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Answering Baseball Stride Drills Reader Question: “How Important Is Forward Momentum I Know We Must Go Forward But Does It Matter If Stride Is Big Or Small?”

“…Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She  went for a walk in the forest.  Pretty soon, she came upon a house.  She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.  At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge.  Goldilocks was hungry.  She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

“This porridge is too hot!’ she exclaimed.  So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.  ‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said.  So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.  ‘Ahhh, this porridge is just right,’ she said happily and she ate it all up…”

More in a bit on how Goldilocks and the Three Bears relates to baseball stride drills, but first…

In the following post, we’re addressing the following concerns regarding baseball stride drills (also works for softball):

  • Stride direction and amount,
  • Stride type (experimenting with the ‘Float’),
  • Head movement from stride, and
  • Controlling center mass in stride.

Before getting into the how to baseball stride drills guide, I want to preface that the PURPOSE of a stride shouldn’t be power.  CLICK HERE for a Zepp swing experiment that may confirm this.  If it’s power you seek, then I’d advise looking at the Spring Loaded category.  What purpose does a stride serve?  A stride is for timing and initiating directional force.  CLICK HERE for this post on that.

Let’s get started…

 

Baseball Stride Drills Direction & Amount

Watch this video from Chris Welch at ZenoLink.  Using data and science, he’s found reasonable markers in guiding baseball stride drills

 

Here are highlights from baseball stride drills video above:Baseball Stride Drills: Stepping in Bucket Drill Using Bands

  • Stride length should be about 3.75-times hip width (hip-center-to-hip-center)*,
  • At landing, stride direction is to be closed about 10-degrees (straight forward toward pitcher is zero-degrees), and
  • Stride landing foot position to be about 65-degrees open (pointing perpendicular to home plate is zero-degrees, and straight at pitcher is 90-degrees).

(*Denotes 3.75-times hip-center-to-hip-center is length of stride measured from back foot to stride landing.  NOT the measurement of the stride itself.)

Chris says in the video that if a hitter is under or over striding, then they’re hampering body’s ability to create torque.  Stride landing MUST align ball of the foot with ball of the foot.

CLICK HERE for a post I did on how to fix “stepping in the bucket” using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT).  With the image to the right, it’s another one of my baseball stride drills using colored bands to fix stepping in bucket or crashing the plate.  If the hitter is crashing too much with their stride, I get them to feel stepping out, and the reverse is true if they’re stepping out.  I use variance to get them in the middle (blue band).

…Goldilocks Golden Rule. 

 

Stride Type (‘Experimenting with the Float’)

For most intensive purposes, there are 3 stride types:

  • Leg kick – medium (Mike Trout) or large (Josh Donaldson),
  • Slide step – most Big League hitters use this.  Aaron Judge, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, and Andrew McCutchen just to name a few.
  • Toe-tap – I recommend this for my younger hitters. Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, and Victor Martinez employ this.

Of course, there are variations to these, but these are the three broad categories of stride types.  I call the stride the ‘float’ and ‘fall’.  The ‘float’ is a momentary shifting of weight back towards the catcher before falling forward.  Matt Nokes calls this the ‘Ride’ and ‘Stride’.  Some hitting coaches don’t like this idea, but the reality is this is human movement.  The Chinese have been practicing exactly this move in Tai Chi for thousands of years…in stepping to my right, I have to make a brief weight shift to the left first.  CLICK HERE for a post analyzing this dynamic move.

I included a lot of video examples (CLICK HERE) of MLB hitters using these different stride types to help guide your baseball stride drills. In that post I concluded with this:

“When it comes to [baseball stride drills], Forward Momentum is the objective.  How we get our hitters there doesn’t really matter.  Just give them examples of how to accomplish more FoMo, and allow them to tinker and test until they find something they’re comfortable with doing.”

…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

 

Head Movement from Stride

There’s been few online Hitting Guru #57’s saying we want minimal to zero head movement when hitting.  They claim, the more the head moves, the less your eyes see the ball.  And they point to Barry Bonds as their champion.  On paper, this conclusion looks great, and with Bonds as their poster child seems argument seems pretty reasonable.

However, what science says and what the top 50 hitters in the Major Leagues are doing reveals something completely different.  The opposite actually.  Listen, I agree minimal to zero head movement when hitter’s stride foot lands.  And if baseball stride drills are done correctly, this should be a natural result.  But I don’t agree with minimal to zero head movement GETTING TO stride landing – BEFORE the turn starts.

In this post titled, Softball Hitting Tips For Kids: Why Late Head Movement Fails & Early Head Movement Succeeds, we discuss:

  • The Myth of ‘keeping the head still’,
  • Proprioception & dynamic movement,
  • First baseman stretching to receive a throw, and
  • Watching TV upside down.

The biggest bomb NUKING minimal to zero head movement argument, is this 2013 article by Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs.com titled, Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012.  Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraph’s batting component of WAR (this is a big deal metric).

He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season, in which each player hit a home-run.  Farnsworth says the main complaint coaches have with early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true, however during the stride the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  In the Head Movement piece of the article, Farnsworth concludes:

“Next to no relationship here.  I think this one can be considered dead, simply based on the fact that all of them moved forward to some degree.”

Did you catch that?! Farnsworth revealed in his research of top-50 hitters in 2012, that ALL moved their head forward to some degree.  You see, head movement is inevitable in ALL dynamic movement.  Early is okay, late is not.   Don’t sit there and point to hitting outliers like Barry Bonds, and tell me the top-50 hitters of 2012 all had it wrong.  It was true then as it is now.

Besides, did you know fresh out of the box, humans come with “video stabilizer” eye software?  Ask an ophthalmologist.  In addition, your knees, ankles (Achilles tendon), and hip joints act as shock absorbers too.  If we start our hitters in an athletic position, and most importantly, they land in one, then the hitter will be fully optimized for minimizing the ball “speeding up”.

If you’re still skeptical, then check out this post titled, Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum.  We discuss:

  • Balance without thinking,
  • Debunking a common objection & a study, AND
  • Perfect swing examples.

Not too much, not too little, just right…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

And last but not least…

 

Controlling Center of Mass in the Stride

Center of Mass (COM) in the human body is located at the belly button.  This was established in the womb.  The umbilical cord is the center of an unborn child’s universe.  I say this to demonstrate the importance of COM in controlling human movement.

Now, we don’t want baseball stride drills to promote too large or too small of a stride.  Remember? Goldilocks Golden Rule.  Chris Welch from Zenolink said the stride should be about 3.75 times hip-center-to-hip-center, and aligned are back ball of the foot to front ball of the foot at stride landing.  How do we teach this though?  In this post I received the following question from one of my readers…

One specific issue I see in a lot of my players is timing and getting over the front knee too far at contact. What are some good tee drills for staying back and any idea how I can get them to feel it when done correctly.”

In the post titled, Discover Science Of Successful Learning Secret To Fix Lunging (or any swing flaw for that matter!), as it relates to controlling the COM of our hitters, we discuss:

  • Reader question about lunging,
  • “Bean Bag” study from Make It Stick book,
  • WHY we separate PROCESS from PERFORMANCE with hitters learning something new,
  • How it takes time to change ineffective movement momentum into effective, and…
  • Training 4-5 days per week, for AT LEAST 5-mins each day.

And remember the …Goldilocks Golden Rule.

Discover The Back Foot Variance Drill Secret

I wanted to share a couple things in this post…

  • An updated video of the Back Foot Variance Drill, and
  • A testimonial from one of my online lesson dads from Tennessee (I’m in California!).

 

Back Foot Variance Drill UPDATED

Since putting this drill together a few years ago, I’ve improved on it to reflect what the best are really doing.  Here’s an outline of what we talk about in the above video:

  • Objective: to shift body-weight into ball and un-weight the back foot,
  • Squishing bug?
  • Variance Drill – fix hitters who skip too much v. not skipping, and
  • Options: skip backwards (scissoring).

 

Back Foot Variance Testimonial

I prescribed the Back Foot Variance Drill to Lawrence (Jr.) back on July 9th, along with the Babe Ruth Drill (forward momentum), and the Snapping Towel Drill (angling the body back over the catcher during turn).

Before I show you a couple BEFORE/AFTER images of his swing, please read what dad emailed me…

“Joey

Wanted to sit down and let you and your readers know how much of an impact you make on players lives. The key is to listen and follow what you say. 

First my background. I played at the Juco level, independent ball and amateur ball until i was 39. I pride myself on knowing the game and thought I was a pretty good hitter and taught hitting. I walked away with three amateur world series rings and no regrets on my playing career. 

I have taught my son hitting since he was 4.  As any parent has, I am proud of my son with probably some dad goggles on. But fact is he is a gifted physical specimen at 15, he is 6’1 and 175-lbs

For this I’m just going to focus on the facts. He ran into some hitting issues I was having trouble correcting this Spring. But I know hitting, right? And my son still listens to me so I should be able to help him. But it was not happening, we both were getting frustrated. As a freshman he still hit over .300 in varsity. But something was off.

Then while researching, (yes people if you or your coach does not have a growth mindset do yourself a favor and go do something else.) I ran across you this Spring. After studying what you were saying and swallowing my pride I decided to have you give my son video lessons online. 

Best thing I ever did for my son. We are only half way through the lessons taking our time to digest and work on what you have suggested, but here are the results. This after 3 months and 2 lessons

My son exit velocity before you was 86-mph it now sits at 91-mph. He recently did a show case with perfect game. On the hitting metrics they use he is between the 93-98 percentile on all players they have seen. In batting practice he would routinely hit the ball 325-350 feet using wood or bbcore. He is now hitting balls in excess of 400 feet.

While taking batting practice on a high school field yesterday dimensions of 320 down the line and 370 to center he hit 16 out of 45 pitches out including 3 in excess of 400 feet. I sent you video of a game he played last night. To have you evaluate, that home-run was to dead center which was 360 feet. The ball was a line drive and landed in the road over 40 feet behind the fence.

Yes the catapult loading system works. He is hitting baseballs with a wood or bbcore bat at 2.5x his body weight. Using those bats and at his age is just as impressive as 3x body weight. 

I mentioned before he is a big kid at 15. But he is still a kid, he has not begun to physically mature yet. He does not shave, no hair on chest, no definition of muscles. I fully expect to see within the year as he starts maturing he will be hitting baseballs over 500-ft. In three months working with you he has gained over 50 feet consistently. It now looks like he is on the little fields again taking bp.

Thank you for what you do and giving my son confidence moving forward, you helped a young man more than words I’m writing will ever be expressed.

Here is what he accomplished since we started using you. Named all world series team for the 15u babe ruth world series where his team finished second. Playing for 15u south east team Rawlings led team in batting average for the summer. That team went 6-1 in the wwba perfect game world series where he was named to the all tourney team. 

Named all tourney to perfect game summer showdown as well. Before you he had played in three events with perfect game with no all tourney nominations. He has also been approached as a rising sophomore by a high level D1 head coach that is interested in him. 

Thanks Joey for everything, and for not only being a great person to get to know, but being so knowledgeable on the scientific metrics on hitting. 

All the best
Lawrence Sutton”

Thank YOU Lawrence for such a glowing testimonial.  And thank you Junior for being such a respectful and coach-able student of the game.  By the way, originally Lawrence (dad) left this as an UNSOLICITED message on my phone, and I asked him to put it down on virtual paper, so I could share it with you.

Before sharing the BEFORE/AFTER images, let me address naysayer objections I frequently read on the Socials, speaking out against my book, “The Catapult Loading System: Teaching 100-Lb Hitters To Consistently Drive The Ball 300-Feet”, this email clearly dispels:

  • “In High School homers virtually disappear because of BBCor bats”,
  • “15yo High School hitters can’t hit balls in excess of 400-feet at 175-pounds”,
  • “Sure, your system may increase power, but it will be at the cost of Batting Average and Strikeouts”, and
  • “This kid is just a freak [or they may use the word ‘mutant’]”

All this is FAKE NEWS Coaches!!

The last one always makes me laugh…I say take me to VEGAS then, because I’m running into A LOT of mutants!! Buahahaha

And you know why homers “virtually disappear” with BBCor bats in High School?

Because many of these coaches are teaching their hitters to HIT THE BALL ON THE GROUND!  Please STOP!  It’s insane these coaches don’t want their offense to score more runs and win more games.  Ground-balls SUCK for hitters!  The reverse is true for pitchers by the way 😉

I have faith, “winners” will make the adjustment and not whine, complain, and come up with every excuse in the book as to why hitting the ball HARD IN THE AIR doesn’t work.  Sad.

Boosting Ball Exit Speed and Launch Angles is a formula folks.  With hard work, attention to detail, and dedication, more hitters can achieve what we’re sharing.  The Catapult Loading System takes care of the former, and Pitch-Plane Domination the latter.

Here’s a BEFORE/AFTER image of Lawrence’s back foot skip (too much) on July 9th…

Lawrence’s feet are too close together in these swings…

Here’s a BEFORE/AFTER image of his August 25th 360-foot dinger…

This angle is a challenge, but use the catcher’s belt as a reference point to the back foot in both images. In addition, look at the gap between his feet.

Now, as you remember, we made three changes to Lawrence’s swing back in early July:

  • Increase forward momentum,
  • Create more space between his feet, and
  • Increase spinal tilt during the turn…

…so it’s hard to tell which one of these was THE ONE thing that made the biggest difference.  My argument for the Back Foot Variance is this:

  1. In past swing experiments, Forward Momentum hasn’t been shown to increase Bat Speed at Impact significantly.
  2. Increasing spinal tilt is great, but doesn’t work if the hitter’s feet are close together – like a golfers.
  3. The greater the distance between the feet (although not too much), the more consistent the hitter can get to the bottom half of the ball.

Also, if you read this Washington Post article titled, “Bryce Harper: A Swing of Beauty”, you’ll discover:

“Glenn Fleisig, an expert in the field of biomechanics, said the majority of hitters he’s studied transferred 90 percent of their weight to their front foot and kept 10 percent on their back leg at contact. Harper, of course, would move 100 percent of his weight forward at contact when his back leg lifts. That, Fleisig said, would enable him to generate a ground rotational force equal to 150 percent of his body weight.”

At Bryce Harper’s current weight of 215-lbs, that would be 322.5-lbs of force transferred at impact!  Any weight transfer less than 100% would be an inferior model, so that’s why ‘squishing bugs’ isn’t optimized.

Coaches, be careful who you’re following.  Make sure they’re sticking close to the human movement principles that are validated by science.  If not, then quickly abandon ship.

Please keep me updated on your hitters’ progress using the Back Foot Variance Drill below…

How a Dad Turned Around His Struggling 16-year-old Fast-Pitch Softball Daughter’s Swing in 1-Day?

Kelli M BEFORE & AFTER Swings

1-day difference between swings, yes I know one is a game swing and one is off the tee, one is a back view and the other is a chest view, but the changes are still dramatic…

I was blown away by an email I recently received from the dad of Kelli, a struggling 16-year-old fast-pitch softball hitter…

And by the way, the following email was unsolicited, much like Marty White’s testimonial in this post about his son, 14-yo Hudson White, who participated in Brian Domenico’s 2016 National Power Showcase hitting 11 consecutive dingers out of the Texas Rangers ballpark in Arlington, averaging 398-feet, at only 5-foot 7-inches, 130-pounds.

I feel the following story of Kelli’s struggle holds true for quite a few baseball and softball hitters out there, and I wanted to share it.  It breaks my heart to hear the BEFORE stories.  But without the bitter baby, the sweet ain’t so sweet!

Please pay special attention to how Mike introduces new hitting content to his daughter.  Sometimes this can be a slippery slope with parents and their daughters and/or sons.

DISCLAIMER: results aren’t typical. Hitters getting “it” or “not” depends on a few things: 1) Player engages in consistent deep practice, 2) Coach successfully connects player to message (the WHY), 3) Material presented in a way to set player up for success not overwhelm, and 4) Coach taps into player’s primary learning style to name a few of the biggies.  

Enter Mike’s email…

“Joey:  I saw your book “Catapult Loading System” on Kindle and figured I’d take a chance on it because I have always liked to read different philosophies on hitting.  I’ve been coaching my daughter and her teams in fast-pitch softball for over 8 years starting with Rec through Club ball here in AZ.

Lately, to my disappointment my daughter has taken a break from club ball for the last 6 months but has just started playing again on her High School  JV team.  She is a power hitter but has been struggling with weak grounders and pop ups.

After I read your book I asked her to work with me for 10 minutes a night hitting into the net off a T. Catapult Loading System(She’s 16 and this was all could get out of her, so I took what I could get.)

I noticed when I took some videos of her during games that she was stepping into the bucket on her stride and was leading her hands with the back elbow, which I know is a no, no and creates bat drag.

Those two things combined were causing her to dip the bat off plane and not hit the ball solid, causing the pop ups and grounders.   She was basically trying to “lead with the hips and start her swing from the ground up” like I had been teaching her for years.

After reading your book, I didn’t want to overwhelm her or totally change her swing so I just focused on the bottom three fingers of the top hand tightening in the swing and showing the numbers by loading the shoulders as you explain in the book.

I also told her to shorten her stance a bit so she would focus on loading the shoulders (showing the numbers and hide the hands) rather than taking a big stride and stepping into the bucket.

I wish I could send you the videos of the before and after of her swing after one 10 minute session.  I’m not kidding when I say that it was almost an “instant”  change for the better. 

What I noticed by having her tighten her bottom three fingers on the top hand, is it forced her to keep her back elbow in the slot and her hands to stay in front of the back elbow.  This immediately corrected her bat head to stay on plane in the zone longer with no casting or weak bat angle.

I also noticed that by having her load with the shoulders rather than relying on her hips with a big stride, she didn’t step into the bucket or fly open with her hips.

These simple little tweaks helped to correct the things I’ve been working with her for years but to no effect.  I couldn’t believe the difference from such a small simple adjustment.

I’ve told some of my softball friends and fellow coaches about it and they just look at me and chuckle like I’m making up some kind of tall tale.  I’ve even shown them the before and after video and they still seem skeptical.

But here’s the bottom line…

The day after I worked with my daughter for all of 10 to 15 minutes, literally hitting about 35 or 40 balls off the T, against one of the best teams in our division, she got up with two runners on, with two strikes and launched a bomb for a three run HR.  She went 2 for 2 that day. 

That night we spent another 10 minutes working the same drills and the next day, she did the same thing on her first at bat hitting another bomb.  She went 3 for 3 that game. 

Now look, I’m not a scientist nor am I into hockus pockus but I  have to admit I’m a true believer and just had to tell you about our instant success by using some of the small tweaks you talk about.  I plan to keep using these ideas and I’m going to re-read your book again to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Thanks for the info and know you have another success story here in Arizona.” – Mike Monaghan

After I asked for Mike and Kelli’s permission to publish her story and for the BEFORE and AFTER videos to do analysis on, I received this follow up from dad…

“I apologize that these two videos are from a back vs front view but the differences can still be seen.  The before video is a game swing with her uniform on and are only a day apart.  If you can run them in slow motion, you’ll notice a couple things that made the world of difference.
In the before:
  • Wider stance (in my opinion, too wide)
  • More lateral movement because she doesn’t load at the shoulders (show her numbers)
  • Steps in the bucket as her hips fly open
  • Back elbow is leading the hands
  • Bat angle is well below the ball plane as she starts her swing
  • Result….pop up to pitcher
After video:
  • All we worked on was tight bottom three fingers on top hand, loading at the shoulders (showing the numbers) and a slightly narrower stance.  Results:
  • Back elbow is behind the hands and she has a much more solid impact on the ball
  • Bat head stays on plane with ball longer allowing a line drive impact on ball (not too much bottom half or top half on the ball)
  • She doesn’t fly open with her hips and her body stays in alignment longer (notice where her foot lands on the second video…..right on the line in the cement on the floor.)  I think the shoulder load (and I know she could probably show even more of the numbers if we keep working on it) prevents her or at least minimizes her from flying open.  You probably have a video link to some sport’s scientist that can explain how the shoulders and spine work together and keep the hips in check….Lol!
Bottom line results….2 HR’s in two games….much more solid impact on other hits.
Stepping in the bucket has been a huge issue we have tried to correct for years with little to no success and although I know we need to keep working a couple minutes a night to turn these tweaks into habit, I still can’t believe how quickly she made a change.  It might also explain why I get so many skeptical looks and opinions when I talk about your book to other coaches and show them the results after a one day difference.  If I hadn’t witnessed this with my own eyes, I’d probably be skeptical too.
Her instant success has also done a few things I never thought possible. She actually likes working with me in the garage hitting into the net at night because it is no more than a 10 minute session and she can still enjoy being a teenager.  She actually will listen to my instruction and corrections and wants me to video her so she can see that she’s doing it correctly.  When she was little, we use to go to the park and hit 100 balls off a machine or soft toss but those days of daddy/daughter time are limited so a 10 minute session is something she is OK with. Its a win/win for both of us.”

Thank YOU Mike I appreciate your support.  Great approach in getting that young lady of yours “hooked” again.  It sounded like a tall order, but you pulled it off nicely Coach.  I’m proud of both of you!

Also Mike, here are my next step swing suggestions:

  1. CLICK HERE for a video on how to fix stepping in the bucket using resistance bands,
  2. Finish up with the rest of the concepts in the Catapult Loading System book, then…
  3. CLICK HERE for the Float Variance Drill, and
  4. CLICK HERE for a definitive guide to forward momentum.

For those of you who may have missed Coach Mike’s effective approach with his teenage daughter, here are a couple key points:

  • Mike set his daughter up for success by telling her to only commit 10-mins per day to this new information (I tell my hitters to spend 5-mins/day, at least 4-days/week in deep practice),
  • He had the humility to admit (to his daughter I assume) that his teachings may have been misplaced in the past (this is part of a Growth Mindset by the way),
  • Didn’t want to overwhelm her, so Mike started with one thing first, “Finger Pressure”, then when she got that, he moved onto “Showing Numbers”, and lastly
  • Mike has a “results don’t lie” story to tell the naysayers, whether they heed his advice only time will tell…but the truth is undeniable.

This works for softball players folks…not just baseball.  If you aren’t growing as a coach, then you’re dying.  Dead things get thrown in the trash.  Cultivate a Growth Mindset coaches or else you’ll be short changing your players, and your significance as an effective coach.

The times are a changin’…

 

UPDATE on Kelli…

Joey:  You had asked me to keep you up to date on how Kelli had progressed after I worked the Catapult Loading System with her.  I’m proud to give you her final stats after 17 games.  You can note that we worked the system after game 7, so her results were really proven in the last 10 games.  Up until we worked the system, she had only one HR and most of her hits were weak ground balls in the gaps and bloopers over the infield.  Although she had decent numbers before working the system as I had told you in previous emails, her hitting really came alive and her hits were much more powerful.  She had very few if any extra base hits in the first 7 games and the triples and doubles really took off in the last 10 games.  Although she was playing JV, we are in the 6A division playing some of the largest and most competitive schools in the state of AZ and she lead the team in almost every category or was in the top three out of 19 girls on the team.

  • Games played: 17
  • Batting Average: .652
  • Plate Appearances: 48
  • At Bats: 46
  • Runs scored: 22
  • Hits: 30
  • RBI: 26
  • Doubles: 9
  • Triples: 2
  • HR: 4
  • BB: 2
  • K: 1
  • OBP: .667
  • SLG: 1.195
  • OPS: 1.863

Like Jose Altuve, You Can Compete With BIG Sluggers…

 

Jose Altuve Hitting Analysis

Look at Jose Altuve’s ‘bat lag’ and weight off the back foot. Photo courtesy: Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle

In doing Jose Altuve hitting analysis, here’s what I hear…

“Well, he’s a big hitter, that’s why he can hit for power”…

…Is the EXCUSE from coaches who’re removing any responsibility to help their smaller hitters hit the ball farther and harder.

Or, oftentimes I hear this about a hitter like Dustin Pedroia (5’9″, 175-lbs – these numbers are fudged “up” btw):

“He’s just gifted.”

Wa?!!

ALL Major Leaguers are GIFTED!!! lol

Tell me one physical advantage that Dustin Pedroia has over most…??!

Don’t say eye hand coordination or vision because that’s another common rebuttal.

There are countless other MLB hitters with the same superior eye-hand coordination and vision.

The reality is, smaller sluggers MUST be MORE effective, in order to compete with sluggers bigger than them.

Now, this Jose Altuve hitting analysis post isn’t about the ‘laser show’…however,

Standing in at 5’6″,

…and weighing in at a soaking wet 165-pounds, we’ll look at Jose Altuve (his height and weight numbers are a little closer to reality I think).

Although,

I do think Jose Altuve has one thing over the ‘laser show’, and that’s dancing (parental guidance is recommended 😉:

In this Jose Altuve hitting analysis video, we’ll go over:

  • Jose Altuve stats,
  • Presents of Forward Momentum (FoMo)?
  • How well he dominates the plane of the pitch,
  • Where his power comes from, and
  • Does he practice Pitch Recognition?

FYI: the pitch Jose Altuve is hitting in the video analysis looks like an 87-mph FB straight down broadway, and it does look like he’s on-time.

Without further adieu, here are the notes for the…

 

Jose Altuve Hitting Analysis Stats (the averages of averages)

CLICK HERE for the FanGraphs.com post  I pulled the following stats from*:

  • ISO = +20 points
  • BABIP = +34 points
  • GB% = +4%
  • LD% = +1%
  • FB% = -6%
  • HR/FB% = -3.5%

(*a (+) denotes how many points OR percentage points or above league average, and a (-) denotes below league average.)

 

Presents of Forward Momentum (FoMo)?

  • Is FoMo present?
  • Shifting foot pressure (mentioned landing with closed front foot), and
  • Moving Center of Gravity (COG).

 

How Well he Dominates the Plane of the Pitch

  • Knee Action – ‘getting shorter’ and ‘staying shorter’
  • Barrel Plane – keeping barrel on plane for as long as possible

 

Where his Power Comes from…

  • Showing numbers,
  • Hiding hands from the pitcher,
  • Hunch – Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT), and
  • Down shoulders? (not so much here).

 

Does he Practice Pitch Recognition?

My friend Aaron Miles, who was small (5’8″, 180-lbs), and played 9 years in the Bigs, talks about how his High School coach was forward thinking…in that he did Pitch Recognition training with his troops, and Aaron’s coach said he had the best PR on the team.

My hypothesis in this Jose Altuve hitting analysis is that he does some sort of PR training, OR has a God given early pitch recognition ability that allows him to hit the ball so hard, so often.

Sure, according to this Jose Altuve hitting analysis,

…Altuve may not hit over 30 homers per year, but he sure will hit a boat load of doubles, which is just as good to contributing to team wins…just look at his above average (average) ISO and BABIP scores above!

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Get Rid of Old Tired Hitting Dogmas Once and For All

 

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Isn't this Bat Path?

Isn’t this diagram showing proper bat path? Both are linear!! This is part of the confusion that’s out there on the net. Diagram courtesy: BackBackBack.com

A rotational linear hitting mechanics reader question came in recently that relates well to both baseball and softball…

“What is the best to teach a rotational swing or a linear swing?”

Here’s what we’ll cover in this rotational linear hitting mechanics post:

  • Swing is both…and then some,
  • Conservation of Linear v. Angular Momentum,
  • Planes of Motion, and
  • Centripetal v. Centrifugal…

 

Swing is Both…and then Some

Even when I was wrongly teaching my hitters to ‘swing down on the ball’,

I had a gut feeling rotational linear hitting mechanics were a little of both.

It didn’t make sense to say it was one or the other.  If you find yourself thinking this, then you have an incomplete understanding of dynamic human movement.

My advice?

Get educated.

Do your homework.

Check your facts.

Test. Re-test.

With today’s access to quality information, experts, and sophisticated technology, there’s ZERO room for ‘willfully ignorant’ hitting theories.

If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.

Us coaches MUST hold ourselves to a better teaching standard.

Standards that go beyond hitting absolutes, which aren’t wrong – but incomplete.

We MUST apply human movement principles, that are validated by science, to hitting a ball.

Another word for ‘principles’ are “rules” or “guidelines”…

Think of these principles as bumpers at a bowling alley keeping the ball from plopping into the gutter.  What path the bowling ball takes between the bumpers doesn’t matter, just as long as it stays between them.

Hitting absolutes are what goes on between the bumpers.

You following me?

Human movement principles first. And how they’re applied (think video analysis) comes second.

If it’s the other way around, then we’ll have hitters burying their chins into their chests like Andrew McCutchen (see image below)…

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Andrew McCutchen breaking one-joint rule

Image courtesy: http://12075-presscdn-0-91.pagely.netdna-cdn.com/

Many of you will see this ‘chin to chest’ image and won’t find anything wrong with it, “he’s keeping his head down at impact,” you’ll say.  I’m afraid Cutch is succeeding despite this ineffective mechanic, NOT because of it.

See WHY breaking the ‘One-Joint Rule’ bleeds force at impact by CLICKING HERE.

…Or closing the gap between their rear ear and shoulder like Derek Jeter or Bryce Harper during the turn, which is a blatant breaking of the One-Joint Rule (see image below)…

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Bryce Harper Shoulders Are Ear Poison

Photo courtesy: http://districtondeck.com/

Again, Bryce Harper is succeeding despite this ineffective mechanic, NOT because of it.

In the corrective fitness world, we say ‘shoulders are ear poison’ to maximizing force and reducing the probability of injury.

So, what did I mean in the sub-title above “…and Then Some”?

That I’ll answer under the Centripetal v. Centrifugal Forces subtitle below.

Let’s get started fleshing out rotational linear hitting mechanics…

Conservation of Linear v. Angular Momentum

There are a couple great Circus Physics resources from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website on these two concepts (each have 2-min videos):

To prove the swing is both of these, watch a clip of Albert Pujols a wide-no stride swing, when he was with the Cardinals, which most purely rotational people point to as a good example of their ‘hitting theory’:

Like golf, you see his pelvis slide forward before he starts turning.  This is a linear move, and I call it shifting foot pressure.

His weight goes from the outside of his back foot, inside front foot…then as his pelvis shifts forward, you’ll see his weight go to the inside of his back foot, outside of front foot.

Shifting foot pressure is what I would teach my fastpitch hitters because of their compressed reaction time, similar to these Lauren Chamberlain swings:

Also note, Pujols and Chamberlain ARE NOT ‘squishing the bug’ with their back foot, another thing purely rotational ‘hitting theorists’ cling to.

Look at this more recent clip of Pujols with the Angels.  Here he employs a traditional linear stride:

Now, Ichiro Suzuki is who the purely linear ‘hitting theorists’ point to as a great example of their system. Watch this video:

You’ll see a little more linear elements to Ichiro’s swing (forward momentum and hand path), but he still starts sideways, and rotates, or turns, the center of his chest to impact.  Did you catch the keywords “rotates” or “turns”?!

Show me one hitter in the Big Leagues or Professional Fastpitch that ONLY have a linear swing…or ONLY have a rotational swing.

I guarantee you won’t find ONE.

At ANY level, I GUARANTEE you won’t find ONE baseball or softball hitter, PERIOD, that does either one or the other!!

Are you getting the rotational linear hitting mechanics idea?

 

Planes of Motion

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Planes of Motion

Planes of Motion photo courtesy: goldsgymwebsterny.wordpress.com

I did this post titled Baseball Hitting Mechanics for Youth: Straight Landing Front Leg OR Bent?

Benefit #6 in that post I sub-titled, “How Humans Change Direction & Planes of Motion”.

Under the sub-title, I talk about three main planes of motion that we move in:

  1. Front to back (Sagittal),
  2. Side to side (Frontal), and
  3. Twisting (Transverse)…

Also, I included a YouTube video of NFL wide receivers running ‘Tree Routes’.

A wide receiver running a cut route will use the 1) Front to back plane first, then when he makes his 90-degree cut, will momentarily move onto the 2) Side to side plane before getting back on and accelerating in the front to back plane.

A hitter starts off moving on the 2) Side to side plane, but as they start turning get on the 3) Twisting plane.

In order to understand rotational linear hitting mechanics clearly, we must consider putting aside our egos, and truly look at what’s going on in video analysis.

Again, principles first, application second.

Be honest.

Like few coaches that find me on social media…DO NOT fall into the same ‘willfully ignorant’ trap they do.

If you AIN’T growing, then you’re DYING.

Know this about hitters…

There is almost always some form of linear (forward) movement that precedes the twisting.  I call it getting a head start before making an explosive rotational move.

Both Pujols, Chamberlain, and Ichiro do this.

But THESE ARE THE FACTS…

The path of the bowling bowling ball down the lane may be different, but ALL three stay within the ‘bowling bumpers’.

 

Centripetal v. Centrifugal

Here’s a great video from YouTuber SciShow about the difference between Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces:

Centripetal Forces are ‘center-seeking’ and Centrifugal Forces are ‘center-fleeing’.

Here’s how the rotational linear hitting mechanics purist stack up with these two forces:

  • Purely rotational side with Centripetal Forces, and
  • Purely linear side with Centrifugal Forces…

But clearly the swing is a combination of both…and then some!

I actually say the swing is:

  • Linear at Start – hitter getting a head start before stride landing, or second phase of shifting foot pressure,
  • Rotational – hitter transfers forward into angular momentum to get barrel into the impact zone, and then
  • Linear AGAIN – after impact the hitter chases the ball with the barrel.

The last part is crucial to consistency, and is a good example of Centrifugal Force.

When talking about rotational linear hitting mechanics, I also give the swinging rock-on-a-string example in the main video above.

You see, first the hitter uses Centripetal Force to turn the barrel into the zone sideways…the turn is meant to be quick and compact from an Angular Momentum standpoint (Keeping a slight bend in the front elbow, NOT from swinging down, being short, etc.), until the barrel gets on the plane of the pitch.

Then the hitter either lets the front arm lengthen or stay shortened depending on timing and pitch location, but make no mistake…

Elite hitters will keep their barrel chasing the ball after impact, until both arms get fully extended…whereby the barrel then circles around the body during follow through.

So is it better to teach rotational liner hitting mechanics?

Yes.

As long as it’s a blend of the two.

Not one or the other.

Let human movement principles be your guide.

The path the bowling ball takes in the lane doesn’t matter, just as long as it stays between the bumpers.

Baseball Hitting Drills For Power That Babe Ruth WOULD BE Talking About

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Power: Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth post impact…notice he’s not ‘squashing the bug’ with his back foot? 😉 Photo courtesy: ABCNews.com

This baseball hitting drills for power video post, featuring Babe Ruth, was recorded on Jun 11, 2013 for my old hitting site Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills dot com.

I’m going to revisit the information in this post because…

The coaching cues I teach now are a bit different, but what hasn’t changed are the human movement principles brought to light in the analysis.

Since I created the video, it’s amassed over 52K views on YouTube.

Probably more now that you’re reading this…

And by the way, the baseball hitting drills for power tips we’ll be covering work REALLY well for softball players too.

Don’t believe me?

CLICK HERE for a recent post I did discussing how similar the baseball and softball swings are.

Be sure to read some of the comments at the end of the post, where I asked my readers who coach softball players, to share how these same human movement principles are working for their girls.

In this baseball hitting drills for power post, we’ll REVISIT and ADD information to the above video:

  • What Forward Momentum looks like in Babe Ruth’s swing,
  • How The Babe uses the Springy ‘X’ Pattern, and
  • Compare how WR holding Shot Putter Ulf Timmerman uses the same human movement principles…

 

What Forward Momentum Looks like in Babe Ruth’s Swing

I mention a few things in the video…

How The Babe seemingly throws his body (or hips) forward, making an aggressive move towards the pitched ball.

This looks very similar to a pitcher falling down the mound.

There was no ‘push off’ with his back leg, just a natural fall forward with his front leg catching him at stride landing.

In the above video, I also mention, how Babe Ruth commits his body weight forward, similar to how we walk…

A person’s body weight is shifted forward to the swing through leg, as the heel approaches the ground.

Unlike a cat taking a tentative step forward as if the ground is going to give way, we don’t walk by ‘sitting back’ at every step forward.

We walk more like dogs! Committing forward with EVERY step.

And this is WHY we shouldn’t be teaching hitters to ‘Sit back’ when hitting.  Unless of course, you want to create timid and defensive swinging hitters that WILL reach a ceiling at the lower levels.

Now, using this same Babe Ruth style fall is where baseball hitting drills for power semi-fork away from fastpitch softball hitters.

Because of a shortened pitching distance and reaction time, we’ll see forward momentum look more like Lauren Chamberlain’s shifting foot pressure in the following video:

In this video, she starts super wide with her feet, but you’ll see her shift her weight back, then forward (watch her body move away from the grounded heavy bag behind her).

This is still a form of Forward Momentum.  Just more tailored for a fastpitch hitting strategy.

In the above Babe Ruth video, I mention Un-Weighting, or the Un-Weighting Principle.

CLICK HERE for an HPL video demonstrating a test I use to get my hitters ‘buying into’ Forward Momentum benefits.

The bottom line with forward momentum is that it increases a hitter’s reaction time by giving them a head start.

It’s easier to change planes of motion when you’re already moving…rather than standing still like purely rotational hitters.

Does it take more energy to push a car when it’s already moving, or at a dead stop?

We want effortless power, NOT a powerless effort.

Are you concerned about too much head movement?

Check out these FOUR posts that address that issue:

How The Babe Uses the Springy ‘X’ Pattern

CLICK HERE for an HPL post talking about the science of tension/compression forces in the body, known as fascia.

CLICK HERE for another HPL post analyzing the swing of Adrian Gonzalez highlighting the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.

I call this piece of my hitting system the Catapult Loading System.  This online video mini-course teaches exactly how to manipulate springy fascia for repeatable power.

Here’s one of my favorite YouTube interviews with Thomas Myers, who does a GREAT job explaining the role of springy fascia in the body, so the Layman understands:

Thomas Myers authored the book Anatomy Trains, which I highly recommend as a MUST read to anyone serious about teaching hitting.  The information in his book holds the key to how hitting will be taught 5 years from now.  BELIEVE IT.

Baseball Hitting Drills For Power: Josh Donaldson Springy 'X' Pattern

Watch how Josh Donaldson manipulates the Springy ‘X’ Pattern. Photo courtesy: YouTuber PastimeAthletics & PicPlayHost

There a couple baseball hitting drills for power points I’ve recently changed, when teaching hitting, different from the information in the Babe Ruth video above (thanks Lee Comeaux for pointing these out)

  • #1 – I don’t focus on the shoulders facilitating the Springy ‘X’ Pattern anymore, but the armpits (view Josh Donaldson RED ‘X’ image to the right). This is where, as Thomas Myers puts it, the Front Arm Fascial Line passes through connecting bottom of the left hand and arm, across the chest, to the bottom of the right hand and arm.
  •  #2 – Notice how Babe Ruth seems to be ‘hunched’ over from the start of his swing into loading the Springy ‘X’ Pattern? Dr. Kelly Starrett calls this global flexion of the spine.  This allows the spine to decompress. In his book The Spinal Engine, Dr. Serge Gracovetsky talks about this ‘hunched’ posture as the Posterior Ligamentous System (PLS) turning on, which acts like a harness supporting the spine under load.  There’s less muscle activation when this happens.  Think about a fishing rod bending under the weight and energy of a fish catching bait.  This keeps the spine vertebrae safe through torsion forces.

PLEASE NOTE: the hitter still MUST show numbers and get a slight downward shoulder angle, but we’re using a better coaching cue to get the mechanical outcome.

 

Compare How WR Holding Shot Putter Ulf Timmermann uses the Same Movement Principles

Ulf Zimmermann holds the World Record in the Shot Put using the Glide technique.

Check out his World Record throw on September 22nd, 1985 at a distance of 22.62 meters (about 25 yards):

What a BEAST!  By the way, that iron cannonball he just tossed, almost the quarter length of a football field, weighs 16-pounds!!

Three eerily similar baseball hitting drills for power tips you’ll find with Ulf Timmermann’s record breaking ‘Glide’ technique and Babe Ruth’s swing are:

  1. Ulf Timmermann gets his weight aggressively moving forward with a combination of back leg push off and front leg ‘reaching’ momentum.  What Ulf does with his front leg is similar to a Broad Jumper using their arms to build momentum before a jump.
  2. You also see Ulf Timmermann employing the same Springy ‘X’ Pattern, however more extreme than The Babe (track his compressed armpit and opposing hip).  Ulf is more extreme with the ‘turn in’ because Babe Ruth still has to keep his eyes forward to hit a ball coming towards him, whereas Ulf has the freedom to look away from his target.
  3. You also see both Ulf and The Babe ‘getting shorter’ before exploding rotationally (compare knee bend). They’re both using Ground Reaction Forces very well.

CLICK HERE for a baseball hitting drills for power video post I did outlining the ‘Back Eye Test’, so hitters don’t turn in too much, like Ulf.

A Couple Interesting Tid-Bits from YouTube Video Comments

  • “Excellent video. I recommend everyone read The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. You will be even more amazed with his achievements.” – YouTube user: Gto1927
  • One commenter said this video shows why The Babe hit for so much power, but also struck out A LOT. However, Baseball-Reference.com puts Babe Ruth’s 162-game batting average at .342 with 86 strikeouts per year. How about Chris “Crush” Davis? Same numbers: .255 BA & 200 K’s/year.  I don’t think The Babe struck out that much…what do you think? 😉

CRUSH the Ball Like Mickey Mantle

 

Mickey Mantle Bat Lag

Check out Mickey Mantle’s bat lag. Photo courtesy: LegendaryAuctions.com

I originally included this Mickey Mantle video in a Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills post on June 11th, 2013. I did this about 6-months before launching HPL.

Since publishing the YouTube video, it has amassed over 56,325 views, 76 video “Likes”, and only 7 video “dislikes”.

The basic premise of the video was to compare Mickey Mantle’s right handed swing mechanics to Czech javelin throwerJan Železný’s throwing technique.  Jan is a world and Olympic champion and world record holder. He also holds the top five javelin performances of all time…according to Wikipedia.

In the video, I brought up my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote many of you have seen me post before:

“As to the methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few.  The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

The human movement “principles” we’re comparing in the video are:

  1. The Un-Weighting Principle (or Forward Momentum), and
  2. The Catapult Loading System.

The reason I picked “The Mick”, is because he wasn’t really a big guy, according to Baseball Reference.com, he stood at only 5’11, 195-pounds.

Don’t get me wrong, Mickey Mantle was a naturally strong dude.  But he wasn’t the size of today’s behemoths:

And, some of The Mick’s dingers have been the talk of folklore, claiming to have traveled over 600-feet!

Although with the computation of Metrics now, as Christopher Harbour, a YouTube reader commenter on this particular video, put it:

“The farthest official home run in MLB history was hit by Babe Ruth in Detroit at a distance of 585ft. Mickey’s longest shot was 510Ft. It was often claimed to be much farther but that distance was the distance AFTER the ball rolled. This info is proven by SABR historian Bill Jenkinson.”

Whatever the case, it’s still amazing that a guy of Mickey Mantle’s stature, can hit a ball over 500-feet!  We don’t see Giancarlo, Miggy, or Trout doing that.

And by the way, everyone thinks Babe Ruth was this hulking mass of a guy…he was only 6’2″, 215-pounds.  And according to the above comment, launched the longest dinger 585-feet!

So what was Mickey Mantle doing mechanically making him so special that we as coaches should be teaching our younger hitters?

Mickey Mantle on the Un-Weighting Principle (or Forward Momentum)

Mickey Mantle Stride and Foot Pressure

Look at Mickey Mantle’s shifting foot pressure… Photo courtesy: http://s685.photobucket.com/user/BillBurgess

I said in the video that The Mick’s back knee wasn’t floating over his ankle, but that’s simply not true.  This was knowledge residue from past baseball experts I was listening to at the time.

What Mickey Mantle did really well was shifting his foot pressure.

We can see from the moment he lifts his stride foot to that foot touching down that his foot pressure looks like this:

  • Back foot pressure – is on the outside, and
  • Stride foot pressure – is on the inside.

This is similar to a story one of my readers, Stephen Reid, shared about prolific golfer Ben Hogan (5’9″, 145-pounds), saying in an email:

“A friend of mine worked at Shady Oaks in Dallas where Hogan played and practiced. Towards the end of Mr. Hogan’s time of ‘grinding it out of the dirt”, he was allowed the opportunity to sit and watch him hit balls. He said that Mr. Hogan started talking about the stance, and he stated that the way he thought it would come to pass in the future would be that both feet at address would both be turned slightly towards the target- 30 to 45 degrees. By turning the right foot in at address, the golfer would essentially be putting a governor on his/her right side.

He also reasoned that by doing this, the player would create the tension and brace with the right side and would create a strong coil that would not allow for any “over-coiling or over-swinging”. Therefore, you would be presetting the coil or brace of the right side in a controlled manner and would not allow oneself to overturn in the backswing. Conclusion was that the energy from a strong brace and controlled coil, the golfer would create greater energy in the release of the right side while creating greater swing speeds through impact.”

As Mickey Mantle’s stride foot lands the foot pressure shifts as follows:

  • Back foot pressure – moves to the inside, and
  • Stride foot pressure – moves to the outside.

Mickey Mantle is also most certainly picking up his stride foot and leading with his hip forward.  Just pick out a point of reference in the background, and track how far his hip moves forward.  He’s effectively ‘un-weighting’ his bat, or getting a “head start”, to make the transfer of linear momentum into angular (or rotational) easier.

And we can clearly see the Javelin Thrower, Jan Železný, using forward momentum sprinting down the track before slinging his “arrow” A LONG WAY.

 

The Catapult Loading System

The ‘Springy X Pattern’ I developed through reading the book Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.  Watch the following FunctionalPatterns YouTube video of Thomas Myers talking about the concept of Tensegrity, or Tension Integrity:

It’s the idea that there are compression and tension forces acting within the body at all times.  In the Mickey Mantle video, I talk about imagining a big ‘X’ on his chest and back…connecting one shoulder to the opposite hip.  The fascial lines are a little more complicated than this, but let’s take a general look at how this works…

When Mickey Mantle pre-loads his torso – before turning – we see his lead shoulder come down and in towards his back hip (one leg of the ‘X’ shortens), while the rear shoulder and front hip move away from each other (other leg of the ‘X’ lengthens).  And the reverse is true on the backside.

This is evidenced by tracking his LEFT shoulder:

  • Pre-loads DOWN before Final Turn,
  • Unloads UP during the Final Turn, and finally
  • Reverses DOWN during the follow through to decelerate rotation.

CLICK HERE for an interesting article titled “Muscle Power Golf?!…NOT!” by Kelvin Miyahira (big thanks to Stephen Lowe for the link).  It talks about how the swing – whether we’re talking baseball/softball or golf – IS NOT about activating fast twitch muscle fibers, but engaging the springy fascia.  It’s a rant that I wish I did FIRST!!

 

Interesting Factoids & Resources from Mickey Mantle YouTube Viewer Comments

  • Marie Louise Hunnicutt book recommendation – Baseball’s Ultimate Power: Ranking The All-Time Greatest Distance Home Run Hitters by Bill Jenkinson

  • Gabriel Pennington – “Mantle’s massive strength came from blue collar work, swinging a sledgehammer in a lead mine (on top of freakish genetics). Couple that with the workman mentality of your best never being good enough and you have a lethal combination for an athlete.”
  • koryguns“3.1 seconds to first. Legend has it when he was a rookie in 1951 they decided to have a foot race among the team. Mantle beat everybody like they were standing still, puked, and apologized to Stengel for being out of shape.

Any other Mickey Mantle stories, facts, or book recommendations on him?  Please share in the comments below… (THANKS in advance!!)

How to Become a Hitting Expert When You Come Across “That Guy” (Baseball Hitting Drills For Youth Included)

So, this is what I have to deal with on a weekly basis…

I also want to apologize in advance, this is a little bit of a rant.

Before going into the baseball hitting drills for youth, here’s some context,

It all started when I posted this image of Buster Posey in his ‘Float’ position on Twitter (CLICK HERE for Twitter thread):

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The caption I put over the Twitter image stated: “Hitting Misconception: ‘Keep the back knee inside the foot’. Buster Posey is ‘floating’ with his knee over ankle…”

This is when my conversation with @13tys started…

@13tys: his knee is inside his foot! No?

@hitperformlab (Me): nope, knee floating slightly off center of ankle.

@13tys: just showed the same pic to my 11yr old and asked him, reply “are you stupid? His knee is inside his ankle”.

(This is when I get the feeling that I was dealing with “that guy”)

@hitperformlab: he’s kind of bias don’t you think? Lol

@13tys: just showed the pic and asked. I usually use my 9 and 11 yr olds to call a spade a spade. They don’t know baseball politics.

@hitperformlab: it’s not the ideal angle, I’ll find another. You believe in keeping the knee inside at all costs?

@13tys: you don’t have to, but the further back it goes, the tougher u make hitting. Already tough enough w/o that much movement!

@hitperformlab: C’mon man! Had to prove to your 10yo I’m not “stupid” lol. Just did simple Google image search.

(Here are the two images of Buster Posey I posted to the baseball hitting drills for youth Twitter thread)...

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: www.BayAreaSportsGuy.com

AND

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: InWriteField.com

@13tys: still, we are looking at the same thing and seeing different things. To me, that knee is still not on top of the ankle.

(by the way, in the beginning of our Twitter conversation, I said “knee floating slightly off center of ankle”)…

@hitperformlab: let me get my 2 year old to comment on your comment lol

@hitperformlab: Posey is creating torque in his back hip. Also depends on the severity of the leg kick, Posey’s is about medium…hope this helps

@13tys: creating torque?? Seriously? This is y kids are so confused by their “hitting coaches” #keepitsimple

(Then like the “good American citizen” he is, posts a screenshot of the definition of “Torque”)…

@hitperformlab: I’m talking to you, not to kids. Read Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book The Supple Leopard.

@13tys: sorry, My experience and knowledge come from yrs in cages & video w/ the best hitters ever, some come from books on crossfit

@hitperformlab: book that’ll rock you’re isolated hitting world? Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.

(Then there was radio silence…)

FIRST of all, if spending years in the cages AND analyzing video of the best hitters ever, magically made you know EVERYTHING you need to know about effective hitting, then we wouldn’t have the problem we do today with guys like this, coming up with effective baseball hitting drills for youth hitters.

“That guy” is a soaked sponge, and has reached his ceiling of knowledge when it comes to hitting.

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Alex Rodriguez Barrel Down

Baseball hitting drills for youth: Alex Rodriguez NOT keeping barrel above hands like he said. Photo courtesy: NewsDay.com

If experience, cage work, and analysis were the only standard of learning the swing, then we’d all have to accept what Alex Rodriguez shared about the secret to his swing during the 2015 World Series FOX Sports broadcast…

How he talked about keeping the barrel above his hands when hitting.  And we ALL know how well that little tip would help our hitters 😛

And SECOND, this “talking down to you” TWEETitude, is a sure sign of an inferior coach, nevertheless, a knucklehead for a human being.

Slightly off topic…

Read this Business Insider article titled, “4 behaviors are the most reliable predictors of divorce”.

Guess which one of the ‘4 horsemen of the apocalypse’ is the worst offender in marriages…

CONTEMPT (aka, the “talking down to you” attitude).

Okay, back on topic…

Look, if we as coaches don’t have a solid foundation in human movement principles, validated by science, then we’re pissing in the wind!  Without this foundation, conversations about hitting would model a Merry-Go-Round.  Many of you have experienced this ridiculous insanity in popular online hitting forums.

Look at this slow motion video of Buster Posey.  Look at the difference of the back knee position (over the ankle, slightly off center) at the 0:03 video mark, versus at the 0:09 video mark during the fall forward…

Here’s the holdup with hitting coaches, even ones I agree with on a majority of things,

They think that the back knee MUST stay inside the foot at ALL times.  So, they teach ALL their hitters to do this, often putting the hitter’s back knee in an unnatural and awkward position before Forward Momentum.

If you think this knee position is healthy, then CLICK HERE to learn how bad putting the knee into a ‘knee valgus’ position is to our youth athletes from FunctionalMovement.com.

In addition,

These same instructors may also suggest and teach there hitters that when the back knee gets over the ankle, that it’s a BAD thing.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The shifting of the knee back over the ankle should have a purpose.  A couple baseball hitting drills for youth concepts:

  1. A timing mechanism that I like to call the ‘Float’, AND
  2. Creating torque, or stability, in the back hip.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #1: Using the ‘Float’

A ‘Float’ is a timing mechanism the hitter uses just before falling forward.  It generally can be observed as a slight weight shift back towards the catcher before falling forward.

With the ‘Float’, the severity of the knee shift will depend on the leg kick.  The higher the leg kick, the more the shifting of the knee over the ankle may have to happen.

For example, Willie Mays didn’t have much of a weight shift (or Float) back, he just fell forward with a slide step:

However, watch slow motion video of Josh Donaldson, who has a high leg kick, and you’ll see him virtually ‘pause’ on one leg, before his fall forward:

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #2: Creating Hip Torque & Stability

Okay, so what is creating torque to stabilize the back hip mean?  Let Dr. Kelly Starrett, Physical Therapist and owner of San Francisco CrossFit, at MobilityWOD.com explain its importance:

Here’s a baseball hitting drills for youth coaching cue that I use…

Borrowed from Dr. Kelly Starrett, I say to my hitters “screw the back ankle into the foot”.  I also advise them to point the back toe slightly inward towards the pitcher at setup, and to keep it there while screwing the ankle in.  The keyword is slight, not a lot.

Take a look at this video of Jose Bautista fouling a ball off, and watch how he ‘bows’ his back knee in, but at about the 0:06 second mark (when he begins his fall forward), the back knee starts to shift back towards the catcher…his back hip and thigh bone are searching for stability after being put in an unstable internally rotated (knee valgus) position at setup:

Now, CLICK HERE to watch this video clip of Ted Williams, and keep an eye on the back knee action between the 0:06-0:15 video mark.  Sorry, this YouTuber disabled the embed code so I couldn’t embed the video here.

What did arguably one of the best hitters of all time do with his back knee prior to Forward Momentum.  Boy, didn’t it shift back over the ankle?!

How about this homerun hit by Asdrubal Cabrera (watch the slow motion chest view at the 0:41 second mark)…

One more video…

Check out Matt Kemp.  As you can see, he starts with his back knee inside his foot, then watch for his back knee action prior to Forward Momentum:

Now, is this making baseball hitting drills for youth more complicated, like Mr. @13tys said?

Heck no!  It takes about 5 to 10-mins to explain to my 7-year-old hitters, and they begin applying it in their swings.  Easy peasy.

So after looking at all this, here’s the point of my baseball hitting drills for youth rant…

Don’t get caught up drinking the cool-aid of other hitting experts, blowhards, or “That Guy” without questioning what they’re saying.  Remember, we aren’t just observers.  We’re amateur scientists in a way.

I don’t claim to know it all.  And am still learning.  But I know for a fact, I’m on a better road than “That Guy”.

Look, I don’t mind being challenged, but if you don’t back up what you’re saying with human movement principles, that are validated by science, then you’ll lose.  We aren’t debating baseball hitting drills for youth philosophies or theories…we analyze through the lens of validated science.  Physics, Engineering, Bodywork, Biology, Chemistry, and Biomechanics.

I DO NOT care what level you played or coached at.

I DO NOT care if you’ve digested a million hours of slow motion video footage of only the BEST hitters.

I also DO NOT care if you’ve logged more hitting lesson hours than it takes to fly to Mars!!

If you don’t understand the human movement “rules”, then you DO NOT understand high level hitting, or better yet, high level human performance.

I know this may upset some of you out there.  But I don’t care.  The days of being “That Guy” are numbered.  If you aren’t moving with us, then you’ll be left behind.  And that’s the truth.

What Everybody Ought to Know About Softball Batting Drills for Power…

 

Softball Batting Drills For Power: The "Back Eye" Test

“Back Eye” Test – after “showing his numbers” to the pitcher, can Andrew McCutchen still pick up the ball with his back eye? Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This softball batting drills for power “Hit-Bit”, or hitting tid-bit, is an answer to questions from my readers when I asked them, “If you could have a private conversation with me, what two questions would you ask?”  The answers are meant to be short, actionable, and tips you can use today.

Today’s Hit-Bit answers the reader questions:

“How much can your shoulders turn on the load? Do you transfer all your weight to the front leg at sometime during the forward swing?”

We’ll talk about:

  1. The shoulder load & the “back eye” test,
  2. Weight transfer & the ‘Float’, and
  3. Weight transfer & the ‘Free-Fall’…

 

The Shoulder Load & “Back Eye” Test

I often relate the Goldilocks Golden Rule with my hitters.  Some movements we can do too much.  Some not at all.  We want to practice softball batting drills for power, such as loading the torso, “just right”.  And to make sure our hitters do this, in the video, I demonstrate the “back eye” test.

 

Weight Transfer & The ‘Float’

The “Float”, or as some call it a “negative move”, is a movement back towards the catcher before shifting the hitter’s body weight forward during the stride.  It’s a timing mechanism.  Hitter’s use different kinds of Floats: High, Medium, and Low Leg Kicks & Toe Taps.  See link below for different examples of this…

 

Weight Transfer & the ‘Free-Fall’

For the definitive guide to the Free-Fall, or Forward Momentum, Click the following HPL post link: Baseball Batting Techniques: Simple Way To Use Forward Momentum That Works For Elite Hitters.

Please comment below with any questions or comments about this video post…

Forward Momentum: Tinker & Test Baseball Batting Techniques

Baseball Batting Techniques: Dustin Pedroia and Forward Momentum

Dustin Pedroia, the King of FoMo. Photo courtesy: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In this baseball batting techniques post, we’ll talk about how elite MLB sluggers employ Forward Momentum (FoMo for short).

I’m going to answer the following questions from my readers:

  1. Does a hitter transfer all their weight to the front leg at some point in the swing?
  2. Does FoMo stride need to be big or small?
  3. Does the back foot “follow” the front with FoMo?
  4. Can a wide no-stride hitter utilize Forward Momentum?
  5. Are FoMo hitters more vulnerable to off speed and breaking stuff?

Keep in mind, forward momentum is the objective, and in this baseball batting techniques post, I’ll show different elite hitter examples of forward momentum.  The important thing isn’t what you use to get Forward Momentum, it’s the Forward Momentum itself.

Let’s get to it…

 

Does a hitter transfer all their weight to the front leg at some point in the swing?

Yes.  With elite sluggers, it’s rare you don’t find them shifting their weight from back to forward.  We typically see one of a few baseball batting techniques associated with FoMo: 1) a “Float”, or a slight weight shift back, then 2) a “Free Fall” forward.

And FYI during the Float, yes it’s okay for the back knee to drift over the foot, and NOT have to unnaturally be ‘shoved’ inside it.

You’ll see the following hitters, who try and start with the back knee inside the back foot (Jose Bautista), will accidently float the knee back out before falling forward.

The dead give away of elite hitters shifting their weight is to look at the weight distribution at impact.  You’ll see a weight-free back leg at the start of the turning pelvis…

Andrew “Cutch” McCutchen

Troy “Tulo” Tulowitzki

Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista

Does FoMo stride need to be big or small?

Whatever the hitter is comfortable with.  In other words, don’t be so specific in teaching certain Forward Momentum baseball hitting techniques.  Remember, the objective is that they’re employing Forward Momentum.  We don’t really care how they get there.

Feel free to recommend your hitters tinker with and test the following FOUR stride types:

Josh “The Bringer of Rain” Donaldson (BIG Leg Kick)

Dustin “Laser Show” Pedroia (MEDIUM Leg Kick)

Robinson “Mercedes” Cano (SMALL Leg Kick/Slide Step)

Victor Martinez (Toe Tap)

Does the back foot “follow” the front with FoMo?

It doesn’t have to, but I like it too.  If a hitter gets too wide with the stride, and the back foot isn’t allowed to follow, then the hitter will have a challenge getting a tight back knee angle, which is responsible for a better ball launch angle.  CLICK HERE for the back knee angle Zepp experiment.

Roberto “The Great One” Clemente (watch at the 0:33 mark and beyond)

Mike “Millville Meteor” Trout

Bryce “Bam Bam” Harper

CLICK HERE for one of my favorite baseball batting techniques, the Back Foot Variance Drill.

Can a wide no-stride hitter utilize Forward Momentum?

Here are my questions for a coach who would ask this about baseball batting techniques:

  • “Why are you hooked on being so wide with the feet at the start, and/or not allowing a stride?…”
  • “Is it about minimizing head movement?”
  • “Is it cutting down on moving parts?”
  • “Is it a timing thing?”

Coaches on Facebook have told me, the stride is too hard to teach, or for a young hitter to get.  Apparently this poison was shared during a speech at the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) conference.

I’m not convinced, especially when 3-year-old Chinese females are learning some of the most complex human movements in Gymnastics.

Furthermore,

Look to other explosive athletes that almost NEVER start wide with their feet:

  • Pitchers,
  • Olympic Divers,
  • Olympic Throwers,
  • Soccer Players,
  • Quarterbacks, Linebackers, and Deep Backs…

Sometimes, it’s not about choosing particular baseball batting techniques.  It’s a mindset.  I always stress to my hitters, get athletic from the start, and be athletic when you land, so you can transfer the max amount of energy from your body, into the barrel, then to the ball.

About head movement, it’s going to happen. CLICK HERE for a compelling baseball batting techniques analysis by Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs.com, that demystifies that elite hitters are keeping their head still (Read under “Keep Your Head Still” section).

If it’s about timing, then it’s the timing that must be adjusted.  There are only two timing elements:

  1. When the hitter starts their swing, and
  2. How long they ‘Float’.

A hitter can change one or the other, or both.  It’s up to them.

Those are the adjustments, it’s not a “stride issue”.  CLICK HERE for my favorite baseball batting techniques for timing.

Even big guys use Forward Momentum.  It just looks more subtle…coming in the form of a ‘sliding’ of the pelvis (Cruz and Pujols are great examples of this below)…

Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera

Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz

Albert “The Machine” Pujols

 

Are FoMo hitters more vulnerable to off speed and breaking stuff?

This is common issue #2 that coaches have with Forward Momentum, a hitter cannot adjust to breaking or off-speed stuff.

I invite you to look at the following sluggers who use FoMo, and their stats don’t reveal they had trouble adjusting to off speed and breaking stuff:

All these hitters had exceptional power, high averages, low strikeouts, and high walks compared to today’s hitters.

Last but certainly not least…

David “Big Papi” Ortiz

And how about Big Papi?  Why wouldn’t we mention him, right?! He just hit his 500th career homer!  He starts and finishes in the same spot, but there’s a whole lot of FoMo going on in-between:

 

In Conclusion

When it comes to baseball batting techniques, Forward Momentum is the objective.  How we get our hitters there doesn’t really matter.  Just give them examples of how to accomplish more FoMo, and allow them to tinker and test until they find something they’re comfortable with doing.

CLICK HERE to Enter for a chance to Win one free account access to The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power online video course (a $77 value).  You have until 12:00pm PST today to enter.  To better your chances of winning, you can spread the word on social media.  I’ll be picking the winner Monday, September 21st, and reaching out via email.  Good luck! 😀

Contest UPDATE: this contest is now closed, and Jon Ball was our winner!