Posts

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

‘Showing Numbers’ to Pitcher is a Quick Way to Solving Consistent Power Problem

 

Question: How does ‘Showing Numbers’ to the Pitcher Effect Bat Speed at Impact versus ‘NOT Showing’ them?

Aaron Judge Showing Numbers to the Pitcher

Aaron Judge (Showing Numbers), unloads a solo home run to center field on 10/17/17 to put the Yankees on the board in the 7th inning.

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if a hitter showing their numbers to the pitcher at landing adds to or takes away from key swing performance metrics like Bat Speed at Impact, Time To Impact, and Attack Angle.  This swing experiment is revisiting two other experiments done analyzing the same thing.

 

Background Research

Since we’re REVISITING two previous swing experiments on ‘Showing Numbers’ versus NOT, here are the original posts and data to get you up to speed:

In 2016 ‘Show Numbers’ swing experiment, this was what the averaged out Zepp data looked like:

  • 5-mph INCREASE in Bat Speed at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • 0.5-mph INCREASE in Hand Speed Max with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • .003 second DECREASE in Time to Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • 3* INCREASE in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’, and
  • 1.5* INCREASE in Attack Angle with ‘Showing Numbers.

Now, let’s see how the Ball Exit Speed averages compare:

  • 76.02-mph BES when ‘NOT Showing Numbers’,
  • 77.32-mph BES  when ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • That’s a 1.3-mph average INCREASE when ‘Showing Numbers’, and
  • Translates between 5.2-feet to 7.8-feet of EXTRA batted ball distance – depending on if you calculate using 1-mph BES = 4-feet of distance OR 1-mph BES = 6-feet of distance.

In this experiment, if you look at the ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, they were actually ‘Showing Numbers’.  In other words, the subject in the swing experiment, Preston Scott, already shows his numbers well causing a challenge to not show them.  Therefore on the ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he showed them more.  I think that’s why we didn’t see as much of a difference in Ball Exit Speeds.

In 2014 ‘Show Numbers’ swing experiment, this was what the averaged out Zepp data looked like:

  • Bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 73-mph,
  • 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, and
  • Hand speed max for showing numbers was: 29-mph (+2-mph).

Between both swing experiments, we saw an average Bat Speed at Impact increase between 5 to 6-mph.  In 2016 we saw a .003 second drop in Time To Impact ‘Showing Numbers’, while in 2014 we saw a .003 increase.

The research on increasing bat or ball exit speed can be seen in the following two books on springy fascia and spinal engine mechanics:

You can also get application of previously mentioned books through the following HPL video blog posts.

  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.

For those versed in Anatomy, for explosive movement on the Transverse Plane (twisting), there must be a protraction of the front scapula (‘showing numbers’), and a retraction of the back Scapula (what’s often referred to as ‘Scap Row’).  Scap Rowing by itself doesn’t engage full range of springy fascia.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above research, I’m expecting to see a dramatic bump in Bat Speed at Impact, Hand Speed Max, and possibly a reduction in Time To Impact.  I think Attack Angle and Bat Vertical Angle at Impact will remain unchanged.

 

Showing Numbers Swing Experiment Part-3

Equipment Used:

SwingAway Bryce Harper model

This is the SwingAway Bryce Harper model hitting station used for the ‘Showing Numbers’ experiment.

Setup:

  • SwingAway Bryce Harper bungy suspended ball was set equal to the landing foot, and ball height was about knee height.
  • I broke each swing down into three steps: 1) Get to landing, 2) Pause for 2-secs, and 3) Swing.  The reason for this was to better control whether I was showing numbers or not.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • The ‘Showing Numbers’ swing shoulders were set to about 2’o’clock, if pitcher is 12’o’clock.  The ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swing shoulders were set to about 12’o’clock.

 

Data Collected from Zepp Baseball App:

'Showing' v. 'NOT Showing' Numbers to Pitcher Zepp Numbers

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages:

  • Bat Speed at Impact INCREASE of 3-mph ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • Hand Speed Max DECREASE of 1-mph ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • Time To Impact INCREASE of 0.014 ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • Bat Vertical Angle At Impact DECREASE of 4-degree ‘Showing Numbers’, and
  • Attack Angle INCREASE of 6-degrees ‘Showing Numbers’.

The drop from previous ‘Showing Numbers’ swing experiments was surprising, in addition to a small 1-mph drop in Hand Speed Max.  There was also a slight increase in Time To Impact.  The interesting numbers were the ones that indicate Launch Angles, both Bat Vertical Angle at Impact and Attack Angle.  We hadn’t experienced such a dramatic uptick in those in past experiments.

A couple notes…

  • The past two experiments were done in a cage, off a tee, so I could see ball flight, and maybe that had an effect on the swing metrics.
  • Some hitting coaches speak highly of Time To Impact and want to reduce at all cost, but I disagree. There’s a healthy range for that, you don’t want it too short or too long.  I’m not going to get into why here, maybe in another post.
  • To explain the dramatic increase of the barrel’s upward trajectory in ‘Showing Numbers’, I may have been getting more of a downward shoulder angle at landing.
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

What Can Bryce Harper Learn From Mike Trout?

 

(PLEASE NOTE: this video post was done in 2014, before Bryce Harper won the NL MVP in 2015. At the end of the post I give an UPDATE)

Bryce Harper VIDEO: Missing Repeatable Power?

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

This article explains why Mike Trout will repeatedly out-slug Bryce Harper mechanically, unless Bam-Bam adds efficiency to his swing.

I picked this match-up because they have one year separating their experience in the Big Leagues, they’re similar physically, but Mike Trout slugs almost 100 points higher!  According to Baseball-Reference.com:

  • Bryce Harper is 6’3″, 225 pounds,
  • Mike Trout is 6’2″, 230 pounds,
  • Harper’s 162-game average Slug% = .464, and
  • Trout’s 162-game average Slug% = .554.

In this video, we’ll compare Mike Trout, and look at how Bryce Harper DOES NOT:

  • Get a “head start” using Gravity,
  • Spring load his body, and
  • Follow the One-Joint Rule.

 

Mechanical Disadvantage #1: DOES NOT Get a “Head Start” Using Gravity

Gold medal winning Shot Putter Randy Barnes

Randy Barnes photo courtesy: PBS.org

Bryce Harper starts from a dead stop.  We know stop and go traffic burns fuel quicker than freeway driving.  Because it’s inefficient.  A “head start” is how we get more efficient during a swing.  Think about receiving the baton in a 4X100 meter relay race.  Throwing a 16-pound Shot Put over 70 feet.  Or hitting a golf over 500 yards.

Effective hitters use Gravitational Forces to get their swing started and spice up their Final Turn.  Mike Trout does this.  Consider this Un-Weighting Principal test…

Imagine standing tall holding a forty-pound dumbbell in your hand hanging by your side.  Now lift the weight up in front of your face.  What muscles did you feel working?  Shoulder?  You’re right!

Now, get back to your standing position.  Take a medium step forward and when your foot hits the ground, start to lift the dumbbell in front of your face.   What muscles did you feel working?  Would it be easier to lift that 40-pound dumbbell with the first or second scenario?

Mechanical Disadvantage #2: Minimal Spring Loading

Bryce Harper VIDEO: NOT springy loaded

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

Our body loads using springy fascial tissue.  According to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains, fascia:

  • Is what the bones and muscles float in,
  • Gives muscles their shape,
  • Is a spider web or cotton candy-like material, and
  • Is made of mostly springy collagen fibers.

In comparing Adrian Gonzalez, Bryce Harper has an explosive swing, but in reality doesn’t engage his body’s own natural springy material as much as A-Gon.

 

Mechanical Disadvantage #3: DOES NOT Follow the One-Joint Rule

Bryce Harper Locally Flexing his C-Spine

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

Dr. Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD.com talks about this quite a bit.  He’s referring to the head and spine position during dynamic movement.  There are two types of vertebrae bending or flexing:

  1. Local Flexion – would be dropping the chin to the chest or ear to the shoulder, and
  2. Global Flexion – keeping the head and spine aligned as one unit, while bending forward or sideways.

In an efficient swing, number one is BAD, and number two is GOOD.  Why?  CLICK HERE and watch the next four minutes of this YouTube video (3:13-7:13) of Dr. Kelly Starrett demonstrating the One-Joint Rule.  He doesn’t include flexing the head sideways (ear to shoulder).  But you’d get the same ineffective force producing result as taking the chin to the chest.

As the above picture clearly shows, Bryce Harper actually goes ear to shoulder at and through contact.  Unless something changes mechanically, “Bam-Bam” will continue to trail Mike Trout in repeatable power.  However, with his body type, these changes can BOOST Harper into the 35+ homer per year category.

UPDATE: I wrote this article in 2014.  Bryce Harper has made one big change to his mechanics…in this video, Darryl Hamilton points out some interesting points (not all I agree with):

I don’t agree with Darryl Hamilton that Bryce Harper is minimizing his Forward Momentum from 2014 to 2015, I think it’s the same.  Although, I do agree Harper is more “squatted” when he starts.

I think the biggest change is with his back foot NOT coming off the ground as much, or traveling as far forward as it was in 2014.  This has allowed Harper to stay on the plane of the pitch longer with his barrel, and therefore hit more dingers in 2015.

However, I still don’t like how Bryce Harper breaks the ‘One-Joint’ Rule.  He’s still leaving repeatable power on the table…and that’s scary to think after his 2015 offensive output 😛

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Shin Soo Choo Missing Power?

 

Shin Soo Choo Missing Power?

Shin-Soo Choo photo courtesy: MLB.com

Shin Soo Choo is well-above average when it comes to On-Base Percentage, .389 over a ten-year span.

He also averages 37 doubles per season over the same career span.  However, his 162-game average for home-runs is ONLY 19.

Keep in mind that Shin Soo Choo is 5’11”, 205 lbs. (all stats are according to Baseball-Reference.com).  Let’s look at:

  • When to bend, when not to bend (rotating speed v. moment of inertia),
  • How Shin Soo Choo may be dumping bat speed pre-impact, and
  • How-to increase rotational speed at home.

 

When to Bend, When NOT to Bend (rotating speed v. moment of inertia)

We’re talking about the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Take Olympic ice skater Adelina Sotnikova, who won gold in the 2014 Winter Olympics for instance.  Here’s how she increases her rotational speed:

delina Sotnikova 2014 Winter Olympics

Adelina Sotnikova photo courtesy: NBC Sports

  • She moves her arms into her center of rotation (Rotating speed increases, moment of inertia decreases).
  • To go slower, she moves her arms and a leg away from her center of rotation (Rotating speed decreases, moment of inertia increases).

Moment of Inertia (or MOI) just means a body’s tendency to resist angular (rotating) acceleration.  Rotating speed and the moment of inertia have an inverse relationship.

 

How Shin Soo Choo May Be Dumping Bat Speed Pre-Impact?

Let’s apply the answer of “when to bend” to hitting…in hitting a pitched ball, we don’t know what:

  1. Location,
  2.  Speed, or
  3. Plane the pitch is arriving on beforehand.
Shin-Soo Choo Arm Barring

Shin-Soo Choo photo courtesy: MLB.com

Unlike golf, hitters have a split second to commit and accelerate their barrel.  So in the first part of the Final Turn, a hitter MUST accelerate the barrel quickly with the torso using a bent front arm.

The second part of the Final Turn – when the barrel gets on plane of the pitch – the front arm begins to straighten to increase the moment of inertia (resisting rotational acceleration).

And of course, the front arm straightening at impact will depend on pitch location…lower or outside the zone, more straight at impact…versus, inside or higher, more bent at impact.

A hitter’s post-impact objective, MUST be to get both arms extended.  This would ensure proper transition of Centripetal (center-seeking) v. Centrifugal (center-fleeing) Forces.

Therefore, keeping the front elbow bent from the start of the Final Turn is critical to increasing turning speed and barreling the ball, particularly in high EV zones (Effective Velocity – Perry Husband).

 

How-To Increase Rotational Speed at Home

Here are a couple spine engine mechanics we could work on at home that would give us a repeatable power advantage at the plate (and what Shin Soo Choo isn’t doing).  Before the stride foot touches down, we need to:

  1. Have a downward shoulder angle,
  2. Show the numbers better, and
  3. Keep a slight bend in the front arm.

Fixing this can take Shin Soo Choo’s 162-game average of 19 homers to over 30 for sure.  Basically, it makes his swing more adjustable to higher perceived velocities, if we’re talking about Perry Husband’s EV system.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Does Adrian Gonzalez Hit Backwards?  Common Mistake #2 (of 4)…

 

Adrian Gonzalez: Power Secret You Are Missing?

Photo credit: MLB.com

In the second installment to the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make video series, starring Adrian Gonzalez, we discuss why “walking away from the hands” doesn’t make sense.  A-Gon is a bigger hitter (*6’2″, 225lbs) who uses human movement science correctly to generate explosive rotational power.

*(According to Baseball-Reference.com)

We’ll use Adrian Gonzalez’s swing to talk about:

  • The simple science of loading,
  • How big hitters get away with ineffective mechanics, and
  • The power secret you are missing.

Contrary to popular belief, “walking away from the hands” is NOT how we load properly.  It decreases turning speed by arm barring.  In the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, if controversial gold medal winning ice skater Adelina Sotnikova could turn faster by barring an arm out, then don’t you think you’d see her do that?

 

The Simple Science of Loading

Cotton Candy Fascia

Photo credit: Thomas Myers

According to the book Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers, the human body is loaded by connective tissue called Fascia, which is:

  • A cotton candy-like material,
  • To the body, like steel is to the building industry,
  • Connective tissue your bones and muscles float in,
  • Gives muscles their shape, and
  • At a constant battle to balance compression and tension forces within the body…Thomas Myers calls this Tensegrity (Tension-Integrity)

Big Hitters Get Away with Ineffective Mechanics

We’re studying the wrong hitters.  Pujols.  Hamilton.  Griffey Jr.  Paul Goldschmidt.

Ken Griffey Jr. was the perfect example of “walking away from the hands”.  People don’t realize, he succeeded despite ineffective mechanics, not because of them.  Here are some other notable athletes getting away with ineffective mechanics:

  • Kevin Durant, NBA’s leading scorer, succeeds despite flawed shooting mechanics.  His knees crash in, which is called Knee Valgus.
  • Tiger Woods succeeded despite being ineffective mechanically, later in his career (4 knee surgeries, in addition to numerous Achilles and back issues). CLICK HERE to read this “Muscle Power Golf, Not!” post about this.
  • Numerous pitchers throw 95+mph despite career shortening flawed mechanics (Kerry Wood and Mark Prior just to name two)

Spend more time analyzing hitters like: Braun, Cano, David Wright, Jose Bautista, McCutchen, Hank Aaron, and Sadaharu Oh (Japan’s career home run leader).  These small-sluggers have to move friction-free (or nearly) to compete.  Big-sluggers with friction-free swings include: Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Chris “Crush” Davis.

 

Power Secret You Are Missing

Of the nine fascial lines mentioned in Thomas Myers’ book Anatomy Trains, the Spiral Fascial Line (SPL) is very important to hitting…according to Thomas Myers:

Science of Loading the Body

Photo credit: Thomas Myers

“The overall movement function of the SPL is to create and mediate spirals and rotations in the body, and, in eccentric and isometric contraction, to steady the trunk and leg to keep it from folding into rotational collapse.”

I call this the ‘Springy X Pattern’.  Imagine an ‘X’ on the front and back of the torso.  When one leg of the ‘X’ shortens, then the other stretches.  Golf training expert Jason Glass of Jason Glass Performance calls these Rotational Power Slings.

Adrian Gonzalez “spring loads” his swing using what I call the Catapult Loading System (CLS).  It takes the Stability ‘X’ Pattern or Rotational Power Sling concepts and applies them to hitting.

Here are a few other world-class spring loaded athletes who’s movements are very similar to a hitter’s:

  1. Golfers,
  2. Olympic Shot Putters
  3. Olympic Throwers – Javelin, Discus, and Hammer
  4. Lacrosse

CLICK HERE in case you missed Part-1 to the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitter’s Make video series.  And CLICK HERE for Common Mistake #3, where we look into why a friction-free hitter SHOULD NOT land with the front toe closed