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

Can You Help Take The Headache Out Of College Recruiting?

College Recruiting Athletes: NCSA

College Recruiting Athletes: NCSA. Photo courtesy: PGF-Recruiting.com

Do you consider yourself a generous person?  Yes?  Good.

Recently, I received the following college recruiting ask from one of my avid readers, Alan Rudy:

“Hey Joey, I don’t want to step out of bounds but recruiting is wild and woolly.  Jack Renkens was invited to give a presentation at East Lansing High School where our oldest plays ball. There was a great deal of really good info in his talk and, at the end, he strongly encouraged us to join and use NCSA.  By contrast, coaches at the HS – and people like Paul Reddeck – have suggested that the NCSA can become a very expensive means of getting access to too many, too expensive meat markets/showcases that rarely pan out.

These people say that Aiden should ask himself where in the country he wants to go to school, what size of school and kind of degree programs he is interested in, what kind of social life/college culture he wants and to explore schools where he’d be likely to get on the field before he’s a junior… and then to contact coaches at those schools with introductions, links to stats and videos, sending emails from HS and travel coaches, etc.

I can’t remember seeing a post from you in this topic. If you have one, could you help me find it? If it’s less trouble do you have someone who’s approach you like that you’d be willing to share?”

Honestly, the topic of college recruiting isn’t in my wheelhouse, and is not where I put my energy.  Here was my email response:

“Alan, I appreciate you reaching out about this. I haven’t done a post on it, and haven’t really spent a ton of time researching this. Back in the day companies like NCSA were a competitive advantage, now everyone does it, so that’s why the price you pay can be ridiculous for what you’re getting. Supply and demand. That aside, I’d still work it because you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. I’d get in touch with area scouts and get an honest opinion from them as to Jack’s current evaluation. That way you know where to focus training efforts. But here’s the reality, your son cannot be ignored if you’re working the process to get to:

  • At least 90 to 95-mph Ball Exit Speeds,
  • At least a consistent 15+ degree Launch Angles,
  • Above average OPS numbers on the field, and have a…
  • Sub 7.0 sec 60-yard sprint time wouldn’t hurt either.

Not to mention a 3.5 GPA in school! These five things make it real easy for his current coach/scout to recommend him, and a college/pro coach/scout to look at him as a reasonable prospect. In the weight room, I’d work on getting him to a 400 to 500-lb dead-lift, that would help A LOT of things on the field. CLICK HERE to see what this training would look like. 

Maybe I’ll do a post on this in the future, asking for advice from other coaches out there that are doing this and are successful in promoting/recruiting players and what they’re looking for.  I hope this helps brother. I really appreciate your continued support, so whatever I can do to help you out. Happy Holidays! – Joey”

Also, I forgot to mention Brian Domenico’s National or International Power Showcase – CLICK HERE for a post I did on that.  After my attempted response on college recruiting, Alan added:

“If you do the post on recruiting, would you see if you can get stuff from coaches at DIII and II as well as I? Just as you’ve insisted that most players aren’t Albert Pujols or Giancarlo Stanton, I think too much recruiting material focuses on “IF YOU WANT TO PLAY DI!!!!!” kinds of hype and it feeds the exploitative side of your business. It is so clear that you care about the guys you work with however they end up finding success in life… but it is also clear that a lot of guys are too much in it for the glory and money.
I’ve loved the last few blog posts!”

College Recruiting: The Ask…

I’ve heard that if you want to get, you have to give, and it is the giving time of year.  To those coaches, Academy owners, instructors, and/or parents out there, can you offer any advice no matter how small, to parents like Alan?  A million THANKS in advance for your generosity… (please REPLY below in the comments)

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

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

 

I know, I know,

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

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

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

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Study of Planes

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

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

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

I think you’ll find the video enlightening.

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

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

The video is very applicable to hitting.

Furthermore,

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

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

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

Giancarlo Stanton & The “Dreaded” Closed Stance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the earlier mentioned article, Adler states…

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

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

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

By the way, for those not doing the math:

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

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

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

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

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

Furthermore, in the Adler article…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress…

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

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

 

The Bottom Line…

Giancarlo Stanton: Tweet About Closed Stance

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

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

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

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

Here’s my advice:

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

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

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

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

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

Ground-ball Hitting Approaches May Be Causing You To Lose Out On Producing MASSIVE Runs

Joey Votto: Plane of the Pitch

Joey Votto is one of the best at keeping his barrel on the plane of the pitch for a long time. Photo courtesy: RantSports.com

Now, before getting your panties in a bunch, let me start off by saying, the ONLY time ground-balls are okay, is for situational hitting scenarios. Other than that, ground-balls should be banned.

My friend and retired Major Leaguer Homer Bush, in his book Hitting Low In The Zone: A New Baseball Paradigm, uses Sabermetrics to show how hitters can hit .300 with consistent power, IF they can do two things consistently well:

  1. Elevate the low pitch, and
  2. Hit to ALL fields.

CLICK HERE for an interview I did with him here.

If you’re a Ground-ball Hitting Coach, then I address A LOT of your objections in this Ground-ball Rant post, which amassed over 5,400 LIKES on Facebook.

However, the biggest head scratcher for me is the fact that a large majority of pitching coaches around the nation teach their pitchers to keep the ball down in the zone.  WHY?  Because they want hitters striking the top half of the ball, which drives the ball into the ground.  Pitchers want hitters hitting ground-balls!  Then why are hitting coaches teaching hitters to hit the ball into the ground and/or swinging down on the ball?  By the way, the latter produces MORE “worm-burners”, NOT less.

I know, I know, these coaches point to terrible defenses at the lower levels or that there are no “bad hops” in the air, but where those arguments lose traction is:

  • What happens when you face a team with a better defense?  FACT: teams – at any level – that tend to end up in Championship games can play catch better than others.  And,
  • If you’re a coach pinning your “hopes” and “dreams” on the other team making an error or booting a ground-ball, then you’re teaching your players to control the uncontrollable.  No elite athlete or coach in their right mind – in any sport – focuses on uncontrollables.  This means you’re teaching an inferior model.

In this post, I wanted to share the growing MOUNTAIN of evidence being produced by Sabermetric sites, such as Beyond The Box Score, that are churning out, with increased frequency, Major League case study after case study showing that ground-ball hitting approaches are non-conducive to scoring MASSIVE amounts of runs, and non-productive for hitters at ALL levels and genders.

Onward and “upward”…

What Addison Russell’s swing adjustment means for 2016

Addison Russell made a change to his swing during the 2015 season, which could alter his offensive impact significantly in 2016.

By: Randy Holt

“The declining ground-ball rate will likely be a bit more significant in the long-term, as those changes continue to go into effect, given that Russell’s changed stance means he isn’t swinging down at the ball so much. So it’s only natural, and perhaps beneficial, that that number comes down. His line-drive rate didn’t change significantly, but the uptick in his fly-ball percentage was nice. Especially if you’re of the belief that as Russell continues to grow and develop, his strength will increase, leading to a nice uptick from his 11.4% homer to fly-ball ratio.”

Swinging down DOES NOT get the ball consistently AND productively in the air, getting the barrel on an upward plane with the downward traveling pitch does.  Ted Williams said this in his book The Science of Hitting.

 

Scooter Gennett and ground balls

Scooter Gennett’s offense has declined every year since he broke into Major League Baseball, are ground balls the reason?

By: 

It’s obvious that an increased amount of grounders is diminishing Gennett’s ability to tap in to his power, and is behind the drop in his offense over the last couple seasons. It’s easier said than done to put the ball in the air than on the ground, but without overwhelming speed it is tough for hitters to last by putting the ball on the ground. It is one of the main reasons we have seen his BABIP deflate from the .380 total he posted in his rookie season. To think that he could return to that total and sustain it is ridiculous, but the he also has gone from well above average to essentially average.”

I included this BTBS post in my book on Amazon titled, “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground-Balls”.  Piggy-backing on this, here’s a more recent follow up about Gennett’s dramatic turnaround…

 

Scooter Gennett: power hitter

Home runs are up all around the league, and Scooter Gennett has joined the power party.

By: 

“In the interest of keeping up with the fads, the first thing I checked was his launch angle difference between 2016 and 2017. He went from 11.7 degrees to 15.0 degrees, which is certainly a change worth noting. It is not, however, in the range of launch angle darlings Yonder Alonso and Ryan Schimpf, who jumpted to 22.1 degrees and 30.2 degrees respectively. Despite not reaching the astronomical levels we’ve seen from some players this season, Gennett appears to have settled in a reasonable range that yields line drives, doubles, and a fair share of home runs as well.

His move towards better contact based on the change in launch angle can be seen through a 5.8 percentage point decrease in ground balls in tandem with a 1.3 percentage point increased in line drives and 4.4 percentage point increase in fly balls. Even with a 21.6 percent HR/FB that’s bound to regress, the underlying improvement of putting balls in the air should allow his increased level of power to continue. That may manifest itself in more doubles than home runs, but that’s still a productive profile.

The Reds got Gennett for nothing. He was in the midst of a multi-year slump in which he provided nearly zero additional value to the Brewers. Then Gennett, like so many others this season, added some lift on the ball and power to his game. The addition of power has helped him become a well above average hitter that should be able to provide 2-3 fWAR by the end of the season. That’s a huge win for the Reds, who simply claimed Gennett off waivers.”

This is pretty damning evidence for those coaches promoting a primarily ground-ball offensive approach.  COACHES QUIT SABOTAGING YOUR HITTERS!!!

 

Has Hanley Ramirez lost his power forever?

Hanley Ramirez is having the worst offensive season of his career. Can he rediscover his power stroke, or are the underlying signs of decline too strong to counteract?

By: 

“Since it is usually advantageous to pull for power, it is no surprise that Hanley’s decreasing pull rate has coincided with his rapidly falling ISO and home run totals. Over the past three seasons, Ramirez has seen a simultaneous increase in ground ball rate and decrease in pull rate. These factors, along with increasing age, are probably the main causes of his diminishing power.

So will the power come back? Probably a little bit. As his HR/FB ratio returns to normal levels, some of Hanley’s fly balls will likely turn into home runs. And since his hard hit rate has remained consistent, it is reasonable to expect a higher ISO going forward. However, if Ramirez’s launch angle remains as low as it has been thus far, a steady stream of ground balls can be expected, which will put major limitations on his power.

Please re-read that last sentence.  On second thought, memorize and burn it into your brain.

 

Bryce Harper is pounding the ball into the ground to no avail

He’s gotta figure out how to elevate more despite pitchers giving him few pitches to elevate.

By: Kevin Ruprecht, Jul 28, 2016

“The batted ball distribution clearly reflects the launch angle, though perhaps the trend up in ground-ball rate started earlier than 75 games into the season.

Harper is walking a ton and striking out less than last year, but his overall production has gone the way of his launch angles – down. His 116 wRC+ this year is a far cry from his 197 wRC+ last year. Pitchers are throwing more outside and lower than last year out of fear of his power, so Harper just isn’t getting many good pitches to hit. Harper will have to adjust to reverse this slump.”

There are beautiful radar charts illuminating the differences in his launch angles in this post (just click the article “title” link above to see them).

Evan Gattis fixed his ground ball problem

With a move back to catcher and a more patient approach Evan Gattis seems to have cured what ailed him early in 2016.

By: Chris Anders, Sep 26, 2016

“Early in the season it looked like Evan Gattis might have been finished as a productive hitter. A player who is limited to DH and doesn’t hit the ball in the air enough to maximize his power is simply not an appealing roster option for most teams. Thankfully for both Gattis and the Astros the early season struggles seem to be merely a blip on the radar. As it turns out, a move back behind the plate and an increase in launch angle was all that was needed to re-energize his career.”

Here’s a more recent Beyond The Box Score piece on Gattis about the difference in the two halves of his 2016 season…

 

Evan Gattis’s power surge: Is it real?

The Astros DH/catcher smacked a lot of extra-base hits in the second half of the year. Is this the new normal, or did he run into a few?

By: Evan J. Davis, Jan 8, 2017

“Where the swing might come into play is his batted ball types. Grounders fell nearly 13 percentage points between halves (47.1 percent in the first, 34.4 percent in the second), while fly balls jumped accordingly. Statcast confirms this: Gattis’s average launch angle jumped from 10.8 degrees in the first half to 13.1 degrees in the second. The sizable decrease in his pop-ups (from 5.3 percent to 3.9 percent), in tandem with the softly-hit and ground ball percentage drops, also suggests that Statcast wasn’t missing too many of his batted balls.

Gattis was finding more optimal launch angles to hit the ball. He was getting more loft, and keeping the barrel through the zone.

There’s a formula coaches, on how to consistently barrel the ball more often.  Sabermetrics have given hitting coaches the answers to the test!!!

 

Franklin Gutierrez is wasting his hard contact

It helps a player’s cause to hit the ball hard, but that alone won’t make him great. Just ask Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

By: Ryan Romano, Sep 30, 2016

“In 2015, Gutierrez put 46 balls in play in the lower part of the strike zone, according to Baseball Savant. 25 of those, or 54.4 percent, went on the ground, which ranked him in the 42nd percentile. In 2016, his ground ball rate on low pitches has leapt to 74.2 percent, moving him up to the 98th percentile. When given a higher offering, Gutierrez will still put it in the air, but that can’t compensate for the spike in grounders down below.

If Gutierrez remains at this level of offense, he’ll be a solid player. Most teams will find a spot for a capable (in theory) defender who can hold his own at the plate. He won’t go back to being elite, however, unless he cuts down on the ground balls. Making hard contact is half the battle; the other part is making sure that contact goes where you want it to go.”

The next piece for those of you Ground-ball hitting coaches addressing the objection that hitting for higher Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles contribute to more strikeouts (HINT: causation DOES NOT necessarily equal correlation here)

 

Whit Merrifield is here to elevate and celebrate

The Royals’ breakout infielder is the latest to embrace the launch angle revolution and is making sure he gets a chance to put the ball in play.

By: Anthony Rescan, Aug 5, 2017

“Arguably the most impactful change is what happens when Merrifield makes contact. Currently, his average, observed launch angle is up from 16.89° to 20.51° and he’s seeing a spike in exit velocity from around 84 mph to north of 87 mph.

This has caused a massive shift in how his batted balls enter the field of play. Both line drives and ground balls have been siphoned off to fuel his fly ball spike.

In addition to that, Merrifield has been much more successful at turning those fly balls into long balls. The effect of this change is seen across the board with Merrifield — a near-80-point spike in ISO [Raw Power – Slug% w/out singles factored into the equation] certainly isn’t anything to scoff at.

Merrifield has also become more efficient at the plate. Though he’s experienced a slight dip in walk rate, he’s drastically cut his strikeouts. His previous mark of 21.7 percent has been struck all the way down to 13.1 percent. When looking at his plate discipline statistics from Pitch Info, we can spot the changes. His O-Swing rate has dropped two percentage points, but resulted in a 6.7 percentage point increase in O-Contact rate. He also is swinging at more pitches in the zone by a 3.8 percentage point margin, but his contact rate there dropped from 92.1 percent to 90.9 percent. Overall, his contact rate has jumped to 84.4 percent from 82.6 percent. So, he’s offering at less pitches out of the zone, but doing more with them and also swinging at better pitches.”

Look coaches, the longer the hitter can match the plane of the pitch with the barrel, the more opportunity to drive the ball.  Increasing power doesn’t have to sacrifice swing quality.  Plate discipline and pitch recognition MUST also play a MAJOR role in the hitter’s development.

Francisco Lindor is enjoying a big power surge

It’s almost as if hitting the ball in the air is better than hitting it on the ground!

By: Luis Torres, May 15, 2017

“What really jumps out at you is the change in his ground-ball and fly-ball rates. He went from hitting way more ground-balls than fly-balls, to being a fly-ball hitter. His fly-ball rate went from 28 percent to 45 percent. That is a huge change.

It used to be that coaches at all levels would encourage their hitters to swing down and keep the ball on the ground. In recent years, hitters are learning how ineffective that really is. Ground-balls will go for base hits more often than fly-balls will, but will go for extra bases less often. It is really hard to score by stringing together a bunch of singles.”

At this point in the post, if you still find yourself a Ground-ball hitting coach, you may be thinking, “So should I teach my hitters to hit fly-balls?!”  Check out this FanGraphs.com article…

 

Which is Better? A Ground Ball Pitcher or a Fly Ball Pitcher

“Let’s take a look at a little bit of data to get started. Here are the results on each type of ball in play from 2014:

Type AVG ISO wOBA
GB .239 .020 .220
LD .685 .190 .684
FB .207 .378 .335

You can see that line drives are bad news for pitchers any way you slice them. They lead to more hits and huge run values compared to the other types of balls in play. But there’s a trade off in the ground ball-fly ball department. Ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls but fly balls go for extra bases much more often when they do drop in for hits.

In other words, if you’re a fly ball pitcher, you can usually sustain a below average BABIP, but you might get tagged for a few extra doubles, triples, and homers as a result. Ground ball artists, on the other hand, don’t often allow homers and extra base hits, but they allow singles to squeak through more often.”

Let me clarify the above graph…ISO refers to Isolated Slugging% (aka Raw Power), which is like Slugging% but with singles factored OUT of the equation.  Weighted On-Base Average (or wOBA) measures a player’s overall offensive contributions per plate appearance.

I think every hitting coach can agree on Line Drives being the ultimate hitting objective, but picking between the two “evils” of either a GB or FB is where hitting camps diverge.

And according to the graph above, even though Fly-balls lose 32-points in Batting Average compared to ground-balls, I’ll take a boost of 358-points in Raw Power (ISO), and a jump of 115-points in a player’s offensive contribution per plate appearance (wOBA) ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

I want to end with this beast of an article by The Hardball Times, authored one of my favorite authors Dan Farnsworth…

 

Ground Balls: A Hitter’s Best Friend?

“Alan Nathan [retired Physicist] has a great research article posted on his website detailing the math behind hitting a home run based on experimental measured ball flight. In it, he summarizes the results pertinent to this common teaching axiom:

‘For a typical fastball, the batter should undercut the ball by 2.65 cm and swing upward at an angle 0.1594 rad.’

That value in radians converts to a 9.13° uppercut swing, representing the maximized swing path for energy transfer and backspin using a typical major league hitter’s bat speed.

I do not believe this is common practice or knowledge in major league baseball, which is unfortunate. I have heard a lot of second-hand horror stories about the philosophies of many organizations in the game. Especially at the big league level, there is little evidence that a true ground-ball swing will lead to success. Line drives are the key to hitting, regardless of hitter attributes. Speed appears to have less of an impact on a hitter than what popular belief says. While speed may help boost a player’s batting average on balls in play, fast hitters do not have an automatic incentive to hit the ball on the ground, based on these results. They can turn doubles into triples rather than just outs into singles.

The bottom line: leave swinging down to bad hitters at the amateur level, who have no chance at playing at the highest levels of the game. Otherwise, hit the damn ball in the air.”

There is A LOT of great stuff in this Farnsworth article, so I advise you read the whole thing.

And if you think teaching speedy hitters to hit the ball on the ground is a good thing, then let me share this fact from Rob Arthur from FiveThirtyEight:

Let me repeat,

The effect of speed starts to fade only when launch angles exceed 10-degrees, as exit velocity begins to take over as the biggest determinant of a batted ball’s fate.”

My friend and retired Big Leaguer Aaron Miles once told me that even the Dee Gordon’s of the hitting world have to learn how to drive the ball at the Big League level because the infielders’ arms are well above average.

Ground-ball hitting coaches, are you starting to run out of excuses yet?

Let me leave you with some quotes from some “pretty good” hitters, talking about the importance of Launch Angles and Ball Exit Speeds

Now look,

If you still aren’t convinced that higher Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles are the way to go, then I chalk it up to willful ignorance.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?  Hopefully this post moved you to more of a conscious incompetence.  In other words, you now know what you don’t know.

Don’t worry, I understand, you may not be familiar with how to teach your hitters how to elevate the ball with authority.  The good news is, there are resources.  Get educated because your hitters are DEPENDING ON YOU.

There are quite a few individuals on Twitter teaching this approach (this is by no means an exhaustive list, if you know of others, then please post in the comments section):

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my online video course titled Pitch-Plane Domination.  Sorry, shameless plug 😛

Mark my words, this hitting approach will be the norm in the next few years.  Just remember that I told you so 😉

Also, if you’re on the Twitters, then use the hashtags #GBsSuck, #GroundballsSuck, or #PitchPlaneDomination to spread the “elevate to celebrate” gospel.

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

Zepp Swing Experiment: Here’s a Quick Way to Fix a Flat Bat at Landing (and WHY!) 

 

 

Fundamental Baseball Question: How Does a Flat Bat at Landing Effect Bat Speed, Ball Exit Speed, & Time To Impact?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app and Pocket Radar Ball Coach, I wanted to employ the Scientific Method to analyze how a hitter’s “Flat Bat at Landing”, or toe touch,  adds or takes away from key swing performance metrics including Bat Speed at Impact, Time To Impact, Attack Angle, and Ball Exit Speeds.

Let me define what I mean by ‘Flat Barrel’ versus a ‘Vertical Barrel’…

  • A ‘Flat Barrel’ at landing is anything less than a 30-degree angle (like Cargo in the above video as an example),
  • A ‘Vertical Barrel’ at landing is anything more than a 30-degree angle.

Now that we’ve defined the parameters, let’s look at the…

 

Background Research

Fundamental Baseball: 'Flat Bat' Swing Experiment

Notice where the “dot” is drawn on the two static images left side, and where it’s drawn on the two dynamic images right side. Photo courtesy: GymSmartsCommunity.com

My background research is more experiential, rather than academic.

I have hitters do a mini-experiment by holding the bat in their bottom hand, laid flat (parallel to ground) over their back shoulder.  And then ask them to hold the bat, using the same hand, but vertical.  I then ask them which bat position is heavier/lighter?  Of course they say the vertical bat is lighter.  I then ask WHY?  And I get a few different answers…

What is the fundamental baseball answer?  Because we’re not adding or taking weight away from the bat by doing this…

It has to do with center of mass of the bat in relation to the hitter’s.  A ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ pushes its center of mass behind the hitter’s. A human’s center of mass is generally around the belly button.  To find the bat’s center of mass you can balance it between your thumb and forefinger.

I’ve also observed when adjusting a hitter’s ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ to a more ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’, there’s a bump in Ball Exit Speed, which I measure at the beginning (before instruction is given) and end of a hitting lesson.  My hitter’s also share they feel quicker to impact, have a little more ‘pop’, and that it’s easier getting the ball in the air.

It’s also interesting to note that I see quite a bit of early barring of the front arm when the hitter lands with a flat barrel.  I also see the hitter “wrapping the bat” around their head.  In my opinion this is a compensation to manipulate the shifted center mass of the bat from behind the hitter.

CLICK HERE to watch this fundamental baseball video on how to fix a ‘Flat Bat at Impact’.

 

Hypothesis

Fundamental Baseball Swing Experiment: Carlos Gonzalez & Cody Bellinger Illustrating Flat versus Vertical Bat at Landing

Look at the difference in bat angle at landing between Carlos Gonzalez (left) – “Flat” and Cody Bellinger (right) – “Vertical”. Just because a Big Leaguer does it doesn’t mean it’s effective or optimized. Oftentimes they succeed despite ineffective mechanics. Photos courtesy: MLB.com

In support of the Background Research above, I’m hallucinating that we’ll see a bump in Bat and Ball Exit Speeds, in addition to a reduction in Time To Impact.  I also think that we’ll see a more positive move in the barrel’s Attack Angle.

 

Flat Versus Vertical Bat at Landing Experiment

Equipment Used:

Fundamental Baseball Experiment Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length…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 ahead of the back marker.
  • Backspin tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • We stayed as consistent as we could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I broke each swing down into a couple steps: 1) Get to landing, 2) Pause for 2-secs, and 3) Swing.  The reason for this was to control the bat either flat or vertical at landing.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • The objective of ‘Front Facing Swings’ was to start the ‘belt buckle’ pointing at the pitcher, and to minimize pelvic movement.
  • Fundamental baseball Experiment Day-1 on 7/5 we completed 150 total swings (75 ‘Flat Barrel at Landing’ & 75 ‘Vertical Barrel at Landing’).  Experiment Day-2 on 7/10 we completed 50 swings (25 ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ & 25 ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’).
  • We had to break the 200 total swings into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later, because of time constraints.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App & Ball Exit Speed Readings):

‘Flat Bat Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Fundamental Baseball: Swing Experiment

Flat Barrel at Landing swing averages of the averages: 76-MPH Bat Speed at Impact, 26.5-MPH Hand Speed Max, .209 Time To Impact, -32* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 8.5* Attack Angle.

‘Vertical Barrel Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Fundamental Baseball: Swing Experiment

Vertical Barrel at Landing swing averages of the averages: 76-MPH Bat Speed at Impact, 27-MPH Hand Speed Max, .206 Time To Impact, 30.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 8.5* Attack Angle.

CLICK HERE for the Ball Exit Speed Google document.  The findings?

  •  Flat Barrel at Landing AVERAGE Ball Exit Speed = 79.01-MPH
  • Vertical Barrel at Landing AVERAGE Ball Exit Speed = 81.08-MPH
  • Difference = 2.01-MPH Ball Exit Speed bump with more Vertical Barrel at Landing

 

Data Analysis & Fundamental Baseball Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

  • We saw NO change to Bat Speed at Impact between the two swings,
  • We saw a 0.5-MPH boost to Hand Speed Max when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw a .003 second reduction in Time To Impact when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw a +1.5-degree increase to Bat Vertical Angle at Impact when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw NO change to the Attack Angle between the two swings, and
  • We saw a 2.01-MPH increase in Ball Exit Speed when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’.

Based on the above Data Analysis it looks like my Hypothesis was proved right when it came to a boost in Hand Speed Max and Ball Exit Speed, and decrease in Time To Impact, but wrong when it came to Bat Speed at Impact and Attack Angle.  I think the increase in Ball Exit Speed can be attributed to the decrease in Time To Impact.

When we see ineffective movement at the Big League level, we have to understand that these high level hitters are succeeding despite ineffective movements, not because of them.

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

Scientific Truth Every Coach Ought to Know About Using Batting Weights To Warm-up In The On-Deck Circle

This post may blow the minds of those that didn’t get the memo…

Chris Dozer, who’s father to one of my 10yo online lesson students, sent the following Wall Street Journal article titled: “Watching Your Weight Before Hitting Plate”.

Weighted Bat Swing Comparison

WITH weighted bat warm-up, hitter barreled the ball LESS often. Photo courtesy: SportsScience YouTube video

You can read the article in full by clicking the previous link, but I wanted to include important bullet points from the article and Sports Science video above:

  • “Studies conducted over several decades have concluded that the ritual popular among professionals and emulated by amateurs doesn’t increase bat speed.  It may actually slow it down…’the best is your own bat'”
  •  According to the Zepp app, average professional bat speeds range from 75 to 90-mph, average High School and College bat speeds range from 65 to 80-mph, and average youth bat speeds range from 40 to 70-mph.
  • PLEASE NOTE: there are other batting weight studies with small sample sizes (ranging from 7 to 60 players) comparing High School, College, and recreational hitters in laboratory settings (not LIVE batting practice).  Adrenaline or others batter’s routines could have influenced performance in these. Basically the variable wasn’t properly isolated…that being said, a study with 20 college baseball players found “their performance was statistically unchanged.”
  • Dr. DeRenne, found using a 28-ounce batting weight changed the balance point of the bat and slowed down bat speed.
  • In Sports Science video above, a college hitter in 2008 hit 10 machine pitched balls WITHOUT using a batting weight before, and had an average bat speed of 69-mph, and routinely connected with the sweet spot.  After using the batting weight, then taking another 10 swings off the same pitching machine, his average bat speed dropped to 68.3-mph, and on each swing he missed the bat’s sweet spot by several inches.
  • The above video talked about how because the hitter swings the bat at a slower pace using a batting weight, more red slow twitch endurance muscle fibers get recruited, thereby decreasing the amount of white fast twitch muscle fibers which fire two to three times faster.  Warming up with batting weight in on-deck circle is actually priming the wrong muscles before stepping in the box. 
  • The experience of a single batter can’t be generalized to others, but the results resembled other studies.
  • “People are always looking for an edge,” Dr. Szymanski said, “but just because a professional athlete does something doesn’t mean it’s good or helpful or right.”

 

The Bottom Line?

Now, a 0.7-mph drop in average bat speed doesn’t seem like a lot, but as you saw, it makes a BIG difference in barreling the ball.  As retired Physicist Dr. Alan Nathan says:

  • If ball hits bat 1-inch off sweet spot = then 1 to 2-mph DECREASE in Ball Exit Speed (that’s 4 to 8-feet less distance!)
  • If ball hits bat 2-inch off sweet spot = then 2 to 3-mph DECREASE in Ball Exit Speed (that’s 8 to 12-feet less distance!)
  • If ball hits bat 3-inch off sweet spot = then 3 to 4-mph DECREASE in Ball Exit Speed (that’s 12 to 16-feet less distance!)

So, not only are hitters losing bat speed using a batting weight on the on-deck circle, but by barreling up the ball LESS OFTEN, they’re losing batted ball distance as well.  Aside from swinging the hitter’s own bat, I’d say swinging a lighter bat – faster – would help the body recruit more of those white fast twitch muscle fibers before stepping in the box.

Your thoughts?

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

How To Decrease Time To Impact By Lowering Hitter’s Hands (an Over-The-Shoulder Look at a Local Lesson)

Here’s Part-2 – a continuation of – a three part series showcasing a local lesson of mine…

I get questions every week on how I’d run a practice or one-on-one session.  This is an over-the-shoulder look.  The main objective of this video series is to demonstrate how I use some of the “sticky” coaching principles covered in this post, and in my new book The Science Of Sticky Coaching: How To Turn Ordinary Athletes Into Extraordinary.

In case you missed the background information of Part-1,

Zack is a 14-year-old hitter from Visalia, California, which is approximately an hour drive from me, one way.  And this is the first time I worked with him since about a year ago.  We’ve had about half a dozen session together in total.  And what I like about Zack is he asks a lot of really good questions during our sessions.

And before we started this session, Zack was having a challenge with hitting line drives.  He was either hitting the ball on the ground or non-productive balls in the air.

DISCLAIMER about the video:

  • Fortunately the video quality is great because Dad used his GoPro, but unfortunately I wasn’t mic’d up, so the audio isn’t like some of my other videos.
  • We’re at a public High School on a Saturday afternoon, so there are other team noises, bird sounds, emergency vehicles, etc. going on in the background that can be distracting.

Sadly, a few coaches on the socials will be overly critical of this hitter, and I’m asking you to suspend judgement.  The purpose of this video IS NOT about being overly critical of the hitter’s swing, it’s about the demonstration and use of sticky coaching principles.

Swing and coaching suggestions are welcome, but be nice coaches.

Now, for those coaches looking to learn and help their hitters get better…ONWARD…again!

A typically lesson I do, is organized like the following, from start to finish:

  1. Dynamic warm-up,
  2. Beginning Ball Exit Speed readings,
  3. Record and analyze current swing,
  4. Lesson, and
  5. Ending Ball Exit Speeds readings.

Part-2 lands you at #4 above.

What you can look out for in above video

  • Talking about lowering Zack’s hands to not get above armpit line to landing – benefits of (about 1-min mark),
  • Why a “flat bat” at stride landing can feel heavier than a more vertical bat. Center mass of bat in relation to center mass of hitter (about 4-min mark),
  • Getting into a more Hunched or Hollowed Position at the start of the swing. CLICK HERE to see tips and benefits of the Hollow Hold from BreakingMuscle.com, and CLICK HERE for the Hollow Hold exercise Zack did during warm-ups (about 9:30 mark), and
  • Intro to the first time working out new hitting material, varying the “Wrist Snap” using the red ankle resistance band – THANK YOU LEE. Objective with Wrist Snap is to snap over the red band and to hit the ball as hard and as far as you can. (about 16:00 mark)

Also, when it comes to sticky coaching principles, notice how I:

  • Move the tee positioning around after every swing (both high/low and inside/outside),
  • Vary soft toss heights and depths,
  • Vary mechanics on certain swings in a 5-swing round (I call these Varied Rounds), or practice one thing the whole round (I call these Block Rounds),
  • Ask quite a few feel, visual, and/or audio feedback questions AFTER round is over (think of it like a hitting quiz),
  • Keep my mouth shut during the 5-swing round (little to no feedback from me),
  • Don’t make Zack take a lot of swings during our time together,
  • Chunking certain movement together, so they don’t seem like separate pieces,
  • Have him change his bat size during rounds, and
  • Work with him on simplifying the juggling of a couple different mechanical cues.
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Dramatically Improve HOW Your Hitters Learn By Listening In On A Local Lesson of Mine

Here’s what I have for you…

The above video is Part-1 of a three part series showcasing a local lesson of mine.

The objective of this video series is to share with coaches – literally – an “over-the-shoulder” look at how I do a local lesson.  More on this in a moment…

Zack is a 14-year-old hitter from Visalia, California, which is approximately an hour drive from me, one way.  And this is the first time I worked with him since about a year ago.  We’ve had about half a dozen session together in total.

Before we started this session, Zack was having a challenge with hitting line drives.  He was either hitting the ball on the ground or non-productive balls in the air.

DISCLAIMER about the video:

  • Fortunately the video quality is great because Dad used his GoPro, but unfortunately I wasn’t mic’d up, so the audio isn’t like some of my other videos.
  • We’re at a public High School on a Saturday afternoon, so there are other team noises, bird sounds, emergency vehicles, etc. going on in the background that can be distracting.

Now, what’s in this Part-1 video?

Let me expand on the video’s objective and how it can benefit coaches

I get questions every week on how I’d run a practice or one-on-one session.  This is an over-the-shoulder look.  The main objective of this video series is to demonstrate how I use some of the “sticky” coaching principles covered in this post, and in my new book The Science Of Sticky Coaching: How To Turn Ordinary Athletes Into Extraordinary.

Sadly, a few coaches on the socials will be overly critical of this hitter, and I’m asking you to suspend judgement.  The purpose of this video IS NOT about being overly critical of the hitter’s swing, it’s about the demonstration and use of sticky coaching principles.

With that being said, swing suggestions are welcome, but be nice coaches.  Also, coaching suggestions are welcomed…but again, be nice.

Now, for those coaches looking to learn and help their hitters get better…ONWARD!

A typically lesson I do, is organized like the following, from start to finish (I’ve cut some parts out of this video for the sake of brevity):

  1. Dynamic warm-up,
  2. Beginning Ball Exit Speed readings,
  3. Record and analyze current swing,
  4. Lesson, and
  5. Ending Ball Exit Speeds readings.

What you can look out for in above video

  • Talking about how to pick the right bat size (1-3:30 min mark),
  • Showing him Miguel Cabrera’s landing position top hand and elbow positioning on my phone after video analysis of Zack’s swing (about 7-min mark),
  • Working on Zack’s top hand Finger Pressure (about 8-min mark),
  • Switching bats – over-loading with heavier end loaded bat with goofy PRX knob (about 13-min mark), and
  • Teasing the Part-2 video where we talk about lowering Zack’s hands to not get above armpit line to landing – and the benefits of (about 15:30-min mark).

Also, when it comes to sticky coaching principles, notice how I:

  • Move the tee positioning around after every swing (both high/low and inside/outside),
  • Vary soft toss heights and depths,
  • Vary mechanics on certain swings in a 5-swing round (I call these Varied Rounds), or practice one thing the whole round (I call these Block Rounds),
  • Ask quite a few feel, visual, and/or audio feedback questions AFTER round is over (think of it like a hitting quiz),
  • Keep my mouth shut during the 5-swing round (little to no feedback from me),
  • Don’t make Zack take a lot of swings during our time together,
  • Have him change his bat size during rounds, and
  • Work with him on simplifying the juggling of a couple different mechanical cues.
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Here is a Method That is Helping Nelson Cruz ADD Ridiculous Batted Ball Distance

 

Nelson Cruz: 'Showing Numbers'

Nelson Cruz ‘showing numbers’ hitting a 2-run monster shot traveling 463-feet with a launch angle of 23.7-degrees off 75-mph CB on 09/23/16. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

(‘Showing Numbers’ Experiment REVISITED) 

Question: Is Increased Bat & Ball Exit Speed ALL in the Hips?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether ‘Showing the Numbers’ to the pitcher is more effective than ‘NOT Showing’ them when it comes to measuring Bat and Ball Exit Speeds.

In this swing experiment, I had professional hitter of mine that I’ve been working with for a few months, Preston Scott, do the hitting.

 

Background Research

I’m revisiting an earlier experiment I did, looking into whether power was ALL in the hips.  You can CLICK HERE to read and watch the experiment findings.

Not to beat the springy fascia horse, but you can get more background information on why this swing experiment turned out like it did by reading through the following video blog posts.

  1. Miguel Cabrera and the timing of torque.
  2. Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista: how spine engine mechanics are amplified by Gravitational Forces, and
  3. Adrian Gonzalez: how-to naturally spring load the body.

 

Hypothesis

From the research into Anatomy Trains (Thomas Myers), The Spinal Engine (Dr. Serge Gracovetsky), and from my past swing experiment, I expect to see similar results…maybe even slightly lower numbers favoring ‘Showing Numbers’.

I say slightly lower numbers because in the first experiment I didn’t counter-balance the swings.  In other words, I took 100 consecutive swings ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ first, then took another 100 consecutive swings ‘Showing Numbers’.  This may have caused a “getting tired” or “not warmed up yet” effect, therefore biasing the experiment results.

The big UPDATES to the experiment will be:

  • Adding the measure of Ball Exit Speed,
  • Counter-balancing the swings, and
  • Professional Preston Scott taking the swings, not me.

I’m interested to see how this experiment turns out…

 

ADD Ball Exit Speed Swing Experiment

Equipment Used:

  • Zepp Baseball app (to measure Bat Speed, Hand Speed, Time to Impact, & Attack Angle),
  • Bushnell Radar Gun (to measure Ball Exit Speed, or BES),
  • Backspin batting tee,
  • Two yellow dimple baseballs (feedback markers),
  • Android GS6 video camera and Tripod, and
  • 34 inch wood bat.

Setup:

Preston Scott: Showing versus NOT Showing Numbers

Preston Scott: ‘NOT Showing’ versus ‘Showing Numbers’

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length
  • Tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • Forward momentum was eliminated in this experiment, and Preston hit from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • We stayed as consistent as we 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 ahead of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • On ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, Preston kept his shoulders in line with the blue band on the ground in front of him (towards the pitcher).  And on ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he kept his shoulders in line with the red band that was set at about a 30-degree angle from the blue band.
  • Preston Scott was sipping a protein shake throughout the length of the experiment to aid in recovery.
  • On both experiment days, Preston had finished “leg day” at the gym, so our warm-up was brief, followed by about 15-20 swings off the tee.
  • We had to break the 200 total swings (4 sets of 25 swing chunks each day) into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later because of time constraints.
  • It’s important to note, Preston and I were working on improving his mechanics slightly different both days (having nothing to do with ‘showing numbers’), but even though Day 1 (November 7, 2016), and a week later, Day 2 (November 14, 2016) swings may look a bit different, the slightly differing mechanics were used for BOTH ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ and ‘Showing Numbers’ tests, so as not to muddy the experiment results.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

‘NOT Showing Numbers’ Day 1 & 2 side by side comparison…

NOT Showing Numbers Day 1 & 2 (100 swings total)

‘NOT Showing Numbers’ Averages of averages: 71-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 27.5-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.165 Time To Impact, -25* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 4.5* Attack Angle

‘Showing Numbers’ Day 1 & 2 side by side comparison…

Showing Numbers Day 1 & 2

‘Showing Numbers’ Averages of Averages: 76-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 28-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.162 Time to Impact, 28* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 6* Attack Angle

Also, CLICK HERE to access the Google Drive spreadsheet with all Ball Exit Speed (BES) readings from the experiment.

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Starting with Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

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

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

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

 

Notes

  • In this experiment, if you look at the ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, they were actually ‘Showing Numbers’.  In other words, Preston already shows his number to the pitcher well causing him a challenge to not show them.  Therefore on the ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he showed them more.  I think that’s why we didn’t see as much of a difference in Ball Exit Speeds.
  • One of the big objections from some is that ‘Showing Numbers’ causes an increase in Time To Impact.  These results show it doesn’t – it actually decreases Time To Impact.  WHY is this? It has to do with ‘taking slack out of the system’ as it relates to compression/tension forces acting within the body.
  • Preston Scott generally does a great job of ‘Showing Numbers’, even before I started working with him, so he felt like he really had to try and keep from pulling the ball too much when ‘NOT Showing Numbers’. And as you can see in the video, he was still ‘Showing Numbers’ somewhat, even when he wasn’t suppose to!

You Too Can Get Your Hitters To Sharpen Plate Discipline, Re-Calibrate Timing, & Barrel The Ball More Often In Two 5-Swing Rounds Per Week With Distraction TrainingDistraction Training: HittersCODE.com

(SAFETY DISCLAIMER: those that have had or are prone to epileptic seizures, SHOULD NOT use these goggles)…

Ongoing studies are revealing distraction training using Strobe Goggles are giving dramatic results from little use.

Here are a couple studies that were conducted…

PLEASE NOTE: The players and coaches were reminded of individual swing issues before and after each experiment period.  During they were not.  They were reminded of breathing, composure, and head position during the distraction.  Generally and very often as encouragement and reinforcement.

A recent 6-week test was 5 swings without the goggles, 5 with, and 5 without, so 15 swings total per week. These hitters increased Ball Exit Speeds between 2 to 5-mph after the 6-week period.

Another recent 8-week study had hitters using goggles for 1-hour throughout the week, totally 100-150 swings per week.  Swings without the goggles were mixed in throughout the week as well.  These hitters averaged 14.3-mph Ball Exit Speed increases at the end of the 8-week period.

We can safely say that between those numbers we’ve seen a relative increase in positive performance output using the goggles.

My good friend Ken Carswell (KC) at HittersCode.com is SUPER busy cooking up brand new training gear disrupting how coaches practice:

  • Plate discipline,
  • Timing, and
  • Barreling the ball more often

…with their hitters.

If you remember, I did an interview with KC earlier in 2016, CLICK HERE to read that.

The Hitter’s CODE stands for:

  • Cognitive
  • Occlusion
  • Distraction
  • Environments

If you remember, video occlusion training is what Dr. Peter Fadde talked about in this interview I did with him – CLICK HERE.

Also, CLICK HERE to see how Perry Husband uses a pinch of distraction training to calibrate tracking and timing in this HPL interview.

Basically, KC the “Mad Scientist”, is putting together a “smart” hitter’s helmet that will benefit the three categories I mentioned before.

Here’s a taste of what’s coming (and is already here) with the distraction training helmet:

  • Strobe Goggles as shown in the video above (Phase-1 and is a prelude to the helmet),
  • Audio Distraction – this includes rhythm, disruption rhythm, crowd noise – boos v. cheers (Phase-1 and is coming when helmet is ready to launch at 2017 ABCA January conference in Anaheim, California),
  • Phase-2 and details are in the works…

Believe me, distraction training WILL BE the FUTURE of hitting.

KC will reserve a spot for those interested in the distraction training helmet, so CLICK HERE to RESERVE YOUR SPOT today!

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

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…]