Posts

Khris Davis Swing Analysis

Ball Exit Speed & Launch Angle Hacking With Khris Davis [Part-2]

 

Khris Davis swing analysis, and not to be confused with “Chris” Davis, the 1st baseman for the Baltimore Orioles! …they’re having two COMPLETELY different years 😛 lol

Khris Davis Swing Analysis

Khris Davis swing analysis stride landing position photo courtesy: MLB.com

This Khris Davis swing analysis is Part-2 to our series looking at one my 9yo online lessons, Ethan.  In case you missed it, here you go:

  1. Ethan case study The Feedback Lab online hit training video,
  2. Khris Davis swing analysis video [YOU ARE HERE],
  3. How to drills to fix (COMING SOON).

In the above Khris Davis swing analysis video, we’re going to look at:

  • Khris Davis stat analysis comparing 2015 & 2016 seasons to 2018,
  • Khris Davis swing analysis comparing 2015 & 2018 swings (when things seemed to have changed), and
  • Human movement principles 9yo Ethan is working on that Khris Davis does well.

 

Khris Davis Stat Analysis Comparing 2015 & 2016 seasons to 2018

I wanted to share a recent and insightful Beyond The Box Score post on Khris Davis’s 2018 season titled: “Khris Davis is swimming against the current: As home runs continue to decline this season, Davis has counteracted the trend”

From the article, and since 2016, Khris Davis has improved tremendously, and here are just a few highlights:

  • 2016 avg. Launch Angle = 12.9 degrees…2018 avg. Launch Angle =  17.7 degrees, and
  • 2016 avg. Ball Exit Speed = 91.7-mph…2018 avg. Ball Exit Speed = 92.7-mph.

I think everyone understands how important hitting the ball hard is, but a lot out there are rejecting Launch Angles!  They matter, check out this “Parabolic motion – range of a projectile” video (thanks Lee!)

 

Optimized is key!  Goldilocks golden rule, not too high, not to low…just right!

Furthermore,

Khris Davis is someone who has been good at hitting despite, as some will say, being poorly built for it – he’s 5-foot, 10-inches, 195-pounds. Compare him to Aaron Judge who’s 6-foot, 7-inches, and 282-pounds.

What’s also telling, according to Fangraphs.com, Khris Davis has steadily moved away from hitting ground-balls, pulling the ball less, and built a more frequent opposite field hitting approach.  Compare 2015 to 2018 (stats experiencing most significant impact):

  1. 2015: GB% = 42.5%,
  2. 2018: GB% = 36.1%
  3. 2015: Pull% = 41.4%
  4. 2018: Pull% = 36.1%
  5. 2015: Oppo% = 20.1%
  6. 2018: Oppo% = 24.5%

 

Khris Davis Swing Analysis Comparing 2015 & 2018 Swings (when things seemed to have changed)

PLEASE NOTE: very similar pitch type, speed, location, and swing timing in above video:

  • 2015 (w/ Brewers): 96-mph middle/middle, and
  • 2018 (w/ A’s): 94-mph middle/middle-slightly in.

Mechanically speaking, here are a couple things I noticed:

  • Seems to be “stepping out”, slightly opening hips more at stride landing, while keeping shoulders “blocked”,
  • Slight difference in back foot behavior (could be a timing thing),
  • Back knee angle (about 10-degree difference),
  • Head in circle just after impact, could be direct result of change in back knee angle, and
  • Getting shorter from start to the turn (camera angle could be slightly different).

 

Human Movement Principles 9yo Ethan is Working on Khris Davis does well

If you remember in the Ethan case study The Feedback Lab online hit training video, his hitting homework was to work on the following positions at stride landing:

  1. Showing numbers, and
  2. Slight downhill shoulder angle

In the above Khris Davis swing analysis video, we covered:

  • Khris Davis stat analysis comparing 2015, 2016 seasons to 2018,
  • Khris Davis swing analysis comparing 2015 & 2018 swings (when things seemed to changed), and
  • Human movement principles 9yo Ethan is working on that Khris Davis does well.

Stay tuned for Part-3, where we discuss drills…

Ozzie Albies Swing Breakdown

Ozzie Albies Swing Breakdown Reveals REAL Ways To Hit For Consistent Power [An MLB Case Study]

 

In this Ozzie Albies swing breakdown video post, we’ll discuss:

  • What he IS NOT doing, and
  • What he IS doing with Catapult Loading System comparing righty v. lefty swings.

Compared to other Woolly Mammoth hitters in the league like Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton, Ozzie Albies stands at a vertically challenged 5-foot, 8-inches tall, and weighs only 165-pounds!  Jose Altuve may come to mind?  If so, then check out this post titled, “Jose Altuve Hitting Analysis Reveals A Pathway To Repeatable Power”.

Back to the Ozzie Albies swing breakdown…as of this writing (May 22, 2018), here is Ozzie Albies’s current line…

Ozzie Albies Swing Breakdown - Stats

Photo courtesy: Baseball-Reference.com

By the way, his left handed swing is dampening his numbers quite a bit unless he makes some adjustments to his mechanics.  His left handed swings make up about 75% of his at-bats.  We’ll go over this in a little bit…

 

What he IS NOT Doing

Ozzie Albies Swing Breakdown

Finger pressure, showing numbers, slight downhill shoulders, & hiding hands. Photo courtesy: TheAthletic.com

  • Squishing bugs,
  • Zero head movement,
  • Keeping feet inline with pitcher during turn and in follow through (scissoring),
  • Chopping down on the ball, and
  • Locking out front knee at impact on every swing.

Look, if you want the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to consistent power, then don’t look for it in the legs.  The legs are only 20% of the power game.  The other 80% is found in the spinal engine.  Don’t believe me?  Then check out this post titled: “Is Rotating Back Hip Through The Zone Necessary For Power?”  I tell my hitters, your spine engine gets you to the wall, and your legs get you over.

 

What he IS doing with Catapult Loading System Comparing Lefty v. Righty Swings

Please note: there’s quite a discrepancy between his lefty versus right plate appearances at this point in the 2018 season, so please keep that in mind.  A full season or seasons will tell us the true story, assuming he doesn’t change anything mechanically during that time.  Here are his stats batting lefty versus righty…

Ozzie Albies Swing Breakdown - Lefty Righty Splits

Photo courtesy: Baseball-Reference.com

Lefty swings in relation to using the Catapult Loading System:

  • Not ‘showing numbers’ to the pitcher very well,
  • Little to NO ‘downhill shoulder’ angle, and
  • Not ‘hiding his hands’ from the pitcher.

Righty swings in relation to using the Catapult Loading System:

  • ‘Showing numbers’ to the pitcher beautifully,
  • Slight ‘downhill shoulders’ between 6 to 10-degrees,
  • ‘Hiding hands’ from the pitcher like a champ!

The Plate Appearances are definitely not equal, so we’ll see what happens by the end of the season.  But my fear is, if Ozzie Albies doesn’t change the relationship of the Catapult Loading System to his lefty swing, he’ll see more right-handed pitchers.

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.

Want To Move Better? Simple Adjustments To Move Like Today’s Best Hitters

Tai Chi Combat's Master Wong: Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility

Watch Tai Chi Combat’s Master Wong in point #4 below: Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility. Photo courtesy: Master Wong, from his YouTube video Tai Chi for Beginners.

What Smokin’ Joe Frazier, China’s Tai Chi, the Headspace meditation app, and Ted Williams have in common will become clear moving through this post, I promise.

But first, here’s the glue that connects all these seemingly random things

I recently stumbled onto a post titled, “Want to Move Better? Use These 5 Simple Adjustments to Start Moving Freely” by Ryan Hurst, who’s co-founder of GMB Fitness (Gold Medal Bodies). They focus on Gymnastic type movements.

The first time I read through it, I thought, well this could help hitters…

The second time I read through it, I thought, dang, this could REALLY help hitters

And then the 3rd, 4th, and 5th times, in my head I screamed, “DUDE!!”

Which is WHY I’m bringing it’s information to the attention of my coaches.

Here’s what I have for you…

  • Some quick notes from each of the five main points of the Ryan Hurst GMB Fitness post above,
  • Supporting videos that help put the ideas into “hitting” terms, and
  • A few resources I think are becoming more popular in helping hitters control their breathing (VERY IMPORTANT as you’ll soon see).

ENJOY!

 

1. Slow It Down for Instant Awareness

  • Being mindful is really the key to better movement.
  • Pay attention to how your hips are moving, your weight distribution, your eye gaze, and your breath.
  • Slow down your movement and you’ll be able to pay better attention to the details.

I’m not sure on the name, but I once heard boxer Joe Frazier used to practice a super slow motion punch that would last 20-minutes!  Talk about slowing it down for instant awareness.

Here are swings from different angles to practice specific movements in slow motion…

2. Use Your Hips for Instant Power

  • Hips are your body’s center of mass.
  • The better you can initiate motion from this point, the more efficient your movements will be, as you’ll move with less wasted action.
  • With any stepping motion, rather than your feet propelling you forward, you want your hips to lead.

Yes, I agree with Ted Williams when he said the “Hips Lead the Way”.  But even before the pelvis begins to turn for a hitter, the front hip MUST lead the way during the stride.

Watch this short 1-min Justin Turner slow motion swing video I put together for you, and key in on how his front hip initiates his pre-turn movement in the stride…

3. Use Visual Aim for Instant Control

  • Head is hardwired to follow your eyes, and the body is hardwired to follow your head. Basically, the body will follow the eyes.
  • If your eyes are not gazing in the right place, you won’t be able to control your body properly.
  • If you want to move better, think of it this way: your eyes should always be pointed where you want your spine to be.

This is WHY hitters who “pull their heads”, go chin to chest, back ear to back shoulder, or nose to sky at impact is not good.

My good friend Matt Nokes at Hitting Solutions calls this “swinging across your face”…this cue will help correct pulling the head.  The best hitters “keep their head in the fire”, as Nokes says.  Control the head, and hitter controls the direction and “squaring-up” of impact.

Watch this head movement modeling video of a few top MLB hitters…

4. Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility

  • The correct transfer of your weight is the beginning of a smooth and controlled motion.
  • While side stepping (or lunging) to your right, notice that you shifted your weight to the left a split second before you went to the right? It’s a natural loading response that you do without even thinking about it.
  • With any movement, if your body’s natural weight transfer mechanisms are not working properly, it will hurt your balance.

This is natural weight transfer behavior coaches!! If any hitting coach tells a right handed hitter to NOT shift their weight towards their right leg before striding to the left, then RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!

Watch the following three-in-a-half minute video from Master Wong, founder of Tai Chi Combat (over 1.4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel!!), performing a beginner’s Tai Chi movement.  Notice the split second weight shift one way, in order to go the other way…

5. Breathe for Instant Poise and Calm

  • Difference between holding the breath and bracing during movement…for skill-based movements holding your breath isn’t going to help.
  • Breath holding and hyperventilation are signs of anxiety, but in that wonderful body-mind connection loop, it can also create anxiety.
  • Poor breathing creates feelings of anxiety, anxiety, creates tension, and unmediated tension causes poor movement. Smooth and purposeful breathing leads to smooth and purposeful movement.

This is “bigly”!  The leading resources for this are the following guided meditation apps:

  • Headspace (I’ve been using this one for the best 3 years), and
  • Calm

I can’t speak for the Calm app, but Headspace is not Eastern “woo-woo”.  It focuses on controlling the breath, being aware of the breath, and the use of visualization practice.

These are second-to-none resources for reducing rapid breathing during competition or any other signs of anxiety.

I think this quote bares repeating because it’s VERY important for hitters:

“Smooth and purposeful breathing leads to smooth and purposeful movement.”

Watch Perfect Action Over And Over, Subconscious Mind and Muscle Memory Will Start To Incorporate The Actions…

(Disclaimer: my swing isn’t perfect, so please be nice in the comments.  However, 95% of it embodies what the best do, and is a sufficient representation of what we talk about on this blog)

I had heard of Sybervision back in the early to mid-1990’s, when someone told me about a Baseball With Rod Carew instructional VHS hitting video you could watch over and over of him hitting, and “magically” you’d start moving just like him!

At least that’s what I thought about it at the time, but there actually is some merit to it.

Some call Sybervision the Neuropsychology of self discipline, and has a basis in visual modeling — how we  learn and assimilate (neurologically, psychologically, and cognitively) skills and behaviors from the observation of others.

Sybervision Swings

Ichiro from the Head Movement video using Sybervision.

It is based on research conducted by Steve DeVore, and Dr. Karl Pribram, a brain scientist (who postulated the holographic brain theory) at the Stanford University’s Neuropsychological Research Laboratories.

One of the grand-dads of two hitters I worked with this past summer, Paul Rosemont, said this of Sybervision:

“The Sybervision concept is that if someone watches perfect action over and over, their subconscious mind and muscle memory will start to incorporate the actions. It’s ideal to view it before practicing but just viewing it is still supposed to work. The system was used years ago on college and Olympic level athletes.”

By the way, Paul took the time to have my swings edited into the above video we’re sharing with you today, using the Sybervision technique.

Along the same lines, utilizing shorter clips of Big Leaguers, and without the different views, one of my online lesson dads Victor Canseco made the following two videos using the same Sybervision concept.  They’re cropped to specific aspects of the swing, to help his son Harrison get the concepts we were working on with him…

 

Back Foot Skip

Please CLICK HERE for the Back Foot Variance Drill I use with my hitters.

 

Head Movement & One-Joint Rule

Please CLICK HERE for the One-Joint Rule Drill I use with my hitters.

Thank you Paul and Victor!

Baseball Batting Drills For Youth: Make This Head Position Mistake And Dramatically Decrease Batted Ball Distance

 

This is Part-2 of a 3-part baseball batting drills for youth video series coming straight out of the Catapult Loading System online video mini-course…

The Catapult Loading System

Sick of struggling with getting your hitters to hit the ball hard with more consistency?  This is a simple 7-module online video mini-course that will help hitters weighing less than 100-pounds, hit the ball consistently over 300-feet in 60 days.  You’ll be able to dramatically increase power without sacrificing swing quality.

CLICK the Link below to…

Get Access to The Catapult Loading System Mini-Course

 

In this baseball batting drills for youth video post, I’ll be walking you through the Neck Brace Drill.  We’ll be going over:

  • The One-Joint Rule
  • Head movement that is okay
  • Jace Case Study: BEFORE & AFTER of Neck Brace Drill

 

The One-Joint Rule

Dr. Kelly Starrett from MobilityWOD.com, gives a perfect explanation of this in the following video (watch at about the 4:00 minute mark):

 

Head Movement that is Okay

Baseball Batting Drills for Youth: Andrew McCutchen Breaking One-Joint Rule

Andrew McCutchen breaking One-Joint Rule photo courtesy: MLB.com

What’s better, and thanks to Dr. Kelly Starrett’s explanation above, we can look at what head movement IS NOT okay through impact:

  1. Chin to chest,
  2. Head back (like looking at the sky), and
  3. Ear into rear shoulder (for a righty, right ear to right shoulder).

Major League example of #1 is Andrew McCutchen (image to the right).  Major League examples of #2 are Bryce Harper and Derek Jeter.

The only head movement that is okay through impact is a slight head turn.  Generally speaking, the head position we want to model is during the follow through.

 

 

Jace Case Study: BEFORE & AFTER of Neck Brace DrillBaseball Batting Drills for Youth: Jace BEFORE/AFTER Neck Brace Drill

I was able to experiment with the baseball batting drills for youth Neck Brace Drill with Jace, who’s one of my 10-year-old hitters that is 66-pounds.

Tiny compared to his peers.

However, over the last 6 months of hitting with me, and off a traditional batting tee, he now consistently registers 50-54-mph Ball Exit Speed with a non-wood bat.

In other words, Jace has the ability to hit the ball well over 200-feet, depending on the launch angle of the ball.

Now, we’ve been wrestling with his ‘bobblehead’ position for quite some time, and a big THANK YOU for the tip goes out to Coach Todd Bradley, head softball coach at Campbell University, the difference in one 45-minute session using the Neck Brace Drill can be seen in the image to the right.

Just about the same soft tossed pitch height.

Jace is still not perfect yet, but we’re getting there.

I know the baseball batting drills for youth we talked about in this post, will help your hitters and their head positioning up to, at, and passed impact.

Click the following Amazon links to get the same simple foam Youth Neck Brace & Adult Neck Brace that we used with Jace.

Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum: Mike Trout

Note the gentleman in the stands with the hat and Mariners shirt on (red arrow) as Mike Trout’s head moves forward to landing. Photo courtesy: YouTube user: PastTimeAthletics.com

The most common objection I hear from my hitters is that…

Their coaches are dumping on them for using forward momentum.

Because – they say – there’s too much head movement!

These coaches keep saying the perfect swing shouldn’t have head movement.

In a way, they’re right!

But there’s a bit of confusion as to when head movement is okay…and not okay.

You see, the perfect swing, has head movement.  ALL dynamic movement does.  Did you know our head bobs up and down when we walk and run?  Try watching television upside down and you’ll see it clear as day.

But it’s the timing of head movement that matters.

In this post, we’re going over:

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

 

Balance Without Thinking

Proprioception.  I know it’s a big ugly word.  But it has A LOT to do with the perfect swing.  At least when we talk about head movement.

Experiencing proprioception is easier than saying the word itself!

Try this…

Stand up, lift one leg, and close your eyes…

You feel your standing ankle and foot wobbling to balance your body?

This balance happens without you having to think about it.  It’s an unconscious process, like breathing.

Here’s how balance without thinking breaks down when looking at the perfect swing…

  • Scenario #1 The Sit Back Hitter – during stride, keep 60% of weight on BACK leg, being soft with the landing foot like you’re stepping on unbroken eggshells.
  • Scenario #2 The Forward Momentum Hitter – during stride, commit 60% of body weight to FRONT leg at landing, thereby breaking the “eggshells” in scenario #1.

Let’s apply proprioception to where the two scenarios left off above…

In Scenario #1, to bring the body back to balance, the brain shifts the weight forward during the Final Turn.  In other words, the heads moves later.

In scenario #2, to restore balance, the brain shifts the weight back during the Final Turn.  Because of the transfer of linear into angular momentum, the head will become the center axis of rotation along with the spine.

So we sacrifice head movement early, for little to no head movement later.

Do an experiment with the two scenarios above.  Record your swing using the Coaches Eye or Ubersense app.  Try and swing as hard as you can under complete control.  And note the change in head position between the two scenarios.

In a perfect swing, you’re going to have head movement.  But the question is, when do you want it?  BEFORE or DURING the Final Turn?

Debunking a Common Objection & a Study

CLICK HERE for a great FanGraphs study that Dan Farnsworth did on June 17, 2013 titled “Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012”.

Scroll down a ways and start reading under the section: “Keep Your Head Still”.

Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraphs’ Batting component of WAR.  He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season in which each player hit a homerun.  You can read the details of how he compiled his measurements in his post.

As Farnsworth says, the main complaint coaches have with Forward Momentum, or early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true…

But during the stride, the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  So again, if you know head movement is inevitable during dynamic movement, then when do you want it to happen?  BEFORE or DURING the Final Turn?

Does a quarterback “rolling out” to throw to a fast moving receiver have head movement?  Yes, until his plant leg hits the ground before throwing.  Does a soccer player have head movement quickly dribbling the ball down the field to get closer to the goal, weaving in and out of defenders?  Yes, until their plant foot hits the ground to kick.  I can go on and one with Olympic Throwers and Shot Putters!

Really think about the answer to that question.

 

Perfect Swing Examples…

When you watch the following videos, pick out someone or something in the stands behind the hitter to use as a frame of reference in watching for head movement. The following examples were the TOP-5 OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage) hitters in 2014:

1. Victor Martinez

2. Jose Abreu

3. Andrew McCutchen

4. Giancarlo Stanton

5. Mike Trout

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head movement during stride

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head position at stride forward. Camera angle is different, but watch videos below and note how V-Mart’s head doesn’t move with the front foot. Pictures courtesy: PastimeAthletics.com

Hint, hint…it has to do with balance!  This is a bonus to our Why Your Balance Fails series on balance.  I will be discussing:

  • The balance of pyramids,
  • The lateral movement of dancers, and
  • Mike Trout Slow-motion perfect balance during the stride…

 

The Balance of Pyramids

Pyramids have a capstone that is centered over the base.

Pyramid

In baseball, good balance occurs when the head is centered between the feet.

 

The Lateral [to the side] Movement of Dancers

I asked a woman who was a modern dancer for several decades who is making a film on movement,

What is the proper way to move to the side?”

Her response was,

The body has to move with the foot.

 

Mike Trout Perfect Balance During the Stride

Hitting requires balance…

But the stride requires dynamic balance, or balance while in motion.

A couple things I want to point out in the following slow motion swing of Mike Trout…notice how:

  • Mike Trout’s leg moves forward, so that the head is centered between the feet during the stride,
  • His body moves with his front foot, and 
  • Efficient his swing looks….

To Contrast and Compare, here is Victor Martinez. An extremely successful hitter, with a gift of incredible hand-eye coordination and strength…

Let’s compare them both at the moment the front foot touches the ground:

  • Trout- Head between the feet.
  • Martinez- Head closer to the back foot.
  • Trout-Shoulders angled down.
  • Martinez-Shoulders angled up (or level).

However, they both reach perfect position at the moment the bat hits the ball. And they both have the same backward lean with the head in line with the front leg…

Who has better dynamic balance?

Mike Trout.  To move more like him, the cue is move the body with the foot”.

(Note from Joey Myers: the camera angles are a little goofy, but I urge you to look at other “chest view” video of Victor Martinez, and you’ll see the same result.  Like Dr. Stanley said, he’s got SUPER hand-eye coordination!  BUT here’s the thing, he doesn’t angle his shoulders down, show his numbers to the pitcher or hide his hands as well as Mike Trout does before landing.  And as a result, his front shoulder has a tendency to “peel out”.  Adding these ingredients into V-Mart’s swing could have won him the 2014 AL MVP ;-))

In case you missed Parts 1-3 of the Why Your Balance Fails series, then here they are:

 

Albert Pujols Video: A Big Misunderstanding

Albert Pujols slightly out front of an 89-mph cutter photo courtesy: MLB.com

People always want to know how to hit the ball harder, with more consistency.  And it all starts with how the head moves during the swing.  Who better to look at for consistency than Albert Pujols, AKA “The Machine”…

According to Baseball-Reference.com, a few key offensive stats based on his 162-game average are:

  • On-Base + Slug% (OPS) – .991…league average is .730
  • Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) – .303 (Fangraphs.com)…league average is .300
  • Homers – 40
  • Doubles – 43

Albert Pujols may not be the same hitter he was with the Cardinals…BUT…what he has working for him is friction-free head movement during the swing.  An oftentimes, misunderstood topic.

In this video post, we’ll hold head movement during the swing to the fire of science:

  • Albert Pujols: understanding the 1/3 Vision Rule,
  • Why breaking the One-Joint Rule bleeds force at impact, and
  • Two most common head position mistakes & how to fix…

 

Albert Pujols: Understanding the 1/3 Vision-Rule

One of my readers, Blake Blackwell, took his son to a Tom House pitching camp.  For those who don’t know Tom House, he’s the founder of the National Pitching Association.  Blake said that Tom House was teaching his pitchers to gear pitch movement for the last 1/3 of the distance to home-plate.

Why?

Studies show that Professional hitters lose sight of the ball within the last 5-7 feet of ball flight.  Consider the 1/3 Vision-Rule…

  • First 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the pitcher’s release point out of the corner of the front eye,
  • Middle 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the ball with both eyes, and
  • Last 1/3 Distance to Plate – hitter sees the ball with the corner of the back eye.

Late breaking movement adds to the pitcher’s deception because a hitter like Albert Pujols isn’t picking up pitch detail during the last 1/3 of ball flight.  You see, peripheral vision (out of the corner of the eye) is about picking up motion, not detail.

Understanding this is important to hitting because you’ll learn…

 

Why Breaking the One-Joint Rule Bleeds Force at Impact

Bryce Harper losing spinal integrity

Bryce Harper “kinking the hose” by dropping his left ear to his shoulder.  Photo courtesy: MLB.com

And upsets vision…

CLICK HERE to watch a demonstration of the One-Joint Rule I did with Shak, a Kansas University Jay-hawks wide receiver.  Dr. Kelly Starrett from MobilityWOD.com says this about the One-Joint Rule:

“The musculature [in the spine] is designed to create stiffness so that you can effectively transmit energy to the primary engines of your hips and shoulders.  If you don’t preserve trunk stiffness while moving from your hips and shoulders, you will lose power and force.    The is the basis for the one-joint rule: you should see flexion and extension movement happen at the hips and shoulders, not your spine.”

He then adds…

“Hinging at one of the segments [vertebraes in the neck]…when we put a hinge across the central nervous system, the body recognizes that as a primary insult, or threat to the body, because you’re basically guillotining or kinking the nervous system.  You’ve kinked ‘the tube’, so it [force production] just drops off.”

 

Two Most Common Head Position Mistakes & How-to Fix…

Here they are:

  1. Chin to chest (a la Andrew McCutchen), AND
  2. Ear to rear shoulder (a la Bryce Harper).

How do we fix these?

First you have to understand the spine can move Globally or LocallyCLICK HERE to watch this demonstration.

Then, the hitter must understand that their head can ONLY move like it’s rotating on a “spit” (the spine), from side to side.  Unless we’re talking about Global Extenting or Flexing.  In other words, the spine can Globally Flex towards the plate – say on a low pitch – but the head MUST stay in line with the spine as it turns towards contact.

At lastly, train this head movement with variance:

  • Setup up five swing rounds,
  • On swings 1-3-5, practice keeping the head on a “spit”, turning the head to get the nose behind the barrel (the right way), and
  • On swings 2-4, practice moving the chin to chest OR ear to rear shoulder (the wrong way).

Note the difference.  I guarantee Albert Pujols makes a conscious effort to keep efficient head movement during his swing.  Can you see why pitchers armed with the 1/3 Vision-Rule, and hitters getting excessive head movement by breaking the One-Joint Rule can really affect repeatable power?

Does Ryan Braun Hit Backwards?  Common Mistake #1 (of 4)…

 

In the first installment of the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make video series, featuring Ryan Braun, we’re analyzing why “Sitting Back” isRyan Braun: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make Part-1 so destructive to friction-free mechanics.  The WHY boils down to a strange word…

According to IdeaFit.com,

Proprioception is the body’s ability to transmit a sense of position, analyze that information and react (consciously or unconsciously) to the stimulation with the proper movement (Houglum 2001).”

The brain does whatever it needs to balance physical movement.  Let’s discuss the following compensations caused by “Sitting Back”:

  • Eyes and head shift forward during Final Turn,
  • Lunging, and
  • Front shoulder flies open.

 

Eyes and Head to Shift Forward During Final Turn

Ryan Braun’s friction-free swing is like snapping a towel.  Throw the towel end towards the intended target, then quickly snap it back.  We’re getting eye-head movement out of the way early, then shifting our spine up and back towards the catcher –  snapping the barrel into the impact zone.  Ryan Braun does this!

Sitting back makes the hitter do the opposite…

  • Keep the hitter back till the last possible second, then
  • The hitter has to shift their weight forward to counter-balance because of proprioception, and
  • As a result, shifts the head and eyes forward.

 

Lunging

What’s your definition of lunging?  When Ryan Braun lands his front foot, his knee virtually floats above his ankle. My definition of lunging is when the front knee continues to float over or passed the ankle during the Final Turn.  It’s a very ineffective position to hit in because the head will continue moving forward.

Here’s how sitting back causes lunging:

  1. Hitter shifts weight to back leg,
  2. Reaches out softly with the stride foot, like a cat (and oftentimes too early)
  3. Waits till ball is on the way, then
  4. Because the body isn’t balanced, the brain shifts the hitter’s weight forward with no hope of getting back,
  5. So the hitter continues forward until he or she hits (or misses) something.

 

Front Shoulder Flies Open

Unlike Ryan Braun, most ‘Sit Back’ hitters:

  1. Have hand dominant swings.  Since the shoulders are closest to the hands, they have to start earlier to get the hands working.
  2. Don’t set up the natural rotation counter-rotation relationship of the pelvis and shoulders* before the front foot hits the ground.  This causes the shoulders to compensate and open prematurely.
  3. Open their hips and shoulders at the same time.  If this happens, a hitter will max out at 60-70% of their ability to transfer energy efficiently from body –> to barrel –> to ball.  This put smaller hitters at a disadvantage by dramatically decreasing power output.
  4. Have a difficult time keeping the front shoulder in with off speed and breaking balls.  It’s easy for pitchers to disrupt a Sit Back hitter’s timing.  Their brain is focused on too many things at once: timing, proprioception, and pitch speed/location (because of late head-eye movement).

*CLICK HERE for an in-depth look at spine engine mechanics according to Dr. Erik Dalton.  Read below the subtitle, “The Spring-Loaded Spiraling Spine”.

CLICK HERE for Part-2 to the Hitting Backwards video saga, where we’ll analyze Adrian Gonzalez and Common Mistake #2: loading the swing incorrectly…