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

I’ve Lied To You For 5-Years Now About The Best Hitters Baseball Bat Path…

 

 

Breaking down Khris Davis

Khris Davis is 5'10" with a ton of power. How does he generate it?Sean Casey shows how his back elbow and bat path help him get it done.

Posted by Diamond Demos on Tuesday, September 18, 2018

 

…And I’m sorry.  But I will say this, most are being misled on the best hitters baseball bat path.  The principle you’ll discover shortly also apply to fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball.

In this best hitters baseball barrel path post, we’ll look at:

  • How the best hitters are using the Catapult Loading System,
  • WHY current one-size-fits-all SUPER deep barrel path approaches are losing, and
  • Hitting different “catcher’s glove” examples of inner, middle, and outer third of the plate pitches…

 

How the Best Hitters Baseball are Using the Catapult Loading System

…according to Diamond Demo video above: “Breaking down Khris Davis”.

We published last week’s Khris Davis swing analysis post because of the Diamond Demo “Breaking down Khris Davis” video.  The overwhelming response I received from readers sharing this video with me truly validates the Catapult Loading System seen in the best hitters.  Don’t think so?  Take a look at the following split screen snapshots from the above video (recognize ANY of the hitters??)

Best Hitters Baseball Swings: JD Martinez, Aaron Judge, & Jose Altuve

Observe stride landing positions of JD Martinez, Aaron Judge, & Jose Altuve – ‘showing numbers’, ‘downhill shoulders’, & ‘hiding hands’. Photo courtesy: Diamond Demo video “Breaking down Khris Davis”

And,

Best Hitters Baseball Swings: Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, & Mike Trout

Check out stride landing positions of Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, & Mike Trout – ‘showing numbers’, ‘downhill shoulders’, & ‘hiding hands’. Photo courtesy: Diamond Demo video “Breaking down Khris Davis”

We won’t spend a lot of time rehashing last week’s post, BUT I do want to bring up an important point that was talked about in the above Diamond Demo segment.  And it has to do with best hitters baseball barrel path…

Starting at about the 2-min, 15-second video mark, and continuing to the end, they talk about this idea of Khris Davis getting his barrel in the zone early, and keeping barrel in the zone late.  And this is where I’ve lied to you for the last 5-years!  I used to teach my hitters this same one-size-fits-all SUPER deep barrel path.  But what I found was this IS NOT true of the best hitters baseball bat paths…

 

 

WHY Hitters Baseball Current One-Size-Fits-All SUPER Deep Barrel Path Approaches are Losing

Let me tell you a story of how I stumbled onto this principle…

In January of 2018, I was working with one of my hitters, who has been working with me since he was 7 years old.  He’s 15 years old now, in the 8th grade, and consistently hits with a low to mid 80’s Ball Exit Speed off the Backspin Tee, using a wood bat.

His mechanics are pretty clean compared to my other hitters.  At the time, I was teaching my hitters the same one-size-fits-all SUPER deep barrel acceleration path, as many of you are now.  One day, we were working on hunting pitch zones, inner third pitches specifically, and he responded,

“Coach, I don’t feel like I can get to that inside pitch effectively.  Am I showing my numbers too much?”

This got me thinking, so I jumped on Twitter to look at the best hitters baseball bat paths.  Specifically, I was looking for hitters, like the ones on the split screen images above, crushing 94-mph+ on the inner third of the plate, and guess what I saw??

The ones who demonstrated the Catapult Loading System principles well (namely ‘showing numbers’), still did so at stride landing on inside heat! Did you catch that?!  ‘Showing numbers’ was irrelevant to crushing the inside pitch.  CLICK HERE for a post I did debunking that.  So what were they doing different on the inner third?

It had to do with what we call hitting a different “catcher’s glove”.  I won’t go into the details of that here because I already did at the following post titled: “Accelerate Barrel Rearward Like Mike Trout”.  The best hitters baseball barrel path isn’t about a one-size-fits-all approach to all pitches and timing.

Here’s the DANGER for hitters using a one-size-fits-all SUPER deep barrel acceleration approach…

Signs that pitcher’s are smartening up to countering this seemingly effective low in the zone barrel approach?  Pitchers are now using this, which Perry Husband calls Effective Velocity (EV), to exploit hitters with longer barrel paths.

In short, 2018 homers are down, in addition to having a few months in the season where overall offensive strikeouts outweigh hits in the Big Leagues.  This is troubling.  To give a clue, check out Perry’s video explaining why Chris Davis (Orioles) is having issues with this one-size-fits-all barrel path…

 

If hitting coaches don’t smarten up to this soon, then they’ll be rendered obsolete, irrelevant to the hitting community, and ultimately out of a job.  That’s not an exaggeration, and is where the puck is going, believe me.  Now, let’s look at the behavior of different “catcher’s glove” approaches on inner, middle, and outer third of the plate pitches…

Hitting Different “Catcher’s Glove” Examples of Inner, Middle, & Outer Third of the Plate Pitches

Inner 1/3 Pitch Barrel Path (“Belly Button” Catcher’s Glove)

Mike Trout Homer #38 – 88.1-mph Front View

Chest View

Mitch Haniger Homer #26 – 95.9-mph FF Front View

Chest View

Trevor Story Homer #34 – 93-mph in Front View

Chest View

Middle 1/3 Pitch Barrel Path (“Back Foot” Catcher’s Glove)

Matt Carpenter Homers #36 – 84.9-mph Change-up Front View

Chest View

Javier Baez Homer #33 – 87.4-mph SL Front View

Chest View

Khris Davis Homer #42 – 93.9-mph FF Front View

Chest View

Outer 1/3 Pitch Barrel Path (“Real” Catcher’s Glove)

Mookie Betts Homer #31 Front View

Chest View

Christian Yelich Homer #32 – 88.7-mph Slider Front View

Chest View

Michael Conforto Homer #27 – 94.4-mph FF Front View

Chest View

Now, how do we train this?  I’m going to give you two complimentary drills we use to sync the optimal “catcher’s glove” with the proper direction of force (See – aren’t you glad you read my post to the bitter end!?):

  1. “Shorten Swing” Like An Elite Hitter (Not What You Think), and
  2. How To Optimize Directional Force Using The “Pounding Nail” Drill.
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Don’t Teach Rearward Barrel Acceleration Softball Drills Without Understanding Pitch Depth First

 

 

There are a few softball drills “gurus” out there promoting a rearward barrel acceleration, which I agree with.  However, in teaching young hitters the concept over the past few years, with no disregard for pitch depth, some of my most clean hitters – mechanically – were having challenges getting to the inside pitch.  Rearward barrel acceleration is good, but MUST not be a blanket teach for all pitch depths.  The best hitters, like Mike Trout, alter the timing of the barrel’s release off the back shoulder.  Here’s a similar post I went in more depth on this concept with many examples.

Softball Drills: Mike Trout Swing Case Study

Mike Trout swing case study: hitting the “catcher’s glove”. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Enter the softball drills content of this video.  Here’s what I tried to do in the above Mike Trout swing case study:

  • Select Mike Trout home-run swings that were based off similar pitch type, location, and pitch speed,
  • Same game would assume same catcher and catcher’s position relative to the hitter,
  • Same camera view, and preferably the same camera zoom setting,
  • Comparing inner third of plate pitch location barrel path versus outer third, and
  • Same pitcher would help control timing variable.

This was A LOT to ask, so truth be told…unfortunately, not all these points are affirmed in this case study.  Let’s compare Mike Trout’s 200th and 201st career homers on September 29, 2017

Pitch #1:

  • Gonzalez was the pitcher
  • 86-mph FB? outer third part of the plate, mid-thigh high
  • Homer to LCF

Pitch #2:

  • Vincent was the pitcher
  • 90-mph FB, inner third of the plate, mid-thigh high
  • Homer to LF

A softball drills note on Mike Trout’s “alligator arm” swing on Pitch #2:

  1. Okay if late on the inner half of the plate (purpose is to barrel up ball and that’s what Mike Trout is doing on pitch #2),
  2. NOT okay if doing off a tee, if on-time during soft-toss, or during dry swings (basically when timing is irrelevant or minimal), and
  3. CLICK HERE for a recent post on how to fix alligator arms, and how to practice what Mike Trout is doing with hitting the different “catcher’s gloves”.
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

How To Hit A Ball 400-Feet By Streamlining 8,000-Pounds Per Square Inch Of Force In ONE Direction

Most likely, Little Leaguers and 12-year-old young ladies won’t be driving the ball 400-feet anytime soon.  I know that. However, the point of this “Pounding the Nail” drill video post is how to train hitters to direct their swing force optimally.  In the above video, we go over…

  • Thanks to Matt Nokes,
  • Define Directional Force, takes 8,000 pounds per square inch, in one direction, to hit ball 400-feet,
  • What is a Lumberjack trying to do? Lean in and compress the baseball,
  • Using colored bands on ground to simulate pitch location directional force (see image of plate and colored bands below), and
  • Stand out front of hitter with external image (nail).

I like to pair the above “Pounding the Nail” drill with the following “Shorten Swing” drill…

 

However, I’ve evolved my thinking on the latter video.  And here it is:

  1. The “catcher’s glove” ball marker closest to the actual catcher is outer 1/3 of plate right-center approach (for righty, reverse for lefty),
  2. The “catcher’s glove” ball marker inline with the back foot is middle 1/3 of plate dead-center field approach, and
  3. The “catcher’s glove” ball marker inline with hitter’s belly button is inner 1/3 of plate left-center field approach (for righty, reverse for lefty).
    Pounding the Nail Hitting Drill

    It takes 8,000 pounds per square inch of force, in ONE DIRECTION, to hit a ball 400-feet.

I see coaches generally teaching a “kicking back” of barrel towards the catcher.  I found deeply accelerating barrel same for all pitch depths to be ineffective for my hitters.  As you’ll see in the syncing of these two drills, the distance between what catcher’s glove the hitter hits and the depth of impact is the same.

For example, the DISTANCE between hitting catcher’s glove position #1 above to optimum impact on the outer 1/3 of the plate SHOULD MATCH hitting catcher’s glove position #3 above to optimum impact on the inner 1/3 of the plate.  You still following me?

I was teaching the same blanket “deep barrel” acceleration as everyone else, but my cleaner hitters mechanically were having a challenge barreling up the inner 1/3 pitch.  You see, their swing path was taking too long in getting to the inner 1/3 pitch with the generalized “deep barrel” approach.

I recommend watching video of top hitters smashing the inside versus the away pitch and in most cases, you’ll see a difference in what catcher’s glove they’re hitting.  Remember the objective is directional force.  Matt Nokes says that is takes 8,000 pounds per square inch of force, in ONE DIRECTION, to hit a ball 400-feet.  Practice syncing these two drills with your hitters in the following progression:

  • Dry swings first,

    “Pounding Nail” Drill colored band staggered impact setup to simulate pitch depth (for a righty, reverse for a lefty)

  • Tee next,
  • Then soft toss (DO NOT work the “deep” catcher’s glove position here, unless you’re okay with donating your teeth!)
  • And when you get the hitter to LIVE, make sure they understand before pitcher throws the ball, they default to the middle approach, and make the smaller adjustment in or out, depending on pitch depth.

PLEASE NOTE: once the hitter gets to LIVE, make sure they understand the following:

  • Most optimized force = pounding nail over correct part of plate (ex. for righty, driving inner 1/3 to left-center),
  • Optimized force = slipping lines, and pounding one nail over (ex. for righty, driving middle 1/3 to left-center), and
  • Sub-optimal force = slipping lines, and pounding two nails over (ex. for righty, driving outer 1/3 to left-center).

Just think about it, if it takes 8,000-pounds per square inch of force in one direction to hit a ball 400-feet, and that’s optimal…what happens if the hitter uses “Sub-optimal force” like in the above bullet point?  Right! It’s going to take more force to hit it farther.  I dunno how much, but taking a guess in the aforementioned sub-optimal example, it may take 12,000 or 16,000-pounds per square inch of force to hit the ball 400-feet pounding two nails over, so make it easy..hit it where it’s pitched!

After this lesson, typically the “light-bulb” goes on with my hitters.  I hope this helps!