Posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider what Henry Ford once said,

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

In the above video, we discuss the:

  • Science,
  • Experimentation, and
  • Application…

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

Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

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

DON’T BE OLD.

How To Turn Pitchers’ Bullpens Into Pitch Recognition Dominance For Hitters

PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid: Jaime Cevallos

Prototype of Jaime Cevallos’s new pitch recognition training aid called: PitchView

I’m happy to announce the RE-arrival of Jaime Cevallos onto the hitting scene!

He’s a good friend of mine, and has some cool stuff to share.

He’s working on a new training aid that helps with Pitch Recognition that I think will revolutionize how that is trained at practices.

He’s also working on a new companion book to his latest book Positional Hitting.

We dig into quite a bit in this interview, so please let me know in the comments if you’d like us to do a Part-2 sometime.

Jaime Cevallos Interview (1-hour, 1-min total time for interview)…here are the time-stamps of the audio interview, so you can skip around:

  • I asked Jaime, “How do you explain to people what it is you do?” Talks about his interest in movement, and how he got invited to Golf’s Safeway Open as a swing coach [about 1-min mark]
  • Talked about how Jaime’s book Positional Hitting was a fantastic transition for me from when I used to teach Down & Through. Here’s the Jaime Cevallos Four Hour Work Week Blog post featuring him titled: How I Did It: From $7 an Hour to Coaching Major League Baseball MVPs [about 3-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, I understand you started in golf analysis before jumping into the baseball swing…what were your takeaways from golf that made a difference with the baseball swing?”  The pain from quitting baseball, made him obsessive about figuring out the swing. Importance of bent back arm impact position of good Golfers – noticed similar thing in baseball.  Comparing Ben Hogan to Babe Ruth and how similar their swings were.  Learning the “Slot Position” and spotting patterns.  [answers about 10-min mark]
  • The challenge of teaching amateur hitters to hit the ball as hard and as far as you can, and that only fixing ineffective mechanics – or not.  Teaching high level mechanics to youth hitters.  Player definitely needs to be curious about hitting, hard work not necessarily needed at a young age. How many young hitters would read Charlie Lau’s book at 12yo?  If teaching doesn’t allow hitter to not be robotic, then most likely it’s the coaching cue that’s the issue. [about 14:30 mark]
  • I asked Jaime, A question I get asked all the time is, do you believe the baseball and Fast-Pitch Softball swing are two totally different things?” Differences being reaction time and stride timing…no real difference in what you’re trying to accomplish with the swing. Understanding cricket and how golfers don’t care about Golf “Ball Exit Speed”, they care more about precision and accuracy.  [about 21-min, 30-sec mark]
  • Jaime quote that addresses those coaches that ask, “So how many Big League AB’s do you have?” Should we take what MLB hitting instructors say as gospel? Here’s Jaime’s quote I mentioned in the interview, MLB hitting coaches are motivated by keeping their job, not developing innovative principles. If they change a franchise player’s swing, and that player gets worse, their name is forever blacklisted. Word will spread that he makes good hitters bad. And regardless of how many hitters he has helped, the one he “ruined” will be the bane of his career. GMs will attach his name with money flying out the window. He can just take a seat next to Jose Canseco in the list of people who will never be offered a contract. Because of this, MLB hitting coaches develop vague hitting methods, appearing to help when the team is doing well, yet standing on no specific method when the team is struggling. It’s common for them to wait until a player on the team gets hot, and associate themselves to that player as much as possible. I’ve seen it time and time again.”  We’re in a swing instruction revolution.  The MLB hitting coaches are catching up.  [about 28-min mark]
  • If you have something of value you can offer to a professional ball player, then go and seek them out in the winter to work with them.  It doesn’t matter if you have baseball experience, if you have a passionate curiosity for finding out the swing, then go for it!  The fallacy credibility indicator of “30 years of coaching”…it’s not the year in your coaching, it’s the coaching in your years.  The willingness to take chances and experiment with your teaching/coaching young hitters.  [about 31-min mark]
  • Jaime talks about his new product the PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid. Biggest area of opportunity to solve a problem in a sport. Hitting is four different skills: Eye Hand Coordination, Mechanics, Strength & Speed, and Pitch Recognition.  Jaime feels eye-hand coordination is pretty much tapped out.  How juggling at a young age helped Jaime’s eye-hand coordination, however he feels it didn’t help him that much in hitting – more so in fielding.  What steroid-era taught us about the Strength & Speed category.  Swing mechanics is going through a revolution – opportunity here right now.  Pitch Recognition is untapped right now. [about 36-min mark]
  • The WHY, HOW, and WHAT of the PitchView PR Training Aid. How PR is currently being trained now.  Protecting the hitter freeing them up to actively learn how to make their PR better during pitcher’s bullpens.  Connecting release motion to flight of the ball to hitters movement (timing).  Currently working with Berkeley University baseball team as a LIVE case study.  Your team record will depend on how effective and efficient your practices are.  [about 40-min mark]
  • I mentioned Dr. Peter Fadde and his Pitch Recognition software GameSense, CLICK HERE for this written interview I did with him.  And CLICK HERE for Perry Husband in this interview about his Effective Velocity program on tracking and timing. [about 45-min mark]
  • Jaime mentions the new book he’s working on that will be a fantastic compliment to his last book Positional Hitting.  This book will talk more about feel to transition the positions of the swing.  [about 48-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, If you could put anything on a ballpark jumbo-tron, in any MLB ballpark, what would you put on it?”  Don’t give up. What this means to him isn’t what you think. Focus on movement – perfect most important movements.  [about 51-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, What advice would you give the beginning Positional Hitting Jaime?” He wouldn’t change much, but would tell himself not to swing as much.  He’s someone who wants to perfect the swing, doesn’t necessarily enjoy teaching.  Swing motion is pretty hard on the body especially one-sided dominant hitters.  Raul Ibanez told Jaime at 35yo to save your swings.  Jaime’s work on Gymnastics now to take care of his body.  You need to start swinging from the other side – your body just needs it, and makes your preferred swing better. GymnasticBodies.com [about 55-min mark]

Where you can find more about Jaime Cevallos online:

Here’s a short video of the PitchView in use:

One Of The Best Baseball Hitting Drills For Little League Helping STOP “Racing Back Elbow” Bat Drag

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Little League: Jace Bat Drag

Look at my 11u hitter Jace’s racing back elbow, and the fix a week later. On the left side, he weighed in at 68-lbs, and right before our session, hit his first official homer distancing 180-feet!

Question: Does ‘Top Hand Finger Pressure’ Effect Bat & Hand Speed, and Time To Impact versus Keeping the Hands Loose? (Pre-Turn Hand Tension Revisited)

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to revisit a past experiment I did titled “Babe Ruth Reveals Hand Tension?”  And analyze whether having relaxed hands OR ‘finger pressure’ affects Zepp metrics.

Growing up, I was taught baseball hitting drills for Little League – which are still being taught, that loose hands are quick hands.  Modern research REVEALS that may not be the WHOLE story.

I wanted to revisit the previous ‘Babe Ruth experiment’ because in that test, I wasn’t actively holding the finger pressure through impact.  In this experiment, I will be.

In the Conclusion of this post, I’ll also give a couple examples of my hitters who were suffering from really stubborn bat drag (one for over 1.5 years), and how we used ‘finger pressure’ to correct it within 1-2 weeks.

 

Background Research

In the Babe Ruth Pre-Turn Hand Tension Zepp swing experiment, I used the following Research links:

  • Pavel Tsatsouline Tim Ferriss podcast revealing how the hands can be used to recruit more muscle tissue and connect larger areas of the body,
  • Homer Kelly’s book The Golfing Machine went into describing one of the four power accumulators in the golf swing, and
  • Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains, and how Front Arm Fascial Lines are responsible for connecting what an explosive rotational athlete is holding in their hand(s), with the other springy fascial lines inter-weaving throughout the rest of the torso and body.

I also wanted to point out that a few months after publishing the ‘Babe Ruth Pre-Turn Hand Tension’ experiment I met Lee Comeaux, now a good friend of mine, who is a professional golf instructor out in Texas.  He’s been studying Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains for over a decade now.

He simplifies the concept we now call top hand finger pressure.  So THANK YOU Lee!  CLICK HERE to visit Lee’s (Roy) YouTube channel.  And by the way, Lee has a 13u daughter playing fastpitch softball in Texas, and last time I heard she was hitting .800 using the same principles we talk about here.

So yes, this works for both fastpitch and baseball hitters!

Please watch the following interview with Thomas Myers titled, “Tensegrity Applied To Human Biomechanics”:

  • Defining tension & compression Forces (0:10)
  • Applying tension to the structure makes it stronger and more stable (5:55)
  • Applying tensegrity to the human body and tightening up as a benefit to taking on impact (12:35)

I’ve also heard Thomas Myers talk about synovial fluid in our joints.  It’s our lubrication system.  And it’s liquid, between the joints, when we’re relaxed…in the above video, he called this “adaptability”.

However, when we catch a ball in a glove, for instance, we squeeze our hand around the ball turning the synovial fluid to a solid state.  This concept becomes important when we’re talking about ‘finger pressure’ when hitting.

I tell my hitters it’s the difference between the ball feeling like it’s hitting a cinder block (the bat), or a wet pool noodle.

Hypothesis

Baseball Hitting Drills for Little League: Zack Racing Back Elbow Fix

This is my Sophomore in H.S. Zack and his racing back elbow BEFORE & AFTER. This was a 1 week fix employing ‘finger pressure’.

I’m a little biased in this experiment because I’ve seen the research AND how this has worked miracles with my own hitters employing ‘top hand finger pressure’. However, I wanted to conduct another formal experiment comparing the  following Zepp metrics:

  • Bat Speed at Impact,
  • Hand Speed Max,
  • Time To Impact,
  • Barrel Vertical Angle at Impact, and
  • Attack Angle…

…between the two swings.  Whereas the aforementioned ‘Babe Ruth Pre-Turn Hand Tension‘ experiment I held the hand tension before the turn, then let it go.  This experiment I’ll be keeping top hand finger pressure from the moment I pick up my front foot to stride, to all the way through impact.

I predict, by using ‘top hand finger pressure’ longer, we’ll see an effective jump in all metrics rather than the conventional of ‘loose hands are fast hands’.  I also predict holding finger pressure longer will be more effective than the previously mentioned experiment metrics for Pre-Turn Hand Tension.

At the end, I’ll show how ‘finger pressure’ has STOPPED bat drag in two of my hitters at the Conclusion of the experiment.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills For Little League: ‘Finger Pressure’ Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • We used the Zepp Labs Baseball app to gain swing data.
  • I stayed as consistent as I could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length plus two baseballs in front of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the baseball hitting drills for Little League ‘finger pressure’ experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Finger pressure’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘loose hands’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being sufficiently warmed up” factors.
  • On the finger pressure swings, I used top hand bottom three finger pressure only, which consisted of tightening up the top hand bottom three fingers (pinky, ring, & middle) from the time I picked my stride foot up, to all the way through impact.  The bottom hand was doing what I call the ‘butterfly grip’…tight enough to keep a butterfly from getting away but not too tight to crush it.
  • Loose hands consisted of trying to maintain a ‘butterfly grip’ throughout the whole swing.
  • Throughout the baseball hitting drills for Little League swing experiment, I was drinking a Lime Cucumber flavored “Pepino” Gatorade (very good btw) and a chocolate milk to replenish my body’s protein, sugars, and electrolytes during the 2-hour experiment.
  • I did an 8 exercise dynamic warm up in this baseball hitting drills for Little League experiment before taking about 15-20 practice swings off the tee.

Data Collected (Zepp App Screenshot)

Baseball Hitting Drills For Little League: Finger Pressure Zepp Experiment

Notice the slight change in bat and hand speed metrics, AND the difference in Time To Impact…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Baseball Hitting Drills for Little League: Bat Path

You can clearly see the negative Attack Angle.  This was a finger pressure swing.

  • Using ‘Finger Pressure’ gained an average of 1-mph Bat Speed at Impact
  • Using ‘Finger Pressure’ gained an average of 1-mph Hand Speed Max
  • Using ‘Loose Hands’ decreased Time To Impact by a whopping 0.017 (17/100th’s of a second)
  • Bat Vertical Angle & Attack Angle showed no differences between the two swings.

These were interesting findings in this baseball hitting drills for Little League finger pressure Zepp swing experiment.

My Hypothesis proved correct in that we saw an increase in average Bat Speed at Impact and Hand Speed Max employing ‘finger pressure’, however it wasn’t a huge change.

Also in my Hypothesis, this experiment didn’t turn out more effective for finger pressure than it did for Pre-Turn Hand Tension (PTHT) in the Babe Ruth Experiment, where I gained an average of 3-mph Bat Speed at Impact using PTHT.

You’ll notice the major decrease in Time To Impact using the ‘loose hands’ method.  Excluding the racing back elbow bat drag hitter, from these results and the Thomas Myers research, we can say using a hybrid of the two methods…loose hands at the start of the turn, and finger pressure slightly pre-, at-, and post- impact would be more effective than not.

On the contrary, for the bat drag hitter with a racing back elbow issue, I think finger pressure MUST be used before the turn happens because these hitters evidently have a ‘fascial connection’ issue between what they’re holding in their hand, and their turning torso.

In other words, they may not intuitively use finger pressure like other hitters without the racing back elbow issue.  So this would be one of the smarter baseball hitting drills for little league.

Besides, according to the Zepp app Time To Impact Goals for Pro hitters are right around .140 anyway, so my .131 with finger pressure is still more effective.

One last thing to note, coming from my experiential knowledge in working with my hitters, I consistently see a 2-3-mph boost in Ball Exit Speed when using finger pressure versus NOT in one 45-minute session.

This just means I’ll have to REVISIT this baseball hitting drills for Little League finger pressure Zepp swing experiment again, but collecting and comparing Ball Exit Speed data.

If you have any other thoughts or questions about this baseball hitting drills for Little League Zepp swing experiment, please respond below in the comments…THANKS in advance!

Baseball Hitting Drills For Power That Babe Ruth WOULD BE Talking About

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Power: Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth post impact…notice he’s not ‘squashing the bug’ with his back foot? 😉 Photo courtesy: ABCNews.com

This baseball hitting drills for power video post, featuring Babe Ruth, was recorded on Jun 11, 2013 for my old hitting site Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills dot com.

I’m going to revisit the information in this post because…

The coaching cues I teach now are a bit different, but what hasn’t changed are the human movement principles brought to light in the analysis.

Since I created the video, it’s amassed over 52K views on YouTube.

Probably more now that you’re reading this…

And by the way, the baseball hitting drills for power tips we’ll be covering work REALLY well for softball players too.

Don’t believe me?

CLICK HERE for a recent post I did discussing how similar the baseball and softball swings are.

Be sure to read some of the comments at the end of the post, where I asked my readers who coach softball players, to share how these same human movement principles are working for their girls.

In this baseball hitting drills for power post, we’ll REVISIT and ADD information to the above video:

  • What Forward Momentum looks like in Babe Ruth’s swing,
  • How The Babe uses the Springy ‘X’ Pattern, and
  • Compare how WR holding Shot Putter Ulf Timmerman uses the same human movement principles…

 

What Forward Momentum Looks like in Babe Ruth’s Swing

I mention a few things in the video…

How The Babe seemingly throws his body (or hips) forward, making an aggressive move towards the pitched ball.

This looks very similar to a pitcher falling down the mound.

There was no ‘push off’ with his back leg, just a natural fall forward with his front leg catching him at stride landing.

In the above video, I also mention, how Babe Ruth commits his body weight forward, similar to how we walk…

A person’s body weight is shifted forward to the swing through leg, as the heel approaches the ground.

Unlike a cat taking a tentative step forward as if the ground is going to give way, we don’t walk by ‘sitting back’ at every step forward.

We walk more like dogs! Committing forward with EVERY step.

And this is WHY we shouldn’t be teaching hitters to ‘Sit back’ when hitting.  Unless of course, you want to create timid and defensive swinging hitters that WILL reach a ceiling at the lower levels.

Now, using this same Babe Ruth style fall is where baseball hitting drills for power semi-fork away from fastpitch softball hitters.

Because of a shortened pitching distance and reaction time, we’ll see forward momentum look more like Lauren Chamberlain’s shifting foot pressure in the following video:

In this video, she starts super wide with her feet, but you’ll see her shift her weight back, then forward (watch her body move away from the grounded heavy bag behind her).

This is still a form of Forward Momentum.  Just more tailored for a fastpitch hitting strategy.

In the above Babe Ruth video, I mention Un-Weighting, or the Un-Weighting Principle.

CLICK HERE for an HPL video demonstrating a test I use to get my hitters ‘buying into’ Forward Momentum benefits.

The bottom line with forward momentum is that it increases a hitter’s reaction time by giving them a head start.

It’s easier to change planes of motion when you’re already moving…rather than standing still like purely rotational hitters.

Does it take more energy to push a car when it’s already moving, or at a dead stop?

We want effortless power, NOT a powerless effort.

Are you concerned about too much head movement?

Check out these FOUR posts that address that issue:

How The Babe Uses the Springy ‘X’ Pattern

CLICK HERE for an HPL post talking about the science of tension/compression forces in the body, known as fascia.

CLICK HERE for another HPL post analyzing the swing of Adrian Gonzalez highlighting the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.

I call this piece of my hitting system the Catapult Loading System.  This online video mini-course teaches exactly how to manipulate springy fascia for repeatable power.

Here’s one of my favorite YouTube interviews with Thomas Myers, who does a GREAT job explaining the role of springy fascia in the body, so the Layman understands:

Thomas Myers authored the book Anatomy Trains, which I highly recommend as a MUST read to anyone serious about teaching hitting.  The information in his book holds the key to how hitting will be taught 5 years from now.  BELIEVE IT.

Baseball Hitting Drills For Power: Josh Donaldson Springy 'X' Pattern

Watch how Josh Donaldson manipulates the Springy ‘X’ Pattern. Photo courtesy: YouTuber PastimeAthletics & PicPlayHost

There a couple baseball hitting drills for power points I’ve recently changed, when teaching hitting, different from the information in the Babe Ruth video above (thanks Lee Comeaux for pointing these out)

  • #1 – I don’t focus on the shoulders facilitating the Springy ‘X’ Pattern anymore, but the armpits (view Josh Donaldson RED ‘X’ image to the right). This is where, as Thomas Myers puts it, the Front Arm Fascial Line passes through connecting bottom of the left hand and arm, across the chest, to the bottom of the right hand and arm.
  •  #2 – Notice how Babe Ruth seems to be ‘hunched’ over from the start of his swing into loading the Springy ‘X’ Pattern? Dr. Kelly Starrett calls this global flexion of the spine.  This allows the spine to decompress. In his book The Spinal Engine, Dr. Serge Gracovetsky talks about this ‘hunched’ posture as the Posterior Ligamentous System (PLS) turning on, which acts like a harness supporting the spine under load.  There’s less muscle activation when this happens.  Think about a fishing rod bending under the weight and energy of a fish catching bait.  This keeps the spine vertebrae safe through torsion forces.

PLEASE NOTE: the hitter still MUST show numbers and get a slight downward shoulder angle, but we’re using a better coaching cue to get the mechanical outcome.

 

Compare How WR Holding Shot Putter Ulf Timmermann uses the Same Movement Principles

Ulf Zimmermann holds the World Record in the Shot Put using the Glide technique.

Check out his World Record throw on September 22nd, 1985 at a distance of 22.62 meters (about 25 yards):

What a BEAST!  By the way, that iron cannonball he just tossed, almost the quarter length of a football field, weighs 16-pounds!!

Three eerily similar baseball hitting drills for power tips you’ll find with Ulf Timmermann’s record breaking ‘Glide’ technique and Babe Ruth’s swing are:

  1. Ulf Timmermann gets his weight aggressively moving forward with a combination of back leg push off and front leg ‘reaching’ momentum.  What Ulf does with his front leg is similar to a Broad Jumper using their arms to build momentum before a jump.
  2. You also see Ulf Timmermann employing the same Springy ‘X’ Pattern, however more extreme than The Babe (track his compressed armpit and opposing hip).  Ulf is more extreme with the ‘turn in’ because Babe Ruth still has to keep his eyes forward to hit a ball coming towards him, whereas Ulf has the freedom to look away from his target.
  3. You also see both Ulf and The Babe ‘getting shorter’ before exploding rotationally (compare knee bend). They’re both using Ground Reaction Forces very well.

CLICK HERE for a baseball hitting drills for power video post I did outlining the ‘Back Eye Test’, so hitters don’t turn in too much, like Ulf.

A Couple Interesting Tid-Bits from YouTube Video Comments

  • “Excellent video. I recommend everyone read The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. You will be even more amazed with his achievements.” – YouTube user: Gto1927
  • One commenter said this video shows why The Babe hit for so much power, but also struck out A LOT. However, Baseball-Reference.com puts Babe Ruth’s 162-game batting average at .342 with 86 strikeouts per year. How about Chris “Crush” Davis? Same numbers: .255 BA & 200 K’s/year.  I don’t think The Babe struck out that much…what do you think? 😉

CRUSH the Ball Like Mickey Mantle

 

Mickey Mantle Bat Lag

Check out Mickey Mantle’s bat lag. Photo courtesy: LegendaryAuctions.com

I originally included this Mickey Mantle video in a Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills post on June 11th, 2013. I did this about 6-months before launching HPL.

Since publishing the YouTube video, it has amassed over 56,325 views, 76 video “Likes”, and only 7 video “dislikes”.

The basic premise of the video was to compare Mickey Mantle’s right handed swing mechanics to Czech javelin throwerJan Železný’s throwing technique.  Jan is a world and Olympic champion and world record holder. He also holds the top five javelin performances of all time…according to Wikipedia.

In the video, I brought up my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote many of you have seen me post before:

“As to the methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few.  The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

The human movement “principles” we’re comparing in the video are:

  1. The Un-Weighting Principle (or Forward Momentum), and
  2. The Catapult Loading System.

The reason I picked “The Mick”, is because he wasn’t really a big guy, according to Baseball Reference.com, he stood at only 5’11, 195-pounds.

Don’t get me wrong, Mickey Mantle was a naturally strong dude.  But he wasn’t the size of today’s behemoths:

And, some of The Mick’s dingers have been the talk of folklore, claiming to have traveled over 600-feet!

Although with the computation of Metrics now, as Christopher Harbour, a YouTube reader commenter on this particular video, put it:

“The farthest official home run in MLB history was hit by Babe Ruth in Detroit at a distance of 585ft. Mickey’s longest shot was 510Ft. It was often claimed to be much farther but that distance was the distance AFTER the ball rolled. This info is proven by SABR historian Bill Jenkinson.”

Whatever the case, it’s still amazing that a guy of Mickey Mantle’s stature, can hit a ball over 500-feet!  We don’t see Giancarlo, Miggy, or Trout doing that.

And by the way, everyone thinks Babe Ruth was this hulking mass of a guy…he was only 6’2″, 215-pounds.  And according to the above comment, launched the longest dinger 585-feet!

So what was Mickey Mantle doing mechanically making him so special that we as coaches should be teaching our younger hitters?

Mickey Mantle on the Un-Weighting Principle (or Forward Momentum)

Mickey Mantle Stride and Foot Pressure

Look at Mickey Mantle’s shifting foot pressure… Photo courtesy: http://s685.photobucket.com/user/BillBurgess

I said in the video that The Mick’s back knee wasn’t floating over his ankle, but that’s simply not true.  This was knowledge residue from past baseball experts I was listening to at the time.

What Mickey Mantle did really well was shifting his foot pressure.

We can see from the moment he lifts his stride foot to that foot touching down that his foot pressure looks like this:

  • Back foot pressure – is on the outside, and
  • Stride foot pressure – is on the inside.

This is similar to a story one of my readers, Stephen Reid, shared about prolific golfer Ben Hogan (5’9″, 145-pounds), saying in an email:

“A friend of mine worked at Shady Oaks in Dallas where Hogan played and practiced. Towards the end of Mr. Hogan’s time of ‘grinding it out of the dirt”, he was allowed the opportunity to sit and watch him hit balls. He said that Mr. Hogan started talking about the stance, and he stated that the way he thought it would come to pass in the future would be that both feet at address would both be turned slightly towards the target- 30 to 45 degrees. By turning the right foot in at address, the golfer would essentially be putting a governor on his/her right side.

He also reasoned that by doing this, the player would create the tension and brace with the right side and would create a strong coil that would not allow for any “over-coiling or over-swinging”. Therefore, you would be presetting the coil or brace of the right side in a controlled manner and would not allow oneself to overturn in the backswing. Conclusion was that the energy from a strong brace and controlled coil, the golfer would create greater energy in the release of the right side while creating greater swing speeds through impact.”

As Mickey Mantle’s stride foot lands the foot pressure shifts as follows:

  • Back foot pressure – moves to the inside, and
  • Stride foot pressure – moves to the outside.

Mickey Mantle is also most certainly picking up his stride foot and leading with his hip forward.  Just pick out a point of reference in the background, and track how far his hip moves forward.  He’s effectively ‘un-weighting’ his bat, or getting a “head start”, to make the transfer of linear momentum into angular (or rotational) easier.

And we can clearly see the Javelin Thrower, Jan Železný, using forward momentum sprinting down the track before slinging his “arrow” A LONG WAY.

 

The Catapult Loading System

The ‘Springy X Pattern’ I developed through reading the book Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.  Watch the following FunctionalPatterns YouTube video of Thomas Myers talking about the concept of Tensegrity, or Tension Integrity:

It’s the idea that there are compression and tension forces acting within the body at all times.  In the Mickey Mantle video, I talk about imagining a big ‘X’ on his chest and back…connecting one shoulder to the opposite hip.  The fascial lines are a little more complicated than this, but let’s take a general look at how this works…

When Mickey Mantle pre-loads his torso – before turning – we see his lead shoulder come down and in towards his back hip (one leg of the ‘X’ shortens), while the rear shoulder and front hip move away from each other (other leg of the ‘X’ lengthens).  And the reverse is true on the backside.

This is evidenced by tracking his LEFT shoulder:

  • Pre-loads DOWN before Final Turn,
  • Unloads UP during the Final Turn, and finally
  • Reverses DOWN during the follow through to decelerate rotation.

CLICK HERE for an interesting article titled “Muscle Power Golf?!…NOT!” by Kelvin Miyahira (big thanks to Stephen Lowe for the link).  It talks about how the swing – whether we’re talking baseball/softball or golf – IS NOT about activating fast twitch muscle fibers, but engaging the springy fascia.  It’s a rant that I wish I did FIRST!!

 

Interesting Factoids & Resources from Mickey Mantle YouTube Viewer Comments

  • Marie Louise Hunnicutt book recommendation – Baseball’s Ultimate Power: Ranking The All-Time Greatest Distance Home Run Hitters by Bill Jenkinson

  • Gabriel Pennington – “Mantle’s massive strength came from blue collar work, swinging a sledgehammer in a lead mine (on top of freakish genetics). Couple that with the workman mentality of your best never being good enough and you have a lethal combination for an athlete.”
  • koryguns“3.1 seconds to first. Legend has it when he was a rookie in 1951 they decided to have a foot race among the team. Mantle beat everybody like they were standing still, puked, and apologized to Stengel for being out of shape.

Any other Mickey Mantle stories, facts, or book recommendations on him?  Please share in the comments below… (THANKS in advance!!)

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!

Create Pre-Turn Hand Tension Like Babe Ruth

 

Babe Ruth Reveals Hand Tension?

Look at the hands of Babe Ruth… Photo courtesy: PhotoBucket.com (user: BillBurgess)

Question: Do Relaxed Hands Really Lead to Higher Bat Speeds?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether having relaxed hands or “hand-tension” – pre-turn – increases or decreases bat speed.

Background Research

To me, it just always looked like the all-time greats – Babe Ruth – were squeezing the handle of the bat into sawdust before going into their turn.  I’m basing this experiment off the following research and study:

1. Pavel Tsatsouline

From the Tim Ferriss podcast titled, “Pavel Tsatsouline on the Science of Strength and the Art of Physical Performance“, where Tim interviews Pavel.  Pavel trains elite athletes and military, but is best known for commercializing the use of the kettlebell in America.

In the podcast, Pavel talks about how the hands can be used to recruit more muscle tissue and connect larger areas of the body.

2. Homer Kelly

In his book, The Golfing Machine, Homer Kelly talks of four power accumulators…in particular, the first power accumulator (p.70 in the 7th edition):

“…is the Bent Right Arm – the Hitter’s Muscle Power Accumulator.  Even though the Right Biceps is active, the Backstroke is always made with the Right Arm striving to remain straight.  But the straight Left Arm restraints this continuous Extensor Action of the right triceps with an effortless Checkerin Action.  Consequently, during Release, the Right Arm can straighten only as the Left Arm moves away from the Right Shoulder.  This results in a smooth, even Thrust For acceleration of the Lever Assemblies from an otherwise unruly force.”

3. Front Arm Fascial Lines

Thomas Myers talks about Front Arm Fascial Lines in his book Anatomy Trains.  These lines travel from the bottom three fingers (pinky, ring, and middle), across the chest, to the bottom three fingers of the opposite hand.  It’s these three fingers that connect these springy fascial lines found within the torso to whatever we hold in our hands.  It’s this hand tension, or finger pressure, that has fixed stubborn bat drag issues in my own hitters.

 

Hypothesis

Because of the previously mentioned research, I think the swing with Babe Ruth “hand-tension” will result in higher bat speed, and possibly other performance metrics, like max hand speed, time to impact, etc., that will be measured using the Zepp Baseball App.

Babe Ruth: “Hand-Tension” Experiment

Babe Ruth Hand-Tension Experiment Setup

Here was how I setup my experiment “work station”

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers = my bat length, plus two baseballs
  • Distance from plate = end of the bat touching inside corner of plate, and knob of bat touching my mid-thigh.
  • Tee was set slightly behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh.
  • First 100 baseballs were hit WITHOUT pre-turn “hand-tension”.
  • Second 100 baseballs were hit WITH pre-turn “hand-tension”.

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Babe Ruth Hand Tension Experiment Results (Zepp)

Check out the difference in average Bat Speed and average Time To Impact…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Babe Ruth Hand Tension Experiment

Look at the difference in the Bat Vertical at Impact and Attack angles. This is the reason for the higher Fly Ball & Line Drive percentages…

When using pre-turn Babe Ruth “hand-tension”:

  • +3 mph average bat speed
  • Higher Max Bat Speed numbers
  • More horizontal bat angle at impact (matching pitch plane)
  • +6 degrees in attack angle
  • More productive outcomes (line-drives & fly-balls).

Notes

  •  I had trouble finding a proper slot for my hands WITHOUT pre-turn hand tension.  With it, I found more consistency with “educated” pre-tension Babe Ruth hands.
  • In the video, you can clearly see a better barrel launch angle when I had pre-turn “hand-tension”.
  • In the video, you can see an earlier barrel on the pitch-plane (probably as a result of the better barrel launch angle).
  • WITHOUT hand tension, my Zepp bat speeds swung wildly from swing to swing.  Whereas with pre-turn hand-tension, my bat speed numbers were more stable, staying within the 72-78 mph range.
  • I warmed up using the ProHammer bat, to prime my swing to not roll over when I started the Experiment.  Interesting to note that WITHOUT pre-turn hand tension, I began rolling over for the first 10-15 swings.
  • My upper half felt much more connected during the swing when I had pre-turn hand-tension.
  • The -1 degree vertical angle at impact was a much better improvement using pre-turn “hand-tension”.  Now, most of my Line Drives were about 8-12 feet off the ground.  My back foot was drifting forward a little much, so taming that and maintaining a 90-degree angle with the back leg, would push that vertical angle at impact even lower.  And as a result, would angle my drives up more.

The Bottom Line?

The Babe Ruth Pre-Turn “Hand-Tension” Experiment highlighted what Homer Kelly calls “educating the hands”.  This Experiment suggests that the old dogma of keep your hands “loose” before you turn holds no water.  This is another example of backwards thinking that’s been taught for decades.  All my hitters, from pro and college to Little League, say how much more bat speed they have when they use pre-turn “hand-tension”.  I urge you all to repeat the same experiment and report what you find in the comments below.  Test…Test…Test these dogmas, so we can finally put the ol’ dog to bed.

*EXPERIMENT UPDATE*: Thanks to my friend Lee Comeaux, who is a professional golf instructor, for further simplifying the finger pressure technique…have the hitter squeeze the bottom three fingers (pinky, ring, and middle) of the top hand ONLY, from the moment the hitter picks up their stride foot to all the way through impact.  This alone has cleared up stubborn bat drag issues with my hitters from TEN to SIXTEEN years old.

In This Baseball Hitting Video Easy Distance PART 2,

 

We’re going over:

  • “Gas Pedal” — Natural, NO Push from Backside,
  • “Smooth” — NO Rush (Archer Metaphor), and
  • How Far Should the FREE-FALL be? (setting up your feedback markers).

Someone did a video analyzing The Babe’s swing (not up anymore), and what’s amazing is his nearly three-foot long bat almost matches his just under three-in-a-half foot stride length.  Also important to note is Babe Ruth’s head moved two-and-a-quarter feet forward before his front heel hit the ground.  CLICK HERE to see game footage.

What do you think The Babe would say to those today who shout, “NO head movement!”?  When we look at the science and its application, we know this statement doesn’t make sense.

 

MLB BIG-Boppers who use Forward Momentum

David “Big Papi” Ortiz (9-Time All-Star):

Baseball Hitting Video Easy Distance: David Ortiz

Video courtesy of MLB.com

Chris “Crash” Davis (2013, led Big Leagues with 53 hr’s and 138 RBI’s & was an All-Star in 2013):

Chris Davis Baseball Hitting Video

Watch how Davis is a big guy abiding by the rules in this baseball hitting video easy distance.

Bo Jackson when he was with the White Sox (All-Star in 1989):

Bo Jackson (White Sox) Baseball Hitting Video

Here’s one of my college hitters, and his BEFORE (left) & AFTER (right) Forward Momentum:

Anthony Case Study 19yo

Other Athletes Who Use Forward Momentum…

Paul Rabil – Lacrosse player with world record’s fastest throw (111 mph, and averages well over 100 mph in games):

Paul Rabil - MLB Lacrosse Player (fastest Lacrosse ball thrown)

Courtesy of SportScience

Ulf Timmerman – holds the World Shot Put Record using the Glide Technique:

Ulf Timmermann Glide Technique Shot Put

Note how Ulf uses his front leg to gain forward momentum, before the slight push from his back one…

Jan Zelezny – World Record holding male Javelin Thrower:

Jan Zelezny World Record Holder in the Javelin Throw

Note how much linear momentum Jan creates…

I hope you learned something from watching the baseball hitting video easy distance part two.  CLICK HERE for the Baseball Hitting Video PART-THREE (How-To Make Swing Science Sticky) of a FOUR-Part Series on Explosive Rotational Power.