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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.

13 Josh Donaldson Gold Nuggets: You Didn’t Have To Be A Professional, To Teach High Level Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques

(I apologize in advance…PLEASE set aside about 14 minutes of reading time for the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post. It’s a bit of an emotional RANT 😉

 

Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques: Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson talks hitting with Mark DeRosa on MLB Network. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

We FINALLY have validation!!!

To have 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson affirm A LOT of what we teach here at HPL!

Some of you may have seen the above video already…

If you HAVE NOT seen it, then please watch.

In the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post, I go into more depth about the 13 talking points Josh Donaldson mentions about the “NEW science of hitting”, beginning where Ted Williams left off.

By the way, CLICK HERE to see an article where JD CRUSHES an online pseudo-science ‘hitting guru’.

After we go over the @BringerOfRain20 talking points,

I want to address the few ex-Pro and MLB player TROLLS that wrongly tear myself, my colleagues, and my readers down on the socials for bringing up things Josh Donaldson addresses in the above video.

Without further adieu,

From my baseball batting stance & hitting techniques video notes…

 

Note #1: Back knee inside foot or weight inside back knee?

Buster Posey Back Knee Position

Is Buster Posey’s back knee being prematurely shifted inside his foot in the ‘Float’? Photo courtesy: InWriteField.com

This was a question from Mark DeRosa…

Josh Donaldson responds that he focuses his weight on his back heel and back hip.

I HATE when hitting instructors PREMATURELY force the back knee of every hitter they instruct, inside the foot (even in the stance).

There are phases to the swing, and Donaldson is talking about what my hitters refer to as the ‘Float & Fall’…

Matt Nokes calls it the ‘Ride & Stride’.

During the ‘Float’ or ‘Ride’, the hitter DOES NOT have to prematurely push their back knee inside the back foot…or focus the weight on the inside of the back knee.

CLICK HERE for a baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post I did on this, dealing with a Twitter Troll.

NEWS FLASH…

Self proclaimed elite hitting instruction doesn’t rest on taking a ton of ‘quality hacks in the cage’ and/or debating over millions of hours of video analysis footage of ‘only the best hitters’.

WTF does ‘quality hacks’ and ‘only the best hitters’ mean!!!!!?

Are we suppose to take your word for it that you know what you’re doing?!

Nah.

I’d rather watch The Kardashians.

Okay, back to focusing on where the weight is in the Float…

Prematurely forcing weight on the inside of a ‘dumb joint’, like the knee, can really put undo stress on the ligament material.

Coaches…please DO NOT wear holes in your players’ knees.  This is really important for those FP softball hitting coaches.

And on that note,

FP softball coaches, CLICK HERE for a great BreakingMuscle.com post titled, “Women: Protect Your Knees With the Sprinter Stance Squat”.

 

Note #2: Not thinking about hands going towards the baseball

Derek Jeter: Hands Inside The Baseball

Derek Jeter is one of the few having a lengthy career with an extreme handsy approach. Not too many hitters could get away with how he did what he did. Photo courtesy: BaseballByTheYard.com

I totally agree!

ALL the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques coaching cues are destructive for youth swings:

  • Hands to the ball
  • Knob to the ball
  • Be short to the ball
  • Hands inside the ball

Yes! Especially the last one…

WHY?

Like the others, it gets the hitter thinking about doing something with the path of their hands.

Some of you use this cue when instructing hitters, and may get occasional positive results…

However,

Any coaching cue that requires an extensive explanation or doesn’t get predictably positive outcomes, is INEFFECTIVE.

I’m looking for cues that with a minimal number of words, gets my hitter to do what I want them to do, even if the concept is new to them…over and over.

 

Note #3: When Josh Donaldson begins his fall forward, that’s when he goes into loading his upper half (his ‘coil’)

Andrew McCutchen Showing his Numbers

Andrew McCutchen ‘showing his numbers’ while his lower half is beginning to turn counter-clockwise. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

YESSSSS!!

I get asked this baseball batting stance & hitting techniques question quite a bit…when does the ‘load’ start?

And this depends on your definition of a load.  But in Donaldson’s context…

The timing of Donaldson’s load, or ‘coil’, isn’t necessarily the rule,

It’s one of three options…

Option #1: Some hitters start in the ‘coiled’ position (highly recommended for younger hitters):

  • Yoenis Cespedes,
  • Hunter Pence, and
  • Ben Zobrist (from the left side)…

Option #2: Some hitters move into the ‘coiled’ position similar to Donaldson:

  • Bautista,
  • Cano, and
  • McCutchen…

Option #3: Some hitters move into the ‘coiled’ position later, like Dustin Pedroia.

The objective is that at landing, or what Josh Donaldson refers to as ‘heel plant’, the hitter is in this ‘coiled’ position.

I call this the Catapult Loading Position.

And it requires the lower half to be open at landing (pelvis on down), and the upper half (above pelvis), to be closed.

Additionally, I LOVE Jose Bautista’s timing cue of loading ‘slow and early’ (CLICK HERE for a post I did on that).

More on the lower half landing open a bit later…

Note #4: Creating bat speed with shoulders, NOT hands (effortless bat speed)

Josh Donaldson: Spinal Engine

Josh Donaldson’s swing illustrating the spinal engine and Springy ‘X’ Pattern discussed in the next section. Photo courtesy: PicPlayHost

This is VERY important…

WHY?

Because EVERY human movement is driven by the spinal engine…pelvis-spine-shoulders.

According to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky in his book The Spinal Engine, the spinal engine can move in a vacuum.

However, it’s the relationship between arms, legs, and Gravitational Forces that amplify how explosive an athlete can be.

Quite a few hitting instructors talk about hip thrust or loading and exploding the hips.

But what are the shoulder’s function in all this?

Being passive?

I don’t think so.

Some would say a right handed hitter’s front shoulder at landing should be pointing at the pitcher.

This is an ineffective hitting mechanic, shown in this Zepp swing experiment (CLICK HERE) where I observed an average 6-mph boost in Bat Speed at Impact showing my numbers to the pitcher versus pointing the front shoulder at the pitcher (not showing numbers), over 200 swings.

Don’t get me wrong, YES, the pelvis does ‘lead the way’ as Ted Williams said in The Science of Hitting.

But it plays a much smaller role than coaches believe.

Think about how we walk…

If I told you to fire your hips as you walked, what do you think your shoulders would do?

They’d FIRE also!

How about if I told you to fire your hips while walking, but don’t let your shoulders move

Would that feel awkward?

Dr. Serge Gracovetsky talks about the coupled motion of the spine…

Meaning, while the hips rotate when we walk (albeit small to the naked eye), the shoulders counter-rotate the pelvis.

This is why your right arm and left leg swing forward at the same time.

To have effortless bat speed, like Josh Donaldson says, you MUST teach your hitters to take advantage of these natural laws of human movement.

DON’T use baseball batting stance & hitting techniques to coach them out of them.

 

Note #5: Rubber band effect, ‘stretching’, creating tension at the finish of his load

Another YESSSSS!

Although Josh Donaldson uses different baseball batting stance & hitting techniques terms, he’s talking about the compression/tension forces in the body via connective tissue called fascia.

Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains describes, what he calls Tensegrity (Tension-Integrity), like this:

I don’t like to think of the body as a rubber band, but rather like a spring.

But what Donaldson is describing is correct.

I refer to this as the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.

CLICK HERE for this video post describing this using Adrian Gonzalez’s swing as a model.

 

Note #6: Creating the timing to hit the pitch

Most people probably missed this point in the video…Donaldson briefly mentioned it, but I find it VERY important.

TIMING FOR HITTING IS EVERYTHING.

This is why I don’t like rapid fire soft toss OR 15-pitch marathon rounds batting practice.

It’s NOT about quick hands either.

Look, a baseball player may only see one pitch every 12-20 seconds.

A fast-pitch softball player may see one pitch every 8-15 seconds.

In games, swing intensity EVERY swing matters.

I can take a hitter with seemingly slow hands, adjust his or her timing, and have them barreling the ball more.

Of course, we’ll have to address their still ineffective mechanics at some point in the future, but the point is, it’s not about fast hands.

It’s about using the shoulders to speed up the hands.

The opposite IS NOT true.

Coaches handicap hitters by using ineffective drills like rapid fire soft toss, drop toss, and/or marathon B.P. sessions.

Again,

TIMING IS EVERYTHING IN HITTING.

CLICK HERE for “The Dead Simple Guide To Optimizing A Hitter’s Timing In Games”.

 

Note #7: Front foot is open…hips can’t separate from upper half

Miguel Cabrera: Landing Closed

Miguel Cabrera is one of my favorite swings to model, except for landing closed (less than 45-degree angle). However, he’s a physical beast, and most definitely succeeds despite one ineffective mechanic. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Another baseball batting stance & hitting techniques golden nugget from Josh Donaldson.

However, there are quite a few other coaches getting their panties in a bunch about this comment.

CLICK HERE and follow the thread of one of my Facebook posts.

CLICK HERE and follow a Facebook post thread of my friend and colleague Taylor Gardner, founder of the BackSpin Tee.  Actually a lot of really good discussion happening on this one.

They’re reinterpreting it as Donaldson is saying to ‘point the landing toe at the pitcher’.

This may be what it looks like in the video, which we also have to be careful of camera angles…

But the point of the matter is, that Donaldson is saying to ‘land open’.

And this is where, us coaches, must define terms.

I say if the landing foot is opened less than 45-degrees, the foot is closed.

If the landing foot is opened more than 45-degrees, the foot is open.

Chris Welch at ZenoLink says the front foot should land open, roughly around 65-degrees (at about 2-min mark):

And I agree.

I do think hitters like Donaldson and Bautista are more on the open side than others.

With my definition of landing foot closed versus open, I’d rather have my hitters err on the side of open, than closed.

CLICK HERE for another Zepp swing experiment where I tested this and found an average bat speed boost of 3-mph boost when landing open, over 200 swings.

Kyle Harrington, dad of one of my online hitting lesson students Stephen, who’s currently 13yo, 5’7″, 130-lbs…

Recently, increased his Ball Exit Speed 5-mph in the last 5 months off the tee, to now 77-mph.

I asked Kyle, what were the two biggest contributors to the increase…and he responded with:

“He grew about 2″ but he’s only 5’7”.  I think the main thing is that he is not stalling the bat.  In the 3D testing with Chris Welch [of ZenoLink.com] his peak bat speed slowed almost 10 mph before impact, which is common.  So he is decelerating the barrel less coming into impact.   He was blocking with the front hip and all the speed was too early .  So he’s actually  moving the bat speed forward in his swing more (where impact is)  rather behind the ball before impact.  That’s the main reason.”
This can happen for a few reasons:
  • Too much forward momentum (yes you can have too much),
  • Landing closed with the front foot, and
  • Inward turning (coiling) the pelvis towards the catcher (shifts our 45-degree optimal impact zone too deep into the swing).

When the hitter lands closed, as Donaldson said, it’s more challenging to optimize the body’s natural springy fascia.

It’s also worth noting that the front ‘foot shape’ will change depending on pitch location at impact.

For instance,

On an outside pitch, we’ll see the foot more flat, and possibly more closed, than on an inside pitch.

 

Note #8: 10yo kid told to get on top of the ball, tell them NO…don’t get paid for hitting ground-balls

Effect of Speed Fades Only When Launch Angles Exceed 10-degrees.

Ground-ball Coaches, if you spent more time instructing 10-degree launch angles and boosting Ball Exit Speeds, than you do telling hitters to always hit the ball on the ground, our hitters will be in a better position to crush pitchers.

For me, this tip was definitely the highlight of this video.

Btw, I agree…AGAIN!

And I’m not going to get into this in detail, because I already did that in “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground-Balls” RANT post.

What’s more,

There was a comment on my baseball batting stance & hitting techniques Facebook post that is worth noting:

Reader A: “If I’m coaching a team of 10 year olds, and either the kid (or parent) tells me no, they ought to start looking for another team to play for. If you allow a kid to tell you no at that age, the kid will become uncoachable when he gets older.”

And here was a great response from another readers to this person:

Reader B: “If a teacher tells your kid 2+2 is 5, you don’t want him to have the courage and character to question the teacher?  This society man, anyone that questions authority is deemed to be at fault…how dare they!!!”

I agree with Reader B…however, I understand there are ignorant parents, as well as players, out there as well.

However, speaking in the context of what Donaldson is saying, I agree with Reader B on this.

If you’re a coach that’s teaching hitters to ALWAYS hit the ball on the ground, you’re being ineffective as a coach.  And you MUST get educated because if you’re aren’t growing, then you’re dying.

 

Note #9: Relaxed in stance…time that arms get engaged with the body is during his ‘coil’ (mentions ‘scap load’)

Jace: Fixing Bat Drag w/ Finger Pressure

Jace, one of my 11yos, weighs 67-lbs, and hit his first homer over a 180-foot fence. We fixed his racing back elbow bat drag with connecting his hands to his spinal engine through finger pressure.

I totally agree.

There’s a time to be relaxed, and then there’s a time to connect the body (driving engine) to the “things” holding the bat…the hands.

CLICK HERE for another Zepp swing experiment that talks about what I teach to my hitters as ‘finger pressure’, and how we’re banishing racing back elbow bat drag with this technique alone.

It’s ALL about “connection” folks.  Quite a few of the young hitters I see just aren’t connected.

But when they get connected…this is when we can triple their body-weight in distance (see Jace image above).

Note 10: Hands load it (versus shoulders), then barrel tips too much…leads to getting underneath balls

Josh Donaldson is talking about getting into his load (or ‘coil’) with his shoulders and not his hands.

When he uses his hands to get there, he feels it leads to an excessive ‘barrel tip’ (click following link), and to getting under the ball too much.

CLICK HERE for an AthleticsNation.com article titled, “Josh Donaldson: Changes in Approach & Mechanics”.

In this article, Jerry Brewer from East Bay Hitting Instruction compares Donaldson’s swing and metrics from 2013 to 2014.

The one big difference being an excessive barrel tip in 2014, leading to drops in his BA, OBP, & SLUG metrics by something like 50 points EACH.

By the way, Jerry is right on with the swing as well.

 

Note 11: At landing, wants bat to be at 45-degree angle, and to split his head from behind

I agree.

I don’t really want to get into this, but I thought it was a good little baseball batting stance & hitting techniques nugget from the video.

 

Note 12: Swing down to create backspin

The Science of Hitting Graphic on optimal bat path

This is where I see Josh Donaldson picking up where Ted Williams left off. This is a well known graphic from Williams’s book The Science of Hitting.

This is something Josh Donaldson is against, and I agree.

Yes, every once in awhile, a hitter can swing down on a ball and launch one.

Did you read the keywords there…?  “Every once in awhile.”

Do you know what the majority outcomes will be doing this?

Ground-balls.

And if you read my Ground-ball RANT, then you know how inferior default teaching your hitters to hit them is, unless of course you have hitters who run like greased lightning, or in a Hit & Run type scenario.

The biggest argument here, comes from Little League coaches saying, but the ground-ball is the hardest hit ball to field, throw, and catch.

And my rebuttal is, what happens when your ground-ball hitting team meets a team that can play catch?

It doesn’t matter anyway, because a majority of pitches are taught to keep the ball down in the zone to hitters.

WHY?

Because PITCHERS WANT HITTERS DRIVING THE BALL INTO THE GROUND.

 

Note#13: Intent – damage at all times

I thought this was a HUGE baseball batting stance & hitting techniques gold nugget.

When asked if Donaldson makes educated decisions to commit on pitches or against pitchers, he says, yeah it depends…

BUT,

His intent is to do damage at all times.

“Why wouldn’t I?” He smirks to Mark DeRosa 😛

Double and Dinger damage.

That’s what the Blue Jays pay him for.

Our objective as hitting coaches should be to get our sluggers hitting the ball as hard as their physical ability will allow them…as frequently as possible.

To return this baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post full circle, let me repeat:

You Didn’t Have To Be A Professional, To Teach High Level Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques Today

You just have to understand human movement principles that are validated by science, and apply these “rules” to hitting a ball.

And I’m out…

[Joey drops the mic…]

Reader Question: “What flexibility work do you do with your trainees to enhance counter-rotation of the torso as the foot lands open?”

 

Andrew McCutchen 'Showing his Numbers' to the Pitcher

Andrew McCutchen ‘showing his numbers’ to the pitcher, while landing open with lower half. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This questions stems from how I teach hitters to ‘show their numbers’ to the pitcher during the load, as close to stride landing as possible…

(see image of Andrew McCutchen)

But for this to work, here’s the kicker…

The hitter MUST land open with the bottom half…front foot open between 45 and 60-degrees.

This creates what some coaches call torque, or counter-rotation of the shoulders-to-pelvis…

These are basic walking mechanics of the spine…and is why, as your right leg swings forward, so does your left arm.

So how do we optimize this action with our hitters using flexibility and strengthening?

I’m about 8-weeks into an online gymnastics strength training course through GymnasticBodies.com myself.  I’ve finished their Fundamentals course, and currently working through their Handstand course.

GymnasticBodies.com Fundamentals Course Deal

Photo courtesy: GymnasticBodies.com

CLICK HERE to get $25 OFF full price of $100 for their Fundamentals course.  I don’t get paid if you purchase the course.  I just LOVE what they’re doing, and believe ALL hitters MUST be engaging in this type of mobility and strength training.

(PLEASE NOTE: I’m not sure how long this deal will be up, so jump on it!)

Why am I putting myself through this training?

#1: as my wife will tell you, this is a gross obsession of mine…sometimes bordering on OCD.

And #2: I wanted to pick up a few things about bodyweight training mobility and stability for my hitters.

One of my guiding principles is if you aren’t growing, then you’re dying.

And if you’re a coach that takes mentoring young athletes seriously, then you MUST be subscribing to the same proactive learning principles.

So, in the above video, we go over:

  • Rotation v. Anti-Rotation (acceleration v. braking systems)
  • Rotation stretch – hold each side for at least 30-secs
  • Rotation strengthen:
    • Windshield Wipers – do 10 repetitions each side
  • Anti-Rotation strengthen:
    • Side Plank (anti-side bend) – start off with holding for 30-secs, then increase by 15-secs after mastery
    • 3-Point Plank (anti-rotation of pelvis) – start off holding for 30-secs, then increase by 15-secs after mastery.

ENJOY!

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”.

How To Turn Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics Into A High Level Baseball Swing…Can It Be Done?

 

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics

Can fastpitch softball hitting mechanics be equal to baseball?

(WARNING: this fastpitch softball hitting mechanics post is a mini-RANT, about 2,000+ words, so please set aside about a 10-min reading time)…

I received this email the other day:

“I cringe when see hitting programs that are designed by baseball players and say they teach softball hitting as a 17 year fastpitch softball coach and 26 year slow pitch player the fundamental difference in the swing many programs ignore especially when teaching fastpitch the swing has to take the most direct path to the pitched generally released at 3 to 4 feet verse a baseball is released at roughly 7 such as right view pro I’ve seen many teams and worse players swings destroyed by coaches teaching baseball to softball players please take this in account, thanks”

Before addressing this reader’s email, I wanted to mention something for those who teach fastpitch softball hitting mechanics…

Later in the post, I want to make a BIG ASK to coaches and instructors currently working with fastpitch softball hitters that are using HPL hitting principles, to please share your triumphs and/or sticking points with us.

But before we get there,

I wanted to address a couple fastpitch softball hitting mechanics points from the email above:

  • Translating baseball into fastpitch softball hitting mechanics,
  • Differences between the two swings?
  • The BIG ASK…

 

Translating Baseball into Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Who To Trust?

Who can we trust to give effective information when searching “fastpitch softball hitting mechanics” on YouTube?

The BIGGEST problem with most self-proclaimed “baseball hitting experts” online is…

They promote a hitting ‘philosophy’ or ‘theory’.

Their theories are a mish-mash of popular hitting programs, books, websites, YouTube channels, etc.

Did you know…

There’s a more certain standard – or measuring stick – that most hitting experts ignore, or just plain don’t understand?

Hitting MUST be based off human movement principles, or rules, that are validated by science…NOT philosophy or theory.

We’ve reverse engineered the hitting system promoted at the Hitting Performance Lab.

What does that mean?

Good news for coaches teaching fastpitch softball hitting mechanics…

You can bring a certain and more effective hitting standard to teaching your athletes how to hit.

And it WORKS a majority of the time!!

Beautifully.

Do you remember the first time you stumbled into an online hitting forum, discovering how much of a pissing contest it was?

The people who “seemed” to have authority on the subject of fastpitch softball hitting mechanics were coaches who:

  • Had coached the longest,
  • Had played the longest OR had the biggest collection of trophies at the highest level, or
  • Had watched a million hours of slow motion video of ONLY ‘the best’ hitters.

Note to those who’ve coached the longest…

Someone belligerently throwing 30+ years of coaching experience in your face, most likely has the same one year of coaching experience repeated each year for 30+ years.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying.  And if you have to talk about how many years you’ve been coaching to desperately seek significance, then most likely your teaching has been obsolete for some time now.

You don’t hear Coaches Augie Garrido, Gordie Gillespie, or Bob Bennett lurching around online forums shoving their weight around demanding that people listen and respect them.

Note to those who’ve played the longest or have the biggest collection of trophies at the highest level…

The same lurching ego behavior can be seen, and is being used by you too.

As a matter of fact,

I just ran into an ex-pro guy last night on Facebook (I assume he was because he said he has a helluva playing resume, lol).

Brother, I hate to tell you, but…

Playing and teaching are totally different skills sets.  I don’t care what your playing resume is, because you’re starting over as a coach.

Furthermore, you MUST teach the RIGHT things.  The right fastpitch softball hitting mechanics.

Just because you ‘swung down on the ball’ to create backspin, DOES NOT mean that’s what actually happened if we looked at your swing using slow motion video.

I’m sorry, but what’s ‘feel’ and what’s ‘real’ are two totally different things.

Note to those coaches who accumulated a million hours watching slow motion video of ONLY ‘the best’ hitters…

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols photo courtesy: MLB.com

First of all, who are you studying??!

Pujols? McGwire? Griffey Jr.? Bryce Harper? Derek Jeter?

Although these hitters are and were effective in their swings, they also have, and had, ineffective human movement.  I’m sorry, but what’s ‘feel’ and what’s ‘real’ are two totally different things. that MUST not be repeated by younger and/or smaller hitters.

Not just because younger hitters don’t have the capability of doing them, but because THEY SHOULD NOT be doing them, PERIOD.

In other words, they succeed, and succeeded, DESPITE elements of ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.

Who you study is VERY important.

Big sluggers can get away with murder because of their body mass.  Think of some of the BIGGER hitters you’ve come across, swimming in the fishbowl that is a Little League baseball field.

You’ll learn more of what effective fastpitch softball hitting mechanics look like from smaller sluggers like (6-feet on down):

  • Sierra Romero
  • Lauren Chamberlain
  • Sadaharu Oh (if you don’t know who this is, you need to study up!!),
  • Hank Aaron,
  • Pete Rose,
  • Ty Cobb,
  • Josh Donaldson,
  • Dustin Pedroia,
  • Jose Bautista,
  • Andrew McCutchen, and
  • Robinson Cano.

AND by the way, video analysis is important,

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Sierra Romero

Sierra Romero is a great model for the Catapult Loading System. Photo courtesy: fastpitchnews.org

But MUST come SECOND ONLY to the human movement “rules”.

Now listen close, because this is IMPORTANT to translating fastpitch softball hitting mechanics into baseball…

Once we strip away a coach/player’s elevated credentials and/or experience, then look at their analysis through the lens of human movements “rules”, that are validated by science, and it’s revealed how inconsistently ineffective their teachings really are.

They soften their system’s ineffectiveness by saying,

“Well, every hitter is different and what works for one hitter may not work for another”…OR,

“You can’t teach young hitters to do what MLB hitters are doing.”

BULL.

They’re copping-out.

But it’s not their fault.

They just don’t know any better.

They’re not growing, they’re dying.

And if you believe that what works for one hitter may not work for another, then CLICK HERE to read about the HPL One-Swing-Fits-All system.

The HPL hitting system works…consistently, no matter if we’re talking fastpitch softball hitting mechanics or baseball…7yo or 24yo…black or white…big or small.

We have literally thousands of coaches and parents across the nation putting into practice the HPL hitting principles, and get this…THEY ACTUALLY WORK!!

I get a steady stream of weekly emails, from coaches, sharing their success stories with the system from both the baseball and softball worlds.

(If you go to the HPL homepage, scroll all the way down to the bottom, and you’ll find over 45 rotating testimonials from these coaches and players under “Customer Testimonials”.  It rotates through 5 of them at a time, then if you refresh the screen, then it’ll rotate through another 5).

The good news for the fastpitch softball hitting mechanics coach, is that credentials don’t mean a thing.

It’s outcomes.

Does your system consistently work?

Do you have a:

  1. 98-lb 11yo hitting the ball 300-feet, multiple times?
  2. 95-pounder hitting their first dinger over 270-feet? (this is actually the brother of the above hitter but 2 years younger)
  3. 115-lb 11yo not only hitting the ball 300-feet multiple times, but hitting over 40 homers in one season…to ALL fields?
  4. 66-lb 11yo hitting the ball over 180-feet? OR,
  5. a 115-lb 13yo hitting the ball 330-feet?

The video below is of my hitter #1 above hitting his 300-foot monster shot.  Please note, he was playing on a field in Manteca, CA that had 315-foot fences, so the ‘shot’ was a long double, not a homerun.  Dad played baseball at Division-1 Chico State in the late-90’s, and shared the batted ball’s estimated distance, in the following text message to me:

“This is Orin hitting the farthest ball he’s ever hit.  It landed a couple feet short of the warning track in Manteca, which is right around 300-feet away”.

If you aren’t achieving these types of outcomes with your hitters, then I fear that you should rethink the effectiveness of YOUR hitting system.

Differences Between Two Swings?

Now, before getting into the differences between fastpitch softball hitting mechanics and baseball…

It should be pointed out,

That I’ve spent 10+ years in the corrective fitness industry with too many certifications to count.  I’m self taught and have a passionate curiosity for the science of human movement, by people such as:

  • Dr. Kelly Starrett,
  • Thomas Myers,
  • Ida Rolf,
  • Dr. Erik Dalton,
  • Dr. Serge Gracovetsky, and
  • Many others…

And it’s interesting to note, that I learned more about the swing from the aforementioned people, than in all 17 years of my baseball playing career, the last four of those playing at Division-1 Fresno State!!

The bottom line is this,

There are certain ‘rules’ to human movement that are validated by science.  These “rules” don’t care if you’re male or female…black or white…7 yo or 24 yo…big or small.

THEY WORK FOR ALL HUMANS!!!

The ‘rules’ are like bumpers at a bowling alley.  They’re guidelines to an effective swing.  What happens inside the bumpers doesn’t matter, just as long as you work within them.

Now, on the differences between the two swings…

A friend of mine since High School, made this comment on a Facebook Post of mine:

“As a former baseball player and current fastpitch softball coach. I think hitting a softball at 43ft is harder than hitting a baseball from 60ft. I’m talking about straight fastballs too, special pitches would be difficult for anyone.  My first year coaching softball I had a hard time hitting a pitch. Had to adjust everything I learned from my baseball swing and vision.”

I told him, if he grew up playing fastpitch softball and hitting from the closer distances, he’d be a much better fastpitch softball hitter today!

It’s about collecting data.

The main differences in the two swings are:

  1. Reaction Time (or timing), and
  2. Knee Action.

Reaction Time (or timing)

Getting back to the original reader email, two differences they mentioned:

  1. “…the swing has to take the most direct path to the pitch”,
  2. “…the pitch is generally released at 3 to 4 feet verse a baseball is released at roughly 7″…

Look, the first issue is about reaction time.

Fast-pitch softball hitting mechanics DO NOT call for ‘shorter swings’ than a baseball player.  They have to start their swings sooner!

If we start teaching hitters to ‘swing down on the ball’, be ‘short to it’, or an A to B barrel path, then we set the hitter up for inconsistent productive outcomes.

Why inconsistent productive outcomes?

Because an A to B barrel path is ineffective when looking at it through the lens of validated science:

  • Centripetal v. Centrifugal Forces,
  • Transferring Linear into Angular Momentum, and
  • Inertial Forces changing directions.

Two priority hitting objectives, for ALL hitters, MUST be to:

  1. Get the barrel on the plane of the pitch as early as possible, and
  2. Keep the barrel on plane for as long as possible.

We coaches have to build a large margin for error into the swing, not shorten it.

WHY?

Because of a major dose of uncertainty, hitters don’t know what type of pitch is coming, its speed, or its location beforehand.

By the way, swings can still be compact without an A –> B barrel path.  We MUST be teaching both hitters, more of an A –> B –> C path.  My readers call the latter, the Nike Swoosh barrel path.nike-swoosh-logo

The second reader issue above has to do with the angle of the downward traveling pitch.

And YES, even a softball is traveling down by the time it reaches the hitter, thanks to Gravitational Forces and air density.

As soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand (both fastpitch and baseball), the ball begins slowing down, rotating less, and ultimately falls towards the earth.

Assuming you’re still on earth 😉

Even the “Jenny Finch rise-ball begins to fall 4/5 of way, approx 8 feet away”.

However,

What is clear though, is the down angle of a fastpitch fastball isn’t quite as drastic as a baseball fastball.  A fastpitch fastball just isn’t exposed to Gravitational Forces long enough.

Which is also to say, evidenced in the Sports Science video above, since there’s less distance for the softball to travel, it loses less energy than a baseball will.  So that’s why we see Jennie Finch put a hurtin’ on that force plate!!

If you had the baseball pitcher throw from a distance of 43-foot, I think he’d crush the force plate as well.  Just my thoughts…

So reaction time and the hitter’s barrel attack angle being different,

How does a fastpitch softball hitter manage her barrel attack angle differently than a baseball hitter?

With…

Knee Action

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Lauren Chamberlain

Lauren Chamberlain wide stance, but uses shifting foot pressure and HER KNEES to hit. Photo courtesy: YouTube user Paul Arebalo

In order to compensate for the slight difference in the downward angle of the pitched ball, a hitter should adjust the bending of their knees as follows…

Fastpitch hitter:

  • Front knee at landing should be bent between 160 and 170-degrees (at 180-degrees, the leg is straight) to optimize Ground Reaction Forces, build in margin for error on off-speed and breaking balls, while also not giving up too much on Time To Impact.
  • Back knee at impact should be bent between 105 and 115-degrees to get on path to the bottom half of the ball.

Baseball hitter:

  • Front knee at landing should be bent between 150 and 165-degrees for the same reasons above, but with more access to a longer Time To Impact,
  • Back knee at impact should be bent between 90 and 105-degrees to get on-path to the bottom half of the ball.

The BIG Ask…

I want to make a BIG ASK to those coaches or instructors that are currently working with fastpitch softball hitters using HPL hitting principles.

Please share your triumphs and/or sticking points below…

Baseball Batting Drills For Youth: Make This Head Position Mistake And Dramatically Decrease Batted Ball Distance

 

This is Part-2 of a 3-part baseball batting drills for youth video series coming straight out of the Catapult Loading System online video mini-course…

The Catapult Loading System

Sick of struggling with getting your hitters to hit the ball hard with more consistency?  This is a simple 7-module online video mini-course that will help hitters weighing less than 100-pounds, hit the ball consistently over 300-feet in 60 days.  You’ll be able to dramatically increase power without sacrificing swing quality.

CLICK the Link below to…

Get Access to The Catapult Loading System Mini-Course

 

In this baseball batting drills for youth video post, I’ll be walking you through the Neck Brace Drill.  We’ll be going over:

  • The One-Joint Rule
  • Head movement that is okay
  • Jace Case Study: BEFORE & AFTER of Neck Brace Drill

 

The One-Joint Rule

Dr. Kelly Starrett from MobilityWOD.com, gives a perfect explanation of this in the following video (watch at about the 4:00 minute mark):

 

Head Movement that is Okay

Baseball Batting Drills for Youth: Andrew McCutchen Breaking One-Joint Rule

Andrew McCutchen breaking One-Joint Rule photo courtesy: MLB.com

What’s better, and thanks to Dr. Kelly Starrett’s explanation above, we can look at what head movement IS NOT okay through impact:

  1. Chin to chest,
  2. Head back (like looking at the sky), and
  3. Ear into rear shoulder (for a righty, right ear to right shoulder).

Major League example of #1 is Andrew McCutchen (image to the right).  Major League examples of #2 are Bryce Harper and Derek Jeter.

The only head movement that is okay through impact is a slight head turn.  Generally speaking, the head position we want to model is during the follow through.

 

 

Jace Case Study: BEFORE & AFTER of Neck Brace DrillBaseball Batting Drills for Youth: Jace BEFORE/AFTER Neck Brace Drill

I was able to experiment with the baseball batting drills for youth Neck Brace Drill with Jace, who’s one of my 10-year-old hitters that is 66-pounds.

Tiny compared to his peers.

However, over the last 6 months of hitting with me, and off a traditional batting tee, he now consistently registers 50-54-mph Ball Exit Speed with a non-wood bat.

In other words, Jace has the ability to hit the ball well over 200-feet, depending on the launch angle of the ball.

Now, we’ve been wrestling with his ‘bobblehead’ position for quite some time, and a big THANK YOU for the tip goes out to Coach Todd Bradley, head softball coach at Campbell University, the difference in one 45-minute session using the Neck Brace Drill can be seen in the image to the right.

Just about the same soft tossed pitch height.

Jace is still not perfect yet, but we’re getting there.

I know the baseball batting drills for youth we talked about in this post, will help your hitters and their head positioning up to, at, and passed impact.

Click the following Amazon links to get the same simple foam Youth Neck Brace & Adult Neck Brace that we used with Jace.

What Everybody Ought to Know About Softball Batting Drills for Power…

 

Softball Batting Drills For Power: The "Back Eye" Test

“Back Eye” Test – after “showing his numbers” to the pitcher, can Andrew McCutchen still pick up the ball with his back eye? Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This softball batting drills for power “Hit-Bit”, or hitting tid-bit, is an answer to questions from my readers when I asked them, “If you could have a private conversation with me, what two questions would you ask?”  The answers are meant to be short, actionable, and tips you can use today.

Today’s Hit-Bit answers the reader questions:

“How much can your shoulders turn on the load? Do you transfer all your weight to the front leg at sometime during the forward swing?”

We’ll talk about:

  1. The shoulder load & the “back eye” test,
  2. Weight transfer & the ‘Float’, and
  3. Weight transfer & the ‘Free-Fall’…

 

The Shoulder Load & “Back Eye” Test

I often relate the Goldilocks Golden Rule with my hitters.  Some movements we can do too much.  Some not at all.  We want to practice softball batting drills for power, such as loading the torso, “just right”.  And to make sure our hitters do this, in the video, I demonstrate the “back eye” test.

 

Weight Transfer & The ‘Float’

The “Float”, or as some call it a “negative move”, is a movement back towards the catcher before shifting the hitter’s body weight forward during the stride.  It’s a timing mechanism.  Hitter’s use different kinds of Floats: High, Medium, and Low Leg Kicks & Toe Taps.  See link below for different examples of this…

 

Weight Transfer & the ‘Free-Fall’

For the definitive guide to the Free-Fall, or Forward Momentum, Click the following HPL post link: Baseball Batting Techniques: Simple Way To Use Forward Momentum That Works For Elite Hitters.

Please comment below with any questions or comments about this video post…

Forward Momentum: Tinker & Test Baseball Batting Techniques

Baseball Batting Techniques: Dustin Pedroia and Forward Momentum

Dustin Pedroia, the King of FoMo. Photo courtesy: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In this baseball batting techniques post, we’ll talk about how elite MLB sluggers employ Forward Momentum (FoMo for short).

I’m going to answer the following questions from my readers:

  1. Does a hitter transfer all their weight to the front leg at some point in the swing?
  2. Does FoMo stride need to be big or small?
  3. Does the back foot “follow” the front with FoMo?
  4. Can a wide no-stride hitter utilize Forward Momentum?
  5. Are FoMo hitters more vulnerable to off speed and breaking stuff?

Keep in mind, forward momentum is the objective, and in this baseball batting techniques post, I’ll show different elite hitter examples of forward momentum.  The important thing isn’t what you use to get Forward Momentum, it’s the Forward Momentum itself.

Let’s get to it…

 

Does a hitter transfer all their weight to the front leg at some point in the swing?

Yes.  With elite sluggers, it’s rare you don’t find them shifting their weight from back to forward.  We typically see one of a few baseball batting techniques associated with FoMo: 1) a “Float”, or a slight weight shift back, then 2) a “Free Fall” forward.

And FYI during the Float, yes it’s okay for the back knee to drift over the foot, and NOT have to unnaturally be ‘shoved’ inside it.

You’ll see the following hitters, who try and start with the back knee inside the back foot (Jose Bautista), will accidently float the knee back out before falling forward.

The dead give away of elite hitters shifting their weight is to look at the weight distribution at impact.  You’ll see a weight-free back leg at the start of the turning pelvis…

Andrew “Cutch” McCutchen

Troy “Tulo” Tulowitzki

Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista

Does FoMo stride need to be big or small?

Whatever the hitter is comfortable with.  In other words, don’t be so specific in teaching certain Forward Momentum baseball hitting techniques.  Remember, the objective is that they’re employing Forward Momentum.  We don’t really care how they get there.

Feel free to recommend your hitters tinker with and test the following FOUR stride types:

Josh “The Bringer of Rain” Donaldson (BIG Leg Kick)

Dustin “Laser Show” Pedroia (MEDIUM Leg Kick)

Robinson “Mercedes” Cano (SMALL Leg Kick/Slide Step)

Victor Martinez (Toe Tap)

Does the back foot “follow” the front with FoMo?

It doesn’t have to, but I like it too.  If a hitter gets too wide with the stride, and the back foot isn’t allowed to follow, then the hitter will have a challenge getting a tight back knee angle, which is responsible for a better ball launch angle.  CLICK HERE for the back knee angle Zepp experiment.

Roberto “The Great One” Clemente (watch at the 0:33 mark and beyond)

Mike “Millville Meteor” Trout

Bryce “Bam Bam” Harper

CLICK HERE for one of my favorite baseball batting techniques, the Back Foot Variance Drill.

Can a wide no-stride hitter utilize Forward Momentum?

Here are my questions for a coach who would ask this about baseball batting techniques:

  • “Why are you hooked on being so wide with the feet at the start, and/or not allowing a stride?…”
  • “Is it about minimizing head movement?”
  • “Is it cutting down on moving parts?”
  • “Is it a timing thing?”

Coaches on Facebook have told me, the stride is too hard to teach, or for a young hitter to get.  Apparently this poison was shared during a speech at the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) conference.

I’m not convinced, especially when 3-year-old Chinese females are learning some of the most complex human movements in Gymnastics.

Furthermore,

Look to other explosive athletes that almost NEVER start wide with their feet:

  • Pitchers,
  • Olympic Divers,
  • Olympic Throwers,
  • Soccer Players,
  • Quarterbacks, Linebackers, and Deep Backs…

Sometimes, it’s not about choosing particular baseball batting techniques.  It’s a mindset.  I always stress to my hitters, get athletic from the start, and be athletic when you land, so you can transfer the max amount of energy from your body, into the barrel, then to the ball.

About head movement, it’s going to happen. CLICK HERE for a compelling baseball batting techniques analysis by Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs.com, that demystifies that elite hitters are keeping their head still (Read under “Keep Your Head Still” section).

If it’s about timing, then it’s the timing that must be adjusted.  There are only two timing elements:

  1. When the hitter starts their swing, and
  2. How long they ‘Float’.

A hitter can change one or the other, or both.  It’s up to them.

Those are the adjustments, it’s not a “stride issue”.  CLICK HERE for my favorite baseball batting techniques for timing.

Even big guys use Forward Momentum.  It just looks more subtle…coming in the form of a ‘sliding’ of the pelvis (Cruz and Pujols are great examples of this below)…

Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera

Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz

Albert “The Machine” Pujols

 

Are FoMo hitters more vulnerable to off speed and breaking stuff?

This is common issue #2 that coaches have with Forward Momentum, a hitter cannot adjust to breaking or off-speed stuff.

I invite you to look at the following sluggers who use FoMo, and their stats don’t reveal they had trouble adjusting to off speed and breaking stuff:

All these hitters had exceptional power, high averages, low strikeouts, and high walks compared to today’s hitters.

Last but certainly not least…

David “Big Papi” Ortiz

And how about Big Papi?  Why wouldn’t we mention him, right?! He just hit his 500th career homer!  He starts and finishes in the same spot, but there’s a whole lot of FoMo going on in-between:

 

In Conclusion

When it comes to baseball batting techniques, 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.

CLICK HERE to Enter for a chance to Win one free account access to The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power online video course (a $77 value).  You have until 12:00pm PST today to enter.  To better your chances of winning, you can spread the word on social media.  I’ll be picking the winner Monday, September 21st, and reaching out via email.  Good luck! 😀

Contest UPDATE: this contest is now closed, and Jon Ball was our winner!

Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum: Mike Trout

Note the gentleman in the stands with the hat and Mariners shirt on (red arrow) as Mike Trout’s head moves forward to landing. Photo courtesy: YouTube user: PastTimeAthletics.com

The most common objection I hear from my hitters is that…

Their coaches are dumping on them for using forward momentum.

Because – they say – there’s too much head movement!

These coaches keep saying the perfect swing shouldn’t have head movement.

In a way, they’re right!

But there’s a bit of confusion as to when head movement is okay…and not okay.

You see, the perfect swing, has head movement.  ALL dynamic movement does.  Did you know our head bobs up and down when we walk and run?  Try watching television upside down and you’ll see it clear as day.

But it’s the timing of head movement that matters.

In this post, we’re going over:

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

 

Balance Without Thinking

Proprioception.  I know it’s a big ugly word.  But it has A LOT to do with the perfect swing.  At least when we talk about head movement.

Experiencing proprioception is easier than saying the word itself!

Try this…

Stand up, lift one leg, and close your eyes…

You feel your standing ankle and foot wobbling to balance your body?

This balance happens without you having to think about it.  It’s an unconscious process, like breathing.

Here’s how balance without thinking breaks down when looking at the perfect swing…

  • Scenario #1 The Sit Back Hitter – during stride, keep 60% of weight on BACK leg, being soft with the landing foot like you’re stepping on unbroken eggshells.
  • Scenario #2 The Forward Momentum Hitter – during stride, commit 60% of body weight to FRONT leg at landing, thereby breaking the “eggshells” in scenario #1.

Let’s apply proprioception to where the two scenarios left off above…

In Scenario #1, to bring the body back to balance, the brain shifts the weight forward during the Final Turn.  In other words, the heads moves later.

In scenario #2, to restore balance, the brain shifts the weight back during the Final Turn.  Because of the transfer of linear into angular momentum, the head will become the center axis of rotation along with the spine.

So we sacrifice head movement early, for little to no head movement later.

Do an experiment with the two scenarios above.  Record your swing using the Coaches Eye or Ubersense app.  Try and swing as hard as you can under complete control.  And note the change in head position between the two scenarios.

In a perfect swing, you’re going to have head movement.  But the question is, when do you want it?  BEFORE or DURING the Final Turn?

Debunking a Common Objection & a Study

CLICK HERE for a great FanGraphs study that Dan Farnsworth did on June 17, 2013 titled “Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012”.

Scroll down a ways and start reading under the section: “Keep Your Head Still”.

Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraphs’ Batting component of WAR.  He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season in which each player hit a homerun.  You can read the details of how he compiled his measurements in his post.

As Farnsworth says, the main complaint coaches have with Forward Momentum, or early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true…

But during the stride, the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  So again, if you know head movement is inevitable during dynamic movement, then when do you want it to happen?  BEFORE or DURING the Final Turn?

Does a quarterback “rolling out” to throw to a fast moving receiver have head movement?  Yes, until his plant leg hits the ground before throwing.  Does a soccer player have head movement quickly dribbling the ball down the field to get closer to the goal, weaving in and out of defenders?  Yes, until their plant foot hits the ground to kick.  I can go on and one with Olympic Throwers and Shot Putters!

Really think about the answer to that question.

 

Perfect Swing Examples…

When you watch the following videos, pick out someone or something in the stands behind the hitter to use as a frame of reference in watching for head movement. The following examples were the TOP-5 OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage) hitters in 2014:

1. Victor Martinez

2. Jose Abreu

3. Andrew McCutchen

4. Giancarlo Stanton

5. Mike Trout

 

Albert Pujols Video: A Big Misunderstanding

Albert Pujols slightly out front of an 89-mph cutter photo courtesy: MLB.com

People always want to know how to hit the ball harder, with more consistency.  And it all starts with how the head moves during the swing.  Who better to look at for consistency than Albert Pujols, AKA “The Machine”…

According to Baseball-Reference.com, a few key offensive stats based on his 162-game average are:

  • On-Base + Slug% (OPS) – .991…league average is .730
  • Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) – .303 (Fangraphs.com)…league average is .300
  • Homers – 40
  • Doubles – 43

Albert Pujols may not be the same hitter he was with the Cardinals…BUT…what he has working for him is friction-free head movement during the swing.  An oftentimes, misunderstood topic.

In this video post, we’ll hold head movement during the swing to the fire of science:

  • Albert Pujols: understanding the 1/3 Vision Rule,
  • Why breaking the One-Joint Rule bleeds force at impact, and
  • Two most common head position mistakes & how to fix…

 

Albert Pujols: Understanding the 1/3 Vision-Rule

One of my readers, Blake Blackwell, took his son to a Tom House pitching camp.  For those who don’t know Tom House, he’s the founder of the National Pitching Association.  Blake said that Tom House was teaching his pitchers to gear pitch movement for the last 1/3 of the distance to home-plate.

Why?

Studies show that Professional hitters lose sight of the ball within the last 5-7 feet of ball flight.  Consider the 1/3 Vision-Rule…

  • First 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the pitcher’s release point out of the corner of the front eye,
  • Middle 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the ball with both eyes, and
  • Last 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the ball with the corner of the back eye.

Late breaking movement adds to the pitcher’s deception because a hitter like Albert Pujols isn’t picking up pitch detail during the last 1/3 of ball flight.  You see, peripheral vision (out of the corner of the eye) is about picking up motion, not detail.

Understanding this is important to hitting because you’ll learn…

 

Why Breaking the One-Joint Rule Bleeds Force at Impact

Bryce Harper losing spinal integrity

Bryce Harper “kinking the hose” by dropping his left ear to his shoulder.  Photo courtesy: MLB.com

And upsets vision…

CLICK HERE to watch a demonstration of the One-Joint Rule I did with Shak, a Kansas University Jay-hawks wide receiver.  Dr. Kelly Starrett from MobilityWOD.com says this about the One-Joint Rule:

“The musculature [in the spine] is designed to create stiffness so that you can effectively transmit energy to the primary engines of your hips and shoulders.  If you don’t preserve trunk stiffness while moving from your hips and shoulders, you will lose power and force.    The is the basis for the one-joint rule: you should see flexion and extension movement happen at the hips and shoulders, not your spine.”

He then adds…

“Hinging at one of the segments [vertebraes in the neck]…when we put a hinge across the central nervous system, the body recognizes that as a primary insult, or threat to the body, because you’re basically guillotining or kinking the nervous system.  You’ve kinked ‘the tube’, so it [force production] just drops off.”

 

Two Most Common Head Position Mistakes & How-to Fix…

Here they are:

  1. Chin to chest (a la Andrew McCutchen), AND
  2. Ear to rear shoulder (a la Bryce Harper).

How do we fix these?

First you have to understand the spine can move Globally or LocallyCLICK HERE to watch this demonstration.

Then, the hitter must understand that their head can ONLY move like it’s rotating on a “spit” (the spine), from side to side.  Unless we’re talking about Global Extenting or Flexing.  In other words, the spine can Globally Flex towards the plate – say on a low pitch – but the head MUST stay in line with the spine as it turns towards contact.

At lastly, train this head movement with variance:

  • Setup up five swing rounds,
  • On swings 1-3-5, practice keeping the head on a “spit”, turning the head to get the nose behind the barrel (the right way), and
  • On swings 2-4, practice moving the chin to chest OR ear to rear shoulder (the wrong way).

Note the difference.  I guarantee Albert Pujols makes a conscious effort to keep efficient head movement during his swing.  Can you see why pitchers armed with the 1/3 Vision-Rule, and hitters getting excessive head movement by breaking the One-Joint Rule can really affect repeatable power?