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ASK THE EXPERTS: Jeremy Frisch, Taylor Gardner, & Matt Nokes Cover The Shocking Mistakes Killing Your Swing 

Let’s start this party off with Mr.,

Jeremy Frisch – Owner of Achieve Performance

Jeremy Frisch is owner of Achieve Performance training in Clinton Massachusetts and former assistant strength and conditioning coach at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Massachusetts. Jeremy’s focus is on long-term athlete development where he works with children as young a 5 years of age up through college level athletes.

He’ll answer the following question I often get from my readers…

“What is an effective way to strengthen a swing, say mechanics are good but need more body strength for speed?”

Believe it or not, improving strength in the young athlete is easier than one might think. Young athletes need nothing more than their own body-weight or medicine ball to get stronger. When I train an young athlete’s I am looking at doing 4 exercises.

  1. Total body exercise
  2. Upper Body exercise
  3. Torso exercise
  4. Lower body exercise
Total body Exercise

In my opinion the bear crawl is one of the best all around total body exercises a young athlete can do. The bear crawl improves coordination, trains stability of the core and shoulder girdle and strengthens the lower body all at the same time. The bear crawl can be done in multiple directions, distances and speeds. Because of the difficulty of the exercise young athletes often fatigue quickly therefore very short distances should be used like 10-15 yards at a slow pace.

Upper body exercise

My go to exercise for training the upper body is so simple that many coaches don’t believe me. The exercise is simple: the bar hang. Hang from a chin-up bar or monkey bars with the arms straight for as long as possible. Develops unbelievable strength from the grip through the shoulder and core, not to mention develops mental toughness because the kids can always dig a little deeper and hold on for a few more seconds. Climbing and hanging is a long lost art in children’s lives. Maybe if kids were a bit stronger and more agile in the upper bodies these days we would see less elbow and shoulder injuries.

Torso Exercise

The medicine ball is a fantastic tool for developing rotation power needed to throw and swing a bat. A medicine ball and a brick wall makes a perfect combination to develop a powerful swing. The athlete stands sideways in a stance similar to their batting stance rotate the ball back and using a motion similar to a swing, throw the ball off the wall as hard as possible. Aim for both sides 3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions

Lower Body Exercise

One of the best and most affordable ways to develop great leg strength and as a bonus speed , running form and all around conditioning are hill sprints. Look to find a steep hill 15-25 yards long and sprint up full speed. The key with hill sprints is to make sure the athlete has the appropriate rest between sets. Too many coaches use hill sprints as a torture device to punish their athletes. All that does is make them tired slow and miserable. Baseball is a game of speed and power and hill sprints can develop that speed and power in the lower body. Each sprint should be followed with a slow walk down the hill followed by at least a minute to 1:30 rest. Look to get 10-15 full speed reps with good rest per workout 2 x per week.

You can see more of what Jeremy is doing at the following places:

 

Taylor Gardner – Co-Founder of The Backspin Batting Tee

Taylor Gardner is an Edison Award Winning Inventor of the Back-Spin Tee, who currently has the biggest social media following of any batting product in the world. With the help of his brother, former professional player and coach, he was able to break into the Major League Hitting World by bringing simple physics to the minds of many players and coaches. Now working across the world, Taylor is expanding his product line and instruction to bust the game’s biggest myths.

He’ll answer the following question I often get from my readers…

“Of all the issues you cover on hitting mechanics, what 2 do you consider to be the most compelling for most hitters?”

Of all the hitting mechanics that I have had the privilege of learning and teaching, there are two that stand out the most.

  1. The element of the stride in relation to getting on time and its importance into the weight shift, and
  2. The mechanism of lining the shoulders on path with the incoming pitch.
The Stride

The stride portion of the swing has seen many variations and is a highly talked about subject. I see a lot of hitters performing their style of a stride, but few seem to understand how to simplify the stride mechanism without destroying other vital parts of the swing. The stride itself is a combination of a step, and a weight shift…That’s what makes it a stride. If you simply reach your front foot forward with no regard for weight shift, it is a step, and practically adding another movement to the swing making your swing take longer than necessary.

I see a lot of young hitters believe that they are late on a ball because they reach their foot out, then weight shift, then attempt to align to the ball, and then swing. Yes, after doing all those movements, they are late…BUT…it’s because they started too soon!

During the stride a hitter can weight shift, and align their bodies to the pitch (yes, even getting into an advantageous position of lag) all in sync. Once the hitter lands all they must do is swing from there. It cuts the timeline down tremendously. Hitters can track the ball deeper than they ever had before and still take a powerful swing without sacrificing their rhythm or connected movements.

Think of how a quarterback throws a pass, or for the matter- a pitcher throwing a ball. They do a lot of great movements during their stride phase, so that when they land, they can simply “throw”. We like to call it “Land-throw timing” or “Land-swing timing” for the hitters.

Lining the Shoulders

Lining the shoulders on the ball is the second mechanism I see that a lot of hitters could benefit from learning more about. Yes, you can begin to get your shoulders lined up to the pitch during your stride phase, but to be more in depth, even if your stride doesn’t put you on perfect timing with the pitch (and most hitters are slightly early even on their best hits), you still must get your shoulders lined up to the pitch to stay on path for contact.

The barrel of the bat will be parallel to the shoulder plane at contact when done correctly. HOWEVER, this is where I see players and coaches trying to get on plane TOO SOON! If you drop your barrel on what seems to be on path early in the swing (Sounds like a good thing right?), but are unable to complete your weight shift/stride, or even track the ball long enough to decide where to swing, you will leave a huge hole in your swing that pitchers can pitch around.

I take some blame for this whole “Launch Angle” Revolution. My product was the first to talk about the importance of launch angles, and since, we have seen many people take our Trademark – “On Path, Bottom Half” to the extremes. You want to be on path with the pitch coming in, hitting the bottom half of the ball ON TIME. On time isn’t just hitting ball to center field, it also stands for

  • Shifting your weight on time,
  • Lining your shoulders on time, and
  • Releasing the energy into the bat on time.

Not early, and certainly not late. I understand hitting a baseball or softball is the single hardest thing to do in sports, however if you do not continue to understand the simple timing elements that lead to an appropriate swing, we will accidentally continue to make hitting a ball even harder than it already is.

You can stay up to date on what Taylor and the Backspin Tee are doing at the following places:

 

Matt Nokes – Founder of One Hitting Solution

Matt Nokes coaching “Around The Zone” Soft Toss

Matt Nokes is a 10-year MLB Veteran, playing for the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers.  In that time he was a Silver Slugger Award Winner and All-Star Catcher.  Since then he’s been working hard helping hitters as the founder of his company ONE HITTING SOLUTION.  

For over 20 years as a hitting coach he’s been researching and finding out what transforms hitters 99 out of 100 times, he’s developed 12 simple natural hitting Rules, Action Steps, Do’s NOT Don’ts, that he calls the 12 Touchstones because they’re the rehearsals that bring to the surface only the relevant “In The Zone Feelings”.

No more random adjustments 50 times a day fiddling with your mechanics. This program is a 6-week transformational reset suppressing all the clutter, myths and half truths you’ve learned over the years from coaches, parents and now YouTube.

The bottom line is these 12 Touchstones solve 99 out of 100 problems before they ever come up.  You become intentional and take action in the form of rehearsals that weave a triple braided chord of:

  1. Brutally efficient.
  2. Laser focused hitting mindset with the true MLB Plan as the proper context and perspective.
  3. Timing – the 3rd and final chord wrapped tight around the other 2 skill sets.

The glue holding all 3 together to execute your only mandate: Never Miss Your Pitch.  Click Here:   But first watch this short powerful video to give you an idea for what’s in store for you and you’ll be given the opportunity to schedule a FREE Strategy Call with Matt Nokes.

In this post, Matt Nokes answers the following question I often get from my readers…

“Of all the issues you cover on hitting mechanics what 2 do you consider to be the most compelling for most hitters?”

On the most primitive level, if you’re going to express timing with one physical mechanical expression it would be transferring into the ball on time. You can’t separate your weight shift from your swing [that’s called quitting], so it’s critical if you want to develop properly you need to learn to coordinate your stride and transfer.

The 1st way I’d practice getting your weight into the ball is by learning the basic movement of the “step to swing”. You can use a tee without a ball for a point to aim at but it’s good to begin rehearsing the movement without the distraction of whether you hit the ball hard or not.  Hitting the ball at this point is irrelevant.

You want to learn the movement first and then begin adding variables.  If you decide to NOT use a tee, make sure you visualize where the ball would be and don’t let your eyes wander.  You body follows your head but your head follows your eyes and if your eyes are wandering then you’re in trouble, and will most likely wobble in your rotation.

The 2nd way is adding the performance variable using a tee with the “Tall and Fall” drill:

 

The 3rd way would be to add a measure of timing. Once you’ve coordinated your stride and transfer then any soft toss drill will add a some more variables for timing but it’ll be easy enough for your automatic mind to handle without much trouble:

  1. Swinging across your face. Crossing your face is a swing rehearsal cue that ensures you don’t pull your head.  The alternative is to chase your face, and if you do that you’ll be pulling off the ball without much success. Swinging across your face may be the most powerful way to stay on the ball, direct your energy into a fine point and keep the ball fair on the inside pitch.
  2. What are your favorite drills to hit off speed pitches?
My best advice on hitting the curve-ball…Don’t miss the fastball

That sounds like a joke, but it’s not. The best hitters are always ready for the fastball don’t miss it.  Frank Robinson [Hall of Fame] changed the course of my career by teaching me the MLB Plan and a big part of it was never missing the fastball. Frank went on to say “you show me a good curve-ball hitter and I’ll show you a guy with a slow bat.

Ok now that we have that mindset on the books, let’s talk about hitting the off speed pitch.  First you need to practice good timing but without going too deep into timing philosophy there’s a few good ideas and rules to follow along with some solid methods for practicing…

Slow pitch in the batting cages.

A great place to start for hitting off speed pitches is also one of the most convenient places to start and that’s in an automatic batting cage [in the slowest cage].

Most young hitters have trouble hitting in the slow cages because they’ve never been taught to deal with all the timing variables and they’re often discouraged when they have trouble, but they give up before they learn how to let the ball travel.  It’s a mindset and a good way to think of a slow pitch is how you’d hit in slow pitch soft ball.

Trust me…Timing is a skillset that is easily taught but it’s counterintuitive because it’s not a popular topic in the mainstream hitting community.  It’s more popular to say timing can NOT be taught…but that’s a myth.

Seeing the ball up is another cue for hitting the off speed and helps you visualize the trajectory of a potential off speed pitch, so you can still look fastball but won’t freeze on the strike curve-ball. One of the first obstacles to overcome is understanding what causes hitters to vapor lock or freeze on the curve ball.

The higher release point of a “strike curveball” often freezes hitters  because it appears to look like a fastball thrown so high that the hitter immediately quits on it right as it’s released from the pitcher.

Now when a hitter is looking for a normal fastball between the waste and knees and gets a curveball in the dirt, they don’t automatically freeze on a ball in the dirt because it initially looks like a fastball. By the time you recognize it’s a curveball its usually too late and you’re feeling “I can still hit this”.

If you see the ball up you’re able to look for your fastball [you can always adjust down on a fastball] but by looking up the only curveball that’ll look good is the hanging strike curve-ball that usually makes you freeze early in the count.

 

Finally, there’s the technique I call one of the “Touchstones” called “Buying time”

Buying time involves going out and getting the ball by getting deeper into your legs, which gives the ball more time to travel into your hitting bubble within your reach.

Every 7/1000th of a second the ball travels a foot, so if you’re off 21/1000th of a second the ball is traveling 3 feet.  So buying time by falling deeper into your legs before you hit, gives the ball a little time to get closer, and your lower center of gravity allows you to access your farthest reach without leaking if you execute the “Touchstone” correctly.

Either way, you often have to go out and get the ball farther out front without interrupting the flow of your land swing timing.

You can see more of what Matt Nokes is doing at the following places:

But before I let you go…

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

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

Photo courtesy: MopUpDuty.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on,

As a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Teach Rearward Barrel Acceleration Without Understanding Pitch Depth First

 

There are a few “gurus” out there promoting a rearward barrel acceleration, which I agree with.  However, in teaching young hitters the concept over the past few years, with no disregard for pitch depth, some of my most clean hitters – mechanically – were having challenges getting to the inside pitch.  Rearward barrel acceleration is good, but MUST not be a blanket teach for all pitch depths.  The best hitters, like Mike Trout, alter the timing of the barrel’s release off the back shoulder.

Mike Trout Swing Case Study: Hitting The Catcher's Glove

Mike Trout swing case study: hitting the “catcher’s glove”. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Enter the content of this video.

Here’s what I tried to do in the above Mike Trout swing case study:

  • Select Mike Trout home-run swings that were based off similar pitch type, location, and pitch speed,
  • Same game would assume same catcher and catcher’s position relative to the hitter,
  • Same camera view, and preferably the same camera zoom setting,
  • Comparing inner third of plate pitch location barrel path versus outer third, and
  • Same pitcher would help control timing variable.

This was A LOT to ask, so truth be told…unfortunately, not all these points are affirmed in this case study.  Let’s compare Mike Trout’s 200th and 201st career homers on September 29, 2017…

Pitch #1:

  • Gonzalez was the pitcher
  • 86-mph FB? outer third part of the plate, mid-thigh high
  • Homer to LCF

Pitch #2:

  • Vincent was the pitcher
  • 90-mph FB, inner third of the plate, mid-thigh high
  • Homer to LF

A couple notes on Mike Trout’s “alligator arm” swing on Pitch #2:

  1. Okay if late on the inner half of the plate (purpose is to barrel up ball and that’s what Mike Trout is doing on pitch #2),
  2. NOT okay if doing off a tee, if on-time during soft-toss, or during dry swings (basically when timing is irrelevant or minimal), and
  3. CLICK HERE for a recent post on how to fix alligator arms, and how to practice what Mike Trout is doing with hitting the different “catcher’s gloves”.

How To Get Pitch Plane Domination Out Of Minimal Back Foot Rotation

 

Roberto Perez 1st Homer 2016 WS Game 1 to LF

This is Roberto Perez’s 1st dinger in Game 1 of the 2016 World Series. It was to LF, and look at the back foot. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

I wanted to do a follow up on the Matt Nokes post from a few weeks ago.

I received quite a few emails, like the following, from coaches who were a little confused as to what Nokes’s referred to as ‘back foot sideways’…

So I decided to do a short video (I know, a rarity these days :-P), seeing if I could bring some clarity to the issue.

Brian Clahane from Canada had emailed a comment about the Nokes post:

“Hey Joey, It’s Brian again…So you really have me thinking about this back foot sideways thing. I have been watching video and looking at still flip screens I have of hitters and I have to tell you I only see evidence of it on outside pitches or pitches hitters were late on.(Mccutchen and Miggie quite often when going other way)

I sent you this video of Cano to look at 1-because I know you use him as an example a lot and 2-because I found it under your name even though Chas Pippitt doing breakdown. Video shows what I keep seeing in that back foot rotated forward and normally as in this case off ground completely (not sideways).  If I am misinterpreting what keeping back foot sideways at contact means, please explain because it’s driving me crazy thinking I’m missing something! I just keep seeing back foot forward at contact.  Thanks, Brian”
The following video Brian had linked in the email from Chas:

 

The bottom line…

Roberto Perez 2nd Homer Game 1 2016 WS to LCF

Here’s Roberto Perez’s 2nd dinger in Game 1 of 2016 WS. It was to LCF. Look at his back foot. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

  1. When looking at video, the chest view IS NOT helpful.  Look for pitcher’s, catcher’s side, or over head views.
  2. The principle is to get the pelvis (or hips) perpendicular to impact, NOT to the pitcher.
  3. The back foot skips in some cases, and not so much in others. I’ve seen it skip away from home plate, toward the front foot, and toward the plate (not as often). In other words, you don’t have to have one without the other.
  4. What may also help are these two shifting foot pressure videos (Mickey Mantle AND RopeBat).
  5. One of the cues I liked came from Mark Meger from the Matt Nokes post, “With our 13U kids we do emphasize the rear hip drive but we shun turning that back foot. That should happen after contact as shown here.”
  6. The sideways back foot will deviate slightly depending on an inside v. outside pitch.
  7. This falls in line with this post on the 90-degree to the spine rule.
  8. In YouTube, search “[favorite player’s name] 2016 highlights”, and watch the behavior of the back foot at impact, and make note of batted ball direction.
  9. Also, it doesn’t seem ONLY .300 hitters do this because Roberto Perez, in the images above, is a career .220 hitter.
  10. My observation is the back foot acts like a “governor” to the rotation of the hips.  It’s like it helps anchor down the back hip from over rotating the impact zone.
  11. Doing this helps to align the body on the plane of the pitch better, and may cut down on rolling over versus a full rotation of the hips, on every pitch.
  12. Zepp experiment coming soon from HPL on this 😉

Please post any concerns, counter-arguments, and/or observations below…

6 Shocking Mistakes Killing Baseball Hitting Mechanics for Youth at Stride Landing

After posting the “Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Different Than Baseball? How?” rant on my Facebook fan page, I received the following baseball hitting mechanics for youth comments about the front knee behavior after landing…

“The locked out front knee is a more consistent method that results in a hard transfer of weight creating more power and less variation since it is the same every time. Coach Joe Brockhoff’s system is a great example.

I teach to lockout the leg when the heel hits the ground. I think if this method is causing too many ground balls there is something else going on with it. With the proper weight distribution and rotation throughout it is the most natural and consistent method.”

And I mostly agree.  However, I think there’s some confusion about what the front knee position should look like at landing.

In this baseball hitting mechanics for youth post, I want to address my top-6 reasons for landing bent:

  1. Engaging springy fascia in the legs,
  2. Pitch adaptability to off speed pitches,
  3. Shrinking the strike zone,
  4. Using Ground Reaction Forces,
  5. Getting eyes closer to lower pitches in the zone, and
  6. How humans change directions and planes of motion…

And, at the end, I wanted to clean up WHY I like my hitters to straighten their front leg at impact…

 

1. Engaging Springy Fascia in the Legs

Watch Thomas Myers, from his book Anatomy Trains, explain the importance of fascia (said like Fashia).

If you aren’t analyzing baseball hitting mechanics for youth based on the rules of fascia, then you’re wasting your hitters’ time.

It’s not enough to base the swing off firing fast twitch muscles fibers.  Repeatable power is in how we load fascia and fast twitch muscles.

For our purposes in this post, a hitter MUST be bending the knees at landing to engage, what Thomas Myers calls, the Spiral & Deep Functional Lines extending down as a stirrup under the feet.

My friend Lee Comeaux, who works with professional golfers out in Texas, has studied Thomas Myers’s book more extensively than myself, and he’s found the amount of bend in the knees at landing must add up to 45-degrees.

Same with the arms.

But my baseball hitting mechanics for youth point is, there has to be some bending in the  knees at landing to activate the springy fascia contained in the legs.  And the amount of bend will depend on the amount of Forward Momentum, and whether we’re talking a fastpitch or baseball hitter.

2. Pitch Adaptability to Off-Speed

In the above baseball hitting mechanics for youth video, I use Hanley Ramirez to demonstrate how important the bending of the front knee is to making timing adjustments to off-speed pitches.  CLICK HERE for the full HPL post.

In his book Positional Hitting, Jaime Cevallos called the hitter bending into the front knee at landing, or to buy more time, the:

  • ‘Cushion’ (normal timing), or
  • ‘Double Cushion’ (off-speed timing).

JK Whited and Chas Pippitt of the Baseball Rebellion calls it ‘pushing the pause button’.

And we typically see this if a hitter is sitting fastball, and adjusting to off-speed or breaking balls.

 

3. Shrinking the Strike Zone

Watch the above baseball hitting mechanics for youth video I did February 13, 2014 of Barry Bonds ‘getting shorter’.  It’s received over 47,789 views on YouTube. You can also find this ‘getting shorter’, OR shrinking the strike zone, approach with (pay attention to the action of their landing knee)…

Josh Donaldson

Jose Bautista

Mike Trout

Bryce Harper

And, Dustin Pedroia

Please do a baseball hitting mechanics for youth experiment for me…

Go into your bathroom with a bat (don’t worry, I’m not going to make you swing it)

Get into your stance facing the mirror, as the pitcher…

Now, draw a line on the mirror just above your head, using a dry erase pen.

Okay, so now stride and land with a straight front leg(make sure you have an athletic gap between your feet after striding).

Note the gap between where the top of your head is now, and the line you drew on the mirror.

Now, stride and land with a bent front leg,

How much of a gap there?

If you observe this little experiment with your hitters, you’ll see how we’re effectively ‘shrinking the strike zone’ by landing, what I call, ‘shorter’.

4. Using Ground Reaction Forces

Watch Chris Welch from Zenolink give a simplified background on Ground Reaction Forces (or GRF’s).

Basically, you push into the ground, and the ground pushes back, with equal and opposite force.

It’s VERY difficult to harness GRF’s when your knees are straight.

Try jumping as high as you can with straight knees.

Try running as fast as you can with straight knees (you’d look like Forest Gump with his leg braces on!!!) lol

Try defending a forward in basketball…

…a soccer striker…

…and an offensive Lineman on “the line” in football…

…with straight knees.

My baseball hitting mechanics for youth point is, you have to be athletic to hit.  And landing with a straight front leg doesn’t allow the hitter to optimally use GRF’s.

This also goes for the hitter’s stance.  I like my hitters to start with bend in their knees, regardless of the width of their feet.

5. Get Eyes Closer to Lower Pitches in the Zone

Taylor Gardner of the Backspin Tee brought this to my attention.  Watch what happens to the first baseman’s head when receiving a throw…

The first base person strides forward toward the incoming ball, and bends the front knee (‘gets shorter’) to get the eyes closer to the ball.

A hitter MUST do the same thing, although the ball isn’t coming straight at them like the first baseman in the video.

The pitch is coming in sideways.

And to be more consistent with hitting the ball hard, we have to teach our hitters to bring their body – somewhat – down to the pitch’s level.

In other words, you don’t hit a low pitch consistently well by landing on a stiff front knee.

 

6. How Humans Change Direction & Planes of Motion

Pay attention to how Armanti Edwards and other NFL wide receivers change direction while doing a “Route Tree Session” with trainer Gari Scott…

Watch them run routes from a big picture point of view.  In other words, not looking for any specific arm or leg angles.

Watch them ‘get lower’ when changing directions, or cutting.

They land on a bent plant leg, then push off the same leg, extending it, to accelerate again.

Baseball Hitting Mechanics for Youth: Planes of Motion

Three main planes of motion. Photo courtesy: goldsgymwebsterny.wordpress.com

There are three main human planes of motion:

  1. Saggital – divides the body into right and left halves
  2. Frontal (a.k.a. Coronal) – any vertical plane that divides the body into ventral and dorsal (belly and back), and
  3. Transverse (a.k.a. horizontal plane, axial plane, or transaxial plane) – is an imaginary plane that divides the body into superior and inferior parts. It is perpendicular to the coronal and sagittal planes.

In changing from one plane of motion to the other, there MUST be a ‘getting shorter’ of the body’s stature, as the athlete plants and pushes off the ground to change directions.

The wide receivers above are changing from the Sagittal (front to back) to Frontal (sideways) Planes.  While a hitter changes from the Frontal (sideways) to Transverse (rotational) Planes.

In other words, just like an NFL wide receiver goes from a bent plant leg to straight at push off, a hitter MUST go from a bent landing leg, to a straight leg at ‘push off’.  You don’t see these wide receivers keeping a ‘slight bend’ at the end of their push off.

So this brings me to the million dollar baseball hitting mechanics for youth question,

Straight Front Leg or Bent at Impact?

First a little background…

CLICK HERE for a Zepp experiment I did where I looked at the Discus technique of ‘blocking’.  ‘Blocking’ is basically the action of going from a bent front leg at landing, to straight at impact.

I took 100 swings landing bent versus landing straight with the front leg…

Results?

Baseball Hitting Mechanics for Youth: 'Blocking' Experiment

As you can see, landing bent with the front leg, then moving to straight at impact, added an average of 6-mph of bat speed!

CLICK HERE for another HPL article I did on ‘blocking’ analyzing Edwin Encarnacion’s swing.

Okay, so now that you’re following me on this,

Let’s look at the function of the front leg at impact, and WHY I choose to teach my hitters to straighten it versus keeping it bent…

Homer Kelly wrote The Golfing Machine.  He was an aeronautical engineer for Boeing during the Great Depression, and fell in love with golf, and applied his engineering principles to the golf swing.

About ‘Knee Action’ Homer Kelly says:

“The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

There’s a lot going on in that statement that you can run with…

But did you catch the bolded part?

We slant our body up in the direction of the straightened knee.  And this is assuming we’re working with enough bend in the back knee during the turn.

In other words, the pitcher is throwing downhill, and also yes in fastpitch the ball is falling down by the time it reaches the last 20% of ball flight.

Baseball Hitting Mechanics for Youth: The Science of Hitting

Photo from “The Science of Hitting”, book by Ted Williams

So if the hitter wants to be consistent, they MUST match the downward pitched plane with a positive barrel attack angle (barrel traveling up to impact), not negative (or down).

And according to Homer Kelly, the front knee must get to straight before impact, in order to slant the hitter (or golfer) up.

This is WHY I teach my hitters to land bent, then straighten the front leg at impact.  Big Leaguers don’t all do this of course.

There are many BIG slugger examples of keeping a slight bend in the front knee at impact, Mark McGwire and Mark Teixeira to name a few…

But I work with A LOT of smaller hitters that can’t afford to be mechanically ineffective at driving the ball.  I base my hitting program on human movement principles that are validated by science.  Not on theory, philosophy, or what I think is right or wrong.

I hold my hitters’ swings to a higher standard.  A standard that’s validated by science.

Baseball Batting Stance Hacking with Daniel Murphy & Joc Pederson

 

Baseball Batting Stance: Daniel Murphy

2015 Daniel Murphy in triple flexion (hip, knees, and ankles). Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This baseball batting stance video post was sparked by my friend, whom I admire and respect as a man AND hitting instructor, doing great work in the San Diego-California area, Ryan Lehr (@thepureswingsd).

He’s worked under the hitting tutelage of Reggie Smith for over 15 years, and really has a fantastic grasp of the absolutes to the swing.

For those of you who don’t know Reggie Smith’s teachings, he’s as much of a ‘science-guy’ as we are.

And yes, this works for fastpitch softball as well as baseball.

The point of this video post, is to look at being in an athletic baseball batting stance and its effect on reducing strikeouts.

We’ll be looking at:

  • Effective baseball batting stance context,
  • Metrics of low-strikeout high-ISO hitters, and
  • Which low-K% high-ISO MLB hitters to model?

 

Effective Baseball Batting Stance Context

Easier to Hit Difficult Pitches

At Ryan Lehr & Reggie Smith’s Christmas hitting clinic, Kevin Sweeney talked about how getting more athletic in his baseball batting stance allowed him to hit difficult pitches

Making Adjustments to Gravitational Forces

Taylor Gardner, founder of the Backspin Batting Tee, says that a first baseman stretches toward the thrown ball when receiving it.  Knees are bent and the eyes are getting on level plane with thrown ball and receiving glove.

Gravitational Forces are acting on the ball at ALL times.

Here’s something that may piss off some fastpitch softball pitching coaches and pitchers…

Taylor Gardner came to the conclusion that a ‘rise-ball’ is a myth.  And I AGREE!

And if you don’t believe us:

  • Find your fastest fastpitch softball pitcher,
  • Video record her throwing a ‘rise-ball’ from the side angle where you get her and the catcher in the same frame, and
  • Track the trajectory of the ball’s flight to the catcher’s glove on slo-mo software…

I guarantee the apex of the pitched ball’s arc will be above where it’s caught by the catcher.

It’s because of GRAVITY!!!

Sure the arc will be less, the harder the pitcher throws, but there will still be an arc nonetheless.

Who Else Gets into an Athletic Position?

Baseball Batting Stance: Michael Brantley

2015 Michael Brantley in triple flexion. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

I ask my players what knee position they’d start in if they were:

  • Defending against a quickly advancing soccer striker,
  • Defending a fast wide receiver five-yards off the line,
  • The only one between a breakaway power forward and the hoop in basketball,
  • Going to throw a 16-pound Shot Put as far as humanly possible, or
  • Receiving a blazing serve from Roger Federer?

CLICK HERE for Speed Coach Lee Taft (@LeeTaft) blog post on why bending the knees is important to force production.

I alluded to the ‘triple flexion’ baseball batting stance in this video post breaking down Joey Votto’s swing.

Votto has one of the best swings to model if you want to cut down on ground-balls, strikeouts, weak fly balls, and just want to get on base more and make more frequent solid contact.  He’s the ultimate Pitch-Plane Dominator!

Metrics of Low-Strikeout High-ISO Hitters

I wanted to compare the Strikeout Percentage and ISO metrics to see if we could find a correlation between the baseball batting stance and hitters who rarely strikeout, but also maintain some element of power.

One of the biggest MYTHS is that you can only be a contact hitter, or a power hitter.  And that you can’t be both.  Nowadays, SABERmetric people conclude that when homers go up, so does the rise of strikeouts.

My belief is there CAN BE more going on between the numbers…

When looking back in time, we saw quite a few examples of fusing minimal strikeouts and raw power…Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, and Babe Ruth to name a few.

Okay, so what is ISO?  Isolated Power, according to FanGraphs.com basically describes a hitters “raw power”.

For you SABR wannabe math nerds (like me!), here’s a simple formula to compute ISO in two different ways:

  • ISO = SLG minus AVG, OR
  • ISO = Extra Bases divided by At-Bats 

Here’s an excel spreadsheet I put together, using FanGraph.com’s metrics, on the top-5 highest and lowest strikeout percentages among 2015 hitters, their ISO’s, and dinger totals:

Baseball Batting Stance: K% v. ISO Top-5

We analyze the highlighted hitters in the above video. Daniel Murphy and Michael Brantley having virtually above average ISO’s…

Compare how these hitters rank for K%:

strikeout-rating

According to Fangraphs.com

Compare how these hitters stack up for ISO:

iso-rating

According to FanGraphs.com

What’s plain as day is how ‘awful’ the top-5 highest K% are.  Eee-gads!  Not even trying there 😛

The silver lining though, is that there are a couple top-5 lowest K% that have virtually above average ISO’s, and one I’m excited to see perform in 2016 with a change in his baseball batting stance toward the end of the 2015 season…

 

Which Low Strikeout MLB Hitters to Model?

Baseball Batting Stance: Joc Pederson 2015 BEFORE/AFTER change

Notice Joc Pederson baseball batting stance change – left image is halfway through 2015 & right image is at the end of 2015. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues”.  He also said,

“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.”

If you’re the coach (or hitter) who’s goal it is to reduce strikeouts among your hitters, while also preserving some elements of power, whose swing should you model?

…At least from a baseball batting stance point of view?

After analyzing the metrics, my answer’s are:

  • Daniel Murphy,
  • Michael Brantley, and
  • Joc Pederson (the end of 2015 baseball batting stance version).

Watch the video above for more in-depth analysis of these hitters.

I’m not sure how many strikeouts Joc Pederson had without ‘triple flexion’ in 2015 versus with it, but I’m anticipating way less strikeouts for him in 2016 if he keeps this principle in his baseball batting stance.  He’s a special hitter, and not a very big slugger (6’1″, 215-pounds).

Also, I know that correlation may not equal causation in this case, but it’s worth looking into.  So I’d love your thoughts and analysis on other low K% hitters with above average ISO’s…

To be continued… 😉

Baseball Hitting Tips For Youth: Can We Teach One Swing To ALL Hitters?

 

This is Part-3 of a 3-part baseball hitting tips for youth video series coming straight out of the Pitch-Plane Dominator online video mini-course…

Pitch Plane Dominator Online Video Course

Sick of struggling to reduce your hitters ground balls, swing and miss strikeouts, and non-productive weak fly balls?  This simple 4-Step online video mini-course (7-modules total) will help hitters weighing less than 100-pounds, barrel the ball more consistently.  Dramatically decrease ground balls, strikeouts, and weak fly balls (no matter the pitch location or speed) by applying human movement rules validated by science.

If you haven’t already, then CLICK the Link below to…

Get Access to The Pitch Plane Dominator Online Video Mini-Course

 

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I received the following reader question:

“Do you believe in one swing fits all hitters?”

In this baseball hitting tips for youth video post, we’ll:

  • Define ‘one-swing-fits-all’,
  • Reveal a human movement formula, and
  • Talk about how Principles are like bowling “bumpers”.

Before you get your panties in a bunch, let’s…

 

Define ‘One-Swing-Fits-All’

Baseball Hitting Tips For Youth: Kevin Youkilis "dainty hands"

Kevin Youkilis “Dainty” hand grip photo courtesy: njjewishnews.com

Is there truly a ‘one-swing-fits-all’ baseball hitting tips for youth hitting approach?

Most baseball or softball hitting savants will tell you that you can’t mold every hitter into cookie cutter mechanics.

But I’m here to tell those people,

You’re WRONG.

DEAD wrong.

Look, I know this will piss some people off.

And it may sound like I’m setting the hitting community back 4-decades for saying it.

But hear me out,

I’m not talking about messing with a hitter’s “style”

  • Babe Ruth’s unique feet together position pre-pitch….OR
  • Joe Morgan’s ‘chicken-wing’ back elbow…OR
  • The patented Kevin Youkilis dainty hand grip position pre-swing (pictured above).

Here’s what I’m saying,

Hitting is quite frankly…

A Human Movement Formula

Hammer Throw: Centripetal/Centrifugal Forces

Olympic Hammer Thrower uses Centripetal/Centrifugal Forces. Photo courtesy: i.eurosport.com/

Like Tony Robbins always says, success leaves clues.

And there are certain players that dominate the Pitch-Plane, like I covered in this Joey Votto baseball swing slow motion analysis video.

What are the baseball hitting tips for youth clues hitters like Joey Votto are leaving behind for us to model?

Or better yet, what natural forces on the planet empower him to be such a tough out, while also hitting the ball consistently harder than others?

Let’s revisit the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote from above:

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

A ‘one-swing-fits-all’ hitting approach has to do with, The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods”.

Think of ‘methods’ as the hitting drill or movement being practiced.  And the ‘principle’ as the objective that that hitting drill is based upon.

What baseball hitting tips for youth principles govern human movement, are validated by science, and are clues that are left behind by hitters, like Joey Votto, who effectively dominate the Pitch-Plane?

What’s more…

Principles are like ‘Bowling Bumpers’

Bowling Bumpers: Principles to Human Movement

“Bowling Bumpers” photo courtesy: sellabitmum.com

Think of these baseball hitting tips for youth human movement principles, or “rules”, as bowling bumpers.

Whenever we teach a ‘one-swing-fits-all’ approach, be careful that you’re not to mess with a hitter’s style.

HOWEVER, what does NEED to be analyzed is whether the hitter is using the myriad of principles mentioned above.  These are the “bumpers”.

When analyzing any hitter…male OR female…Little Leaguer OR professional,

We need to know whether Johnny or Sally are applying Ground Reaction Forces (or GRF’s) properly.  Are they loading and unloading their body correctly?  Are they using rotation and anti-rotation forces effectively?  Are they moving their spine in a way that’s safe, but also optimizes the body’s energy transfer?

This is where I believe in a ‘One-Swing-Fits-All’ hitters.  It has NOTHING to do with a hitter’s style, and MORE to do with a hitter’s use of naturally occurring forces on the planet.

If you aren’t teaching the swing between these ‘bumpers’, then you’ll be left far behind.  And most certainly will your hitters.

How Do You Strikeout 208 Times in 2015 Like Chris Davis? (Is Baseball Swing Path the Issue Here?)…

Baseball Swing Plane: Chris Davis

Notice the Chris Davis baseball swing plane is up, up, UP. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

(By the way, this post is VERY applicable to fastpitch softball as well)…

Is Chris Davis taking more of an extreme uppercut on the baseball swing plane?

Is he not cutting down on his swing with 2-strikes?

Is he using an excessive barrel tilt, before he launches into the turn, much like Josh Donaldson did between the 2013 and 2014 seasons?  CLICK HERE for this Athletics Nation post titled, “Josh Donaldson: Changes in Approach & Mechanics”.

Is he more susceptible to swinging at pitches out of the strike zone than say a Joey Votto?  CLICK HERE for this great “Joey Votto on Hitting” FanGraphs.com article about the changes he made to his baseball swing path in 2013.

Or, is his baseball swing plane so stubborn as to not adjust to higher Effective Velocities (EV), according to this fantastic analysis by Perry Husband:

 

Also, CLICK HERE for a Joey Votto video analysis I recently did.  He is the ultimate Pitch-Plane Dominator!

Here’s another perspective, from a guy I admire because he will readily admit he was wrong – on national television!!

Check out this short 3-min, 47-sec baseball swing path video of Harold Reynolds offering an explanation to the increase in MLB hitter strikeouts:

This video was done in July of 2012.  Basically, Harold Reynolds traces the high strikeout totals back to how coaches push their hitters to ‘let the ball get deep’.

Look, hitter’s are dealing with hitting a pitch that, beforehand, they DO NOT know what:

  • Pitch it is,
  • Speed it is, and
  • Location it is.

Sure, there are probabilities, but they’re almost NEVER 100% sure (stealing signs and/or a pitcher’s ‘tells’ aside).

Baseball Swing Path: Ted Williams The Science Of Hitting

Illustration from Ted Williams’s The Science Of Hitting book on matching the plane of the pitch. The bottom image can even serve as the extreme uppercut if flipped upwards.

Hitters have to build a large margin for error into their swings, if they want to succeed.

Then it got me thinking…

Sometimes we can learn more from what not to do, than what to do.

Coaches & instructors, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Please ‘Leave a REPLY’ in the comments section below to the following question…

What are the 2 biggest baseball swing path mistakes you think hitters make that lead to higher strikeouts?

 

It may be how you’re using it…

Giancarlo Stanton: Video Analysis Software Causing You To Lose Out On Repeatable Power?

Giancarlo Stanton bat lag. Photo courtesy: SBNation.com

The other day, I received a YouTube comment on my Adrian Gonzalez video:

“Ken Griffey Jr’s swing doesn’t display any handicap to the optimization of his angular momentum. His lead shoulder is pulled back leaving his hands quite close to his body.”
This viewer is referring to an early arm bar.  This is okay in golf, because they’re hitting a stationary object and not worried about timing.  Not okay in baseball and softball…
The preceding viewer doesn’t know how to manipulate the Conservation of Angular Momentum (think spinning ice skater) to time an unknown moving pitch and hit it consistently hard.  They’re mistaking the forest for the trees.
In this video post, we’ll look at:
  • Priorities: video analysis software v. human movement rules,
  • What do a bucket, hanging object, and hitter’s front arm have in common, and
  • The 90-degrees from the spine rule

 

Priorities: Video Analysis Software v. Human Movement Rules

Video analysis software: PowerChalk.com

This is the video analysis software I use from Powerchalk.com

I used to be “that guy” who poured over slow motion swing footage using state of the art video analysis software.  Slow motion analysis of hitters has become a peeing contest in hitting forums.  You know the type…they’ve studied the video…they’ve worked with [fill in the blank name] professional hitter(s)…they coached 30+ years at a high level.

These “paper tiger” credentials don’t mean a thing to me now (and they shouldn’t to you, regardless of your experience in the game)

I’ve been in corrective fitness for 10 years, and see a never-ending pattern of inefficient and flawed hitting mechanics.  FOUR reasons why today’s hitters – YES, even the professional ones – are inefficient with their swings:

  1. Athletes are more sedentary nowadays,
  2. Hitting mechanics are often over-coached and micro-managed,
  3. A majority of instructors or coaches teach what I call “backward hitting strategies”, and
  4. Mechanical cues are general, misunderstood, and ineffective.

So who has the upper hand in today’s hitting forums, when it comes to video analysis software use?  The person who understands human movement rules.  One has to understand “the rules” first.  As a result, this will cut slow motion video analysis time in half!  This is seeing the forest before the trees.

Here’s an example of what I mean…

What Do a Bucket, Hanging Object, and Hitter’s Front Arm have in Common?

Giancarlo Stanton: 90-degree bat to spine rule using video analysis software

Giancarlo Stanton from the pitcher’s view…90-degree front elbow to spine at start and impact. Photo courtesy of MLB.com

We’re going to science for optimal placement of the front upper arm to set the plane of the pitch early, before the Final Turn.  Here’s an email response I sent to one of my hitting friends, Bob Hall from Canada, about this very topic:

“Imagine a bucket with a large lip.  Punch a hole in the lip and tie a string with a rock attached to the string at the bottom.  Now, the level of the bucket lip is the shoulder angle.  If you tip the bucket towards where the rock and string are attached, the rock will continue pointing “down”, and the space between the bucket and string will widen.”

Before the Final Turn, the efficient hitter will utilize a downhill shoulder angle (tipping the lip of the bucket).  The elbow will continue to point down because of Gravity (the rock hanging from the lip), causing the light gap under the front armpit to widen.  If the hitter artificially points the elbow up or down from this natural position, then muscles will activate making the hitter’s chances of getting on pitch-plane inefficient.

This is looking to human movement rules first.  Now, let’s look under the hood using video analysis software…

 

The 90-Degrees from the Spine Rule

Giancarlo Stanton: 90-degree angle bat to spine rule from the backside.

Giancarlo Stanton from the backside: 90-degree angle rule. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

One of my readers, Kyle Harrington, posted this comment on the blog recently:

One principle is that the bat only really accelerates efficiently when it is on a single plane. The only way to get maximum acceleration of the barrel is to have the swing path at 90 degrees to the spine angle. The only way to do this is to have the lead arm high and also 90 degrees to the spine. If the hands are too high or too low when both these other conditions are met, then the swing will be off plane.”

Using Powerchalk’s motion analysis software, we can see this pretty consistently with top hitters like Giancarlo Stanton.  We can adjust to pitch height by bending at the waist, but the barrel should follow the 90-degree from the spine rule.

So, using motion analysis is good, but should take a “back seat” to understanding scientifically proven human movement rules.

 

Adrian Beltre VIDEO: Can Driving the Ball Be This Simple?

Adrian Beltre staying low on pitch-plane to a fault. Photo courtesy: OnlineAthens.com

This weekend I worked with a professional hitter Zack Esquerra, from the San Diego area, who was recently released after a couple years in the Diamondbacks organization on this very topic.

In this post,

We’ll go over how easy it can be to drive the ball by simply changing the position of the back leg during the Final Turn.  We’ll use Adrian Beltre’s swing as a model and go over:

  • Adrian Beltre: pitch-plane mastery,
  • Role of back leg during the Final Turn, and
  • #1 drill to fixing a faulty back leg angle…

 

Adrian Beltre: Pitch-Plane Mastery

Adrian Beltre is a great example of a smaller hitter (5’11”, 220-pounds) having to do it right to compete with bigger ones.  Here’s what he does so well:

  • Gets low,
  • Back leg angle (stays low),
  • Barrel is short to plane of the pitch, and
  • Barrel stays on pitch-plane…

Interesting to note, Adrian Beltre is below average with his ground-ball and strikeout percentages, and above average with his home-run to fly-ball ratio.  Most of the hitters I first see – Zack  included – have this reversed!  Here are a few of Adrian Beltre’s key offensive Metrics:

Adrian Beltre Key Pitch Plane Metrics

Check out this slow motion clip of Adrian Beltre (different clip from the main video above)…look how he almost “snipes” the catcher’s glove!

 

Role of Back Leg During Final Turn

Homer Kelly says this in his book The Golfing Machine:

“The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

Homer Kelly’s statement has as much to do with hitting as it does with the golf swing!  During the Final Turn, Adrian Beltre uses his flexed back knee (and straightened front one) to slant his body up towards the downward traveling pitch.  This was an immediate challenge with Zack’s swing, but once we quickly corrected it, we saw ball flight go from knee level line drives and in the ground, to head level line drives and driving the ball in the gap.

 

#1 Drill to Fixing a Faulty Back Leg Angle

CLICK HERE to view this post to learn more about the Art of Variance.  Here’s how to do the Back Foot Variance Drill:

ONE FINAL NOTE: Adrian Beltre stays on the plane of the pitch so well during the Final Turn, I think he does it to a fault.  You’ve seen the pictures of him sometimes finishing with his back knee on the ground (pictured above)?  This can be caused by trying to stay low on the pitch-plane with too wide a base.  In other words, his back foot doesn’t follow his front much after the stride, resulting in his feet being too far apart.  He would be more efficient if he “skipped” the back foot forward a little bit during the Final Turn and maintained more of a bend (90-100 degrees) in the back leg.