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How To Use Legs In Swing Like Rizzo, Altuve, & Trout

Answered: “How To Get My Kid To Stop Rising And For Him To Utilize His Legs More During Batting?”

 

 

Here’s what we cover in the above video:

  • Legs DO NOT equal power – water polo example,How To Use Legs In Swing Like Rizzo, Altuve, & Trout
  • What is leg function in swing & Adjusting to pitch height,
  • Distance between the feet equal more control over line drives,
  • GRF’s but not as much as you think,
  • Buying time – back foot sideways, directional force, & pushing the “pause” button, and
  • How to utilize the legs in the swing?

Hey, what’s going on. It’s Joey Myers again from ‘Hitting Performance Lab’. In this video, we’re going to answer the following reader question:

“How to get my kid stop rising, and for him to utilize his legs more during batting?”

Now this is a question that comes either through a form, survey, or email or even from my local lessons. The coaches out there in the high schools tend to meddle a bit too much, subscribing to the hitting myth that: ‘it’s all about the legs’, or ‘you need to use your legs more’.

In this video, I want to talk about what that means, and what is the function of the legs…

 

Legs DO NOT equal power – water polo example

Legs are only 20-30% of the consistent power equation, and most of that is in the function of the pelvis.  If you’re a coach and power is the deficiency in your hitter’s swing, then it’s the spinal engine you want to focus on.  The Catapult Loading System is where 70-80% of consistent power is found.  The best example I like to share can be found in water polo.

And my favorite demonstration to do for hitters is showing what a beach towel and the spinal engine have in common.

 

What is Leg Function in Swing & Adjusting to Pitch Height

Now a couple things, one is they help to adjust to pitch height. If you’re looking at hitters like Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, Joc Pederson of the Dodgers, Corey Seager, looking at Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs or some of the past players like Adrian Beltre or Pedroia. When the pitch is down in the zone, you tend to see them bend their front knee to go down and get it. They tend to do that consistently on those pitches, those lower in the zone pitches, not locking out their front knee like many teach.

I’ve seen these same hitters Rizzo, Bellinger, I’ve seen them with a bent front knee hit balls 440 to 460 feet.  So, locking out the front knee IS NOT all about power.  So, this raises a question of, if you want a hitter to use their legs more often because you think it has to do with power, well that is just not true – that’s not what we’re seeing. So, adjusting to pitch height, and you can study the hitters discussed as examples.

 

Distance between the Feet Equal more Control over Line Drives

Distance between the feet, this is a big one, that we can use the legs or utilize the legs to allow hitters to hit more line drives. The problem happens when, say if we are teaching our hitters to skip their back foot that they end up skipping their feet too close together.  Or it could be they don’t stride that much. They don’t skip at all and, so their feet tend to be closer together. What we want is what you see with the top 50, top 100 hitters in the big leagues….

You’re going to see distance between their feet. So, whether that is a longer stride and their front foot moves away from their back foot. Whether they don’t skip but they don’t stride as much, you still see that wideness of their feet. You see them scissor, you see different things like that, but what they all have in common, all the top hitters in the big leagues, is they have distance between their feet.  When the feet come close together, it makes the hitter taller, which this reader is asking how to keep the hitter from “rising”.  The taller the hitter gets, the more in the ground the ball is gonna get hit.

If the hitter knows better, and they try and get the ball in the air, even though they have narrow feet during their turn. Then they’re gonna do something unnatural with their hands to try and get under it, which we don’t want them to do either. Because that is going to cause uppercuts.  It’s going to cause inconsistencies in their swing path.

 

GRF’s, but not as much as you think

I just mentioned that hitters don’t have to lock their front knee out for power. When you think about ground reaction forces (GRF’s), they DO play a role. I’m not taking away from ground reaction forces, or saying “Oh, well the legs don’t do anything in the swing”.

No, they do. It’s about a 20 to 30% increase in power by using the legs. Most of that though is in the pelvis, and the rest in the spinal engine. I tell my hitters that the spinal engine, their combination of your shoulders and how you use them.  Neck, shoulders, and pelvis account for about 70 to 80% of the power. That gets you to the wall. The legs help get you over the wall. So, you do need the legs, and it’s like what Dr. Serge Gracovetsky, the author of the Spinal Engine said, that locomotion, the arms and legs aren’t necessary for locomotion, they’re an enhancement, they help enhance movement of the spinal engine.

So, we’re not taking away from the legs, the use of the legs, and how they can benefit the swing. It’s just that they’re an enhancement to the spinal engine, the taller the player is, the longer the levers, the more the force multiplier at the end of that lever. So, guys like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are gonna have longer levers, if they lengthen those levers at impact. When we’re talking about the front arm shape, they’re gonna hit the ball pound-for-pound, apples-to-apples swings farther than Jose Altuve with the locked out-front arm. It’s just because the longer limbs enhance more, they’re more of a force multiplier.

 

Buying Time – Back Foot Sideways, Directional Force, & Pushing the “Pause” Button

Buying time. So, the lower half, the legs can help buy time. Jamie Cevallos in his book Positional Hitting way back, I think it was in the early 2000’s or mid to late 2000’s. He talked about this idea of a ‘Cushion’. You’ll see a hitter especially, if they’re looking fastball, and they see a curve ball or changeup. You’ll see them actually bend, sink, or cushion into their knees. They use their knees by bending them to buy them a little bit of time to get on time a lot better.  It’s pushing the ‘pause’ button.

The other thing we want to do to buy time, is keep the back foot sideways.

We talked about this idea of directional force, Matt Nokes, he says that to hit a ball 400 feet, it takes 8,000 pounds per square inch of force in one direction. In hitting, both in baseball and softball, we have 90 degrees to work with. The other 270 degrees is in foul territory, it doesn’t do a hitter any good or a team any good to play in that 270 degrees outside of a fair territory. We have to stay between the 90s, we have to stay between the lines. If you think about a bowler, every single professional bowler out there, “scissors” their legs.

I’m not saying that all hitters have to scissor. I just give my hitters that option.  But if you think about bowlers, they bowl between a two-foot Lane. I don’t know if that’s correct or not, but it’s somewhere around that. They also put a spin on the ball, so if they over rotated their lower half, not keeping their back foot sideways, they’re over rotating their pelvis. Then what you would see is that ball bouncing into the outside lanes.  Try scissoring your legs, then try and open your hips up more, and it’s almost impossible.

You want to make sure that we’re creating directional force, and that’s another thing the legs do. They help us stay between that 90 degrees, and use all 90 degrees effectively. That comes in handy at the higher levels when hitting to the opposite field is a lot more important, and when we see shifts.  Most of the time, hitters are not very good about going the other way. You can see the hitters that do go the other way very well, their batting averages seem to be higher.

 

How do we Utilize the legs in the Swing?

Now again, if it’s power you want, this isn’t the place. You want to look at the Catapult Loading System, and harness the power of the spinal engine.  If you want a majority of power, 70-80% of consistent power.

Getting Shorter, Staying Shorter

To properly utilize the legs in the swing, you want to look at getting shorter and staying shorter.  You see most great hitters when you draw a line over their head before they stride, by the time they get to stride landing, you’re gonna see distance between where they started, and where their head is at stride landing. You’re gonna see what we call ‘Getting Shorter’.

Then as they swing, it’s almost like that bottom ladder rung they create at landing, they tend to stay under that line. What we do is, we could take a PVC pipe. We can put it at the start of the hitter swing, before they even stride…we can put it maybe at their nose or their chin, and we can have them practice getting the top of their head under that PVC pipe. As they swing, stay under that PVC pipe. I’ve also had my hitters get next to a piece of furniture that’s about the same height, then have them stride, and get their head to where, now they’re under the top of that, say dresser or whatever, or picture frame, could be anything around the house.

When they swing, do some slow motion swings, and they stay under that line. That’s a way to get shorter, stay shorter.

Okay to “bend the knee”

It’s okay to bend the knee, I also get my hitters to do this if necessary. We don’t really practice this, but I tell them it’s okay to bend the knee, if the pitch is down in the zone.

Distance between the feet

Also working distance between the feet, you can either get them to stride longer, or you can cut down on their skip. We usually try to manipulate one of those two things or both things to get that distance between the feet, so that allows them to hit more line drives or at least control their line drives.

Keep back foot sideways

Then keeping their back foot sideways. You can use the VeloPro, they use it in pitching a lot. But in hitting, we use the VeloPro.

We tell the hitter to make sure they keep their back foot, their back heel on the ground as they swing. Almost like you would see with George Springer, or Altuve, or Mike Trout, any of those kinds of hitters or in softball Sierra Romero. They keep their back heel on the ground and it turns sideways, so they stay sideways. They do a better job of staying between those 90 degrees.

One last thing on keeping the back foot sideways, as mentioned, scissoring helps with that as well. So, that’s something that you can play around with, and let your hitters’ experiment with.

Hope this answered the question of “How to get my kid to stop rising, and for him to utilize his legs more during the swing”. Make sure that we’re swinging smarter by moving better, and before I let you go…

Baseball Batting Stance Hacking with Daniel Murphy & Joc Pederson

 

Baseball Batting Stance: Daniel Murphy

2015 Daniel Murphy in triple flexion (hip, knees, and ankles). Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This baseball batting stance video post was sparked by my friend, whom I admire and respect as a man AND hitting instructor, doing great work in the San Diego-California area, Ryan Lehr (@thepureswingsd).

He’s worked under the hitting tutelage of Reggie Smith for over 15 years, and really has a fantastic grasp of the absolutes to the swing.

For those of you who don’t know Reggie Smith’s teachings, he’s as much of a ‘science-guy’ as we are.

And yes, this works for fastpitch softball as well as baseball.

The point of this video post, is to look at being in an athletic baseball batting stance and its effect on reducing strikeouts.

We’ll be looking at:

  • Effective baseball batting stance context,
  • Metrics of low-strikeout high-ISO hitters, and
  • Which low-K% high-ISO MLB hitters to model?

 

Effective Baseball Batting Stance Context

Easier to Hit Difficult Pitches

At Ryan Lehr & Reggie Smith’s Christmas hitting clinic, Kevin Sweeney talked about how getting more athletic in his baseball batting stance allowed him to hit difficult pitches

Making Adjustments to Gravitational Forces

Taylor Gardner, founder of the Backspin Batting Tee, says that a first baseman stretches toward the thrown ball when receiving it.  Knees are bent and the eyes are getting on level plane with thrown ball and receiving glove.

Gravitational Forces are acting on the ball at ALL times.

Here’s something that may piss off some fastpitch softball pitching coaches and pitchers…

Taylor Gardner came to the conclusion that a ‘rise-ball’ is a myth.  And I AGREE!

And if you don’t believe us:

  • Find your fastest fastpitch softball pitcher,
  • Video record her throwing a ‘rise-ball’ from the side angle where you get her and the catcher in the same frame, and
  • Track the trajectory of the ball’s flight to the catcher’s glove on slo-mo software…

I guarantee the apex of the pitched ball’s arc will be above where it’s caught by the catcher.

It’s because of GRAVITY!!!

Sure the arc will be less, the harder the pitcher throws, but there will still be an arc nonetheless.

Who Else Gets into an Athletic Position?

Baseball Batting Stance: Michael Brantley

2015 Michael Brantley in triple flexion. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

I ask my players what knee position they’d start in if they were:

  • Defending against a quickly advancing soccer striker,
  • Defending a fast wide receiver five-yards off the line,
  • The only one between a breakaway power forward and the hoop in basketball,
  • Going to throw a 16-pound Shot Put as far as humanly possible, or
  • Receiving a blazing serve from Roger Federer?

CLICK HERE for Speed Coach Lee Taft (@LeeTaft) blog post on why bending the knees is important to force production.

I alluded to the ‘triple flexion’ baseball batting stance in this video post breaking down Joey Votto’s swing.

Votto has one of the best swings to model if you want to cut down on ground-balls, strikeouts, weak fly balls, and just want to get on base more and make more frequent solid contact.  He’s the ultimate Pitch-Plane Dominator!

Metrics of Low-Strikeout High-ISO Hitters

I wanted to compare the Strikeout Percentage and ISO metrics to see if we could find a correlation between the baseball batting stance and hitters who rarely strikeout, but also maintain some element of power.

One of the biggest MYTHS is that you can only be a contact hitter, or a power hitter.  And that you can’t be both.  Nowadays, SABERmetric people conclude that when homers go up, so does the rise of strikeouts.

My belief is there CAN BE more going on between the numbers…

When looking back in time, we saw quite a few examples of fusing minimal strikeouts and raw power…Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, and Babe Ruth to name a few.

Okay, so what is ISO?  Isolated Power, according to FanGraphs.com basically describes a hitters “raw power”.

For you SABR wannabe math nerds (like me!), here’s a simple formula to compute ISO in two different ways:

  • ISO = SLG minus AVG, OR
  • ISO = Extra Bases divided by At-Bats 

Here’s an excel spreadsheet I put together, using FanGraph.com’s metrics, on the top-5 highest and lowest strikeout percentages among 2015 hitters, their ISO’s, and dinger totals:

Baseball Batting Stance: K% v. ISO Top-5

We analyze the highlighted hitters in the above video. Daniel Murphy and Michael Brantley having virtually above average ISO’s…

Compare how these hitters rank for K%:

strikeout-rating

According to Fangraphs.com

Compare how these hitters stack up for ISO:

iso-rating

According to FanGraphs.com

What’s plain as day is how ‘awful’ the top-5 highest K% are.  Eee-gads!  Not even trying there 😛

The silver lining though, is that there are a couple top-5 lowest K% that have virtually above average ISO’s, and one I’m excited to see perform in 2016 with a change in his baseball batting stance toward the end of the 2015 season…

 

Which Low Strikeout MLB Hitters to Model?

Baseball Batting Stance: Joc Pederson 2015 BEFORE/AFTER change

Notice Joc Pederson baseball batting stance change – left image is halfway through 2015 & right image is at the end of 2015. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues”.  He also said,

“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.”

If you’re the coach (or hitter) who’s goal it is to reduce strikeouts among your hitters, while also preserving some elements of power, whose swing should you model?

…At least from a baseball batting stance point of view?

After analyzing the metrics, my answer’s are:

  • Daniel Murphy,
  • Michael Brantley, and
  • Joc Pederson (the end of 2015 baseball batting stance version).

Watch the video above for more in-depth analysis of these hitters.

I’m not sure how many strikeouts Joc Pederson had without ‘triple flexion’ in 2015 versus with it, but I’m anticipating way less strikeouts for him in 2016 if he keeps this principle in his baseball batting stance.  He’s a special hitter, and not a very big slugger (6’1″, 215-pounds).

Also, I know that correlation may not equal causation in this case, but it’s worth looking into.  So I’d love your thoughts and analysis on other low K% hitters with above average ISO’s…

To be continued… 😉