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Gary Sheffield Talks Hitting

Gary Sheffield Talks Hitting Mentioning 1 Shocking Swing Mistake He Didn't Make…

 

 

Gary Sheffield Talks Hitting

Check out the iconic Gary Sheffield barrel tilt-waggle – almost parallel to the ground! Photo courtesy: MLB Network

In this Gary Sheffield Talks Hitting video, 500 Home Run Club member Gary Sheffield talks about his hitting style, plate approach and adjustments to different ballparks with Mark DeRosa, Bill Ripken and Robert Flores on MLB Central.  Some of what you'll find in the video:

  • 1 shocking swing mistake Sheffield didn't make,
  • Pitch recognition that Gary Sheffield is talking about,
  • Change your stance depending on the field?
  • What does focus on staying to the right of your left side mean? And,
  • Making swing adjustments because of injury to compete…

For your convenience below, I've time stamped my notes, so you can jump to wherever the conversation interests you…

  • At about the 3-minute, 20-second mark, Sheffield talks about how after hitting 40+ homers between his AA and AAA season, he was brought up to MLB club and the powers at be tried to “flatten his bat” (for him a mistake he didn't make).  Because they wanted a leadoff speed guy who hits the ball to right field.  When he got to San Diego, they wanted him to pick up the ball at 3rd base, they didn't expect him to hit.  This was disrespectful to Sheffield.  He went from a guy not just trying to get on base, but to do damage.
  • At about the 4-minute mark, Gary Sheffield talks about his famous bat tilt-waggle, and how it's all in the fingers. To get a nice relaxed crisp move with the fingers.  Like dancing.
  • At about the 5-minute mark, Sheffield talks about picking pitcher up at release to differentiate what he's throwing.  Pitch recognition.  He doesn't care what the pitcher does before that moment.  He said he looked for the heater and nothing changed on that approach throughout his career.  He wants the pitcher to fool him.  He doesn't want to miss on the fastball.  All he wants to know is what is the pitcher's out pitch – the one he goes to the most when he needs it. Doesn't swing at fork balls.  He groups the fastball and slider together – as one pitch.
  • At about the 7-minute mark, Gary Sheffield talks about how he adjusts his stance depending on the park he's playing in.  Examples…in San Diego the dimensions are fair, so he uses all fields.  At “fair” parks he didn't feel like hitting the ball oppo made him lose something.   In Florida with the Marlins, he got closer to the plate and became strictly a pull hitter because of short fence in left field. Homers came by way of left and left center, rarely to center.  Goal of double digit homers to opposite field, so he was almost guaranteed 30 to 40 homers per year.  Billy Ripken made the comment that he's never heard of anyone else who did this, except maybe when hitting at Fenway.  Dodger stadium was “fair” to him.  Mentioned at night it got dewey there, ball didn't fly as far.  His strength was center field in LA.
  • At about 9-minute mark, Sheffield talks about his right elbow position to be ready to “punch”.  Athletic position.  Legs up under him.  When hitting he just thinks about his left side.  Tells his kids to cut the left side out.  Focus on being to the right of your left side.  Walking in the batter's box sideways, so he knows he's in the same spot every time.  He wants to work sideways, so he can stay behind his left side.
  • At about 11-minute mark, Sheffield his swing is dominant front arm.  Front arm goes straight to the ball.  Billy Ripken talks about “squashing a bug“.  They all comment on Gary Sheffield's bat waggle and how parallel the barrel got to the ground at one point in the swing.  Sheffield talked about an injury he had to his right foot, plantar fasciitis, that required him to skip/hop his back foot.  Had to unlearn later.  Interesting confession on making an adjustment to compete.
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.
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…

How To Teach “Pull Happy” Hitters An Opposite Field Approach

I Need Your Help…

But before I get to the “BIG ask”,

How to Hit to the Opposite Field: Jim Thome, Mark DeRosa, & Lauren Shehadi

Mark DeRosa and Jim Thome helping Lauren Shehadi of MLBNetwork to hit to the opposite field. Photo courtesy: MLBNetwork YouTube Channel

I want you to watch the video above, where Mark DeRosa and Jim Thome help teach Lauren Shehadi how to hit the ball to the opposite field (she claims to be a chronic pull hitter).

It's a fun video with some cool sticky coaching stuff in it.

In the video, please pay particular attention to the following:

  • What are some of the things either Thome or DeRo offered Lauren that didn't work?
  • What were some of the things either Thome or DeRo offered that did work?
  • What did Lauren do when she didn't understand a concept “Don't bail out”, and then what did DeRo/Thome do or say to clarify?
  • Notice the use of positive reinforcement when she did something right…more on this at a later date, I'm currently reading a GAME CHANGING book for coaches called Don't Shoot The Dog that goes more into this.  Sorry, only paperback version available on Amazon.

Now, here are a couple “BIG asks” (you don't have to answer all)

  • What are the top two mistakes you see coaches make teaching pull happy hitters to hit to the opposite field?
  • What are your top two drills, sticky coaching cues, and/or hitting aids that consistently help pull happy hitters hit “oppo”?
  • If you had only 4 weeks – and a million dollars on the line – to train a pull happy hitter to hit with power to the opposite field, what would the training look like?

Pull happy hitting is going to be a MAJOR challenge as hitters climb the playing career ladder.  Extreme shifts are becoming a reality nowadays.

Great baseball minds like Homer Bush said in his book Hitting Low In The Zone,  that in order to hit .300, hitters MUST be able to lift the low pitch AND hit the ball to the opposite field.

Consider this quote from Justin Turner, who at the time of this writing is hitting .364 with 11 HR's and 19 2B's (a little over halfway through the season):

“Today, with the way defenses shift, you're out.  Especially if you don't run that well.  You don't beat the shift by hitting around it or through it, you beat the shift by hitting over it.”

Someday your hitters will face a shift, and if they aren't prepared, they'll fail way more than they have to.  Be proactive coaches.

THANK YOU in advance for YOUR comments 😀