Posts

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

Adam Jones: TWO Actionable Tactics To Decrease Strikeouts

 

Adam Jones: High K%? Do These 2 Things...

Adam Jones “stay through” photo courtesy: MLB.com

I wanted to compare two hitters who have reversed walk and strikeout percentages.  Adam Jones and Victor Martinez.  Can efficient OR inefficient mechanics have an effect on a hitter’s strikeout rate?  In this post we’ll:

  • Compare & contrast key offensive statistics,
  • Actionable tactic #1: how low can you go?
  • Actionable tactic #2: bringing sexy back…

The clip I used of Adam Jones is him hitting an outside 90-mph fastball to center-field.  According to FanGraphs.com Jones is 6’3″, 225 pounds.  A BEAST!  Whereas Victor Martinez is hitting an inside 93-mph fastball to right-center-field.  FanGraphs.com lists V-Mart at 6’2″, 210 pounds.

 

Compare & Contrast Key Offensive Statistics

In this article I used Michael Brantley’s example, of how to boost Batting Average, or Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP).  Although Adam Jones is a BEAST and does a lot right statistically speaking, there’s two mechanical elements that may lend themselves to improvement.  In the following stat table I want to pay particular attention to:Adam Jones v. Victor Martinez

  1. How virtually non-existent Adam Jones’s walk percentage is,
  2. How Jones’s Strikeout% fairs to V-Mart and the League Average, and
  3. The difference between both hitters’ Ground-ball% (GB%).

I’m using Victor Martinez’s mechanics as a model for Adam Jones.  Why?  When you want to reduce strikeouts, look to the guy who is the best in the game.  Victor Martinez has hit 30 homers, as of this writing, and only struck-out a “lean” 39 times…ALL season.  There are two key mechanical differences that I feel may be contributing to these numbers…

 

Actionable Tactic #1: How Low Can You Go?

Victor Martinez on pitch plane

Victor Martinez pitch plane photo courtesy: MLB.com

In baseball, the mound lifts a pitcher’s release point by 10-inches.  On top of that, the pitcher has to throw the ball to a squatting catcher.  To increase margin for error, and cut down on strikeouts, a hitter’s body has to get low on the pitch plane early.  THEN, stay on the pitch plane at least six to twelve inches passed impact.  In other words, get shorter, and stay shorter.

Getting low isn’t as important with fast-pitch softball.  The pitcher’s release point (mid thigh to hip) is almost on line with the catcher’s glove.  The pitching rubber will remain on flat ground and same distance from the plate, so hitters will experience less pitch plane arc at the higher levels.

As you see in the video, Adam Jones gets low but doesn’t stay low on the pitch plane like Victor Martinez does.  V-Mart starts low, glides forward, then stays low through his Final Turn.  This mechanical inefficiency – of Adam Jones – may contribute to his higher than average GB%, Strikeout%, and virtually non-existent Walk%.

 

Actionable Tactic #2: Bringing Sexy Back

Adam Jones taller Fight Position

Adam Jones “taller” Fight Position photo courtesy: MLB.com

The Catapult Loading System NEEDS the following three ingredients, up to the Final Turn…hitter:

  1. Shows numbers (their back) to pitcher,
  2. Hides hands from pitcher, and
  3. Has a slight down shoulder angle.

These three ingredients charge the springy fascial connective tissue in the body.

Victor Martinez shows his numbers longer than Adam Jones does.  I showed in this Tony Gwynn video that Gwynn keyed in on keeping his front shoulder in, which allowed him to stay on the ball longer.  Keeping the “spring” loaded longer may explain the difference in the GB% above.  Jones starts on plane, but finishes off (he “stands” up).

The key to efficient mechanics on a downward pitch plane is to get low.  Evidenced in the video, also showing the hitter’s numbers longer can have a reducing effect on higher than average strikeout and ground-ball percentages.

MichaelBrantley:How ToBOOSTBABIP

Michael Brantley: NEVER Worry About Batting Average Again

 

Michael Brantley: How-To BOOST BABIP

2014 Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

Last week, I received a question from Brian Petrick that birthed this post:

“What do mlb players need to do to hit for a higher avg consistently and cut down on k’s. Not many .300 plus hitters today.”

I have to thank my Sabermetrics friends at RockiesZingers.com – namely Richard Bergstrom – for introducing me to a key metric that better measures how consistently a batter hits the ball rather than Batting Average.  Enter BABIP.  FanGraphs.com says this about BABIP:

Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) measures how often a ball in play goes for a hit. A ball is “in play” when the plate appearance ends in something other than a strikeout, walk, hit batter, catcher’s interference, sacrifice bunt, or home run. Several variables that can affect BABIP rates for individual players, such as defense, luck, and talent level.”

In this video post, we’re going to analyze:

  • Why analyze Michael Brantley (lefty hitting outfielder of the Cleveland Indians)?
  • What’s the difference in his 2013/2014 swings? AND
  • How can he improve his repeatable power?

 

Why Analyze Michael Brantley?Michael Brantley 2013-2014 Key Offensive Stats

According to FanGraphs.com he’s 6 foot, 2 inches, 200 pounds.  Not a big guy by today’s standards.  2014 was the first time he was selected to the American League All-Star team.

Michael Brantley’s 2013-2014 stats were a perfect example to answer Brian Petrick’s question from earlier (photo of stats to the right)…

  • 138 point jump in OPS (On-Base + Slug%),
  • BABIP has gone well above average,
  • GB% went down, LD% went up, and FB% went down, while
  • Home-run to fly-ball% more than DOUBLED!
  • Walk% went up, and
  • Strikeout% almost cut in half!

Yes, according to my stat table, the 2014 season isn’t done yet.  But the amount of “hits” he accumulated in 2013 (158) is virtually the same as 2014 (151).  Hits are a major part of the BABIP equation.  So, what is he doing differently with his mechanics?

What’s the Difference in his 2013/2014 Swings?

Michael Brantley 2014 contact position

Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

After Brian Petrick sent me that question, I obsessed over how-to build consistency into a hitter’s swing (increase BA & BABIP) that could also cut down on strikeouts.  My hypothesis was to get the barrel on pitch plane EARLIER (closer to the catcher), which would translate to more margin for error afforded by the batter.

Take a batter being late on a fast-ball, for example:

  • If the barrel entering the impact zone is closer to the catcher, driving the pitch to the opposite field is an option.
  • However, if the same barrel enters the impact zone closer to the pitcher, the hitter is more likely to swing and miss or hit the ball weakly.

Both Michael Brantley’s 2013 & 2014 swing videos show he’s entering the pitch plane closer to the catcher, and staying long through impact.  But upon closer inspection, we can see he’s “staying shorter” longer through the Final Turn, in 2014.  It looks like he’s
“standing up” in his 2013 swing.

You see, the torso sets the upward swing plane, NOT the hands.  By bending his back leg more at impact (around 10-degrees closer to a right angle than in 2013), makes a HUGE difference in consistently staying on plane of the pitch longer.  Take a quote from page 36 of Homer Kelly’s book, The Golfing Machine:

“A rotating motion will pass through a given point if the axis is tilted properly, instead of having to apply a compensating vector force to drive the rotating element off its normal plane towards the desired plane line.”  

Homer Kelly, an aeronautical engineer for Boeing back in the 1930’s, applied scientifically proven human movement principles to the golf swing.

 

How Can he Improve his Repeatable Power?

Michael Brantley: 2013 contact position

2013 Michael Brantley photo courtesy: MLB.com

According to FanGraphs.com, Zip (U) and Steamer (U) statistics predict Brantley will hit 20-21 homers in 2014.  This would double what he did in 2013.  The same predictive stats show he’ll finish between .846 to .849 in OPS (On-Base + Slug%).  Conservatively, this would be a dramatic 118 point rise!

With the following FOUR mechanical tweaks, we could see Michael Brantley – with his body type – hitting over 30 homers per year:

  1. Forward Momentum,
  2. More downward shoulder angle,
  3. Showing numbers better, and
  4. Hiding hands from pitcher more.

You saw the difference bending the back leg more at impact does to key offensive numbers like BABIP, BA, and Strikeout%.  Also just as important is how close to the catcher a batter’s barrel enters the pitch plane, and how well his “stay through” is after contact.  Brantley already does these well.

However, at the very least, if Michael Brantley engages the natural springy fascial material within his body (mechanical tweak #’s 2-4 from above), then he can be one of the top-10 hitters in the league!

Corey Dickerson

Corey Dickerson: 3 Human Movement Laws That Dominate

Comparing Corey Dickerson 2014 OPS & OPS+ stats to Mike Trout & league average

I wanted to analyze a young lefty slugging Colorado Rockies outfielder by the name of Corey Dickerson.  Standing and weighing in at 6-foot, 1 inch, and 205 pounds, Dickerson isn’t a big guy by today’s standards.  And comparing key offensive indicators (photo on right), puts him in decent company…

FanGraphs.com says this about OPS & OPS+:

OPS is the widely used metric measuring a hitter’s contact, patience, and and power.  Since OPS+ adjusts for league and park effects, it’s possible to use OPS+ to compare players from different years and on different teams.”

Corey Dickerson: #1 Most Critical Hitting Position

Corey Dickerson photo courtesy: MLB.com

How efficiently a hitter gets into their Fight (landing) Position can dramatically effect their OPS and OPS+.  In analyzing Corey Dickerson swing, we’ll see how he uses THREE scientifically proven human movement laws to dominate his Fight Position:

  1. Gravitational Forces,
  2. Transferring Forward Momentum, and
  3. Spine engine mechanics.

We’ll also look at what repeatable power elements are missing in his swing…

 

Laws That Dominate #1: Gravitational Forces

Imagine standing in the middle of a trampoline.  Push your body weight into the canvas by bending your knees slightly, and jump 2-inches off the surface.  Now, use all your body weight, squatting down like your butt’s going to touch the canvas, and jump 2-feet in the air.  Notice how pushing harder into the surface, gave you a higher jumping result?

These are Gravitational Forces at work.  By pushing into the ground (trampoline canvas), the surface pushes back with an equal and opposite force.  Corey Dickerson amplifies Gravitational Forces by “getting shorter” and dropping his body-weight into the earth when he lands into his Fight Position.  The ground gives thanks by giving him a push back!

Following…

 

Laws that Dominate #2: Transferring Forward Momentum

Corey Dickerson "floating" to his Fight Position

Corey Dickerson “Float” photo courtesy: MLB.com

In science, this is commonly referred to as the Conservation of Linear Momentum.  In Corey Dickerson’s case, here’s how it works:

  1. First, he transfers his weight back and Floats (timing) before falling forward,
  2. He gets a swing “head start” by moving his body-weight towards the pitcher, and
  3. Then commits to weighting his front leg before transferring Forward into Angular (rotating) Momentum at the Final Turn.

Corey Dickerson lands with an open hip-knee-toe to set up the turning of the pelvis.  His front knee is bent and stacked almost over his ankle allowing him to push into the ground (Gravitational Forces).  This will make way for what’s called “Blocking” during the Final Turn.  Next…

 

Laws that Dominate #3: Spine Engine Mechanics

Corey Dickerson Fight Position

Corey Dickerson “Fight Position” photo courtesy: MLB.com

Blocking the shoulders from opening too soon is critical to repeatable power.  Tony Gwynn calls this “staying on the ball”.  And Corey Dickerson does the basics (a la Gwynn).  He’s not loading his torso’s springy material optimally.  I believe he’s leaving 10% of his repeatable power on the table.  Here’s how he can improve his Fight Position:

  1.  Raise back elbow above top hand during fall, to get a more downward shoulder angle,
  2. Show his number to the pitcher more clearly, and
  3. Hide his hands from the pitcher a little better.

The Fight Position is one of THE most critical points in the swing.  As you can see, Corey Dickerson uses THREE (2.5, lol) scientifically proven human movement laws before he lands his Fight Position.  To me, at least 70% of hitting faults can be fixed here.  Make sure you’re swinging smarter by moving better!

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

What Can Bryce Harper Learn From Mike Trout?

 

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

Bryce Harper VIDEO: Missing Repeatable Power?

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Gold medal winning Shot Putter Randy Barnes

Randy Barnes photo courtesy: PBS.org

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

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

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

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

Mechanical Disadvantage #2: Minimal Spring Loading

Bryce Harper VIDEO: NOT springy loaded

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

 

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

Bryce Harper Locally Flexing his C-Spine

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shin Soo Choo Missing Power?

 

Shin Soo Choo Missing Power?

Shin-Soo Choo photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

delina Sotnikova 2014 Winter Olympics

Adelina Sotnikova photo courtesy: NBC Sports

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

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

 

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

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

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

Shin-Soo Choo photo courtesy: MLB.com

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

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

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

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

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

 

How-To Increase Rotational Speed at Home

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

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

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

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

Two Quick Tips For A Faster Turn,

 

Robinson Cano Baseball Hitting Mechanics Video Reveals...

…We’ll be comparing one of my eleven-year-olds Ian to Robinson Cano:

  • If he’s “hiding his hands” from the pitcher,
  • How his front elbow is creating barrel path mayhem,
  • How Robinson Cano uses the Catapult Loading System, and
  • What does Ian need to work on?

In this Robinson Cano Baseball Hitting Mechanics Video…

I wanted to show a snapshot in time of one of my eleven-year-old hitters.  Ian is working on staying short with his limbs – pre-landing position – in order to turn faster.  His front arm tends to move back towards the catcher too much, which causes it to bar out and turn his torso slower.

We can break the swing up into two steps: 1) To landing (or the Fight Position), and Final Turn.  75% of consistency and power is taken care of in Step One.  Here’s the drill Ian will use in the video for correction…

 

Break It Apart Mirror Drill

  1. Get into stance with front shoulder facing mirror or picture window,
  2. Get to fight position (Landing), and
  3. Make sure you’ve hidden your hands from view – like a boxer would when he’s going to deliver the knock out blow.

CLICK HERE or watch below, another one of my Robinson Cano baseball hitting mechanics YouTube videos that I did for SwingSmarter.com:

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

In This Baseball Hitting Drill Video,

 

Baseball Hitting Drill: #1 Way To Hitting For Consistent Power (Case Study)…We discuss the #1 way to hitting for consistent power by analyzing one of my younger hitters Braden:

  • Before and after swing,
  • The Un-Weighting Principal, and
  • What baseball hitting drill to work on next.

 

Before & After Swing

It’s so fun to see young men – like Braden – begin to build in human movement principals like Un-Weighting and notice an instant jolt in force at contact.  I ask all my students, if you wanted to live, would you rather get hit by a train going thirty miles-per-hour, or a motorcycle going sixty?

Of course the motorcycle!  You see, the motorcycle swing is very handsy, fast like a bike but no weight.  The train swing uses heavy mass and the slower rotational speed of the torso to pack a wallop at impact.  Forward movement and Un-Weighting are only the beginning…

 

The Un-Weighting Principal

I’m working with Braden on throwing his body mass at the ball.  Much like a projectile missile.  This helps to make the bat feel lighter to the hitter.  And be able to turn harder with less muscle involvement.  The swing is a transfer of energy.  We’re taking the potential energy contained in the hitter’s body, and getting it moving to transfer into the barrel.  Then effectively shift this moving energy into the incoming baseball.

CLICK HERE for a YouTube baseball hitting drill video I put together that demonstrates the power of the Un-Weighting Principal.

 

What Baseball Hitting Drill to Work on Next?

Braden is coming along nicely with his footwork – with the exception of making sure his lower half is mostly open at the Fight Position (landing).  We’ll be getting him to tap into the natural springy effect of his torso.  I call it the Catapult Loading System.  How the swing is loaded is a difficult concept for most to understand because their focus is on the wrong things:

  1. Not every great MLB hitter walks away from their hands.
  2. And not every great MLB hitter is swinging as effectively as they can.
  3. We tend to study the wrong hitters.
  4. And the camera view matters.

If you have any questions on this, then please post them below…

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

In This David Ortiz Grand Slam Baseball Hitting Analysis Video Of…

 

David Ortiz Grand Slam in 2013 Playoffs Baseball Hitting Video AnalysisBig Papi’s two-out-bottom-of-the-eighth game tying grand-slam in the 2013 ALCS playoffs against the Detroit Tigers, we’ll be analyzing the following mechanics of David Oriz’s swing:

  1. How he uses the Catapult Loading System, and
  2. How his swing resembles a snapping of a towel.

The David Ortiz Grand Slam is what we all dream about as kids growing up.  What was interesting when you compare David Ortiz to Matt Holiday of the Cardinals is that both utilize a hand hitch in their swing.  This takes precise timing to master.  And it showed with such a contrast in performance between the two players…

Matt Holiday struggled to get his hands into position early on in the Series, but later – almost too late – he figured out his timing.  Whereas Big Papi was red hot through the whole playoff and World Series.  He was able to get his hands into the correct position to begin his Final Turn.  The MVP trophy was well deserved for Mr. David Ortiz in the 2013 World Series.

CLICK HERE for the full video on the historic playoff grand-slam.

Also, I’d be forever grateful if you SHARE THIS POST to Facebook or Twitter.  The more people we can help educate the BETTER!  You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel HitPerformLab above.  And of course, if you have any questions or comments on this post, please direct them below…thanks for watching!