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Josh Donaldson Baseball Softball Swing Advice: Front Side Flying Open & Spinning Off Hitting Drills

Discover how to FIX pulling the head off the ball, front side flying open, and over rotation spinning off the baseball or softball hitting drills.  Learn about Josh Donaldson versus Jose Bautista “keep front shoulder in” common flaw swing advice and batting stats…

“Staying Closed” for Fastpitch Softball & Baseball (NOT What You Think)

 

 

In this article, we’ll compare the swings of Oakland Athletic’s (now Yankees) Josh Donaldson and quasi retired Jose Bautista.  In the video, we’ll discuss:

  • Donaldson v. Bautista metrics,
  • What “staying closed” means to spine engine mechanics, and
  • Where Josh Donaldson might be leaking force at impact.

 

Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista Metrics

This section is split up as follows:

  • Physical
  • Swing analysis
  • Key offensive stats

 Physical

Tale of the tape (according to Baseball-Reference.com):

  • Josh Donaldson – 6’0″, 220lbs
  • Jose Bautista – 6’0″ 205lbs

Swing Analysis

Both hitters:

  • Use a distinctive leg kick,
  • Have an early start to their swings (pick up front foot when pitcher breaks the hands)
  • Use forward momentum,
  • Stay tight in final turn,
  • Use Catapult Loading System (down shoulder angle & show numbers to pitcher), and
  • Start their first name with the letter “J”.

Key Offensive Stats

Here are FIVE key offensive stats based on a 162-game average (Baseball-Reference.com in May of 2014):

  1. On-Base Percentage (OBP) – JD* = .351, JB** = .365
  2. Slugging Percentage (SLG) – JD = .467. JB = 489
  3. On-Base + Slug (OPS) – JD = .818, JB = .854
  4. Doubles – JD = 36, JB = 28
  5. Homers – JD = 24, JB = 31

*JD stands for Josh Donaldson

**JB stands for Jose Bautista

So why does Jose Bautista come out on top even though he’s outweighed by 15lbs?  Consider this…

Josh Donaldson: CLICK HERE to see a scatter graph of his dinger disbursement in 2013 (according to ESPN Stats & Information Group).  In the 158 games he played in 2013 (24 homers) his…

  • Average true distance was 391.3 feet, and
  • Average speed off the bat was 103.7 mph.

Jose Bautista: CLICK HERE to see a scatter graph of his home-run disbursement in 2013 (according to ESPN Stats & Information Group).  In the 118 games played (hand/wrist injury) in 2013 (28 homers) his…

  • Average true distance was 400.3 feet, and
  • Average speed off the bat was 104.8 mph.

The bottom line?

Joey Bats played 40 less games in 2013, but still outhit Josh Donaldson.  So let’s answer the question of how Bautista hit each homer, on average, 9 feet further, and drove the ball 1.1 mph faster off the bat.

Let’s begin building a case as to where Josh Donaldson may be bleeding force at impact…

What “Staying Closed” Means to Spine Engine Mechanics

Most confuse the meaning of the coaching cue “staying closed”.  The hitter DOES NOT “stay closed” with the bottom half.  For maximum energy transfer, the pelvis should open when the body weights the front foot after striding.  Both hitters seem to prematurely open their pelvis before the heel hits the ground.  This isn’t efficient!  We’ll talk about:

  • The truth about staying closed,
  • The importance of heel strike to locomotion, and
  • Swinging in sand: effortless power or powerless effort?

The Truth About Staying Closed

In the video, we apply two of three coupled motion of the spine actions, according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine:

  1. Side bending (evidenced by a down shoulder angle), and
  2. Axial rotation (hitter shows numbers to pitcher, while pelvis stays parallel to the plate)

In the video, we clearly see both hitters do this.  Donaldson more than Bautista.  I mentioned both hitters prematurely open their pelvis before heel strike.  Let’s look at the gravity (pun intended) of doing or not doing this…

The Importance of Heel Strike to Locomotion

In the book, Gracovetsky offers one of several meanings for maintaining a healthy spine using spinal engine mechanics (p. 168):

“…the compressive pulse generated at heel-strike is essential to the locomotion process.  The shape of this pulse must be very specific if maximum energy is to be transferred from the earth’s gravitational field to the rotating pelvis.”

Both hitters “stand tall” before falling forward and “getting shorter” into the turn.  This lifting of the torso is like running versus walking.  When running, our heel hits the ground creating a compressive force that is equaled to NINE-times our body weight, Dr. Gracovetsky says.  Gravity pulls our body down (Un-Weighting Principal), and at heel strike, the ground pushes back in a compressive force.  The greater the force, the faster the pelvis opens.

The following is where I foreshadow the problem with Donaldson…

Swinging in Sand: Effortless Power or Powerless Effort?

Dr. Serge Gracovetsky offers this example in the book (pgs. 168-169),

“Running or walking on soft sand is not easy and is very tiring,  In this particular case, the energy leaks into the sand, the impact force is reduced, and the compressive pulse through the spine is attenuated [disabled] as the total energy recovered is reduced.”

The compressive force is softened by the sand, which doesn’t allow the pelvis to turn using efficient spine engine mechanics.  To maneuver, the brain has to recruit big muscles to do the work.  This is why you get a workout walking on sand…it’s powerless effort, rather than effortless power.

Donaldson is basically turning his pelvis using muscle mass (like walking in the sand).  Whereas Bautista looks more effortless because he’s using efficient spine engine mechanics, gravity, and gravitational reaction forces…

 

Where Josh Donaldson May Be Leaking Force at Impact

In the video, you’ll see Donaldson start opening his pelvis five frames before he weights his front foot.  His front foot looks like it almost “hovers” over the ground for 3-4 frames.  Opening the pelvis without a true compressive force (gravity and gravitational reaction forces) would be like hitting a baseball while standing on sand!

Bautista starts opening his pelvis only two frames ahead of weighting his front foot.  Joey Bats experiences a higher compressive force at landing than Donaldson does.  This is why “staying closed” with the upper half, and committing the body to landing on the front foot is crucial to an average increase of:

  • 9 feet to batted ball distance, and
  • 1.1 mph to ball exit speeds.

Post UPDATE: after Josh Donaldson was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, this post was picked up by the Canadian National Post (Just above the Jose Bautista image).  Also, there was an “upgrade” to his hitting mechanics since this post was first published in 2014.  CLICK HERE for a link to an Athletics Nation article talking about a difference in J.D.’s 2013 & 2014 swing mechanics.  In 2015, Josh Donaldson reverted back to his minimalist “barrel tilt” 2013 hitting mechanics.

How To Increase Baseball Softball Bat Speed & Exit Velocity

Learn how to increase hitting power using a bat speed and exit velocity exercises drill formula for baseball, softball, and slow pitch.  Discover what is a good ball exit speed off the batting tee by age, and average High School programming.  When it comes to ball exit speeds by age, here’s what I like to see by the end of each year, off the tee… (add about 5-mph exit velocity to the following, in game at-bats)

  • Seniors: 90 to 95-mph
  • Juniors: 85 to 90-mph
  • Sophomores: 80 to 85-mph
  • Frosh: 75 to 80-mph
  • 8th graders: 70 to 75-mph
  • 7th graders: 65 to 70-mph
  • 12 years old: 60 to 65-mph

How To Hit 120.5-mph Ball Exit Speeds Like Josh Donaldson

 

 

Amy Gill and Andrew Marden from KSEE24, a local sports news station here in Fresno, CA, put this video together of an HPL Batted Ball Distance Challenge held about a month ago.

We worked primarily on testing showing the numbers, and the results were interesting…

Twelve total hitters, ranging in ages from 8-17 years old.  Nine of them had been exposed to the HPL system.  Two of them had not, and one had minimal exposure.

The familiar ones (control group) gained or lost between -1 to +1-mph of Ball Exit Speed, while the three “newbies” gained between 3 and 10-mph of Ball Exit Speed in one 30-minute session.  That’s between 15 to 50-feet of added batted ball distance!!

The Definitive Guide To Measuring, Tracking, & Boosting Ball Exit Speed

Josh Donaldson: 120.5-mph Ball Exit Speed

Josh Donaldson 120.5-mph Ball Exit Speed homer on April 23, 2015. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

On April 23rd, 2015…

The Toronto Blue Jays’ 3rd baseman, Josh Donaldson, hit a two-run homer to left off Chris Tillman that was clocked at 120.5-mph!

And as of August 18th, according to ESPN’s HitTrackerOnline.com (no longer available), was the highest Ball Exit Speed home-run in 2015.  By the way, this topped Giancarlo Stanton’s highest Ball Exit Speed homer, in the same year, by 3.2-mph (117.3-mph).

How does Josh Donaldson do it?

I mean, come on!

Giancarlo Stanton, also referred to as “Bigfoot”, stands at a gargantuan 6-foot, 6-inches tall, 240-pounds.  And from what I hear, has about 3-4% bodyfat.

On the other hand, Josh Donaldson stands in at mere 6-foot, 220-pounds.

Talk about David & Goliath!

But what little realize about David was that he was an expert marksman from long range.  So he never had to go toe-to-toe with Goliath.

David had a better strategy.  And so do small sluggers like Josh Donaldson.

In this post, we’ll be talking about Ball Exit Speed (BES), also known as Speed Off the Bat (SOB), or simply Exit Speed.  We’ll learn:

  • What affects Ball Exit Speeds?
  • What is the Desirable Minimum Effective Dosage (MED) for Ball Exit Speed? And
  • How-to increase Ball Exit Speed…

 

What Affects Ball Exit Speeds?

“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

Recently, I use a Pocket Radar Ball Coach to measure the Ball Exit Speeds of my hitters, off the tee, before and after each session.

It’s not radar gun accuracy we’re looking for here, but an apples to apples comparison.  Here’s what we’re comparing, using the radar gun, before and after each hitting session:

  1. Did the hitter beat a personal record (PR), and/or
  2. How consistent and stable their Ball Exit Speed readings are, or whether they’re jumping all over the place.

Unlike bat speed, there are many things that can affect the speed of the ball coming off the bat:

  • Bat Composition (BESR rating) – Wood v. non-wood.  End loaded v. more balanced weight. Bat size and weight.
  • Ball Composition (COR rating) – Plastic balls v. rawhide.  Corked core v. rubber.  Higher v. lower seams.
  • Hitter’s Arm/Leg Length vs Body Mass – In my opinion I think limb length is more of a factor than body mass.  And Physicist Dr. Alan Nathan has confirmed this.
  • Ball Spin Rate – Backspin and topspin, in addition to the coveted knuckle-ball will all affect BES differently.
  • Effective Mechanics – the better a hitter is at effectively using human movement rules that are validated by science, the better energy transfer from body to barrel to ball.
  • Pitching Velocity – From what I’ve heard and seen, pitch speed can add between 10-20-mph to Ball Exit Speeds, say from off the tee.
  • Fatigue – sleep, over-training, nutrition, and supplementation.  CLICK HERE for Zach Calhoon’s recovery shake mix.
  • Warm Up Factor – I noticed in my latest Zepp swing experiment, that I didn’t consistently hit 90+mph Ball Exit Speed, off the tee, until I reached about the 75 swing mark.
  • Learning New Hitting Mechanics – I’ve noticed with my hitters that when we introduce a brand new hitting movement into their swing, their Ball Exit Speeds drop between one to four-mph.  But if it’s something we’ve covered before, then they may actually increase by one to four-mph.
  • Timing – If a hitter is too late, and doesn’t allow his or her bat speed to mature, then Ball Exit Speeds will be lower.  If a hitter is too early, and their bat speed has begun to decelerate, then Ball Exit Speeds will also go down.
  • Environment – Humidity dampens Ball Exit Speeds (pun intended).  So does a head wind, duh.  On the other hand, hitting in dry hotter climates OR in Denver, Colorado, Ball Exit Speeds will increase because the air is less dense.
  • Hitting the Sweet Spot – Hitting the ball on the end of the bat, or closer to the hands will decrease Ball Exit Speed, while consistently hitting the sweet spot will boost it.
  • Bat Speed at Impact – Most of the time Ball Exit Speeds will be higher than Bat Speed at Impact.  With my Zepp swing experiments off the tee, it looks to be about a 6-mph difference.
  • Strength and conditioning – this can help but shouldn’t be the highest priority.  This should be the cherry on top.
  • Mobility and stability – if you move better, then you perform better.  Simple as that.  This MUST be a high priority not just to increase BES, but to minimize an athlete’s risk for injury.

What is the Desirable Minimum Effective Dosage (MED) for Ball Exit Speed?

“The smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome.” – Tim Ferriss on MED, 3-time NY Times Bestselling Author

According to this Wall Street Journal article titled, Yankees Dive Into the Numbers to Find Winning Patterns,

“Computers can track a ball’s exit velocity, launch angle, hang time and spin rate, 100 mph, the
speed necessary for most home runs; 75 mph, commonly the break-even pace for a ground ball to skip through the infield for a hit; and four seconds, the inflection point for fly ball hang-time, with any remaining in the air that long before getting caught.”

You may be wondering, what is the launch angle for a typical home-run?  According to the following Sports Science video, about 20-degrees:

According to a Beyond the Boxscore article titled, Do Hard Hit Ground-balls Produce More Errors?, that there is no significant increase in errorsat the Major League level, until Ball Exit Speeds reach and go beyond 95-mph.

This NY Times article titled, New Way To Judge Hitters? It’s Rocket Science – Sort Of, reports about Ball Exit Speed that:

  • The threshold for hitting a homerun is 95-mph,
  • Ball Exit Speed is being used to evaluate upcoming professionals, and can decide who starts,
  • Managers can use Ball Exit Speeds to see if there’s a drop off in a hitter’s Ball Exit Speed, which may reveal the player is hurt or needs to adjust their mechanics, and
  • Teams can shift their infielders back with hitters clocking higher Ball Exit Speeds.

And lastly, an article from eFastball.com titled, Bat Speed, Batted Ball Speed (Exit Speed) in MPH by Age Group, had this to say:

“MLB average exit speed is 103 mph, bat speed ranges roughly from 70-85 mph. 1 mph of additional exit speed makes the ball go 5 more feet. This would be roughly 4 feet for 1-mph bat speed – which is less than the 7-8 feet we have heard from other studies.”

Based on the information above, ideally the MED Ball Exit Speed, for the average Little Leaguer, would be 40-mph BES (40-mph BES X 5-feet = 200-feet of distance).  I want my Little Leaguers to get to 50-mph BES, for the fields that have 220-foot fences.  And of course launch angle is a huge factor in this.

And on the big field, it looks like 95-mph Ball Exit Speed is the MED because that means the hitter has the ability to hit the ball 475-feet (95-mph BES X 5-feet of distance).  Furthermore, the fact that Beyond the Boxscore’s observations about errors not increasing until Ball Exit Speeds reach 95-mph.

 

How-to Increase Ball Exit Speed

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

So, what advantage does a small slugger like Josh Donaldson have over Giancarlo “Bigfoot” Stanton?

Here’s the secret to boosting Ball Exit Speeds…

Tinker and Test.

Remember, Peter Drucker’s quote above?

“What gets measured gets managed.”

Here’s what to do to ensure a healthy increase in Ball Exit Speeds:

  • Get yourself a Bushnell Radar Gun and/or a Zepp baseball app,
  • CLICK HERE to read the definitive guide to running swing experiments,
  • Choose an HPL “Topic” in the navigation bar above, or search for one in the upper right hand corner of the website, and start testing.
  • Stop analyzing big hitters.  Instead look at the small sluggers, and see what they’re doing to compete, such as: Cano, McCutchen, Donaldson, Bautista, Vogt, Beltre, Braun, Pedroia (averages 44 doubles and 15 homers a season), Victor Martinez, Edwin Encarnacion, David Wright, Hank Aaron, Sadaharu Oh, and Mickey Mantle.

Do you have anything to add to the discussion?  Please REPLY below…

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Fun youth how to teach a no stride, toe tap, and leg kick hitting tips for beginner baseball and softball swing. Hit drills for 6 to 10 years old questions ANSWERED: Where does front foot land, when to stride, and what is the stride length?

Baseball Batting Techniques: Simple Way To Use Forward Momentum That Works For Elite Hitters

Baseball Batting Techniques: Dustin Pedroia and Forward Momentum

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get to it…

 

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew “Cutch” McCutchen

Troy “Tulo” Tulowitzki

Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista

 

Does FoMo stride need to be big or small?

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

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

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

Dustin “Laser Show” Pedroia (MEDIUM Leg Kick)

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

Victor Martinez (Toe Tap)

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

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

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

Mike “Millville Meteor” Trout

Bryce “Bam Bam” Harper

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

Can a wide no-stride hitter utilize Forward Momentum?

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

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

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

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

Furthermore,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera

Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz

Albert “The Machine” Pujols

 

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

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

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

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

Last but certainly not least…

David “Big Papi” Ortiz

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

 

In Conclusion

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

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

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

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?”

 

Learn the answers to the following questions: when to use front foot hitting technique, where does the stride foot land, batting step length, and should you use no stride for baseball and softball swing?

“…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 “Build More Power” 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.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Discover some of the best youth batting stance drills for baseball, fastpitch softball, and slowpitch softball.  In the video below, Josh Donaldson addresses proper swing hitting mechanics such as power, elbow up or down, closed stances, and hitting lefty or righty.

13 Josh Donaldson Gold Nuggets: You Didn’t Have To Be A Professional, To Teach High Level Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques

(I apologize in advance…PLEASE set aside about 14 minutes of reading time for the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post. It’s a bit of an emotional RANT 😉

 

 

Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques: Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson talks hitting with Mark DeRosa on MLB Network. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

We FINALLY have validation!!!  To have 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson affirm A LOT of what we teach here at HPL!  Some of you may have seen the above video already.  If you HAVE NOT seen it, then please watch.

In the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post, I go into more depth about the 13 talking points Josh Donaldson mentions about the “NEW science of hitting”, beginning where Ted Williams left off.

By the way, CLICK HERE to see an article where JD CRUSHES an online pseudo-science ‘hitting guru’.  After we go over the @BringerOfRain20 talking points,

I want to address the few ex-Pro and MLB player TROLLS that wrongly tear myself, my colleagues, and my readers down on the socials for bringing up things Josh Donaldson addresses in the above video.

Without further adieu, from my baseball batting stance & hitting techniques video notes…

 

Note #1: Back knee inside foot or weight inside back knee?

Buster Posey Back Knee Position

Is Buster Posey’s back knee being prematurely shifted inside his foot in the ‘Float’? Photo courtesy: InWriteField.com

This was a question from Mark DeRosa…

Josh Donaldson responds that he focuses his weight on his back heel and back hip.

I HATE when hitting instructors PREMATURELY force the back knee of every hitter they instruct, inside the foot (even in the stance).

There are phases to the swing, and Donaldson is talking about what my hitters refer to as the ‘Float & Fall’…

Matt Nokes calls it the ‘Ride & Stride’.

During the ‘Float’ or ‘Ride’, the hitter DOES NOT have to prematurely push their back knee inside the back foot…or focus the weight on the inside of the back knee.

CLICK HERE for a baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post I did on this, dealing with a Twitter Troll.

NEWS FLASH…

Self proclaimed elite hitting instruction doesn’t rest on taking a ton of ‘quality hacks in the cage’ and/or debating over millions of hours of video analysis footage of ‘only the best hitters’.

WTF does ‘quality hacks’ and ‘only the best hitters’ mean!!!!!?

Are we suppose to take your word for it that you know what you’re doing?!

Nah.

I’d rather watch The Kardashians.

Okay, back to focusing on where the weight is in the Float…

Prematurely forcing weight on the inside of a ‘dumb joint’, like the knee, can really put undo stress on the ligament material.

Coaches…please DO NOT wear holes in your players’ knees.  This is really important for those FP softball hitting coaches.

And on that note,

FP softball coaches, CLICK HERE for a great BreakingMuscle.com post titled, “Women: Protect Your Knees With the Sprinter Stance Squat”.

 

Note #2: Not thinking about hands going towards the baseball

Derek Jeter: Hands Inside The Baseball

Derek Jeter is one of the few having a lengthy career with an extreme handsy approach. Not too many hitters could get away with how he did what he did. Photo courtesy: BaseballByTheYard.com

I totally agree!

ALL the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques coaching cues are destructive for youth swings:

  • Hands to the ball
  • Knob to the ball
  • Be short to the ball
  • Hands inside the ball

Yes! Especially the last one…

WHY?

Like the others, it gets the hitter thinking about doing something with the path of their hands.

Some of you use this cue when instructing hitters, and may get occasional positive results…

However,

Any coaching cue that requires an extensive explanation or doesn’t get predictably positive outcomes, is INEFFECTIVE.

I’m looking for cues that with a minimal number of words, gets my hitter to do what I want them to do, even if the concept is new to them…over and over.

 

Note #3: When Josh Donaldson begins his fall forward, that’s when he goes into loading his upper half (his ‘coil’)

Andrew McCutchen Showing his Numbers

Andrew McCutchen ‘showing his numbers’ while his lower half is beginning to turn counter-clockwise. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

YESSSSS!!

I get asked this baseball batting stance & hitting techniques question quite a bit…when does the ‘load’ start?

And this depends on your definition of a load.  But in Donaldson’s context…

The timing of Donaldson’s load, or ‘coil’, isn’t necessarily the rule,

It’s one of three options…

Option #1: Some hitters start in the ‘coiled’ position (highly recommended for younger hitters):

  • Yoenis Cespedes,
  • Hunter Pence, and
  • Ben Zobrist (from the left side)…

Option #2: Some hitters move into the ‘coiled’ position similar to Donaldson:

  • Bautista,
  • Cano, and
  • McCutchen…

Option #3: Some hitters move into the ‘coiled’ position later, like Dustin Pedroia.

The objective is that at landing, or what Josh Donaldson refers to as ‘heel plant’, the hitter is in this ‘coiled’ position.

I call this the Catapult Loading Position.

And it requires the lower half to be open at landing (pelvis on down), and the upper half (above pelvis), to be closed.

Additionally, I LOVE Jose Bautista’s timing cue of loading ‘slow and early’ (CLICK HERE for a post I did on that).

More on the lower half landing open a bit later…

Note #4: Creating bat speed with shoulders, NOT hands (effortless bat speed)

Josh Donaldson: Spinal Engine

Josh Donaldson’s swing illustrating the spinal engine and Springy ‘X’ Pattern discussed in the next section. Photo courtesy: PicPlayHost

This is VERY important…

WHY?

Because EVERY human movement is driven by the spinal engine…pelvis-spine-shoulders.

According to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky in his book The Spinal Engine, the spinal engine can move in a vacuum.

However, it’s the relationship between arms, legs, and Gravitational Forces that amplify how explosive an athlete can be.

Quite a few hitting instructors talk about hip thrust or loading and exploding the hips.

But what are the shoulder’s function in all this?

Being passive?

I don’t think so.

Some would say a right handed hitter’s front shoulder at landing should be pointing at the pitcher.

This is an ineffective hitting mechanic, shown in this Zepp swing experiment (CLICK HERE) where I observed an average 6-mph boost in Bat Speed at Impact showing my numbers to the pitcher versus pointing the front shoulder at the pitcher (not showing numbers), over 200 swings.

Don’t get me wrong, YES, the pelvis does ‘lead the way’ as Ted Williams said in The Science of Hitting.

But it plays a much smaller role than coaches believe.

Think about how we walk…

If I told you to fire your hips as you walked, what do you think your shoulders would do?

They’d FIRE also!

How about if I told you to fire your hips while walking, but don’t let your shoulders move

Would that feel awkward?

Dr. Serge Gracovetsky talks about the coupled motion of the spine…

Meaning, while the hips rotate when we walk (albeit small to the naked eye), the shoulders counter-rotate the pelvis.

This is why your right arm and left leg swing forward at the same time.

To have effortless bat speed, like Josh Donaldson says, you MUST teach your hitters to take advantage of these natural laws of human movement.

DON’T use baseball batting stance & hitting techniques to coach them out of them.

 

Note #5: Rubber band effect, ‘stretching’, creating tension at the finish of his load

Another YESSSSS!

Although Josh Donaldson uses different baseball batting stance & hitting techniques terms, he’s talking about the compression/tension forces in the body via connective tissue called fascia.

Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains describes, what he calls Tensegrity (Tension-Integrity), like this:

 

 

I don’t like to think of the body as a rubber band, but rather like a spring.

But what Donaldson is describing is correct.

I refer to this as the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.

CLICK HERE for this video post describing this using Adrian Gonzalez’s swing as a model.

 

Note #6: Creating the timing to hit the pitch

Most people probably missed this point in the video…Donaldson briefly mentioned it, but I find it VERY important.

TIMING FOR HITTING IS EVERYTHING.

This is why I don’t like rapid fire soft toss OR 15-pitch marathon rounds batting practice.

It’s NOT about quick hands either.

Look, a baseball player may only see one pitch every 12-20 seconds.

A fast-pitch softball player may see one pitch every 8-15 seconds.

In games, swing intensity EVERY swing matters.

I can take a hitter with seemingly slow hands, adjust his or her timing, and have them barreling the ball more.

Of course, we’ll have to address their still ineffective mechanics at some point in the future, but the point is, it’s not about fast hands.

It’s about using the shoulders to speed up the hands.

The opposite IS NOT true.

Coaches handicap hitters by using ineffective drills like rapid fire soft toss, drop toss, and/or marathon B.P. sessions.

Again,

TIMING IS EVERYTHING IN HITTING.

CLICK HERE for “The Dead Simple Guide To Optimizing A Hitter’s Timing In Games”.

 

Note #7: Front foot is open…hips can’t separate from upper half

Miguel Cabrera: Landing Closed

Miguel Cabrera is one of my favorite swings to model, except for landing closed (less than 45-degree angle). However, he’s a physical beast, and most definitely succeeds despite one ineffective mechanic. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Another baseball batting stance & hitting techniques golden nugget from Josh Donaldson.

However, there are quite a few other coaches getting their panties in a bunch about this comment.

CLICK HERE and follow the thread of one of my Facebook posts.

CLICK HERE and follow a Facebook post thread of my friend and colleague Taylor Gardner, founder of the BackSpin Tee.  Actually a lot of really good discussion happening on this one.

They’re reinterpreting it as Donaldson is saying to ‘point the landing toe at the pitcher’.

This may be what it looks like in the video, which we also have to be careful of camera angles…

But the point of the matter is, that Donaldson is saying to ‘land open’.

And this is where, us coaches, must define terms.

I say if the landing foot is opened less than 45-degrees, the foot is closed.

If the landing foot is opened more than 45-degrees, the foot is open.

Chris Welch at ZenoLink says the front foot should land open, roughly around 65-degrees (at about 2-min mark):

And I agree.

I do think hitters like Donaldson and Bautista are more on the open side than others.

With my definition of landing foot closed versus open, I’d rather have my hitters err on the side of open, than closed.

CLICK HERE for another Zepp swing experiment where I tested this and found an average bat speed boost of 3-mph boost when landing open, over 200 swings.

Kyle Harrington, dad of one of my online hitting lesson students Stephen, who’s currently 13yo, 5’7″, 130-lbs…

Recently, increased his Ball Exit Speed 5-mph in the last 5 months off the tee, to now 77-mph.

I asked Kyle, what were the two biggest contributors to the increase…and he responded with:

“He grew about 2″ but he’s only 5’7”.  I think the main thing is that he is not stalling the bat.  In the 3D testing with Chris Welch [of ZenoLink.com] his peak bat speed slowed almost 10 mph before impact, which is common.  So he is decelerating the barrel less coming into impact.   He was blocking with the front hip and all the speed was too early .  So he’s actually  moving the bat speed forward in his swing more (where impact is)  rather behind the ball before impact.  That’s the main reason.”
This can happen for a few reasons:
  • Too much forward momentum (yes you can have too much),
  • Landing closed with the front foot, and
  • Inward turning (coiling) the pelvis towards the catcher (shifts our 45-degree optimal impact zone too deep into the swing).

When the hitter lands closed, as Donaldson said, it’s more challenging to optimize the body’s natural springy fascia.

It’s also worth noting that the front ‘foot shape’ will change depending on pitch location at impact.

For instance,

On an outside pitch, we’ll see the foot more flat, and possibly more closed, than on an inside pitch.

 

Note #8: 10yo kid told to get on top of the ball, tell them NO…don’t get paid for hitting ground-balls

Effect of Speed Fades Only When Launch Angles Exceed 10-degrees.

Ground-ball Coaches, if you spent more time instructing 10-degree launch angles and boosting Ball Exit Speeds, than you do telling hitters to always hit the ball on the ground, our hitters will be in a better position to crush pitchers.

For me, this tip was definitely the highlight of this video.

Btw, I agree…AGAIN!

And I’m not going to get into this in detail, because I already did that in “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground-Balls” RANT post.

What’s more,

There was a comment on my baseball batting stance & hitting techniques Facebook post that is worth noting:

Reader A: “If I’m coaching a team of 10 year olds, and either the kid (or parent) tells me no, they ought to start looking for another team to play for. If you allow a kid to tell you no at that age, the kid will become uncoachable when he gets older.”

And here was a great response from another readers to this person:

Reader B: “If a teacher tells your kid 2+2 is 5, you don’t want him to have the courage and character to question the teacher?  This society man, anyone that questions authority is deemed to be at fault…how dare they!!!”

I agree with Reader B…however, I understand there are ignorant parents, as well as players, out there as well.

However, speaking in the context of what Donaldson is saying, I agree with Reader B on this.

If you’re a coach that’s teaching hitters to ALWAYS hit the ball on the ground, you’re being ineffective as a coach.  And you MUST get educated because if you’re aren’t growing, then you’re dying.

 

Note #9: Relaxed in stance…time that arms get engaged with the body is during his ‘coil’ (mentions ‘scap load’)

Jace: Fixing Bat Drag w/ Finger Pressure

Jace, one of my 11yos, weighs 67-lbs, and hit his first homer over a 180-foot fence. We fixed his racing back elbow bat drag with connecting his hands to his spinal engine through finger pressure.

I totally agree.

There’s a time to be relaxed, and then there’s a time to connect the body (driving engine) to the “things” holding the bat…the hands.

CLICK HERE for another Zepp swing experiment that talks about what I teach to my hitters as ‘finger pressure’, and how we’re banishing racing back elbow bat drag with this technique alone.

It’s ALL about “connection” folks.  Quite a few of the young hitters I see just aren’t connected.

But when they get connected…this is when we can triple their body-weight in distance (see Jace image above).

Note 10: Hands load it (versus shoulders), then barrel tips too much…leads to getting underneath balls

Josh Donaldson is talking about getting into his load (or ‘coil’) with his shoulders and not his hands.

When he uses his hands to get there, he feels it leads to an excessive ‘barrel tip’ (click following link), and to getting under the ball too much.

CLICK HERE for an AthleticsNation.com article titled, “Josh Donaldson: Changes in Approach & Mechanics”.

In this article, Jerry Brewer from East Bay Hitting Instruction compares Donaldson’s swing and metrics from 2013 to 2014.

The one big difference being an excessive barrel tip in 2014, leading to drops in his BA, OBP, & SLUG metrics by something like 50 points EACH.

By the way, Jerry is right on with the swing as well.

 

Note 11: At landing, wants bat to be at 45-degree angle, and to split his head from behind

I agree.

I don’t really want to get into this, but I thought it was a good little baseball batting stance & hitting techniques nugget from the video.

 

Note 12: Swing down to create backspin

The Science of Hitting Graphic on optimal bat path

This is where I see Josh Donaldson picking up where Ted Williams left off. This is a well known graphic from Williams’s book The Science of Hitting.

This is something Josh Donaldson is against, and I agree.

Yes, every once in awhile, a hitter can swing down on a ball and launch one.

Did you read the keywords there…?  “Every once in awhile.”

Do you know what the majority outcomes will be doing this?

Ground-balls.

And if you read my Ground-ball RANT, then you know how inferior default teaching your hitters to hit them is, unless of course you have hitters who run like greased lightning, or in a Hit & Run type scenario.

The biggest argument here, comes from Little League coaches saying, but the ground-ball is the hardest hit ball to field, throw, and catch.

And my rebuttal is, what happens when your ground-ball hitting team meets a team that can play catch?

It doesn’t matter anyway, because a majority of pitches are taught to keep the ball down in the zone to hitters.

WHY?

Because PITCHERS WANT HITTERS DRIVING THE BALL INTO THE GROUND.

 

Note#13: Intent – damage at all times

I thought this was a HUGE baseball batting stance & hitting techniques gold nugget.

When asked if Donaldson makes educated decisions to commit on pitches or against pitchers, he says, yeah it depends…

BUT,

His intent is to do damage at all times.

“Why wouldn’t I?” He smirks to Mark DeRosa 😛

Double and Dinger damage.

That’s what the Blue Jays pay him for.

Our objective as hitting coaches should be to get our sluggers hitting the ball as hard as their physical ability will allow them…as frequently as possible.

To return this baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post full circle, let me repeat:

You Don’t Have To Be A Professional, To Teach High Level Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques Today

You just have to understand human movement principles that are validated by science, and apply these “rules” to hitting a ball.

Circling back to the headline of this post, looking at proper swing hitting mechanics: power, elbow up or down, closed stances, and hitting lefty or righty…

  1. Power – at HPL we believe 70-80% of consistent power comes from properly moving our spinal engine, power doesn’t mostly come from the lower half as some would believe.
  2. Back elbow up or down – what’s important is hitter gets a slight downhill shoulder angle by stride landing (6-10 degrees down).  Lifting the back elbow can help with this, but if lifting the back elbow keeps shoulders level, then it doesn’t matter.
  3. Closed stances – I know Donaldson and I differ on this, but I like the closed stance to restrict hip movement.  Some hitters OVER rotate their lower half and lose out on directional force.
  4. Hitting righty or lefty – I don’t have a preference for this.  The hitter will figure it out either way.  However, I do have an opinion on switch hitting…I don’t believe switch hitting is all it’s cracked up to be because they get waaay more at-bats on the left side early on because there aren’t that many lefty pitchers, so the righty swing significantly suffers.  Evidence of this lack of lefty pitchers is shown in the majority of lefty hitters struggling against lefty pitchers.
Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

How To Turn Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics Into A High Level Baseball Swing…Can It Be Done?

 

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics

Can fastpitch softball hitting mechanics be equal to baseball?

Why is the fastpitch softball swing different than baseball?  Or is it?  How about vs slowpitch softball?  Interesting discussion on swing plane, leg kick, launch and attack angle, ball exit velocity and bat speed.  Check out this 2022 age chart for exit velocity recommendations.  Quick bullets:

(WARNING: this fastpitch softball hitting mechanics post is a mini-RANT, about 2,000+ words, so please set aside about a 10-min reading time)…

I received this email the other day:

“I cringe when see hitting programs that are designed by baseball players and say they teach softball hitting as a 17 year fastpitch softball coach and 26 year slow pitch player the fundamental difference in the swing many programs ignore especially when teaching fastpitch the swing has to take the most direct path to the pitched generally released at 3 to 4 feet verse a baseball is released at roughly 7 such as right view pro I’ve seen many teams and worse players swings destroyed by coaches teaching baseball to softball players please take this in account, thanks”

Before addressing this reader’s email, I wanted to mention something for those who teach fastpitch softball hitting mechanics…

Later in the post, I want to make a BIG ASK to coaches and instructors currently working with fastpitch softball hitters that are using HPL hitting principles, to please share your triumphs and/or sticking points with us.

But before we get there,

I wanted to address a couple fastpitch softball hitting mechanics points from the email above:

  • Translating baseball into fastpitch softball hitting mechanics,
  • Differences between the two swings?
  • The BIG ASK…

 

Translating Baseball into Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Who To Trust?

Who can we trust to give effective information when searching “fastpitch softball hitting mechanics” on YouTube?

The BIGGEST problem with most self-proclaimed “baseball hitting experts” online is…

They promote a hitting ‘philosophy’ or ‘theory’.

Their theories are a mish-mash of popular hitting programs, books, websites, YouTube channels, etc.

Did you know…

There’s a more certain standard – or measuring stick – that most hitting experts ignore, or just plain don’t understand?

Hitting MUST be based off human movement principles, or rules, that are validated by science…NOT philosophy or theory.

We’ve reverse engineered the hitting system promoted at the Hitting Performance Lab.

What does that mean?

Good news for coaches teaching fastpitch softball hitting mechanics…

You can bring a certain and more effective hitting standard to teaching your athletes how to hit.

And it WORKS a majority of the time!!

Beautifully.

Do you remember the first time you stumbled into an online hitting forum, discovering how much of a pissing contest it was?

The people who “seemed” to have authority on the subject of fastpitch softball hitting mechanics were coaches who:

  • Had coached the longest,
  • Had played the longest OR had the biggest collection of trophies at the highest level, or
  • Had watched a million hours of slow motion video of ONLY ‘the best’ hitters.

Note to those who’ve coached the longest…

Someone belligerently throwing 30+ years of coaching experience in your face, most likely has the same one year of coaching experience repeated each year for 30+ years.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying.  And if you have to talk about how many years you’ve been coaching to desperately seek significance, then most likely your teaching has been obsolete for some time now.

You don’t hear Coaches Augie Garrido, Gordie Gillespie, or Bob Bennett lurching around online forums shoving their weight around demanding that people listen and respect them.

Note to those who’ve played the longest or have the biggest collection of trophies at the highest level…

The same lurching ego behavior can be seen, and is being used by you too.

As a matter of fact,

I just ran into an ex-pro guy last night on Facebook (I assume he was because he said he has a helluva playing resume, lol).

Brother, I hate to tell you, but…

Playing and teaching are totally different skills sets.  I don’t care what your playing resume is, because you’re starting over as a coach.

Furthermore, you MUST teach the RIGHT things.  The right fastpitch softball hitting mechanics.

Just because you ‘swung down on the ball’ to create backspin, DOES NOT mean that’s what actually happened if we looked at your swing using slow motion video.

I’m sorry, but what’s ‘feel’ and what’s ‘real’ are two totally different things.

Note to those coaches who accumulated a million hours watching slow motion video of ONLY ‘the best’ hitters…

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols photo courtesy: MLB.com

First of all, who are you studying??!

Pujols? McGwire? Griffey Jr.? Bryce Harper? Derek Jeter?

Although these hitters are and were effective in their swings, they also have, and had, ineffective human movement.  I’m sorry, but what’s ‘feel’ and what’s ‘real’ are two totally different things. that MUST not be repeated by younger and/or smaller hitters.

Not just because younger hitters don’t have the capability of doing them, but because THEY SHOULD NOT be doing them, PERIOD.

In other words, they succeed, and succeeded, DESPITE elements of ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.

Who you study is VERY important.

Big sluggers can get away with murder because of their body mass.  Think of some of the BIGGER hitters you’ve come across, swimming in the fishbowl that is a Little League baseball field.

You’ll learn more of what effective fastpitch softball hitting mechanics look like from smaller sluggers like (6-feet on down):

  • Sierra Romero
  • Lauren Chamberlain
  • Sadaharu Oh (if you don’t know who this is, you need to study up!!),
  • Hank Aaron,
  • Pete Rose,
  • Ty Cobb,
  • Josh Donaldson,
  • Dustin Pedroia,
  • Jose Bautista,
  • Andrew McCutchen, and
  • Robinson Cano.

AND by the way, video analysis is important,

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Sierra Romero

Sierra Romero is a great model for the Catapult Loading System. Photo courtesy: fastpitchnews.org

But MUST come SECOND ONLY to the human movement “rules”.

Now listen close, because this is IMPORTANT to translating fastpitch softball hitting mechanics into baseball…

Once we strip away a coach/player’s elevated credentials and/or experience, then look at their analysis through the lens of human movements “rules”, that are validated by science, and it’s revealed how inconsistently ineffective their teachings really are.

They soften their system’s ineffectiveness by saying,

“Well, every hitter is different and what works for one hitter may not work for another”…OR,

“You can’t teach young hitters to do what MLB hitters are doing.”

BULL.

They’re copping-out.

But it’s not their fault.

They just don’t know any better.

They’re not growing, they’re dying.

And if you believe that what works for one hitter may not work for another, then CLICK HERE to read about the HPL One-Swing-Fits-All system.  It’s not what you think it is.

The HPL hitting system works…consistently, no matter if we’re talking fastpitch softball hitting mechanics or baseball…7yo or 24yo…male or female…big or small.

We have literally thousands of coaches and parents across the nation putting into practice the HPL hitting principles, and get this…THEY ACTUALLY WORK!!

I get a steady stream of weekly emails, from coaches, sharing their success stories with the system from both the baseball and softball worlds.

(If you go to the HPL homepage, scroll all the way down to the bottom, and you’ll find over 45 rotating testimonials from these coaches and players under “Customer Testimonials”.  It rotates through 5 of them at a time, then if you refresh the screen, then it’ll rotate through another 5).

The good news for the fastpitch softball hitting mechanics coach, is that credentials don’t mean a thing.

It’s outcomes.

Does your system consistently work?

Do you have a:

  1. 98-lb 11yo hitting the ball 300-feet, multiple times?
  2. 95-pounder hitting their first dinger over 270-feet? (this is actually the brother of the above hitter but 2 years younger)
  3. 115-lb 11yo not only hitting the ball 300-feet multiple times, but hitting over 40 homers in one season…to ALL fields?
  4. 66-lb 11yo hitting the ball over 180-feet? OR,
  5. a 115-lb 13yo hitting the ball 330-feet?

The video below is of my hitter #1 above hitting his 300-foot monster shot.  Please note, he was playing on a field in Manteca, CA that had 315-foot fences, so the ‘shot’ was a long double, not a homerun.  Dad played baseball at Division-1 Chico State in the late-90’s, and shared the batted ball’s estimated distance, in the following text message to me:

“This is Orin hitting the farthest ball he’s ever hit.  It landed a couple feet short of the warning track in Manteca, which is right around 300-feet away”.

If you aren’t achieving these types of outcomes with your hitters, then I fear that you should rethink the effectiveness of YOUR hitting system.

Differences Between Two Swings?

Now, before getting into the differences between fastpitch softball hitting mechanics and baseball…

It should be pointed out,

That I’ve spent 10+ years in the corrective fitness industry with too many certifications to count.  I’m self taught and have a passionate curiosity for the science of human movement, by people such as:

  • Dr. Kelly Starrett,
  • Thomas Myers,
  • Ida Rolf,
  • Dr. Erik Dalton,
  • Dr. Serge Gracovetsky, and
  • Many others…

And it’s interesting to note, that I learned more about the swing from the aforementioned people, than in all 17 years of my baseball playing career, the last four of those playing at Division-1 Fresno State!!

The bottom line is this,

There are certain ‘rules’ to human movement that are validated by science.  These “rules” don’t care if you’re male or female…black or white…7 yo or 24 yo…big or small.

THEY WORK FOR ALL HUMANS!!!

The ‘rules’ are like bumpers at a bowling alley.  They’re guidelines to an effective swing.  What happens inside the bumpers doesn’t matter, just as long as you work within them.

Now, on the differences between the two swings…

A friend of mine since High School, made this comment on a Facebook Post of mine:

“As a former baseball player and current fastpitch softball coach. I think hitting a softball at 43ft is harder than hitting a baseball from 60ft. I’m talking about straight fastballs too, special pitches would be difficult for anyone.  My first year coaching softball I had a hard time hitting a pitch. Had to adjust everything I learned from my baseball swing and vision.”

I told him, if he grew up playing fastpitch softball and hitting from the closer distances, he’d be a much better fastpitch softball hitter today!

It’s about collecting data.

The main differences in the two swings are:

  1. Reaction Time (or timing), and
  2. Knee Action.

Reaction Time (or timing)

Getting back to the original reader email, two differences they mentioned:

  1. “…the swing has to take the most direct path to the pitch”,
  2. “…the pitch is generally released at 3 to 4 feet verse a baseball is released at roughly 7″…

Look, the first issue is about reaction time.

Fast-pitch softball hitting mechanics DO NOT call for ‘shorter swings’ than a baseball player.  They have to start their swings sooner!

If we start teaching hitters to ‘swing down on the ball’, be ‘short to it’, or an A to B barrel path, then we set the hitter up for inconsistent productive outcomes.

Why inconsistent productive outcomes?

Because an A to B barrel path is ineffective when looking at it through the lens of validated science:

  • Centripetal v. Centrifugal Forces,
  • Transferring Linear into Angular Momentum, and
  • Inertial Forces changing directions.

Two priority hitting objectives, for ALL hitters, MUST be to:

  1. Get the barrel on the plane of the pitch as early as possible, and
  2. Keep the barrel on plane for as long as possible.

We coaches have to build a large margin for error into the swing, not shorten it.

WHY?

Because of a major dose of uncertainty, hitters don’t know what type of pitch is coming, its speed, or its location beforehand.

By the way, swings can still be compact without an A –> B barrel path.  We MUST be teaching both hitters, more of an A –> B –> C path.  My readers call the latter, the Nike Swoosh barrel path.nike-swoosh-logo

The second reader issue above has to do with the angle of the downward traveling pitch.

And YES, even a softball is traveling down by the time it reaches the hitter, thanks to Gravitational Forces and air density.

As soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand (both fastpitch and baseball), the ball begins slowing down, rotating less, and ultimately falls towards the earth.

Assuming you’re still on earth 😉

Even the “Jenny Finch rise-ball begins to fall 4/5 of way, approx 8 feet away”.

However,

What is clear though, is the down angle of a fastpitch fastball isn’t quite as drastic as a baseball fastball.  A fastpitch fastball just isn’t exposed to Gravitational Forces long enough.

Which is also to say, evidenced in the Sports Science video above, since there’s less distance for the softball to travel, it loses less energy than a baseball will.  So that’s why we see Jennie Finch put a hurtin’ on that force plate!!

If you had the baseball pitcher throw from a distance of 43-foot, I think he’d crush the force plate as well.  Just my thoughts…

So reaction time and the hitter’s barrel attack angle being different,

How does a fastpitch softball hitter manage her barrel attack angle differently than a baseball hitter?

With…

Knee Action

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Lauren Chamberlain

Lauren Chamberlain wide stance, but uses shifting foot pressure and HER KNEES to hit. Photo courtesy: YouTube user Paul Arebalo

In order to compensate for the slight difference in the downward angle of the pitched ball, a hitter should adjust the bending of their knees as follows…

Fastpitch hitter:

  • Front knee at landing should be bent between 160 and 170-degrees (at 180-degrees, the leg is straight) to optimize Ground Reaction Forces, build in margin for error on off-speed and breaking balls, while also not giving up too much on Time To Impact.
  • Back knee at impact should be bent between 105 and 115-degrees to get on path to the bottom half of the ball.

Baseball hitter:

  • Front knee at landing should be bent between 150 and 165-degrees for the same reasons above, but with more access to a longer Time To Impact,
  • Back knee at impact should be bent between 90 and 105-degrees to get on-path to the bottom half of the ball.

The BIG Ask…

I want to make a BIG ASK to those coaches or instructors that are currently working with fastpitch softball hitters using HPL hitting principles.

Please share your triumphs and/or sticking points below…

Javier Baez Swing Analysis

Javier Baez Swing Analysis: Why Inward Turn Of Hips Is Wasted Movement…

 

 

Hey, what’s going on it’s Joey Myers from the Hitting Performance Lab, and in this Javier Baez swing analysis, we will cover:

  • Fangraphs metrics,
  • Over-rotation of low half during pre-loading phase,
  • Amazing C/T spine mobility (neck pressure), and
  • Barrel tilt…

Here’s the transcription from the above video…

 

Javier Baez Swing Analysis FanGraph Metrics

Javier Baez Swing Analysis

Javier Baez photo courtesy: MLB.com

Let’s get into the fan graph metrics. As you can see here, look at the six foot, hundred ninety-pound Javier Baez in the swing analysis we’ll be looking at in 2019. You can see his line right here. You can see a .281 batting average, 38 doubles, four triples, 29 homers, and you see a big giant balloon over here, one hundred fifty-six strikeouts and only twenty-eight walks.

Now, if we look at his line when it comes to ground ball, fly ball, line drive percentages, and his fly ball home run ratio and his pull and hard contact numbers, we look at his line drive rate being eighteen point one. You can see his averages over the amount of years he’s been in the Bigs is 19. So, a little bit down from his average.

You can see his ground ball percentage was up quite a bit, fifty point three, which was down in prior years as low as 44 percent and 37.3 percent.

You can see the average line drive rate is 20 percent or so. So as long as they’re around 18 to 22 percent, that tend to be about league average. The ground ball percentage, league average is about 43 percent or around 40 percent. You can see he’s well above average on the ground ball percentage and fly ball percentage typically floats around 37, 38 percent at league average.

So you can see he’s below well below average when it comes to the fly ball percentage homerun to fly ball ratio, the percentage at 24.4, league average is around 9 to 11 percent. So, if he gets the ball in the air or his fly balls, the percentages of his fly balls going out are almost 25 percent.

What’s also interesting to note is if you look over at his soft percentage contact medium and his hard contact percentages, you can see that his medium actually outweighs his hard percentage contact. Some interesting things going on from this Javier Baez swing analysis, might shed a little bit of light on that.

But I thought interesting to note that his hard ball contact percentage at 37.4, you can’t see it on the screen, hard contact percentage. And then you can see as medium here is 44.6.

 

 

Over-Rotation of Lower Half During Pre-Loading Phase

All right. Let’s get into the Javier Baez swing analysis, and the breakdown of his mechanics. Let’s give this a little context. This is a two thousand nineteen swing, I think, in May or so. And this pitch looks like a ninety-one mile an hour slider that ends up, as you can see in the K zone in that lower outside quadrant. And he hits this one out to right center a little bit more towards center but right center.

One thing I want you to take a look at is over rotation of the lower half. This is something I think Ted Williams said in The Science of Hitting. And a lot of instructors out there will take this to the extreme. And they think that by turning the pelvis in towards the catcher, so imagine a hitter’s belt buckle turning in to face the catcher. Like there was a flashlight coming out of the belt buckle and that you’re shining the flashlight at the catcher to get the hips some momentum.

Now, I think this is wasted movement when it comes to function of the spinal engine. Not my opinion, but if we look at springy fascia, the spinal engine, what we want is we want to see this front shoulder … we’ll get a chest view here in a second … we want to get this front shoulder to go down in and towards the back hip. And we want this back shoulder to move away from this front hip.

When you move the pelvis in or you move the front hip bone in along with the shoulder, is that now the hip and the shoulder are chasing each other instead of doing the opposite in what we would find in a wringing towel type of scenario, whereas one hand being the shoulder, the other hand being the pelvis.

We’re seeing a lot of these coaches that will say if and when the pitcher shows you his back back pocket, then you show them yours. This is clearly what Javier Baez is doing in this swing analysis. You can see him really showing his back pocket versus this neutral position that he starts off in, really rolls in with that hip.

Now, if we take a look at another hitter, Khris Davis of the A’s, this is the 2018 swing of his. But he actually steps in the bucket a little bit. You’re going to see a little difference to the hip positioning. Khris Davis really doesn’t waste any motion pulling that belt buckle, this flashlight on the belt buckle, trying to shine it in the catcher’s eyes. He actually keeps it in a neutral position and steps out. Into the bucket.

What both of these players do really well, and I think, Khris actually does better than Baez is because of the lower half over rotation in the pre loading phase of the swing before stride touchdown, we see Khris will keep his hips in a neutral position … but will use this neck tension, which we’ll talk about here in a second to counteract. And he’s really good, Khris, at going the other way, where he hits this one. This is a 94 mile an hour fastball somewhat up in the zone. And he hits this to straight away center.

He does very well going to the opposite field, even though he’s stepping out now, I wouldn’t advise young hitters to do that. And we have a stride drill that fixes getting the stride more in line.

Khris makes this work because of the way he uses his spine. Here’s a chest view of Javier Baez swing analysis, it’s a little angled here, but you can see that kind of over rotation pre loading phase of the pelvis, the lower half versus what Khris Davis was doing.

You can see him really coiling up with the lower half, which he really doesn’t have to. And you’re seeing the what I was talking about is taking this front shoulder down and in towards a back hip and we should actually see this front hip move away from the back shoulder.

When you bring that front hip in, you’re chasing the back shoulder instead of moving away from it, which that’s how springy fascia works, how we load the body like a spring or a catapult. And we want to bring that front shoulder down and in which he is doing. But when you turn the pelvis, it’s almost like the corresponding shoulder is chasing the corresponding diagonal hip bone.

Now, if we look at Khris Davis on the same swing, you know, this view’s a little bit more chest view than the angled version we’re getting with Javier Baez. But you can see that that hip stays in neutral and then you’ll see him bring his front shoulder down and in towards the back hip and you’ll see this front hip move away from the back shoulder.

Some people might call this the scap load that is covering this line here, this diagonal line to scap load. But we also that’s a retraction of the back scap. What we should see is a protraction of the front scap or the front shoulder moving down and in. So, we’re going to see the hitter’s numbers when the hitter does that. We should see both moves, not just one. And you’re seeing Khris Davis do this very well because he keeps his pelvis in neutral.

You can see here and just lets his upper half preload and let his lower half just do what it does and let it open as it does to take the rest of the slack out of the spinal engine.

And one more quick thing before we move on from this in this Javier Baez swing analysis … as you can see, as he coils up him in Davis, pretty much end up in the same spot, at landing. Look at where his pelvis is at landing. So, it’s almost like he gets a running start with his pelvis. I don’t think it really relevant because we’re getting the same effect with the bounce effect with Davis as we are with Baez. It’s just I think Baez’s closing himself off more. And I wouldn’t teach this to young hitters.

I wouldn’t over rotate the pelvis or turn the pelvis inward towards the catcher to landing, because at landing, you see he’s in the same position. And as long as he’s getting his neck pressure, which will be transitioning to here, as long as you get into neck pressure, he’ll be wound up top. And then once the lower half starts to open, as he starts to swing that rest of that slack, will get taken out and then everything will go as it’s supposed to.

Amazing C/T Spine Mobility (neck pressure)

Now, let’s talk about creating neck pressure. The idea of this is like wringing a towel out except for one hand represents the head, the other hand represents the shoulder. So, the hand’s turn in opposite directions. And what we’re trying to do is it’s not so much about how much of the numbers the hitter shows, although Javier Baez in the swing analysis, you can see you can see everything. If he had a triple digit number, you could see three digits on his back. You can see his back elbow. You can see all the way across the shoulders. If he had a 20-word last name, you could see it from armpit to armpit. You can see pretty much everything, almost his rear oblique. You can see because he’s shown his numbers so much.

Whereas we look at a Khris Davis on this one. Similar, but not quite as turned in because he’s not turning the pelvis in. He doesn’t have to. He can create this Catapult Loading System just by keeping the pelvis in neutral and let the pelvis open when it does. He needs to create that bounce with the lower half, create that neck pressure up top.

You can see that he’s locked in, his head is anchoring a tracking position so he can track the ball and keep vision on the ball. It’s not this idea of what some of these coaches call “false separation”, which when these coaches show on video, what false separation is there over rotating the upper half. Now, we don’t want to over rotate. We can’t lose sight with the back eye. And that’s not Davis here. Maybe he is. He is clearly along with Baez. They are clearly showing their numbers, showing their last name. You can see that is clear as day.

There is a pro attraction of the front scap. There’s a retraction to the back scap. You’re seeing both of those things happen in two different hitters on two different teams. And what both of them do are doing and having common is they are wringing the towel out head and shoulders. The head creates an anchor point. Their shoulders rotate under the chin as far as they can while creating this neck pressure in the T1 (Thoracic section of spine, vertebrae-1) and C7 (Cervical section of spine, vertebrae-7) area.

So there’s like a two, three-inch area that if the hitter does this right, they create that pressure there with the head anchored with the shoulder pulled under as far as it can do. And they’ll feel this pressure up until the turn and they can go from there. That’s taking slack out of this system early. If this doesn’t happen, there is going to be compensation somehow in that there may be a front shoulder pulling out early. There might be a barrel that’s dumping deep and early into the zone to try and hurry up, get the barrel to the ball.

But above all, hitters must, even hitters as young as eight, nine, 10 years old need to feel that pressure if there is going to be power the minute that pressure is taken off between the head and the shoulders, that is when we’ll be letting air out of the balloon.

The reason that I’ve moved to more of a neck pressure, creating neck pressure versus showing numbers is that every hitter is going to be different when it comes to their mobility in their neck and their thoracic spine or their shoulders being able to turn the head this much as much as Baez or Davis. Davis isn’t quite as much there. Maybe it’s just with Baez because he’s inward rotating his lower half. It’s allowing him to turn more.

I think that again, hinders it can take our vision and tracking off the ball if we do this with younger hitters, what Baez is doing. So, I would recommend more of what Davis is doing, albeit without the stepping out part of it. But we want to create the neck pressure. That is the rule. That is the principle, the movement principle, the wringing towel principle to the Catapult Loading System in spinal engine, springy fascia.

It is not so much to show both numbers. The numbers will probably show, but it will depend on the hitter’s mobility in their neck. So, every hitter might be different.

 

Barrel Tilt

One last thing in this Javier Baez swing analysis is the barrel tilt. There are some coaches out there that like this barrel till where you can see where Baez tilts the barrel towards the opposing batter’s box or kind of off towards first base and to get the barrel momentum going into the swing.

Now, this might be something that Baez needs to do because he is rotating that lower half inward towards the catcher. And to get some barrel momentum is going to help him to get around, especially on pitches in pitches up in the zone.

I don’t teach this per se. I don’t think it’s a bad or good thing it can be a bad thing. If they tilt too much and I think Baez in the past has tilted too much and it’s got him in trouble, it causes more of an uppercut type of swing. I’ve had hitters that do this and they hit the ball in the air more often than the hitter that doesn’t tilt the barrel this much.

We’ve seen Donaldson from I think it was 2013 to 14. He was tilting too much and we saw his fly ball percentage go up and his batting average go down. So, I would not really mess with this too much as long as we are creating that wringing towel effect between the head and the shoulders, creating the neck pressure.

And we are what I like to tell my hitters is to act like there’s a skewer going through their hip bones that is keeping him on a straight line, keeping hip bones on a straight line towards the catcher. And they just slide along that skewer until the front foot hits the ground and they can turn out of it, but they can’t turn into the skewer up until landing … has to stay in a neutral position and they manipulate the neck pressure at the top to create the tension that we need to be able to instantaneously swing the bat and increase our ball exit speeds.

The barrel tilt is just not something that I would teach my hitters. I would let my hitters do it. But if it’s affecting their fly ball, line drive, ground-ball ratios and we would definitely change it. Now, I hope you like this Javier Baez swing analysis. Make sure that you’re swinging smarter by moving better.

And before I let you go…

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

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

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

Photo courtesy: MopUpDuty.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on,

As a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

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

 

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

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

Let me explain…

Joey Votto 2018 Hitting Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without further adieu, here are…

 

My Joey Votto Interview Notes on his 2018 Hitting Approach

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

Zepp Swing Experiment Attempting To Put Value On Role Of Pelvis In Swing

Question: How Much Does Pelvis Add to Bat Speed at Impact?

According to InnerBody.com, the pelvis is a sturdy ring of bones that protects the delicate organs of the abdomino-pelvic cavity while anchoring the powerful muscles of the hip, thigh, and abdomen. Several bones unite to form the pelvis, including the sacrum, coccyx (tail bone), and the left and right coxal (hip) bones. Photo courtesy: OrthoInfo.aaos.org

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to employ the Scientific Method to analyze how much turning the pelvis (some refer to this as the hips) adds to Bat Speed at Impact.  The ‘Front Facing Swings’ are an attempt to isolate out the role of the pelvis in the swing, so we can analyze how much the pelvis adds to swing performance.

Just a heads up, the “pelvis” and “hips” are not the same thing.  The hips are a small part of the pelvis.  However, most coaches refer to “hips” when instructing the swing, when most likely they mean “pelvis”.

 

Background Research

For those coaches with a Growth Mindset that want to find out more about the science of locomotion.  I’d recommend reading the following technical books:

If working through the weeds isn’t for you, then you can click the following HPL posts that synthesize the information contained in the previously mentioned books:

I’ve done two swing experiments revealing the role of the shoulders in the swing that tested the value of ‘Showing Numbers’ versus ‘NOT’.  These showed an average increase to Bat Speed at Impact – Showing Numbers – of between 5 to 6-mph.  In addition, one of the experiments showed an average increase to Ball Exit Speed of over 9-mph ‘Showing Numbers’! That’s between 38 to 48-feet of ADDED batted ball distance by ‘Showing Numbers’:

This Zepp swing experiment is attempting to put value on the role of the pelvis in the swing.

 

HypothesisThe Science of Hitting by Ted Williams

Ted Williams, in his book The Science Of Hitting, said the ‘hips lead the way’.  This observation is irrefutable when watching slow motion video of elite hitters.  A majority of coaches teach primarily a ‘hips only’ strategy, which I disagree with.  I feel ‘firing the hips’ is over-taught and over-valued, while the role of the shoulders is under-taught and under valued.  The objective of this experiment is to see what benefit the pelvis (or hips) add to swing performance.

I predict ‘Regular Swings’ will have a substantial increase in Bat Speed at Impact than the ‘Front Facing Swings’.

 

Performance Benefit of Pelvis Swing Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length…I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent.  One was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length ahead of the back marker.
  • Tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • We stayed as consistent as we could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Front Facing Swing’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Regular Swing’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • The objective of ‘Front Facing Swings’ was to start the ‘belt buckle’ pointing at the pitcher, and to minimize pelvic movement.
  • Experiment Day-1 on 6/19 we completed 75 total swings (25 ‘Front Facing’ & 50 ‘Regular’).  Experiment Day-2 on 6/26 we completed 125 swings (75 ‘Front Facing’ & 50 ‘Regular’).
  • We had to break the 200 total swings into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later, because of time constraints.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

‘Front Facing Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Front Facing Swing Averages

‘Front Facing Swing’ AVERAGES for the following metrics: 77-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 30-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.177-secs Time To Impact, -24.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 3* Attack Angle.

‘Regular Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

‘Regular Swing’ AVERAGES for the following metrics: 81.5-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 33-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.130-secs Time To Impact, -28.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 0* Attack Angle.

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

  • 4.5-mph INCREASE to Bat Speed at Impact in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • 3-mph INCREASE to Hand Speed Max in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • 0.047 DECREASE to Time To Impact in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • -4-degree DECREASE to Bat Vertical Angle at Impact in ‘Regular Swings’, and
  • -3-degree DECREASE to Attack Angle in ‘Regular Swings’.

 

Notes

  • The increase in Bat Speed at Impact and Hand Speed Max confirmed my hypothesis, and didn’t surprise me since the first piece of The Spinal Engine to interact with Gravitational Forces is the pelvis.
  • It’s also interesting to note, that you can see from the side-by-side video of the swing, that I wasn’t able to keep the “belt buckle” ‘front facing’ as much as I would have liked to on ‘Front Facing Swings’, so possibly the pelvis could have added a bit more.  I was feeling inside right knee tightness when forcing pelvis to stay facing forward.
  • The DECREASE in Time To Impact with ‘Regular Swings’ could have been due to the increased step and/or unfamiliarity with the movement, while doing ‘Front Facing Swings’.
  • In past swing experiments testing ‘Down Shoulders’ and ‘Showing Numbers’ I increased my Attack Angle – in the positive.  I think the 3-degree increase in positive Attack Angle for ‘Front Facing Swings’ was due to better execution of those elements.
  • We were testing Ball Exit Speed in the beginning but had equipment malfunction (batteries went dead).  I was too many swings in when the equipment was fixed, so we threw BES out in this experiment.  I’d love to see BES measured in a future review of this swing experiment.
  • One last thought, because my pelvis inwardly turned toward the catcher – drastically – on ‘Front Facing Swings’, we saw quite a drop-off in production.  Does this give evidence that an inward turn before the swing may be inferior to keeping the pelvis in neutral (or belt bucket facing plate)?