CLICK HERE for a video I did on how to make adjustments…the scientific term for this is “Paradoxical Intention”.

Now, here is where the article gets into the research that brought Giancarlo Stanton to the point of taking the stance change seriously…

“But at a level of the game where emulation is fundamental, success begetting imitators, Stanton found his prototypes: Nolan Arenado, Matt Kemp, Adrian Beltre, prominent hitters who do close off. He recognized past greats, too: Hall of Famer Andre Dawson works as a special assistant to the Marlins, and he hit with a closed stance in his playing career. Stanton didn’t copy the technical aspects of their batting stances, but their accomplishments gave him precedent to actually make the change himself.

Some on Twitter have written this change off as a band-aide, avoiding a true fix.  A true fix?  Are you kidding me?!  Cutting his home-run per plate appearance rate in half IS NOT a true fix!?  Dude!!  Success leaves clues.  These people are saying Giancarlo Stanton is “playing to the slice”, where a golfer who chronically slices the ball will angle his body at setup so they don’t have to fix the real problem…which is not squaring up the club face at impact.

This is a poor attempt to protect an inflexible teaching philosophy, and sheer laziness on their part to get educated on their craft they claim to know a lot about.  You instructors seriously think Giancarlo Stanton is not “squaring the ball up” at impact since June 19th and is just “playing the slice”?  That is laughable.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

This is the problem I have with instructors with inflexible hitting systems…they’re WILLFULLY IGNORANT to experimenting with things that could push their hitters forward, especially movements validated by science.  We’re ALL in this together, and we’re ALL helping hitters.  It’s NOT about your ego or protecting “your brand” coaches.

But I digress…

Here’s some insight into Giancarlo Stanton’s thought process with the change…

“I just know the guys with success,” Stanton said. “Arenado and Kemp, those guys, you know you can have a high average with it. So that kind of gave me the green light to try it…I knew it could work. Not very many people did it. But I know people like Hawk and them did it in the old days — and it worked for them, too.”

 

The Bottom Line…

Giancarlo Stanton: Tweet About Closed Stance

A day or two after re-tweeting Homer Bush’s Tweet about Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance, I received this response from @Omaha_Outlaws4…

I understand your objections that a closed stance may cut off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement.  You’ve heard me talk a lot about “keeping the back foot sideways”, well, this plays right into that.

Matt Nokes is religious on restricting hip movement to the point of impact with keeping the back foot sideways.  Homer Bush agrees in this interview.  So are the Backspin Tee guys Taylor and Jarrett Gardner.  LIGHT BULB! The closed stance does this naturally.

The main benefit of restricting hip movement at impact (includes keeping back foot sideways) that you’ll hear from Nokes, Bush, and the Gardner Brothers, is to keep the barrel in the hitting zone longer.  This increases BA and Slug%.

Here’s my advice:

  1. Chew and digest the science,
  2. Observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then
  3. Try it out!

If it doesn’t work after giving it the ol’ college try, then toss it.

As many of you know, I will gladly eat crow and change my hitting system IF you can show me the science, swing experiments, and many elite hitting examples that I can’t ignore the issue.

This is an informal Part-1 to a Zepp swing experiment I’ll be doing on the Giancarlo Stanton closed stance in the near future.  So stay tuned…

WHY We Need A Better Standard Of Measure…

Sadaharu Oh Batting Stance

This is Sadaharu Oh, who is the Japanese career home run king, belting 868 jacks over the course of his 22-year career, at a height of 5’10”, and weighing 173-pounds.

(I apologize that this post became a rant, but DEFINITELY worth the read.  Please allow about 8.5 minutes of time)

In this post, we go over:

  • 7 reasons WHY we need a better standard of measure,
  • Who are you modeling? And WHY? And,
  • 5 gold standard criteria keys for a high level swing…

This post started when I entered into a discussion with a gentleman on YouTube that asked me, “Who is your swing model?”

And I feel this is an outstanding question.

Leading me to…

The success you experience is directly related to the quality of questions you ask.

And, we must note that success leaves clues.

So, if we ask better questions,

…then the answer to what swing to model will bubble to the top.

And let me be clear, I don’t care if people disagree with me.

Quite the contrary.

However, ‘willful ignorance’ among coaches debating which swing to model is a pandemic online, and most of the time, misguided – or unguided – thinking is the driver.

The standard of measure hitting criteria I routinely read online is, “I only study elite hitters” (said in the most condescending tone you can imagine).

WTFudge does that mean!!!?

Define your criteria please.  That statement is too subjective to be useful to ANYONE.

I think this explains why so many confused online people online say, “You can’t teach hitters a cookie cutter system because every hitters is different.”

This individual DOES NOT have a clue as to how human movement principles work…or that there are such things!!

Here’s a clue…ALL explosive human movements originate from a set of working principles that cannot be broken (as long as you’re on earth).

Whether you’re a hitter, pitcher, Hammer Thrower, Olympic Diver, or Acrobat.Ayn Rand Avoiding Reality Quote

Otherwise, we’re all just taking a stab in the dark at what we personally feel is a good swing.  Picking out a good swing isn’t like what US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography in 1964, “I know it when I see it.”

Again, success leaves clues.

There’s a recipe for optimal swing movement, and if you choose to be willfully ignorant about that fact, then consider this…

…quote by Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand (and thanks Bob Hall for sharing):

“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

To further drive this point home…

I wanted to share a quote from a book I’m currently reading called, “Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks, by Ben Goldacre

“I meet individuals who are eager to share their views on science despite the fact that they have never done an experiment.  They have never tested an idea for themselves, using their own hands, or seen the results of that test, using their own eyes, and they have never thought carefully about what those results mean for the idea they are testing, using their own brain.  To these people “science” is a monolith, a mystery, and an authority, rather than a method.”

 

7 Reasons WHY We NEED a Better Standard of Measure with Hitting…

Zepp Baseball Sensor

I use the Zepp app and sensor to do swing experiments pitting one mechanic against another.

  1. Information Overload – where does one start their quest for hitting truth when everyone and their mother has a YouTube channel?  In other words, how do we cut through the white noise?
  2. Playing Experience Fallacy – do we listen to the ex-professional hitter because he/she played at a higher level?  Let me give you a clue...“Doing a thing and understanding a thing do not automatically qualify you to teach a thing.” – Dan Farnsworth
  3. OCD Analysis Fallacy – do we listen to the Obsessive Compulsive humanoid who studies ‘only the most elite hitters’ for 25 hours a day, everyday?  Here’s another clue…it depends on who they’re studying because guess what, some elite hitters succeed despite ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.
  4. The 30+ Year Coach Fallacy – do we listen to the coach who makes it known they have over 30 years of coaching experience? Here’s even another clue…most likely this coach has the same year of coaching experience, repeated 29+ years.
  5. Willful Ignorance – Old thought patterns die hard. Getting into it with these people is just mental masterbation.  Take it from me, take scissors and cut your loses.  Nobody will ever change their mind.  They’re bitter human beings who feel the need to gain significance from heated confrontation, and might I say, putting people and their ideas down – despite reality staring them in the face! (revisit Ayn Rand ‘avoiding reality’ quote above)
  6. Upsetting the Church of Baseball/Softball – Debating the swing DOES NOT have to resemble discussing politics and religion.  I mentioned this already.
  7. The Sweet Spot – nowadays there’s so much quality information, easy expert access, and new technology that it makes cutting through the white noise so much easier.  We just need a better standard of measure.

Who are YOU Modeling? And  WHY?

Andrew McCutchen Hitting

Here’s Andrew McCutchen, who according to Baseball-Reference.com, has a 162-game average: .294 BA, 37 2B’s, 24 HR’s, .873 OPS, & 140 OPS+ all at 5’10”, 190-pounds.

Asking the ‘WHY’ is important, but a coach can still be misguided.

Here’s what I mean…

I had a Facebook reader tell me they modeled Miguel Cabrera’s closed landing foot because, as he somehow reasoned, is why Miggy gets outstanding plate coverage.

Wa??!

He also went on to name Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn, and Pete Rose also landing closed and that’s why they had outstanding plate coverage.

Argument looks believable, right?

It’s a straw man argument though – let me tell you why…

This is a classic case of correlation not equalling causation.

Meaning, this reader believed a closed landing front foot EQUALS outstanding plate coverage…it’s misguided thinking.  Looks good on paper, but doesn’t work on the battlefield.

I’d actually argue the opposite.

And don’t get me wrong, Miguel Cabrera is one of my favorite big slugger swing models, but as you’ve already heard me say, !!!BE CAREFUL!!! because bigger hitters tend to succeed despite ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.

Landing closed WILL:

  • Inhibit the turn of the pelvis (CLICK HERE for this Zepp swing experiment),
  • Make hitters more susceptible to fastballs inside and high in the strike zone,
  • NOT be what a majority of professional hitters even do (CLICK HERE where Chris Welch at ZenoLink explains his research in this), and
  • NOT maximize a hitters springy fascia (CLICK HERE for this post).

Landing closed is definitely an inferior mechanic, and is not how my handful of 12 and under hitters, weighing around 100-lbs, are frequently hitting the ball the length of a football field, in games.

The fact Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn, and Pete Rose landed closed is irrelevant to the plate coverage argument.

Again, it’s misguided thinking.

The bottom line is this,

…these hitters did A LOT of other things effectively that DID enable them better plate coverage.

But I can tell you, after looking at the research, testing this stuff out on myself, and on my hitters, landing with a closed front foot DOES NOT empower a hitter with better plate coverage.

What did Ayn Rand say about the consequences of avoiding reality? 😛 lol

So, what is the Gold Standard Criteria I use to define an elite level swing?

 

5 Gold Standard Criteria Keys for a High Level Swing

You don’t need to have 5/5, but at least 3/5:

  1. Smaller sluggers NO bigger than 6-foot tall, and weighing NO more than 215-pounds,
  2. Hits for both power AND average,
  3. Above average in key Metrics like: OPS, OPS+, HR/FB ratio, Line Drive%, Ball Exit Speed, Attack Angles, etc.,
  4. Minimal, if zero, injuries caused by the swing over career (in other words, the swing MUST be safe for the hitter – thank you Lee Comeaux for this one),
  5. Understanding that big sluggers may succeed with ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.

Why smaller sluggers?

Because they MUST be highly effective to compete with the bigger sluggers because they have less to work with.

You Little League coaches can agree with me on this one…

Think about how much of a power advantage a 6-foot hitter has on the Little League diamond?  Can I get an Amen on that?!

What’s more…

There are smaller sluggers that made my list that hit more home-runs, have higher average Ball Exit Speeds, and have higher average home-run distances than some of the high level big sluggers!!

So, what hitters do I suggest a coach model?  Here is a non-exhaustive list:

Dustin Pedroia Hitting

Here’s Dustin Pedroia, who according to Baseball-Reference.com, has a 162-game average: .299 BA, 44 2B’s, 15 HR’s, .809 OPS, & 115 OPS+ all at 5’9″, 175-pounds. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

These are not in any particular order, and not all are without blemish.  Hitters of yesteryear tend to be cleaner with their swing movements, but I wanted to give examples you could look up on YouTube in slow-mo.

My favorite swing model of all these is Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868 dingers over a 22-year span standing in at a mere 5’10”, and weighing 173-pounds (CLICK HERE for a post I did on him).

And by the way, I’m not against the big sluggers, I love and often cite the following swings with my hitters:

However, any of this doesn’t do any bit of good if we don’t have a grasp of human movement principles first, before analyzing.  This is methods without principles, and you’ll surely be misguided.

Principles are Few: Ralph Waldo Emerson quote

I use the analogy that human movement principles are like bumpers at the bowling alley. The path the ball takes down the lane, between the bumpers, MUST not concern us (the ‘path’ down the lane is what’s unique to a hitter).  Just that the ball stays between them, and positive predictable results will come.

This is WHY we need a better standard of measure when choosing a swing model, not just saying “I know a good swing when I see one”.

 

Adrian Beltre VIDEO: Can Driving the Ball Be This Simple?

Adrian Beltre staying low on pitch-plane to a fault. Photo courtesy: OnlineAthens.com

This weekend I worked with a professional hitter Zack Esquerra, from the San Diego area, who was recently released after a couple years in the Diamondbacks organization on this very topic.

In this post,

We’ll go over how easy it can be to drive the ball by simply changing the position of the back leg during the Final Turn.  We’ll use Adrian Beltre’s swing as a model and go over:

  • Adrian Beltre: pitch-plane mastery,
  • Role of back leg during the Final Turn, and
  • #1 drill to fixing a faulty back leg angle…

 

Adrian Beltre: Pitch-Plane Mastery

Adrian Beltre is a great example of a smaller hitter (5’11”, 220-pounds) having to do it right to compete with bigger ones.  Here’s what he does so well:

  • Gets low,
  • Back leg angle (stays low),
  • Barrel is short to plane of the pitch, and
  • Barrel stays on pitch-plane…

Interesting to note, Adrian Beltre is below average with his ground-ball and strikeout percentages, and above average with his home-run to fly-ball ratio.  Most of the hitters I first see – Zack  included – have this reversed!  Here are a few of Adrian Beltre’s key offensive Metrics:

Adrian Beltre Key Pitch Plane Metrics

Check out this slow motion clip of Adrian Beltre (different clip from the main video above)…look how he almost “snipes” the catcher’s glove!

 

Role of Back Leg During Final Turn

Homer Kelly says this in his book The Golfing Machine:

“The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

Homer Kelly’s statement has as much to do with hitting as it does with the golf swing!  During the Final Turn, Adrian Beltre uses his flexed back knee (and straightened front one) to slant his body up towards the downward traveling pitch.  This was an immediate challenge with Zack’s swing, but once we quickly corrected it, we saw ball flight go from knee level line drives and in the ground, to head level line drives and driving the ball in the gap.

 

#1 Drill to Fixing a Faulty Back Leg Angle

CLICK HERE to view this post to learn more about the Art of Variance.  Here’s how to do the Back Foot Variance Drill:

ONE FINAL NOTE: Adrian Beltre stays on the plane of the pitch so well during the Final Turn, I think he does it to a fault.  You’ve seen the pictures of him sometimes finishing with his back knee on the ground (pictured above)?  This can be caused by trying to stay low on the pitch-plane with too wide a base.  In other words, his back foot doesn’t follow his front much after the stride, resulting in his feet being too far apart.  He would be more efficient if he “skipped” the back foot forward a little bit during the Final Turn and maintained more of a bend (90-100 degrees) in the back leg.