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The NEW Way Pitchers Are Getting Hitters Out That May Be Hiding Under Your Nose…

Know WHY, according to Baseball-Reference.com, strikeouts (41,207) edged out hits (41,018) in the Big Leagues in 2018?  In my opinion, the above MLB Tonight Brian Kenny interview of Trevor Bauer has the answers.

Carlos Pena Effective Velocity

Carlos Pena fouling a ball off in 2009. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Could it be…

  • The Launch Angle craze? Maybe…
  • Hitters just don’t care about strikeouts anymore? Maybe…
  • The front office putting higher value recruiting players based on key Sabermetrics?  Maybe.

However, in my opinion, these are all symptoms to the direct cause.  Yes, hitters are being taught that ground-balls are gross.  And since the book and movie Moneyball came out, Math revealed key metrics measuring how often:

  • A hitter gets on base, and
  • They hit for extra bases…

…are better predictors to scoring runs.  Here’s a shot across the bow for the hitting coaches…

Back to the Trevor Bauer Evolution of Metrics conversation above,

Perry Husband, of HittingIsAGuess.com, has been sharing Effective Velocity principles for almost 2 decades, and it’s finally getting people’s attention.  WHY?  Because more and more pitchers are starting to apply the timing disruption principles.  Unlike golf, timing is a MAJOR factor in how consistently hard a hitter hits the ball.  And it’s THIS factor of a hitter’s success that’s under MAJOR attack.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?  Read on, because Perry, myself, and many others see the writing on the wall…remember when Wayne Gretzky so famously said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

I speak to MANY MANY coaches, and a majority of them, are disgusted with the sheer number of offensive strikeouts over the last few years, so their solution is to teach a defensive “just get on base” swing.  Are you kidding?!  More pitchers are throwing 96-mph+ at the higher levels nowadays, they LOVE facing hitters being taught a defensive “just get on base” swing.  And it’s not just at the highest levels, overall average velocities are going up across the board because of better training programs.

And by the way, it’s not about the higher pitching velocities per se, because we can train hitters to see faster speeds in the “lab”, making the increased game velocities “seem” slower.  That’s only one-dimension to pitching, as Trevor Bauer puts it in the interview.

It’s what pitchers are being taught to do with added velocity, manipulating hitters’ reaction times.  Don’t you see, the game is speeding up for hitters, and coaches are ill equipped to deal with the adjustment right now.  They’re running east, chasing a sunset!

Rest assured, we’re going to make a better decision and train differently.  Coaches, you’ve been WARNED.  In this post, we’ll discuss:

  • The NEW way pitchers are getting hitters out, and
  • How to counter this strategy…

 

The NEW Way Pitchers are Getting Hitters Out

Trevor Bauer & Effective Velocity

Trevor Bauer interview with Brian Kenny of MLB Network. Photo courtesy: MLB Network

Here are my notes on Trevor Bauer’s scouting report on hitters…

  • At the 40-second mark, Trevor talks about having a specific “pitch mix”.  And he adds that the delivery of that mix is different for every pitcher – how does he utilize it the best. He looks at hitter’s heat map and compares strengths and weaknesses to his “pitch mix” heat map strengths and weaknesses.  What gives a pitcher the best chance of being successful?
  • At the 2-min, 20-second mark, Brian asks Trevor about pitch sequencing – which pitch should follow the next? Taking away as many “tip-off” cues hitters use.  #1: Changing your body (i.e. tilting off while throwing a CB – mechanics have to be consistent). #2: How does the ball come out of the hand – tunneling, hitters can see “up and down” well, but not “side to side”, so he’s trying to minimize the “hump” in his pitches.  The more he can hide pitching cues, the later the hitter sees the ball, and the more likely the pitcher wins.  Neutral and clean mechanics.
  • At the 3-minute, 45-seconds mark, Trevor Bauer talks about starting off his pitches in the middle and let the movement get to the spot he’s trying to hit.  He worked on a new pitch to fill a hole in his pitching repertoire – he needed a pitch that could slide to his glove side that didn’t drop like his curveball.
  • At the 6-minute, 45-second mark, Brian asks when Trevor is getting hit, what’s the checklist he goes through to get back on track? He feels his speed differentials are off, either he’s throwing too hard or too soft, for example in early 2017 the data said he was throwing too high a percentage of hard stuff – 4/2-seam FB and cutters, and not enough slow with the CB, SL, and Change.  Once organized, hitters had a tough time. 3-Dimensional pitching approach: dealing with front to back (differing velos 95 to 85 to 78-mph), left to right (2-seam, 4-seam, cutter, slider), and up to down (4-seam, SL, and CB).

Did you catch that last bullet point?  There’s the Holy Grail of pitchers’ scouting reports right there.  Other than that, a lot of REALLY good intel in almost 9-mins, so how do hitting coaches counter this gameplan?  Take it from a hitter’s point of view, Carlos Pena, who studied under Perry Husband back in 2009, and in the following video, makes a good case to a promising counter-move…

 

How to Counter this Strategy…

Here are my notes on Carlos Pena’s scouting report on pitchers who use Effective Velocity…

  • At the 15-second mark, talks about hunting pitches, addresses the hitting myth of “looking for the ball away and react in”…pick a spot, a speed, and a rhythm to dance to, react within those parameters,
  • At the 1-minute mark, looking for ball away and reacting in would work for one maybe two-dimensional pitchers, objective is to make good contact more often, having an EV plan against a pitcher makes hitting “easier”, setting “coordinates” like latitude and longitude, and work within those parameters, having a “blast radius” and only working within those parameters, match the timing to what you’re looking for, helps hitters to lay off stuff, eliminates half to 3/4 of the strike zone when pitchers get pretty good.
  • At the 2-minute, 40-second mark, Carlos talks about his struggles at the beginning of 2009, he met Perry Husband, and he ended up leading the league in homers by the end of the season.

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 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,

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 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 Timing Drills: Get Rid Of Hitters Feeling Dominated By Upper Level Pitchers Once And For All

 

In this timing hitting drills post, I’ll be addressing the following reader question…Hitting Timing Drills Strategy For Upper Level Pitchers & Hard Throwers

“How to teach fearlessness when facing upper level pitchers and timing the hard throwers?”

We’ll be addressing the following in the above video:

  • Barry Bonds one step towards machine after every swing,
  • Two or three-plate drill, and
  • Develop hunting approach at the plate…

 

Barry Bonds One Step Toward Machine After Every Swing

  • CLICK HERE for a link to get more information on the golf whiffle ball MaxBP pitching machine at The Starting Lineup StoreGet 15% OFF by using the: GET15OFF coupon code at checkout.

 

Two or Three Plate Drill 

 

Develop Hunting Approach at the Plate

Leg Kicks May Be Dangerous To Pitchers (And Hitters That Don’t Perfect Them)

Before I get into the Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown video featuring Mark DeRosa & Cliff Floyd above…

I wanted to give you a heads up of what’s in this post:

  • Lesson learned from my school of hard knocks,
  • How to fix striking out every at-bat in tournament, and
  • Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown.

 

Lessons Learned from School of Hard Knocks

Rhys Hoskins: MLBNetwork Swing Breakdown

Rhys Hoskins says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can. Photo courtesy: Sports Bay Area

I recently worked with a newer 12/13u hitter of mine, where he shared he had a terrible tournament, where he struck out virtually every at-bat the weekend before.

This immediately raised a red flag for me.

The easy thing to do for a player – and a dad or mom – is to point to a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

As a hitting coach, if this isn’t your first rodeo, then you know this is not the case a majority of the time.

Quick back story,

My last year of Little League was insane:

  • Hit .880 regular season, .770 in All-Stars,
  • 30+ dingers,
  • 40+ doubles, and
  • Struck out a grand total of 3 times in the span of 6 months.

By the way, looking at old VHS video of that swing, I was doing what I teach now.  All those strikeouts were early in the regular season, and once I settled down, they vanished entirely.

I was ignorance on fire!

Brace yourself for the “fall”…

The next year I made the move to the big field, with no pitching distance transition like there are nowadays.  I found myself swinging and missing A LOT.

I got so frustrated with myself,  and what do you think my dumb brain thought was the problem?

Right-O!! Mechanics.

Do you know the REAL cause?

Let me give you a clue…the word starts with a “T” and ends with “-iming” 😛 lol

I was being driven by my fear of getting “caught up” to by other players.  And yes, the whispers started in Middle School when I struggled to recover my old swing.

Do you know how much of a nightmare that is for a hitter who’s super driven to succeed like I was?

This fear drove me into the bookstore to read every book on hitting I could get my hungry teenager hands on.  Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Charlie Lau, Mike Schmidt, and on and on.  Nothing seemed to help.  I obsessively watched film of that swing trying to figure out what I was missing or leaving out.

Hey, at least I wasn’t out stealing cars!

It was a 4-year mind-fudge that ended in recovering my batting average – somewhat – but not my power the last two years in High School.  Thinking back now, it’s a miracle I ended up with a scholarship at Fresno State.

The point of this story is, negative tournament outcomes don’t necessarily mean a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

Back to my young hitter…

 

How To Fix Striking Out Every At-Bat in Tournament

So I had three questions I planned asking my hitter, in diagnosing the challenges he had with his last tournament:

  • The first one is, were you focusing on the new stuff we worked on last lesson (which was a week before), during game at-bats?
  • If the answer is NO to that question, then I would ask, how many strikes did you swing at, OR not swing at?
  • If they’re swinging at good pitches, then on the swings you took, how many were “on-time”?

If they pass the first three questions, then we look at seeking and fixing the ineffective swing mechanic.

However, this particular hitter failed question one.  I hadn’t warned him about bringing new swing techniques into game at-bats.  I told him that in games, your focus MUST be on swinging at good pitches and getting on-time.  It’s to compete.

I teach hitters my painful lesson.

The good news is, this hitter will be on the up and up again, and won’t have to go through the frustration, struggle, and anger I went through attempting to fix something I knew nothing about at the time.  And frankly, the only one who had a clue was Ted Williams, but his message was drowned out in the other white noise I was hearing, reading, and watching.  Paralysis by over analysis.

Now, let’s tie in the Rhys Hoskins video above…

Rhys Hoskins Swing Breakdown

Below you’ll find video notes I took.  Afterward, I’ll only focus on about a couple of these, I think others will make for good conversation in the Comments section below…

  1. About 1:20 min mark, DeRosa: “Hands go along for the ride…not a lot of hand load”
  2. About 1:40 min mark, DeRosa brings up examples of “violent hand loads” featuring: Cecil Fielder, Vlad Guerrero, Gary Sheffield…and Manny Ramirez, Buster Posey, Justin Turner, and Daniel Murphy used as examples of “not a lot of hand load”
  3. About 2:20 min mark, DeRosa: asks Rhys is he’s conscious about his pre-swing hand movement. Rhys says all he’s worrying about is having some separation between his body and where his hands are during load
  4. About 2:50 min mark, Rhys: “The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”. Cliff Floyd talks about having a leg kick is a perfection type of approach. Pitchers are trying to disrupt a leg kicker: tempo, changing speeds, etc.
  5. About 3:20 min mark, Floyd says Rhys has something you can’t teach: “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…Floyd says it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.
  6. About 4:00 min mark, Cliff Floyd goes into more detail about a hitter focusing on perfecting the timing of a leg kick, and not worry about anything else, or else you’re screwed.  Rhys talks about getting “inside the pitcher’s rhythm in the on-deck circle”.  Cliff Floyd comments: “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.
  7. About 5:10 min mark, Mark DeRosa is wanting Rhys to explain the use of his hands and back elbow.  Cliff Floyd says if you want the kid to go into a slump keep talking about hands and elbows.  Rhys says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can.
  8. About 6:10 min mark, talks about “knee to knee” “hover” leg kick.  More balance, don’t get over backside.

A lot more good than bad in this video.  I wanted to focus on the timing aspect though…

Just to be upfront with you, I’m not one of those instructors that teaches a leg kick to ALL my hitters.  I think this is a BIG mistake.  If my hitter doesn’t have what I call a “Float” (aka stride type) built into their swing already, then I ask them to experiment a little.  Or if what they’re using isn’t effective at getting them on time and dynamically balanced, then we get resourceful.

We experiment with:

  • A leg kick (medium or high),
  • Slide step, and
  • Toe-tap.

By the end, they find that one of these techniques allows them to time the ball better, and it may not be what they started with.  We’re looking for what they’re comfortable with, and can execute the swing dynamically balanced.

You heard Rhys Hoskins say,

“The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”

This was after DeRo prodded him to explain what his hands and back elbow are doing.  Cliff Floyd got on DeRo that he’s going to force Rhys into a slump with all this hands talk! lol

Floyd also said that a lot of time and energy needs to be spent on perfecting the timing of the leg kick.  He added, “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.  This is very important.

Some of my good hitting friends online, who I highly respect in their knowledge, don’t believe timing can be taught or calibrated. I respectfully disagree.

If you can teach a pair of chickens to play ping-pong, then yes, timing can be taught.  True story by the way – with the chicken (read Don’t Shoot The Dog: The New Art Of Teaching And Training).

I’ve also heard pitching coaches on the Socials say they lick their lips when seeing a hitter with a leg kick.  And you heard Cliff Floyd address a pitcher’s job is to disrupt a leg kicker by changing their delivery tempo, changing speeds, etc.

But then Floyd turns around and compliments Hoskins saying, “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…and adds, it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.

Calibrating a hitter’s timing and pitch recognition training are a deadly combination for pitchers who salivate over seeing a leg kicking hitter.  I asked this coach whether he’d salivate over facing Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, or Mike Trout.  He didn’t answer.

Coaches, if you don’t give hitters tools for their toolbox, then they’re up there hitting blind.  Don’t make them hit the pinata blind folded!

 

Here are some resources to take back to your hitters on timing and pitch recognition:

You can teach timing.  You can teach pitch recognition.  Woe to the pitcher that pitches to hitters who train both.  The winds of change are a blowin’ for hitters over pitchers.  When troubleshooting with your hitters, remember:

  • The lesson from my school of hard knocks,
  • How to fix striking out every at-bat in a tournament, and
  • Timing lessons from Rhys Hoskins.

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

PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid: Jaime Cevallos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where you can find more about Jaime Cevallos online:

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

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!

“I Have Several Young Hitters That Are Great In Baseball Batting Cages But Have Trouble Transitioning Those Techniques Into Game Situations.  How Do I Teach That?”

 

CINCINNATI, OH – JULY 9: Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs hits a solo home run in the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 9, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

In this baseball batting cages strategy video, we answer the reader question above.

(By the way, this information is applicable to softball as well.)

We’ll go over:

  • Over-coaching OR giving instruction during games,
  • Promoting focused quality OR unfocused quantity swings at practices, and
  • Training timing, plate discipline, and pitch recognition.

PLEASE NOTE: this is a complex issue, and to do the subject any justice, a 30-minute video and 4,000+ word post would suffice.

However, I don’t have that time after adding a newly minted baby girl to our family.

So, I urge coaches to PLEASE contribute your comments at the end of this post, in the “Comments” section, of any other factors and/or fixes that I may have missed you think contribute to a successful transition from baseball batting cages (including softball coaches) to game at-bats.  Many THANKS in advance!

Without further adieu, I’m going to hit the BIG three I think are the primary causes to the above coach’s challenge…

 

Over-Coaching OR Giving Instruction During Games

CLICK HERE to read this HPL post on what every coach needs to know about giving feedback to hitters.

From the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) website…

Mike Brey, the head Notre Dame men’s basketball coach, says ‘don’t coach every dribble’ in the following video:

3 things Coach Brey brings up about how to give feedback:

  1. Talk about something they did good,
  2. Then bring up some of the mistakes they made, and end with…
  3. Highlighting something they did good, again.

I call this tactic the constructive feedback sandwich.

Coach Tony LaRussa mentions, in his book One Last Strike, the ‘Pat & Pop’ Method of giving feedback to his players. The ‘Pat’ is the pat on the back (what they’re doing right), and the ‘Pop’ is the pop in the mouth (calling attention to the mistakes they made).

Men’s Notre Dame basketball Coach Mike Brey also mentions the WORST thing you can do is have a player looking at the “bench” after every play…or the dugout…or down the third base line.

Legendary baseball coach at Fresno State, Bob Bennett, who was my coach for three years, would sit in his chair at the clubhouse end of the dugout during games, with one leg crossed over the other, taking notes the whole game.  He would rarely offer mechanical changes to players.

He just let us compete.  During games, Coach Bennett focused his time on making situational game decisions.

It was at practice the notes he took during games – of the mistakes we made – would come to life.  CLICK HERE for an audio interview I did with Coach Bennett over lunch.

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

Are you over-coaching (‘coaching EVERY dribble), and/or giving instruction during games?

YES/NO?

Promoting Focused Quality OR Unfocused Quantity Swings at Practice

Baseball Batting Cages: Principle of Specificity (Milo of Croton)

Milo of Croton’s body had to adapt (get stronger) to the demands put on it by the growing bull. Photo courtesy: miloandthecalf.com

Training MUST fit the sport’s objective.

In weight training, this is called the Principle of Specificity.  Specificity according to FitStar.com:

“Specificity is the principle of training that states what you do in the gym should be relevant and appropriate to your desired outcome.”

During a baseball or softball game, a pitch is thrown once every 10-20 seconds.

A hitter may see THREE strikes in an at-bat, and may accumulate FOUR at-bats per game, so they may see TWELVE good pitches to swing at per game.

True, not all strikes are in the strike zone at the lower levels, but my point is, swing opportunities are lower in games.

So, am I saying to ration out swings to hitters at practice?

No, not at all.

I’m suggesting a change in coaching paradigm.

What I’m saying is, swings in baseball batting cages MUST be trained with focused quality, not with unfocused quantity.

Baseball batting cages training MUST prioritize the following:

  • Plate discipline FIRST (are we swinging at strikes, YES/NO?),
  • Timing SECOND (are we on time, YES/NO?), and
  • Mechanics THIRD (are we swinging effectively, YES/NO?)

After each five swing round, I ask my hitters these three questions…and it’s rare that I get a hitter regressing after 3-5 rounds of focused quality hacks.  Training MUST be more challenging (and frustrating), than game at-bats.

In games, hitters MUST NOT worry about mechanics, just make sure they’re swinging at strikes and getting on-time.  Competing.  Mechanics are for working on at practice or outside of game AB’s.

Free swinging batting practice, although fun as heck, does NOTHING for producing quality game at-bats.

What mechanics are considered effective versus ineffective?

CLICK HERE for a post I did answering that, in addition to how to get hitters buying into this system.

What’s an example of a baseball batting cages drill that is ineffective training for game at-bats?

Rapid fire soft toss.

WHY?

Because a hitter NEVER has to swing like this in a game!

Please go revisit the definition of the Principle of Specificity above.

The coaching rebuttal to the Rapid Fire Soft Toss Drill is, “But we’re working on quick hands”.

Okay, so if the objective of a pitcher was to throw three balls one after the other in quick succession, then rapid fire soft toss would work.

However, this isn’t how pitches are thrown in games work…

Pitchers throw one pitch every 10-20 seconds.  Not three pitches every 10-20 seconds.

Game swings are NOT about quick hands.  They’re about timing.  One of the pitcher’s objective is to disrupt this.  If a hitter is behind…they’re late…and THEIR TIMING IS OFF!!

In other words, it may not be a mechanical issue.

Please stay far away from this drill…

Sure, their hands or bat speed may be slow because of something like bat drag, but I’m here to tell you that the Rapid Fire Soft Toss Drill WILL NEVER help bat drag.  This coach would be throwing gasoline on a fire, mechanically.

This is why fixing ineffective hitting mechanics add more reaction time to a hitter, because when a hitter moves better, they perform better.

Effectiveness is doing the right things, and efficiency is doing those things right.

Look, coaches have to understand the principles before coming up with the methods for fixing.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said this about principles:

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

Remember, our hitting objective priorities are:

  1. Plate discipline,
  2. Timing, and then
  3. Mechanics.

A hitter’s mechanics may be clean, but NOT swinging at strikes and NOT being on time WILL cause a mechanical breakdown…no matter how clean the mechanics.

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

In baseball batting cages are you promoting focused quality OR unfocused quantity swings?

YES/NO?

Which leads me to the topics of…

 

Training Timing, Plate Discipline, and Pitch Recognition

Baseball Batting Cages: Joey Votto

Joey Votto is one of the best with plate discipline. Photo courtesy of Red-Hot-Mama.com

In this section, I have a lot of HPL resources for you, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel here…

TIMING

PLATE DISCIPLINE

The post above is more advanced and is what I learned from Fresno State head baseball coach Mike Batesole my senior year in 2003.  Btw, he was the head coach at Fresno State when the Bulldogs won the College World Series in 2008.

However, I recommend the strategy mentioned in the Matt Holliday link to the college level on up.  High School coaches can experiment with it, typically when facing higher functioning pitchers.  The challenge with it is that most pitchers at the lower levels aren’t as skilled at consistently placing pitches where they want them.

So, my recommendation for the lower levels is to focus on whether they swinging at strikes or not.  Make it simple.  Talk about the strike zone.  What’s a good pitch to hit and what is not.

PITCH RECOGNITION

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

In baseball batting cages are you training timing, plate discipline, and pitch recognition?

YES/NO?

Coaches, PLEASE contribute anything I may have missed in regard to factors and/or fixes you feel contribute to a successful transition from baseball batting cages (including softball) to game at-bats.

Again, MANY thanks in advance!

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips: Get Rid Of Timing Problems Once & For All

 

This is Part-1 of a 3-part fastpitch softball hitting tips (works well for baseball too) video series coming straight out of the Reaction Time Mastery online video course…

Softball Hitting Tips for Kids: Reaction Time Mastery

Sick of struggling to get your hitters on-time, balanced, and keeping high Ball Exit Speeds, especially while hitting off-speed and breaking pitches?  This online video course (7-modules total) reveals cutting edge science on the topics of: Vision, Tracking, Timing, and Forward Momentum.  Finally, you’ll be able to track pitches crystal clear, accelerate reaction time decision-making, & get ON-TIME without losing swing effectiveness with this “secret” online video course you can’t live without.

If you haven’t already, then CLICK the Link below to…

Get Access to The Reaction Time Mastery Online Video Course

 

In this fastpitch softball hitting tips video, we answer the following reader question:

“How to handle fear of pitcher throwing heat?”

We’ll discuss the following fastpitch softball hitting tips:

  • Goal is to keep swing tempo the same,
  • Adjust timing, DO NOT speed up swing tempo, and
  • Perry Husband’s Effective Velocity & Frank Robinson.

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips #1: Goal is to Keep Swing Tempo the Same

All human actions require tempo or cadence…

ca. February 2005 --- Ultramarathon Runner Dean Karnazes --- Image by © Patrik Giardino/Corbis Outline

ca. February 2005 — Ultramarathon Runner Dean Karnazes — Image by © Patrik Giardino/Corbis Outline

The magic for a long distance runner happens when they count their right hand swinging forward 85-90 times per minute. Whether running, up/downhill, or on flat ground.

Have you ever ran downhill sprints, gotten really fatigued, and took a spill?  This was because the body’s slower tired tempo couldn’t keep up with the speed required to stay on your feet.

Furthermore…

The magic for a cyclist happens when they count their right foot/pedal reaching its apex 85-90 times per minute, regardless of moving up/downhill, or on flat ground.

Do you know what they do to stay within that range when going uphill or downhill?

Correct,

They change gears.

And most of you know…

In swinging a bat, the hitter is LIMITED on the amount of time they have to decide and swing.  The hitter must process the following information, as quickly as possible, pitch:

  1. Type,
  2. Speed, and
  3. Location…

This can be real challenging for the brain.  If the hitter’s timing is behind, such as is the case with a pitcher that throws heat, the hitter’s brain will begin “cutting out” excessive movements to get the barrel to the ball.

Essential hitting mechanics I often see getting “cut out” when a hitter’s tempo is behind:

  • NOT landing short, resulting in poor use of Ground Reaction Forces,
  • Front shoulder flying open too early, resulting in NOT effectively pre-loading the springy fascia in the torso,
  • NOT striding, resulting in the absence of getting a ‘head start’ and swinging from a dead stop,
  • NOT staying short, resulting in a ‘taller’ swinger, positive launch angles (not good for driving the ball), and will consistently drive the ball into the ground (VERY unproductive to run production, evidenced in my ‘Ground-ball Rant’), and/or
  • Won’t allow for the natural NIKE-swoosh barrel path to unravel, resulting in using an ineffective hand path to the ball, shortening the time the barrel spends on the plane of the pitch.

And from there, compensations occur, and the hitter loses the ability to optimally transfer energy from body to barrel to ball.

So, even with pitchers that throw heat,

We have to keep a consistent swing tempo

So, in knowing that, what do we have to clean up?

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips #2: Adjust Timing, DO NOT Speed Up Swing Tempo 

My biggest fastpitch softball hitting tips advice when it comes to dominating a faster pitcher is to:

Brandon Moss homers off R.A. Dickey knuckle-ball

Brandon Moss homers on R.A. Dickey 76-mph knuckleball. Do you think he had to change his timing to do that? Photo courtesy: MLB.com

  • Start the swing sooner,
  • ‘Float’ less, or
  • A little of both.

And in the case of a slower pitcher, you’d reverse these elements:

  • Start swing later,
  • ‘Float longer, or
  • A combination of both.

You see, we want our hitter’s natural swing tempo, regardless of whether they’re facing a fast or slow pitcher.

What do I mean by when the swing starts?

I tell my hitters, their swing starts, as soon as they make the decision to pick up their front foot.

What about the ‘Float’?  What is it?

CLICK HERE for this other RANT post I did on that.  Scroll down to the section I sub-titled, “Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #1: Using the ‘Float’”.

Also, CLICK HERE for this post showing a video of Jose Bautista, revealing what critical, but simple, change he made to his timing from the 2009 and 2010 seasons that has transformed him into the Joey Bats of today.

 

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips #3: Perry Husband’s Effective Velocity & Frank Robinson

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Tips: Effective Velocity

Perry Husband diagram demonstrating Effective Velocity and the hitter’s differences in ‘perceived’ velocity. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

When it comes to plate approach, fastpitch softball hitting tips that hitters at all levels MUST put into practice comes from Perry Husband’s Effective Velocity program.

He’s one of the experts I called on to contribute a couple videos to the Reaction Time Mastery online video course.

CLICK HERE for the interview I did with him on the blog.

Basically, Effective Velocity is about a hitter’s perceived pitch velocity.  For example, the radar gun registers a pitcher’s fastball velocity at 90-mph, down the middle of the plate…

However, if the same pitch is located inside or high in the strike zone, the hitter actually sees that ball faster, between THREE to SIX-mph faster.

And the reverse is true of the pitch locating outside or down in the zone.

My friend Taylor Gardner shared a conversation with me that his hitting mentor Matt Nokes had with Hall Of Famer Frank Robinson on his plate approach when facing pitchers that throw heat…

Frank Robinson said he was looking for the pitcher’s fastest pitch up and in, and adjusting to everything else.

Perry Husband did some work with Carlos Pena in 2009, talking about this very thing on the MLB Network:

Not saying this plan will work for everyone, but if you don’t have a plan, it’s a great place to start.

Effective Velocity Helped Carlos Pena to Get On-Time & to Swing Effectively

Effective Velocity: Perry Husband on MLBNetwork with Carlos Pena

Perry Husband being featured on MLBNetwork with Carlos Pena explaining Effective Velocity. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

I’ve just put together a NEW online video course called Reaction Time Mastery, where we dig into the FOUR following topics:

  1. Forward Momentum (FoMo),
  2. Vision,
  3. Tracking, and
  4. Timing…

The Reaction Time Mastery online video course will help hitters track pitches crystal clear, accelerate decision-making reaction time, & get ON-TIME without losing swing effectiveness.

Because some of the above topics are slightly above my pay grade,

I enlisted the help of specific proven experts…

A couple Doctors, and a few “Mad Scientists” about their respective topics.

I asked these experts to contribute a 10-minute video or two to the Reaction Time Mastery online video course, and if they were up for it, an interview for the blog.

And here we are, expert interview #1!

For those who don’t know Perry Husband, he was featured on the MLB Network about the work he did with Carlos Pena using his Effective Velocity and Exit Velocity programs (EV):

CLICK HERE for an SBNation.com post about Perry Husband and his Effective Velocity system titled, “The Essence of Velocity: The pitching theory that could revolutionize baseball, if only the sport would embrace it”.

I believe Perry Husband has a truly revolutionary approach for hitters (baseball and softball).  And I wanted to share the following interview, where he answered a few pointed questions from my readers.

Just to warn you though, this post is a BEAST, and for some, may take up to 30-minutes to get through.  But let me encourage you…the information Perry distills about Effective Velocity, is golden.  

So kick up your feet, grab a brew of choice, and get to work.

Perry’s website can be found at HittingIsAGuess.com, and I’ll link to where you can find him on social media at the end of this post.

Enter Perry Husband, and his Effective Velocity system…

 

“What are some great drills to practice vision/tracking?”

Effective Velocity: Sandlot Slugger small ball training

MaxBP/Sandlot Slugger golf whiffle machine. Photo courtesy: TheStartingLineupStore.com

There are many drills that I would recommend to practice vision and tracking, but first I would say it is important to understand ‘how’ to see before you try to get better at ‘what’ to see.

Many of the vision drills that I have been introduced to, involve trying to get the eyes to focus on small details of a pitch, such as a tennis ball with a color or a number that the hitter is to identify.

I have been guilty of teaching players to focus in on small objects such as small beads with numbers and letters on them and many other detail oriented drill work.  Ask the hitter to identify and only swing at certain letters etc…..

However, what I found is that this did not lead to the student learning to identify actual pitches any better.  I am certainly not an expert in vision training, but I will try to explain my findings like this…

Imagine a ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand and the hitter using the eyes like a camera.  The center of the eye picks up infinite detail and the picture of the ball out of the hand is incredibly sharp and in focus.  The hitter sees the seams, the signature of the commissioner and yet……all that intense detail does absolutely nothing to help us know what pitch it is nor where or how fast it will arrive.

The still photo does not tell us the direction, spin, speed, pitch type or even whether it is a ball or a strike.

Now imagine the ball being recorded with an old video camera that is very unclear but shows an out of focus video of a pitch traveling 10-feet.  Which image would you rather have to hit the pitch, a clear photo OR a fuzzy video?

The eye has the ability to work as a camera and a video camera, but which way do you think the small detail training is heading towards?

Upon this discovery about 1990, I began teaching using a very different technique to help hitters learn to use their eyes like video cameras instead of still photography cameras.  Hitting a 95 MPH fastball is not about detail, but rather about:

  • ‘Where’ (initial direction or tunnel) it is going?
  • ‘How fast’ (radar speed) is it moving?
  • ‘Where’ will it move toward (pitch movement)?
  • ‘Where’ will it end up (location in the zone)?  And,
  • ‘When’ (Effective Velocity – or EV).

Now, of course there is spin to help hitters identify pitch types etc…. but the primary information hitters need is basic and quick and not all hitters can see spin well enough or soon enough to have it help them.

I began taking out the small details and began focusing on the bigger ticket items. Once we narrow the focus or rather broaden the focus to see the pitch in a different way, now we can practice the important factors.

Vertical Plane LHP

Effective Velocity: Vertical Plane LHP. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

I introduced a term called ‘Shape’ in my work with Carlos Pena in 2009.  Every pitch has a shape after it travels about 30-feet or so.  You can picture:

  • A curveball with the big loop,
  • A slider with a smaller hump or loop,
  • A sinker shape, or
  • A straight Kershaw four seamer.

Every pitch has a starting tunnel, movement laterally, or down and a final location.  The path the ball takes out of the hand to about 2/3 of the way to the plate is what creates ‘Shape’.

We can’t wait until it is completed all the movement before we have to swing because it takes about 1/3 the flight or about 18-20 feet to swing the bat.

Hitters have a 1/3 of the way to see direction and the beginning of spin and another 1/3 to see spin (pitch type/speed), estimate the final location and then begin the swing.

I named my initial hitting program Hitting Is A Guess, partially for this very reason……….it is most certainly a guess on many different levels and vision is just one of those levels.  I began training hitters to make better guesses………..and this worked very well.

Using smaller objects is one way to begin training the eyes to start ‘drinking’ in the pitch info in the right way.  Like speed reading,  hitters begin clumping sections of the pitch like a whole sentence at once, which helps you see the pitch in shapes.

The shape is key to knowing speed and final location in the shortest amount of time.

My favorite drill set is…

Effective Velocity: Golf Sized Foam Balls

Effective Velocity: Golf sized foam balls

To use small golf ball sized foam balls to train hitters to identify pitch traits sooner and more efficiently, which is part of my Time Training Level 2 hitting program.

This is done from a seated position to get the pitch trajectory as close to games as possible and at a distance of 16-20 feet from the hitter.  The balls are different densities so the same arm action can create multiple pitch speeds.

Pitch traits help hitters identify pitches, which in turn helps them time pitches better.  Reproducing these traits with a baseball is not easily done.  The small foam training balls are much easier to create game-like movements, trajectories, EV speeds and shapes.  They require some practice throws to get a feel for controlling them, but this is the very best way to get the closest to real live pitch traits without being in a game situation.

In my opinion, there is no comparison of  these foam balls to wiffle balls.  The wiffle balls do not fly the same, are harder to create movements, they hurt when you get hit with a ball off the bat at close distances and they break much faster.  I have used these [foam golf balls] for almost 10 years, and have destroyed less than 1% of them over all that time.

The Circle Drill Set is…

Another part of  my Time Training Level 2 hitting program that helps read the first 10 – 15 – 20 – 30 feet of flight.   There are speed awareness drills, early pitch recognition drills and all of them designed to maintain the most efficient swing possible at the same time.

The Time Training program was designed to introduce hitters to the most logical skill sets in the order that makes the most sense, based on my crazy amount of testing hitters, as well as the 3 decades of teaching hitting on all levels.

“How do you get your hitters enough practice at high pitch speeds?  Example … Is throwing 45 from 30 feet the same as throwing 90 from 60 feet?”

Effective Velocity: Pitch Angles

Effective Velocity: pitch angles. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

The previously described small ball training at 15-20 feet (golf ball sized foam balls), 7 inch baseballs at 30-36 feet and simulated BP from the closest to game mound as possible.  Most of the work becomes about game simulations and creating the perfect speed to match a pitcher type.

Simulating game speeds is easy enough, but that it is just the beginning of true simulation and training hitters to ‘hit’.  We learn to ‘swing’ and then we learn to ‘hit’.  Most physical swing designs include both swinging and hitting and this is a mistake, IMHO.

Separating the two things is the only way to truly get the most out of the swing and your approach, otherwise you will always be compromising one or the other.

The real work is in learning to control swing speed, mindset, anxiety control, pitch selection, taking pitches and staying focused on what we really want through a series of pitches we don’t want, dealing with failure and all kinds of other issues.

Hitting is complex, swing design is not.

If you really test all aspects, especially reactionary abilities of hitters, you will come to the same conclusions that I have, which is that learning to swing is very different than learning to hit.  Combining swinging and hitting is really the hardest element.  Effective Velocity efficient pitchers will eventually force hitters to ‘Act’ rather than ‘React’.

Short distance BP does have some drawbacks, especially if you use baseballs at all distances.  A baseball at 60 feet, looks about the same as a 7 inch baseball at 36 feet and a golf ball sized object at 18-20 feet.

I try to stick with these sized objects at these distances to keep the amount of visual info available to the hitter as close to game situations as possible.  It will never substitute completely the live at bats from 60-feet but it simply is not possible to get that type of training all the time for most amateur hitters.

To simulate 100 MPH fastball from 18 feet, the BP pitch needs to be 32.7 MPH………this gives the hitter the same amount of time from release to contact.

  • 90 MPH is 29.5 MPH,
  • 85 is 27.8, and
  • 80 is 26.2 etc……..

To simulate from 35 feet, 100 MPH would equal a 63.5 MPH BP pitch………

  • 95 MPH equals 60.5,
  • 90 MPH equals 57.3,
  • 85 MPH = 54.1, and
  • 80 = 50.9 etc…

You can never replicate all the factors but the time the ball is in the air is the most important element and that is not too difficult.

I recommend also trying to really pay attention to the pitch trajectory.  Standing up at closer distances will create a steeper angle than real game pitches.  Seated overhand BP best mimics the same line as a game speed fastball, at least at the higher levels.  High school and beyond, I would recommend throwing from a seated position.

 

“What are some drills or ways to help kids 8-10yo with their timing?  I have kids that look great at 20 ft front toss but not so good from 46ft?”

Matt Troupe Locked Pic

Effective Velocity photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

I love the small balls for youth players but I treat all hitters pretty much the same until we get into Level 3, game planning.

I fully explain every concept to youth hitters because they are much smarter than we give them credit for.  The more they understand why one movement is better than another, the more deeply they will try to make it happen.

I honestly treat the younger hitters the same when it comes to the Level 1 & Level 2 Time Training.  It is shocking how good very young hitters are at ‘Acting’ rather than ‘Reacting’ to pitches, once introduced to it.  They simply have not had all the years of bad swing training to get in their way of the more natural method of hunting pitches.

Fear and poor thinking (resulting in poor feelings, resulting in poor swings) are the primary reasons that hitters perform well at close distances and not at game distances.

This is another reason that I like the small ball training.  Hitters have no fear of being hit.  This is another major reason why I named my first hitting program ‘Hitting Is A Guess’.

When you get young hitters to think of it as a guess, they simply make a better guess.  After getting comfortable making an efficient guess (swing) for a period, you try to blend that really comfortable swing into drills closer to real at bats.

You have to practice their ‘Game Swing’ if you want that to get better.  It is easier to get better at their ‘Practice Swing’, but the game swing is a different animal.  Recreate as closely as possible the real speed, distance, visuals, perceived pressures etc…… until they are in control of their game swing as easily as they are for their practice swing.

I put together an instructional league years ago, including a 9 and under team.  And when I say they were beginners, I mean we had to use softy balls to play catch day one, for fear of them hurting each other.

By focusing on making good swings in games, not batting average or results, they made major progress very quickly.  When you take away the pressure of results, hitters get better at transferring their ‘practice swings’ to their ‘game swings’.  You have to practice your game swing if you want it to get better.

What is your opinion of FOMO’s impact on being able to hit the curveball? 

Effective Velocity: Overhead View Lateral Lanes

Effective Velocity: overhead view of lateral lanes. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

I assume that means “Fear Of Missing Out”, not sure on that, maybe forward momentum???

If fear of missing out, this is a major part of why Effective Velocity works and always will, to some degree at least.

Hitters want to cover all pitches, CB, SL, CH, FB, KN and all the rest, and they only have a small 6-MPH Effective Velocity speed range that they will be close to 100/100 (100% on time, 100% swing efficiency).

I believe this has caused most of the poor swing efficiency designs that have caused the severe dip in offense at the MLB level.

My 20+ years of testing proved that hitters have about 5 to 6-MPH Effective Velocity of reactionary ability while being close to 90-100% efficient.  When you test using exit velocity, hitters lose roughly 10% of their maximum exit speed with every pitch speed you show them because they are trying to cover all speeds.

If you test hitters with pitches right down central and get a top speed and an average speed, over 10 swings, most hitters will average about 85% or 90% of their top speed.  Now put them in a 2 strike mentality (they have to swing at all strikes) and locate the same speed pitch as the first round inside and outside randomly and they will lose about 10% of their average speed over 10 balls.

Now go up in and down away with the same speed pitches and the exit speed goes down another 10%.  Add in the off speed pitch that is in the same tunnel as the fastball and the top out tends to drop a bit and the average drops another level.

Most hitters get to 70% all the way down to 40% of their max over a 10 ball average.  This is all caused by FOMO…..or trying to cover all speed pitches.  It simply cannot be done at or near 100% on time with the 100% most efficient swing.

My goal is to get hitters to be 100/100 or 100% on time with 100% swing efficiency or make their ‘A’ swing exactly on time.  FOMO gets hitters closer to 70/70 or 85/85 but rarely, if ever, at or near 100/100.

If FOMO is forward momentum, this is a very different answer and not easily explained.  I have to admit that I am not a fan of the term FoMo all by itself.  I much prefer to look at the overall swing as either efficient or not.

Effective Velocity Zones

Effective Velocity zones. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

FoMo is just one element and does not take into account some of the key elements of exit velocity.  While increasing FoMo will add to the exit velocity in most cases, that is inherent in a great swing design.  The swing is either 100/100 (100% on time/100% efficient……all elements) or some level below that……….and all swing factors are typically affected by a timing change such as CB.

My philosophy requires you to change your paradigm away from sitting in the middle and reacting to all speed pitches, which starts with making the swing efficient as a whole and graduating from ‘Swing School’ to move into timing, pitch recognition and ‘Hunting’.

Effective Velocity works to control Exit Velocity (the other EV) due to the idea that hitters think they can cover all speeds with one approach.

In my teaching, the swing is the same regardless of the speed or type of pitch (at least that’s what we are trying to maintain), so the FoMo will be identical for either swing.  If hitters are sitting on a CB, they might load later or create a longer ‘Hang Time’ during the load, this will lead to the same FoMo exactly.

When hitters are sitting on FB and adjusting to CB, it depends on how early they recognized the CB and how in rhythm they were able to stay.

Bautista is going to load to FB at the fastest speed and adjust to CB if he recognizes it in time.  If he recognizes it late, he will try to hang longer to explode on CB, but this does not always work out.  When he sees it later, the stride may get longer to keep his foot in the air long enough to let the ball get there.  That will cause the FoMo to increase a bit.

This is really a touchy subject because there is a limit to over striding and having the FoMo increase.  There is a point of diminishing returns where the stride getting too long will cut down the turning ability or rotation of the hitter, as well as the ability to release the back side (or both).  A little extra stride length will help, a lot will hurt…….and even that depends on whether the hitter has his max stride length built in to his FB swing.

If that’s the case (which it would be if I helped with the design of the FB swing), then any change in stride length would likely hurt the hitter’s FoMo.

Traditional thinking has hitters getting the foot down early and trying to ‘keep the hands back’ to hit the off speed CB.  Forward Momentum is always affected when the hitter’s swing rhythm is interrupted.  Hitters that hit the CB with forward momentum in tact, adjust to the pitch ‘during the load’, not after the foot has touched down (depending on the method of their load).

When a hitter such as Jose Bautista loads, he is basically loading to FB at the top of the zone (Effective Velocity plus FB), so he is super early in getting his leg kick started.  His foot is in the air at release ——-non-committed to going forward in a hurry.  By the time he gets to the top of his load, he has recognized the pop of the CB over the FB.  If he sees this in time, he can create some ‘hang time’ with his foot in the air.

This allows him to stay in rhythm and hit the CB with the same forward momentum as the FB.  It is not a perfect science but when it works, it is the only way to sit FB and truly hit the CB close to 100/100.

 

Wide stance vs. Narrow Stance in relationship to FOMO. Does wider give more balance and ability to see the ball better, recognize curveball?   Wide stance vs Narrow Stance depends on quite a few factors.  How wide?  Does the wide stance include a stride or not?  Narrow Stance, does it include a tap load or a leg lift?

Effective Velocity: 25 Reachable Points Ball Illustration

Effective Velocity: 25 Reachable Points Ball Illustration. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

I think is about where the hitter is at launch.  I think any stance can work if the next movement includes a load that has leverage and sets up the most efficient movements.

CB is easily recognized no matter your stance, what you can do with it is really the issue.  I prefer a leg lift or a tap so the hitter can create hang time but any stance can work.

Recognizing the CB and being able to hit it at 100/100 are two different things.  The key is figuring out how to load and create hang time.  Every load has pros and cons and the only stance issue for me is whether it takes away from swing efficiency or hang time.  I want max hang time and max efficiency and the stance should enhance that.

No physical swing mechanic is going to allow hitters to hit all pitch speeds at 100/100.  Foot down early, wide stance or small stride to no stride, nothing works to allow you to be 100/100 to all pitches, it is physically impossible.

No hitter has ever done it day in and day out without learning to guess or sit on pitches, at least with elite pitchers at 95 MPH and commanding 2 to 3 off speed pitches.

Design the swing and then…………….and only then………learn to apply that swing at 100/100.

My programs begin at Level 1, swing design, move up to pitch recognition and timing Level 2 which blends the most efficient swing with timing and then game approaches in Level 3, which designs game plans based on the most efficient swing applied to today’s pitcher.

Learn to swing, then learn to hunt pitches, then learn to hunt pitchers.

It is possible for a hitter to get his ‘foot down early’ but not get his ‘mind down’ early.  In other words, if a hitter is prepared to hit a pitch at 100 Effective Velocity-MPH up and inside (Curtis Granderson is a great example of someone capable of this), even though the foot is down early, he can still ‘act’ on the fastest pitch he will see.

This is equivalent to saying that Granderson has an approach that is 90/85 or some semblance of that.  90-95% of his max efficiency of the physical swing and about 75-85% of timing, when he is reacting to all pitches.  At times, I know he is sitting on a pitch, which changes the dynamic and the ratio.  At times, he will be closer to 100% on time with about 90-95% of his swing efficiency.

I don’t believe that any foot down method can be 100% efficient because it takes away from rhythm and FoMo.

The hitting instructors that prescribe these get ready early-type approaches, are saying that this method allows hitters to hit all speeds and that is completely false.  The hitter shortens the stride, gets the foot down early or whatever, this gets the hitter ready to hit the fastest pitch, but then adjust to the slowest off speed.

I reject that idea almost completely, at least at 100/100.  The key element in all this is to learn to ‘ACT’ rather than ‘REACT’.  That is the last word…………..no hitter in the history of the game, including Bonds, Trout etc…. can hit all pitch speeds at 100/100.

There is always give and take, but these type methods will produce 85/85 at best but 85/65 is closer to the truth.

In other words, the swing efficiency is compromised as well as the timing taking its toll on the exit velocity.  This results in the top exit speed dropping as well as the average exit speed dropping significantly.

Neither Trout or Bonds use a foot down method, I am not implying that but I am stating that no method will allow a hitter to hit all pitches at or even near 100/100, while reacting after recognizing the pitch when pitchers are Effective Velocity efficient.

They both incorporate a stride and swing method, Bonds a tap load and Trout a load and hang method, but both stride to hit.  Both also require pitchers to cooperate and throw slower fastballs too.

With that said, there are ways to blend certain approaches so hitters can cover multiple pitch speeds.  I have not published this Level 3 Time Training info but many MLB pitchers create Effective Velocity crossovers  or ie…..FB 95 but located where the Effective Velocity is 90…………the slider at 86 is located close to Effective Velocity 90-MPH so the pitcher is throwing two pitches with the same EV with different radar speeds and in most cases, is not aware.

This gives the hitter (and the pitcher) the illusion that he is covering 95 and 86 but in reality, he is only covering 90-MPH Effective Velocity.

One hitting approach also allows hitters to sit on FB and adjust to obvious off speed pitches, even 20 MPH apart.  However, this requires a bit of help from the pitcher to throw the off speed with the hump that shows itself to the hitter early enough to react to.  When pitches are in a tunnel, hitting pitches hard with big speed differentials goes away to a large degree.

You can find more information from Perry Husband and his Effective Velocity system at the following locations:

Hitting A Baseball: Discover The Secret Of Impact

Robinson Cano hitting a baseball post-contact. Photo courtesy: TheNYPost.com

Debating the intricacies of hitting a baseball (or softball) can be as bad as discussing religion or politics.  This is why we look to proven human movement science first.  Hitting a baseball is an imperfect skill.  It has a lot of failure built into the fabric.  The objective of every coach, instructor, or parent should be to build as many “fail-safes” into the system as possible.  Let’s talk about that…

(By the way, this post is a BEAST at a little over 1,300 words, so figure 5-7 mins reading time)

 

To Arm Bar OR Not to Arm Bar, this is the Question…

We’re going to explore the following, as they relate to impact:

  • Perry Husband & Effective Velocity,
  • 90-Degree Angle to the Spine Rule NOT True?
  • University of Miami Study: The Biomechanics of the Baseball Swing
  • Conclusion…

First I want to start by setting the table…

 

Perry Husband & Effective Velocity

Hitting a Baseball: Perry Husband Effective Velocity Pitching System

“Pluses” take-away from hitter’s reaction time, “minuses” add to hitter’s reaction time (images are pitcher’s POV). Photos courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

The one thing I like about Perry Husband’s contribution to hitting a baseball is he goes by “data, not feelings”.

He’s made a science out of a hitter’s reaction time.  Perry Husband has accumulated, “Over 10 years of study and testing of amateur hitters and two years of intense study of major league at bats in a 4 million plus pitch database.  At his site Hitting Is A Guess, Perry Husband explains his Effective Velocity system for pitchers:

The Downright Filthy Pitching Series is a very in depth study of speed as it relates to the hitter’s reaction time.  Initial velocity is the speed of the ball as the radar gun sees it, perceived velocity is the speed of the ball as the mind’s eye sees it and Effective Velocity is the speed it actually is.   Effective Velocity (EV) is the initial velocity plus the location effects of the pitch due to different locations having different reaction times…A 90 MPH pitch can and does equal many different speeds, depending on where the pitch is located. “

His data (photo above) suggests that a hitter has to be quicker to pitches up in the zone, and in.  And pitches down in the zone and away, give a hitter more time to adjust.  Perry Husband reports from his findings:

“Did you know that the highest exit velocities off Major League hitters’ bats come off the pitches in the lowest part of the strike zone? How about that the most homeruns hit are off pitches at the very bottom of the strike zone as well?”

Over the past year, I’ve softened to some of Perry’s hitting a baseball mechanics.  His information is vital to understanding if…

90-Degree Barrel Angle to the Spine Rule  NOT True?

Hitting a Baseball: Giancarlco Stanton 90-degree Barrel to Spine Rule

Giancarlo Stanton: 90-degree barrel to spine rule. Note: outside pitch slightly up in zone. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

CLICK HERE for the post that explains this Rule.  I received a few emails from people thinking I meant the front arm angle to the spine at contact.  Which would translate to arm barring…NO!  The preceding post link refers to the barrel, not the front arm to spine angle.

The shape of the front arm will depend on pitch velocity and location.  There are four ways a hitter gets to pitches at the top/bottom of the strike-zone, and/or inside/outside of the plate…

  1. Tilting at the waist with the upper body (the lower the pitch, the more the tilt),
  2. Back knee bend,
  3. Front knee bend, AND
  4. Front arm bar (pitch depth)

Another reader got upset saying that I’m teaching two different swings.  And enlightened me about his extensive study into the brain, and that taking a bent arm from the initiation of the swing and changing the shape to straight is impossible for the brain to do.  Wha???!  Are you kidding me?!  His “thing” was that the front arm had to stay bent the whole time.

Remember, Perry Husband said that the highest ball exit speeds and home-runs were off of lower pitches?  Do you think it could be because the front arm was able to extend at impact?  Creating a longer lever and allowing for a smooth transfer of bat speed (angular velocity) into ball exit speed (inertial force).  These are fundamental rules in the Conservation of Angular Momentum.

Look, if our goal as coaches is to get hitters 100% on-time, 100% swing effective, then we must take a serious look at the front arm bar.  High exit velocity is key to batted ball distance, and without it Launch Angles alone won’t score more runs.  Besides, how many commercial and/or passenger airplanes get off the ground without high horizontal velocity?  CLICK HERE for an interview we did with Perry Husband about his system.

One last thing to look into hitting a baseball…

 

University of Miami Study: The Biomechanics of the Baseball Swing

Hitting a Baseball: Josh Donaldson just past impact

Josh Donaldson game winning dinger high inside pitch. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Major shout out to one of my readers and local lesson parents, Nieszka, for bringing this to my attention.  This study was done by Dr. David Fortenbaugh at the University of Miami (CLICK HERE if you want to download the 200+ page pdf).  Here’s the gist of how the study was put together:

  • Study Objective: to compare swings against pitches thrown to different locations and at different speeds.
  • AA-level Minor League Baseball players (n=43) took extended rounds of batting practice in an indoor laboratory against a pitcher throwing a mixture of fastballs and changeups.
  • An eight camera motion analysis system and two force plates recording at 300 Hz captured the biomechanical
    data.
  • The swing was divided into six phases (stance, stride, coiling, swing initiation, swing acceleration, and follow-through) by five key events (lead foot off, lead foot down, weight shift commitment, maximum front foot vertical ground reaction force, and bat ball contact).
  • Twenty-eight kinematic measurements and six ground reaction force measurements were computed based on the marker and force plate data, and all were assessed throughout the phases.

The findings?

According to the Study:

“A large number of biomechanical differences were seen among the swings against various pitch locations. More fully rotated positions, particularly of the pelvis and bat were critical to the batters’ successes on inside pitches while less rotated positions keyed successes against outside pitches. The trail and lead arms worked together as part of a closed chain to drive the hand path. Successful swings had the trail elbow extended more for HIGH IN and flexed more for LOW OUT, though batters often struggled to execute this movement properly. A distinct pattern among successful swings against fastballs, successful swings against changeups, and unsuccessful swings against changeups was witnessed; namely a progressive delay in which the batter prematurely initiated the events of the kinetic chain, especially when unsuccessful in hitting a changeup.”

 

Hitting a Baseball Conclusion

Hitting a Baseball: Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera “power-V” post impact. Arms extended, high moment of inertia. Note catcher’s glove position. Photo courtesy: ToledoBlade.com

So, let’s tie up everything we talked about in hitting a baseball…

On pitches low and/or away, the hitter has more reaction time (Perry Husband research), so tilting at the waist (on lower pitches) and extending the front elbow to impact is key (90-degree barrel spine rule).  And because the outside and lower pitches will be hit slightly deeper than inside and higher pitches, the trailing elbow will have more bend in it at impact (Miami Study).

There can be a harmonious relationship between an arm bar, and consistency getting to pitches up and in the zone.  CLICK HERE for this post that get’s into the different “catcher’s gloves” on how to do this.  HINT: it has to do with the “belly button” catcher’s glove.

Readers, I want to hear your thoughts on hitting a baseball in the Comments below…