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

 

Adrian Beltre VIDEO: Can Driving the Ball Be This Simple?

Adrian Beltre staying low on pitch-plane to a fault. Photo courtesy: OnlineAthens.com

This weekend I worked with a professional hitter Zack Esquerra, from the San Diego area, who was recently released after a couple years in the Diamondbacks organization on this very topic.

In this post,

We’ll go over how easy it can be to drive the ball by simply changing the position of the back leg during the Final Turn.  We’ll use Adrian Beltre’s swing as a model and go over:

  • Adrian Beltre: pitch-plane mastery,
  • Role of back leg during the Final Turn, and
  • #1 drill to fixing a faulty back leg angle…

 

Adrian Beltre: Pitch-Plane Mastery

Adrian Beltre is a great example of a smaller hitter (5’11”, 220-pounds) having to do it right to compete with bigger ones.  Here’s what he does so well:

  • Gets low,
  • Back leg angle (stays low),
  • Barrel is short to plane of the pitch, and
  • Barrel stays on pitch-plane…

Interesting to note, Adrian Beltre is below average with his ground-ball and strikeout percentages, and above average with his home-run to fly-ball ratio.  Most of the hitters I first see – Zack  included – have this reversed!  Here are a few of Adrian Beltre’s key offensive Metrics:

Adrian Beltre Key Pitch Plane Metrics

Check out this slow motion clip of Adrian Beltre (different clip from the main video above)…look how he almost “snipes” the catcher’s glove!

 

Role of Back Leg During Final Turn

Homer Kelly says this in his book The Golfing Machine:

“The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

Homer Kelly’s statement has as much to do with hitting as it does with the golf swing!  During the Final Turn, Adrian Beltre uses his flexed back knee (and straightened front one) to slant his body up towards the downward traveling pitch.  This was an immediate challenge with Zack’s swing, but once we quickly corrected it, we saw ball flight go from knee level line drives and in the ground, to head level line drives and driving the ball in the gap.

 

#1 Drill to Fixing a Faulty Back Leg Angle

CLICK HERE to view this post to learn more about the Art of Variance.  Here’s how to do the Back Foot Variance Drill:

ONE FINAL NOTE: Adrian Beltre stays on the plane of the pitch so well during the Final Turn, I think he does it to a fault.  You’ve seen the pictures of him sometimes finishing with his back knee on the ground (pictured above)?  This can be caused by trying to stay low on the pitch-plane with too wide a base.  In other words, his back foot doesn’t follow his front much after the stride, resulting in his feet being too far apart.  He would be more efficient if he “skipped” the back foot forward a little bit during the Final Turn and maintained more of a bend (90-100 degrees) in the back leg.

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

Baseball Training: 3 Easy Steps To More Barrel Time On Pitch Plane (Dylan’s Case Study)

 

Baseball Training VIDEO: #1 Hitting Mistake To Boosting BABIP [Case Study]

One of my online lessons Dylan from South Florida. Notice the change in front knee bend at landing (swings are synced).

I’ve heard during baseball training a thousand times, “Be short to the ball!”  If I put a nickel away every time I heard that, then I’d have my 3 old son’s first year at Stanford saved up.  A barrel on pitch plane longer means:

  • Higher BABIP (or Batting Average on Balls In Play), AND
  • Cutting down on strikeouts.

In this baseball training video, we’re going to lengthen barrel time on pitch plane by tweaking these THREE things:

  • Importance of landing gear (setting the stage),
  • When does the barrel accelerate? (enter pitch plane early), AND
  • Timing of Power-V (stay on pitch plane)…

Difference in pitch plane between baseball and fastpitch softball?  Yep!  Pitch plane is an imaginary line from the pitcher’s release point to the catcher’s glove.  In baseball, the pitcher’s release point is raised 10 inches (by regulation).  In fast-pitch, a pitcher’s release point is at about the pitcher’s hip, while standing on flat ground.  So there’s not as distinct a downward pitch plane in fast-pitch softball, as there is in baseball.

 

Importance of Landing Gear (setting the stage)

Baseball Training: Vlad Guerrero Fight Position (landing)

Vlad Guerrero (.316 career BABIP) landing with bent front knee. Photo courtesy: Past Time Athletics (YouTube)

Foot work is pretty high on my action item list in sitting down with a new hitter.  Initial baseball training boils down to getting on the plane of the pitch by bending the knees:

  • Fight Position – at landing front knee should be bent and stacked over the ankle.
  • Final Turn – front leg straightens while back leg bends to about 90-105 degrees.

Consider something Homer Kelly said about this in his book The Golfing Machine:

“KNEE ACTION – Knee Action is classified on the basis of (1) combinations of bent and straight conditions and (2) the Reference Points selected at which these combinations occur.  The combination and the Reference Points selected will determine the slanting of the Hips during the Pivot.  The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

 

When Does the Barrel Accelerate? (enter pitch plane early)

Baseball Training: Victor Martinez getting on pitch plane early

Victor Martinez (.316 career BABIP) quick on the pitch plane…check out how close his barrel is to catcher’s glove! Photo courtesy: ExplosiveBaseballSwing.com

“Be short to the ball!” is one of those cues that gets misinterpreted.  Most baseball training pro instructors, players, and coaches preach being short to the ball.  But what they should be saying is be quick to the pitch plane with the barrel.  Because of the following natural factors…

  1. Gravitational Forces,
  2. Conservation of Angular Momentum,
  3. Centripetal Forces (center-seeking) AND Centrifugal Forces (center-fleeing)…

…A barrel CANNOT efficiently accelerate, being pushed by the hands to a moving ball.  Watch/read these other Hitting Performance Lab posts for WHY:

 

Timing of Power-V (stay on pitch plane)

Baseball Training: Troy Tulowitzki Power-V

Troy Tulowitzki (.320 career BABIP) in the Power-V well passed contact. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

The last baseball training piece to boosting BABIP and reduce strikeouts is to keep the barrel on pitch plane.  “Power-V” is another misinterpreted coaching cue.  Hitters are sometimes told to be at extension with both arms at impact.  This is false.  The Power-V should be achieved 3-9 inches passed impact, depending on pitch location and speed. This ensures maximum inertial force transferred from body to barrel to ball.

The bottom line?

The #1 baseball training MISTAKE to increasing BABIP and cutting down on strikeouts is to “be short to the ball”.  What you want the hitter to do is:

  • Set plane early by landing with a bent front knee,
  • Maintain plane during Final Turn by straightening front knee and bending back one,
  • Be quick with barrel to pitch plane, and
  • Stay on plane by getting to Power-V passed impact.