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best swing in baseball

Best Swing in Baseball: Here is a Method Helping Mookie Betts – And Many Others – Consistently Crush The Ball

 

In this best swing in baseball video, we’ll discuss:

  • Data and reasoning because personal opinions are seldom useful,
    Best Swing in Baseball: Mookie Betts hitting inside pitch and 'showing numbers'

    Mookie Betts (via my Twitter feed) ‘showing numbers’ at landing on inside pitch…Hitting Guru #57 “should NEVER ‘show numbers’ on inside pitch” objection based on personal opinion with ZERO data to back claim :-/

  • Anatomy Trains, The Spinal Engine, Dynamic Body, WeckMethod, Matt Nokes, Homer Bush, Aaron Miles, and numerous past and present professional hitters agree with CLS,
  • Objection #1: Increases Time to Impact because turning away from impact – twisting balloon analogy,
  • Objection #2: Hitter loses vision and tracking of the pitch – “back eye test
  • Objection #3: Not on inside pitches – hitting “belly button” catcher’s glove,
  • Can eat soup with spoon, fork, knife…but only one way is more effective. Teaching hitting is the same.  Apply human movement principles that are validated by REAL science, NOT “because-I-said-so ‘bro-science'”, and
  • The information is out there, so hitters will find it for themselves, either you will be able to take credit for teaching it or you won’t. Results don’t lie.

Still don’t believe the best ‘show numbers’?  CLICK HERE for a post I did recently titled, “Why I Teach Hitters To ‘Show Numbers’ (And Maybe You Should Too)”.

Don’t be like opinion-based Hitting Guru #57…have solid data and reasoning to back up your “opinions”.

How “Loading & Exploding The Hips” Can Be VERY Dangerous To The Lower Back…

We’ll get to the above video, but first let me be clear…

I’m not saying the pelvis doesn’t play a role in the swing, because it does.  However, I feel this spot reserved in the swing’s sequence of movements is hyper-focused on by a majority of hitting gurus.  More and more research is saying extreme “hip thrust” or “loading and exploding the hips” can be VERY damaging to the lower back over time.  You’ll see why in a moment, but for now please note that in this podcast episode, former USA Men’s Gymnastics Coach Sommers says the lower back portion of the spine isn’t made for a high degrees of rotation, but the T-Spine is.

Another thing I want to clear up,

We don’t teach a 100% pure rotational mechanics here.  We teach a blend of linear-rotational.  Please CLICK HERE to read our thoughts on this.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • How the spine stacks up (quick anatomy lesson),
  • Does consistent power come from the ground? And,
  • Teaching hitters a safer more effective swing.

Let’s get started…

 

How the Spine Stacks Up

Photo courtesy: MayfieldClinic.com

Here’s a quick anatomy lesson of the spine:

  • Cervical – the vertebrae in your neck, consists of 7 vertebrae, are allowed to flex, extend, and rotate,
  • Thoracic – the vertebrae in the middle of spine including shoulders, consists of 12 vertebrae, which are also allowed to flex, extend, and rotate, and
  • Lumbar – the vertebrae in lower back, consist of 5 vertebrae, and are allowed to flex and extend ONLY.
  • Sacral & Coccyx – there are 5 fused vertebrae here, and the Coccyx is sometimes referred to as the “tail” bone.

Did you catch that about the Lumbar?  It’s important, so it bares repeating…the vertebrae in the lower back IS NOT built to rotate!  Right now, you may be thinking: “Wait a minute, how’s that?!  I’ve seen millions of swings, and the hitter’s pelvis (and lower back) are rotating!!”

According to Charlie Weingroff, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist, a trainer in New York City, and is pretty high up on the human performance food chain, says this:

“Only your thoracic spine (which consists of the 12 vertebrae in your upper and middle back) is designed to rotate significantly — about 40 degrees in each direction, according to Weingroff — when under compression. The lumbar spine (lower back) should rotate no more than about 12 degrees.”

Some movement experts (like Thomas Myers, author of the book Anatomy Trains), says the lower back can rotate no more than 7-degrees.  So according to the experts, 7 to 12-degrees is a good rotational range for the Lumbar section of the spine. That’s NOTHING compared to the 40-degrees of rotation – in each direction – of the middle and upper back section of the spine (which includes shoulders).

So what’s happening then?  You see, since the lower back vertebrae are not designed to rotate, it’s the surrounding muscles that are rotating a fixed object (non-rotating Lumbar), and is why you do see rotation.   The T-Spine vertebrae are built to rotate (again, this includes the shoulders), hence is why hitting coaches should put their rotational focus there and NOT the hips, pelvis, or low back.

Is rotating back hip through the zone necessary for power? Not in the way most coaches think.  Consider this quote from Physicist, Electrical Engineer, and author of the book The Spinal Engine, Dr. Serge Gracovetsky:

“The axial rotation of the spine cannot happen unless the spine is flexed by the right amount on the correct side. Coaching an athlete to throw without a proper spinal position is an invitation to severe torsional injuries.”

Dr. Gracovetsky is referring to this “flex” as a side bend with the shoulders.  The point is, USE THE SHOULDERS to accomplish rotational power.  Warning for coaches: if you shrug this information off because of ego or pride, and continue to teach pelvis, hip, or lower back dominant twisting swings, then you’re wearing holes in the low backs of your hitters.  Be careful because the link is there, and one can be held liable.

Don’t worry, I’ll show those coaches doing this unknowingly a safer way, at the end of this post…

 

Does Consistent Power Come from the Ground?

Water Polo Throw

Water Polo throw photo courtesy: YouTube Egy image from video

You may be thinking, but consistent power comes from the ground…the pelvis is the first to interact with Gravitational Forces, and that’s why you teach “hip thrust”. I agree with Ted Williams that the ‘Hips Lead the Way’, but they don’t contribute as much to consistent power as most think.  I know this may sound earth shattering for some, so please stay with me here.

CLICK the following link to a post I did titled, “The Swing DOES NOT Start From The Ground & Move Up?”

This brings me to the water polo throw video above…

Let me ask you a question, what do you think the “fastest throw in Water Polo” is?  Doing a Google search using those keywords brings up the following statement:

The overhand shot from a Croatian senior men’s national team player is recognized as the fastest shot in the world at 60 MPH (96.5 KPH). The overhand shot is the standard throwing motion in water polo. It is the same arm motion as a pitcher uses in baseball.”

So, let’s think about this.  In water, there are little to no Gravitational Forces, and the best human floating in water, can throw a volleyball-sized ball 60-mph?  What do you think the speed would be if this person was floating in water and threw a baseball-sized ball instead?  75-mph?  80-mph? 90-mph?  Okay, so let’s say this top-of-the-food-chain water polo player throws a baseball floating in water 80-mph.  You’re telling me a top-of-the-food-chain pitcher in the Big Leagues, throwing down a mound, can only throw 20-mph more (assuming 100-mph) than someone throwing the same ball floating in water?!

I dunno, but this begs the question, does the pelvis (and lower Lumbar), OR the shoulders (and T-Spine) contribute the most to pitching velocity AND Ball Exit Speeds?

If you need to see more examples about this, then CLICK HERE for a swing experiment titled, “How Much Ball Exit Speed Does Pelvis Contribute To A High Level Swing?” 

Consider this Tweet from one of my readers…

And I added the following comment…

So what role do I think the pelvis and low back play in the swing, if not power?  Directional force.  Allows the hitter’s swing to convert Centripetal into Centrifugal Force.  In a nutshell, the hitter’s “belt buckle” must point in the direction of the batted ball.

So what’s the answer?

 

Teaching Hitters a Safer more Effective Swing

Here are some resources to get you started, outside of the ones already mentioned:

Coaches, PLEASE get educated.  Don’t let ego or pride get in the way of helping hitters swing safe.  Like Tony Robbins says,

“If you aren’t growing, then you’re dying.”

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

STOP Pulling Off The Ball, Increase Batting Average, and Boost Power By Using The Closed Stance?

 

I know, I know,

Some well meaning coaches will think, “Well, a closed stance cuts off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement”

I get it.  I used to believe the same thing a couple years ago,

…But what I found in my research was counter-intuitive, yet very promising for hitters.

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

Giancarlo Stanton using his “closed stance”. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

My process is to chew and digest the science, observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then try it out!

As you’ll soon find out, Giancarlo Stanton did his homework before making this particular change in his swing.

Since there may be many of you raising the same objections I started with, I wanted to discuss:

  • Addressing the above “Study of Planes” video, then we’ll move on to…
  • Analyzing the small change that has netted BIG results for Giancarlo Stanton this season.

 

Study of Planes

My good friend Seo Perales shared the above video with me a few years ago.  By the way, he’s a multiple level black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu.

We love comparing notes because we both like to seek and explore human movement principles that are validated by science.  The only difference is, in his line of work as a Jujitsu instructor, he wants to learn how to break down the body, and I’m into maximizing its effect.

The above video demonstrates the science of movement planes.  What are considered weak and strong planes of movement from a Judo perspective.

I think you’ll find the video enlightening.

Now, you may be thinking, “A Judo video? Really?!  What can I learn from a video about Judo?”

If you find yourself camped out in ONLY baseball or softball circles, then you’re missing out on A LOT of useful information that will take your hitters to a whole other level.

The video is very applicable to hitting.

Furthermore,

My good friend Lee Comeaux from Texas, who teaches professional and amateur golfers, also brought the power of movement planes to my attention about a year ago…

He told me draw an “X” in the batter’s box from opposite corners, and have the hitter stand on either line when hitting.  He’s very versed in Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains.  He says hitters standing on one diagonal leg of the “X” encourages the springiness of fascia.  He taught this to his 15yo daughter, who has hit over .600 the last couple years playing Fast-Pitch Softball in Texas, which is one of the hotbeds for both baseball and softball competition in the country.  Oh and by the way, she also hit a half dozen homers as well.

The second part of this post, I wanted to share the tipping point in addressing Giancarlo Stanton’s new closed stance…

Giancarlo Stanton & The “Dreaded” Closed Stance

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me in writing this post, came from this MLB.com article by David Adler titled, “Closing time: Stanton’s stance fueling surge: Marlins slugger’s home run tear lines up with change to batting stance in June”.

You can go there and read the full article, but I wanted to tease out the quotes from Giancarlo Stanton (and some of David Adler’s commentary), and how Stanton arrived at the batting stance change…

I just said I was going to try it. Honestly, I had about 30 minutes of work, maybe 45 minutes, before the game,” Stanton told MLB.com Sunday, when he crushed his Major League-leading 45th home run against the Mets at Citi Field. “And then 10 minutes before the game, I was like, ‘This feels more comfortable.'”

Stanton was already having a helluva year, so it’s interesting to me that he made the change when he did, typically a change like this follows a slump.  However, this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision – like it sounds from that quote – he did his homework, which you’ll read about shortly…

“My best striking position is closed,” Stanton said. “It’s not smart to try to completely change something in the middle of the season. But if you are 100 percent committed to it … well, you’ve got to be. You’ve got to trust what you’re trying to do. If you change something, you want results right away, otherwise you try to go back. But I trusted it completely and let it ride.”

Sounds contradictory doesn’t it?  To have the attitude that you can’t completely change something in the middle of the season – especially when you’re already doing well!!  But then he says you MUST commit to giving the change time – that is – IF you’ve done your homework beforehand.

I’ve heard some parents and coaches say mid-season changes aren’t smart.  I don’t like to think that way…WHY?  Because if you don’t guide the hitter, the hitter will make changes on their own.  And if they don’t get highly resourceful on the subject, then this could lead to DISASTER with all the junk hitting info on the net these days.

David Adler did fantastic research illustrating the evolution of Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance in this Tweet:

In the earlier mentioned article, Adler states…

“Stanton’s closing of his batting stance has correlated with his massive power surge. On June 18, he had 17 home runs in 282 plate appearances; since June 19, he has 28 in 236.

When Stanton hits from those positions [open or straight up], his front side can come open before the pitch arrives, leaving him exploitable.

The closed stance is a natural counter. When Stanton is already turned inward to start, his rotation drives him into the pitch, instead of causing him to fade away from it.”

By the way, for those not doing the math:

  • From start of season to June 18th, he hit 1 homer every 16.5 plate appearances, and
  • From June 19th on, he hit 1 homer every 8.4 plate appearances

He cut his rate in half!!!!  The closed stance was the ONLY change to his swing in that time frame, so this makes an interesting case study with a decent sample size of plate appearances.  See for yourself with the following David Adler Tweet:

David Adler adds some terms of comparision you may be familiar with…

“With his adjusted stance, Stanton has been driving the ball in the air more often. His rate of fly balls and line drives, per Statcast™, has risen from 41.5 percent prior to June 19 to 50.3 percent since. Stanton’s average exit velocity on those balls has increased from 97.6 mph to 100.8 mph, the highest in the Majors over that time.”

I don’t care that Stanton is a beast, if you increase your Line Drive and Fly Ball Rates (Launch Angle), and Ball Exit Speeds that much, you’ll make a lot of Ground-ball teams VERY VERY upset.  Small hitters CAN and DO take advantage of this formula too.  Statcast has given hitters the cheat codes to increase offensive productivity!

Furthermore, in the Adler article…

“[His stance] gets him in the position he wants to be in. It looks like it’s keeping him on the ball more, and he seems like he’s seeing it better,” said Christian Yelich, who’s played alongside Stanton as long as any current Marlin — since 2013, when he was 21 and Stanton 23. “Some guys have different problems than others. You go about fixing them or covering them in different ways. It’s all about feel. That’s what works for him, that feel.”

Look at that bold sentence once more because that is one of the most critical keys to this whole thing.  Yelich is also tapping into making extreme adjustments, for example, Stanton’s challenge in the past has been pulling off, maybe because of when he tragically got hit in the face a few years ago.  Whatever the reason, the extreme adjustment (a closed stance), helps him stay on the ball longer.

CLICK HERE for a video I did on how to make adjustments…the scientific term for this is “Paradoxical Intention”.

Now, here is where the article gets into the research that brought Giancarlo Stanton to the point of taking the stance change seriously…

“But at a level of the game where emulation is fundamental, success begetting imitators, Stanton found his prototypes: Nolan Arenado, Matt Kemp, Adrian Beltre, prominent hitters who do close off. He recognized past greats, too: Hall of Famer Andre Dawson works as a special assistant to the Marlins, and he hit with a closed stance in his playing career. Stanton didn’t copy the technical aspects of their batting stances, but their accomplishments gave him precedent to actually make the change himself.

Some on Twitter have written this change off as a band-aide, avoiding a true fix.  A true fix?  Are you kidding me?!  Cutting his home-run per plate appearance rate in half IS NOT a true fix!?  Dude!!  Success leaves clues.  These people are saying Giancarlo Stanton is “playing to the slice”, where a golfer who chronically slices the ball will angle his body at setup so they don’t have to fix the real problem…which is not squaring up the club face at impact.

This is a poor attempt to protect an inflexible teaching philosophy, and sheer laziness on their part to get educated on their craft they claim to know a lot about.  You instructors seriously think Giancarlo Stanton is not “squaring the ball up” at impact since June 19th and is just “playing the slice”?  That is laughable.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

This is the problem I have with instructors with inflexible hitting systems…they’re WILLFULLY IGNORANT to experimenting with things that could push their hitters forward, especially movements validated by science.  We’re ALL in this together, and we’re ALL helping hitters.  It’s NOT about your ego or protecting “your brand” coaches.

But I digress…

Here’s some insight into Giancarlo Stanton’s thought process with the change…

“I just know the guys with success,” Stanton said. “Arenado and Kemp, those guys, you know you can have a high average with it. So that kind of gave me the green light to try it…I knew it could work. Not very many people did it. But I know people like Hawk and them did it in the old days — and it worked for them, too.”

 

The Bottom Line…

Giancarlo Stanton: Tweet About Closed Stance

A day or two after re-tweeting Homer Bush’s Tweet about Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance, I received this response from @Omaha_Outlaws4…

I understand your objections that a closed stance may cut off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement.  You’ve heard me talk a lot about “keeping the back foot sideways”, well, this plays right into that.

Matt Nokes is religious on restricting hip movement to the point of impact with keeping the back foot sideways.  Homer Bush agrees in this interview.  So are the Backspin Tee guys Taylor and Jarrett Gardner.  LIGHT BULB! The closed stance does this naturally.

The main benefit of restricting hip movement at impact (includes keeping back foot sideways) that you’ll hear from Nokes, Bush, and the Gardner Brothers, is to keep the barrel in the hitting zone longer.  This increases BA and Slug%.

Here’s my advice:

  1. Chew and digest the science,
  2. Observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then
  3. Try it out!

If it doesn’t work after giving it the ol’ college try, then toss it.

As many of you know, I will gladly eat crow and change my hitting system IF you can show me the science, swing experiments, and many elite hitting examples that I can’t ignore the issue.

This is an informal Part-1 to a Zepp swing experiment I’ll be doing on the Giancarlo Stanton closed stance in the near future.  So stay tuned…

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.

How To Teach “Pull Happy” Hitters An Opposite Field Approach

I Need Your Help…

But before I get to the “BIG ask”,

How to Hit to the Opposite Field: Jim Thome, Mark DeRosa, & Lauren Shehadi

Mark DeRosa and Jim Thome helping Lauren Shehadi of MLBNetwork to hit to the opposite field. Photo courtesy: MLBNetwork YouTube Channel

I want you to watch the video above, where Mark DeRosa and Jim Thome help teach Lauren Shehadi how to hit the ball to the opposite field (she claims to be a chronic pull hitter).

It’s a fun video with some cool sticky coaching stuff in it.

In the video, please pay particular attention to the following:

  • What are some of the things either Thome or DeRo offered Lauren that didn’t work?
  • What were some of the things either Thome or DeRo offered that did work?
  • What did Lauren do when she didn’t understand a concept “Don’t bail out”, and then what did DeRo/Thome do or say to clarify?
  • Notice the use of positive reinforcement when she did something right…more on this at a later date, I’m currently reading a GAME CHANGING book for coaches called Don’t Shoot The Dog that goes more into this.  Sorry, only paperback version available on Amazon.

Now, here are a couple “BIG asks” (you don’t have to answer all)

  • What are the top two mistakes you see coaches make teaching pull happy hitters to hit to the opposite field?
  • What are your top two drills, sticky coaching cues, and/or hitting aids that consistently help pull happy hitters hit “oppo”?
  • If you had only 4 weeks – and a million dollars on the line – to train a pull happy hitter to hit with power to the opposite field, what would the training look like?

Pull happy hitting is going to be a MAJOR challenge as hitters climb the playing career ladder.  Extreme shifts are becoming a reality nowadays.

Great baseball minds like Homer Bush said in his book Hitting Low In The Zone,  that in order to hit .300, hitters MUST be able to lift the low pitch AND hit the ball to the opposite field.

Consider this quote from Justin Turner, who at the time of this writing is hitting .364 with 11 HR’s and 19 2B’s (a little over halfway through the season):

“Today, with the way defenses shift, you’re out.  Especially if you don’t run that well.  You don’t beat the shift by hitting around it or through it, you beat the shift by hitting over it.”

Someday your hitters will face a shift, and if they aren’t prepared, they’ll fail way more than they have to.  Be proactive coaches.

THANK YOU in advance for YOUR comments 😀

The ‘Hip Thrust’ That Matt Nokes Is NOT Talking About

 

Matt Nokes: Cal Ripken Jr.

Look at Cal Ripken’s lack of back foot rotation. Photo courtesy: Gene Sweeney, Jr./Baltimore Sun

In this Matt Nokes post, I wanted to bust a MYTH that Homer Bush brought up in his interview last week…

And that is…

The MYTH that rotating the back hip through the zone is necessary for power.

This past week, I re-tweeted this from @HyattCraig (who is awesome btw), of one of two Miguel Cabrera homers in a game, and this particular one he hit to CF:

The next day after that Tweet, I found this private message from a follower on Twitter:

“Joey, Honest question. I love most everything you post and It goes with all of the philosophies I teach as an instructor, but this particular post I don’t quite understand. Are you saying a backwards step of sorts and having limited pelvic rotation are positives? I don’t feel like this is practical for anyone that isn’t 6’3 225 when the pitcher is providing the power at 93. If you have time could you please clarify this for me?”

My response:

“Thanks for asking about that. A couple things, we do have to be careful about taking from big slugger analysis. I don’t mind what the back foot does as long as its un-weighting AND not skipping forward too much. Miggy has a great line following the batted ball, it has to do with optimizing centrifugal (center-fleeing) forces. As an example, the belly button should point where the batted ball has exited. Coach Matt Nokes talks quite a bit about full rotation not being an absolute to hitting.”

Which brings me to the above video, where Coach Matt Nokes walks us through numerous examples of elite hitters not fully rotating their back foot (and pelvis) until after impact.

Also, let me define full rotation of the pelvis (or hips as some refer to it as), at least from what I see/hear/watch from other people out there…

Full pelvic rotation is getting the hitter’s belly button to face shortstop (for a righty, or 2B for lefty) on any pitch…inside, middle, and outside.

I’ve found this gospel preached from those who don’t ‘buy into’ or understand the loading of springy fascia in the torso, since to them, the shoulders would be seen as ‘inactive’, before the hitter starts turning.

Therefore the pelvis has to do all the heavy lifting.

This method is far from optimal, and NOT very safe for the lower backs of youth hitters across the nation,

AND even more disturbing…
WILL continue to keep Orthopedic surgeons in business.

CLICK HERE for a post I did explaining how the swing isn’t rotational OR linear, but that’s it’s actually linear, rotational, then linear again.

The purpose of this post, is to open up discussion about whether rotating the back hip through the zone is necessary for power IS or IS NOT a myth…

Lastly,

I wanted to share one of my favorite Coach Matt Nokes drills for practicing what he preaches.  It’s his “Around the Zone” soft toss (coaches please be careful with this):

What say you…?

Low Pitch Hacking With Homer BushHomer Bush: Hitting Low In The Zone: A New Baseball Paradigm

I first met Homer Bush over the Socials a year or so ago…

He followed me on Twitter, so I followed him.

(CLICK HERE to check him out on FanGraphs.com)

What caught my attention was that he had an intriguing book out, which we’ll cover shortly.

Homer Bush was not a big MLB guy by today’s standards, 5’10”, 180-lbs, while spending 7 years in the Bigs.

Like I mentioned earlier,

The thing that separated him from other ex-MLB guys, I follow on Twitter, was the growth mindset he showed in his book: Hitting Low in the Zone: A New Baseball Paradigm.

Typically, Big League players don’t dive into Sabermetrics, as readily as they will in the coming years, so it was refreshing to see Homer Bush taking a hard look at ways hitters can exploit inefficiencies at the Big League level by spotting Metric patterns.

Not only do his strategies work at the elite level, but do at the lower levels as well.

I read his book in a week, and thought he did a great job of showing hard evidence of WHY hitters MUST:

  • Learn how to elevate low pitches, and
  • Figure out how to hit with power to ALL fields.

If you aren’t helping your hitters grow, then they’re dying.

Here’s a short bio of Homer Bush:

  • Homer Bush was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 7th round of the 1991 amateur draft.
  • He went on to play 13 years of professional baseball.
  • Homer also played for the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and the Florida Marlins.
  • He was a member of the record setting 1998 Yankees World Series Championship team.
  • He recently authored his first book called Hitting Low in the Zone: A New Baseball Paradigm.
  • Homer is currently Director of Youth Programs for the Texas Rangers and lives in Southlake, Texas with his wife and 2 children.

Without further adieu,

Here is the…

 

Interview with Homer Bush…

Homer Bush: Hitting Low In The Zone

Homer Bush with the Yankees. Photo courtesy: bleedingyankeeblue.blogspot.com

If you were to train me for four weeks for a HUGE tournament and had a million dollars on the line, what would the training look like? What if I trained for eight weeks?

With 4 weeks of training, we’d spend 50% of the time working on proper hitting mechanics–grip & stance, load and swing path.

We’d spend 25% of the time understanding the hitting zone, as opposed to the the strike zone.

And the last 25% of the time, we’d work on your mental approach at the plate as far as focus and building on the positives, so that adjustments can be made from pitch to pitch.

With the additional 4 weeks, we’d just build on these areas with emphasis on repetition.

 

What makes you different? Who trained you or influenced you?

My major league experience allowed me to see hitting at its highest level on a daily basis. When reflecting back, it is clear that all of the elite players that I played with or against were good low ball hitters.

Some of my influences were… Tony Gwynn, Tim Raines, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Chili Davis, Darryl Strawberry, too many to name them all.

 

What are your favorite instructional books or resources on the subject? If people had to teach themselves, what would you suggest they use?

What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in hitting? What are the biggest wastes of time?

I find that there are several myths…

  1. That the swing is level.
  2. There is no such thing as swinging through the baseball.
  3. Rotating the back hip through the zone is necessary for power.
  4. Everyone has their own way of hitting. Every batter must have similarities in their mechanics at a certain point in the hitting process.
  5. ‘Squishing the Bug’ philosophy is a joke. In my opinion the biggest waste of time is hitting off of pitching machines in indoor academies because they are too erratic and almost impossible to time.

 

Who is good at hitting despite being poorly built for it? Who’s good at this who shouldn’t be?

Yadier Molina, average height, wide body and not very fast (not your idea baseball player build) but very productive at the plate.

 

Who are the most controversial or unorthodox hitters? Why? What do you think of them?

One of the most unorthodox hitters was my former teammate, Tony Batista— unusual, open batting stance but very effective with good power.

 

Who are the most impressive lesser-known teachers?

Besides Homer Bush, Tim Raines

 

Have you trained others to do this? Have they replicated your results?

Yes, when I was coaching in the minors with the Padres, my players improved in every offensive category (runs, hits, team batting average, on-base percentage, doubles, home runs) in just one season of me working with them. I’ve also taught my own hitting clients, youth, high school and college players how to execute my hitting philosophy for immediate and consistent success at the plate.

Thank you Homer Bush for sharing such great insight.

His strategy works for softball, just as much as baseball. And believe me, defensive shifts are on their way to the lower levels(if you haven’t seen them already)

Especially once the metrics get easier to collect and manage with a score-book software, such as Game Changer.

Did you know…

Pitchers are consistently taught to keep the ball down in the zone? (I bet you already knew that),

BUT, did you know…

The Oakland Athletics recently recruited hitters with swing paths that were optimal for balls down in the zone!!!?

What do pitchers do then, when hitters begin to elevate the low pitch?! lol

Remember guys and gals, knowledge IS NOT power…it’s POTENTIAL power.  Please put Homer’s study and research to use.

Here’s how you can stay updated with Homer Bush:

Please direct any questions or comments to Homer Bush below…