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Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics: Hit Top Part Of Cage? Or Back Part?

 

 

In this Albert Pujols hitting mechanics talk, some questions Pujols and Harold Reynolds answer:

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics

Albert Pujols & Harold Reynolds Interview, MLB Network 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

  • Hitting ball off same spot off tee or vary?
  • Dangers of a purely opposite field approach…
  • When is using ‘hands inside the ball’ okay?
  • Hit top part of the cage of the back?
  • How many swings until you should take a break to reflect?
  • Inside pitch barrel path: is it different than away?
  • Should hitter get “taller” to hit a high pitch?

Make sure you watch the 8-minute 30-Clubs in 30-Days Albert Pujols interview on grooving his swing, before diving into my notes.  I time stamped the above video for quick and easy reference…

  • At the 0:10 second mark,  tsk, tsk…notice Harold Reynolds isn’t following the 4-foot social distancing rule!! (for those watching this well after the craziness of the Coronavirus has passed – lol).  
  • At the 0:30 second mark, interesting Pujols talks about building a consistent swing, hitting off the tee in one spot.  He references variance training with some hitting coaches moving the ball up and down, in and out.  I do agree with him, but it depends on the end result.  If you’re just introducing a new hitting mechanic, then keep the tee in one spot.  If you’re looking to deeply embed a well worn hitting mechanic, then variance or chaos training is key.
  • At the 0:45 second mark, Albert Pujols talks about setting tee up slightly off center of the plate towards outer part.  He likes to work gap to gap and not force or push the ball to right field.  He mentions if he focuses too much on right field, then he gets under the ball too much.
  • At the 1:30 minute mark, Pujols dispels the myth of “staying inside the ball”.  He says of course you’re inside the ball…you don’t see hitters EVER getting their hands outside the ball.  ‘Hands inside the ball’ can be a great cue for those hitters doing the opposite – casting barrel early.  It’s not a perfect cue, but may work in some cases.  Then to throw gas on the fire, he mentions ‘knob to the ball’.  Real v. Feel.  There’s a reason you keep hearing this kind of stuff from guys like Pujols, A-Rod, and Bonds.  It has to do with top hand dominance and pronation.  We call it the “wrist snap”.
  • At the 2:00 minute mark, Albert Pujols talks about working on the liner, not trying to hit the top part of the cage. He picks a spot in the cage he wants the ball to travel.  External cue.  He wants the ball to come off the bat as high as the tee is set.  Harold brings up that some people are teaching to hit the top of the cage (I used to be one of them!!).  But Albert plays the politician and comments that he doesn’t want to say what those coaches are doing is wrong, but that he wouldn’t teach that.  And right now, I’d agree with him.
  • At the 3:00 minute mark, Harold asked Pujols if there’s a rhythm to working on gapping the ball, and Pujols says he tries to hit 3 or 4 in a row, then take a break to reflect on the feeling.  He tries not to rush when working out.  He tries to take his time.  Process what he just did.  Great advice!
  • At 4:00 minute mark, Harold asks Albert about his inside approach.  How to hit the inside pitch.  Watch how Pujols demos his barrel path to get to it … barrel above hands?  This Adam Eaton video reveals the same thing.  Interesting huh?  We call this knocking the “belly button” catcher’s glove off.  He says he’s just reacting to the inside pitch.  Typically, he’s looking out over the plate.  He doesn’t try to focus on one area of the plate.  He looks middle, then adjusts in or out from there.  Definitely works for Albert.  And Mike Schmidt also talked about it in his book the “Mike Schmidt Study”. Only downside is when pitchers start using EV tunnels Perry Husband talks about.  It’s easier to cover middle in/out/up/down (50% of the plate), based on pitcher’s pattern.  Obviously, this is more effective the better the pitcher is.
  • At 5:00 minute mark, in the above Albert Pujols hitting mechanics video, Pujols talks about keeping his shoulders “square” or keep front shoulder pointing at “400-foot” mark in straight center.  Not to close shoulders off.  Albert never really did ‘show numbers’ much, but he does a lot of other things right.
  • At 6:00 minute mark, Pujols talks about not getting “taller” to get to the pitch up in the zone, but to stay sink down and use hands to get to it.  Again demonstrates keeping barrel above hands.  We talk about getting shorter and staying shorter.  And middle in, middle up pitches are addressed by knocking off belly button catcher’s glove or telling hitter to keep barrel above hands.  Real v. Feel.  Now, this isn’t actually what’s going to happen.  The result of this hitting cue is a tighter, shorter, more compact barrel path.  Much needed closer the ball is to the hitter or the eyes.  He talks about using his legs to get to pitches down in the zone.

Getting Under The Ball Like Stephen Vogt – A Baseball Swing Plane Experiment

 

Baseball Swing Plane: Stephen Vogt

August 2014  Stephen Vogt (21) hits a solo home run. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Vogt side note: CLICK HERE to watch video of him doing referee impersonations, he’s apparently known for, on Intentional Talk.  That’s Johnny Gomes in the background 😀

Question: Can the Back Leg Angle Affect Ball Flight During the Final Turn?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze the effect the back leg angle has on ground balls, line drives, and fly balls.

Background Research

Two posts I’ve written that talk about the back leg angle:

In the above posts, pay particular attention to what Homer Kelly says about Knee Action.

As of the beginning of May 2015, Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics, is ranked 2nd overall in OPS at 1.179 (according to MLB.com’s sortable stats).  Can he hold this up all year?  Maybe, maybe not.  But the metrics I’m about to reveal have a solid base in his back leg angle mechanics.

He has a very distinct back leg angle during the Final Turn and follow through (see image above).  Here’s how his metrics stacks up over four seasons, against the league average (according to FanGraphs.com):

  • Ground ball% – Stephen Vogt (32.6%), League Average (44%)
  • Line Drive% – Stephen Vogt (20.7%), League Average (20%)
  • Fly Ball% – Stephen Vogt (46.6%), League Average (36%)
  • Home-run/Fly-ball Ratio – Stephen Vogt (10%), League Average (9.5%)

So he’s well below the league average in ground-balls, slightly higher in line drives, and has  a 0.5% higher home-run to fly-ball percentage.  The latter meaning what percentage of his fly-balls go over the fence.  Lastly, as you can clearly see, Stephen Vogt has an above average fly-ball percentage.  Remember, fly-balls aren’t always bad.  Most times, they’re more productive than ground-balls in sacrificing runners over or bringing them in to score.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above research and with my own experience, I think that having the back leg angle bent in an “L” (or 90-degree angle) during the Final Turn and follow through will produce more elevated line drives and fly balls.  Whereas a straighter back leg angle (closer to 180-degrees) will produce more low level line drives and ground balls.

 

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: “Staying Low”

Babe Ruth Hand-Tension Experiment Setup

Here was how I setup the experiment “work station”

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers = my bat length, plus two baseballs
  • Distance from plate = end of the bat touching inside corner of plate, and knob of bat touching my mid-thigh.
  • Tee was set slightly behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh.
  • First 100 baseballs were hit with a 90-degree back leg angle during the Final Turn and follow through.
  • Second 100 baseballs were hit a straighter back leg angle (about 170-degrees) during the Final Turn and follow through.

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App Screenshots):

Baseball Swing Plane Zepp Experiment: "Staying Low"

Fig.1: Here are the averages of both sessions. Pay particular attention to the “Bat Vertical Angle at Impact” and “Attack Angle” preferences…

According to the Zepp app user guide, let’s define the following terms:

  • Bat Vertical Angle at Impact – This is the Vertical angle (Up or Down) measured in degrees, of your bat barrel in relation to the knob of the bat, when it makes impact with the ball.
  • Attack Angle – Attack Angle is the direction the bat barrel is moving (Up or Down) at impact. A positive number would mean your barrel is going UP at impact, zero is LEVEL and a negative number is the barrel going DOWN at impact.

Check out the ground-ball, line drive, and fly-ball comparison:

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: Ball Flight

Fig.2: Check out the difference in ball flight between the two sessions. Pay particular attention to the ground-ball percentages.

Data Analysis & Conclusion

I wasn’t paying too much attention to bat and hand speed on this experiment.  I only focused on the metrics indicating a change in ball flight.

  • Attack angle had a 3-degree difference according to Fig.1.
  • Bat Vertical Angle at Impact also had a 3-degree difference according to Fig.1.
  •  27% difference in ground-ball% according to Fig.2.
  • 24% difference in fly-ball% according to Fig.2.

Notes

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: Cage Labels

This were the rules I used for ball flight in the cage during the Experiment.

  • Here’s a picture (image to the right) of the cage I hit in and the labels for each batted ball outcomes.
  • I’m not sure why the Bat Vertical Angle at Impact was larger for the “Straight Back Knee”.  Maybe it had to do with my back knee starting bent towards impact, but then the barrel compensated by “pulling up” to accommodate the straightening back knee.  This disturbance in the pitch plane is NO bueno.
  • I found myself reverting back to old habits (Bent Back Knee) during the Straight Back Knee session.  There were at least a dozen balls I hit that had more bend than I wanted during that session.
  • During the “Bent Back Knee” session, about 65% of my fly-balls were “shots”, and didn’t hit the back of the cage to be considered a line drive.
  • I find with small sluggers like Stephen Vogt bend their back knee between 90-105 degrees during the Final Turn.  With fastpitch softball, the angle of the back knee isn’t quite so drastic because of the reduced plane of the pitch.  If I can get my softball players to be 105-120 degrees with the back knee angle, then I’m happy.

 

In Conclusion

So the back knee angle during the Final Turn does have a significant impact on ball flight.  More bend equals, more airtime for the ball.  I’ve seen Little Leaguers to Pro hitters straightening out their back legs.  And they often wonder why they aren’t driving the ball.

In terms of driving the ball like Stephen Vogt, think of the back leg angle as angling your body like a “ramp”.  Also, take a look at smaller sluggers (6’0″, 225-lbs on down) like: Adrian Beltre, Stephen Vogt, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Andrew McCutchen as great examples of back knee bend.