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Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

STOP Pulling Off The Ball, Increase Batting Average, and Boost Power By Using The Closed Stance?

 

I know, I know,

Some well meaning coaches will think, “Well, a closed stance cuts off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement”

I get it.  I used to believe the same thing a couple years ago,

…But what I found in my research was counter-intuitive, yet very promising for hitters.

Giancarlo Stanton: Closed Stance

Giancarlo Stanton using his “closed stance”. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

My process is to chew and digest the science, observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then try it out!

As you’ll soon find out, Giancarlo Stanton did his homework before making this particular change in his swing.

Since there may be many of you raising the same objections I started with, I wanted to discuss:

  • Addressing the above “Study of Planes” video, then we’ll move on to…
  • Analyzing the small change that has netted BIG results for Giancarlo Stanton this season.

 

Study of Planes

My good friend Seo Perales shared the above video with me a few years ago.  By the way, he’s a multiple level black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu.

We love comparing notes because we both like to seek and explore human movement principles that are validated by science.  The only difference is, in his line of work as a Jujitsu instructor, he wants to learn how to break down the body, and I’m into maximizing its effect.

The above video demonstrates the science of movement planes.  What are considered weak and strong planes of movement from a Judo perspective.

I think you’ll find the video enlightening.

Now, you may be thinking, “A Judo video? Really?!  What can I learn from a video about Judo?”

If you find yourself camped out in ONLY baseball or softball circles, then you’re missing out on A LOT of useful information that will take your hitters to a whole other level.

The video is very applicable to hitting.

Furthermore,

My good friend Lee Comeaux from Texas, who teaches professional and amateur golfers, also brought the power of movement planes to my attention about a year ago…

He told me draw an “X” in the batter’s box from opposite corners, and have the hitter stand on either line when hitting.  He’s very versed in Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains.  He says hitters standing on one diagonal leg of the “X” encourages the springiness of fascia.  He taught this to his 15yo daughter, who has hit over .600 the last couple years playing Fast-Pitch Softball in Texas, which is one of the hotbeds for both baseball and softball competition in the country.  Oh and by the way, she also hit a half dozen homers as well.

The second part of this post, I wanted to share the tipping point in addressing Giancarlo Stanton’s new closed stance…

Giancarlo Stanton & The “Dreaded” Closed Stance

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me in writing this post, came from this MLB.com article by David Adler titled, “Closing time: Stanton’s stance fueling surge: Marlins slugger’s home run tear lines up with change to batting stance in June”.

You can go there and read the full article, but I wanted to tease out the quotes from Giancarlo Stanton (and some of David Adler’s commentary), and how Stanton arrived at the batting stance change…

I just said I was going to try it. Honestly, I had about 30 minutes of work, maybe 45 minutes, before the game,” Stanton told MLB.com Sunday, when he crushed his Major League-leading 45th home run against the Mets at Citi Field. “And then 10 minutes before the game, I was like, ‘This feels more comfortable.'”

Stanton was already having a helluva year, so it’s interesting to me that he made the change when he did, typically a change like this follows a slump.  However, this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision – like it sounds from that quote – he did his homework, which you’ll read about shortly…

“My best striking position is closed,” Stanton said. “It’s not smart to try to completely change something in the middle of the season. But if you are 100 percent committed to it … well, you’ve got to be. You’ve got to trust what you’re trying to do. If you change something, you want results right away, otherwise you try to go back. But I trusted it completely and let it ride.”

Sounds contradictory doesn’t it?  To have the attitude that you can’t completely change something in the middle of the season – especially when you’re already doing well!!  But then he says you MUST commit to giving the change time – that is – IF you’ve done your homework beforehand.

I’ve heard some parents and coaches say mid-season changes aren’t smart.  I don’t like to think that way…WHY?  Because if you don’t guide the hitter, the hitter will make changes on their own.  And if they don’t get highly resourceful on the subject, then this could lead to DISASTER with all the junk hitting info on the net these days.

David Adler did fantastic research illustrating the evolution of Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance in this Tweet:

In the earlier mentioned article, Adler states…

“Stanton’s closing of his batting stance has correlated with his massive power surge. On June 18, he had 17 home runs in 282 plate appearances; since June 19, he has 28 in 236.

When Stanton hits from those positions [open or straight up], his front side can come open before the pitch arrives, leaving him exploitable.

The closed stance is a natural counter. When Stanton is already turned inward to start, his rotation drives him into the pitch, instead of causing him to fade away from it.”

By the way, for those not doing the math:

  • From start of season to June 18th, he hit 1 homer every 16.5 plate appearances, and
  • From June 19th on, he hit 1 homer every 8.4 plate appearances

He cut his rate in half!!!!  The closed stance was the ONLY change to his swing in that time frame, so this makes an interesting case study with a decent sample size of plate appearances.  See for yourself with the following David Adler Tweet:

David Adler adds some terms of comparision you may be familiar with…

“With his adjusted stance, Stanton has been driving the ball in the air more often. His rate of fly balls and line drives, per Statcast™, has risen from 41.5 percent prior to June 19 to 50.3 percent since. Stanton’s average exit velocity on those balls has increased from 97.6 mph to 100.8 mph, the highest in the Majors over that time.”

I don’t care that Stanton is a beast, if you increase your Line Drive and Fly Ball Rates (Launch Angle), and Ball Exit Speeds that much, you’ll make a lot of Ground-ball teams VERY VERY upset.  Small hitters CAN and DO take advantage of this formula too.  Statcast has given hitters the cheat codes to increase offensive productivity!

Furthermore, in the Adler article…

“[His stance] gets him in the position he wants to be in. It looks like it’s keeping him on the ball more, and he seems like he’s seeing it better,” said Christian Yelich, who’s played alongside Stanton as long as any current Marlin — since 2013, when he was 21 and Stanton 23. “Some guys have different problems than others. You go about fixing them or covering them in different ways. It’s all about feel. That’s what works for him, that feel.”

Look at that bold sentence once more because that is one of the most critical keys to this whole thing.  Yelich is also tapping into making extreme adjustments, for example, Stanton’s challenge in the past has been pulling off, maybe because of when he tragically got hit in the face a few years ago.  Whatever the reason, the extreme adjustment (a closed stance), helps him stay on the ball longer.

CLICK HERE for a video I did on how to make adjustments…the scientific term for this is “Paradoxical Intention”.

Now, here is where the article gets into the research that brought Giancarlo Stanton to the point of taking the stance change seriously…

“But at a level of the game where emulation is fundamental, success begetting imitators, Stanton found his prototypes: Nolan Arenado, Matt Kemp, Adrian Beltre, prominent hitters who do close off. He recognized past greats, too: Hall of Famer Andre Dawson works as a special assistant to the Marlins, and he hit with a closed stance in his playing career. Stanton didn’t copy the technical aspects of their batting stances, but their accomplishments gave him precedent to actually make the change himself.

Some on Twitter have written this change off as a band-aide, avoiding a true fix.  A true fix?  Are you kidding me?!  Cutting his home-run per plate appearance rate in half IS NOT a true fix!?  Dude!!  Success leaves clues.  These people are saying Giancarlo Stanton is “playing to the slice”, where a golfer who chronically slices the ball will angle his body at setup so they don’t have to fix the real problem…which is not squaring up the club face at impact.

This is a poor attempt to protect an inflexible teaching philosophy, and sheer laziness on their part to get educated on their craft they claim to know a lot about.  You instructors seriously think Giancarlo Stanton is not “squaring the ball up” at impact since June 19th and is just “playing the slice”?  That is laughable.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

This is the problem I have with instructors with inflexible hitting systems…they’re WILLFULLY IGNORANT to experimenting with things that could push their hitters forward, especially movements validated by science.  We’re ALL in this together, and we’re ALL helping hitters.  It’s NOT about your ego or protecting “your brand” coaches.

But I digress…

Here’s some insight into Giancarlo Stanton’s thought process with the change…

“I just know the guys with success,” Stanton said. “Arenado and Kemp, those guys, you know you can have a high average with it. So that kind of gave me the green light to try it…I knew it could work. Not very many people did it. But I know people like Hawk and them did it in the old days — and it worked for them, too.”

 

The Bottom Line…

Giancarlo Stanton: Tweet About Closed Stance

A day or two after re-tweeting Homer Bush’s Tweet about Giancarlo Stanton’s closed stance, I received this response from @Omaha_Outlaws4…

I understand your objections that a closed stance may cut off a hitter’s vision, and/or restricts hip movement.  You’ve heard me talk a lot about “keeping the back foot sideways”, well, this plays right into that.

Matt Nokes is religious on restricting hip movement to the point of impact with keeping the back foot sideways.  Homer Bush agrees in this interview.  So are the Backspin Tee guys Taylor and Jarrett Gardner.  LIGHT BULB! The closed stance does this naturally.

The main benefit of restricting hip movement at impact (includes keeping back foot sideways) that you’ll hear from Nokes, Bush, and the Gardner Brothers, is to keep the barrel in the hitting zone longer.  This increases BA and Slug%.

Here’s my advice:

  1. Chew and digest the science,
  2. Observe how elite hitters apply the movements, and then
  3. Try it out!

If it doesn’t work after giving it the ol’ college try, then toss it.

As many of you know, I will gladly eat crow and change my hitting system IF you can show me the science, swing experiments, and many elite hitting examples that I can’t ignore the issue.

This is an informal Part-1 to a Zepp swing experiment I’ll be doing on the Giancarlo Stanton closed stance in the near future.  So stay tuned…

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Get Rid of Old Tired Hitting Dogmas Once and For All

 

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Isn't this Bat Path?

Isn’t this diagram showing proper bat path? Both are linear!! This is part of the confusion that’s out there on the net. Diagram courtesy: BackBackBack.com

A rotational linear hitting mechanics reader question came in recently that relates well to both baseball and softball…

“What is the best to teach a rotational swing or a linear swing?”

Here’s what we’ll cover in this rotational linear hitting mechanics post:

  • Swing is both…and then some,
  • Conservation of Linear v. Angular Momentum,
  • Planes of Motion, and
  • Centripetal v. Centrifugal…

 

Swing is Both…and then Some

Even when I was wrongly teaching my hitters to ‘swing down on the ball’,

I had a gut feeling rotational linear hitting mechanics were a little of both.

It didn’t make sense to say it was one or the other.  If you find yourself thinking this, then you have an incomplete understanding of dynamic human movement.

My advice?

Get educated.

Do your homework.

Check your facts.

Test. Re-test.

With today’s access to quality information, experts, and sophisticated technology, there’s ZERO room for ‘willfully ignorant’ hitting theories.

If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.

Us coaches MUST hold ourselves to a better teaching standard.

Standards that go beyond hitting absolutes, which aren’t wrong – but incomplete.

We MUST apply human movement principles, that are validated by science, to hitting a ball.

Another word for ‘principles’ are “rules” or “guidelines”…

Think of these principles as bumpers at a bowling alley keeping the ball from plopping into the gutter.  What path the bowling ball takes between the bumpers doesn’t matter, just as long as it stays between them.

Hitting absolutes are what goes on between the bumpers.

You following me?

Human movement principles first. And how they’re applied (think video analysis) comes second.

If it’s the other way around, then we’ll have hitters burying their chins into their chests like Andrew McCutchen (see image below)…

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Andrew McCutchen breaking one-joint rule

Image courtesy: http://12075-presscdn-0-91.pagely.netdna-cdn.com/

Many of you will see this ‘chin to chest’ image and won’t find anything wrong with it, “he’s keeping his head down at impact,” you’ll say.  I’m afraid Cutch is succeeding despite this ineffective mechanic, NOT because of it.

See WHY breaking the ‘One-Joint Rule’ bleeds force at impact by CLICKING HERE.

…Or closing the gap between their rear ear and shoulder like Derek Jeter or Bryce Harper during the turn, which is a blatant breaking of the One-Joint Rule (see image below)…

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Bryce Harper Shoulders Are Ear Poison

Photo courtesy: http://districtondeck.com/

Again, Bryce Harper is succeeding despite this ineffective mechanic, NOT because of it.

In the corrective fitness world, we say ‘shoulders are ear poison’ to maximizing force and reducing the probability of injury.

So, what did I mean in the sub-title above “…and Then Some”?

That I’ll answer under the Centripetal v. Centrifugal Forces subtitle below.

Let’s get started fleshing out rotational linear hitting mechanics…

Conservation of Linear v. Angular Momentum

There are a couple great Circus Physics resources from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website on these two concepts (each have 2-min videos):

To prove the swing is both of these, watch a clip of Albert Pujols a wide-no stride swing, when he was with the Cardinals, which most purely rotational people point to as a good example of their ‘hitting theory’:

Like golf, you see his pelvis slide forward before he starts turning.  This is a linear move, and I call it shifting foot pressure.

His weight goes from the outside of his back foot, inside front foot…then as his pelvis shifts forward, you’ll see his weight go to the inside of his back foot, outside of front foot.

Shifting foot pressure is what I would teach my fastpitch hitters because of their compressed reaction time, similar to these Lauren Chamberlain swings:

Also note, Pujols and Chamberlain ARE NOT ‘squishing the bug’ with their back foot, another thing purely rotational ‘hitting theorists’ cling to.

Look at this more recent clip of Pujols with the Angels.  Here he employs a traditional linear stride:

Now, Ichiro Suzuki is who the purely linear ‘hitting theorists’ point to as a great example of their system. Watch this video:

You’ll see a little more linear elements to Ichiro’s swing (forward momentum and hand path), but he still starts sideways, and rotates, or turns, the center of his chest to impact.  Did you catch the keywords “rotates” or “turns”?!

Show me one hitter in the Big Leagues or Professional Fastpitch that ONLY have a linear swing…or ONLY have a rotational swing.

I guarantee you won’t find ONE.

At ANY level, I GUARANTEE you won’t find ONE baseball or softball hitter, PERIOD, that does either one or the other!!

Are you getting the rotational linear hitting mechanics idea?

 

Planes of Motion

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Planes of Motion

Planes of Motion photo courtesy: goldsgymwebsterny.wordpress.com

I did this post titled Baseball Hitting Mechanics for Youth: Straight Landing Front Leg OR Bent?

Benefit #6 in that post I sub-titled, “How Humans Change Direction & Planes of Motion”.

Under the sub-title, I talk about three main planes of motion that we move in:

  1. Front to back (Sagittal),
  2. Side to side (Frontal), and
  3. Twisting (Transverse)…

Also, I included a YouTube video of NFL wide receivers running ‘Tree Routes’.

A wide receiver running a cut route will use the 1) Front to back plane first, then when he makes his 90-degree cut, will momentarily move onto the 2) Side to side plane before getting back on and accelerating in the front to back plane.

A hitter starts off moving on the 2) Side to side plane, but as they start turning get on the 3) Twisting plane.

In order to understand rotational linear hitting mechanics clearly, we must consider putting aside our egos, and truly look at what’s going on in video analysis.

Again, principles first, application second.

Be honest.

Like few coaches that find me on social media…DO NOT fall into the same ‘willfully ignorant’ trap they do.

If you AIN’T growing, then you’re DYING.

Know this about hitters…

There is almost always some form of linear (forward) movement that precedes the twisting.  I call it getting a head start before making an explosive rotational move.

Both Pujols, Chamberlain, and Ichiro do this.

But THESE ARE THE FACTS…

The path of the bowling bowling ball down the lane may be different, but ALL three stay within the ‘bowling bumpers’.

 

Centripetal v. Centrifugal

Here’s a great video from YouTuber SciShow about the difference between Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces:

Centripetal Forces are ‘center-seeking’ and Centrifugal Forces are ‘center-fleeing’.

Here’s how the rotational linear hitting mechanics purist stack up with these two forces:

  • Purely rotational side with Centripetal Forces, and
  • Purely linear side with Centrifugal Forces…

But clearly the swing is a combination of both…and then some!

I actually say the swing is:

  • Linear at Start – hitter getting a head start before stride landing, or second phase of shifting foot pressure,
  • Rotational – hitter transfers forward into angular momentum to get barrel into the impact zone, and then
  • Linear AGAIN – after impact the hitter chases the ball with the barrel.

The last part is crucial to consistency, and is a good example of Centrifugal Force.

When talking about rotational linear hitting mechanics, I also give the swinging rock-on-a-string example in the main video above.

You see, first the hitter uses Centripetal Force to turn the barrel into the zone sideways…the turn is meant to be quick and compact from an Angular Momentum standpoint (Keeping a slight bend in the front elbow, NOT from swinging down, being short, etc.), until the barrel gets on the plane of the pitch.

Then the hitter either lets the front arm lengthen or stay shortened depending on timing and pitch location, but make no mistake…

Elite hitters will keep their barrel chasing the ball after impact, until both arms get fully extended…whereby the barrel then circles around the body during follow through.

So is it better to teach rotational liner hitting mechanics?

Yes.

As long as it’s a blend of the two.

Not one or the other.

Let human movement principles be your guide.

The path the bowling ball takes in the lane doesn’t matter, just as long as it stays between the bumpers.

 

Okay, I’ll admit it…

Baseball Hitting Instruction: Zack Racing Rear Elbow

It took 30-mins to clean up my Sophomore in High School, Zack May’s, Rear Racing Elbow using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT)…

The one hitting fault that is a bugger to fix is,

Rear Racing Elbow.

Unfortunately: I find that a baseball hitting instruction fix for one player with this challenge, may not work for another.

Fortunately: I do see symptoms that tend to haunt specific Rear Racing Elbow bat drag hitters.

Unfortunately: I also find that the same combination of symptoms may not be present for every hitter.

Fortunately: For this baseball hitting instruction drill to work, the symptoms must be present.

In this post:

  • We’ll define Rear Racing Elbow,
  • Look at the symptoms of this particular case study,
  • Front knee action at landing: slightly bent or straight? and
  • How we fixed the issue in one 30-min session, using RNT…

 

What is Rear Racing Elbow?

It’s when the rear elbow “races” passed the hands towards the middle of the body (see “BEFORE” image up and to the right).

It can cause the hitter to:

  • Dump the barrel prematurely, which leads to flares OR misses completely to the opposite field, OR
  • Roll over or get jammed on inside pitches.

It’s a nasty bug to fix with conventional baseball hitting instruction, and one my readers sounded off on at the following two HPL posts:

  1. Hitting Tips to Boost Barrel Time on Pitch-Plane, and
  2. Baseball Online: Never Suffer from Bat Drag Again.

Symptoms of Rear Racing Elbow Bat Drag

In this particular baseball hitting instruction case study, one of my local hitters Zack May, a Sophomore in High School, over the past year, has been haunted by these three things…NOT getting the:

  1. Front leg to straight at or passed impact,
  2. Back knee to 90-105 degrees during the turn, and
  3. Downhill shoulder angle before landing.

 

Front Knee Action at Landing: Slight Bend or Straight?

19 Aug 2001: Mark McGwire #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals gets a single against the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/ALLSPORT

Mark McGwire front knee bend at impact. Photo courtesy: Elsa/ALLSPORT

This is a major baseball hitting instruction debate among instructors I respect.  They teach their hitters to keep a slight bend in the front knee at or passed impact.

They point to big sluggers like Mark McGwire (pictured to the right) and Mark Teixeira, among others, as examples.

The amount of bend in the front knee up to impact will depend on the amount of forward momentum (FoMo) the hitter uses.

The more FoMo a hitter uses, the more Ground Reaction Forces (GRF) are needed to transfer planes of motion from the Frontal/Coronal* (sideways) to the Transverse* (twisting).  In which case, a straightening of the front knee would be highly recommended.  Hitters like Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson come to mind.

On the contrary though, like a lot of big sluggers, the less forward momentum (wide to little striders), there doesn’t seem to be a need to straighten the front knee during impact.

Think of a wide receiver running a 10-yard 90-degree cut route.  He uses GRF and FoMo just like a hitter, but he’s transferring from Sagittal* (front) to the Frontal/Coronal* (sideways) plane of motion.  In this case, he’s reaching a maximum forward running speed (FoMo), then has to cut very quickly, so you’ll see his plant leg go from bent to straight as he uses Ground Reaction Forces.  Evidenced by him dropping down (or getting shorter) before making the cut.

My hitter Zack is both tall (6’4″), and uses quite a bit FoMo.  So, for him, when that front knee doesn’t get to straight, that’s a problem.  Coupled with the issue of not getting sufficient bend in his back knee during the turn causes the pelvis to not fully rotate.  And as a result, his back shoulder and arm feel like they have to do extra work.  And Rear Racing Back elbow is born!

*CLICK HERE for a more in-depth overview of planes of motion on Wikipedia.

 

Baseball Hitting Instruction: How We Fixed Zack’s Bat Drag in 30-Mins…

To get you up to speed, check out this Dustin Pedroia & how to fix stepping in the bucket post I did that will explain the use of Reactive Neuromuscular Training, or RNT.

Baseball hitting instruction and RNT drill we used with Zack,

  • We used two long resistance bands positioned as close to his pelvis as possible (high up the thigh without damaging “the goods”),
  • Both resistance bands pull in opposite directions (feeding the mistakes – front knee wants to stay bent, and back knee wants to straighten during the turn), and
  • We worked on getting him to “resist the resistance” during the turn.

One thing we also used that seemed to be the permanent fix was finger pressure (see below…)

Baseball Hitting Instruction SAFETY Issue: Please be careful with this drill.  The person facilitating the front band is in the way of a swinging bat!!!  To be done with adults who know better, not teammates.  Please watch video above for clarification on this.