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

Here is a Method Helping Mike Trout Stay Calm Under Pressure (Dr. Tom Hanson Interview)

Tony Robbins has said that success is 80% psychology, 20% mechanics.  Certified Hypnotist and creator of the cartoon comic strip Dilbert, Scott Adams, has said humans are irrational 80% of the time, in his recent book: Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.  We’re only rational when deciding on things like which soap to buy!  He adds that we make decisions based on emotion, THEN we rationalize.  Not the other way around.

The best athletes in the world are better at controlling the mental part of the game, and their emotions.  They focus on controlling only what they can control.  Which leads me to this interview with Dr. Tom Hanson…

I stumbled onto a first edition of Heads-Up Baseball back in 1995 when I was in High School.  It helped clear my mind of all the hitting mechanical books I was reading at the time that left me more confused than when I started.  I owe a lot to Drs. Hanson and Ravizza for helping me play 4-years of Division-1 baseball at Fresno State, tuition free.

Without further adieu, here are some time-stamps to help you navigate the interview:

  • About 2:30 minute mark, Dr. Hanson talks about his experience coaching baseball at UVA and D3 Skidmore College. It’s a challenge to find someone who has a PhD in psychology and experience coaching the game at the college level.
  • About 4:30 minute mark, I talk about how I stumbled upon the first version of Heads-Up Baseball, and how the information helped me cut through the white noise at a time when I felt overwhelmed with hitting mechanics, reading every book I could get my hands on.
  • About 6:00 minute mark, what were the top two or three things you and Dr. Ken Ravizza changed in the 2.0 version of Heads-Up Baseball?  One was this idea of changing “Trust” to “Compete”. The purpose of a routine is to compete.  Give 100% of what you have right now to the next pitch.  Problem right now is players are coming to college with a “showcase” mentality.  The importance of hitters being patient AND being aggressive.  Thoughts on including quotes and anecdotes from fresh coach and player faces in the book.
  • About 11:30 minute mark, if you could direct coaches to two concepts in the book, what would they be and why?  I liked the “Heads Up Practice” Chapter, but Dr. Hanson suggested “Chapter 2: The 3 Levels of Learning to Compete”, Know it, Do it, Own it. He also recommends reading Mike Scioscia’s Introduction of the book.  The Goldilocks Golden Rule, what’s right for the hitter right now (or today – know yourself).
  • About 18:00 minute mark, Dr. Hanson talks about the importance of having a model to explain the questions that come in about the mental game.  He goes into the RAMP-C model: Responsibility – the ability to respond, choose what you focus on, great question to ask: “How did you choose to respond?”  Awareness – being conscious of and how you typically respond under pressure or when you’re hitting well, extrovert/introvert, how are you feeling right now.  Dealing with “yellow” or “red” lights.  Mission – what would you like to have happen, purpose or swing intention.  Preparation – what can I do to get myself to feel a “green” light, training in the off-season, what am I going to prepare for the next pitch or season.  Compete (changed from “Trust”) – give 100% of what you have right now to get to win the next pitch.  Nobody on the Cubs felt like they had a “green” light for Game 7 of the World Series when they win it.  Control, Plan, Trust changed to Control, Commit, Compete
  • About 30-minute mark, what have you found most valuable utilizing information in this book with your own kids while navigating the craziness of travel baseball, son C.J. is 14yo and daughter Angelina is 11yo.  First edition of Heads Up Baseball was before kids, now 20-year reflection period to version 2.0.  Before 13/14yo Dr. Hanson wanted to create an environment of fun for his son.  Helping kid fall in love with sport.  Not constantly picking the kid apart.  It’s all about Relationship building.  No matter the message, if the relationship isn’t there, then the message doesn’t have its optimal effect.  Joe Maddon talked about building relationships as his priority in first 3 weeks of Spring Training with Cubs that first year, was building relationships with players.
  • About 39:00 minute mark, can you be a coach that can stretch out of being the best at conceptualizing and doing, and get more into understanding relationship.  Knowing your players, where they are in life, and how to relate is huge with players.

Unfortunately, the phone recording app I was using cut off another 20 minutes of the interview.  Here are some nuggets that were inconveniently left out:

How to change an athlete that has an emotional “red” or “yellow” light from his book Play Big: Mental Toughness Secrets That Take Baseball Players to the Next LevelUsing the ABC model:

  • Act Big,
  • Breath deep, and
  • Compete.

Dr. Hanson shared a conversation he had with Reggie Jackson, where he asked Reggie if he was confident all the time.  Reggie responded with, “Heck no!”  Reggie said he faked it a lot of the time.  Act Big.

Dr. Hanson shared a conversation between Mike Trout and Dr. Ken Ravizza.  Mike Trout likes to finish his exhale before getting in the box.  If he gets in the box without doing that, he steps out and finishes it.  That’s Breathing deep.  Mike Trout also said he likes to stride slow to the plate in order to slow down the moment.

We also talked about where you can find Dr. Hanson online and the socials:

 

Book Resources Mentioned in the Interview…

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

If You’re Teaching ‘Squish The Bug’, Then You’re OLD

This video is a definitive guide when it comes to WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is an inferior hitting mechanic.

Right now, if you find yourself asking if people STILL teach this, then sadly, the answer is yes.

I ran into one just the other day on the socials.  Nothing but pseudo science and circular reasoning.  Pretty mind numbing experience actually.

Here’s fair WARNING for the small few out there still teaching hitters to ‘squish the bug’…

If after watching this video, you’re still not convinced, then you’re old.

Consider what Henry Ford once said,

And while we’re at it, look at what Ayn Rand said,

In the above video, we discuss the:

  • Science,
  • Experimentation, and
  • Application…

…validating WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is DUMB, and no hitter should ever have to go through something as horrifying as that 😛 lol

Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

Also, here’s a recent case study post I did on skipping the back foot titled, “How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood.

DON’T BE OLD.

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

A Simple Way To Make Adjustments, Build Swing Tempo, AND Elevate The Ball That Works For Mike Trout & Josh Donaldson

I have a treat for you…

A “grab-bag” of golden nuggets…

The following 11 hitting tips come from my most popular social media non-HPL links of 2016.

To give you an idea,

I typically promote 1 non-HPL link per day on the socials, so that’s 365 links getting put in front of my 20K+ followers.

I get a front row seat to see what coaches think interesting and worth their time.

The following creme-of-the-crop link montage, is arranged in descending order, least clicks to the most.

You’ll find these somewhat of a random sort, but they all relate to hitting, albeit indirectly in some cases.

Happy learning!

 

#11: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: How Mike Trout Approaches Hitting

This is the featured video above.

Sean Casey interviewed Mike Trout during Spring Training of 2016, where Trout discusses his hitting routine…I jotted down 9 key notes for you:

  1. First few rounds he works on hitting to RCF,
  2. Stay up the middle,
  3. A few times hit the ball to LCF, to stay square with the pitcher,
  4. He mentions not getting too ‘chicken wing’,
  5. Tee work: set it high and ‘get on top of the ball’ (to counteract dropping the shoulder and barrel too much),
  6. 10-20 swings trying to hit a ground-ball every time,
  7. In games, sit fastball, react to off-speed and breaking balls,
  8. On top of the plate, back of the batter’s box, and
  9. Work up the middle in games.

All these tips are pretty solid…

…for Mike Trout.

When I posted this, and made a note that Mike Trout is definitely not looking to optimize hitting the high pitch in games,

AND

He’s most definitely NOT trying to ‘get on top of the ball’ in games (both in reference to tip #5 above)…

There were a few men on Facebook that got their panties in a bunch, saying I was calling Mike Trout a liar…yada, yada, yada.

If we look at Mike Trout’s Sabermetrics at FanGraphs.com, the reality is, he’s THE BEST at hitting the low ball…and THE WORST at hitting the high ball.

So WHY does he practice hitting off a high tee?

Another look at Mike Trout’s metrics, and we see he’s:

  • Well below average in Ground-ball percentage (39.6% v. league average is 44%),
  • Above average in Line Drive percentage (22.1% v. league average is 20%),
  • Above average in Fly-ball percentage (38.2% v. league average is 36%), AND
  • Well above average in his Fly-ball to Home-run ratio (19.6% v. league average is 9.5%).

What does this mean?

It’s a ‘what’s real’ AND ‘what’s feel’ sort of thing…

Because he’s definitely NOT trying to hit ground-balls in games (contradicting hitting tips #5 & #6 from above).

So am I calling Mike Trout a liar…

And, WHY would he practice like this?

Earlier, notice how I said,

“All these tips are pretty solid…for Mike Trout.”

No, I didn’t say that because Mike Trout is a mutant, and only Mike Trout can do that and get away with it.

When coaches say this, it’s a cop out.  It means they have no REAL clue what’s REALLY going on.

Here’s where I’m going with this,

And it’s VERY important…

And also WHY I made popular link hitting tip #11 the featured video…

What John Doe Coach missed in the interview was when Trout mentioned he has a tendency to ‘chicken-wing’ and ‘drop his back shoulder and barrel’ too much.

In other words, uppercut too much.

Mike Trout is using these seemingly counter-intuitive hitting tips to make adjustments to his swing’s extreme tendencies.

I’m not calling Mike Trout a liar.

He’s a friggin’ smart competitive athlete.

He knows himself and his swing, and makes the necessary adjustments to stay in the black, and not get too far in the red.

There’s no secret,

Mike Trout is trying to get the ball in the air.

It’s like the advice Lightning McQueen heard in the animated movie Cars, “Turn left to go right”…when attempting to correct a spin-out.

 

#10: Hitting A Baseball – “The Hardest Thing To Do In Sports”

CLICK HERE for this article by Axon Sports.

Some of the things you’ll gain by reading this:

  • “Hitting is timing.  Pitching is upsetting timing.” – Warren Spahn,
  • Why “Keep your eye on the ball”, or “Watch the ball hit the bat” is humanly IMPOSSIBLE according to research, and
  • Awesome info-graphic breaking down the reaction time of a hitter.

 

#9: Hamstring Flexibility: 6 Tips to Loosen Up

CLICK HERE for the full article by GMB Fitness.

98% of my hitters are immobile in the hip.

And oftentimes, this comes in the form of tight hamstrings.

This is a great post looking into factors and strategies you can employ to improve the flexibility of your hitter’s hamstrings…and maybe yours 😉

 

#8: Bryce Harper is pounding the ball into the ground to no avail

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

This article was written July 28th, 2016 with a sub-head that reads:

“He’s gotta figure out how to elevate more despite pitchers giving him few pitches to elevate.”

This was when B.H. was struggling to lift the ball early in the season.

The article talks about how Harper’s dramatic launch angle change (down), led to a dramatic increase in his ground-ball rate.

The post discusses how pitchers are throwing him more outside and down in the zone.

The bottom line?

…Is that a ground-ball focused hitting strategy SUCKS!!!

It doesn’t matter how hard you hit the ball, if you can’t elevate, you’ll hit A LOT of worm burners that end up as outs at the higher levels.

#7: Are overbearing parents ruining the Westlake baseball program?

CLICK HERE for this LA Times post.

The parent and player behavior is probably not going to surprise you…

However, I want you to ask yourself the question as you read this,

“How did the coaches respond to the parents that clearly didn’t work?”

How could coach be more effective in dealing with parents in this environment, if a million dollar bet was on the line?

Look, maybe the athletes are spoiled brats, or maybe the coaches just don’t have an effective strategy for dealing with this situation.

In other words, don’t label the players or parents “mean” right away…

Be creative, brainstorm, and future pace how you’d handle this situation.

Because chances are, you will run across this scenario, in some form, in your lifetime.

#6: Clayton Kershaw UMPIRE VIEW of pregame warm up

You will get better at Pitch Recognition watching this video.

In the spirit of the playoffs, this video features arguably one of the best pitchers in history, Clayton Kershaw.

Do this for me…

Watch this video for a couple minutes, trying to pick up the “shape” of each pitch he throws, like what Perry Husband talks about in this article.

Then pick a series of pitches, see which pitch Clayton Kershaw signals to the catcher, look at his release, and close your eyes.

This would be like Dr. Peter Fadde’s video occlusion training featured in this post.

Then try to pick another series of pitches, don’t look at him signal to the catcher what he’s throwing, and test yourself.

This is such a cool game to do with hitters.

 

#5: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blasts 33 HR in 60 Swings in Home Run Derby in the DR (Round 2 November 2014) 

I know this isn’t Vlad G. the first, but there are a lot of similarities to their swings.  A few notes to look out for while watching him hit…

  • Toe-tap for timing
  • Aggressive move towards the pitcher with stride
  • Back foot stays sideways until follow through
  • Great knee action at landing (front), and during the turn (back)
  • Showing numbers to pitcher as close to landing as possible
  • Downward shoulder angle as close to landing as possible.

What do you see?

 

#4: Donaldson gives a hitting demo

Cool MLB.com interview with Josh Donaldson on developing timing and rhythm at the plate, with Sean Casey.

A couple notes from the video below:

  • Find out what’s comfortable for you
  • Leg kick: engaged into back hip not back knee
  • Leg kick: control when get front foot down
  • Being on time, not about getting front foot down on time
  • Soft focus on the pitcher, recognize pitch better at the plate ( stay relaxed)
  • Hit with music on, adds a smooth tempo to the swing
  • Watch Manny Ramirez setup to swing, “boring” rhythm at the plate (again relaxed mindset)
  • Put the work in (Sean Casey)

 

#3: Which is Better? A Ground Ball Pitcher or a Fly Ball Pitcher

CLICK HERE for this FanGraphs.com post.

I included the following chart from this post on my Ground-ball RANT post

Fangraphs Ground-ball metrics

Most understand Line Drives MUST be the main hitting objective (for a majority of swings), however I want you to compare the Ground-ball metrics to the Fly-ball metrics from the chart above:

  • A 32-point increase in Batting Average with Ground-ball over a Fly-ball,
  • A 358-point INCREASE in ISO (or raw power) with Fly-balls over Ground-balls…AND
  • A 115-point INCREASE in weighted On-Base Average with Fly-Balls over Ground-balls, which according to FanGraphs.com…

“Weighted On-Base Average combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value. While batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage fall short in accuracy and scope, wOBA measures and captures offensive value more accurately and comprehensively.”

So, WHY are we still teaching hitters to hit ground-balls, and NOT to elevate?  Beside situational hitting of course.

What’s more…

 

#2: Scooter Gennett and ground balls

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

I love the sub-header, which reads:

“Scooter Gennett’s offense has declined every year since he broke into Major League Baseball, are ground balls the reason?”

After careful metric analysis, Shawn Brody the post’s author, says:

“In my mind, Gennett should be closer to his 2014 level of production, which is something he could return to if he put the ball in the air more often.”

Hitting consistent ground-balls will land you on the bench at the higher levels, unless of course you have plus running speed.

In which case, analysis shows that any launch angle above 10-degrees, makes faster running speed irrelevant.

So, what if a hitter hits the ball just plain hard?

Maybe the following #1 link post from my 20K+ followers will shed light on that…

 

#1: Jon Lester shows importance of launch angleBackspin Tee: Launch Angles

CLICK HERE to read this Cubs.com post.

The great case study article discusses how Jon Lester ranks second among Major League hitting pitchers with an average Ball Exit Speed of 92.5-mph.

So, what’s the problem?

Quoted from the article:

“…(He ended up with four hits on the season in 71 plate appearances, a .065/.108/.065 line.) Part of it is that, like many pitchers, contact was an issue — Lester’s 42.3 percent strikeout rate was above the 37.7 percent average for pitchers.”

How could Lester hit the ball so hard without finding much hitting success?

Again, quoted from the article:

“…it’s because 19 of Lester’s 24 tracked batted balls failed to get above 7 degrees of launch angle. Sixteen of those 19 failed to even achieve positive launch angle, which is to say that he pounded the ball into the ground constantly.”

In other words, to get the ball in the air, the hitter MUST have a positive launch angle.  About 10-degrees positive will get the ball to the outfield grass…on the “big” field.

If the hitter has a negative or less than 10-degree positive launch angle, THEY WILL:

  1. Hit A LOT of worm burners,
  2. Strikeout more,
  3. NOT get many hits, and
  4. Professionally speaking, NOT make it past A-ball (if they’re lucky enough to make it that far).

Even if they’re lighting up the BES radar guns.

Here’s a BONUS link for ya…

CLICK HERE to read a Cut4 article highlighting Giancarlo Stanton hitting the hardest ball ever recorded by Statcast at 123.9-mph, but it was hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Here’s the lesson folks…

Line drives tend to be between 10-20 degree positive launch angles (see image above).

Dingers tend to be between 20-40 degree positive launch angles (see image above).

Of course, whether it’s over the fence or not will depend on the Ball Exit Speed.

It’s not enough to hit the ball hard.

Teach hitters to elevate.

Get barrel on path of incoming pitch.

Focus on striking bottom half of ball.

That, my coaching friend, is how to decrease strikeouts, mishits, and weak fly-balls…AND increase BA, ISO, and wOBA.

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

CRUSH the Ball Like Mickey Mantle

 

 

Mickey Mantle Bat Lag

Check out Mickey Mantle’s bat lag. Photo courtesy: LegendaryAuctions.com

I originally included this Mickey Mantle video in a Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills post on June 11th, 2013. I did this about 6-months before launching HPL.

Since publishing the YouTube video, it has amassed over 56,325 views, 76 video “Likes”, and only 7 video “dislikes”.

The basic premise of the video was to compare Mickey Mantle’s right handed swing mechanics to Czech javelin throwerJan Železný’s throwing technique.  Jan is a world and Olympic champion and world record holder. He also holds the top five javelin performances of all time…according to Wikipedia.

In the video, I brought up my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote many of you have seen me post before:

“As to the methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few.  The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

The human movement “principles” we’re comparing in the video are:

  1. The Un-Weighting Principle (or Forward Momentum), and
  2. The Catapult Loading System.

The reason I picked “The Mick”, is because he wasn’t really a big guy, according to Baseball Reference.com, he stood at only 5’11, 195-pounds.

Don’t get me wrong, Mickey Mantle was a naturally strong dude.  But he wasn’t the size of today’s behemoths:

And, some of The Mick’s dingers have been the talk of folklore, claiming to have traveled over 600-feet!

Although with the computation of Metrics now, as Christopher Harbour, a YouTube reader commenter on this particular video, put it:

“The farthest official home run in MLB history was hit by Babe Ruth in Detroit at a distance of 585ft. Mickey’s longest shot was 510Ft. It was often claimed to be much farther but that distance was the distance AFTER the ball rolled. This info is proven by SABR historian Bill Jenkinson.”

Whatever the case, it’s still amazing that a guy of Mickey Mantle’s stature, can hit a ball over 500-feet!  We don’t see Giancarlo, Miggy, or Trout doing that.

And by the way, everyone thinks Babe Ruth was this hulking mass of a guy…he was only 6’2″, 215-pounds.  And according to the above comment, launched the longest dinger 585-feet!

So what was Mickey Mantle doing mechanically making him so special that we as coaches should be teaching our younger hitters?

Mickey Mantle on the Un-Weighting Principle (or Forward Momentum)

Mickey Mantle Stride and Foot Pressure

Look at Mickey Mantle’s shifting foot pressure… Photo courtesy: http://s685.photobucket.com/user/BillBurgess

I said in the video that The Mick’s back knee wasn’t floating over his ankle, but that’s simply not true.  This was knowledge residue from past baseball experts I was listening to at the time.

What Mickey Mantle did really well was shifting his foot pressure.

We can see from the moment he lifts his stride foot to that foot touching down that his foot pressure looks like this:

  • Back foot pressure – is on the outside, and
  • Stride foot pressure – is on the inside.

This is similar to a story one of my readers, Stephen Reid, shared about prolific golfer Ben Hogan (5’9″, 145-pounds), saying in an email:

“A friend of mine worked at Shady Oaks in Dallas where Hogan played and practiced. Towards the end of Mr. Hogan’s time of ‘grinding it out of the dirt”, he was allowed the opportunity to sit and watch him hit balls. He said that Mr. Hogan started talking about the stance, and he stated that the way he thought it would come to pass in the future would be that both feet at address would both be turned slightly towards the target- 30 to 45 degrees. By turning the right foot in at address, the golfer would essentially be putting a governor on his/her right side.

He also reasoned that by doing this, the player would create the tension and brace with the right side and would create a strong coil that would not allow for any “over-coiling or over-swinging”. Therefore, you would be presetting the coil or brace of the right side in a controlled manner and would not allow oneself to overturn in the backswing. Conclusion was that the energy from a strong brace and controlled coil, the golfer would create greater energy in the release of the right side while creating greater swing speeds through impact.”

As Mickey Mantle’s stride foot lands the foot pressure shifts as follows:

  • Back foot pressure – moves to the inside, and
  • Stride foot pressure – moves to the outside.

Mickey Mantle is also most certainly picking up his stride foot and leading with his hip forward.  Just pick out a point of reference in the background, and track how far his hip moves forward.  He’s effectively ‘un-weighting’ his bat, or getting a “head start”, to make the transfer of linear momentum into angular (or rotational) easier.

And we can clearly see the Javelin Thrower, Jan Železný, using forward momentum sprinting down the track before slinging his “arrow” A LONG WAY.

 

The Catapult Loading System

The ‘Springy X Pattern’ I developed through reading the book Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.  Watch the following FunctionalPatterns YouTube video of Thomas Myers talking about the concept of Tensegrity, or Tension Integrity:

It’s the idea that there are compression and tension forces acting within the body at all times.  In the Mickey Mantle video, I talk about imagining a big ‘X’ on his chest and back…connecting one shoulder to the opposite hip.  The fascial lines are a little more complicated than this, but let’s take a general look at how this works…

When Mickey Mantle pre-loads his torso – before turning – we see his lead shoulder come down and in towards his back hip (one leg of the ‘X’ shortens), while the rear shoulder and front hip move away from each other (other leg of the ‘X’ lengthens).  And the reverse is true on the backside.

This is evidenced by tracking his LEFT shoulder:

  • Pre-loads DOWN before Final Turn,
  • Unloads UP during the Final Turn, and finally
  • Reverses DOWN during the follow through to decelerate rotation.

CLICK HERE for an interesting article titled “Muscle Power Golf?!…NOT!” by Kelvin Miyahira (big thanks to Stephen Lowe for the link).  It talks about how the swing – whether we’re talking baseball/softball or golf – IS NOT about activating fast twitch muscle fibers, but engaging the springy fascia.  It’s a rant that I wish I did FIRST!!

 

Interesting Factoids & Resources from Mickey Mantle YouTube Viewer Comments

  • Marie Louise Hunnicutt book recommendation – Baseball’s Ultimate Power: Ranking The All-Time Greatest Distance Home Run Hitters by Bill Jenkinson

  • Gabriel Pennington – “Mantle’s massive strength came from blue collar work, swinging a sledgehammer in a lead mine (on top of freakish genetics). Couple that with the workman mentality of your best never being good enough and you have a lethal combination for an athlete.”
  • koryguns“3.1 seconds to first. Legend has it when he was a rookie in 1951 they decided to have a foot race among the team. Mantle beat everybody like they were standing still, puked, and apologized to Stengel for being out of shape.

Any other Mickey Mantle stories, facts, or book recommendations on him?  Please share in the comments below… (THANKS in advance!!)

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

Forward Momentum: Tinker & Test Baseball Batting Techniques

Baseball Batting Techniques: Dustin Pedroia and Forward Momentum

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get to it…

 

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew “Cutch” McCutchen

Troy “Tulo” Tulowitzki

Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista

Does FoMo stride need to be big or small?

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

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

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

Dustin “Laser Show” Pedroia (MEDIUM Leg Kick)

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

Victor Martinez (Toe Tap)

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

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

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

Mike “Millville Meteor” Trout

Bryce “Bam Bam” Harper

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

Can a wide no-stride hitter utilize Forward Momentum?

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

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

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

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

Furthermore,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera

Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz

Albert “The Machine” Pujols

 

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

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

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

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

Last but certainly not least…

David “Big Papi” Ortiz

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

 

In Conclusion

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

CLICK HERE to Enter for a chance to Win one free account access to The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power online video course (a $77 value).  You have until 12:00pm PST today to enter.  To better your chances of winning, you can spread the word on social media.  I’ll be picking the winner Monday, September 21st, and reaching out via email.  Good luck! 😀

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

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Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum: Mike Trout

Note the gentleman in the stands with the hat and Mariners shirt on (red arrow) as Mike Trout’s head moves forward to landing. Photo courtesy: YouTube user: PastTimeAthletics.com

The most common objection I hear from my hitters is that…

Their coaches are dumping on them for using forward momentum.

Because – they say – there’s too much head movement!

These coaches keep saying the perfect swing shouldn’t have head movement.

In a way, they’re right!

But there’s a bit of confusion as to when head movement is okay…and not okay.

You see, the perfect swing, has head movement.  ALL dynamic movement does.  Did you know our head bobs up and down when we walk and run?  Try watching television upside down and you’ll see it clear as day.

But it’s the timing of head movement that matters.

In this post, we’re going over:

  • Balance without thinking,
  • Debunking a common objection & a study, AND
  • Perfect swing examples…

 

Balance Without Thinking

Proprioception.  I know it’s a big ugly word.  But it has A LOT to do with the perfect swing.  At least when we talk about head movement.

Experiencing proprioception is easier than saying the word itself!

Try this…

Stand up, lift one leg, and close your eyes…

You feel your standing ankle and foot wobbling to balance your body?

This balance happens without you having to think about it.  It’s an unconscious process, like breathing.

Here’s how balance without thinking breaks down when looking at the perfect swing…

  • Scenario #1 The Sit Back Hitter – during stride, keep 60% of weight on BACK leg, being soft with the landing foot like you’re stepping on unbroken eggshells.
  • Scenario #2 The Forward Momentum Hitter – during stride, commit 60% of body weight to FRONT leg at landing, thereby breaking the “eggshells” in scenario #1.

Let’s apply proprioception to where the two scenarios left off above…

In Scenario #1, to bring the body back to balance, the brain shifts the weight forward during the Final Turn.  In other words, the heads moves later.

In scenario #2, to restore balance, the brain shifts the weight back during the Final Turn.  Because of the transfer of linear into angular momentum, the head will become the center axis of rotation along with the spine.

So we sacrifice head movement early, for little to no head movement later.

Do an experiment with the two scenarios above.  Record your swing using the Coaches Eye or Ubersense app.  Try and swing as hard as you can under complete control.  And note the change in head position between the two scenarios.

In a perfect swing, you’re going to have head movement.  But the question is, when do you want it?  BEFORE or DURING the Final Turn?

Debunking a Common Objection & a Study

CLICK HERE for a great FanGraphs study that Dan Farnsworth did on June 17, 2013 titled “Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012”.

Scroll down a ways and start reading under the section: “Keep Your Head Still”.

Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraphs’ Batting component of WAR.  He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season in which each player hit a homerun.  You can read the details of how he compiled his measurements in his post.

As Farnsworth says, the main complaint coaches have with Forward Momentum, or early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true…

But during the stride, the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  So again, if you know head movement is inevitable during dynamic movement, then when do you want it to happen?  BEFORE or DURING the Final Turn?

Does a quarterback “rolling out” to throw to a fast moving receiver have head movement?  Yes, until his plant leg hits the ground before throwing.  Does a soccer player have head movement quickly dribbling the ball down the field to get closer to the goal, weaving in and out of defenders?  Yes, until their plant foot hits the ground to kick.  I can go on and one with Olympic Throwers and Shot Putters!

Really think about the answer to that question.

 

Perfect Swing Examples…

When you watch the following videos, pick out someone or something in the stands behind the hitter to use as a frame of reference in watching for head movement. The following examples were the TOP-5 OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage) hitters in 2014:

1. Victor Martinez

2. Jose Abreu

3. Andrew McCutchen

4. Giancarlo Stanton

5. Mike Trout

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab
Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head movement during stride

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head position at stride forward. Camera angle is different, but watch videos below and note how V-Mart’s head doesn’t move with the front foot. Pictures courtesy: PastimeAthletics.com

Hint, hint…it has to do with balance!  This is a bonus to our Why Your Balance Fails series on balance.  I will be discussing:

  • The balance of pyramids,
  • The lateral movement of dancers, and
  • Mike Trout Slow-motion perfect balance during the stride…

 

The Balance of Pyramids

Pyramids have a capstone that is centered over the base.

Pyramid

In baseball, good balance occurs when the head is centered between the feet.

 

The Lateral [to the side] Movement of Dancers

I asked a woman who was a modern dancer for several decades who is making a film on movement,

What is the proper way to move to the side?”

Her response was,

The body has to move with the foot.

 

Mike Trout Perfect Balance During the Stride

Hitting requires balance…

But the stride requires dynamic balance, or balance while in motion.

A couple things I want to point out in the following slow motion swing of Mike Trout…notice how:

  • Mike Trout’s leg moves forward, so that the head is centered between the feet during the stride,
  • His body moves with his front foot, and 
  • Efficient his swing looks….

To Contrast and Compare, here is Victor Martinez. An extremely successful hitter, with a gift of incredible hand-eye coordination and strength…

Let’s compare them both at the moment the front foot touches the ground:

  • Trout- Head between the feet.
  • Martinez- Head closer to the back foot.
  • Trout-Shoulders angled down.
  • Martinez-Shoulders angled up (or level).

However, they both reach perfect position at the moment the bat hits the ball. And they both have the same backward lean with the head in line with the front leg…

Who has better dynamic balance?

Mike Trout.  To move more like him, the cue is move the body with the foot”.

(Note from Joey Myers: the camera angles are a little goofy, but I urge you to look at other “chest view” video of Victor Martinez, and you’ll see the same result.  Like Dr. Stanley said, he’s got SUPER hand-eye coordination!  BUT here’s the thing, he doesn’t angle his shoulders down, show his numbers to the pitcher or hide his hands as well as Mike Trout does before landing.  And as a result, his front shoulder has a tendency to “peel out”.  Adding these ingredients into V-Mart’s swing could have won him the 2014 AL MVP ;-))

In case you missed Parts 1-3 of the Why Your Balance Fails series, then here they are:

Corey Dickerson

Corey Dickerson: 3 Human Movement Laws That Dominate

Comparing Corey Dickerson 2014 OPS & OPS+ stats to Mike Trout & league average

I wanted to analyze a young lefty slugging Colorado Rockies outfielder by the name of Corey Dickerson.  Standing and weighing in at 6-foot, 1 inch, and 205 pounds, Dickerson isn’t a big guy by today’s standards.  And comparing key offensive indicators (photo on right), puts him in decent company…

FanGraphs.com says this about OPS & OPS+:

OPS is the widely used metric measuring a hitter’s contact, patience, and and power.  Since OPS+ adjusts for league and park effects, it’s possible to use OPS+ to compare players from different years and on different teams.”

Corey Dickerson: #1 Most Critical Hitting Position

Corey Dickerson photo courtesy: MLB.com

How efficiently a hitter gets into their Fight (landing) Position can dramatically effect their OPS and OPS+.  In analyzing Corey Dickerson swing, we’ll see how he uses THREE scientifically proven human movement laws to dominate his Fight Position:

  1. Gravitational Forces,
  2. Transferring Forward Momentum, and
  3. Spine engine mechanics.

We’ll also look at what repeatable power elements are missing in his swing…

 

Laws That Dominate #1: Gravitational Forces

Imagine standing in the middle of a trampoline.  Push your body weight into the canvas by bending your knees slightly, and jump 2-inches off the surface.  Now, use all your body weight, squatting down like your butt’s going to touch the canvas, and jump 2-feet in the air.  Notice how pushing harder into the surface, gave you a higher jumping result?

These are Gravitational Forces at work.  By pushing into the ground (trampoline canvas), the surface pushes back with an equal and opposite force.  Corey Dickerson amplifies Gravitational Forces by “getting shorter” and dropping his body-weight into the earth when he lands into his Fight Position.  The ground gives thanks by giving him a push back!

Following…

 

Laws that Dominate #2: Transferring Forward Momentum

Corey Dickerson "floating" to his Fight Position

Corey Dickerson “Float” photo courtesy: MLB.com

In science, this is commonly referred to as the Conservation of Linear Momentum.  In Corey Dickerson’s case, here’s how it works:

  1. First, he transfers his weight back and Floats (timing) before falling forward,
  2. He gets a swing “head start” by moving his body-weight towards the pitcher, and
  3. Then commits to weighting his front leg before transferring Forward into Angular (rotating) Momentum at the Final Turn.

Corey Dickerson lands with an open hip-knee-toe to set up the turning of the pelvis.  His front knee is bent and stacked almost over his ankle allowing him to push into the ground (Gravitational Forces).  This will make way for what’s called “Blocking” during the Final Turn.  Next…

 

Laws that Dominate #3: Spine Engine Mechanics

Corey Dickerson Fight Position

Corey Dickerson “Fight Position” photo courtesy: MLB.com

Blocking the shoulders from opening too soon is critical to repeatable power.  Tony Gwynn calls this “staying on the ball”.  And Corey Dickerson does the basics (a la Gwynn).  He’s not loading his torso’s springy material optimally.  I believe he’s leaving 10% of his repeatable power on the table.  Here’s how he can improve his Fight Position:

  1.  Raise back elbow above top hand during fall, to get a more downward shoulder angle,
  2. Show his number to the pitcher more clearly, and
  3. Hide his hands from the pitcher a little better.

The Fight Position is one of THE most critical points in the swing.  As you can see, Corey Dickerson uses THREE (2.5, lol) scientifically proven human movement laws before he lands his Fight Position.  To me, at least 70% of hitting faults can be fixed here.  Make sure you’re swinging smarter by moving better!

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

What Can Bryce Harper Learn From Mike Trout?

 

(PLEASE NOTE: this video post was done in 2014, before Bryce Harper won the NL MVP in 2015. At the end of the post I give an UPDATE)

Bryce Harper VIDEO: Missing Repeatable Power?

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

This article explains why Mike Trout will repeatedly out-slug Bryce Harper mechanically, unless Bam-Bam adds efficiency to his swing.

I picked this match-up because they have one year separating their experience in the Big Leagues, they’re similar physically, but Mike Trout slugs almost 100 points higher!  According to Baseball-Reference.com:

  • Bryce Harper is 6’3″, 225 pounds,
  • Mike Trout is 6’2″, 230 pounds,
  • Harper’s 162-game average Slug% = .464, and
  • Trout’s 162-game average Slug% = .554.

In this video, we’ll compare Mike Trout, and look at how Bryce Harper DOES NOT:

  • Get a “head start” using Gravity,
  • Spring load his body, and
  • Follow the One-Joint Rule.

 

Mechanical Disadvantage #1: DOES NOT Get a “Head Start” Using Gravity

Gold medal winning Shot Putter Randy Barnes

Randy Barnes photo courtesy: PBS.org

Bryce Harper starts from a dead stop.  We know stop and go traffic burns fuel quicker than freeway driving.  Because it’s inefficient.  A “head start” is how we get more efficient during a swing.  Think about receiving the baton in a 4X100 meter relay race.  Throwing a 16-pound Shot Put over 70 feet.  Or hitting a golf over 500 yards.

Effective hitters use Gravitational Forces to get their swing started and spice up their Final Turn.  Mike Trout does this.  Consider this Un-Weighting Principal test…

Imagine standing tall holding a forty-pound dumbbell in your hand hanging by your side.  Now lift the weight up in front of your face.  What muscles did you feel working?  Shoulder?  You’re right!

Now, get back to your standing position.  Take a medium step forward and when your foot hits the ground, start to lift the dumbbell in front of your face.   What muscles did you feel working?  Would it be easier to lift that 40-pound dumbbell with the first or second scenario?

Mechanical Disadvantage #2: Minimal Spring Loading

Bryce Harper VIDEO: NOT springy loaded

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

Our body loads using springy fascial tissue.  According to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains, fascia:

  • Is what the bones and muscles float in,
  • Gives muscles their shape,
  • Is a spider web or cotton candy-like material, and
  • Is made of mostly springy collagen fibers.

In comparing Adrian Gonzalez, Bryce Harper has an explosive swing, but in reality doesn’t engage his body’s own natural springy material as much as A-Gon.

 

Mechanical Disadvantage #3: DOES NOT Follow the One-Joint Rule

Bryce Harper Locally Flexing his C-Spine

Bryce Harper photo courtesy: MLB.com

Dr. Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD.com talks about this quite a bit.  He’s referring to the head and spine position during dynamic movement.  There are two types of vertebrae bending or flexing:

  1. Local Flexion – would be dropping the chin to the chest or ear to the shoulder, and
  2. Global Flexion – keeping the head and spine aligned as one unit, while bending forward or sideways.

In an efficient swing, number one is BAD, and number two is GOOD.  Why?  CLICK HERE and watch the next four minutes of this YouTube video (3:13-7:13) of Dr. Kelly Starrett demonstrating the One-Joint Rule.  He doesn’t include flexing the head sideways (ear to shoulder).  But you’d get the same ineffective force producing result as taking the chin to the chest.

As the above picture clearly shows, Bryce Harper actually goes ear to shoulder at and through contact.  Unless something changes mechanically, “Bam-Bam” will continue to trail Mike Trout in repeatable power.  However, with his body type, these changes can BOOST Harper into the 35+ homer per year category.

UPDATE: I wrote this article in 2014.  Bryce Harper has made one big change to his mechanics…in this video, Darryl Hamilton points out some interesting points (not all I agree with):

I don’t agree with Darryl Hamilton that Bryce Harper is minimizing his Forward Momentum from 2014 to 2015, I think it’s the same.  Although, I do agree Harper is more “squatted” when he starts.

I think the biggest change is with his back foot NOT coming off the ground as much, or traveling as far forward as it was in 2014.  This has allowed Harper to stay on the plane of the pitch longer with his barrel, and therefore hit more dingers in 2015.

However, I still don’t like how Bryce Harper breaks the ‘One-Joint’ Rule.  He’s still leaving repeatable power on the table…and that’s scary to think after his 2015 offensive output 😛

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

Josh Hamilton Part-2: How to Optimize Vision, Tracking, and Timing

 

Josh Hamilton Video: Coaches Don't Tell You This (About Timing)

…In this Josh Hamilton video we’re focusing on what most coaches don’t tell you (or simply don’t know) about calibrating the timing of a hitter.  You can have the best hitting mechanics, but if timing is off, results can be frustrating.

In this video, we’ll analyze:

  • When does a swing start?
  • Leg kick or slide step? and
  • How to practice timing?

 

When Does a Swing Start?

Short answer?  About when the hitter picks the front foot up.  When walking, you can’t take a step forward without picking up your foot and putting it back down.  This is why I hate “no-stride” coaching cues.  Here’s how walking bio-mechanics work:

  1. Front heel hits the ground signals pelvis to open.
  2. Same timing signal travels up the spine to the shoulders, telling them to counter-rotate the pelvis.
  3. This is why your opposite arm and leg come forward at the same time.

This simple timing mechanism is important to hitting.  Hitting experts call this torque, but really, it’s how humans are designed to move against gravity using the spine for locomotion.  CLICK HERE for a more in–depth study on walking bio-mechanics according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky.

 

Leg Kick or Slide Step?

It ALL depends on a batter’s moving parts…

  • Leg Kick a-la Josh Hamilton forces the hitter to start the swing sooner.  Hamilton starts his when the pitcher breaks the hands.
  • Slide Step a-la Mike Trout can start their swing later.  You’ll see these types of hitters picking their front foot up when the pitcher lands and/or begins forward movement with the arm.

 

How to Practice Timing

SEVEN ways a hitter can practice “collecting data”:

  1. LIVE arm: whether seated – on a bucket, kneeling, or standing.
  2. Soft toss or LIVE: throw baseballs, whiffle, dimple, tennis, golf, or dried pinto beans.
  3. Broad focus: have hitter pick out a point in the pitcher’s delivery to start the swing.
  4. On-Deck circle: work on when to pick front foot up.
  5. Sit in on Bullpens: hitter passively (no swings) sits in on pitcher bullpens (with a helmet on of course).
  6. Pitcher’s BP: have pitchers trade off throwing batting practice (advanced).
  7. Intra/Inter-squat games.

Above-all, be safe.   The truth about Josh Hamilton timing?  It takes reps, reps, and more reps.  CLICK HERE for Part-3 Matt Holliday: The Death Of Plate Discipline.  In case you missed Part-1 Mike Trout: Why Your Consistency Won’t Improve, CLICK HERE.