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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…

———-

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics: Hit Top Part Of Cage? Or Back Part?

 

 

In this Albert Pujols hitting mechanics talk, some questions Pujols and Harold Reynolds answer:

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics

Albert Pujols & Harold Reynolds Interview, MLB Network 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

  • Hitting ball off same spot off tee or vary?
  • Dangers of a purely opposite field approach…
  • When is using ‘hands inside the ball' okay?
  • Hit top part of the cage of the back?
  • How many swings until you should take a break to reflect?
  • Inside pitch barrel path: is it different than away?
  • Should hitter get “taller” to hit a high pitch?

Make sure you watch the 8-minute 30-Clubs in 30-Days Albert Pujols interview on grooving his swing, before diving into my notes.  I time stamped the above video for quick and easy reference…

  • At the 0:10 second mark,  tsk, tsk…notice Harold Reynolds isn't following the 4-foot social distancing rule!! (for those watching this well after the craziness of the Coronavirus has passed – lol).  
  • At the 0:30 second mark, interesting Pujols talks about building a consistent swing, hitting off the tee in one spot.  He references variance training with some hitting coaches moving the ball up and down, in and out.  I do agree with him, but it depends on the end result.  If you're just introducing a new hitting mechanic, then keep the tee in one spot.  If you're looking to deeply embed a well worn hitting mechanic, then variance or chaos training is key.
  • At the 0:45 second mark, Albert Pujols talks about setting tee up slightly off center of the plate towards outer part.  He likes to work gap to gap and not force or push the ball to right field.  He mentions if he focuses too much on right field, then he gets under the ball too much.
  • At the 1:30 minute mark, Pujols dispels the myth of “staying inside the ball”.  He says of course you're inside the ball…you don't see hitters EVER getting their hands outside the ball.  ‘Hands inside the ball' can be a great cue for those hitters doing the opposite – casting barrel early.  It's not a perfect cue, but may work in some cases.  Then to throw gas on the fire, he mentions ‘knob to the ball'.  Real v. Feel.  There's a reason you keep hearing this kind of stuff from guys like Pujols, A-Rod, and Bonds.  It has to do with top hand dominance and pronation.  We call it the “wrist snap”.
  • At the 2:00 minute mark, Albert Pujols talks about working on the liner, not trying to hit the top part of the cage. He picks a spot in the cage he wants the ball to travel.  External cue.  He wants the ball to come off the bat as high as the tee is set.  Harold brings up that some people are teaching to hit the top of the cage (I used to be one of them!!).  But Albert plays the politician and comments that he doesn't want to say what those coaches are doing is wrong, but that he wouldn't teach that.  And right now, I'd agree with him.
  • At the 3:00 minute mark, Harold asked Pujols if there's a rhythm to working on gapping the ball, and Pujols says he tries to hit 3 or 4 in a row, then take a break to reflect on the feeling.  He tries not to rush when working out.  He tries to take his time.  Process what he just did.  Great advice!
  • At 4:00 minute mark, Harold asks Albert about his inside approach.  How to hit the inside pitch.  Watch how Pujols demos his barrel path to get to it … barrel above hands?  This Adam Eaton video reveals the same thing.  Interesting huh?  We call this knocking the “belly button” catcher's glove off.  He says he's just reacting to the inside pitch.  Typically, he's looking out over the plate.  He doesn't try to focus on one area of the plate.  He looks middle, then adjusts in or out from there.  Definitely works for Albert.  And Mike Schmidt also talked about it in his book the “Mike Schmidt Study”. Only downside is when pitchers start using EV tunnels Perry Husband talks about.  It's easier to cover middle in/out/up/down (50% of the plate), based on pitcher's pattern.  Obviously, this is more effective the better the pitcher is.
  • At 5:00 minute mark, in the above Albert Pujols hitting mechanics video, Pujols talks about keeping his shoulders “square” or keep front shoulder pointing at “400-foot” mark in straight center.  Not to close shoulders off.  Albert never really did ‘show numbers' much, but he does a lot of other things right.
  • At 6:00 minute mark, Pujols talks about not getting “taller” to get to the pitch up in the zone, but to stay sink down and use hands to get to it.  Again demonstrates keeping barrel above hands.  We talk about getting shorter and staying shorter.  And middle in, middle up pitches are addressed by knocking off belly button catcher's glove or telling hitter to keep barrel above hands.  Real v. Feel.  Now, this isn't actually what's going to happen.  The result of this hitting cue is a tighter, shorter, more compact barrel path.  Much needed closer the ball is to the hitter or the eyes.  He talks about using his legs to get to pitches down in the zone.

Top-10 Most Popular Hitting Performance Lab Blog Posts Of 2019 (both Facebook & Twitter)…23 Of Our Most Popular Hitting & Sticky Coaching Social Media Links In 2019

  • #10: Teach: How To STOP Hitting Excess Of Ground-balls & Fly-balls – Perry Husband long form video interview discusses: “How do I get my son to stop hitting an excess of ground-balls (or fly-balls)?”, How swing intention is great, but its benefits can be suppressed by physical limitations, The key ‘tinker & test’ learning principle helping hitters learn faster, Why a hitting coach’s job is to eliminate their job, And much more!
  • #9: How To Turn A Beach Towel Into A Hitting Demonstration – short video is great way to help coaches and players understand taking slack out of the system, demonstrating the power of the spinal engine.
  • #8: Why You SHOULD NOT Teach Hitters To Hit Homers? – Perry Husband long form video interview discusses: 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…
  • #7: How To Use “3-Dimensional Hitting” To Optimize Timing, Using All Fields, & Launch Angles – The target rich environment of pitchers throwing into barrels results in ANY hitting approach being effective.  But what happens when the target rich environment disappears?  Read more…
  • #6: Discover Where An Elite Hitter's Secret Weapon Is Found – short video discusses how most coaches understand the function of bones and muscles in the body, but don’t understand springy fascia. Simple demo you can use with hitters to help them understand the role of springy fascia…
  • #5: How To Make Teaching Proper Weight Shift In Swing More Understandable To Hitter – Perry Husband long form video interview answering: “Making teaching of proper weight shift in your swing and more understandable to the hitter?”Perry Husband & Joey Myers Hitting Jam Session #3, 1000’s of swing experiments confirm benefits of releasing backside: higher Ball Exit velocity, better ball flight, and swing consistency, How to fix hitters that over stride, Why ‘force plate’ studies DO NOT mean a darn thing, unless they correlate these two critical metrics, And much more!
  • #4: 5,000 Swing Experiments Validate Locked Out Lead Arm Is Superior To Bent – Perry Husband long form video interview discussing: Instructors confusing what “casting” is and is not, What if only fastball Mike Trout gets is what produces the 80.8-mph avg. BES, would that change his offensive stats? Hitter using bent lead arm comes at a cost, “Deep barrel dump” – great barrel path for down/away pitches, but TERRIBLE for up/inside pitches, And much more!
  • #3: Reaction Time Versus Timing (What's The Difference)? – Quick 4-minute demo video coaches can use to teach their hitters the difference between reaction time and timing. Can timing be taught?
  • #2: Belly Buttons, Center Of Gravity, & Quick Way To Solve A Flat Bat – One of my favorite 3.5 minute hitting demonstrations helping hitters understand the need to stack the bat’s “belly button” above theirs. A flat bat at landing can cause 3 negative swing flaws, and how to fix…
  • #1: Is “Swinging Down” Okay Since Alex Rodriguez Said So? – Perry Husband and I do a hitting analysis of Alex Rodriguez's hitting hitting analysis, and did he come off disconnected from describing the elite swing?

 

Top-13 Most Popular Non-Hitting Performance Lab Sticky Coaching Links From Our Facebook Fan Page…

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

And before I let you go, please take 1-minute to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of our Amazon Bestselling hitting book…

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…

Answered: “Helping Get Youth Players To Stay On Plane And Not Dip Their Bodies When They Swing?”

 

 

In the above video, we'll be discussing:

  • Relationship between spinal engine and shoulder behavior in healthy effective swing,
  • Causes of unhealthy “dipping” of body in swing,Do You Recognize The 6 Early Warning Signs Of Hitters Dipping Their Bodies?
  • Head stability,
  • Arching low back,
  • Straightening out back leg,
  • Over-rotating upper half,
  • Over-rotating lower half, and
  • Core instability.

Hey, what's going on. It's Joey Myers again from the “Hitting Performance Lab. In this video, we're gonna answer a reader question, this one is asking for advice to:

“Helping get youth players to stay on plane, and not dip their bodies when they swing”.

Now a couple things we have to define here, what ‘dipping’ is…

 

Relationship between Spinal Engine and Shoulder Behavior in Healthy Effective Swing

This is important to cover. Because there is some dipping that goes on, but I want to define what's good versus what's bad. What we should see with hitters, and good healthy spinal engine mechanics is, say with the righty, the shoulders will start in somewhat of a slightly down position, we call this the ‘Downhill shoulder’, and it's just a side bend.

David Weck, founder of the BOSU ball, the RMT Club, and a lot of other cool stuff. He talks about this idea of the head over foot technique. The head shifts slightly over towards the front stride landing foot.  The side bend is crucial to the actual opposite action that's gonna happen during the swing.

We're gonna see the teeter totter effect of the shoulders starting down, and then they're gonna flip up as I start my turn. Then what we should see is this shoulder, if we track the left one for a righty starts down, pops up. As we finish, should be back down again.  Think about those beautiful images of Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, in their finish, and the righties are kind of in this position. The lefties are in the opposite position.

We want to see a healthy accelerating-decelerating spinal engine, that is the healthy dipping that we should see if the shoulders or side bending.

 

6 Causes of Unhealthy “Dipping” of Body in Swing

1. Head Stability

I call it a ‘Collapsing backside’, so one of the causes of this is head stability. We'll see a hitter will go chin to chest, when they're at impact, going right into their sternum with their chin. Sometimes we'll see the head go up (like looking up into the sky), we'll see the bill of the cap go this way, and we'll see the rear ear going to the rear shoulder, so for righties, right ear to the right shoulder. For lefties, left ear to the left shoulder.

There are some hitters in the big leagues that do this a little bit, they used to do this actually more in the past, they've been cleaning it up. But Andrew McCutchen used to go chin to chest, Bryce Harper would go rear ear to shoulder, Prince Fielder did what Harper did.  You even see Nolan Arenado more chin to chest. Because he tries to leave his head at impact, which I don't recommend for younger hitters. When the head is in an unstable position, this creates a threat to the central nervous system. Wherever the head goes, the body follows.

If the head “rolls” (like Harper/Fielder)…when we're rolling the head this way, you'll see a collapsing of the backside, you see the whole body will dip, and it's not a very strong position. Head stability is one of them, one of the causes of an unhealthy dipping of the body in the swing.

2. Arching low back

Arching the lower back, kind of similar to the neck, the C-spine. When we start arching the lower lumbar during rotation, which isn't very good because you're pushing the vertebrae together, and then rotating them, so you're basically grinding. So, we don't want to do that, and if we're doing that, sometimes we'll see this collapsing to the backside as well. You want to do it what's called a ‘Hollow position’, or a ‘Hollow hold’, you can go on YouTube, and search “hollow hold gymnastics”, and you can find a video on how to practice this.  It's basically taking the curve out of our lower lumbar, or lower back.

Imagine you're lying on your back, on the ground, like you're gonna do a crunch, you got your feet on the ground, your knees are up, and you go to do a crunch. What you have to do first is push your lower back into the ground, just want to push hard in the ground, create some pressure into the ground through your lower back.  That's taking the curve out of your lower back, and doing what we call a hollow position. It's a posterior tilting of the pelvis for those kinetic nerd jockeys like me.

3. Straightening out Back Leg

The other thing that could be causing dipping of the body in the swing is straightening out the back leg.  This tends to follow both head instability, and/or arching of the low back.

The glute fires, the back glute, for righties the right glute, and the right quad fires to straighten the knee. It's the hamstring that we see in professional studies of hitters, back hamstring that's turning on a lot more than you see in amateur hitters, where they tend to try and lock that back knee out. The glute locks out, and what's happening is that back glute is trying to support and create stability in the lower back. Because it's going into a bad position, a compromised position. As long as we can fix the hollow, get them into more of a hollow position, we fix the head movement with the neck brace drill. Not a stiff neck brace, but a soft one.  We don't want to immobilize the head, just create feedback for movement.

If you can correct this, you can crack the lower back – metaphorically speaking of course – then you can start to work the hitter into bending that back knee a little bit more, using the hamstring, lesser the quad, and lesser the glute. Those are again trying to protect that lower back, that can be a major cause of unhealthy dipping in the swing.

4. Over-rotating Upper Half

I am starting to actually see this in some of my hitters, not in a lot but a few of them.  Where they're actually over rotated at impact. They're making contact almost behind themselves, and their sternum in the middle of their chest is out over in left field (for righties, reverse for lefties). We must get them to under rotate, so we do a lot of “deep” tee drills, and get them to try and pull the ball off a deep positioned tee. You set it up almost in line with the hitter’s belly button, and get them to kind of hook it, and hook it around to slow down that sternum.  The hitter should look and feel like they're swinging their arms across their body. 

The upper half over rotating, we can also over rotate the lower half…

5. Over-rotating Lower Half

So, we use a VeloPro to strap it to the back hip and back ankle.  We get them to try and keep the back heel on the ground (like George Springer), and keep the back foot sideways. If they're over rotating, it could cause a collapse of the backside as well. Again, we want to be effective between our 90 degrees of fair territory, and when we over rotate either the upper or the lower half, then what we're doing is we're sliding our 90 over into foul territory, which doesn't do us any good, any of our hitters any good.

The last thing I want to add in this video is fixing core instability…

6. Core Instability

There are things that you can do at the gym with your trainer, hopefully your trainer is versed on mobility and stability exercises (certified in the Functional Muscle Screen – FMS, or in TPI). When we're talking core stability, you want to do a lot of things like planks:

So, you're creating some rotation in there as well. You also want to do like ‘Hollow holds”, you want do things like that, you want to do maybe suitcase carries, where you're carrying a dumbbell on one side of the body and trying to keep your shoulders square, things like that you can do. You can ask your trainer on how to create more core stability, but those are some things to think about if you're asking yourself the same question as our reader: “Helping get youth hitters to stay on playing, and not dip their bodies when they swing”.

Work on the things we discussed, clean them up, and check them off your list. Your hitter will be in a more healthy body “dipping” position. Make sure that we're swinging smarter by moving better, and before I let you go…

Line Drive Hacking With Josh Bell Swing Breakdown

 

Josh Bell Swing Breakdown

Josh Bell Swing Breakdown photo courtesy: MLB.com

In this Josh Bell swing breakdown, we cover:

  • Size,
  • Interesting metrics
  • DeRo analysis
  • 2018 RCF Homer: 5/31 83-mph breaking ball/SL, down/away VERSUS 2019 LCF Homer: 7/3 96-mph FB, mid/up
  • Some interesting things in swing analysis: Float, Fall, Barrel Path – CB down/away v. FB mid/up (and late), how well he matches plane of pitch (tube)

CLICK HERE to view the size and metrics data on FanGraphs.

Here's the Josh Bell swing breakdown Mark DeRosa video referenced above… (watch at about the 2:38 minute spot)

And before I let you go…

See How Easily You Can Build 3-Dimensional Hitters & WHY Bother…

Effective Velocity's Effect on Hitters

From Perry Husband video analysis: Cody Bellinger swinging under a pitch up in the zone. Effective Velocity's effect on “uppercut” hitters. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Back in November 2018, I warned hitting coaches of the “new way” pitchers are getting hitters out that may be hiding under their snozzes, in a post titled, “At Last, The Secret To Decreasing Strikeouts Is Revealed”

The MLB Tonight interview in a nutshell, Brian Kenny interviewed Trevor Bauer about the Evolution of Analytics, and Bauer talked about the concept of 3-dimensional pitching, which consists of:

  1. Moving the ball up and down,
  2. Moving the ball in and out, and
  3. Changing velocity of pitch…

The target rich environment of pitchers throwing into barrels results in ANY hitting approach being effective.  But what happens when the target rich environment disappears?  What happens when pitchers stop locating the fastball down in the zone?  Jacob DeGrom (aka Thor), changed one thing in his pitching approach that cut his ERA in HALF…what did he do?  Simple.  He mixed in more fastballs up in the zone.  What percentage of fastballs located up in the zone can cut an ERA in half? 61%!!!  Verlander is at about 51%, and post-season teams are at about the 44% mark – to put things in perspective.

What does that one case study mean for a majority of hitting coaches out there teaching the deep barrel dump on all pitches?  EVERYTHING!!  At ALL levels…baseball AND softball.  The “deep barrel dump” hitting disciples will run into trouble…Bigly.

In this post, I want to share my favorite MOST essential resources of training hitters to counter 3-dimensional pitching with my version of 3-dimensional hitting, which include:

  • Optimizing verticals (launch angles),
  • Optimizing horizontals (using ALL fields), and
  • Optimizing timing (managing different pitching velocities).

Let's first start with…

 

Optimizing Verticals (Launch Angles)

Look, I was the guy teaching my hitters to maximize “launch angles”…doubles and dingers…20 to 30 degree launch angles…hit top part of the cage!!!

Boy was I wrong…why?  Because I found my hitters were popping up too much, sometimes flying out 4 times in a game.  That sucks.  Here's the deal…

The BEST hitters in the world – hit the ball on the screws roughly 20% of the time.  According to FanGraphs.com, league average Line Drive% = 21%, Fly-ball% = 35%, and Ground-ball% = 44%.  The best hitters IN THE WORLD miss 80% of the time!

So what's the answer?

CLICK HERE to watch and listen to an interview I did with the father of Effective Velocity Tunnels, Perry Husband, titled, “Teach: How To STOP Hitting Excess Of Ground-balls & Fly-balls”. This will teach you everything you need to know about optimizing verticals.  I've time stamped moments of the long form interview, so you can fast forward to the juicy parts.  The conversation can be boiled down to this:

  • Default launch angle operating system: 10-15 degree launch angles (we call it hitting ball back through “tube” from where it came),
  • IF hitter pops ball up, then we tell them to hit a ground-ball (we use “bad” cues like “swing down”, “get on top”, or “keep barrel above hands”), or
  • IF hitter hits ground-ball, THEN we tell them to pop it up…

…like PFM (Pure Friggin' Magic), the hitter begins hitting more line drives!!  The problem is when coaches blanket teach their hitters an approach, such as hit EVERYTHING on the ground OR hit EVERYTHING in the air.

Let's look at a thought experiment…and say your 9 hitter lineup is split up into result-oriented thirds:

  • 1/3 of the lineup consistently hits fly-balls,
  • 1/3 of the lineup consistently hits line drives, and
  • 1/3 of the lineup consistently hits ground-balls…

So if you blanket teach the WHOLE lineup to swing down and hit more ground-balls, here's what will most likely happen

  • The “fly-ball” hitters will hit more line drives,
  • The “line drive” hitters will hit more grounders, and
  • The “ground-ball” hitters will hit EVEN MORE grounders.

In this case, you didn't move the needle at all.  You actually made your “line drive” hitters look DUMBER.  Look, hard grounders are good, but teaching hitters to hit ground-balls for ground-ball's sake is STUPID, IDIOTIC, and only occurs on MORON Island.  CLICK HERE for my ground-ball rant.

Thought experiment #2…

Now, what would happen if instead of telling EVERYONE the same dang thing, you do the following:

  • Instructed “fly-ball” hitters to swing down and hit the ball on the ground,
  • Instructed “line-drive” hitters to keep doing same dang thing they've been doing, and
  • Instructed “ground-ball” hitters to swing up and hit the ball in the air…?

I'll tell you what will happen…ALL 9 HITTERS IN YOUR LINEUP WILL BE HITTING MORE LINE DRIVES!!!!!  Don't believe it?  Try it and report back.

 

Optimizing Horizontals (using ALL fields)

Effective Velocity Tunnel Effects on "Deep Barrel Dump" Hitters

Multi-pitch Layover: what happens when pitchers smarten up and build pitch sequences coming out of same pitch “tunnel”? Hitters using “deep barrel dump” on all pitches will be in BIG trouble. And coaches teaching “deep barrel dump” will become extinct, unless they adapt. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This dawned on me one day when I was running one of my small private group lessons.  One of the hitters I've been working with since he was a 7-year-old, he's 15-years-old now, was explaining how difficult it was to get to the inside pitch.  Asking me whether he was ‘showing his numbers' too much.

So it got me thinking…what do the best hitters do, who ‘show numbers' to pitcher, when seeing 95-mph+ on the inner half of the plate?  I did some research and put together the following post titled, “Best Swing In Baseball: ‘Showing Numbers' Objections Answered”

Okay, so effectively getting to the inner half of the plate IS NOT about ‘showing numbers', OR about a longer front arm shape, see another interview post I did with Perry titled, “5,000 Swing Experiments Validate Locked Out Lead Arm To Bent”

Do you want to know what the best hitters do when hitting to all fields, and what I ultimately teach my hitters now?  See this controversial post I did titled, “Best Hitters Baseball Barrel Path – Do We Have It All Wrong?”

Optimizing verticals and horizontals are actually the easier parts.  The challenge to 3-dimensional hitting has to do with…

 

Optimizing Timing (managing different pitching velocities)

I don't want to reinvent the wheel here, these are two of my favorite blog post resources that do the best job at explaining how to hack a hitter's timing:

  1. “How To Adopt These 12 Timing Gems & Get Hitters On-Time More Often In Games”, and
  2. Batting Timing Drills: 2 Little Known Ways To Get “On-Time”

That mis amigos is 3-dimensional hitting.  Hitting is going to get harder from here on out, so make sure your hitters are prepared. Don't fall prey to Hitting Guru #57.

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

 

 

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.