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How To Become A Line Drive Hitting Machine When Focusing On “Miss” Quality Control (Perry Husband & Joey Myers Facebook LIVE Jam Session #1/6)

 

Here’s the Hitting Jam Session Interview Collection with Perry Husband:

  1. [YOU ARE HERE] Why You Should Not Teach Hitters To Hit Homers?
  2. What’s The Biggest Mistake Coaches Make In Boosting Ball Exit Speeds
  3. How To Make Teaching Proper Weight Shift In Swing More Understandable To Hitter
  4. Teach: How To STOP Hitting Excess Of Ground-balls & Fly-balls
  5. COMING NEXT WEEK
  6. COMING IN TWO WEEKS

Here’s what we discuss in Hitting Jam Session #1:

  • Formal Introductions,Perry Husband & Joey Myers FB Jam Session #1
  • Carlos Pena and Boston Red Sox hitting coach phone conversation for segment on MLB Now Show,
  • Bro-Science v. REAL Science,
  • How to know who/what to follow,
  • Demystifying Launch Angles, and
  • Q&A…

You can also CLICK HERE to view the original video and comments from the Jam Session on Facebook.

 

Show Notes

  • At about the 3-minute mark, Perry Husband shares a phone conversation he had with Carlos Pena and Boston Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers about Effective Velocity (EV) tunnels from a hitter’s perspective (watch Liquid Analytic videos to MLB Now segments below)
  • At about 5-min, 30-secs mark, cool swing experiment Perry did with Tim Hyers in the past, showing how same speed pitch “appears” faster or slower depending on location in the zone, and how this disrupts a hitter’s reactionary timing (aka hitter’s “attention”).  Gear hitters to a speed, they focus on that speed – changing it causes hitters to be early or late.
  • At about 12-min, 30-min mark, the basic idea of Liquid Analytics, and how to look at pitchers through EV “eyes” we can get hitters to understand the best approach against certain pitchers.  How pitchers adapt to changes to hitter’s approach, it’s like a Chess game, approaches can shift and change multiple times throughout the game, and how to use Liquid Analytics to make these changes predictable.
  • At about 15-min mark, we talk about sabotaging hitting coaches who have no clue how to counter EV by releasing EV 101, 202, and 303 to pitchers.  This will take a couple years for younger pitchers to catch up.  Our hitters will have the anecdote.  2018 World Series was a great picture of a team using EV on both sides of the ball (Red Sox), and a team that really wasn’t (Dodgers).  Any hitting approach right now will get away with murder, but when pitchers get EV efficient, most approaches that don’t take EV into account will die off.
  • At about 20-min mark, Perry using the football cornerback analogy to explain EV tunnels and where hitters tend to stay when it comes to timing pitches.
  • At about 22-min mark, what is the main operating system you’re teaching your hitters? Decrease strikeouts? Hit homers?  Increase Batting Average?  Hard Hit Contact %?  Every drill, teach, hitting aid, etc. will lift up the main operating system, example of the early armbar teach in mechanics.
  • At about 25-min mark, these Jam Sessions are an experiment in themselves, what you’re doing right now may be working, but someone somewhere is doing it better, how to find out what “optimizing” hitters looks like, tinker and test, tinker and test, Growth Mindset v. Fixed Mindset, swing experimentation, REAL Science v. “bro-science”, Scientific Method: question, hypothesis, research & study, collect data (experiment), conclusion, is data Science? Jam Sessions going forward…
  • At about 31-min 30-sec mark, Perry starts talk on Launch Angles, Jay Bell experiment (at 10-degree Launch Angle), hit center of circular target at about 10-feet to measure Launch Angles, early or late hitter pulls or pushes the ball away from the center of the target, more ground-balls – hitting ball later in the swing arc, pop-fly – hitting ball earlier in the swing arc, comparing 9 possible golf shots to hitting, precision in golf.
  • At about 36-minute mark, ranking 10 swings off a tee using the circular target, how many times hit the target, measuring precision how often swing line is inline with pitch, hitter is going to miss more than they hit it good, Aaron Judge 75% of his one-rep swing max a majority of the time, it’s not about hitting it perfect, it’s the quality of your misses.
  • At about 41-min mark, are ALL ground-balls bad? 100-mph+ GB’s equals batting over .500 at the Big League levels, take out ground-ball hits and Donaldson hits .205, it’s about maxing out the Ground-balls, 90-mph fly-balls – how many guys hit .400? zero.  Did you know MLB skews data on fly-balls by adding line drives in the formula.
  • At about 45-min mark, I talk with my hitters about hitting the ball back through the “tube” that it came from, roughly misses are 40% up, 20% on a line, and 40% are down, trying to hit fly-balls causes more ground-balls?  Base your hitter’s operating system on the Jay Bell 10-degree Launch Angle, -5-degrees to 25-degrees highest exit velocities – keep misses within 10-degrees above or below the 10-degree line, extreme up Launch Angles will create a big hole in the swing for EV-minded pitchers to exploit, it’s about the “miss”
  • At about 50-min mark, we finish with Q&A…

Where you can find more about Perry Husband:

  1. HittingIsAGuess.com use discount code: EV25 for 25% OFF
  2. Twitter: @EVPerryHusband

 

Liquid Analytics Show Segments Discussed in this Jam Session

 

 

How Your Central Hitting “Operating System” May Be Causing You To Lose Out On Scoring More Runs

How To Maximize A Hitter's Contribution To Run Scoring Process  

Photo courtesy: MopUpDuty.com

Recently, I had a conversation with a coach on Facebook who thought the following quote from Josh Donaldson was “horrible advice”:

“If you’re 10-years-old and your coach tells you to get on top of the ball…tell him NO.”

I’m not getting into the positive or negative of Donaldson’s statement, but the coach’s responses that followed his “horrible advice” comment got me thinking.  Come to find out, the loud and clear message was this coach despises when hitters strikeout. Often referring to this offensive outcome as “disgusting”.  What was interesting was this one principle was central to how and what he teaches his hitters.

So I wanted to do a hitting “operating system” thought experiment.  In reading what follows, please keep in mind what the main objective to offense is, according to FanGraphs.com

“In baseball [or softball], we care about run scoring (and prevention) and so when looking at offensive statistics, we want to find statistics that tell you something about how much a player contributes to the run scoring process…again, we care about a player’s contribution to run scoring and if you treat everything equally you’re not getting a very accurate measure of those contributions.” 

In this thought experiment, we’ll discuss…as a hitting instructor, what would happen if:

  • The Time To Impact Metric was Central to the “Operating System”?
  • Minimizing a Hitter’s Strikeouts were Central to the “Operating System”?
  • Maximizing Batting Average were Central to the “Operating System”? And,
  • Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

Now, that being said…as a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

The Time To Impact Metric was Central to the “Operating System”? 

If you’re new to this term, here’s the definition of Time To Impact according to Zepp:

“TIME TO IMPACT is the amount of time (in seconds) from the start of the downswing until impact of the bat with the ball. The closer to ZERO your swing is, the quicker your bat is to the ball. The faster the time to impact, the longer the hitter can wait to start the swing. Time to Impact also measures how short a player’s swing is. Time to Impact measures their coordination of both their hand and the bat barrel to maximize swing efficiency to the ball.”

CLICK HERE for amateur, High School, and Pro ranges for both baseball and softball.  What would be the top 2-3 priority hitting concepts guided by this principle?

  1. Point-A to B barrel path (shortest distance between two points). Default hitting strategy would be “Knob to the ball”.  “Swing down”. “Barrel above the hands”.
  2. Most likely using more linear elements in the swing for both upper and lower half (i.e. ‘showing numbers’ will be a no-no).  Maybe similar to a Charlie Lau style of hitting.
  3. Minimalist view of the swing…wide feet, no stride, minimal hand and head movement, etc.  May not believe a hitter can train timing, so the view is that it’s all about bettering the hitter’s reaction time.

Look, there’s a healthy range for Time To Impact, not taking too long, and not being so quick the barrel is not in the impact zone long enough.  You can see that range in the previous Zepp link.  Remember, we want to formulate hitting principles that encourage how to maximize a player’s contribution to the run scoring process 

Moving on,

As a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

Minimizing a Hitter’s Strikeouts were Central to the “Operating System”? 

What if you despised hitters striking out so much, you often referred to this outcome as “disgusting”, like our coaching friend above.  What would be the top 2-3 priority concepts guided by this principle?

  • Protecting hitters from swing and misses at all cost.  Very defensive just make contact swings, especially with 2-strikes.  May subscribe to barrel on plane of pitch early and stay on plane longer.  Less margin for error.
  • Believes in hitting ball hard and on a line.  However, low liners and ground-balls are preferred, especially with 2-strikes.  Don’t care as much about extra base hits, doubles maybe, but not homers.  They aren’t worth the risk.  Swings taught at the advent of astro turf fit this type of hitting perfectly.  Hard and on the ground.
  • Mechanics may look like: wide no-stride feet, bug squishing, minimal head movement from start of swing to finish, choking up (especially with two strikes).  Very defensive type of swing.  On board with boosting Ball Exit Speeds, but will not agree with optimizing Launch Angles.  Besides hitter strikeouts, this coach absolutely hates getting the ball in the air (too much of an out risk for them), unless it’s a low level line drive.  High batting average and low strikeouts are very important to this coach.

Listen, if this is you, I’d highly advise checking out this VERY popular post titled, “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground Balls”.  I’m not going into every argument here, but the math and geometry don’t lie in demonstrating ground-balls are gross.  The main reasons are:

  1. Ask any pitcher, and most (if not all) will tell you they’re taught to keep the ball down in the zone, to get the ground-ball.  So, if the default strategy – or safety net to the line-drive – is to hit ground-balls, then you’re teaching hitters to do what pitchers want them to do.
  2. Because of reason #1, there are 5 fielders on the infield (yes, the pitcher is considered a fielder) with less space to cover.  There are only 3 outfielders with A LOT of space to cover.  And lastly,
  3. Most double plays are turned on the infield (probably THE WORST hitting outcome in the sport), and if you’re pinning hopes and dreams on an infielder making an error or ball taking a weird bounce, then you’re focusing on things you can’t control.  High level coaches and players don’t think that way.  WHY? Because it’s silly.

Again, we want to formulate hitting principles that encourage how to maximize a player’s contribution to the run scoring process.  A defensive swing doesn’t do this. 

Next, as a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

 

Maximizing Batting Average were Central to the “Operating System”?

In Golf, precision is key.  The least strokes possible.  Being able to control the club head has a lot of value because one small deviation at impact is exponentially compounded hundreds of yards from the tee box.  The last hitter to hit .400 was Ted Williams in 1941.  Tony Gwynn came close in the strike shortened year of 1994, hitting .394, and hitting around .370 in three separate full seasons.  And Gwynn had a mere fraction of the power Williams did.

Before I get to what a hitting coach would focus on here, I wanted to address the elephant in the room.  In the day and age of Sabermetrics, Batting Average isn’t a useful statistic in deciding a player’s value.  In a FanGraphs post titled, “Stats to Avoid: Batting Average”, they put forth two reasons to avoid looking at BA as a useful metric:

  1. “Batting average ignores a segment of offensive actions just because they aren’t “hits,” and 100 years ago, someone decided a hit and a walk were fundamentally different.”  And,
  2. “The second major flaw is that batting average treats every hit equally even though certain hits are more valuable than others. Batting average treats a single and a double like the same thing, even though a hitter who only hit doubles would help his team score a lot more runs than a hitter who only hit singles.” 

That being said, maybe a better stat would be Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). Not the best, but better than BA.  FanGraphs.com defines BABIP as:

“Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) measures how often a ball in play goes for a hit. A ball is “in play” when the plate appearance ends in something other than a strikeout, walk, hit batter, catcher’s interference, sacrifice bunt, or home run.”

Okay, so what would be the top 2-3 priority concepts guided by this principle?

  • Getting on the plane of the pitch early with the barrel, and maximizing that time.
  • Place a high emphasis on barrel control, both horizontally (across the field) and vertically (optimizing Launch Angles).  The best hitters in the world can put the ball where they want, when they want, during batting practice.
  • This Joey Votto interview post describes this approach, it’s titled, “Joey Votto: Why Coaches SHOULD NOT Be Obsessed With Launch Angles”

I LOVE this approach, and I feel coaches have done a poor job of training their hitters in it in the past (including me).  Teaching hitters to hit the ball where they want, when they want.  Why can’t we have hitters in High School batting .600 to .800?  Or Little Leaguers hitting .880?  I know it can be done because I did it when I was 12yo, in addition to hitting 30+ homers.  Using Batting Average (BA), or better yet Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), is a great start to encourage how to maximize a player’s contribution to the run scoring process.

The challenge I have with it though, neither of the BA or BABIP metrics take walks and/or homers into account.  Remember “contribute to run scoring process”.  Which leads me to, as a hitting instructor, what would happen if…  

 

Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

Have you read the book MoneyBall by Michael Lewis, or watched the movie with Brad Pitt?  If you haven’t…THEN WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!!!!  lol, kidding.  OPS stands for On-Base Percentage PLUS Slugging Percentage.  There are better metrics, but this is a good one to start with if this is new to you.  FanGraphs.com defines it as:

“On-base Plus Slugging (OPS) is exactly what it sounds like: the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and their slugging percentage. Many sabermetricians don’t like OPS because it treats OBP as equal in value with SLG, while OBP is roughly twice as important as SLG in terms of its effect on run scoring (x1.8 to be exact). However, OPS has value as a metric because it is accepted and used more widely than other, more accurate statistics while also being a relatively accurate representations of offense.”

It’s one of the best metrics to formulate hitting principles that encourage how to maximize a player’s contribution to the run scoring process.  On-Base Percentage (OBP) measures how often a player gets on base.  And Slugging Percentage (Slug%) measures how many extra base hits a hitter hits.  ISO, or Isolated Slugging (aka “raw power”, takes singles out of the equation), is better than Slug%, but I don’t want to complicate matters. Remember, the object of this game is to get runners on, and knock’em in.

 Okay, so what would be the top 2-3 priority concepts guided by this principle?

  • High frequency of hitting the ball hard.  Increase Ball Exit Speed, or how fast the ball comes off the bat.  However high Ball Exit Speeds with low Launch Angles are no good.  A few years ago Giancarlo Stanton hit a ball 123.8-mph…on the ground, one-hopper to the second baseman…double play. Ouch.
  • Optimize launch angle range between 15 to 25 degrees.  This is the ideal line drive range, and optimizes batted ball distance.  Some hate talking about Launch Angles, but every batted ball has a launch angle, even bunts.
  • Mechanics that optimize both of these are key.  How do we optimize Ball Exit Speeds?  (Hint: that’s what Power Hitter 2.0: Engineering The Alpha does).  What mechanics optimize Launch Angles and hitting more line drives?  (Hint: that’s what The Pitch-Plane Dominator does).  And importantly, my hitters don’t sacrifice swing quality for power.  We get both!  My hitters lower their strikeouts, mis-hits, fly-balls, and gross ground-balls with these online video courses.

I think there’s success on whatever part of the spectrum coaches find themselves on.  However, what if you lived on a planet that used forks and knives to eat soup?  What would happen if an alien came down and surprised them with a spoon?  Teaching hitting is the same.  There may be thousands of ways to teach hitters, but one way is most effective.  What is that way?  Applying human movement principles validated by REAL science, NOT “because-I-said-so ‘bro-science'”, to hitting a ball.   Have a higher standard for your hitters.

We as coaches have to reverse engineer the our swing strategy based on what the game values, which are runs!  The more runs your team can score (and prevent), the more WINS you get.  Don’t lose sight of that coaches.

I’ve Lied To You for A Couple Years Now…Joey Votto On His 2018 Approach

 

The Josh Donaldson interview last year was awesome, but I think THIS interview with Joey Votto may be better.  It doesn’t have the same let-the-beast-out-of-cage feeling that Donaldson contributed, but I feel Votto gives us more of a glimpse into the true art of hitting.  What Votto shares confirms what my hitters have been working on this past off season…line drive barrel control.  Precision.

Look, I love teaching my hitters the process of how to increase Ball Exit Speeds and to get the ball off the ground (optimal Line Drive Launch Angles), but as Joey Votto says, it’s not the whole story.  And this is where I’ve been lying to you for a couple years.  Actually, not lying, just not sharing the whole story. 😉

Let me explain…

Joey Votto 2018 Hitting Approach

Joey Votto talking about controlling the line drive, setting goals like getting on base half the time, & using batted ball as feedback for future swing adjustments. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

My friend and professional golf instructor Lee Comeaux knows golf, and brought this idea of “precision” to my attention a few years back.  He understands springy fascia and the spinal engine, which is a PLUS.  Also, over the past few years he’s mentored his teenage daughter to hit .600 in Texas fast-pitch softball leagues.  But most importantly, he comes from a sport where precision is king.  Ask any golfer if they’re as obsessed about Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles like we are, and they’ll look at you as if a third eye grew in the middle of your forehead overnight.

What good is Ball Exit Speed if the ball is not going towards the hole?  And Launch Angles matter depending on the distance to the target.  And by the way, the angled club face kind of takes care of Launch Angles for golfers anyway.

Put yourself in a golf mindset for a moment.  Imagine thinking about hitting, like you would golf?  Precision.  In the above interview, Joey Votto mentions the best hitters can hit the ball where they want, when they want.   This may not be 100% true in games, but during Batting Practice most surely.  How many of your hitters can do that?  Not many of mine, but we’re working on it.

Precision.  This is not being talked about or taught in today’s baseball and softball circles.  How to control the line drive.  The height AND width of it.  Why are we so obsessed with the vertical aspect of the field and not the horizontal?  So many coaches out there believe a hitter can’t have power without sacrificing swing quality.  An increase in power doesn’t have to dampen Batting Average and/or increase a hitter’s Strikeouts.

Precision.  How to control the line drive.  It’s not easy, but it CAN be done.  Hitters CAN have a high Batting Average (even though BA isn’t a good indicator of value anymore, according to Sabermetrics), power numbers, and low strikeout totals.  And I think Joey Votto touched on what I feel is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here are the few key things to look out for in the above interview:

  • This idea of Precision. Controlling the line drive.
  • Setting hitting goals and reverse engineering purpose of the swing.
  • The idea of using a batted ball as feedback to make adjustments (not new for golfers btw).

Without further adieu, here are…

 

My Joey Votto Interview Notes on his 2018 Hitting Approach

  • About 0:20 second mark, Votto believes talking Launch Angles isn’t telling the whole story, how complete you are as a hitter, rebuts Josh Donaldson’s “ignore coach if he tells you to hit a ground-ball” comment, all fly-balls are not good fly-balls,
  • About 1:30 minute mark, Votto talks about how hitters like Donaldson, et al. can hit a ball with any trajectory to any part of the ballpark, he uses golfer with a bag of clubs metaphor, doing anything you want at anytime is the story we’re not telling, best hitters can do everything – he brings up Mike Trout (diverse array of skills),
  • About 3:00 minute mark, Eric Byrnes asked Votto how his approach has changed since coming into league in 2007, give away less pitches, anytime he takes a swing there’s intent or purpose to each swing (not being reckless), since he’s aging as a player, Votto isn’t able to make up for swing inefficiencies he could with a young athletic swing,
  • About 4:30 minute mark, Byrnes asks Votto how he is super-human with his walk to strikeout ratio when the league really doesn’t care about inflated K quantities, making a conscious effort to cut down on K’s, goals – looked to Sabermetrics to see how he could hit .340 or .350 last year and math said he had to strikeout a bit less, mentioned a few years prior his goal was to get on base half the time (OBP would = .500), chokes up, the “con” was it led to softer contact at times, ability to foul off tough pitches, buys a better pitch later in the AB, spreading out, seeing ball a little deeper,
  • About 6:50 minute mark, Votto was asked about how he has the highest batting average in his first AB, how important is starting game off with good momentum, separated each AB like it’s their own thing, focusing on one AB at a time, every single game over an entire season, sticking with plan in the long run, Jay Bruce “to hit homer, you have to miss homers”, focus on process,
  • About 8:40 minute mark, Byrnes asked Votto, “I have a 6yo boy at home, what’s the #1 thing you’d teach him about hitting?” Let the ball be your feedback.  Spending too much time on mechanics, ball is going straight in the air, ground-ball, in the air, is the ball coming off 4-seam, on a line with backspin, story about watching Albert Pujols with Cardinals on a line with backspin.

Ground-ball Hitting Approaches May Be Causing You To Lose Out On Producing MASSIVE Runs

Joey Votto: Plane of the Pitch

Joey Votto is one of the best at keeping his barrel on the plane of the pitch for a long time. Photo courtesy: RantSports.com

Now, before getting your panties in a bunch, let me start off by saying, the ONLY time ground-balls are okay, is for situational hitting scenarios. Other than that, ground-balls should be banned.

My friend and retired Major Leaguer Homer Bush, in his book Hitting Low In The Zone: A New Baseball Paradigm, uses Sabermetrics to show how hitters can hit .300 with consistent power, IF they can do two things consistently well:

  1. Elevate the low pitch, and
  2. Hit to ALL fields.

CLICK HERE for an interview I did with him here.

If you’re a Ground-ball Hitting Coach, then I address A LOT of your objections in this Ground-ball Rant post, which amassed over 5,400 LIKES on Facebook.

However, the biggest head scratcher for me is the fact that a large majority of pitching coaches around the nation teach their pitchers to keep the ball down in the zone.  WHY?  Because they want hitters striking the top half of the ball, which drives the ball into the ground.  Pitchers want hitters hitting ground-balls!  Then why are hitting coaches teaching hitters to hit the ball into the ground and/or swinging down on the ball?  By the way, the latter produces MORE “worm-burners”, NOT less.

I know, I know, these coaches point to terrible defenses at the lower levels or that there are no “bad hops” in the air, but where those arguments lose traction is:

  • What happens when you face a team with a better defense?  FACT: teams – at any level – that tend to end up in Championship games can play catch better than others.  And,
  • If you’re a coach pinning your “hopes” and “dreams” on the other team making an error or booting a ground-ball, then you’re teaching your players to control the uncontrollable.  No elite athlete or coach in their right mind – in any sport – focuses on uncontrollables.  This means you’re teaching an inferior model.

In this post, I wanted to share the growing MOUNTAIN of evidence being produced by Sabermetric sites, such as Beyond The Box Score, that are churning out, with increased frequency, Major League case study after case study showing that ground-ball hitting approaches are non-conducive to scoring MASSIVE amounts of runs, and non-productive for hitters at ALL levels and genders.

Onward and “upward”…

What Addison Russell’s swing adjustment means for 2016

Addison Russell made a change to his swing during the 2015 season, which could alter his offensive impact significantly in 2016.

By: Randy Holt

“The declining ground-ball rate will likely be a bit more significant in the long-term, as those changes continue to go into effect, given that Russell’s changed stance means he isn’t swinging down at the ball so much. So it’s only natural, and perhaps beneficial, that that number comes down. His line-drive rate didn’t change significantly, but the uptick in his fly-ball percentage was nice. Especially if you’re of the belief that as Russell continues to grow and develop, his strength will increase, leading to a nice uptick from his 11.4% homer to fly-ball ratio.”

Swinging down DOES NOT get the ball consistently AND productively in the air, getting the barrel on an upward plane with the downward traveling pitch does.  Ted Williams said this in his book The Science of Hitting.

 

Scooter Gennett and ground balls

Scooter Gennett’s offense has declined every year since he broke into Major League Baseball, are ground balls the reason?

By: 

It’s obvious that an increased amount of grounders is diminishing Gennett’s ability to tap in to his power, and is behind the drop in his offense over the last couple seasons. It’s easier said than done to put the ball in the air than on the ground, but without overwhelming speed it is tough for hitters to last by putting the ball on the ground. It is one of the main reasons we have seen his BABIP deflate from the .380 total he posted in his rookie season. To think that he could return to that total and sustain it is ridiculous, but the he also has gone from well above average to essentially average.”

I included this BTBS post in my book on Amazon titled, “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground-Balls”.  Piggy-backing on this, here’s a more recent follow up about Gennett’s dramatic turnaround…

 

Scooter Gennett: power hitter

Home runs are up all around the league, and Scooter Gennett has joined the power party.

By: 

“In the interest of keeping up with the fads, the first thing I checked was his launch angle difference between 2016 and 2017. He went from 11.7 degrees to 15.0 degrees, which is certainly a change worth noting. It is not, however, in the range of launch angle darlings Yonder Alonso and Ryan Schimpf, who jumpted to 22.1 degrees and 30.2 degrees respectively. Despite not reaching the astronomical levels we’ve seen from some players this season, Gennett appears to have settled in a reasonable range that yields line drives, doubles, and a fair share of home runs as well.

His move towards better contact based on the change in launch angle can be seen through a 5.8 percentage point decrease in ground balls in tandem with a 1.3 percentage point increased in line drives and 4.4 percentage point increase in fly balls. Even with a 21.6 percent HR/FB that’s bound to regress, the underlying improvement of putting balls in the air should allow his increased level of power to continue. That may manifest itself in more doubles than home runs, but that’s still a productive profile.

The Reds got Gennett for nothing. He was in the midst of a multi-year slump in which he provided nearly zero additional value to the Brewers. Then Gennett, like so many others this season, added some lift on the ball and power to his game. The addition of power has helped him become a well above average hitter that should be able to provide 2-3 fWAR by the end of the season. That’s a huge win for the Reds, who simply claimed Gennett off waivers.”

This is pretty damning evidence for those coaches promoting a primarily ground-ball offensive approach.  COACHES QUIT SABOTAGING YOUR HITTERS!!!

 

Has Hanley Ramirez lost his power forever?

Hanley Ramirez is having the worst offensive season of his career. Can he rediscover his power stroke, or are the underlying signs of decline too strong to counteract?

By: 

“Since it is usually advantageous to pull for power, it is no surprise that Hanley’s decreasing pull rate has coincided with his rapidly falling ISO and home run totals. Over the past three seasons, Ramirez has seen a simultaneous increase in ground ball rate and decrease in pull rate. These factors, along with increasing age, are probably the main causes of his diminishing power.

So will the power come back? Probably a little bit. As his HR/FB ratio returns to normal levels, some of Hanley’s fly balls will likely turn into home runs. And since his hard hit rate has remained consistent, it is reasonable to expect a higher ISO going forward. However, if Ramirez’s launch angle remains as low as it has been thus far, a steady stream of ground balls can be expected, which will put major limitations on his power.

Please re-read that last sentence.  On second thought, memorize and burn it into your brain.

 

Bryce Harper is pounding the ball into the ground to no avail

He’s gotta figure out how to elevate more despite pitchers giving him few pitches to elevate.

By: Kevin Ruprecht, Jul 28, 2016

“The batted ball distribution clearly reflects the launch angle, though perhaps the trend up in ground-ball rate started earlier than 75 games into the season.

Harper is walking a ton and striking out less than last year, but his overall production has gone the way of his launch angles – down. His 116 wRC+ this year is a far cry from his 197 wRC+ last year. Pitchers are throwing more outside and lower than last year out of fear of his power, so Harper just isn’t getting many good pitches to hit. Harper will have to adjust to reverse this slump.”

There are beautiful radar charts illuminating the differences in his launch angles in this post (just click the article “title” link above to see them).

Evan Gattis fixed his ground ball problem

With a move back to catcher and a more patient approach Evan Gattis seems to have cured what ailed him early in 2016.

By: Chris Anders, Sep 26, 2016

“Early in the season it looked like Evan Gattis might have been finished as a productive hitter. A player who is limited to DH and doesn’t hit the ball in the air enough to maximize his power is simply not an appealing roster option for most teams. Thankfully for both Gattis and the Astros the early season struggles seem to be merely a blip on the radar. As it turns out, a move back behind the plate and an increase in launch angle was all that was needed to re-energize his career.”

Here’s a more recent Beyond The Box Score piece on Gattis about the difference in the two halves of his 2016 season…

 

Evan Gattis’s power surge: Is it real?

The Astros DH/catcher smacked a lot of extra-base hits in the second half of the year. Is this the new normal, or did he run into a few?

By: Evan J. Davis, Jan 8, 2017

“Where the swing might come into play is his batted ball types. Grounders fell nearly 13 percentage points between halves (47.1 percent in the first, 34.4 percent in the second), while fly balls jumped accordingly. Statcast confirms this: Gattis’s average launch angle jumped from 10.8 degrees in the first half to 13.1 degrees in the second. The sizable decrease in his pop-ups (from 5.3 percent to 3.9 percent), in tandem with the softly-hit and ground ball percentage drops, also suggests that Statcast wasn’t missing too many of his batted balls.

Gattis was finding more optimal launch angles to hit the ball. He was getting more loft, and keeping the barrel through the zone.

There’s a formula coaches, on how to consistently barrel the ball more often.  Sabermetrics have given hitting coaches the answers to the test!!!

 

Franklin Gutierrez is wasting his hard contact

It helps a player’s cause to hit the ball hard, but that alone won’t make him great. Just ask Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

By: Ryan Romano, Sep 30, 2016

“In 2015, Gutierrez put 46 balls in play in the lower part of the strike zone, according to Baseball Savant. 25 of those, or 54.4 percent, went on the ground, which ranked him in the 42nd percentile. In 2016, his ground ball rate on low pitches has leapt to 74.2 percent, moving him up to the 98th percentile. When given a higher offering, Gutierrez will still put it in the air, but that can’t compensate for the spike in grounders down below.

If Gutierrez remains at this level of offense, he’ll be a solid player. Most teams will find a spot for a capable (in theory) defender who can hold his own at the plate. He won’t go back to being elite, however, unless he cuts down on the ground balls. Making hard contact is half the battle; the other part is making sure that contact goes where you want it to go.”

The next piece for those of you Ground-ball hitting coaches addressing the objection that hitting for higher Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles contribute to more strikeouts (HINT: causation DOES NOT necessarily equal correlation here)

 

Whit Merrifield is here to elevate and celebrate

The Royals’ breakout infielder is the latest to embrace the launch angle revolution and is making sure he gets a chance to put the ball in play.

By: Anthony Rescan, Aug 5, 2017

“Arguably the most impactful change is what happens when Merrifield makes contact. Currently, his average, observed launch angle is up from 16.89° to 20.51° and he’s seeing a spike in exit velocity from around 84 mph to north of 87 mph.

This has caused a massive shift in how his batted balls enter the field of play. Both line drives and ground balls have been siphoned off to fuel his fly ball spike.

In addition to that, Merrifield has been much more successful at turning those fly balls into long balls. The effect of this change is seen across the board with Merrifield — a near-80-point spike in ISO [Raw Power – Slug% w/out singles factored into the equation] certainly isn’t anything to scoff at.

Merrifield has also become more efficient at the plate. Though he’s experienced a slight dip in walk rate, he’s drastically cut his strikeouts. His previous mark of 21.7 percent has been struck all the way down to 13.1 percent. When looking at his plate discipline statistics from Pitch Info, we can spot the changes. His O-Swing rate has dropped two percentage points, but resulted in a 6.7 percentage point increase in O-Contact rate. He also is swinging at more pitches in the zone by a 3.8 percentage point margin, but his contact rate there dropped from 92.1 percent to 90.9 percent. Overall, his contact rate has jumped to 84.4 percent from 82.6 percent. So, he’s offering at less pitches out of the zone, but doing more with them and also swinging at better pitches.”

Look coaches, the longer the hitter can match the plane of the pitch with the barrel, the more opportunity to drive the ball.  Increasing power doesn’t have to sacrifice swing quality.  Plate discipline and pitch recognition MUST also play a MAJOR role in the hitter’s development.

Francisco Lindor is enjoying a big power surge

It’s almost as if hitting the ball in the air is better than hitting it on the ground!

By: Luis Torres, May 15, 2017

“What really jumps out at you is the change in his ground-ball and fly-ball rates. He went from hitting way more ground-balls than fly-balls, to being a fly-ball hitter. His fly-ball rate went from 28 percent to 45 percent. That is a huge change.

It used to be that coaches at all levels would encourage their hitters to swing down and keep the ball on the ground. In recent years, hitters are learning how ineffective that really is. Ground-balls will go for base hits more often than fly-balls will, but will go for extra bases less often. It is really hard to score by stringing together a bunch of singles.”

At this point in the post, if you still find yourself a Ground-ball hitting coach, you may be thinking, “So should I teach my hitters to hit fly-balls?!”  Check out this FanGraphs.com article…

 

Which is Better? A Ground Ball Pitcher or a Fly Ball Pitcher

“Let’s take a look at a little bit of data to get started. Here are the results on each type of ball in play from 2014:

Type AVG ISO wOBA
GB .239 .020 .220
LD .685 .190 .684
FB .207 .378 .335

You can see that line drives are bad news for pitchers any way you slice them. They lead to more hits and huge run values compared to the other types of balls in play. But there’s a trade off in the ground ball-fly ball department. Ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls but fly balls go for extra bases much more often when they do drop in for hits.

In other words, if you’re a fly ball pitcher, you can usually sustain a below average BABIP, but you might get tagged for a few extra doubles, triples, and homers as a result. Ground ball artists, on the other hand, don’t often allow homers and extra base hits, but they allow singles to squeak through more often.”

Let me clarify the above graph…ISO refers to Isolated Slugging% (aka Raw Power), which is like Slugging% but with singles factored OUT of the equation.  Weighted On-Base Average (or wOBA) measures a player’s overall offensive contributions per plate appearance.

I think every hitting coach can agree on Line Drives being the ultimate hitting objective, but picking between the two “evils” of either a GB or FB is where hitting camps diverge.

And according to the graph above, even though Fly-balls lose 32-points in Batting Average compared to ground-balls, I’ll take a boost of 358-points in Raw Power (ISO), and a jump of 115-points in a player’s offensive contribution per plate appearance (wOBA) ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

I want to end with this beast of an article by The Hardball Times, authored one of my favorite authors Dan Farnsworth…

 

Ground Balls: A Hitter’s Best Friend?

“Alan Nathan [retired Physicist] has a great research article posted on his website detailing the math behind hitting a home run based on experimental measured ball flight. In it, he summarizes the results pertinent to this common teaching axiom:

‘For a typical fastball, the batter should undercut the ball by 2.65 cm and swing upward at an angle 0.1594 rad.’

That value in radians converts to a 9.13° uppercut swing, representing the maximized swing path for energy transfer and backspin using a typical major league hitter’s bat speed.

I do not believe this is common practice or knowledge in major league baseball, which is unfortunate. I have heard a lot of second-hand horror stories about the philosophies of many organizations in the game. Especially at the big league level, there is little evidence that a true ground-ball swing will lead to success. Line drives are the key to hitting, regardless of hitter attributes. Speed appears to have less of an impact on a hitter than what popular belief says. While speed may help boost a player’s batting average on balls in play, fast hitters do not have an automatic incentive to hit the ball on the ground, based on these results. They can turn doubles into triples rather than just outs into singles.

The bottom line: leave swinging down to bad hitters at the amateur level, who have no chance at playing at the highest levels of the game. Otherwise, hit the damn ball in the air.”

There is A LOT of great stuff in this Farnsworth article, so I advise you read the whole thing.

And if you think teaching speedy hitters to hit the ball on the ground is a good thing, then let me share this fact from Rob Arthur from FiveThirtyEight:

Let me repeat,

The effect of speed starts to fade only when launch angles exceed 10-degrees, as exit velocity begins to take over as the biggest determinant of a batted ball’s fate.”

My friend and retired Big Leaguer Aaron Miles once told me that even the Dee Gordon’s of the hitting world have to learn how to drive the ball at the Big League level because the infielders’ arms are well above average.

Ground-ball hitting coaches, are you starting to run out of excuses yet?

Let me leave you with some quotes from some “pretty good” hitters, talking about the importance of Launch Angles and Ball Exit Speeds

Now look,

If you still aren’t convinced that higher Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles are the way to go, then I chalk it up to willful ignorance.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?  Hopefully this post moved you to more of a conscious incompetence.  In other words, you now know what you don’t know.

Don’t worry, I understand, you may not be familiar with how to teach your hitters how to elevate the ball with authority.  The good news is, there are resources.  Get educated because your hitters are DEPENDING ON YOU.

There are quite a few individuals on Twitter teaching this approach (this is by no means an exhaustive list, if you know of others, then please post in the comments section):

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my online video course titled Pitch-Plane Domination.  Sorry, shameless plug 😛

Mark my words, this hitting approach will be the norm in the next few years.  Just remember that I told you so 😉

Also, if you’re on the Twitters, then use the hashtags #GBsSuck, #GroundballsSuck, or #PitchPlaneDomination to spread the “elevate to celebrate” gospel.

A Simple Way To Make Adjustments, Build Swing Tempo, AND Elevate The Ball That Works For Mike Trout & Josh Donaldson

I have a treat for you…

A “grab-bag” of golden nuggets…

The following 11 hitting tips come from my most popular social media non-HPL links of 2016.

To give you an idea,

I typically promote 1 non-HPL link per day on the socials, so that’s 365 links getting put in front of my 20K+ followers.

I get a front row seat to see what coaches think interesting and worth their time.

The following creme-of-the-crop link montage, is arranged in descending order, least clicks to the most.

You’ll find these somewhat of a random sort, but they all relate to hitting, albeit indirectly in some cases.

Happy learning!

 

#11: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: How Mike Trout Approaches Hitting

This is the featured video above.

Sean Casey interviewed Mike Trout during Spring Training of 2016, where Trout discusses his hitting routine…I jotted down 9 key notes for you:

  1. First few rounds he works on hitting to RCF,
  2. Stay up the middle,
  3. A few times hit the ball to LCF, to stay square with the pitcher,
  4. He mentions not getting too ‘chicken wing’,
  5. Tee work: set it high and ‘get on top of the ball’ (to counteract dropping the shoulder and barrel too much),
  6. 10-20 swings trying to hit a ground-ball every time,
  7. In games, sit fastball, react to off-speed and breaking balls,
  8. On top of the plate, back of the batter’s box, and
  9. Work up the middle in games.

All these tips are pretty solid…

…for Mike Trout.

When I posted this, and made a note that Mike Trout is definitely not looking to optimize hitting the high pitch in games,

AND

He’s most definitely NOT trying to ‘get on top of the ball’ in games (both in reference to tip #5 above)…

There were a few men on Facebook that got their panties in a bunch, saying I was calling Mike Trout a liar…yada, yada, yada.

If we look at Mike Trout’s Sabermetrics at FanGraphs.com, the reality is, he’s THE BEST at hitting the low ball…and THE WORST at hitting the high ball.

So WHY does he practice hitting off a high tee?

Another look at Mike Trout’s metrics, and we see he’s:

  • Well below average in Ground-ball percentage (39.6% v. league average is 44%),
  • Above average in Line Drive percentage (22.1% v. league average is 20%),
  • Above average in Fly-ball percentage (38.2% v. league average is 36%), AND
  • Well above average in his Fly-ball to Home-run ratio (19.6% v. league average is 9.5%).

What does this mean?

It’s a ‘what’s real’ AND ‘what’s feel’ sort of thing…

Because he’s definitely NOT trying to hit ground-balls in games (contradicting hitting tips #5 & #6 from above).

So am I calling Mike Trout a liar…

And, WHY would he practice like this?

Earlier, notice how I said,

“All these tips are pretty solid…for Mike Trout.”

No, I didn’t say that because Mike Trout is a mutant, and only Mike Trout can do that and get away with it.

When coaches say this, it’s a cop out.  It means they have no REAL clue what’s REALLY going on.

Here’s where I’m going with this,

And it’s VERY important…

And also WHY I made popular link hitting tip #11 the featured video…

What John Doe Coach missed in the interview was when Trout mentioned he has a tendency to ‘chicken-wing’ and ‘drop his back shoulder and barrel’ too much.

In other words, uppercut too much.

Mike Trout is using these seemingly counter-intuitive hitting tips to make adjustments to his swing’s extreme tendencies.

I’m not calling Mike Trout a liar.

He’s a friggin’ smart competitive athlete.

He knows himself and his swing, and makes the necessary adjustments to stay in the black, and not get too far in the red.

There’s no secret,

Mike Trout is trying to get the ball in the air.

It’s like the advice Lightning McQueen heard in the animated movie Cars, “Turn left to go right”…when attempting to correct a spin-out.

 

#10: Hitting A Baseball – “The Hardest Thing To Do In Sports”

CLICK HERE for this article by Axon Sports.

Some of the things you’ll gain by reading this:

  • “Hitting is timing.  Pitching is upsetting timing.” – Warren Spahn,
  • Why “Keep your eye on the ball”, or “Watch the ball hit the bat” is humanly IMPOSSIBLE according to research, and
  • Awesome info-graphic breaking down the reaction time of a hitter.

 

#9: Hamstring Flexibility: 6 Tips to Loosen Up

CLICK HERE for the full article by GMB Fitness.

98% of my hitters are immobile in the hip.

And oftentimes, this comes in the form of tight hamstrings.

This is a great post looking into factors and strategies you can employ to improve the flexibility of your hitter’s hamstrings…and maybe yours 😉

 

#8: Bryce Harper is pounding the ball into the ground to no avail

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

This article was written July 28th, 2016 with a sub-head that reads:

“He’s gotta figure out how to elevate more despite pitchers giving him few pitches to elevate.”

This was when B.H. was struggling to lift the ball early in the season.

The article talks about how Harper’s dramatic launch angle change (down), led to a dramatic increase in his ground-ball rate.

The post discusses how pitchers are throwing him more outside and down in the zone.

The bottom line?

…Is that a ground-ball focused hitting strategy SUCKS!!!

It doesn’t matter how hard you hit the ball, if you can’t elevate, you’ll hit A LOT of worm burners that end up as outs at the higher levels.

#7: Are overbearing parents ruining the Westlake baseball program?

CLICK HERE for this LA Times post.

The parent and player behavior is probably not going to surprise you…

However, I want you to ask yourself the question as you read this,

“How did the coaches respond to the parents that clearly didn’t work?”

How could coach be more effective in dealing with parents in this environment, if a million dollar bet was on the line?

Look, maybe the athletes are spoiled brats, or maybe the coaches just don’t have an effective strategy for dealing with this situation.

In other words, don’t label the players or parents “mean” right away…

Be creative, brainstorm, and future pace how you’d handle this situation.

Because chances are, you will run across this scenario, in some form, in your lifetime.

#6: Clayton Kershaw UMPIRE VIEW of pregame warm up

You will get better at Pitch Recognition watching this video.

In the spirit of the playoffs, this video features arguably one of the best pitchers in history, Clayton Kershaw.

Do this for me…

Watch this video for a couple minutes, trying to pick up the “shape” of each pitch he throws, like what Perry Husband talks about in this article.

Then pick a series of pitches, see which pitch Clayton Kershaw signals to the catcher, look at his release, and close your eyes.

This would be like Dr. Peter Fadde’s video occlusion training featured in this post.

Then try to pick another series of pitches, don’t look at him signal to the catcher what he’s throwing, and test yourself.

This is such a cool game to do with hitters.

 

#5: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blasts 33 HR in 60 Swings in Home Run Derby in the DR (Round 2 November 2014) 

I know this isn’t Vlad G. the first, but there are a lot of similarities to their swings.  A few notes to look out for while watching him hit…

  • Toe-tap for timing
  • Aggressive move towards the pitcher with stride
  • Back foot stays sideways until follow through
  • Great knee action at landing (front), and during the turn (back)
  • Showing numbers to pitcher as close to landing as possible
  • Downward shoulder angle as close to landing as possible.

What do you see?

 

#4: Donaldson gives a hitting demo

Cool MLB.com interview with Josh Donaldson on developing timing and rhythm at the plate, with Sean Casey.

A couple notes from the video below:

  • Find out what’s comfortable for you
  • Leg kick: engaged into back hip not back knee
  • Leg kick: control when get front foot down
  • Being on time, not about getting front foot down on time
  • Soft focus on the pitcher, recognize pitch better at the plate ( stay relaxed)
  • Hit with music on, adds a smooth tempo to the swing
  • Watch Manny Ramirez setup to swing, “boring” rhythm at the plate (again relaxed mindset)
  • Put the work in (Sean Casey)

 

#3: Which is Better? A Ground Ball Pitcher or a Fly Ball Pitcher

CLICK HERE for this FanGraphs.com post.

I included the following chart from this post on my Ground-ball RANT post

Fangraphs Ground-ball metrics

Most understand Line Drives MUST be the main hitting objective (for a majority of swings), however I want you to compare the Ground-ball metrics to the Fly-ball metrics from the chart above:

  • A 32-point increase in Batting Average with Ground-ball over a Fly-ball,
  • A 358-point INCREASE in ISO (or raw power) with Fly-balls over Ground-balls…AND
  • A 115-point INCREASE in weighted On-Base Average with Fly-Balls over Ground-balls, which according to FanGraphs.com…

“Weighted On-Base Average combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value. While batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage fall short in accuracy and scope, wOBA measures and captures offensive value more accurately and comprehensively.”

So, WHY are we still teaching hitters to hit ground-balls, and NOT to elevate?  Beside situational hitting of course.

What’s more…

 

#2: Scooter Gennett and ground balls

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

I love the sub-header, which reads:

“Scooter Gennett’s offense has declined every year since he broke into Major League Baseball, are ground balls the reason?”

After careful metric analysis, Shawn Brody the post’s author, says:

“In my mind, Gennett should be closer to his 2014 level of production, which is something he could return to if he put the ball in the air more often.”

Hitting consistent ground-balls will land you on the bench at the higher levels, unless of course you have plus running speed.

In which case, analysis shows that any launch angle above 10-degrees, makes faster running speed irrelevant.

So, what if a hitter hits the ball just plain hard?

Maybe the following #1 link post from my 20K+ followers will shed light on that…

 

#1: Jon Lester shows importance of launch angleBackspin Tee: Launch Angles

CLICK HERE to read this Cubs.com post.

The great case study article discusses how Jon Lester ranks second among Major League hitting pitchers with an average Ball Exit Speed of 92.5-mph.

So, what’s the problem?

Quoted from the article:

“…(He ended up with four hits on the season in 71 plate appearances, a .065/.108/.065 line.) Part of it is that, like many pitchers, contact was an issue — Lester’s 42.3 percent strikeout rate was above the 37.7 percent average for pitchers.”

How could Lester hit the ball so hard without finding much hitting success?

Again, quoted from the article:

“…it’s because 19 of Lester’s 24 tracked batted balls failed to get above 7 degrees of launch angle. Sixteen of those 19 failed to even achieve positive launch angle, which is to say that he pounded the ball into the ground constantly.”

In other words, to get the ball in the air, the hitter MUST have a positive launch angle.  About 10-degrees positive will get the ball to the outfield grass…on the “big” field.

If the hitter has a negative or less than 10-degree positive launch angle, THEY WILL:

  1. Hit A LOT of worm burners,
  2. Strikeout more,
  3. NOT get many hits, and
  4. Professionally speaking, NOT make it past A-ball (if they’re lucky enough to make it that far).

Even if they’re lighting up the BES radar guns.

Here’s a BONUS link for ya…

CLICK HERE to read a Cut4 article highlighting Giancarlo Stanton hitting the hardest ball ever recorded by Statcast at 123.9-mph, but it was hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Here’s the lesson folks…

Line drives tend to be between 10-20 degree positive launch angles (see image above).

Dingers tend to be between 20-40 degree positive launch angles (see image above).

Of course, whether it’s over the fence or not will depend on the Ball Exit Speed.

It’s not enough to hit the ball hard.

Teach hitters to elevate.

Get barrel on path of incoming pitch.

Focus on striking bottom half of ball.

That, my coaching friend, is how to decrease strikeouts, mishits, and weak fly-balls…AND increase BA, ISO, and wOBA.