Posts

Christian Yelich Says Barry Bonds Taught Him A Drill That Changed His Career…

 

 

I agree with ‘swing down'…

Christian Yelich & Barry Bonds: 'Swinging Down' in the 'Launch Angle' Era

Christian Yelich and Barry Bonds swing comparison. Photo courtesy: Jomboy Media YouTube channel

Let that sink in for a bit.

Some are pissed I just said that.  But those who've followed me for some time are nodding their head in confirmation because they know better.

Because guess what?  It depends.

‘Swing down' shouldn't be used as a blanket teach.  I have two things for you…

  1. Jomboy Media VIDEO: “Christian Yelich says Barry Bonds taught him a drill that changed his career” (watching it will reveal its relevance to this post), and
  2. Below is Chapter-2 of the new book I'm working on.  It's a longer post, but I think you'll like it.  Goes well with the Yelich-Bonds video above, like grass fed red meat and a fine red wine.

Thank you Grandpa Mike for sharing the video.  You know who you are.  Enjoy!

———-

WHAT AN OLD SCHOOL SWING FEELS LIKE & THE PROS AND CONS?

In Chapter-2, we'll look at what an old school swing feels like and the pros and cons.  We'll be discussing:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics,
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics, and
  • So, how do we interweave brainless data and confusing real v. feel hitting cues?

How Can Someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they Say about Hitting is Wrong?

Now, some of you out there have seen the video of Alex Rodriguez demonstrating how he swung down. Maybe you saw the preseason interview of Mike Trout discussing how he gets on top of the ball.

Or how about Albert Pujols on the MLB Network revealed he swings knob down to the ball?

‘Swing down'.  ‘Getting on top of the ball'.  ‘Knob to the ball'.  ‘Keep barrel above hands' is another one.  Nowadays, these are some of THE most despised hitting coaching cues on the market.  I was one of them.  “Was”.  About 2-3 years ago.  Now I have a different perspective and approach.  These cues DO work.  But it depends on the case.  And if reading or hearing those words made your blood boil…you can change too, believe me.  Here's how…

First, let's clear up and define “swinging down”. Well yeah, the hands do go down to the ball. And depending on how high or low the ball is, the hands will go down more or less. This is true.  But coaches HATE these cues for a different reason.  Here's the thing… if you watch players like A-Rod, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols physically demonstrate what swinging down means to them, you see them using a chopping motion. Yes. The barrel and hands travel down to the ball. But not ‘hands drop'.  That's different, and is a swing flaw we MUST fix.  In the high level swing, we see the barrel go down before coming up.

Here's my beef with ‘swinging down'…

When swinging down is translated into a NEGATIVE attack angle.  Meaning the barrel is going down towards the impact point.  Is not coming up.  And this is what hitting greats like Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols are demonstrating in interviews.  And where the confusion starts.  If you watch their actual swing on film, slow motion swing, what you're going to see is a POSITIVE attack angle.  Meaning, barrel elevating up to incoming ball descending down. Yes, even in Fastpitch Softball (more about this in Chapter-7).  Barrel coming up to impact, positive. Barrel going down to impact, negative.  We clear?

So if what these great hitters are saying and demonstrating isn't what they're actually doing, then what's REALLY going on?

Well, here's the thing … it's the mysterious case of real versus feel What's really happening on video doesn't square with what the high level hitter feels they're doing.  Two completely opposite things.  Take Mike Trout.  Let's look at his real (9-year career average batted ball numbers before start of 2020 season):

  • Ground-ball rate: 36.8% (League average is 43%)
  • Fly-ball rate: 40.8% (League average is 37%)
  • Line drive rate: 22.4% (League average is 20%), and
  • Homerun to fly-ball ratio: 21.4% (League average is 9.5%).

Significantly below average ground-ball rate.  Check.  Slightly above average fly-ball rate.  Check.  Slightly above average line drive rate.  Check.  And well above average home-run to fly-ball ration.  Checkmate!  This proves his performance – the real – doesn't jive with his feel of ‘getting on top of the ball'.  I want you to go to YouTube, search “Mike Trout slow motion swing”, and watch…

His barrels goes down, then comes up to the ball.  Up.  Positive barrel attack angle.  Not down.  Not on top.  Not a negative attack angle.

Before you get upset I'm telling Mike Trout, “You know ‘nothin'!”  Here's the beautiful crazy of this whole thing.   Coaches, understand this … the body is always one or two steps behind the brain. Thinking happens fast. There's zero friction with thoughts.  Nothing. It just goes, goes, goes, goes, goes.  No heavy bones, muscle, organs, and fascia required to move before a thought can fire off!

The secret to unlocking the real v. feel mystery can be revealed through a psychology term called paradoxical intention…

Pros to Old School Feel Mechanics

We have to understand what Mike Trout is REALLY saying.  Bring context to the numbers.  Remember Chapter-1?  Trout will say, “I'll take 10 swings off the tee or during batting practice to feel like I'm getting on top of the ball”. You see, his natural tendency is to uppercut. An extreme uppercut because he uses a significant shoulder tilt to effectively feast on balls down in the zone.  And this works well with pitchers targeting down in the zone, and away.

Although, this is different than the slight uppercut Ted Williams talked about in his book The Science Of Hitting.  Williams talked about barrel meeting the plane of the pitch.  Trout's natural tendency runs counter to this.  And what he tells himself, remember the body is one or two steps behind the brain, is to do the exact opposite of what his natural tendency is.  He tells himself to get on top of the ball. And what's the result?  The barrel ends up somewhere in the middle of extreme uppercut and negative attack angle downswing.  That's what he's trying to get for his real… to get to the middle.

The true old school hitting tragedy…

Some say hitters like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Pujols, and Trout are – or were – fantastic at doing, but not very good at translating what they did into teaching. Take Barry Bonds. Who was the Florida Marlins hitting coach in 2016.  Then they let him go.  Former Marlins President David Samson said this,

“Bonds was worst hitting coach of my career.”  

So why wasn't Barry Bonds able to translate the way he hit to his prized pupils like Giancarlo Stanton?  Bonds is the career Major League home run leader after all. Some say he can do, but he doesn't know how he does what he did.  I disagree these hitters aren't good at teaching.  Again it's a translation issue.

Dr. Victor Frankl, Psychologist and survivor of four Nazi death camps, in his book Man's Search For Meaning, calls this “paradoxical intention”.  Hitters like Trout and Bonds use extreme physical cues to establish a consistent slight upward swing plane.  This strategy is a “trick” played on the body, which is a step or two behind.   Paradoxical intention.  Take any hitter with an extreme uppercut, tell them to chop down (negative Attack Angle “feel” cue), and their barrel path ends up in a slight uppercut.  Just like Ted Williams said – like magic!  Feel cues are fantastic for making simple swing adjustments.

If you're coaching youth hitters, let's get into that world for a moment…

A lot, and I mean A LOT of youth players ages 7 to 12 years old uppercut.  Extreme uppercuts. Casting.  Loooong swings.  They don't need to be taught this!  This is typical, before they've built enough strength in their bodies.  In their core.  In the dynamic nature of the spinal engine.  They tend to cast the barrel out.  Meaning, the barrel casts away from the body, leaving the back shoulder too early. This causes a long swing.  Thanks to gravitational forces, centripetal and centrifugal forces*.  As they swing, they end up underneath the ball.  On inside pitches, they end up getting jammed a lot.  And swing under a lot of pitches up in the zone.  A LOT.

(*Centripetal Force is a center “seeking” force. Like twirling a rock on a string. The rock exerts force back to the two fingers holding the string. Centrifugal Force is a center “fleeing” force. Letting go of the twirling rock on a swing, causes the rock to shoot off in a tangent direction away from the original circle.)

There are other factors causing an extreme uppercut, like hands drop or constant deep barrel dumping.  But with youth hitters, the rules of Physics are bigger offenders. Here's the good news … swing an overloaded bat.  Overloaded bats help young hitters build strength to do that.  Regardless of mechanics.  More on that protocol later in the book.

Those are the pros of an old school feel mechanics. Now, let's look at the cons…

Cons to Old School Feel Mechanics

These are what the “metrics people” will typically bring up. You're so out of touch.  No numbers to support your gut feelings?  What does that mean?  How can I trust your “gut”?  Because you played or coached 20 years in the Big Leagues?  That's not good enough!!  What's measurable is manageable.  If you can't use numbers to support your gut, then I'm not listening.  This is a common conversation you've probably seen, heard, or participated in.

The old school coaching cues we just discussed in the pros to old school swing section can also be included in that gut conversation.  It's bad if the old school cues are used as a default. In a one size fits all way. For example, Johnny's coach sees Pujols demonstrate a chopping down swing on MLB Network's Diamond Demos. That coach goes to Johnny's 10 year old team practice on Monday evening, and tells every one of his hitters to swing like Pujols does. Chop, chop, chop. And he tells them with the conviction, vigor, and energy of a Sunday Pastor, that they can hit like Pujols.  How can you argue with Senor Alberto?  From his lips to coach's ears out of coaches mouth to kids' ears.  If Albert Pujols said it and it worked for him, then we MUST take the message literally!  He is Prince Albert for jimminies sake!

Here's the problem with that. Remember when I mentioned the translation issue?  By feeding the ‘swing down' or ‘chop down' mantras as a default hitting strategy to every 10 year old on your team, I'm sorry to say it, but you will lose. Let me illustrate with a thought experiment…

Apply the “one-third rule” to your team. In this example, assume a third of your hitters pop the ball up a majority of the time. Another third of hitters hit line drives a majority of the time.  And the remaining third are majority ground-ball hitters.  So, what if you tell the whole team to swing down or get on top of the ball?  A blanket statement to all.  Default old school hitting cue.  What do you think is going to happen?

Based on what was discussed with Dr. Victor Frankl's paradoxical intention – remember extreme uppercut, tell them to ‘get on top', and they end up in the middle?  Slight uppercut.  Inline with incoming pitch.  Here's what will happen to our team if we tell all to chop down … a third of the team that used to pop the ball up a majority of the time, will hit more line drives. Those middle third hitting line drives a majority of the time, are going to hit more ground-balls. And the ground-ball a majority of the time group, are going to hit even more worm burner ground-balls.  So how did the thought experiment turn out with a blanket statement old school hitting cue?

The only group on the team that benefits are the beginning fly ball hitters. The ones hitting fly-balls a majority of the time.  Those are the only ones you'll see a significant difference, for the better.  Look ground-balls are great.  Especially hard ones when the defense can't play catch.  But what happens when they can play catch?  When would your team come across a team that can play catch?  That's right!  In all-stars.  In playoff and championship games.  Not good if you just converted line drive hitters into ground-ball hitters.  And ground-ballers into hitting more worm burners.  Read our infamous Ground-ball Rant post.

Now, let's cook up a different scenario.  A more simple yet elegant solution.  Instead of giving a blanket statement, a blanket swing down, chop down to the whole team. But instead, I let the line drive hitters do their thing. Just keep doing what you're doing. I took the fly ball hitter and told them to swing down, chop down.  And I instructed the ground-ballers to hit the ball in the air.  Like pop the ball up instruction.  How do you think that thought experiment would go?

If I did that…now my pop-fliers AND ground-ballers are both hitting more line drives.  Remember Victor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning paradoxical intention?  Overall, my whole team is hitting more line drives. Now my line drivers aren't lonely.  They have more competition to deal with.  Competition makes everyone better.  Hungrier.  Especially when they're experiencing success.  Does that make sense?

The cons of an old school swing are when we apply a blanket statement shared by one of the best hitters on the planet.  Don't do that.  Bad coach.  You DO NOT pass go, and you DO NOT collect $200.

One swing fits all cues are a bad. And you wouldn't know this without data to measure and optimize. Gut feelings and hunches are like throwing darts in the dark.  It's like shooting an arrow and calling whatever you hit – after the fact.  It's guessing.  If you aren't collecting numbers using a PocketRadar, Rhapsodo, HitTrax, BlastMotion, or SwingTracker, then you're flying blind. You aren't going to know. And those hunches will just be hunches.

Same goes for blindly following what a Hall of Famer or future Hall of Famer says or said about hitting.  Become a scientist.  Test, test, test.  Blindly following a leader without question, will make you nothing more than a sheep.  Question, question, question.  Even question me and EVERYTHING in this book.

So far in Chapter-2, we talked about:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics, and
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics…

We talked about how what's real and what's feel are two totally different things. The scenery can be very confusing. The waters choppy.  How does a coach cut through the clutter and calm the waters?  The simple truth to make hitting easier – it's not easy, but we can make it easier – is called paradoxical intention.  Doing the exact opposite of what just happened to get the middle.  Extreme swing up?  Tell them to swing down – hit a chopper.  Extreme swing down?  Tell them to swing up – hit a pop-fly.  There's more to it of course, and we'll get into it more later.  Let's move on to…

How do we Interweave Brainless Data and Confusing Hitting Cues?

This DOES NOT cause that, and that DOES NOT cause this.  Question: Coincidentally, if I wear a green shirt and it rains, then is it reasonable to think I can make it rain by wearing a green shirt?   This is the exact dilemma many instructors find themselves in with what they teach.

Some teach ONLY using data.  Some teach ONLY using old school hitting cues.  Some claim to base their teachings on millions of hours watching ONLY the best hitters.  Some validate Science with their hitting theories (proudly saying their system can't be found in Science!!).  And others validate their hitting philosophy with Science, which is what we do.  Who's right?  Who's wrong?  Can we use a mix?  And if so, how do we know if we're on the right track?

Are you throwing dynamite in the air and expecting rain?

I want to share a true story from the book Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. The story will illuminate how to filter the hitting information available today. Interestingly…

Right before the Great Depression hit the Oklahoma panhandle, rain was plentiful.  This caused Doctors and Lawyers to quit their practices and join the ranks of farmers to buy land and plant crops that were being subsidized by the US government.  In other words, the gold-in-them-hills was harvesting and selling wheat and other bumper crops of the era.

Millions of acres of 6-foot high beautiful Buffalo blue grass were plowed under to make room for crops.  Fast forward to the beginning of the Great Depression, the rain dried up, and so did the crops.  Unbeknownst to the “new” farmers who moved to the area, typically rain was sparse in the location, and by coincidence, they had just experienced a rare wet 5-10 year period.

Now there’s NO rain.  And you know the 6-foot high beautiful Buffalo blue grass they cut down?  Well, it used to hold the soil down despite seasonal 60 to 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts.  So NO rain coming.  NO crops growing.  Super high winds are eroding dry barren soil and tossing it up in the air.  Grazing cattle have nothing to eat but tumbleweeds brought over by Russians (people often sprinkled salt to eat them as well).  The livestock soon get sick and die.  The drought is fatal for the majority who stay, others move west.  This is where we get John Steinbeck's book “Dust Bowl”.

Stick with me, because here comes the lesson…

The farmers who stayed behind were so desperate for rain, they hired self proclaimed rain experts to “create” rain, literally out of thin air.  The belief at the time was that an explosion in the air could bring clouds, and with clouds, rain would fall from the sky.  In plenty.  So what did these self proclaimed rain experts do?  What any self proclaimed rain expert would do!!  They sold the idea that if they lit a stick of dynamite, timed the throw just right, they could get a perfectly timed explosion that would bring rain-a-plenty.

…And as luck would find it, the “racket” seemed to work a couple times.  This only fed the foolishness we all see now – hindsight is 20/20.  Yes, this wasn't a proud time in American history.  You have to understand, people back then were DESPERATE.  Their hope blinded them to the MANY times throwing dynamite in the air didn’t work.  People lost limbs, fingers, etc. from timing the throw wrong.  Head scratcher  I know.

When it comes to hitting, we have to be careful of the causation-correlation relationship.  Is studying video and teaching only what the “best” hitters are doing enough?  I would argue it is not.  How do you know what you're looking at, if you don't know what you're looking for?  We see Pujols demonstrating a negative attack angle swing on MLB Network.  But then we see him NOT do that in real-time.  We bring that same Pujols gold nugget to Johnny's team, blanket teach it, and the end result looks nothing like what we see Pujols do during competition.  This DOES NOT cause that, and that DOES NOT cause this.

I'm going to reveal a secret about why coaches are terrible at the causation-correlation relationship.  Like shooting a random arrow and calling whatever is hit.  Here's a quote summing it up from Scott Adams, in his book Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America:

“There are three important things to know about human beings in order to understand why we do the things we do. [1] Humans use pattern recognition to understand their world. [2] Humans are very bad at pattern recognition. [3] And they don’t know it.”

So how do we escape this seemingly inescapable prison of misdiagnosis?  After reading thus far, you know it.  Be less subjective and more objective.  KeyDifferences.com says this about subjective versus objective:

“Subjective means something which does not show the clear picture or it is just a person's outlook or expression of opinion. A subjective statement relies on assumptions, beliefs, opinions and influenced by emotions and personal feelings.  An objective statement is based on facts and observations.”

Use the Scientific Method.  Develop a hitting Question…make a predictive Hypothesis…do the Research…collect the Data…form a Conclusion.  Swing experimentation.  We apply human movement principles validated by REAL Science to hitting a ball.  Scientific principles pulled from:

  • Physics,
  • Engineering,
  • Biomechanics, and
  • Body work.

How do we figure out if this DOES cause that?  Or if that DOES cause this?  Not by wearing a green shirt!   To know what you're looking at, you have to know what you're looking for.  DO NOT validate Science through your hitting philosophy.  DO validate your hitting philosophy through Science.  Set a higher standard for your hitters.  It's okay – watch your millions of hours of video…employ those expensive measuring gadgets…and flaunt those old school hitting cues.

But above ALL of that … understand what the rules to human movements are FIRST.  Once you know that, all other domino's fall where they're supposed to.  In conclusion of Chapter-2, we looked at what an old school swing feels like and the pros and cons.  We discussed:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics,
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics, and
  • So, how do we interweave brainless data and confusing real v. feel hitting cues?

In Chapter-3, we'll answer the question of what leads to hitting more predictable line drives and less strikeouts.  Where we'll dive into:

  • What does “predictable” mean and why does probability matter?  And,
  • Difference between ‘Launch Angle’ and ‘Attack Angle’…

Onward…

———-

The Biggest Lie In The Baseball Showcase?

 

 

In the above baseball showcase video, I answer the following question from one of our readers…

Baseball Showcase: PBR Tyler Davis

PBR Baseball Showcase: Tyler Davis (one of my local hitters). Photo courtesy: PrepBaseballReport.com

“What are your thoughts on scouting services like PBR, Perfect Game, etc. who base their player rankings almost exclusively on numbers – EV, batted ball distance…”

If you've thought this, then you're not alone.  I've heard some of the same concerns from other coaches and parents.

Let me ask you this…would you take a hitter who can't hit in a game, but can light up Pocket Radar with a 100-mph ball exit speed …OR, would you take a hitter who can hit in games, but can only reach 80-mph ball exit speeds?

I know, not a tough choice.

Unfortunately no grading system is perfect.  And as many of you know, I love data and numbers.  But numbers don't have brains.  Humans do.  Look, ultimately players MUST perform in games.  Analyzing things like game stats, division played in, strength of schedule, accolades collected, etc. are very relevant to a balanced scouting service.

The purpose of baseball showcase evaluations should be to forecast the probability of that player performing well in games.  Period.  Is that possible?  To create evaluations that can truly test a hitter, reflecting how they will do in a game?

Some of the things we cover:

  • Are Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles enough?
  • How can you test a hitter's barrel control when it comes to restoring balance to ground-balls, line drives, and fly-balls?*
  • What value would knowing whether a hitter can adapt from pull to oppo?  Can you test that?
  • What's the ultimate timing test you could throw at a hitter that would give you a glimpse into their adaptability?
  • And finally, can you effectively evaluate a hitter's approach against mixed pitches?

*CLICK HERE for a post Perry Husband shared his ‘Launch Angle' test chart.  This is a great start to getting more accurate performance information about hitters.

Is this all doable for a baseball showcase like PBR to do?  Maybe.  It will take more time than what they're doing now.  But how much value will it add to their showcases?  How much credibility would their programs gain from the extra time spent?  How much more trust would they get from parents and coaches?

I dunno, you tell me…

Longest Home Run Ever “Principles” May SURPRISE You…

 

 

Longest Home Run Ever? 696-Feet!

Photo Courtesy of: SmarterEveryDay YouTube channel

But before analyzing the longest home run ever ‘principles', I want to share a few important resources…

Some of you may remember first reading Physics Professor Robert Adair's book The Physics Of Baseball.  Think of the above video as the “engineering” of baseball – ahem, hitting specifically.  Many of you know our motto here at Hitting Performance Lab and HOW our hitting approach is different than most out there …

We apply human movement principles that are validated by Science, to hitting a ball … (unlike the willfully ignorant ‘bro-science' approach to hitting).  

Another good longest home run ever engineering principles book resource is The Golfing Machine authored by Homer Kelley, who was an aeronautical engineer that worked for Boeing during the Great Depression.  He fell in love with golf and applied engineering principles to the golf swing, which were meticulously described in the book.

A fantastic post on the topic of longest home run ever comes from Dr. Alan Nathan over at PopularMechanics.com titled, “What's The Longest Possible Home Run”. Alan Nathan is a professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois who has spent a career tracking physics, especially as it relates to baseball. He says two primary factors guide how far a ball is going to fly: exit velocity and launch angle.  Click the PopularMechanics.com link to read more.

The SmarterEveryDay YouTube channel is a MUST subscribe.  They're a bunch of engineering geeks that put together fascinating experiments and tests that challenge things like the longest home run ever (above) to the backwards brain bicycle.  Their videos are very entertaining, funny, and extremely informative.

What I have for you below are time marked bullet points I found interesting in the above longest home run ever SmarterEveryDay video.  Big THANK YOU to the golfing sensei, and my good friend, Lee Comeaux for the share…

  • At 1-min, 25-sec mark, he acknowledge the “Launch Angle” craze, their focus is to “…point at the fence and swing a bat as fast as we can.”
  • Safety first kids!!  These guys took many many safety precautions when running this experiment defending against batted balls (200+ mph!), broken flying wood and metal bats, or even broken shards of machine.
  • At 2-min mark, they discuss how they setup the scenario for higher probability of moving ball hitting moving bat
  • At 2-min, 45-sec mark, talked about who these guys are and 3-phase power, “…dads who love to build things.”
  • At 4-min, 40-sec mark, discussed how wood bat broke during first phase of experiment, “tension” break
  • At 5-min, 45-sec mark, 2nd phase of experiment, metal bat broke off at plastic knob (slo mo at 6:40), and flew 581-feet!!
  • At 7-min, 45-sec mark, interesting to note the imbalance of the “Mad Batter Machine” when one of two metal bats break off…think about a hitter that isn't counter-balancing their body when swinging (e.g. breaking one-joint rule – rear ear closing in on rear shoulder during turn, OR shifting weight during stride, then continuing to go forward during turn – lunging).
  • At 10-min, 15-sec mark, fantastic frame-by-frame of bat ball collisions – ground-ball, high fly-ball, hit too early … as power was turned up, they started breaking bats … crazy how much fun these guys were having doing this.  I'm so envious!
  • At 11-min- 35-sec mark, talked about fastest ball exit speed being Giancarlo Stanton (123.9-mph), one hop double play grounder to second baseman, their pitching machine was throwing balls at 50-mph, while their high speed bat was hitting batted balls at 240-mph!  This goes to show pitching velocity isn't the best predictor of batted ball distance (1-mph of added pitching velocity only adds 1-mph to ball exit speeds) … bat speed is (1-mph of added bat speed adds 4-mph to ball exit speeds).
  • Thought experiment … imagine if these guys angled the Mad Batter Machine in an extreme downward or upwards plane – what would happen?  I think this experiment would take them months, not days.  Think about it, a couple engineering guys, didn't care about the ‘Launch Angle' craze, and just angled it to where it'd hit the majority of balls … hmmmm, let that sink in 😉
  • At 12-min, 10-sec mark, history of longest home run ever tape measure shots: Mickey Mantle – 565-feet, Babe Ruth – 575-feet, and Joey Meyer – 582-feet (no immediate relation :-P)
  • At 12-min, 45-sec mark, they show the longest home run ever… (full power!!!)
Analysis of A-Rod Hitting Analysis: Perry Husband & Joey Myers

Analysis of Alex Rodriguez Hitting Analysis: Real Versus Feel, How To Be An Effective Hitter, & Sabermetrics v. Experience…

Before you watch the above video interview with Perry Husband, please watch the following 7-min video of Alex Rodriguez sticking-it-to-the-hitting-man lol (I promise you, it's rather entertaining)

Wow!  The Social hitting community had a blast with this video.  Coaches talking how:

  • Cool his blue pool (which turned purple periodically throughout the video), and green lush backyard were…
    Analysis of A-Rod Hitting Analysis: Perry Husband & Joey Myers

    Alex Rodriguez YouTube channel titled, “HOW TO HIT HOME RUNS | TIPS FOR THE BEST APPROACH AT THE PLATE”

  • He added some sweet after effects into his video…
  • He may have had a couple bottles of wine (not glasses) pre-shoot, probably at the cautioning of his gal-pal J-Lo…
  • And the elephant in the room, how he seemed disconnected describing the elite swing…

There was A LOT to unpack in A-Rod's video…here's what he covered in only 7-mins:

  1. Real v. Feel – How to get the ball up…Swing down to get the ball up…swing down for “line to line”
  2. How to be effective as a hitter (Launch Angles, Line to Line) – forget “Launch Angle”, “Line to line” (beat the shift)…Legs underneath you with leverage, knee down to the ground…Think with “Ferris Wheel” launch angle…Ferris Wheel & “blind spot”…can't catch up to fastball up?
  3. Sabermetrics v. Experience – Top 4 of last 5 winning teams, #1 in contact, least in K's…Sabermetrics v. Experience…”an out is an out”, “K's are overrated”…”Made to measure” approach, contact is king.

So now back to the video analysis Perry Husband and I did (tippy-top video) of A-Rod's video analysis.  Here are some bullet points of what we cover:

  • Does hitting 100-mph ball exit speed mean you're maxing out?  How do you know what your max is?
  • How applying tested human movement principles validated by REAL Science results in almost instant changes to key metrics,
  • Why hasn't analytics given more value to Perry's Effective Velocity?
  • Are there instances that “swinging down” is okay to teach hitters?
  • Why fastballs down, hit on the ground, reveal some of the highest ball exit speeds & why curveballs are some of the farthest hit balls…

As always, the following are quick reference points you can use to jump around in the supplemental analysis:

  • At about the 0:00 minute mark, talking about Alex Rodriguez explaining feel and “swinging down”, “squishing bugs”, and knee going to the ground, A-Rod said only way to lift is to “go down”
  • At about the 5-min, 30-sec mark, three major issues A-Rod brings up in the video: 1 ) Real v. Feel, 2) How to be effective as a hitter, & 3) Sabermetrics v. Experience, coaches go to one side or the other, A-Rod is right and wrong at the same time, lets get player (ahem, A-Rod) on tee and measure ball exit speed and launch angle – test it!  Let's quantify and prove it or disprove it, early barrel dump works if pitchers aren't elevating fastballs, very little on internet is testable, guys not liking ball exit speed and heavy ball tee swings for evaluation – Why not wanting a baseline?  Just because you're hitting 100-mph exit velocity, is that your maximum?  How do you know without a baseline?
  • At about 14-min 30-sec mark, 3-dimensional hitting – verticals, horizontals, and timing or pitch velocity, where does power come from (according to A-Rod)? what do certain mechanics contribute to verticals, horizontals, power, or timing? Testing a hitter off the tee with regular ball, then heavy ball, then test it LIVE with ball, can see where hitter is deficient, out of 7-8 new kids (current hitters Perry is working with) have increased avg. 7 to 8-mph ball exit speed almost instantaneously, cleaning up mechanics aren't like getting stronger and more coordinated, which takes more time,
  • At about 22-min 30 secs mark, Launch Angles are numbers without brains and coaches treat it like a character in a movie! Has Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton ever hit a ball at their max in a game?  “Ferris wheel” swing and the “blind spot”, what happens when the low fastball disappears, from TM's perspective what is the “Ferris wheel” swing or is he using the WORST metaphor ever?! “Merry-Go-Round” versus “Ferris Wheel” swing, having a little bit of both depending on pitch height, depth, and timing, 150 locations within the strike zone – can you take same swing to each of those?
  • At about 30-min mark, Perry talks about his swing was in low-80's in Ball Exit Speed when 100% purely rotational swing, but in the high 80's low-90's when releasing backside, there are consequences to mechanics you choose, are you afraid to test it? Perry is starting a club doing a bunch of different tests and demos on the mechanical side and effective velocity (show hitters what they're missing), 18 of 19 Reds losses came on an EV inefficient pitch,
  • At about 35-min, 30-sec mark, what's your hitting operating system? Best hitters in the world miss 80% of the time and hit it on the screws 20% of the time, is your hitting OS to reduce strikeouts above everything else? What are you giving up because of your primary hitting OS?  Looking away and adjusting in works IF pitchers keep throwing fastballs outside and/or down, and leaving off speed stuff up, what happens when Trout doesn't see one fastball down?  Or one off speed or breaking pitch up?  Why hasn't analytics given more value to Effective Velocity?  Because they don't acknowledge measurement of timing,
  • At about 43-min mark, how can a pitcher be effective with Trout, he chooses to adjust to pitches not sit on them, he gives up a longer front arm on pitches up and in to get extended on down and away, how do you move away from the “adjustable” swing, 2015 Trout hit 6 bombs in the up/in box – made adjustment to pitchers changing, Trout almost has a recession-proof swing,
  • At about 50-min mark, if did study May of 2019 – fastball use top of strike zone would be up, couldn't do 100% ferris wheel or 100% rotational, A-Rod is right and wrong at the same time, “swinging down” is okay for uppercut hitters, the brain is one step behind the brain, however in REAL swinging down on the ball DOES NOT make it go up consistently – center to center contact does (or slightly below center), gotta get hitters better at verticals, horizontals, and timing, can't be 100% metrics OR 100% experience, “econ” hitting coaches? Linking Sabermetrics to the Scientific Process – asking question, form hypothesis, research subject, gather and compare data, then come to conclusion,
  • At about 57-min mark, Perry discusses how overrated backspin is and the importance A-Rod gave to it, why fastballs at bottom of zone have high exit velocities on the ground – from hitter's perspective fastballs have backspin, struck grounders don't change direction of pitcher's spin…same with curveballs, Dr. Robert Adair in The Physics of Baseball said CB's are hit the furthest – think about it, from hitter's perspective CB's have topspin, and when a hitter puts “backspin” on it, this doesn't change direction of pitcher's CB spin, so a pitcher should reverse that, locate fastballs up and curveballs down,
  • At the 1-hour, 2-min mark, Perry's starting paid membership club at 65% OFF* (for limited time only) to get people started, daily Monday through Friday, demos, study of hitter or pitcher, at bat that stood out from EV standpoint, 15-20 min video that shows in personal locker, do for baseball and softball,
  • At HittingPerformanceLab.com FREE book just pay $8.95 S/H, TheStartingLineupStore.com use coupon code: GET10OFF at checkout
  • At about 1-hour, 6-min mark, I talk specifically how to lock the front arm out – direction-wise – to get ‘showing numbers' and ‘hiding hands' as well, killing three birds with one stone

*The regular price on that will be $299 for the year, but the first 100 will get 2/3 off or $99 for the year.  They get their own personal online locker where the videos will be delivered Mon through Friday.  15-20 minute videos that will feature pitching strategy on sequencing, pitch design, hitter profiles, pitcher profiles and breakdowns, at bat of the day with data and Ev breakdown.  In other words, the truth about what’s really going on within the game, timing breakdown. 

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

 

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

  1. [YOU ARE HERE] Why You Should Not Teach Hitters To Hit Homers?
  2. What's The Biggest Mistake Coaches Make In Boosting Ball Exit Speeds
  3. How To Make Teaching Proper Weight Shift In Swing More Understandable To Hitter
  4. Teach: How To STOP Hitting Excess Of Ground-balls & Fly-balls
  5. 5,000 Swing Experiments Validate Locked Lead Arm Is Superior To Bent
  6. Overload Bat Training: Hitting Has To Work Butt Off To Resist “Casting”

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

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

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

 

Show Notes

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

Where you can find more about Perry Husband:

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

 

Liquid Analytics Show Segments Discussed in this Jam Session

 

 

Khris Davis Swing Analysis

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

 

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

Khris Davis Swing Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

 

Khris Davis Stat Analysis Comparing 2015 & 2016 seasons to 2018

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

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

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

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

 

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

Furthermore,

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Mechanically speaking, here are a couple things I noticed:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy: MopUpDuty.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on,

As a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Let me explain…

Joey Votto 2018 Hitting Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without further adieu, here are…

 

My Joey Votto Interview Notes on his 2018 Hitting Approach

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

‘Showing Numbers' to Pitcher is a Quick Way to Solving Consistent Power Problem

 

Question: How does ‘Showing Numbers' to the Pitcher Effect Bat Speed at Impact versus ‘NOT Showing' them?

Aaron Judge Showing Numbers to the Pitcher

Aaron Judge (Showing Numbers), unloads a solo home run to center field on 10/17/17 to put the Yankees on the board in the 7th inning.

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if a hitter showing their numbers to the pitcher at landing adds to or takes away from key swing performance metrics like Bat Speed at Impact, Time To Impact, and Attack Angle.  This swing experiment is revisiting two other experiments done analyzing the same thing.

 

Background Research

Since we're REVISITING two previous swing experiments on ‘Showing Numbers' versus NOT, here are the original posts and data to get you up to speed:

In 2016 ‘Show Numbers' swing experiment, this was what the averaged out Zepp data looked like:

  • 5-mph INCREASE in Bat Speed at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • 0.5-mph INCREASE in Hand Speed Max with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • .003 second DECREASE in Time to Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • 3* INCREASE in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’, and
  • 1.5* INCREASE in Attack Angle with ‘Showing Numbers.

Now, let’s see how the Ball Exit Speed averages compare:

  • 76.02-mph BES when ‘NOT Showing Numbers’,
  • 77.32-mph BES  when ‘Showing Numbers’,
  • That’s a 1.3-mph average INCREASE when ‘Showing Numbers’, and
  • Translates between 5.2-feet to 7.8-feet of EXTRA batted ball distance – depending on if you calculate using 1-mph BES = 4-feet of distance OR 1-mph BES = 6-feet of distance.

In this experiment, if you look at the ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, they were actually ‘Showing Numbers’.  In other words, the subject in the swing experiment, Preston Scott, already shows his numbers well causing a challenge to not show them.  Therefore on the ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he showed them more.  I think that’s why we didn’t see as much of a difference in Ball Exit Speeds.

In 2014 ‘Show Numbers' swing experiment, this was what the averaged out Zepp data looked like:

  • Bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 73-mph,
  • Bat speed for showing numbers at landing: 79-mph (+6-mph),
  • Highest bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 82-mph,
  • Highest bat speed for showing numbers at landing: 88-mph (+6-mph),
  • Hand speed max for NOT showing numbers was: 27-mph, and
  • Hand speed max for showing numbers was: 29-mph (+2-mph).

Between both swing experiments, we saw an average Bat Speed at Impact increase between 5 to 6-mph.  In 2016 we saw a .003 second drop in Time To Impact ‘Showing Numbers', while in 2014 we saw a .003 increase.

The research on increasing bat or ball exit speed can be seen in the following two books on springy fascia and spinal engine mechanics:

You can also get application of previously mentioned books through the following HPL video blog posts.

  1. Miguel Cabrera and the timing of torque.
  2. Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista: how spine engine mechanics are amplified by Gravitational Forces, and
  3. Adrian Gonzalez: how-to naturally spring load the body.

For those versed in Anatomy, for explosive movement on the Transverse Plane (twisting), there must be a protraction of the front scapula (‘showing numbers'), and a retraction of the back Scapula (what's often referred to as ‘Scap Row').  Scap Rowing by itself doesn't engage full range of springy fascia.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above research, I'm expecting to see a dramatic bump in Bat Speed at Impact, Hand Speed Max, and possibly a reduction in Time To Impact.  I think Attack Angle and Bat Vertical Angle at Impact will remain unchanged.

 

Showing Numbers Swing Experiment Part-3

Equipment Used:

SwingAway Bryce Harper model

This is the SwingAway Bryce Harper model hitting station used for the ‘Showing Numbers' experiment.

Setup:

  • SwingAway Bryce Harper bungy suspended ball was set equal to the landing foot, and ball height was about knee height.
  • I broke each swing down into three steps: 1) Get to landing, 2) Pause for 2-secs, and 3) Swing.  The reason for this was to better control whether I was showing numbers or not.
  • 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.  ‘Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ 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 ‘Showing Numbers' swing shoulders were set to about 2'o'clock, if pitcher is 12'o'clock.  The ‘NOT Showing Numbers' swing shoulders were set to about 12'o'clock.

 

Data Collected from Zepp Baseball App:

'Showing' v. 'NOT Showing' Numbers to Pitcher Zepp Numbers

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages:

  • Bat Speed at Impact INCREASE of 3-mph ‘Showing Numbers',
  • Hand Speed Max DECREASE of 1-mph ‘Showing Numbers',
  • Time To Impact INCREASE of 0.014 ‘Showing Numbers',
  • Bat Vertical Angle At Impact DECREASE of 4-degree ‘Showing Numbers', and
  • Attack Angle INCREASE of 6-degrees ‘Showing Numbers'.

The drop from previous ‘Showing Numbers' swing experiments was surprising, in addition to a small 1-mph drop in Hand Speed Max.  There was also a slight increase in Time To Impact.  The interesting numbers were the ones that indicate Launch Angles, both Bat Vertical Angle at Impact and Attack Angle.  We hadn't experienced such a dramatic uptick in those in past experiments.

A couple notes…

  • The past two experiments were done in a cage, off a tee, so I could see ball flight, and maybe that had an effect on the swing metrics.
  • Some hitting coaches speak highly of Time To Impact and want to reduce at all cost, but I disagree. There's a healthy range for that, you don't want it too short or too long.  I'm not going to get into why here, maybe in another post.
  • To explain the dramatic increase of the barrel's upward trajectory in ‘Showing Numbers', I may have been getting more of a downward shoulder angle at landing.

Can You Help Take The Headache Out Of College Recruiting?

College Recruiting Athletes: NCSA

College Recruiting Athletes: NCSA. Photo courtesy: PGF-Recruiting.com

Do you consider yourself a generous person?  Yes?  Good.

Recently, I received the following college recruiting ask from one of my avid readers, Alan Rudy:

“Hey Joey, I don't want to step out of bounds but recruiting is wild and woolly.  Jack Renkens was invited to give a presentation at East Lansing High School where our oldest plays ball. There was a great deal of really good info in his talk and, at the end, he strongly encouraged us to join and use NCSA.  By contrast, coaches at the HS – and people like Paul Reddeck – have suggested that the NCSA can become a very expensive means of getting access to too many, too expensive meat markets/showcases that rarely pan out.

These people say that Aiden should ask himself where in the country he wants to go to school, what size of school and kind of degree programs he is interested in, what kind of social life/college culture he wants and to explore schools where he'd be likely to get on the field before he's a junior… and then to contact coaches at those schools with introductions, links to stats and videos, sending emails from HS and travel coaches, etc.

I can't remember seeing a post from you in this topic. If you have one, could you help me find it? If it's less trouble do you have someone who's approach you like that you'd be willing to share?”

Honestly, the topic of college recruiting isn't in my wheelhouse, and is not where I put my energy.  Here was my email response:

“Alan, I appreciate you reaching out about this. I haven't done a post on it, and haven't really spent a ton of time researching this. Back in the day companies like NCSA were a competitive advantage, now everyone does it, so that's why the price you pay can be ridiculous for what you're getting. Supply and demand. That aside, I'd still work it because you don't want all your eggs in one basket. I'd get in touch with area scouts and get an honest opinion from them as to Jack's current evaluation. That way you know where to focus training efforts. But here's the reality, your son cannot be ignored if you're working the process to get to:

  • At least 90 to 95-mph Ball Exit Speeds,
  • At least a consistent 15+ degree Launch Angles,
  • Above average OPS numbers on the field, and have a…
  • Sub 7.0 sec 60-yard sprint time wouldn't hurt either.

Not to mention a 3.5 GPA in school! These five things make it real easy for his current coach/scout to recommend him, and a college/pro coach/scout to look at him as a reasonable prospect. In the weight room, I'd work on getting him to a 400 to 500-lb dead-lift, that would help A LOT of things on the field. CLICK HERE to see what this training would look like. 

Maybe I'll do a post on this in the future, asking for advice from other coaches out there that are doing this and are successful in promoting/recruiting players and what they're looking for.  I hope this helps brother. I really appreciate your continued support, so whatever I can do to help you out. Happy Holidays! – Joey”

Also, I forgot to mention Brian Domenico's National or International Power Showcase – CLICK HERE for a post I did on that.  After my attempted response on college recruiting, Alan added:

“If you do the post on recruiting, would you see if you can get stuff from coaches at DIII and II as well as I? Just as you've insisted that most players aren't Albert Pujols or Giancarlo Stanton, I think too much recruiting material focuses on “IF YOU WANT TO PLAY DI!!!!!” kinds of hype and it feeds the exploitative side of your business. It is so clear that you care about the guys you work with however they end up finding success in life… but it is also clear that a lot of guys are too much in it for the glory and money.
I've loved the last few blog posts!”

College Recruiting: The Ask…

I've heard that if you want to get, you have to give, and it is the giving time of year.  To those coaches, Academy owners, instructors, and/or parents out there, can you offer any advice no matter how small, to parents like Alan?  A million THANKS in advance for your generosity… (please REPLY below in the comments)