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Throw The Ball: How To Teach Accuracy & Making Good Throws

Throw The Ball Advice To Reader Comment: “Throwing accurately making good throws”

 

 

This throw the ball video and post has nothing to do with hitting, but at the same time, has everything to do with hitters.  In it, we discuss:Throw The Ball: How To Teach Accuracy & Making Good Throws

  • Mechanics are a big part of this, but this video will not go into that (Texas & Florida Baseball Ranches & Top Velocity)
  • The art of “variance” – bean bag toss study
  • Depth and Lateral
  • Ground-balls and different wall targets at home
  • Belt-to-hat target game
  • Arm care program – Jaeger Bands

Hey, what’s going on. Joey Myers here from the ‘Hitting Performance Lab’. In this video, I’m going to answer a reader question. This is a big question, and if you have a hitter, they’re gonna be throwing – the throwing is a given of playing baseball or softball.

 

To Throw The Ball: Mechanics are a Big Part of this…

It doesn’t really excite me to talk pitching mechanics, but I will direct you to some sources that you can go to that promote healthy pitching mechanics. It’s not all about velocity, velocity should come, it should be a byproduct, it’s really where you move the ball around the zone that can upset hitters timing. So, I will make a couple suggestions…

So again, here’s a question, throwing accurately, this reader needed some advice on “Throwing accurately, making good throws”. So, whether this is a player asking the question or a coach on how to put a practice together that promotes or encourages accurately making throws.

So, mechanics again are a big part of this. I would advise you to go to TopVelocity.net, and look into Brent Pourciau or go to the Texas or Florida baseball ranch.  You can go online and get some of their stuff. From what I’ve heard, I haven’t looked at it in detail, but what I’ve heard, a friend of mine Mike Gillen, who is my pitching guy locally. I send my hitters to him locally, who want to pitch. He teaches based off of top velocity’s stuff.

It’s a very healthy, not putting your players in bad positions with their arms. A lot of what I’ve heard is really good stuff, in addition to the Texas and Florida baseball ranches. I’ve heard good stuff; I’ve heard players that go in to have some arm pain or elbow pain whatever. They go in and start working their mechanics. They get so much better, they can throw without any kind of pain. So, any kind of program that has that as part of their focus and priority is a good program.

Don’t listen to some of those people out there, where to throw the ball is all about velocity, velocity and throwing hard. Because what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna be short-lived that season, that career is gonna be short-lived.

You want to be careful with arms and shoulders. So, with that being said, mechanics are a big part of it. But we’re not going to talk mechanics in this video…

 

The Art of “Variance” – bean bag toss study

I want to talk to you about the art of variance, this was a huge thing for me when I learned about it. I learned about it in Make It Stick by Peter C Brown, check it out, there were like eight principles, the “science of successful learning” is the subtitle. But the art of variance, it can be demonstrated in this way…

There was a beanbag study, they cited in the book. So, imagine that we’re in a grade school class, sixth grade, fifth grade, grade school class.

I think they were 11, 12 year olds. They split the class into two. For group one, they put a bucket that was three feet away, get those kids beanbags and have them practice throwing in that three foot bucket. That was for 15 minutes.

They had group two, they gave them two buckets, one was two feet away, and the other was four feet away. So, no three-foot bucket, there was a hole at the three foot, so only two and four. They gave them beanbags and had them practice for 15 minutes throwing in the two buckets.

At the end of the 15 minutes, they had them all test on a three foot bucket, which group…? Group one who is practicing on the three foot or group two who is practicing on the two and four foot buckets, no three foot. Which group, one or two, did better?

You probably think this is a trick question, and you want to pick the three-foot bucket, but you know that there’s something going on, and this probably isn’t true. Well, you are right because the three-foot bucket practicing half of the class, actually did not do better, they ended up losing to the part two group, that was two- and four-foot bucket part of tossing bean bags – second group half of the class.

So, why though, why did group two win? I asked my players this, and it’s because they had two frames of reference, a two and a four foot bucket. They didn’t have the three, but they can, when they go to the 3-foot bucket, they say, I know if I toss toss in a four-foot bucket, which would be over the three. I know what tossing in a two-foot bucket, which is just short of the three. I know what both of those feel like, so I’ll just throw it in the middle of both of those.

You see, they have two frames of reference, whereas the three foot bucket, they only have one frame. They had to either make it or they didn’t, but they weren’t practicing trying to throw it too far or too short. When we talk about the art of variance and practicing to throw the ball, we apply it to throwing, and throwing accurately.

 

Depth and Lateral – how to practice throwing accurately and making good throws at practice

What we did with my son, who is now going to be 7yo in December. We did it with his baseball ball team last season.

We had stations in our practices, and one of the stations was a throwing accuracy station. We have them lined up, three players at a time, I would toss a ground ball to one player, and we taped the numbers 1, 2, & 3 behind me on the chain-link fence in green frog tape. They were spaced enough apart, not being super close, you’re getting this variance of depth for them, this is to practice depth to throw the ball.

I rolled on the ground ball.  And at first, before I rolled it. I would say, I want you to hit number one. I’d go down the line. I will say, I want you to hit number two before I rolled it. So, they would get pretty good at being somewhere around the numbers, and then I would roll it.

A kind of a progression to that… I would roll it, and I wouldn’t tell them any number until I rolled it, and I would say “all right, hit two”. As they were fielding it, they’d have to make the decision, and look up and try and hit the target.

Then I was changing it up on them, that was the next progression. As you got these three players on the line, well we would move them, move kind of like in a volleyball game where the players kind of shift around. You want to move them around so they’re getting different perspectives of hitting the number one, two, and three.  It’s going to be different if they’re in the middle versus the left or the right side. So, you want them to kind of feel the difference of different positions of their body of where they’re at in space and time.

The other thing that we did was, it was more of a across the field drill as they got pretty good with the accuracy of hitting static targets.

Then we moved to create some depth for them. So, we would have a first baseman set up, but we’d have the real first base, we’d have a first base at about five feet down the line towards the home plate, and we would have another first base that was about five feet down the line towards right-field. So, it was just on the foul line, it was spread out this way laterally, then we had them practice kind of similar to what I just talked about. But they’re hitting two different targets laterally.

So, you got the real first baseman, and then you would work variance at depth. So, arm distance or being short of first base.

We would have real first baseman, we would have a first baseman about five feet more towards the pitcher, or towards the fielder throwing the ball. Then we would have a first baseman beyond the real first baseman, almost like an overthrow. So, I can under throw the ball overthrow, and then you have the first baseman changing positions, and each player is testing at different positions.

It’s almost like they’re getting six different frames of references as they throw the ball to first base.  This helped clean up throwing with a bunch of five-year-olds all the way up to seven year olds … this cleaned up throwing accuracy so quickly. It was amazing.  It was crazy.

 

Ground-balls and different wall targets at home

Wall targets at home…this is something that I’m gonna be doing at our house. We’re gonna have a swing open gate, right now it’s just kind of a small swing open, we’re gonna make a big swing open. On that gate we’re gonna put some kind of vinyl material, that’s not gonna ruin the wood. My son can throw the ball against the wall, and it’s not gonna ruin our fence, and we’re gonna create targets. We’re going to put targets up on the fence, as they field the ground ball, throw the ball against it, ball bounces back, we’re gonna have different targets up, down, middle.

He’s gonna get to pick a target before he throws the ball. Then throw, and try and hit that target. Just different targets, putting them up all over. So, that’s an idea at home that you can do.

 

Throw the Ball Belt-to-hat target game

Also, when we play catch. I learned this at Fresno State, you can use a belt to hat game. Players are playing catch down the line, if they hit the hat, it’s three points. If they hit the chest, it’s two. If they hit the belt, it’s one, and anywhere else outside of that range is zero. It’s called belt to hat game. So, that’s a good one that you could play while playing catch.

 

Arm care program – Jaeger Bands

Also before in this video, I want to make sure that you are aware of arm care exercises that you should have your hitters, throwers, and pitchers do. They’re never too young to start some sort of an arm care program. They need to take care of their arm, younger obviously not quite as needed as they are when they’re junior, high, and high school on up. But I recommend Jaeger bands, you can go on the – search Jaeger bands on Google. Find their website, go on, and check it out.

They have a lot of videos, I’m pretty sure they’re on YouTube. Just go on YouTube, and search, get to their channel. Jaeger bands channel, and they have tons of videos on how to do different exercises and things like that. Pick and choose, get a get a bunch of them, maybe five to ten of them. Doing them every day, make sure that you’re providing arm care for your little hitters. Hope you learned something in this video.

Make sure that we’re swinging smarter by moving better, and again this video was about “Throwing accurately and making good throws”. Before I let you go…

Answering Baseball Stride Drills Reader Question: “How Important Is Forward Momentum I Know We Must Go Forward But Does It Matter If Stride Is Big Or Small?”

“…Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She  went for a walk in the forest.  Pretty soon, she came upon a house.  She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.  At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge.  Goldilocks was hungry.  She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

“This porridge is too hot!’ she exclaimed.  So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.  ‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said.  So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.  ‘Ahhh, this porridge is just right,’ she said happily and she ate it all up…”

More in a bit on how Goldilocks and the Three Bears relates to baseball stride drills, but first…

In the following post, we’re addressing the following concerns regarding baseball stride drills (also works for softball):

  • Stride direction and amount,
  • Stride type (experimenting with the ‘Float’),
  • Head movement from stride, and
  • Controlling center mass in stride.

Before getting into the how to baseball stride drills guide, I want to preface that the PURPOSE of a stride shouldn’t be power.  CLICK HERE for a Zepp swing experiment that may confirm this.  If it’s power you seek, then I’d advise looking at the Spring Loaded category.  What purpose does a stride serve?  A stride is for timing and initiating directional force.  CLICK HERE for this post on that.

Let’s get started…

 

Baseball Stride Drills Direction & Amount

Watch this video from Chris Welch at ZenoLink.  Using data and science, he’s found reasonable markers in guiding baseball stride drills

 

Here are highlights from baseball stride drills video above:Baseball Stride Drills: Stepping in Bucket Drill Using Bands

  • Stride length should be about 3.75-times hip width (hip-center-to-hip-center)*,
  • At landing, stride direction is to be closed about 10-degrees (straight forward toward pitcher is zero-degrees), and
  • Stride landing foot position to be about 65-degrees open (pointing perpendicular to home plate is zero-degrees, and straight at pitcher is 90-degrees).

(*Denotes 3.75-times hip-center-to-hip-center is length of stride measured from back foot to stride landing.  NOT the measurement of the stride itself.)

Chris says in the video that if a hitter is under or over striding, then they’re hampering body’s ability to create torque.  Stride landing MUST align ball of the foot with ball of the foot.

CLICK HERE for a post I did on how to fix “stepping in the bucket” using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT).  With the image to the right, it’s another one of my baseball stride drills using colored bands to fix stepping in bucket or crashing the plate.  If the hitter is crashing too much with their stride, I get them to feel stepping out, and the reverse is true if they’re stepping out.  I use variance to get them in the middle (blue band).

…Goldilocks Golden Rule. 

 

Stride Type (‘Experimenting with the Float’)

For most intensive purposes, there are 3 stride types:

  • Leg kick – medium (Mike Trout) or large (Josh Donaldson),
  • Slide step – most Big League hitters use this.  Aaron Judge, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, and Andrew McCutchen just to name a few.
  • Toe-tap – I recommend this for my younger hitters. Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, and Victor Martinez employ this.

Of course, there are variations to these, but these are the three broad categories of stride types.  I call the stride the ‘float’ and ‘fall’.  The ‘float’ is a momentary shifting of weight back towards the catcher before falling forward.  Matt Nokes calls this the ‘Ride’ and ‘Stride’.  Some hitting coaches don’t like this idea, but the reality is this is human movement.  The Chinese have been practicing exactly this move in Tai Chi for thousands of years…in stepping to my right, I have to make a brief weight shift to the left first.  CLICK HERE for a post analyzing this dynamic move.

I included a lot of video examples (CLICK HERE) of MLB hitters using these different stride types to help guide your baseball stride drills. In that post I concluded with this:

“When it comes to [baseball stride drills], 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.”

…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

 

Head Movement from Stride

There’s been few online Hitting Guru #57’s saying we want minimal to zero head movement when hitting.  They claim, the more the head moves, the less your eyes see the ball.  And they point to Barry Bonds as their champion.  On paper, this conclusion looks great, and with Bonds as their poster child seems argument seems pretty reasonable.

However, what science says and what the top 50 hitters in the Major Leagues are doing reveals something completely different.  The opposite actually.  Listen, I agree minimal to zero head movement when hitter’s stride foot lands.  And if baseball stride drills are done correctly, this should be a natural result.  But I don’t agree with minimal to zero head movement GETTING TO stride landing – BEFORE the turn starts.

In this post titled, Softball Hitting Tips For Kids: Why Late Head Movement Fails & Early Head Movement Succeeds, we discuss:

  • The Myth of ‘keeping the head still’,
  • Proprioception & dynamic movement,
  • First baseman stretching to receive a throw, and
  • Watching TV upside down.

The biggest bomb NUKING minimal to zero head movement argument, is this 2013 article by Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs.com titled, Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012.  Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraph’s batting component of WAR (this is a big deal metric).

He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season, in which each player hit a home-run.  Farnsworth says the main complaint coaches have with early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true, however during the stride the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  In the Head Movement piece of the article, Farnsworth concludes:

“Next to no relationship here.  I think this one can be considered dead, simply based on the fact that all of them moved forward to some degree.”

Did you catch that?! Farnsworth revealed in his research of top-50 hitters in 2012, that ALL moved their head forward to some degree.  You see, head movement is inevitable in ALL dynamic movement.  Early is okay, late is not.   Don’t sit there and point to hitting outliers like Barry Bonds, and tell me the top-50 hitters of 2012 all had it wrong.  It was true then as it is now.

Besides, did you know fresh out of the box, humans come with “video stabilizer” eye software?  Ask an ophthalmologist.  In addition, your knees, ankles (Achilles tendon), and hip joints act as shock absorbers too.  If we start our hitters in an athletic position, and most importantly, they land in one, then the hitter will be fully optimized for minimizing the ball “speeding up”.

If you’re still skeptical, then check out this post titled, Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum.  We discuss:

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

Not too much, not too little, just right…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

And last but not least…

 

Controlling Center of Mass in the Stride

Center of Mass (COM) in the human body is located at the belly button.  This was established in the womb.  The umbilical cord is the center of an unborn child’s universe.  I say this to demonstrate the importance of COM in controlling human movement.

Now, we don’t want baseball stride drills to promote too large or too small of a stride.  Remember? Goldilocks Golden Rule.  Chris Welch from Zenolink said the stride should be about 3.75 times hip-center-to-hip-center, and aligned are back ball of the foot to front ball of the foot at stride landing.  How do we teach this though?  In this post I received the following question from one of my readers…

One specific issue I see in a lot of my players is timing and getting over the front knee too far at contact. What are some good tee drills for staying back and any idea how I can get them to feel it when done correctly.”

In the post titled, Discover Science Of Successful Learning Secret To Fix Lunging (or any swing flaw for that matter!), as it relates to controlling the COM of our hitters, we discuss:

  • Reader question about lunging,
  • “Bean Bag” study from Make It Stick book,
  • WHY we separate PROCESS from PERFORMANCE with hitters learning something new,
  • How it takes time to change ineffective movement momentum into effective, and…
  • Training 4-5 days per week, for AT LEAST 5-mins each day.

And remember the …Goldilocks Golden Rule.

You Don’t Have To Gather 30+ Years Of Coaching To Be An Effective Teacher

 

In the above video, I mentioned the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter C. Brown.  If you’re serious about helping get young athletes better, then you’ll read or listen to that book.  The information in it is supported by empirical research, NOT “because I said so ‘bro-science'”.

Here’s what is discussed in the above video:

  • Addressing reader question about lunging,
  • Talk about “Bean Bag” study from Make It Stick book,
  • WHY we separate PROCESS from PERFORMANCE with hitters learning something new,
  • Takes time to change ineffective movement momentum into effective, and…
  • Training 4-5 days per week, for AT LEAST 5-mins each day.

 

Original reader’s question I summarized in the above video:

“Joey, First off thank you for gathering and sharing the knowledge you have. I have become intrigued by the science of the swing and delivering it in a message that my 14u softball team related to.

One specific issue I see in a lot of my players is timing and getting over the front knee too far at contact. What are some good tee drills for staying back and any idea how I can get them to feel it when done correctly. I’m sure it will click once they figure it out.

Too much thinking in the box right now. Good thing it’s winter!  Thank you”

– Eric McConnell, Coach Linden Warriors 14u. Black

My email reply…

“Eric, Thank you for reaching out! I know what you’re saying. Here’s what I want you to try with those young ladies:

  1. Have them experiment with shifting their weight forward in different ways…
  2. Reference their belly button because this is the body’s center of mass…
  3. Have them stride while keeping their belly button inside their back foot… (this will feel like they aren’t moving forward at all, while front foot goes forward)
  4. Have them stride while keeping their belly button behind their front knee at landing… (this will be closer to where you want them in games)
  5. Have them stride while keeping their belly button behind their front foot at landing…
    And have them stride while keeping their belly button over their front foot at landing… (this will look like old Ty Cobb still shots of his swing finish).

Do you see what we’re doing? Give them many reference points to pull from. The learning principle here is variance. I use this all the time when teaching hitters to show their numbers to the pitcher. Please keep me updated with this Coach. And thank you for your continued support of HPL…Joey”

I hope this helps coaches!

 

Domingo Ayala: How To Hit Cage Bombs

Photo courtesy: TopicNow.info & DomingoBeisbol.com

Okay, in all seriousness…

I received an email from a reader named Garrett,

…in response to a post I did, titled:

“What Every Coach MUST Know About Giving Feedback To Hitters”.

This post will identify and fix a “5 O’Clock” hitter…

 

Identifying a “5 O’Clock” Hitter

What is a “5 O’Clock” Hitter?
One who ONLY “shows up” for batting practice, but not in a game.  In other words, BOMB!! lol
Here is Garrett’s email…
“Hey Joey, 
Does this sound like the recipe for a five o’ clock/inconsistent hitter to you?
  1. takes one swing then goes and analyze the video…repeats the process 30 times
  2. relies on someone else to tell the what they are doing wrong
  3. uses BP to try and hit bombs…how do your hitters use bp on the field for work?
  4. uses the tee to practice the perfect swing for the perfect pitch
Thanks.”

How-To Fix a “5 O’Clock” Hitter

My responses below addresses the numbered questions above (slightly edited)

“Garrett,
  1. That sounds like a similar approach to Jaime Cevallos’s Positional Hitting!  Video analysis is a great source of external feedback, but like everything else, can be relied upon too much, or obsessively at times.  I’d prefer the hitter work out the kinks for at least 5-8 swings before filming again.  This can be supported in Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick.
  2. Hitters are their best own evaluators.  Nobody else can tell them how or what they felt on a particular swing.  I’ve had hitters like this, and typically it stems from mom or dad (or somebody) giving them the answers all the time growing up.  Not letting them make their own mistakes, and learning from them.  Young hitters have to fail on their own, then struggle for the adjustment…and if they need help after that, then coach can pick them up.  This has Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code written all over it.
  3. “Practice like you play, so you play like you practice”.  If you have to compete in a 100-meter sprint, you can’t train like you would for a marathon.  Marathon batting practice sessions (taking 8+ swings per round) are useless to a game swing.  My hitters take 3-5 swing rounds, and then get a brief break.  They’re also required to swing as hard as they can – under complete control – for each swing.  CLICK HERE for a great testimonial case study post from one of my San Diego dads, on the turnaround his two High School boys experienced making this switch.
  4. Mass practice off the tee is no good.  The tee position must be varied after each swing.  This is talked about extensively in Peter C. Brown’s book above as the Art of Variance.  Also, please refer to preceding point #3.
Hitting cage bombs gives a short-term boost to self-confidence.  And hitters who don’t do train for the “100-meter sprint” will break during competition.
Self-confidence is gained through working the process, staying the course, and not obsessively focusing on outcomes or their competition.  Gio Valiante’s book Golf Flow is a great resource for this type of thinking.”
BOMB!! 😀 lol
My question to you is…
What are the one or two biggest mistakes you see coaches or players make in practicing like they’re going to play?
Please REPLY in the comments section below…