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Question: Does The BackSpin Batting Tee Help Hitters Elevate The Ball?

 

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: Backspin Tee

Backspin batting tee photo courtesy: TheStartingLineupStore.com

In this baseball batting cage drills experiment using the Backspin batting tee, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze what would happen to a hitter’s spray chart (ME!!) by taking:

  • 100 swings using a conventional tee (ATEC Single Tuffy Tee), versus
  • Taking another 100 swing using Taylor and Jarrett Gardner’s BackSpin batting tee.

I’ve done a couple posts promoting what Taylor and Jarrett are doing with the Backspin Tee because I really believe in their product and what it can do for young hitters in getting the batted ball off the ground.  Whether we’re talking baseball, fastpitch-softball, and slowpitch-softball…

And to let you know, this experiment has been brewing in my head since the summer of 2015, but the stars just didn’t align…until NOW!

 

Background Research

Here are two baseball batting cage drills posts mentioned earlier, to give some background on the research for The Backspin batting tee:

Hypothesis

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: ATEC Tuffy Single Batting Tee

ATEC Tuffy Single Batting Tee photo courtesy: ATEC

Okay, so I cheated a little bit…

Before the OFFICIAL baseball batting cage drills swing experiment, I’ve been using the Backspin batting tee with my local hitters and the results have been positive.

And now, I’m making my Hypothesis official…

I think by using the Backspin batting tee, it will allow the hitter to cut down on ground-balls, and will empower them to get more effective at putting the ball in the air (line drives primarily).

In addition, I think that not only will the tee reduce a hitter’s ground-balls, but will contribute to above average line drive launch angles.  Average line drives would be within the reach of a fielder.

 

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: Backspin Batting Tee Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: Backspin Tee

Closeup of the ‘inverted’ rubber cone that holds the baseball or softball. Photo courtesy: TheStartingLineupStore.com

  • I had two of the same laminated images of the batting cage I was hitting in (Hitting Spray Chart images below).
  • After each swing, I’d use a Sharpy pen to mark where the batted ball hit first (on the ground or the location on the batting cage netting), right after coming off the bat.
  • All swings for the baseball batting cage drills experiment were taken off either a Backspin or ATEC Tuffy Single tee.
  • I used the Backspin batting tee rubber cone for baseballs (they have one for softballs as well).
  • I stayed as consistent as I could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for both tees.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length plus two baseballs in front of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the baseball batting cage drills experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  Hitting off the “Backspin Tee” was letter ‘A’, and off the “Conventional Tee” was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being sufficiently warmed up” factors.

Data Collected (Hitting Spray Charts)

Backspin Batting Tee Spray Chart:

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: BackSpin Tee Spray Chart

The Backspin tee spray chart is cleaner and resembles a bit of a tornado

Conventional Tee Spray Chart:

Baseball Batting Cage Drills: Conventional (Regular) Tee

As you can see, the spray chart is a bit messy…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  •  The Backspin batting tee spray chart looks much more tidy than the “regular” tee chart (the former looks like a tornado),
  • You can see when using the conventional tee, I tended to pull the ball to left side of the cage.
  • There are definitely a higher concentration of batted balls in the above average line drive spots (not within reach of the fielders), using the Backspin batting tee, and
  • There were more balls hitting the ground or bottom of the cage when using a conventional tee.

 

Notes

  1. Addressing the excessive of pulled balls using the conventional tee, I thought maybe my tee was moving on me (getting too far out front).  I even tried pushing the regular tee slightly deeper than the position I started it in for a couple swings, to counter this, but that wasn’t the issue.
  2. Now, here’s where it gets interesting…remember in the “Setup” section above, I hit on the Backspin Tee (‘A’) FIRST.  I started to notice a pattern after switching tees…I didn’t have an issue getting the ball in the air with the Backspin tee, sometimes getting into the pop-fly territory.  But what I found was after taking a Backspin tee 25-swing chunk, the first 10-15 swing launch angles off the conventional tee mimicked what I was getting with the Backspin Tee.  As the conventional tee round approached the last 10-15 swings, the launch angle slowly creeped downwards into the average line drive arena.  So when I repeated TWO conventional tee 25-swing chunks (the BB in the ABBA pattern), by the time I got to the end I was having a hard time getting the ball back up again using the conventional tee.  And on the last BAAB 25-swing chunk pattern (last 100 swings), I noticed the same thing emerge.
  3. It was like the “magic” of the Backspin tee wore off after 10 swings into hitting on the conventional tee. My Hypothesis?  If I took 100 STRAIGHT swings on a conventional tee, then 100 STRAIGHT on a Backspin tee, I’m willing to bet there would be WAY more ground-balls and average line drives using the conventional tee than I got in this baseball batting cage drills experiment.
  4. The other weird thing (in a good way) I noticed hitting off the Backspin batting tee, was that it trimmed up my spray chart (making it look more like a tornado rather than a cinder block).  I rarely pulled the ball towards the left side of the cage hitting off the Backspin tee.  And the ones I did pull that way, I’d be willing to bet it was after hitting off the conventional tee. CRAZY!

The Bottom Line?

Well, the baseball batting cage drills experiment data showed that not only did the Backspin tee elevate ball launch angles, but it also cleaned up horizontal outcomes.  Meaning, I didn’t hit the ball to the left side of the cage as frequently when using the Backspin tee than I did with the conventional tee when the ball is located virtually in the same position every swing.  Also, the “Backspin tee effect” lasted a good 10-15 swings into switching over and using the conventional tee!

Question: Do “Squish the Bug” Baseball Swing Mechanics Depress Bat Speed?

 

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: TylerD

Here are the two test swings from my intern for the summer, redshirt college Frosh, Tyler Doerner…

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if the baseball swing mechanics “squishing/squashing the bug”, during the turn, increases or decreases bat speed.  The term “squishing the bug” means rotating the back foot, on the ground, during the turn.  Like you’re squishing a bug.

This can be a very sore subject, and hotly debated with a passion, in the Church of Baseball.  Surprisingly, it’s still widely taught throughout the lower levels.  Although a few images off the internet of effective swingers like Cano, Bautista, McCutchen, etc. will reveal “squishing the bug” isn’t what the best are doing.

So we wanted to test it…

My intern for the summer, redshirt college freshman Tyler Doerner did this experiment.  This post is for you Joe (you know who you are ;-)…

Background Research

One of the main objectives of whether to skip the foot, or keep it on the ground, has to do with transferring linear momentum, better known as un-weighting or forward momentum.  Check out these four HPL posts for a baseball swing mechanics background on this:

  1. Troy Tulowitzki Zepp Swing Experiment: Stride Killing Bat Speed?
  2. Ryan Braun: Common Mistakes Hitters Make #1
  3. Baseball Hitting Video: Gain Distance the Easy Way PART-1
  4. Perfect Swing Hacking with Forward Momentum (feat. Mike Trout)

Now, for you academics, CLICK HERE to watch a short 2-minute PBS video on Circus Physics and the Conservation of Linear Momentum.

So, after reading/watching the above videos and posts, we should be at a common understanding of Forward Momentum.

The next objective of “squishing the bug” versus “skipping the back foot” during the turn, boils down to allowing the body to transfer energy effectively.  This has to do with springy fascia in the body…

In Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains, he talks about a cotton candy like springy material that the bones and muscles float it, and what gives muscles their shape called fascia.

Specifically in the book, he talks about the Front & Back Functional Lines.  CLICK HERE for a post I did on this, featuring Ted Williams and Matt Kemp.

In the following video, Thomas Myers explains this idea of Tensegrity, or Tension-Integrity.  There are compression and tension forces acting on the body at all times.  Within the body these two opposing forces are always searching for balance…

For a hitter, if the body moves forward, but the back foot and leg stays behind, then these forces don’t get optimally transferred from body to barrel to ball.  In other words, the backside gets “left behind”.

Hypothesis

Based on the above research, I think “squishing the bug” baseball swing mechanics will have a depressing effect on bat and hand speed because it doesn’t allow for full transfer of momentum and release of elastic energy in the springy fascia.

 

“Squish the Bug” Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: Zepp Baseball App

CLICK Image to Purchase Zepp Baseball App

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Forward momentum was taken out of this baseball swing mechanics experiment by hitting from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • Back two “baseball markers” were set at about 3 baseballs apart
  • The two tests in the experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  Say “squish the bug” was letter ‘A’, and “skipping back foot’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being warmed” up factors.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Squish the Bug Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment

There were significant changes in Average Bat & Hand Speed, Time to Impact, and surprisingly, the hitter’s Attack Angle in this baseball swing mechanics experiment…

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • +8-mph difference in average Impact Bat Speed, siding on “Skipping Back Foot”,
  • +3-mph difference in average Hand Speed Max, siding on “Skipping Back Foot”,,
  • -0.019 difference in average Time To Impact, siding on “Skipping Back Foot”, and
  • +4-degree difference in average Attack Angle, siding on “Skipping Back Foot”.

 

Notes

  • I think the “Squish the Bug” baseball swing mechanics experiment results were overwhelmingly clear.
  • Tyler did not technically keep his back foot posted to the ground during the “squish the bug” tests, so there still was an element of un-weighting going on with his backside.
  • In which case, measuring Ball Exit Speed (or how fast the ball came off the bat) may have netted interesting data to consider, compared to Impact Bat Speed.  However, with the results with the other readings of Avg. Hand Speed, Time To Impact, and Attack Angle, I think we can put the “Squish the Bug” baseball swing mechanics myth to bed 😀
  • The data and results suggests that when a hitter “leaves behind their backside”, there’s a slowing down of forward momentum, and the body naturally decelerates because the springy fascia is forced to stretch, but not release.
  • Keep in mind what I call the Goldilocks Syndrome.  The back foot can skip too far (porridge too hot), and it can also not skip at all (porridge too cold).  We want the back foot to skip just right.

The Bottom Line?

In this “Squish the Bug” baseball swing mechanics experiment, “Skipping the Back Foot” showed a notable difference in average Bat & Hand Speed, Time To Impact, and the hitters Attack Angle.  I want to encourage you to tinker and test this for yourself.  The objective of these swing experiments is to put modern hitting theory to the test, literally.  We NEED to test based on data, not feelings.  Share these results with friends.

Boost “Top Out” Bat Speed By “Hiding The Hands”, Like JD Martinez…

 

Proper Baseball Hitting Mechanics Zepp Experiment: Hiding Your Hands Like JD Martinez

JD Martinez hiding his hands from the pitcher. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

 

Question: Does Hiding the Hands Increase Bat Speed versus NOT Hiding Them?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if hiding the hands from the pitcher prior to stride landing boosts bat speed, over not hiding them.  Some may call this the “Scap Row”.

And we’ll see what proper baseball hitting mechanics look like with MLB Player of the Week (July 6th) JD Martinez of the Detroit Tigers.

My intern for the summer, red-shirt college freshman Tyler Doerner did the experiment.

Background Research

Most hitting instructors may call this the Scapula Row, or Scap Row for short.  “Hiding the hands” is essentially the same thing, but is a much more sticky coaching cue.

“Hiding the Hands” has to do with loading the springy fascial material in the body.  Without this springy fascia your bones and muscles would drop to the ground.  It’s what gives muscles their shape, and what the bones and muscles ‘float’ in, according to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains.

“Hiding the Hands” also allows a hitter to be in proper baseball hitting mechanics to achieve high angular velocity early in the turn.  This has to do with the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Achieving high angular velocity, early in the turn, is critical to Time To Impact and covering more plane of the pitch with the barrel.

On the contrary though, arm barring (or high moment of inertia) early in the turn would cause a challenge for hitters getting to pitches high in the strike zone and inside, according to Perry Husbands work on Effective Velocity.  Here’s a quote from the preceding SBNation.com link about Effective Velocity:

“His [Perry Husband’s] interest lies not in how fast a given pitch travels, but how fast it appears to a hitter.”

Hypothesis

Based on the above research, I think proper baseball hitting mechanics, a la “Hiding the Hands”, from the pitcher (pre-turn) will have a big impact on bat speed versus not hiding them.  I think results will be similar to what the “Showing the Numbers” Experiment revealed, where we saw an average bat speed increase of 6-mph over 200 swings.

 

Proper Baseball Hitting Mechanics: JD Martinez “Hiding Hands” Experiment

SwingAway Pro XXL Model

Tyler uses a SoloHitter in the Experiment. The SwingAway Bryce Harper is swinging on is similar.

Equipment Used:

  • Zepp Baseball app,
  • Solohitter (like the SwingAway which I like better),
  • Camera Phone, Coaches Eye app, and Tripod, and
  • 33 inch, 30 ounce wood bat.

Setup:

  • Forward momentum was eliminated in this experiment, and hitting from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • First 100 baseballs were hit “NOT Hiding the Hands”
  • Second 100 baseballs were hit “Hiding the Hands”
  • There was no break between tests because Tyler was trying to beat the rains coming

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Proper Baseball Hitting Mechanics Zepp Experiment Results: Hiding the Hands

In this proper baseball hitting mechanics “Hiding the Hands” Zepp Experiment, see how “Hiding the Hands” slightly won out in Bat & Hand Speed, and Time to Impact rather than “Not Hiding the Hands”…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • As you can see, “Hiding the Hands” beat almost every category…
  • On average, 1-mph change in Bat Speed,
  • On average, 1-mph change in Hand Speed, and
  • On average, .005 change in Time To Impact.

“Hiding the Hands” didn’t have a significant jump in bat and hand speed, or Time To Impact than “NOT Hiding the Hands.”  But there was a difference in top-out bat speeds:

  • Top-4 “Hiding the Hands” bat speeds (in mph): 85, 84, 84, and 82.
  • Top-4 “Not Hiding the Hands” bat speeds (in mph): 82, 81, and the rest were less than 79.

So, top out bat speed increased by 3-mph, and there were consistent higher bat speeds with “Hiding the Hands”.

Notes

  • The results of the proper baseball hitting mechanics “Hiding the Hands” Zepp Experiment may have been skewed because Tyler didn’t take a break between tests.
  • The following experiments will be using what one of my readers and motor learning and performance researcher Brad McKay suggests, which is counterbalancing the experiment.  Essentially it’s breaking experiment swings into 25 swing blocks, and ordering them a certain way.  For example, “Hiding the Hands” would be block “A”, and “Not Hiding the Hands” would be block “B”.  The 200 swings would be broken into 8 blocks and ordered accordingly: ABBA BAAB.  As Brad McKay says, “The issue with not counterbalancing is that you don’t actually know the effect of time because it is confounded with condition. In other words, you might always do better on the second block of 100 because of a warm-up decrement or a practice effect.”  Thank you Brad for the experiment tip!  We’ll do better next time 😀
  • About JD Martinez…this FanGraphs.com link titled, “JD Martinez on His Many Adjustments” is a great example of players today opening their eyes to how the body really moves, and not what some talking head thinks.  Basically, JD Martinez subscribed to swinging “down on the ball” until he got injured in 2014, I believe.  Then he started analyzing teammates’ and opponents’ swings that were crushing the ball, and found out they weren’t swinging down at all.
  • A week or two after the 2015 All Star break, according to FanGraphs.com, JD Martinez had 27 homers.  His season high before that? 23, in 2014.  To me, JD Martinez is a big slugger at 6’3″, 220-pounds.  But when big sluggers do small slugger things (like being more effective with mechanics), even bigger things can happen.  JD Martinez does a great job of “Showing his Numbers” and “Hiding the Hands”.  This compresses the springy fascia material in the body.

The Bottom Line?

In this proper baseball hitting mechanics “Hiding the Hands” Zepp Swing Experiment, “Hiding the Hands” doesn’t seem to give a hitter a significant jump in Bat and Hand Speed, or Time to Impact.  But definitely an increase nonetheless.  But what using proper baseball hitting mechanics, like “Hiding the Hands”, does appear to do, is boost top-out bat speeds.  AND, make those top-out bat speeds repeatable.