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The NEW Way Pitchers Are Getting Hitters Out That May Be Hiding Under Your Nose…

Know WHY, according to Baseball-Reference.com, strikeouts (41,207) edged out hits (41,018) in the Big Leagues in 2018?  In my opinion, the above MLB Tonight Brian Kenny interview of Trevor Bauer has the answers.

Carlos Pena Effective Velocity

Carlos Pena fouling a ball off in 2009. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Could it be…

  • The Launch Angle craze? Maybe…
  • Hitters just don’t care about strikeouts anymore? Maybe…
  • The front office putting higher value recruiting players based on key Sabermetrics?  Maybe.

However, in my opinion, these are all symptoms to the direct cause.  Yes, hitters are being taught that ground-balls are gross.  And since the book and movie Moneyball came out, Math revealed key metrics measuring how often:

  • A hitter gets on base, and
  • They hit for extra bases…

…are better predictors to scoring runs.  Here’s a shot across the bow for the hitting coaches…

Back to the Trevor Bauer Evolution of Metrics conversation above,

Perry Husband, of HittingIsAGuess.com, has been sharing Effective Velocity principles for almost 2 decades, and it’s finally getting people’s attention.  WHY?  Because more and more pitchers are starting to apply the timing disruption principles.  Unlike golf, timing is a MAJOR factor in how consistently hard a hitter hits the ball.  And it’s THIS factor of a hitter’s success that’s under MAJOR attack.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?  Read on, because Perry, myself, and many others see the writing on the wall…remember when Wayne Gretzky so famously said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

I speak to MANY MANY coaches, and a majority of them, are disgusted with the sheer number of offensive strikeouts over the last few years, so their solution is to teach a defensive “just get on base” swing.  Are you kidding?!  More pitchers are throwing 96-mph+ at the higher levels nowadays, they LOVE facing hitters being taught a defensive “just get on base” swing.  And it’s not just at the highest levels, overall average velocities are going up across the board because of better training programs.

And by the way, it’s not about the higher pitching velocities per se, because we can train hitters to see faster speeds in the “lab”, making the increased game velocities “seem” slower.  That’s only one-dimension to pitching, as Trevor Bauer puts it in the interview.

It’s what pitchers are being taught to do with added velocity, manipulating hitters’ reaction times.  Don’t you see, the game is speeding up for hitters, and coaches are ill equipped to deal with the adjustment right now.  They’re running east, chasing a sunset!

Rest assured, we’re going to make a better decision and train differently.  Coaches, you’ve been WARNED.  In this post, we’ll discuss:

  • The NEW way pitchers are getting hitters out, and
  • How to counter this strategy…

 

The NEW Way Pitchers are Getting Hitters Out

Trevor Bauer & Effective Velocity

Trevor Bauer interview with Brian Kenny of MLB Network. Photo courtesy: MLB Network

Here are my notes on Trevor Bauer’s scouting report on hitters…

  • At the 40-second mark, Trevor talks about having a specific “pitch mix”.  And he adds that the delivery of that mix is different for every pitcher – how does he utilize it the best. He looks at hitter’s heat map and compares strengths and weaknesses to his “pitch mix” heat map strengths and weaknesses.  What gives a pitcher the best chance of being successful?
  • At the 2-min, 20-second mark, Brian asks Trevor about pitch sequencing – which pitch should follow the next? Taking away as many “tip-off” cues hitters use.  #1: Changing your body (i.e. tilting off while throwing a CB – mechanics have to be consistent). #2: How does the ball come out of the hand – tunneling, hitters can see “up and down” well, but not “side to side”, so he’s trying to minimize the “hump” in his pitches.  The more he can hide pitching cues, the later the hitter sees the ball, and the more likely the pitcher wins.  Neutral and clean mechanics.
  • At the 3-minute, 45-seconds mark, Trevor Bauer talks about starting off his pitches in the middle and let the movement get to the spot he’s trying to hit.  He worked on a new pitch to fill a hole in his pitching repertoire – he needed a pitch that could slide to his glove side that didn’t drop like his curveball.
  • At the 6-minute, 45-second mark, Brian asks when Trevor is getting hit, what’s the checklist he goes through to get back on track? He feels his speed differentials are off, either he’s throwing too hard or too soft, for example in early 2017 the data said he was throwing too high a percentage of hard stuff – 4/2-seam FB and cutters, and not enough slow with the CB, SL, and Change.  Once organized, hitters had a tough time. 3-Dimensional pitching approach: dealing with front to back (differing velos 95 to 85 to 78-mph), left to right (2-seam, 4-seam, cutter, slider), and up to down (4-seam, SL, and CB).

Did you catch that last bullet point?  There’s the Holy Grail of pitchers’ scouting reports right there.  Other than that, a lot of REALLY good intel in almost 9-mins, so how do hitting coaches counter this gameplan?  Take it from a hitter’s point of view, Carlos Pena, who studied under Perry Husband back in 2009, and in the following video, makes a good case to a promising counter-move…

 

How to Counter this Strategy…

Here are my notes on Carlos Pena’s scouting report on pitchers who use Effective Velocity…

  • At the 15-second mark, talks about hunting pitches, addresses the hitting myth of “looking for the ball away and react in”…pick a spot, a speed, and a rhythm to dance to, react within those parameters,
  • At the 1-minute mark, looking for ball away and reacting in would work for one maybe two-dimensional pitchers, objective is to make good contact more often, having an EV plan against a pitcher makes hitting “easier”, setting “coordinates” like latitude and longitude, and work within those parameters, having a “blast radius” and only working within those parameters, match the timing to what you’re looking for, helps hitters to lay off stuff, eliminates half to 3/4 of the strike zone when pitchers get pretty good.
  • At the 2-minute, 40-second mark, Carlos talks about his struggles at the beginning of 2009, he met Perry Husband, and he ended up leading the league in homers by the end of the season.

Leg Kicks May Be Dangerous To Pitchers (And Hitters That Don’t Perfect Them)

Before I get into the Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown video featuring Mark DeRosa & Cliff Floyd above…

I wanted to give you a heads up of what’s in this post:

  • Lesson learned from my school of hard knocks,
  • How to fix striking out every at-bat in tournament, and
  • Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown.

 

Lessons Learned from School of Hard Knocks

Rhys Hoskins: MLBNetwork Swing Breakdown

Rhys Hoskins says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can. Photo courtesy: Sports Bay Area

I recently worked with a newer 12/13u hitter of mine, where he shared he had a terrible tournament, where he struck out virtually every at-bat the weekend before.

This immediately raised a red flag for me.

The easy thing to do for a player – and a dad or mom – is to point to a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

As a hitting coach, if this isn’t your first rodeo, then you know this is not the case a majority of the time.

Quick back story,

My last year of Little League was insane:

  • Hit .880 regular season, .770 in All-Stars,
  • 30+ dingers,
  • 40+ doubles, and
  • Struck out a grand total of 3 times in the span of 6 months.

By the way, looking at old VHS video of that swing, I was doing what I teach now.  All those strikeouts were early in the regular season, and once I settled down, they vanished entirely.

I was ignorance on fire!

Brace yourself for the “fall”…

The next year I made the move to the big field, with no pitching distance transition like there are nowadays.  I found myself swinging and missing A LOT.

I got so frustrated with myself,  and what do you think my dumb brain thought was the problem?

Right-O!! Mechanics.

Do you know the REAL cause?

Let me give you a clue…the word starts with a “T” and ends with “-iming” 😛 lol

I was being driven by my fear of getting “caught up” to by other players.  And yes, the whispers started in Middle School when I struggled to recover my old swing.

Do you know how much of a nightmare that is for a hitter who’s super driven to succeed like I was?

This fear drove me into the bookstore to read every book on hitting I could get my hungry teenager hands on.  Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Charlie Lau, Mike Schmidt, and on and on.  Nothing seemed to help.  I obsessively watched film of that swing trying to figure out what I was missing or leaving out.

Hey, at least I wasn’t out stealing cars!

It was a 4-year mind-fudge that ended in recovering my batting average – somewhat – but not my power the last two years in High School.  Thinking back now, it’s a miracle I ended up with a scholarship at Fresno State.

The point of this story is, negative tournament outcomes don’t necessarily mean a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

Back to my young hitter…

 

How To Fix Striking Out Every At-Bat in Tournament

So I had three questions I planned asking my hitter, in diagnosing the challenges he had with his last tournament:

  • The first one is, were you focusing on the new stuff we worked on last lesson (which was a week before), during game at-bats?
  • If the answer is NO to that question, then I would ask, how many strikes did you swing at, OR not swing at?
  • If they’re swinging at good pitches, then on the swings you took, how many were “on-time”?

If they pass the first three questions, then we look at seeking and fixing the ineffective swing mechanic.

However, this particular hitter failed question one.  I hadn’t warned him about bringing new swing techniques into game at-bats.  I told him that in games, your focus MUST be on swinging at good pitches and getting on-time.  It’s to compete.

I teach hitters my painful lesson.

The good news is, this hitter will be on the up and up again, and won’t have to go through the frustration, struggle, and anger I went through attempting to fix something I knew nothing about at the time.  And frankly, the only one who had a clue was Ted Williams, but his message was drowned out in the other white noise I was hearing, reading, and watching.  Paralysis by over analysis.

Now, let’s tie in the Rhys Hoskins video above…

Rhys Hoskins Swing Breakdown

Below you’ll find video notes I took.  Afterward, I’ll only focus on about a couple of these, I think others will make for good conversation in the Comments section below…

  1. About 1:20 min mark, DeRosa: “Hands go along for the ride…not a lot of hand load”
  2. About 1:40 min mark, DeRosa brings up examples of “violent hand loads” featuring: Cecil Fielder, Vlad Guerrero, Gary Sheffield…and Manny Ramirez, Buster Posey, Justin Turner, and Daniel Murphy used as examples of “not a lot of hand load”
  3. About 2:20 min mark, DeRosa: asks Rhys is he’s conscious about his pre-swing hand movement. Rhys says all he’s worrying about is having some separation between his body and where his hands are during load
  4. About 2:50 min mark, Rhys: “The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”. Cliff Floyd talks about having a leg kick is a perfection type of approach. Pitchers are trying to disrupt a leg kicker: tempo, changing speeds, etc.
  5. About 3:20 min mark, Floyd says Rhys has something you can’t teach: “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…Floyd says it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.
  6. About 4:00 min mark, Cliff Floyd goes into more detail about a hitter focusing on perfecting the timing of a leg kick, and not worry about anything else, or else you’re screwed.  Rhys talks about getting “inside the pitcher’s rhythm in the on-deck circle”.  Cliff Floyd comments: “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.
  7. About 5:10 min mark, Mark DeRosa is wanting Rhys to explain the use of his hands and back elbow.  Cliff Floyd says if you want the kid to go into a slump keep talking about hands and elbows.  Rhys says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can.
  8. About 6:10 min mark, talks about “knee to knee” “hover” leg kick.  More balance, don’t get over backside.

A lot more good than bad in this video.  I wanted to focus on the timing aspect though…

Just to be upfront with you, I’m not one of those instructors that teaches a leg kick to ALL my hitters.  I think this is a BIG mistake.  If my hitter doesn’t have what I call a “Float” (aka stride type) built into their swing already, then I ask them to experiment a little.  Or if what they’re using isn’t effective at getting them on time and dynamically balanced, then we get resourceful.

We experiment with:

  • A leg kick (medium or high),
  • Slide step, and
  • Toe-tap.

By the end, they find that one of these techniques allows them to time the ball better, and it may not be what they started with.  We’re looking for what they’re comfortable with, and can execute the swing dynamically balanced.

You heard Rhys Hoskins say,

“The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”

This was after DeRo prodded him to explain what his hands and back elbow are doing.  Cliff Floyd got on DeRo that he’s going to force Rhys into a slump with all this hands talk! lol

Floyd also said that a lot of time and energy needs to be spent on perfecting the timing of the leg kick.  He added, “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.  This is very important.

Some of my good hitting friends online, who I highly respect in their knowledge, don’t believe timing can be taught or calibrated. I respectfully disagree.

If you can teach a pair of chickens to play ping-pong, then yes, timing can be taught.  True story by the way – with the chicken (read Don’t Shoot The Dog: The New Art Of Teaching And Training).

I’ve also heard pitching coaches on the Socials say they lick their lips when seeing a hitter with a leg kick.  And you heard Cliff Floyd address a pitcher’s job is to disrupt a leg kicker by changing their delivery tempo, changing speeds, etc.

But then Floyd turns around and compliments Hoskins saying, “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…and adds, it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.

Calibrating a hitter’s timing and pitch recognition training are a deadly combination for pitchers who salivate over seeing a leg kicking hitter.  I asked this coach whether he’d salivate over facing Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, or Mike Trout.  He didn’t answer.

Coaches, if you don’t give hitters tools for their toolbox, then they’re up there hitting blind.  Don’t make them hit the pinata blind folded!

 

Here are some resources to take back to your hitters on timing and pitch recognition:

You can teach timing.  You can teach pitch recognition.  Woe to the pitcher that pitches to hitters who train both.  The winds of change are a blowin’ for hitters over pitchers.  When troubleshooting with your hitters, remember:

  • The lesson from my school of hard knocks,
  • How to fix striking out every at-bat in a tournament, and
  • Timing lessons from Rhys Hoskins.

Get Rid of Pitch Recognition, Plate Discipline, & Timing Challenges Once and For All 

Photo courtesy: News.Missouri.Edu

In this post,

I answer the following three fan questions:

  • How do you practice picking up the pitch early?
  • Do you have players swing at everything during batting practice or let them be selective? What drills are good for teaching a player to hit a ball where it is pitched? And,
  • Why is Timing not taught throughout majority instructors? Great mechanics are good but without Timing principles, you just look good going back to the dugout. What are some of the different ways you would teach/describe Timing?

The following is a compilation of resources I wish I had when I was still playing.

Coaches, if you aren’t taking full advantage of these, then you’ll be slowly losing ground in games over the next 5 years, that I can assure you.  Get out ahead!

Onward…

 

How do you practice picking up the pitch early?

Check out the feedback software you can use to work on getting GREAT at pitch recognition.  Dr. Peter Fadde calls this ‘video occlusion’, which allows a hitter to focus on pattern recognition for the first 10-20 feet of ball flight.  CLICK HERE for a blog interview I did with Dr. Fadde for more information on the benefits of his ‘video occlusion’ training.

As Jaime Cevallos said in this interview, “pitch recognition” is an untapped area for players these days.

The greatest thing about the GameSense software, is that coaches can keep track of their players’ use of the software with real numbers.  What’s measurable is manageable.

As a player, I would’ve eaten this up when I was younger.

And yes, it requires a subscription, and the pricing plans differ depending on usage.  On the homepage, GameSense is offering a free trial, so you can check it out and see if it’s right for you.

CLICK HERE to grab your FREE trial of the GameSense app that focuses on pitch recognition training…i.e. picking the ball up early out of the pitcher’s hand.

By the ways, gS Pitch-IQ was named one of the best products at the 2017 ABCA convention in Anaheim!

 

Do you have players swing at everything during batting practice or let them be selective? What drills are good for teaching a player to hit a ball where it is pitched?

I’m not sure I’d ever let hitters swing at everything during batting practice.  Everything we do at practice, as coaches, MUST have a purpose.  And that purpose MUST prepare our players for the game environment.

CLICK HERE to watch YouTuber Trevor Ragan compare the benefits of training “ugly” in a post I did showing how to EFFECTIVELY transition grooved batting practice swings into game ones.

Here’s why swinging at everything in the cages DOES NOT translate into games…motor skill learning in a competitive environment MUST follow these three steps:

  1. READ – i.e. pitch recognition and spin
  2. PLAN – i.e. timing
  3. DO – the swing

You see, when a hitter swings at everything in the cages, most of what they’re working on is in the “DO” portion.  There’s very little READ or PLAN present, which is required in a game environment.

“Massed Training”, as defined by SchoolOfThinking.org, is said to be a far less effective strategy for retaining knowledge or developing skills. In other words, practicing the same thing over and over again WITHOUT a break and evaluation period is inferior to spaced and/or ugly training.  CLICK HERE for my Hitting Outcomes Evaluation Checklist.

So what does being selective in the cages look like:

  • After every 5-swing round, the hitter is asked, “How many strikes did you swing at?”  (and they’re affirmed or corrected based on their answer)
  • You can also do what I call is a Reverse Strike-Zone round.  This is where they MUST swing at “balls” – within reason, you don’t want them throwing their bat in the cage – and taking “strikes”. WHY would you do this?  It helps define a hitters strike-zone/hitting zone, and offers a better variety of body movement which the body’s springy fascia LOVES!!  This will melt their brain by the way 😛 lol
  • CLICK HERE for this post I did on plate discipline – splitting the plate up into 2/3’s and 1/3 is another great way to teach your hitters to be more selective.
  • This answers the second part to the reader question above…you can also turn on READ, PLAN, DO by limiting what parts of the field you want the hitter to hit to, OR limit certain elevations you want the hitter to hit at, regardless of pitch type, location, and speed.  Addressing the former…you can setup targets out in the field preferably in spots where you don’t find any fielders (gaps/down the lines), and hitter has to hit the target as hard as they can.  Addressing the latter…I’ve seen some coaches place shagging screens about 30 to 50-feet from the batter’s box creating a barrier to hitting ground-balls, and the objective is to hit the ball hard over the screens.
  • Random pitch type rounds – an example of this is randomly throwing either a 2-seam fast-ball or a curve-ball, and having the hitter stick to seeking out one pitch over the other for one 5-swing round.
  • 2 or 3-plate drill rounds – where the hitter moves from different plate distances between or during 5 swing rounds.  The plates can be placed about 3 to 5 feet apart.  This is a GREAT timing drill.
  • Doing situational hitting rounds…hit-and-runs, move runner over, and bunts/drags/pushes.

I’m sure other coaches have cool deviations of the above, so please SHARE in the comments section below.

The point is, hitters should have a purpose when taking batting practice, NOT just swinging at everything, IF they want to match the game environment.

 

Why is Timing not taught throughout majority instructors? Great mechanics are good but without Timing principles, you just look good going back to the dugout. What are some of the different ways you would teach/describe Timing?

Totally.  I tell my hitters that the most effective mechanics in the world don’t mean a thing if they can’t get on-time.

Surprisingly, some hitting instructors don’t think timing can be taught?  I disagree.

Now, let me clear up a common misconception…do you know the difference between timing and reaction time?

I got the following demonstration from my good friend Taylor Gardner, co-inventor of the Backspin Tee.  Do this with your hitters…

Tell them to stand in front of you, and hold a baseball/softball an arm’s length away from you at about the height of their head.

Then tell them you’re going to drop the ball at a random time…try varying the times you drop the ball, and you’ll find it’ll be a challenge for them to catch it.  Repeat two more times.  This my friend is a demonstration of reaction time.

Then tell them you’re going to drop the ball after counting to 3 (no tricks here coaches)…count to three, then drop the ball.  Repeat two more times.  This my friend is a demonstration of timing.  And as you may guess, this will be much easier to catch for your players.

Timing can be taught with the right methods.  Here are my top three:

  1. The TWO or THREE plate drill mentioned above,
  2. Switching bat sizes and weights between or in the middle of 5-swing rounds, and
  3. Switching ball types at random…using baseballs, softballs, whiffles, golf whiffles, racket balls, Smush balls, and tennis balls.

Thank you Mike Ryan from Fastball USA for the last two.  A hitter will have to re-calibrate their timing between swinging a longer heavier bat than a lighter shorter one.  The different balls mentioned will fly through the air at different speeds making for a perfect off speed practice environment.  This can be really challenging for the hitter, and a lot of fun.

But be careful coaches, slowly layer in the difficulty, don’t do ALL three above at the start.  Some hitters excel quickly, while others take more time.

Do you see how important training beneath the READ, PLAN, & DO umbrella is?

I hope this helps coaches!!

Please share any other effective methods you do with your hitters that improve what was talked about above.  THANKS in advance!

How To Turn Pitchers’ Bullpens Into Pitch Recognition Dominance For Hitters

PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid: Jaime Cevallos

Prototype of Jaime Cevallos’s new pitch recognition training aid called: PitchView

I’m happy to announce the RE-arrival of Jaime Cevallos onto the hitting scene!

He’s a good friend of mine, and has some cool stuff to share.

He’s working on a new training aid that helps with Pitch Recognition that I think will revolutionize how that is trained at practices.

He’s also working on a new companion book to his latest book Positional Hitting.

We dig into quite a bit in this interview, so please let me know in the comments if you’d like us to do a Part-2 sometime.

Jaime Cevallos Interview (1-hour, 1-min total time for interview)…here are the time-stamps of the audio interview, so you can skip around:

  • I asked Jaime, “How do you explain to people what it is you do?” Talks about his interest in movement, and how he got invited to Golf’s Safeway Open as a swing coach [about 1-min mark]
  • Talked about how Jaime’s book Positional Hitting was a fantastic transition for me from when I used to teach Down & Through. Here’s the Jaime Cevallos Four Hour Work Week Blog post featuring him titled: How I Did It: From $7 an Hour to Coaching Major League Baseball MVPs [about 3-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, I understand you started in golf analysis before jumping into the baseball swing…what were your takeaways from golf that made a difference with the baseball swing?”  The pain from quitting baseball, made him obsessive about figuring out the swing. Importance of bent back arm impact position of good Golfers – noticed similar thing in baseball.  Comparing Ben Hogan to Babe Ruth and how similar their swings were.  Learning the “Slot Position” and spotting patterns.  [answers about 10-min mark]
  • The challenge of teaching amateur hitters to hit the ball as hard and as far as you can, and that only fixing ineffective mechanics – or not.  Teaching high level mechanics to youth hitters.  Player definitely needs to be curious about hitting, hard work not necessarily needed at a young age. How many young hitters would read Charlie Lau’s book at 12yo?  If teaching doesn’t allow hitter to not be robotic, then most likely it’s the coaching cue that’s the issue. [about 14:30 mark]
  • I asked Jaime, A question I get asked all the time is, do you believe the baseball and Fast-Pitch Softball swing are two totally different things?” Differences being reaction time and stride timing…no real difference in what you’re trying to accomplish with the swing. Understanding cricket and how golfers don’t care about Golf “Ball Exit Speed”, they care more about precision and accuracy.  [about 21-min, 30-sec mark]
  • Jaime quote that addresses those coaches that ask, “So how many Big League AB’s do you have?” Should we take what MLB hitting instructors say as gospel? Here’s Jaime’s quote I mentioned in the interview, MLB hitting coaches are motivated by keeping their job, not developing innovative principles. If they change a franchise player’s swing, and that player gets worse, their name is forever blacklisted. Word will spread that he makes good hitters bad. And regardless of how many hitters he has helped, the one he “ruined” will be the bane of his career. GMs will attach his name with money flying out the window. He can just take a seat next to Jose Canseco in the list of people who will never be offered a contract. Because of this, MLB hitting coaches develop vague hitting methods, appearing to help when the team is doing well, yet standing on no specific method when the team is struggling. It’s common for them to wait until a player on the team gets hot, and associate themselves to that player as much as possible. I’ve seen it time and time again.”  We’re in a swing instruction revolution.  The MLB hitting coaches are catching up.  [about 28-min mark]
  • If you have something of value you can offer to a professional ball player, then go and seek them out in the winter to work with them.  It doesn’t matter if you have baseball experience, if you have a passionate curiosity for finding out the swing, then go for it!  The fallacy credibility indicator of “30 years of coaching”…it’s not the year in your coaching, it’s the coaching in your years.  The willingness to take chances and experiment with your teaching/coaching young hitters.  [about 31-min mark]
  • Jaime talks about his new product the PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid. Biggest area of opportunity to solve a problem in a sport. Hitting is four different skills: Eye Hand Coordination, Mechanics, Strength & Speed, and Pitch Recognition.  Jaime feels eye-hand coordination is pretty much tapped out.  How juggling at a young age helped Jaime’s eye-hand coordination, however he feels it didn’t help him that much in hitting – more so in fielding.  What steroid-era taught us about the Strength & Speed category.  Swing mechanics is going through a revolution – opportunity here right now.  Pitch Recognition is untapped right now. [about 36-min mark]
  • The WHY, HOW, and WHAT of the PitchView PR Training Aid. How PR is currently being trained now.  Protecting the hitter freeing them up to actively learn how to make their PR better during pitcher’s bullpens.  Connecting release motion to flight of the ball to hitters movement (timing).  Currently working with Berkeley University baseball team as a LIVE case study.  Your team record will depend on how effective and efficient your practices are.  [about 40-min mark]
  • I mentioned Dr. Peter Fadde and his Pitch Recognition software GameSense, CLICK HERE for this written interview I did with him.  And CLICK HERE for Perry Husband in this interview about his Effective Velocity program on tracking and timing. [about 45-min mark]
  • Jaime mentions the new book he’s working on that will be a fantastic compliment to his last book Positional Hitting.  This book will talk more about feel to transition the positions of the swing.  [about 48-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, If you could put anything on a ballpark jumbo-tron, in any MLB ballpark, what would you put on it?”  Don’t give up. What this means to him isn’t what you think. Focus on movement – perfect most important movements.  [about 51-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, What advice would you give the beginning Positional Hitting Jaime?” He wouldn’t change much, but would tell himself not to swing as much.  He’s someone who wants to perfect the swing, doesn’t necessarily enjoy teaching.  Swing motion is pretty hard on the body especially one-sided dominant hitters.  Raul Ibanez told Jaime at 35yo to save your swings.  Jaime’s work on Gymnastics now to take care of his body.  You need to start swinging from the other side – your body just needs it, and makes your preferred swing better. GymnasticBodies.com [about 55-min mark]

Where you can find more about Jaime Cevallos online:

Here’s a short video of the PitchView in use:

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

I have a treat for you…

A “grab-bag” of golden nuggets…

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

To give you an idea,

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

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

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

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

Happy learning!

 

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

This is the featured video above.

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

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

All these tips are pretty solid…

…for Mike Trout.

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

AND

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

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

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

So WHY does he practice hitting off a high tee?

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

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

What does this mean?

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

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

So am I calling Mike Trout a liar…

And, WHY would he practice like this?

Earlier, notice how I said,

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

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

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

Here’s where I’m going with this,

And it’s VERY important…

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

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

In other words, uppercut too much.

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

I’m not calling Mike Trout a liar.

He’s a friggin’ smart competitive athlete.

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

There’s no secret,

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

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

 

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

CLICK HERE for this article by Axon Sports.

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

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

 

#9: Hamstring Flexibility: 6 Tips to Loosen Up

CLICK HERE for the full article by GMB Fitness.

98% of my hitters are immobile in the hip.

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

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

 

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

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

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

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

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

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

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

The bottom line?

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

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

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

CLICK HERE for this LA Times post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6: Clayton Kershaw UMPIRE VIEW of pregame warm up

You will get better at Pitch Recognition watching this video.

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

Do this for me…

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

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

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

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

This is such a cool game to do with hitters.

 

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

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

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

What do you see?

 

#4: Donaldson gives a hitting demo

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

A couple notes from the video below:

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

 

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

CLICK HERE for this FanGraphs.com post.

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

Fangraphs Ground-ball metrics

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

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

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

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

What’s more…

 

#2: Scooter Gennett and ground balls

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

I love the sub-header, which reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

CLICK HERE to read this Cubs.com post.

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

So, what’s the problem?

Quoted from the article:

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

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

Again, quoted from the article:

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a BONUS link for ya…

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

Here’s the lesson folks…

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

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

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

It’s not enough to hit the ball hard.

Teach hitters to elevate.

Get barrel on path of incoming pitch.

Focus on striking bottom half of ball.

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

Like Jose Altuve, You Can Compete With BIG Sluggers…

 

Jose Altuve Hitting Analysis

Look at Jose Altuve’s ‘bat lag’ and weight off the back foot. Photo courtesy: Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle

In doing Jose Altuve hitting analysis, here’s what I hear…

“Well, he’s a big hitter, that’s why he can hit for power”…

…Is the EXCUSE from coaches who’re removing any responsibility to help their smaller hitters hit the ball farther and harder.

Or, oftentimes I hear this about a hitter like Dustin Pedroia (5’9″, 175-lbs – these numbers are fudged “up” btw):

“He’s just gifted.”

Wa?!!

ALL Major Leaguers are GIFTED!!! lol

Tell me one physical advantage that Dustin Pedroia has over most…??!

Don’t say eye hand coordination or vision because that’s another common rebuttal.

There are countless other MLB hitters with the same superior eye-hand coordination and vision.

The reality is, smaller sluggers MUST be MORE effective, in order to compete with sluggers bigger than them.

Now, this Jose Altuve hitting analysis post isn’t about the ‘laser show’…however,

Standing in at 5’6″,

…and weighing in at a soaking wet 165-pounds, we’ll look at Jose Altuve (his height and weight numbers are a little closer to reality I think).

Although,

I do think Jose Altuve has one thing over the ‘laser show’, and that’s dancing (parental guidance is recommended 😉:

In this Jose Altuve hitting analysis video, we’ll go over:

  • Jose Altuve stats,
  • Presents of Forward Momentum (FoMo)?
  • How well he dominates the plane of the pitch,
  • Where his power comes from, and
  • Does he practice Pitch Recognition?

FYI: the pitch Jose Altuve is hitting in the video analysis looks like an 87-mph FB straight down broadway, and it does look like he’s on-time.

Without further adieu, here are the notes for the…

 

Jose Altuve Hitting Analysis Stats (the averages of averages)

CLICK HERE for the FanGraphs.com post  I pulled the following stats from*:

  • ISO = +20 points
  • BABIP = +34 points
  • GB% = +4%
  • LD% = +1%
  • FB% = -6%
  • HR/FB% = -3.5%

(*a (+) denotes how many points OR percentage points or above league average, and a (-) denotes below league average.)

 

Presents of Forward Momentum (FoMo)?

  • Is FoMo present?
  • Shifting foot pressure (mentioned landing with closed front foot), and
  • Moving Center of Gravity (COG).

 

How Well he Dominates the Plane of the Pitch

  • Knee Action – ‘getting shorter’ and ‘staying shorter’
  • Barrel Plane – keeping barrel on plane for as long as possible

 

Where his Power Comes from…

  • Showing numbers,
  • Hiding hands from the pitcher,
  • Hunch – Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT), and
  • Down shoulders? (not so much here).

 

Does he Practice Pitch Recognition?

My friend Aaron Miles, who was small (5’8″, 180-lbs), and played 9 years in the Bigs, talks about how his High School coach was forward thinking…in that he did Pitch Recognition training with his troops, and Aaron’s coach said he had the best PR on the team.

My hypothesis in this Jose Altuve hitting analysis is that he does some sort of PR training, OR has a God given early pitch recognition ability that allows him to hit the ball so hard, so often.

Sure, according to this Jose Altuve hitting analysis,

…Altuve may not hit over 30 homers per year, but he sure will hit a boat load of doubles, which is just as good to contributing to team wins…just look at his above average (average) ISO and BABIP scores above!

“I Have Several Young Hitters That Are Great In Baseball Batting Cages But Have Trouble Transitioning Those Techniques Into Game Situations.  How Do I Teach That?”

 

CINCINNATI, OH – JULY 9: Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs hits a solo home run in the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 9, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

In this baseball batting cages strategy video, we answer the reader question above.

(By the way, this information is applicable to softball as well.)

We’ll go over:

  • Over-coaching OR giving instruction during games,
  • Promoting focused quality OR unfocused quantity swings at practices, and
  • Training timing, plate discipline, and pitch recognition.

PLEASE NOTE: this is a complex issue, and to do the subject any justice, a 30-minute video and 4,000+ word post would suffice.

However, I don’t have that time after adding a newly minted baby girl to our family.

So, I urge coaches to PLEASE contribute your comments at the end of this post, in the “Comments” section, of any other factors and/or fixes that I may have missed you think contribute to a successful transition from baseball batting cages (including softball coaches) to game at-bats.  Many THANKS in advance!

Without further adieu, I’m going to hit the BIG three I think are the primary causes to the above coach’s challenge…

 

Over-Coaching OR Giving Instruction During Games

CLICK HERE to read this HPL post on what every coach needs to know about giving feedback to hitters.

From the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) website…

Mike Brey, the head Notre Dame men’s basketball coach, says ‘don’t coach every dribble’ in the following video:

3 things Coach Brey brings up about how to give feedback:

  1. Talk about something they did good,
  2. Then bring up some of the mistakes they made, and end with…
  3. Highlighting something they did good, again.

I call this tactic the constructive feedback sandwich.

Coach Tony LaRussa mentions, in his book One Last Strike, the ‘Pat & Pop’ Method of giving feedback to his players. The ‘Pat’ is the pat on the back (what they’re doing right), and the ‘Pop’ is the pop in the mouth (calling attention to the mistakes they made).

Men’s Notre Dame basketball Coach Mike Brey also mentions the WORST thing you can do is have a player looking at the “bench” after every play…or the dugout…or down the third base line.

Legendary baseball coach at Fresno State, Bob Bennett, who was my coach for three years, would sit in his chair at the clubhouse end of the dugout during games, with one leg crossed over the other, taking notes the whole game.  He would rarely offer mechanical changes to players.

He just let us compete.  During games, Coach Bennett focused his time on making situational game decisions.

It was at practice the notes he took during games – of the mistakes we made – would come to life.  CLICK HERE for an audio interview I did with Coach Bennett over lunch.

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

Are you over-coaching (‘coaching EVERY dribble), and/or giving instruction during games?

YES/NO?

Promoting Focused Quality OR Unfocused Quantity Swings at Practice

Baseball Batting Cages: Principle of Specificity (Milo of Croton)

Milo of Croton’s body had to adapt (get stronger) to the demands put on it by the growing bull. Photo courtesy: miloandthecalf.com

Training MUST fit the sport’s objective.

In weight training, this is called the Principle of Specificity.  Specificity according to FitStar.com:

“Specificity is the principle of training that states what you do in the gym should be relevant and appropriate to your desired outcome.”

During a baseball or softball game, a pitch is thrown once every 10-20 seconds.

A hitter may see THREE strikes in an at-bat, and may accumulate FOUR at-bats per game, so they may see TWELVE good pitches to swing at per game.

True, not all strikes are in the strike zone at the lower levels, but my point is, swing opportunities are lower in games.

So, am I saying to ration out swings to hitters at practice?

No, not at all.

I’m suggesting a change in coaching paradigm.

What I’m saying is, swings in baseball batting cages MUST be trained with focused quality, not with unfocused quantity.

Baseball batting cages training MUST prioritize the following:

  • Plate discipline FIRST (are we swinging at strikes, YES/NO?),
  • Timing SECOND (are we on time, YES/NO?), and
  • Mechanics THIRD (are we swinging effectively, YES/NO?)

After each five swing round, I ask my hitters these three questions…and it’s rare that I get a hitter regressing after 3-5 rounds of focused quality hacks.  Training MUST be more challenging (and frustrating), than game at-bats.

In games, hitters MUST NOT worry about mechanics, just make sure they’re swinging at strikes and getting on-time.  Competing.  Mechanics are for working on at practice or outside of game AB’s.

Free swinging batting practice, although fun as heck, does NOTHING for producing quality game at-bats.

What mechanics are considered effective versus ineffective?

CLICK HERE for a post I did answering that, in addition to how to get hitters buying into this system.

What’s an example of a baseball batting cages drill that is ineffective training for game at-bats?

Rapid fire soft toss.

WHY?

Because a hitter NEVER has to swing like this in a game!

Please go revisit the definition of the Principle of Specificity above.

The coaching rebuttal to the Rapid Fire Soft Toss Drill is, “But we’re working on quick hands”.

Okay, so if the objective of a pitcher was to throw three balls one after the other in quick succession, then rapid fire soft toss would work.

However, this isn’t how pitches are thrown in games work…

Pitchers throw one pitch every 10-20 seconds.  Not three pitches every 10-20 seconds.

Game swings are NOT about quick hands.  They’re about timing.  One of the pitcher’s objective is to disrupt this.  If a hitter is behind…they’re late…and THEIR TIMING IS OFF!!

In other words, it may not be a mechanical issue.

Please stay far away from this drill…

Sure, their hands or bat speed may be slow because of something like bat drag, but I’m here to tell you that the Rapid Fire Soft Toss Drill WILL NEVER help bat drag.  This coach would be throwing gasoline on a fire, mechanically.

This is why fixing ineffective hitting mechanics add more reaction time to a hitter, because when a hitter moves better, they perform better.

Effectiveness is doing the right things, and efficiency is doing those things right.

Look, coaches have to understand the principles before coming up with the methods for fixing.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said this about principles:

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

Remember, our hitting objective priorities are:

  1. Plate discipline,
  2. Timing, and then
  3. Mechanics.

A hitter’s mechanics may be clean, but NOT swinging at strikes and NOT being on time WILL cause a mechanical breakdown…no matter how clean the mechanics.

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

In baseball batting cages are you promoting focused quality OR unfocused quantity swings?

YES/NO?

Which leads me to the topics of…

 

Training Timing, Plate Discipline, and Pitch Recognition

Baseball Batting Cages: Joey Votto

Joey Votto is one of the best with plate discipline. Photo courtesy of Red-Hot-Mama.com

In this section, I have a lot of HPL resources for you, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel here…

TIMING

PLATE DISCIPLINE

The post above is more advanced and is what I learned from Fresno State head baseball coach Mike Batesole my senior year in 2003.  Btw, he was the head coach at Fresno State when the Bulldogs won the College World Series in 2008.

However, I recommend the strategy mentioned in the Matt Holliday link to the college level on up.  High School coaches can experiment with it, typically when facing higher functioning pitchers.  The challenge with it is that most pitchers at the lower levels aren’t as skilled at consistently placing pitches where they want them.

So, my recommendation for the lower levels is to focus on whether they swinging at strikes or not.  Make it simple.  Talk about the strike zone.  What’s a good pitch to hit and what is not.

PITCH RECOGNITION

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

In baseball batting cages are you training timing, plate discipline, and pitch recognition?

YES/NO?

Coaches, PLEASE contribute anything I may have missed in regard to factors and/or fixes you feel contribute to a successful transition from baseball batting cages (including softball) to game at-bats.

Again, MANY thanks in advance!

A Simple Way To Train Pitch Recognition That Works For Collegiate & Pro Hitters

 

The Sixth Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition

Dr. Peter Fadde applies sports science to batting drills focusing on pitch recognition.  He’s a Professor in Learning Systems Design & Technology at Southern Illinois University.

CLICK HERE for a great case study featured in the Baseball Collegiate Newspaper titled, “Pitch Recognition Can Be Done By Hitters”, where Dr. Peter Fadde was asked to consult with Southeast Missouri State hitting coach Dillon Lawson on the subject of pitch recognition with his hitters, in March of 2014.

I heard about Dr. Peter Fadde through a few of my readers who saw him speak at the 2015 ABCA conference (ABCA “Doing Damage at the Plate by Training Pitch Recognition” video above).

Since, I’ve read his ebook The 6th Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition” in less than an hour, corresponded with him via email, and felt it a MUST to put together an interview with him sharing his insights with you.

(NOTE: if you purchase his ebook, and after reading it you like what he has to say, PLEASE leave him a review on Amazon.)

You can see the presentations he’s done, recognition he’s earned, and his current work at his website:

http://peterfadde.com/

Here are some other places you can find him online:

By the way, the pitch recognition hitting drills that Dr. Peter Fadde proposes in The 6th Tool book link above, work well with both baseball and softball hitters at ALL levels, not just at the collegiate and pro levels.

Also, Dr. Peter Fadde is one of the experts in the area of vision, tracking, and timing that has contributed videos to the Reaction Time Mastery online video course.

Without further adieu, here’s the interview… (rhyme intended 😉 )

 

What are some great drills to practice vision/tracking?

Pitch Recognition: Dr. Peter Fadde

Dr. Peter Fadde meet my readers, readers meet Dr. Peter Fadde 🙂

What I focus on for Pitch Recognition (PR) is separate from vision skills (peripheral vision, dynamic tracking acuity) and tracking.

Sports science calls it a “perceptual-cognitive” skill, meaning that it is vision-based but a mental skill. It’s picking up cues in the pitcher’s wind-up, release, and the first 10-20 feet of ball flight. By picking up advance cues, expert hitters anticipate pitch movement earlier.

The best drill for practicing PR is Bullpen Stand-In Drill. Batters have been standing in forever. The difference here is the batter needs to call out loud “Yes” or “No” BEFORE THE BALL HITS THE CATCHER’S MITT. That’s what turns it from passive tracking to PR practice.

You need to recognize the pitch right out of the pitcher’s hand to get your call made in time. “Yes” can stand for a pitch type (usually Fastball), or for FB in Zone, or Strike, or Swing Ahead in Count — whatever a coach or hitter wants to work on.

Call LOUD so that it is good feedback for pitchers. Bullpen Stand-In Drill is one of six PR drills shown in the “The 6th Tool” eBook.

 

How do you teach kids to pick up the seams and stay balanced on off-speed pitches?

Kids should practice calling breaking pitches out of the pitcher’s hand, so that they recognize that most curve balls need to “pop up” out of the pitcher’s hand in order to come down in the strike zone. Their eyes and natural tracking want to give up on that pitch. Learning to see it early and plan to attack it should keep mechanics sound.

 

How do you use vision drills for high school hitters?

A high school hitter can learn the PR drills in the Sixth Tool eBook and then teach a parent or coach as a hitting facility for one-on-one drills. I also have several occlusion videos of High School and College pitchers that are available to coaches or players who get the eBook and email me.

How can I get my players to recognize which curveball is the right one to hit and which one to take?

Wade Boggs said he could feel his eyes bob up in his head for the hanging curveball. Every batter can use his own clues. The point is to TRAIN yourself not to give up on that pitch. Few high school pitchers can throw a tight enough curveball to have it come out flat and not drop below the strike zone. Learn to jump on that pop up curve rather than giving up on it.

 

What’s an easy way to explain the concept of vision,tracking, timing a pitch?

Without trying to make things more difficult, I am adding PR as another dimension to Vision and Tracking. The good news is that a batter can get better by improving any or all of the three. A good program includes all three.

 

What keys does a batter use for tracking the ball prior to the pitch and on the release?

Especially at high school level or lower, pitchers often give pre-release cues. I don’t mean pitch tipping things, like glove position. More like learning to “feel” the pitcher muscling up for his fastball, or throwing up hill for a curve. At release, some batters pick up “skinny wrist” for curveball. Some batters pickup more white or less thrust out of the pitcher’s hand for changeup.

 

How can I concentrate better and see “the ball hit the bat”?

The science suggests that hitters don’t see the ball hit the bat. Ted Williams said that, contrary to opinion, he did not see the ball hit the bat. “But a master carpenter doesn’t need to see the nail to hit it square every time.”

Concentrate on seeing the pitcher’s motion and release. These aren’t natural and so need direct practice. Tracking to (or near) contact is natural so needs less direct practice. Good PR approach and sound mechanics should generate plenty of good contact.

Again, Dr. Peter Fadde can be reached at the following places online:

Hanley Ramirez Hitting a Curveball Do’s & Don’ts

Hanley Ramirez: How-To Crush A Curveball

Hanley Ramirez Fight Position: photo courtesy: MLB.com

This post will clarify why the “Snapping Towel” concept is far superior than a hitter who “Sits Back.”  An efficient swing uses the Un-Weighting Principal, or Forward Momentum.  Basically, it’s a hitter getting a “head start”, and making an aggressive move towards the pitcher.

CLICK HERE to watch the Troy Tulowitzki Experiment and see how un-weighting can boost bat speed.

Most coaches, instructors, and even decent Major League hitters HATE what I’m about to tell you.  They say, early head movement speeds up the pitch.  They say, you can’t commit your body-weight to the front leg because you’ll be out in front of off-speed and breaking stuff.

This video blog post will REVEAL, they’re dead wrong:

  • WHY the Snapping Towel?
  • Importance of “getting shorter” in Fight Position, and
  • How-to train crushing a curveball.

 

WHY the Snapping Towel?

Hanley Ramirez at contact on a home-run

Hanley Ramirez low pitch contact photo courtesy: MLB.com

Would you rather have head movement before or after front foot landing?  The question isn’t IF the head is going to move during the swing, it’s when.  Thanks to proprioception.

Imagine how you snap a towel…here’s the “Snapping Towel” effect applied to Hanley Ramirez’s 2013 homer to left field off a Cliff Lee cutter going 85 mph:

  • Head moves forward and slightly down before landing,
  • Floats (slight pause) right before his Free-Fall forward,
  • Commits body-weight to front leg during Fight Position (landing), and then
  • Effectively snaps back into a spine angle up and over the catcher (notice head DOES NOT move here).

Can Hanley Ramirez’s Fight Position get better?  Sure!  He’s not using Gravitational Forces like he can by flexing his front knee a little more at landing.  I call this “getting shorter”.  Which brings us to the next point…

 

Importance of “Getting Shorter” in Fight Position (landing)

Josh Donaldson "Getting Shorter"

Josh Donaldson “getting shorter” photo courtesy: MLB.com

Because Hanley Ramirez DOES NOT “get shorter” into the Fight Position, he compensates by reaching for the Cliff Lee cutter.  Landing taller forfeits setting the pitch plane early.  And a compensating shoulder angle on a low pitch (more parallel to ground) limits force production.  It’s like letting the air out of a balloon.

But most importantly, in respect to hitting the curveball…

Getting shorter into the Fight Position also creates a defense mechanism to breaking and off-speed stuff.  Jaime Cevallos calls it, in his book Positional Hitting, a “cushion” or “double cushion”.  JK Whited of Baseball Rebellion calls it “pushing the pause button”.

 

 

How-To Train Crushing a Curveball

Mike Trout tilted shoulders on low pitch homer

Mike Trout tilted shoulder angle on low pitch homer (he’s the BEST at this) photo courtesy: MLB.com

Here are my top ways to train a hitter to crush the curveball, like Hanley Ramirez.  First of all, utilize the Break-It-Apart Drill to get hitters comfortable operating from a “paused” Fight Position.  Use the Rule of Variance in one or a mix of these THREE ways:

  1. Timing – move pitcher’s L-screen up or back 10-20 feet from hitter after a round of five swings.  OR keep L-screen where it’s at, and have two home-plates for hitter to move to between rounds,
  2. Plate Discipline – carve the plate up into inner or outer 2/3’s (green light to swing), and other 1/3 of the plate is where the hitter takes (red light).  This is for a zero or one-strike approach.
  3. Mixed pitches – pitcher doesn’t tell hitter what’s coming.  No pitch is off limits.  Hitters, please wear helmets 😉
  4. Pitch RecognitionDr. Peter Fadde’s interview post on this is HUGE, along with Perry Husband’s interview post on Effective Velocity.

#1 focuses on making adjustments to a change in speed (or reaction time).  #2’s objective is looking for a specific pitch in a specific location (not recommended strategy in games until High School Varsity).  #3 is the name of the game.