Posts

Hitting Training: What is Directional Force?  And WHY is it Important?

 

 

This hitting training interview with Matt Nokes was pulled from the seventh issue of our Swing Smarter Monthly Newsletter.  What is that?  On a monthly basis,

  • We pick a hitting theme,
  • Write a Newsletter around the theme,
  • Give favorite hitting drill addressing the theme,
  • Prescribe corrective exercises to amplify the drill's goal, and as if that wasn't enough,
  • We also include 2 expert interviews on the subject…

EVERY month!

This hitting training post is POWER packed!!  The above video, Matt put together special for this episode.  The following is the 30-minute audio interview…

Here are some of the hard hitting training points we cover in the Nokes interview (pun intended of course):

  • What’s the Major Benefit to “Staying Sideways”,
  • What is Making the Hips Turn?
  • Dangers to Performance of Over-Rotating the Lower Half,
  • What is Directional Force?  And Why is it Important?  And,
  • Around the Zone Drill for Staying Sideways.

What follows is copy and pasted transcript from the 30-minute hitting training audio interview.  If you want to download the pdf version, so you can print it out, and highlight the heck out of it, then you can download that here: https://gohpl.com/33XxDcI

Enjoy!

Hitting Training - Matt Nokes Staying Sideways

Hitting Training – Staying Sideways image courtesy: Matt Nokes

 

Joey Myers  00:00

All right, hello and welcome to Swing Smarter Monthly Newsletter. This is your host Joey Myers from HittingPerformanceLab.com, and on with me as a special guest a special surprise Mr. Matt Nokes, former Major Leaguer, two time All Star, Silver Slugger award winner.

 

Joey Myers  00:14

And the day that I met Matt was probably three or four years ago, I was introduced, the Backspin tee bros… Taylor and Jarrett Gardner, and we were talking hitting the whole time down in San Diego. I think it's when they had the all-star game there in San Diego. And we were even talking hitting training in parking structures at the different levels. We went to a library we went all over the place. So Matt Noakes, welcome to the show.

 

Matt Nokes  00:41

Good Joey. First, thank you for inviting me.

 

Joey Myers  00:44

You got it, sir. Hey, I wanted to kick off. I wanted to talk about because we're going to be looking at the idea of staying sideways with the lower half, directional force, all that. So, I wanted to get your view, since you introduced it to me and introduced it to the backspin tee guys, what's the major benefit of staying sideways? And maybe a detriment to not staying sideways? Maybe over rotating? Which I see a lot of young hitters do?

 

What’s the Major Hitting Training Benefit to “Staying Sideways”

 

Matt Nokes  01:13

Well, I think there are several reasons. I mean, it's a whole system, right? It's your lower body. And it's been misinterpreted for so many years. Because of well, the communication wasn't necessary.  Let's just say when a major leaguer's talking to another major leaguer, they're just spouting out hitting training words that don't mean a whole heck of a lot. Or it could mean 50 different things. But they're talking to someone who's been watching their teammate. They know what they're going through. It's what they say just a little bit. They know what they're saying.

 

Matt Nokes  01:53

And so a lot of the conversation is nonverbal. And so, this whole thing of using your hips, it's just something that has been brought up to people. And if you think about it, when you're hitting, for people who haven't been hitting, or who don't know how to hit, they don't see the patterns that you and I see or that a high school, college, pro player, or major leaguer, they don't see the patterns that we see.

 

Matt Nokes  02:27

And so, the varying levels of, there's a huge amount of information that you need to know just to see certain things. Right? And so, it's what, it's why there's this confusion. And people just haven't really taken the time to, or they just didn't feel like, feel the need to explain any more. Because, as one of my good friends Darrell Evans always said is well, I can't tell you everything.

 

Matt Nokes  02:56

Like he'll explain some awesome conflict. I go, why don't you tell me that, you know, 20 years ago when we were in the big leagues? Because I can't tell you everything, because you knew.  He hit 400 or over 400 home-runs. But there were some hitting training things that he didn't question. And things that I questioned, and vice versa, I wish I would have had that information from the beginning.

 

Matt Nokes  03:22

And it's not so much that we see the patterns, because everyone sees oh, you know, that front leg straightens out at some point, that must be important. Okay, well, it kind of straightens out when you block. Sometimes it doesn't when your way into your legs.  But the point is, it's blocked, blocking. And because there's rotation, it's going to straighten out, close to contact.

 

Matt Nokes  03:54

Like everybody knows, if you ever thought about straightening out your front leg thinking that that's going to be key, that's going to be one of my adjustments. One of my adjustments, that I'm going to get three hits tonight, you know that, that would be like the worst thing to think about, right? You would leak. You would just pole vault, leak your way up and out over the top.

 

Matt Nokes  04:17

So having said that, it's not enough to see a pattern, you have to be able to go beyond that and see the model, you have to be able to model what's going on, you have to know get to see hitting training in three dimensions as opposed to, drawing triangles, you need to see the pyramid.  You need to see more of really what's happening to understand it. So, when you look at somebody hit, you see their hips turning.  It's like no, they do turn, you know, I mean, I am watching them turn, but you have to look past that and say, what is making it turn?

What is Making the Hips Turn?

 

Matt Nokes  05:03

And when it comes to, why does it turn? And when it comes to all the other comments about using the ground, which is, you hit from the ground up and lead with ground force, and it starts from the bottom and goes up, back foot turns, the back-knee turns, hips turn, in the core turns the shoulders turn, and then you swing.

 

Matt Nokes  05:26

That makes sense if it was geared that way, but it's not. Because your power source is your well, is your trunk, your upper body, or let's call it the core. But I think it's even more general than that, I think you just hit with your upper body, but you use a weight shift, and you need something to swing against.

 

Matt Nokes  05:47

Like, if you're hanging on a rope, you can't really turn.  I mean you could, but you just wiggling.  If you get your feet on the ground, then you can turn your upper body. Anybody that sat on a machine to work their core rotationally, they know that when you sit into the machine, it clamps your lower body down, or your upper body one or the other. So that you can forcefully rotate.

 

Matt Nokes  06:20

Okay, so that's the hitting training concept. If you want to rotate, you need something to rotate against. And yet, we still see the core, I mean, the hips turn, okay? Well, that's because they're attached. And at contact, you've unloaded your backside. And because you've unloaded it, of course, it's free to turn. But it's that much more important that you get in a really good position.

 

Matt Nokes  06:55

The idea of a sideways approach is, you have to get in a good position, it needs to be a consistent position. And you have to be on time. What that does is it helps you be on the ball. So that may just sound some random, random to some people. But I'll give you a hitting training illustration, or I'll give you an analogy. Let's say you're hitting soft toss from the side, I mean, directly from the side. And you know how easy that is. Now, I'm a left-handed hitter, how easy it is to crush the ball over the shortstop head.

 

Matt Nokes  07:39

The opposite way, if it's coming from the side, because you just shift right past it, you smoke it!  You know you're not supposed to pull the ball, but what happens to your lower body.  Think about what is your lower body do when you get soft toss from the side?  It firms up and is basically, it's certainly not as open as it does, from the front, or I'm sorry, like on an inside pitch.

 

Matt Nokes  08:09

So basically, it's that feeling of being on the ball. It's really important that you are sideways, in order to be on the ball. So that you're in position into a consistent position, you know how when you're hitting…let's say soft toss again, when you hit your first ball, and you think, my shoulder needs to be a little bit more closed. And then you hit it again go, oops, my hips are at position, my foot’s in the wrong position, you make those fine-tuning adjustments.

 

Matt Nokes  08:38

Well, you can do that. On soft toss because you can almost automatically manage variables, which you have to manage. Because you're in a controlled setting, it's unlikely, you back it up to 60 feet, and the same hitting training variables that you could manage automatically, without even thinking, the scenario enables your automatic mind to relate it to something you already know or to just be familiar with the motion for it to be common sense. And you can do it.

 

Matt Nokes  09:15

But when you add more variables, well then you have to make sure that your routines and how you practice, that you have those things in mind so that you're prepared to not pull off the ball. But if you do pull off, you know how to make an adjustment to position yourself.

 

Matt Nokes  09:35

And it's one last thing, it's like if you had never seen a Phillips head screwdriver, never seen it or never even seen a screwdriver. And you were showing me that this is how I'm going to hang a painting. And you found the stud finder, and you found the stud, and then you basically shorten it, you screwed it. You twisted in a screw into the wall. And then hung the painting with that wire, right? It's kind of hung and then even it up.

 

Matt Nokes  10:04

So how do you use the screwdriver? Well, there's some utility there. You know what you're doing? Because you've seen it, it didn't take a lot of examples. You're holding the screwdriver in your hand, you're like, I know how to do this. And how long does it take you to become an expert? With that movement? I mean, he says well, it doesn't take expert movement. Oh, yeah?  How does a monkey do that? Or a child?

 

Matt Nokes  10:34

Where a monkey could do other complex things. But not that, because they can't look at it and see the utility. But you and I, and everyone on the planet can be basically an expert in five minutes. Context matters.

 

Joey Myers  10:54

And you know what's unique about our sport is that we only have 90 degrees of fair territory to work with. And whereas you look at bowling you maybe it's what three and a half feet a lane and then even in golf, you can argue that you only have one degree of fair territory and 359 degrees of foul territory, because you get rewarded for the shortest number of strokes to the pin.

 

Joey Myers  11:16

One of the hitting training stories that you told was really cool on this. I don't know if it was Frank Robinson, or who it was that you were talking to. But I think you had gone away from staying sideways. And you started to like, what most coaches and young kids do is over rotate the lower half. And then you said you broke away from what you were naturally doing. And you slumped, and then you came back.  Tell that story?

Dangers to Performance of Over-Rotating the Lower Half

 

Matt Nokes  11:39

Yeah. Okay. So, I always think it's important to add empirical evidence, which is that which can be verified or falsified by your senses, or your experience, your personal experience at the highest level. My first year in the big leagues…well, anyway, I just got up to the big leagues. And it was the all-star break. And I was sitting at the all-star break with 20 home runs, hitting like .320. And like 57 RBI's, you could say I was doing well.  And I was hot. And I was young.

 

Matt Nokes  12:24

And Dave Bergman and Bill Madlock, teammates of mine, were shagging balls at first base. And I guess they were talking to each other. And they came up to me, and they said, man Nokesy, you must really feel on the ball. And I said, Yeah. Because your back foot stays sideways. And well, I didn't know what to make of that. And because I had worked that out that I just knew I was on the ball. I thought, okay, I thought they were saying, well, it's unorthodox Matt, but you make it work.

 

Matt Nokes  13:01

I get to the All-Star game. And I'm watching up on the diamond vision. That's what they called it then.  And watching the highlights and stuff. And I started to notice that that back-knee pinch.  You got to remember; I wasn't really familiar, familiar with the exact things that were going on.  And most major league guys really aren't as much as you would think.  They have a general sense. But there are things that they don't, I mean, they know what it feels like. And they can replicate because of that, and they understand that through feel.

 

Matt Nokes  13:40

I thought, man that back knee looks like it's rotating. So maybe the back foot turns too.  I'm sitting at 20 home-runs, maybe I would have had 30 or 40 home runs by now. I thought, man, I'm going to really drop that knee and kind of now they're saying you got to try the back knee, that kind of thing. It's just as bad as rotating back foot. Even though it does collapse, because…it does collapse because it's passive.  It's passive because you unloaded it, and your upper body doing the rotation.

 

Matt Nokes  14:17

And for the next couple of weeks, I focused on that I focused on my back-knee kind of collapsing and my back-foot rotating. And I didn't get a hit for two weeks. But I felt great in batting practice, I was hitting home runs, I was launching balls, as usual. And my timing was good because, so I couldn't really see the difference in batting practice in order to make an adjustment because I was crushing balls still, but I knew there was something missing.

 

Matt Nokes  14:49

In pitchers shagging were used to me hitting a certain way, actually approaching. They said something wrong. I mean, you're hitting balls well, but it's just not coming off the bat the way used to. And I agreed. I haven't had a hit in a couple weeks. And finally, Dave Bergman and Bill Madlock came up to me after a couple of weeks, because I'm sure you know, they had their own life, their own hitting training problems they were dealing with, and they didn't notice why I was going into a slump.

 

Matt Nokes  15:21

And they came up and said, what are you doing? Like, what do you mean? You've never rotated your back foot like that, ever? And I go, oh, didn't you? Didn't you say I was being unorthodox. I just thought I'd make it better. And they go, you idiot. No, that's your problem. And so, they'd have to say much other than it just shocked me so much that I got back in the batting cage, just start smoking balls, keeping it sideways. And oh, I hit two home runs that game. And then from then on, I was, I knew that that was a hitting training rule. That was a principle I needed to follow it. Even though back then I didn't really understand it.

 

Joey Myers  16:09

That is one of the, of all my young hitters from I mean, now I just work with 11 or 12, all the way up to junior high, high school, college and stuff. I don't work with any hitters lower than that. But usually the ones lower than that age, typically, if they haven't been over coached, do that naturally. They do stay sideways, right? They get coached out of it, for the most part.

 

Matt Nokes  16:32

Absolutely.

 

Joey Myers  16:33

And I would say the ones that have been coached out of it, and I'm just getting them. And it's probably about 40 to 50% of them over rotate that lower half. You talk about this idea of directional force. Talk a little bit about that.

What is Directional Force?  And Why is it Important?

 

Matt Nokes  16:47

Well, you know, it takes 8,000 pounds per square foot, or I'm sorry, per square inch into the baseball to hit baseball 400 feet. And I have no question that even High School players generate way, way more energy than that swinging a bat, that large of an arc, the sweet spot of the bat is moving, you can generate a lot of force with a baseball bat.

 

Matt Nokes  17:16

It's not that they can't generate the energies that can't direct the force. And it's going all over the place. They're not getting the bulk of the energy through the ball in one direction. And, yeah, so basically…

 

Joey Myers  17:34

Being sideways helps with that.

 

Matt Nokes  17:36

Yes, because it stabilizes your lower half, so that your upper body rotation is pure, there's no leak in it. Your energy is not going in a lot of directions. You brought up the point about, there's a lot of fair territory and foul territory. So that's confusing, because the basic 90 degrees, it's that you're hitting the ball in. There's that sliver, where you get a hit, you know, maybe 10 degrees, 36 degrees, it pretty much everything is either a popup or ground ball, right?  And then you got a lot of foul territory, it's not cricket.

 

Matt Nokes  18:18

And then you can hit a ball to the left that you thought you should have pulled, or you could hit ball the right, they just thought you should have hit the other way, or whatever it is, that can get confusing, because you don't necessarily understand right out of the box, where the direction of force should be, or you're not aware of your personal direction of force, until you experience it until you create a scenario where you can actually rehearse it.

 

Matt Nokes  18:46

Because if you get a hit, you don't think you need to go into it very much more. But if you're hammering a nail, there's going to be some consequences. The nail is going to go flying, if you don't hit it with the right force in the right direction. But with hitting, it's confusing, because you can still get a hit and lose a lot of energy, you can still hit it hard and lose a lot of energy. But ultimately, so that's confusing in itself, you hit a ball the other way, one time, you pull the ball the other time. And you think you did it right, even though you lost energy in both directions. And yet, you don't get a hit.

 

Matt Nokes  19:26

The amount of time that you're actually driving the ball consistently goes down. But you're not concerned with direction of course, because you're hitting the ball in all directions. It just gets confusing.  You don't know what's wrong, you don't know what's going on, what's wrong, what's right, what hitting training is working, what's not.

 

Joey Myers  19:44

And you have a hitting training drill, the around the world drill. You can explain that one. That's a pretty good one, I think for demonstrating what you're talking about the direction of force.

Around the Zone Drill for Staying Sideways

 

Matt Nokes  19:54

Yeah, well, in short. Every major leaguer, and advanced hitter has a feel for certain things. And if you get to that level, you figured out a way to rehearse or do a drill. So that it reinforces good habits. Good positions, good timing, good directional force, you may not be aware of it, but you just see the results, the empirical results.

 

Matt Nokes  20:23

And, yes, so the around the zone is around the world there. If you begin from the side, and you get the ball, coming from the side. There are rules, and why the rules? Well, there are rules because you can't just do the drill any way you want, there's a certain way that it'll be effective, there's a certain technique that will be effective, if you don't do it that way, you're not going to get anything out of it.

 

Matt Nokes  20:54

It's the same for every drill, every rehearsal, if you don't know what you're doing, how you're supposed to do it, what it's for, what you're doing, how you're supposed to execute it, why you're doing it, and what it's going to feel like, what feel you're searching for, then you're just wasting your time.

 

Matt Nokes  21:15

And as a young player, I remember some of my great coaches as a young player, you know, they just see me work and work and work and hit it. And I'm hitting up 300 balls into the net, and they're like, stop!  You need to be strategic when you're doing it, like, what are you trying to accomplish right here? I don't know. I just figured if I just keep hitting, it'll come to me.  No, all that's going to do is lead to a million different desperate fixes. That's all that's going to do.

 

Matt Nokes  21:45

And then I'm addressing every system, with timing, the mechanics, and your mindset.  Not addressing those, in keeping the balance between them. There are certain rules. You get a ball from the side. You want me explain it?

 

Joey Myers  22:01

Yeah. So when you say side, you mean chest on? So perpendicular to the hitter?

 

Matt Nokes  22:06

Yeah. Okay. You get, I'm a left-handed hitter. So, imagine you're in the right-handed batter's box, and then just behind it, and so you're throwing it from the side. And so maybe you're throwing it at my back hip, or that kind of thing. The way you set up the drill, and I call a drill with a ball and a rehearsal without the ball, and there's reasons for that, which I'll go into later.

 

Matt Nokes  22:31

But setting up the drill, so you're throwing on it. What I say is, okay, the arc that the ball's coming in on forms the line.  And you need to pay attention to that line, and then draw 90 degrees from that line from where you're standing Joey.  The ball's coming in at me, and then from you out to center field is, would approximately be 90 degrees.

 

Matt Nokes  23:01

And I say, okay, now where's your 45 degrees? And then as long as you hit it inside of the 45, you'll crush it with your weight, you'll get your weight into the ball, because you're shifting into the swing, and past the line that you see. And that may be complicated. Because there's a certain amount of information that you need to know to actually kind of visualize it and understand why it works like that…

 

Joey Myers  23:29

And I can include a link to your drill video too. [The following is the “Around the Zone Soft Toss Drill” video as promised:

 

Matt Nokes  23:31

Yeah, okay, yeah, I break it down. And I show you, I mean, you go 46 degrees, it's going to be a topspin ground-ball. And so, you have to address the drill, you have to follow the rule, that's the easiest way, if I'm going to give a player action steps and not just try to convince them of some hitting theory. And I was like hey, let's get into action. Let's not worry about hitting theory until you already feel what you got to do.

 

Matt Nokes  24:01

Because once you feel it, then all of a sudden, your intuition about why you're doing it, and what it's fixing will be enhanced, and you'll be able to see things that you couldn't ordinarily see. You go from the side. And so now the ball, let's say I'm hitting in that as a left-handed hitter. Initially, I'm hitting the ball, right down the left field line. And then as you work your way around, but you know, maybe at eight, eight or 10 ball down in the left field line, opposite field, because it's being thrown from the side, as long as I shift my weight perpendicular to the line and get beyond the line. I'm getting my weight to the ball.

 

Matt Nokes  24:45

Because good timing is transferring your weight into the ball on time and what you'll find is you'll gain incredible power increases because you're transferring to the ball on time, you're able to regulate that system really well and make fine tuning adjustments, and you're actually hitting the ball in the correct direction.

 

Matt Nokes  25:11

For those of you who don't quite understand it, I can give you an example of, one extreme example, if I was getting that same ball, that I would normally hit down the left field line, which is opposite field, if I'm throwing a ball from the side, I've seen guys in the batting cage, and I would walk in the cage, and they're hitting balls up the middle of that, and I walk by a coach and they say, Hey, do you see anything Nokesy? And, you know, okay, and, and then I'll take the tee and put it out front.

 

Matt Nokes  25:45

Well, they have the tee in the center of their legs, like inside, and like, behind the front foot, or between the legs, and they're hitting the ball up the middle. Well, if you got a ball that far back, you got to hit that ball the other way. But it's not very exciting to hit a ball on into the net three feet away, it's just not that exciting.  But that's the direction you need to be hitting, you need to get your weight beyond that ball, to transfer your weight in the ball, because we're talking about directional force.

 

Matt Nokes  26:19

But what a player will do is they'll run away from the ball, shift, try to stay on their back foot to clear, to give them some kind of room to hit that ball, to hit that ball up the middle.  Because they're thinking about what they're doing incorrectly, they're trying to hit a ball up the middle that they're not supposed to hit up the middle.

 

Matt Nokes  26:41

And so you just work that drill correctly. And then you start moving your soft tosser, you start moving them around, until eventually they're in the front, and you're hitting it down the right field line. And actually, when you do it correctly, you can't hook it foul. Now you think what do you mean?  You could literally have someone right in front of you. Throwing it at your front hip, he can't hook it foul. Why? Because you've got your weight into the ball and your weight is in the ball at contact, you're in line.

 

Matt Nokes  27:11

It may not even be a lot of lag, just enough lag to get that whip. It's just pre final whip. It's just pre where you rollover, it's always going to be if your weight is into the ball.  Think about it, if you don't shift your weight into the ball on time. That's a slap. That's a hook. That's called quitting. So yeah. What you're getting yourself out of is from quitting.

 

Matt Nokes  27:37

And that's what happens when someone is trying to hit a ball that's deep between their legs and trying to hit it up the middle. The only way to hit that ball up the middle is to quit.

 

Joey Myers  27:49

Got it. That's a great drill. And again, I'll add the drill video that you have on YouTube in the post. Well, hey, man, I would love to do a part two at some point, but to be respectful of your time. Where can people find you? Are there any special projects you're working on right now? Just a little bit about where people can go to get more information on you.

 

Matt Nokes  28:10

Yeah, thanks, Joey. You can go to MattNokes.com. I have courses available. And I have a free advanced hitting workshop. And after if you'd like to consult with me, there's a link at the end of the workshop. But you can also go to CallNokes.com and schedule a call with me. We figure out what's working what's not, and create a blueprint. And if I can help you I certainly will. You can also go to YouTube and find my videos you punch my name in, punch in Matt Nokes and you can find a lot of my videos on YouTube like case studies and things like that. It's been a pleasure. Thanks, Joey. Thanks for inviting me on the program.

Jaime Cevallos Part-2 Interview: What are the 3 most Important Things to Consistent Power?

 

 

In case you missed any of the 3-part series…

Here's what we're going to discuss in Part-2 of the Jaime Cevallos interview:

  • What are the BIG-3 for consistent power?
  • How do you wind up the body to deliver more force?
  • What is the Main Thing that Separates the Great Hitters from Average?
  • What are the 3 most Important Things to Consistent Power?

The following is the transcription of the above video.  You can find Jaime Cevallos at the following places:

Enjoy!

 

What are the BIG-3 for Consistent Power?How To Wind Up The Body To Deliver More Force

Joey Myers  00:06

…the application of it basically. And in the beginning, there was the big three is what I call it. So that was showing the numbers, so hitters showing their numbers to the pitcher, there was the downhill shoulder angle. So that's the side bend side of it. And then there was the hiding of the hands.

 

Joey Myers  00:20

And I know you came to kind of a conclusion about that front arm shape being barred out or even slight bend, but pretty close to being barred out. So, the hands don't necessarily they used to teach walk away from the hands, right? So that to me is translated as the hands going back towards the catcher, but it's actually should go back at an angle back where we say hiding the hands from the pitcher. So, the hands should end up at landing somewhere above or behind the back heel.

 

Joey Myers  00:49

So if the pitcher is watching this hitter, and again, go look at Mike Trout, go look at JD Martinez. Go look at Mookie Betts. Look at all these guys and you'll see them number one, showing their numbers. Number two, not all of them have a downward shoulder angle but many of them do; Miggy Cabrera, Ted Williams if you want to go back in the day, a lot of hitters in the Stan Musial, they used to say that it looked like he was a little kid peeking around the corner. Right.

 

Joey Myers  01:16

And it was that the showing numbers part of it. And you see them all hiding their hands. So, from the minute they start to at landing, you see their hands disappear. So those are the big three and what's happening fascia wise is we're taking the front shoulder, we're taking the front shoulder and we're bringing it down and in towards the back hip.

 

Joey Myers  01:37

So that gives you that slight down angle and it gets you… we've evolved showing numbers to more creating neck pressure. Because every hitter is different, you and me being a little bit older, although we do a lot of movement work on our own body so we probably move better than people our age. But a lot of hitters are different in how far they can get their head here because one of the biggest…. one of the biggest things that people hated was showing the numbers was that, well, it pulls the hitters eyes off the ball.

 

Joey Myers  02:04

And yeah, if you do it too much, but the head's got to anchor down in a position, so if I go sideways, so the head's got an anchor in a tracking position, not necessarily square off to the pitcher, but intercept where the balls coming in.  All Dr. Peter Fadde's stuff and head anchors and then we just pull that shoulder underneath as far as you can. And that's going to create some tension in the neck.

 

Joey Myers  02:28

So it's like a wringing towel, like we're wringing a towel out. So, where your head is on top, the top hand and that your shoulders are the bottom hand, and we're just wringing as far as we can. We're taking that spine, that section of the spine, and we're just bringing it as hard as we can until landing and then we just let it go.

 

Joey Myers  02:44

So it's kind of like, I call it more of a spring than some people call it rubber bands like get the rubber bands really tight and then let them go like a rubber band system. Kind of but it's more it's more spring, springy. So those are the big three if you connect the dots between what fascia is what the spinal engine is, it's easy way to think about it is a wringing towel, like you're wringing the towel, it's loading that system up and then letting it go.

 

Joey Myers  03:10

And like I said, I ran quite a few swing experiments that proved that showing numbers versus not showing numbers, you add between four to six miles an hour bat speed, and I can't remember if I did a ball exit speed one, but bat speed and ball exit speed are very similar. They're like first or second cousins. So it's very translatable. The down shoulders added four miles an hour of speed. And the showing numbers I think was three miles an hour, or one to two wasn't quite as much. The big one was showing the numbers or creating that neck pressure.

 

Jaime Cevallos  03:41

So what this does is it winds up the body so that you can then deliver more force…

 

How do you Wind up the Body to Deliver more Force?

Joey Myers  03:48

Yes, yeah, it takes the slack out of the system. So slack being a little different than what how the human body because we talked about it's more compression tension forces that's taking slack out, but it's almost like If you think about a car that goes into a ravine and then you have a Jeep with a winch on the front that you can take the cable, hook it up to the bumper of the car that's been dropped in the ravine and to pull that car out, right, so you turn the winch on…

 

Joey Myers  04:15

And if you have slack in the cable that's connected to the bumper, and you turn that winch on right away, because there's slack in the cable, it's going to just pull the bumper off, it's not going to pull the car out of the ravine.

 

Joey Myers  04:25

So what you have to do first is after you hook it, hook the bumper, is you got to slowly take that slack out of the cable of the winch line and then turn it on and it'll pull the whole car out. So that's slack versus no slack. Some people out there have been on a what a toboggan on the lake, and you've been on a boat pulling you along, and you're holding on to the ski line or whatever you hold on to the ski bar, right and they're pulling you along.

 

Joey Myers  04:52

And we had a buddy who did this with us. And at the time, I was super strong. I was lifting a lot and he goes I'm going to do it as hard as I can to you, alright do it, bring it, bring it, man. So, he got it to where he's pulling me at first. So, there was no slack in the line; line was nice and tight. And then he got me to where I started coming up to the side of the boat. So, he kind of slowed it down a little bit. And then I started kind of floating up and started putting slack in the line and then he floored it! And boom, and that I held on and there was one time I think I ended let go, but that amount of force all at once. It was a slack in the line.

 

Joey Myers  05:30

Oh my gosh. So what happens is…

 

Jaime Cevallos  05:34

You're lucky you didn't hurt yourself.

 

Joey Myers  05:36

Right? Yeah, dude, we were like 25 years old, right? ever get hurt. But that's the thing. So when youth hitters, a lot of times what I see is these coaches say, keep your shoulders square. Don't show your numbers to the pitcher for all these different reasons we can go into some other time, but they want the shoulders square. They don't want you tilting them. They don't want you turning them in. They want them square and then they want the hips to do everything.

 

Joey Myers  06:04

And so what's happening is it's putting slack in the system. Because to take slack out we just talked about is like that wringing towel, we have to wring the towel and then let it go. And that's where you get a nice powerful move, consistently powerful move, and it's safe on the spine versus the opposite where the coach wants this shoulder square doesn't want any turn it in or down or anything like that. And they want the swing powered by the pelvis or the hips, they say explode the hips, load and explode the hips.

 

Joey Myers  06:34

And what happens there is you're taking the equipment of the lower back, the set of five vertebrae is in the lower lower back, who actually are not made to rotate. They're not made to, they're not built to rotate the bones. Okay. All they can do is flex and extend. The rotation that you see is about seven to 12 degrees and this is via Tom Myers, and a pretty prominent, I can't remember his name right now, physical therapists been around forever in the strength conditioning world [Charlie Weingroff, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist, a trainer in New York City, and is pretty high up on the human performance food chain], seven to 12 degrees of rotation is all it's allowed because of the muscles surrounding those bones.

 

Joey Myers  07:13

So that's the rotation you see is that set that seven to 12 degrees rotation, you see, is because of the muscles surrounding the bones.  The thoracic spine, so shoulders and then the rest of it that attaches up to the top of the lumbar, the lower back is made to rotate is actually made to rotate 40 degrees, four-zero in both directions.

 

Joey Myers  07:34

So I should be able to do a good moving human body can move 40 degrees to the left and rotate 40 degrees to the right. So when you employ a part of the body that isn't allowed to rotate, to rotate and to not only rotate but explode, like absolutely explode. Now what happens is we start wearing holes in the lower back, we see back spasms. We see herniated discs. 

 

Joey Myers  07:35

We see all kinds of stuff in the swings we were referring to earlier about the barrel moves the body, not the body moves barrel. So those ones that are teaching barrel moving the body, what I see in those swings is I see these hitters on Twitter where their back is arching their arching and you can almost draw for righties, you can draw a reverse C shape. And for lefties, you can draw a C shape like from their head, down their back and out their leg because they're arching so much you can see this kind of C shape going on.

 

Joey Myers  08:32

And the problem with that is extension is okay, so if you arch your back in just a normal, a normal sagittal plane like a front to back plane, like you do a lunge or squat in a normal extension is fine. An arching of the back is fine. You see a gymnast when they swing the bar when they're swinging under the bar, right? You'll see them go into a globally flexed position where their spine kind of looks like this and then as they swing through, they go into a globally arched and global just means the whole body is arch. There's not one little point that's arched, say like in my head if I went and I just dropped my head back and I went into an extended position with my neck and not using my body as well, that's that would be a local extension.

 

Joey Myers  09:17

Those aren't usually good when they're coupled with their rotation. So, when the hitter is going into an arched position, that by itself isn't troublesome. But the minute you add a rotation in with that, now, when you arch you're pushing the vertebrae together in your back when you arch. Okay, now that again isn't a big deal, but the minute you start rotating, now you're grinding and that is a problem and that's what I see when you teach hitters the barrel moves the body and to snap the barrel back way back here.

 

Joey Myers  09:51

When I see those swings, I see those hitters arching their back and turning and it just makes me want to throw up because these coaches either, they're, it's like a cat, right? Cats are either really, really smart or they're really, really stupid. And to me, it looks like those coaches don't know any better. And they're getting their information from some guy who doesn't know any better, who knows better, but he's not teaching the right thing and it's just it's horrible to see these young hitters doing that.

 

Jaime Cevallos  10:25

So, what you would say is the main thing that separates the great hitters from the average or the just the good has to do with this sort of building tension not creating slack in the torso area and the upper legs basically, of the body.

 

What is the Main Thing that Separates the Great Hitters from Average?

Joey Myers  10:51

Right, exactly. So if you go back and Ted Williams you look at Stan Musial, you look at even Babe Ruth, and not all of them have them have every single principle like they could have and they could have done better. You could even look at Tony Gwynn, right? There was an article I do that every time I put it up on social media, I said something in the article or in the headline to the effect of, could Gwynn have had more power?

 

Joey Myers  11:16

And I just did an analysis and took a look at his swing and pointed out areas where he could have maximized or optimized power. A lot of people don't like that. You know, Tony, how could you be? You know, how many hits? Did you get the big leagues in? How could you take on Tony, when you don't know what you're talking about?

 

Joey Myers  11:31

I was like, no, it's dude. It's a thought experiment. I'm not going after the guy, right. He didn't want to hit for power. Although, when he had his talk with Ted Williams, his power numbers sure went up a little bit because Teddy told him, Hey, you might want to pull the ball and own your pull field a little bit more. And that year after he had that talk with him, I think he went from like 11 home-runs a season I think he hit maybe 20 or 18 or something like that.

 

Joey Myers  11:54

But this idea that Ted Williams is probably one of the best one of the best at it, you see the showing numbers, or his in his case “the number” nine, you see his down shoulder angle. You see him hiding the hands. You see this locked out front lead arm when he started his swing.  Like he's got it all, all of it.

 

Joey Myers  12:14

The only thing I don't agree with that it's not a bad thing per se. Extra motion, is the idea where he turned his hips in slightly. So, he kind of turned the hips in like he was turning towards the catcher. And I did this read a book you know that in high school and college and stuff like that because that's where I thought power was in the pelvis.

 

Joey Myers  12:37

But if you think about, when I turn my hips in and I'm creating my neck pressure showing my numbers and I'm pulling the shoulder in well if my hips going away from my back hip, which I'm supposed to be taking my front hip and bringing or my front shoulder and bringing it to my back hip, with my back hip is going away and my front shoulder is chasing what you're continually chasing. So, you never get to that point. Right?

 

Joey Myers  13:00

So if we just keep the pelvis in neutral, so belt buckle, pointing at home plate we don't inward turn or anything, and just let the shoulders do what they do. Creating neck pressure showing numbers going into that position there. Then now we're compressing where we need to and what happens is when you inward the pelvis and we're seeing data on this, ZenoLink.com – Chris Welch.

 

Joey Myers  13:26

So he does a lot of experimentation. He's kind of physical therapist guy, and very, very knowledgeable and he's got a lot of data. He's got force plates he's got all this different stuff. And so, I had one of my online hitters went to him, Chris's on the East Coast, went to him to go through all his testing evaluation stuff.

 

Joey Myers  13:45

And Chris was saying that this particular hitter's barrel speed was super maximized behind him, which is again, the same people that teach barrel swings the body right so the barrel speed was increased or was maximized behind him, but by the time he got to impact it was slowing down. So answer that, how are we teaching something that's actually slowing down your barrel by the time you get to impact…

 

Joey Myers  14:15

And there's a couple different factors in that we can go into if you want, but that was the whole thing he was in inwardly rotating his pelvis and he was a lefty. So he was taken in rotating his pelvis in towards the catcher and then get to landing and then he would he would rotate, he would rotate back, you know the pelvis back and explode into the ball, but that was causing him to have a premature maximizing of bat speed. It wasn't helping him it wasn't maximizing his ball exit speed.

 

Jaime Cevallos  14:46

Now, so the most important thing, you mentioned three things, say those, again…

 

What are the 3 most Important Things to Consistent Power?

Joey Myers  14:54

The spine, of the spine?

 

Jaime Cevallos  14:57

Well, just that I think there were just three things that were…

 

Joey Myers  14:59

You're talking about?

 

Joey Myers  15:02

Oh, oh, oh…the three things the big three, okay, so showing numbers or create neck pressure.  If I'm here, I'm here. So, my head anchors in a tracking position, shoulder comes pulling underneath as far as I can just like you're wringing a towel out right, my head and my shoulders. I'm bringing that towel out, creating pressure in the neck. So that's number one that's showing numbers neck pressure.

 

Joey Myers  15:27

Number two is downward shoulder angle. From this view, is more of a slight down shoulder. So, it's like you're doing a side bend. So, the shoulders the back shoulder goes up, the front shoulder goes down. And with that, you don't want it to be too much. The sweet spot there is like six to 10 degrees down so it's not a lot, but what helps a lot of times is controlling where that elbow goes.

 

Joey Myers  15:54

I back this up a little bit, give you guys a little bit more room. If I can use my elbow to pull the elbow or pull the, or bring the shoulders down, steer the shoulders down. That's a way to do it. But you can also focus on taking this front shoulder down and then towards that back hip that'll help to create this down shoulder. Right.

 

Joey Myers  16:14

And what's interesting in the swing, if we want our body to accelerate and decelerate properly, is we want the shoulders to start down. And then as we swing, then they're going to tilt. This front shoulder starts down, left shoulder, and then as I swing, it's going to go up. And then in my finish, think about the Ted Williams pictures and Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth and all these guys, how did they finish they end up finishing in this position.

 

Joey Myers  16:45

So what we should see is we should see… left shoulder starts down, pops up, and then it should end down. So down, up, and then down on the finish. You know those Ted Williams pictures where he's like, position right. It's this one, it's his left shoulder as a lefty starts, or he starts here. His left shoulder here starts up, and then it goes down. And then it finishes up. Right. So that's a proper accelerating decelerating into the spine. So that's the second thing that's the down shoulder.

 

Joey Myers  17:23

And then the last one is the hiding hands from the pitcher. One more time again. We got so if I start my swing, this way, you can see my hands and the minute I get to landing, I'm creating what you see this back elbow peeking out behind me. So that's they call it a SCAP row, or SCAP load, SCAP pinch wherever you want to call it. So that's the move there. Where now you can't see my hands.

 

Joey Myers  17:49

And now what I'm doing is this front shoulder for those those Kines geeks out there. The front shoulder is a Scap protraction so the scalp is coming in the scapula is coming this way coming across. And then my back SCAP is retracting. They're doing the opposite of each other protraction retraction, right?

 

Joey Myers  18:10

So if you watch any gymnastics, or Olympian doing a spin, ice skater, if they do a spin, that's what you're going to see. And a lot of people out there will say, Well, I like to scap pinch, but I don't want this front shoulder coming in. And like you're not, that's not how the human body works, dude, you're not getting 100% optimization out of the rotation.

 

Jaime Cevallos  18:35

So the showing numbers has been something that people didn't want to do?  I was not aware of that…

 

Joey Myers  18:41

It was and still, yeah, it's crazy.

 

Jaime Cevallos  18:45

Why did they say you didn't want to show numbers?

 

Joey Myers  18:47

Good question. The irony by the way, these same people that don't like it, swear by video, swear by video analysis. They say well we're going to look and see what the best hitters do and that's what we're going to do.  And you see them do it. You can again look at Miggy look at Ted Williams look at Trout look at just look at the top 10 power hitters right now and even in the in the day, and you see all of them do it.

 

Joey Myers  19:13

So I don't understand why they're all about video analysis, but they choose to see what they want to see. Right. So what they say is the problem they say with it is that it takes the hitters eyes off the ball, but I just talked about, we create neck pressure. The head is the important part. That's the piece that's the anchor. It's like a boat and I ask my hitters, what does an anchor do on a boat, it either stops the boat or it slows it down, right?

 

Joey Myers  19:37

So the head is the control piece. Wherever the head goes, the body follows. So the head takes a tracking position and anchors down and then it's the shoulder that comes in as far as it can while we're wringing the towel out. And that's what's going to get you to the show numbers.

 

Joey Myers  19:53

Now lefties if you watch lefties because the camera angle at Major League ballparks is slightly off center towards left field right… (To be continued in Part-3…)

How To Use Legs In Swing Like Rizzo, Altuve, & Trout

Answered: “How To Get My Kid To Stop Rising And For Him To Utilize His Legs More During Batting?”

 

 

Here's what we cover in the above video:

  • Legs DO NOT equal power – water polo example,How To Use Legs In Swing Like Rizzo, Altuve, & Trout
  • What is leg function in swing & Adjusting to pitch height,
  • Distance between the feet equal more control over line drives,
  • GRF's but not as much as you think,
  • Buying time – back foot sideways, directional force, & pushing the “pause” button, and
  • How to utilize the legs in the swing?

Hey, what's going on. It's Joey Myers again from ‘Hitting Performance Lab’. In this video, we're going to answer the following reader question:

“How to get my kid stop rising, and for him to utilize his legs more during batting?”

Now this is a question that comes either through a form, survey, or email or even from my local lessons. The coaches out there in the high schools tend to meddle a bit too much, subscribing to the hitting myth that: ‘it's all about the legs’, or ‘you need to use your legs more’.

In this video, I want to talk about what that means, and what is the function of the legs…

 

Legs DO NOT equal power – water polo example

Legs are only 20-30% of the consistent power equation, and most of that is in the function of the pelvis.  If you're a coach and power is the deficiency in your hitter's swing, then it's the spinal engine you want to focus on.  The Catapult Loading System is where 70-80% of consistent power is found.  The best example I like to share can be found in water polo.

And my favorite demonstration to do for hitters is showing what a beach towel and the spinal engine have in common.

 

What is Leg Function in Swing & Adjusting to Pitch Height

Now a couple things, one is they help to adjust to pitch height. If you're looking at hitters like Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, Joc Pederson of the Dodgers, Corey Seager, looking at Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs or some of the past players like Adrian Beltre or Pedroia. When the pitch is down in the zone, you tend to see them bend their front knee to go down and get it. They tend to do that consistently on those pitches, those lower in the zone pitches, not locking out their front knee like many teach.

I've seen these same hitters Rizzo, Bellinger, I've seen them with a bent front knee hit balls 440 to 460 feet.  So, locking out the front knee IS NOT all about power.  So, this raises a question of, if you want a hitter to use their legs more often because you think it has to do with power, well that is just not true – that's not what we're seeing. So, adjusting to pitch height, and you can study the hitters discussed as examples.

 

Distance between the Feet Equal more Control over Line Drives

Distance between the feet, this is a big one, that we can use the legs or utilize the legs to allow hitters to hit more line drives. The problem happens when, say if we are teaching our hitters to skip their back foot that they end up skipping their feet too close together.  Or it could be they don't stride that much. They don't skip at all and, so their feet tend to be closer together. What we want is what you see with the top 50, top 100 hitters in the big leagues….

You're going to see distance between their feet. So, whether that is a longer stride and their front foot moves away from their back foot. Whether they don't skip but they don't stride as much, you still see that wideness of their feet. You see them scissor, you see different things like that, but what they all have in common, all the top hitters in the big leagues, is they have distance between their feet.  When the feet come close together, it makes the hitter taller, which this reader is asking how to keep the hitter from “rising”.  The taller the hitter gets, the more in the ground the ball is gonna get hit.

If the hitter knows better, and they try and get the ball in the air, even though they have narrow feet during their turn. Then they're gonna do something unnatural with their hands to try and get under it, which we don't want them to do either. Because that is going to cause uppercuts.  It's going to cause inconsistencies in their swing path.

 

GRF's, but not as much as you think

I just mentioned that hitters don't have to lock their front knee out for power. When you think about ground reaction forces (GRF's), they DO play a role. I'm not taking away from ground reaction forces, or saying “Oh, well the legs don't do anything in the swing”.

No, they do. It's about a 20 to 30% increase in power by using the legs. Most of that though is in the pelvis, and the rest in the spinal engine. I tell my hitters that the spinal engine, their combination of your shoulders and how you use them.  Neck, shoulders, and pelvis account for about 70 to 80% of the power. That gets you to the wall. The legs help get you over the wall. So, you do need the legs, and it's like what Dr. Serge Gracovetsky, the author of the Spinal Engine said, that locomotion, the arms and legs aren't necessary for locomotion, they're an enhancement, they help enhance movement of the spinal engine.

So, we're not taking away from the legs, the use of the legs, and how they can benefit the swing. It's just that they're an enhancement to the spinal engine, the taller the player is, the longer the levers, the more the force multiplier at the end of that lever. So, guys like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are gonna have longer levers, if they lengthen those levers at impact. When we're talking about the front arm shape, they're gonna hit the ball pound-for-pound, apples-to-apples swings farther than Jose Altuve with the locked out-front arm. It's just because the longer limbs enhance more, they're more of a force multiplier.

 

Buying Time – Back Foot Sideways, Directional Force, & Pushing the “Pause” Button

Buying time. So, the lower half, the legs can help buy time. Jamie Cevallos in his book Positional Hitting way back, I think it was in the early 2000's or mid to late 2000's. He talked about this idea of a ‘Cushion’. You'll see a hitter especially, if they're looking fastball, and they see a curve ball or changeup. You'll see them actually bend, sink, or cushion into their knees. They use their knees by bending them to buy them a little bit of time to get on time a lot better.  It's pushing the ‘pause' button.

The other thing we want to do to buy time, is keep the back foot sideways.

We talked about this idea of directional force, Matt Nokes, he says that to hit a ball 400 feet, it takes 8,000 pounds per square inch of force in one direction. In hitting, both in baseball and softball, we have 90 degrees to work with. The other 270 degrees is in foul territory, it doesn't do a hitter any good or a team any good to play in that 270 degrees outside of a fair territory. We have to stay between the 90s, we have to stay between the lines. If you think about a bowler, every single professional bowler out there, “scissors” their legs.

I'm not saying that all hitters have to scissor. I just give my hitters that option.  But if you think about bowlers, they bowl between a two-foot Lane. I don't know if that's correct or not, but it's somewhere around that. They also put a spin on the ball, so if they over rotated their lower half, not keeping their back foot sideways, they're over rotating their pelvis. Then what you would see is that ball bouncing into the outside lanes.  Try scissoring your legs, then try and open your hips up more, and it's almost impossible.

You want to make sure that we're creating directional force, and that's another thing the legs do. They help us stay between that 90 degrees, and use all 90 degrees effectively. That comes in handy at the higher levels when hitting to the opposite field is a lot more important, and when we see shifts.  Most of the time, hitters are not very good about going the other way. You can see the hitters that do go the other way very well, their batting averages seem to be higher.

 

How do we Utilize the legs in the Swing?

Now again, if it's power you want, this isn't the place. You want to look at the Catapult Loading System, and harness the power of the spinal engine.  If you want a majority of power, 70-80% of consistent power.

Getting Shorter, Staying Shorter

To properly utilize the legs in the swing, you want to look at getting shorter and staying shorter.  You see most great hitters when you draw a line over their head before they stride, by the time they get to stride landing, you're gonna see distance between where they started, and where their head is at stride landing. You're gonna see what we call ‘Getting Shorter’.

Then as they swing, it's almost like that bottom ladder rung they create at landing, they tend to stay under that line. What we do is, we could take a PVC pipe. We can put it at the start of the hitter swing, before they even stride…we can put it maybe at their nose or their chin, and we can have them practice getting the top of their head under that PVC pipe. As they swing, stay under that PVC pipe. I've also had my hitters get next to a piece of furniture that's about the same height, then have them stride, and get their head to where, now they're under the top of that, say dresser or whatever, or picture frame, could be anything around the house.

When they swing, do some slow motion swings, and they stay under that line. That's a way to get shorter, stay shorter.

Okay to “bend the knee”

It's okay to bend the knee, I also get my hitters to do this if necessary. We don't really practice this, but I tell them it's okay to bend the knee, if the pitch is down in the zone.

Distance between the feet

Also working distance between the feet, you can either get them to stride longer, or you can cut down on their skip. We usually try to manipulate one of those two things or both things to get that distance between the feet, so that allows them to hit more line drives or at least control their line drives.

Keep back foot sideways

Then keeping their back foot sideways. You can use the VeloPro, they use it in pitching a lot. But in hitting, we use the VeloPro.

We tell the hitter to make sure they keep their back foot, their back heel on the ground as they swing. Almost like you would see with George Springer, or Altuve, or Mike Trout, any of those kinds of hitters or in softball Sierra Romero. They keep their back heel on the ground and it turns sideways, so they stay sideways. They do a better job of staying between those 90 degrees.

One last thing on keeping the back foot sideways, as mentioned, scissoring helps with that as well. So, that's something that you can play around with, and let your hitters’ experiment with.

Hope this answered the question of “How to get my kid to stop rising, and for him to utilize his legs more during the swing”. Make sure that we're swinging smarter by moving better, and before I let you go…

Juan Soto Swing Analysis Reveals How-to Of ‘Line-To-Line' Directional Force… 

 

 

In this Juan Soto swing analysis, we'll discuss:

  • Juan Soto swing analysis quick stats,
    Juan Soto Swing Analysis

    Juan Soto photo courtesy: MLB.com on FOX

  • Lower half sets directional force,
  • Hitting it back through tube, and
  • Catapult Loading System…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete Alonso Swing Analysis: Here Is A Method Helping Him To Crush 53 HR's & 30 2B's His Rookie Year 

 

Pete Alonso Swing Analysis

Pete Alonso photo courtesy: MLB.com

Here's what we cover in this Pete Alonso swing analysis:

  • A quick look into his height, weight, line drive, ground-ball, and fly-ball percentages,
  • Look at how many Catapult Loading System principles are mixed into his swing: Finger Pressure, Stable Head, Hollow Position, Showing Numbers, Downhill Shoulders, Hiding Hands…and
  • Look at how many Pitch Plane Dominator principles are a part of his swing: Barrel Path, Distance Between Feet, Back Foot Skip, Forward Momentum…

The Bottom line?

In doing this swing analysis, it looks like there is a little room for improvement that could move the needle in the following 4 ways:

  1. Raising his line drive rate,
  2. Raising his batting average,
  3. Lowering his fly ball percentage, while also
  4. Maintaining, if not surpassing, his current level of power…

Small Slugger Hacking Featuring Alex Bregman Hitting Mechanics

 

Alex Bregman Hitting Mechanics: Comparing Jose Altuve, Ronald Acuna Jr., & Yordan Alvarez

07/20/19: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez launch back-to-back-to-back home runs in the 3rd inning to give the Astros a 4-0 lead. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

What we're going over in this Alex Bregman hitting mechanics video:

Are Instructors Confusing What “Casting” Is AND Is Not? (Perry Husband & HPL Hitting Jam Session #5)

 

Here's the Hitting Jam Session Interview Collection with Perry Husband:

  1. Why You Should Not Teach Hitters To Hit Homers?
  2. What's The Biggest Mistake Coaches Make In Boosting Ball Exit Speeds
  3. How To Make Teaching Proper Weight Shift In Swing More Understandable To Hitter
  4. Teach: How To STOP Hitting Excess Of Ground-balls & Fly-balls
  5. [YOU ARE HERE] 5,000 Swing Experiments Validate Locked Lead Arm Is Superior To Bent
  6. Overload Bat Training: Hitting Has To Work Butt Off To Resist “Casting”

Here's what we discuss in this episode:Perry Husband & Joey Myers Hitting Jam Session #5

  • Instructors confusing what “casting” is and is not,
  • What if only fastball Mike Trout gets is what produces the 80.8-mph avg. BES, would that change his offensive stats?
  • Hitter using bent lead arm comes at a cost,
  • “Deep barrel dump” – great barrel path for down/away pitches, but TERRIBLE for up/inside pitches,
  • And much more!

Hitting Jam Session 5 above jumps right into the conversation already started…

 

Show Notes

  • At about the 2-minute mark, disclaimers…I was a skeptic on the locked lead arm since about 2 years ago, some out there cannot subscribe to a locked lead arm BECAUSE of what they teach – the “deep barrel dump” on every pitch depth, instructors are confusing what “casting” is and is not, it's not a locked lead arm, it is a deep barrel dump regardless of pitch depth, nobody is 100% right or wrong, if stay in Science, then most will come to the same conclusions (on macros – maybe not micros),
  • At about 5-minute mark, what is and is not working for Mike Trout – bent lead up arm v. locked lead arm, fastballs up and in 80.8-mph avg. BES in 2018 (bent lead arm), and down and away 101.8-mph avg. BES (locked lead arm), what if the only fastball he gets is what produces the 80.8-mph avg. BES would that change Mike Trout's offensive stats?  Trout is hitting in a target rich environment where pitchers are throwing fastballs DOWN and off speed and breaking stuff UP, which puts timing that sequence VERY similar – easier to hit, pitchers are STUPID to keep fastballs down to him, Perry's categories for pitches: #1's – fastest version of the fastball – 96+ mph, #2's – slowest version of the FB and fastest version of off speed (splitter/cutter/slider up in the zone), #3's – slower versions of splitter/cutter/slider down in the zone, and #4's – curveballs, Trout killed 2's, 3's, and 4's, Perry referenced the SBNation article about Trout on Effective Velocity, article had wide reach and pitchers started pounding Trout up – and he adjusted to an up/in approach, changed his attention of where he focused and hunted, can only cover so much as a hitter when it comes to hitting 1, 2, 3, and 4's,
  • At about 14-minute, 30-secs mark, hitter using bent lead arm comes at a cost, in Trout's case 80-mph avg. BES v. 101-mph BES, split A/B testing metaphor on Facebook ad changing only 1 thing – see what ad wins out over being shown randomly to an audience, split A/B test locked lead arm versus keeping it bent, what if all FB's down/away disappear to Trout?  What would happen to his numbers?  What happens when an EV minded pitcher like DeGrom, Scherzer, Verlander, Bauer face Trout or Miggy? What about bettering reaction time? What happens to policeman when you take away time?  Ugly stuff – they have less time to make a decision (Perry referenced the book Blink), give extra time, see pitches easier, slow down fast stuff and speed up slow stuff…allows Trout to cover A LOT of pitches with same timing, as a pitcher you're more likely to get away with hanging off speed or breaking stuff up in the zone than a fastball down and/or away,
  • At about 27-minute, 30-secs mark, Perry talks about how Jacob DeGrom ONLY mixed in a higher percentage of fastballs up in the zone (61% of the time – avg. postseason team was 44%) one year and cut his ERA in half!  Debunking the “deep barrel dump” – great for pitches on the outer 1/3 of plate or lower in the strike zone, but is TERRIBLE barrel path for inner 1/3 to inner half part of plate, some confuse “long swing” with locked lead arm, but it's because of casting or deep barrel dump, Perry talks about the ball bungee attached with surgical tubing experiment: found bigger the stretch, the faster and less time it takes ball to hit wall, connection to hitting is taking slack out of the system (more elastic energy built up!),  fence drill – can do drill with locked lead arm if hold angle of bat close to following shoulder, keep 90-degree wrist angle tension w/ locked lead arm versus bent,
  • At about 36-minute, 30-sec mark, Stanton, Donaldson – when they hit 114-mph BES they're in a closer to lead arm lock out position, why not find out how to figure out how to get hitters doing it versus explaining it away, multiple 100-mph BES younger hitters hitting balls off the tee, how many 100-mph BES players are being cheated by inferior mechanics, locked lead arm doesn't just increase power but it also improves consistency of sweet spot to ball, Perry's done 5,000 swing experiments on locked out front arm (Jay Bell was most known), in golf if golfers could hit it farther with a bent lead arm, then driving ranges across the world would be using bent lead arm, goal is still the same in baseball as in golf – hit it at max
  • At about 42-minute, 30-sec mark, locked lead arm being longer…it's not a question of locked lead arm causes long or casting swing – it's about when the hitter “releases” the barrel from the rear shoulder that causes the long or casting swing, the stubborn “deep barrel dump” barrel path being taught will become extinct when pitchers get more EV efficient and begin using hard stuff up in the zone, even if pitchers miss their mark by a foot they'll still be effective – execute one in three pitches, you'll be a super star just as long as you understand what your misses are doing, hitters must apply 100/100 all the time – 100% on-time, 100% effective, pitchers like Scherzer will be the norm and not the exception, dumping barrels on all pitches WILL NOT work, can lock at load or at start of the turn – objective is to take slack out before the turn,
  • At about 56-minute mark, pitcher and hitter adjustments over the decades: Bob Gibson days attacking up, hitters adjust and get good at driving up, then in 70's and 80's pitchers attacked down in the zone, now pitchers are beginning to adjust back up again, Perry says we'll see one more drop with hitting, which will force hitters to rock bottom, buy a little more time swinging with bent front arm but at what costs, going to be really hard when hitter sees 100-mph up, then followed up with curveball that looks the same in the tunnel and drops, how longer arms effects contact points, all data right now is based on control of bent front arm, JUST TEST IT!  CLICK HERE for testing protocol Perry and I have talked about in these Jam Sessions, any change you make MUST positively affect ball exit speed AND frequency of line drives, message to those who are anti-tee, bent lead arm ball exit will be close to the same off tee and LIVE
  • You can find Perry Husband at HittingIsAGuess.com, use EV25 coupon code for any of the online courses.  @EVPerryHusband on Twitter, and @PerryHusband on Facebook
  • My offer…FREE Catapult Loading System 2nd edition print book – just pay $8.95 shipping and handling (retails on Amazon for $19.97) – in addition you'll get our essential consistent power online video mini-course Power Hitter 2.0: Engineering The Alphahttps://www.truthaboutexplosiverotationalpower.com/pl/60039

Demonstration On How To Take “Slack” Out Of The System (and what it means)

Here's a great way to help coaches and players understand taking slack out of the system, demonstrating the power of the spinal engine.

We call it the “coiling” core, NOT the “braced” core most teach their hitters.  A braced core is fantastic in the weight room, but NOT in the Spinal Engine - Wringing Towel Out Demonstrationbatter's box.  CLICK HERE for an interview I did with Bosu Ball inventor David Weck, where he takes a deeper dive into this.

Some understand the importance of shoulder-hip separation, but what most don't know is that we MUST create tension in the neck – where the ‘C' and ‘T' sections of the spine connect, as well.

And here's what most ARE NOT saying…an inward turn of the hips is not important, if not detrimental, to the beach towel effect of the spinal engine.

Many say the swing of Ted Williams resembled the twisting of a Barber Pole.  The above video clearly demonstrates what was happening in his swing that some observed.  CLICK HERE for a post I did on the swing of Ted Williams.

I’ve Lied To You for A Couple Years Now…Joey Votto On His 2018 Approach

 

The Josh Donaldson interview last year was awesome, but I think THIS interview with Joey Votto may be better.  It doesn't have the same let-the-beast-out-of-cage feeling that Donaldson contributed, but I feel Votto gives us more of a glimpse into the true art of hitting.  What Votto shares confirms what my hitters have been working on this past off season…line drive barrel control.  Precision.

Look, I love teaching my hitters the process of how to increase Ball Exit Speeds and to get the ball off the ground (optimal Line Drive Launch Angles), but as Joey Votto says, it's not the whole story.  And this is where I've been lying to you for a couple years.  Actually, not lying, just not sharing the whole story. 😉

Let me explain…

Joey Votto 2018 Hitting Approach

Joey Votto talking about controlling the line drive, setting goals like getting on base half the time, & using batted ball as feedback for future swing adjustments. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

My friend and professional golf instructor Lee Comeaux knows golf, and brought this idea of “precision” to my attention a few years back.  He understands springy fascia and the spinal engine, which is a PLUS.  Also, over the past few years he's mentored his teenage daughter to hit .600 in Texas fast-pitch softball leagues.  But most importantly, he comes from a sport where precision is king.  Ask any golfer if they're as obsessed about Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles like we are, and they'll look at you as if a third eye grew in the middle of your forehead overnight.

What good is Ball Exit Speed if the ball is not going towards the hole?  And Launch Angles matter depending on the distance to the target.  And by the way, the angled club face kind of takes care of Launch Angles for golfers anyway.

Put yourself in a golf mindset for a moment.  Imagine thinking about hitting, like you would golf?  Precision.  In the above interview, Joey Votto mentions the best hitters can hit the ball where they want, when they want.   This may not be 100% true in games, but during Batting Practice most surely.  How many of your hitters can do that?  Not many of mine, but we're working on it.

Precision.  This is not being talked about or taught in today's baseball and softball circles.  How to control the line drive.  The height AND width of it.  Why are we so obsessed with the vertical aspect of the field and not the horizontal?  So many coaches out there believe a hitter can't have power without sacrificing swing quality.  An increase in power doesn't have to dampen Batting Average and/or increase a hitter's Strikeouts.

Precision.  How to control the line drive.  It's not easy, but it CAN be done.  Hitters CAN have a high Batting Average (even though BA isn't a good indicator of value anymore, according to Sabermetrics), power numbers, and low strikeout totals.  And I think Joey Votto touched on what I feel is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here are the few key things to look out for in the above interview:

  • This idea of Precision. Controlling the line drive.
  • Setting hitting goals and reverse engineering purpose of the swing.
  • The idea of using a batted ball as feedback to make adjustments (not new for golfers btw).

Without further adieu, here are…

 

My Joey Votto Interview Notes on his 2018 Hitting Approach

  • About 0:20 second mark, Votto believes talking Launch Angles isn't telling the whole story, how complete you are as a hitter, rebuts Josh Donaldson's “ignore coach if he tells you to hit a ground-ball” comment, all fly-balls are not good fly-balls,
  • About 1:30 minute mark, Votto talks about how hitters like Donaldson, et al. can hit a ball with any trajectory to any part of the ballpark, he uses golfer with a bag of clubs metaphor, doing anything you want at anytime is the story we're not telling, best hitters can do everything – he brings up Mike Trout (diverse array of skills),
  • About 3:00 minute mark, Eric Byrnes asked Votto how his approach has changed since coming into league in 2007, give away less pitches, anytime he takes a swing there's intent or purpose to each swing (not being reckless), since he's aging as a player, Votto isn't able to make up for swing inefficiencies he could with a young athletic swing,
  • About 4:30 minute mark, Byrnes asks Votto how he is super-human with his walk to strikeout ratio when the league really doesn't care about inflated K quantities, making a conscious effort to cut down on K's, goals – looked to Sabermetrics to see how he could hit .340 or .350 last year and math said he had to strikeout a bit less, mentioned a few years prior his goal was to get on base half the time (OBP would = .500), chokes up, the “con” was it led to softer contact at times, ability to foul off tough pitches, buys a better pitch later in the AB, spreading out, seeing ball a little deeper,
  • About 6:50 minute mark, Votto was asked about how he has the highest batting average in his first AB, how important is starting game off with good momentum, separated each AB like it's their own thing, focusing on one AB at a time, every single game over an entire season, sticking with plan in the long run, Jay Bruce “to hit homer, you have to miss homers”, focus on process,
  • About 8:40 minute mark, Byrnes asked Votto, “I have a 6yo boy at home, what's the #1 thing you'd teach him about hitting?” Let the ball be your feedback.  Spending too much time on mechanics, ball is going straight in the air, ground-ball, in the air, is the ball coming off 4-seam, on a line with backspin, story about watching Albert Pujols with Cardinals on a line with backspin.

Ground-ball Hitting Approaches May Be Causing You To Lose Out On Producing MASSIVE Runs

Joey Votto: Plane of the Pitch

Joey Votto is one of the best at keeping his barrel on the plane of the pitch for a long time. Photo courtesy: RantSports.com

Now, before getting your panties in a bunch, let me start off by saying, the ONLY time ground-balls are okay, is for situational hitting scenarios. Other than that, ground-balls should be banned.

My friend and retired Major Leaguer Homer Bush, in his book Hitting Low In The Zone: A New Baseball Paradigm, uses Sabermetrics to show how hitters can hit .300 with consistent power, IF they can do two things consistently well:

  1. Elevate the low pitch, and
  2. Hit to ALL fields.

CLICK HERE for an interview I did with him here.

If you're a Ground-ball Hitting Coach, then I address A LOT of your objections in this Ground-ball Rant post, which amassed over 5,400 LIKES on Facebook.

However, the biggest head scratcher for me is the fact that a large majority of pitching coaches around the nation teach their pitchers to keep the ball down in the zone.  WHY?  Because they want hitters striking the top half of the ball, which drives the ball into the ground.  Pitchers want hitters hitting ground-balls!  Then why are hitting coaches teaching hitters to hit the ball into the ground and/or swinging down on the ball?  By the way, the latter produces MORE “worm-burners”, NOT less.

I know, I know, these coaches point to terrible defenses at the lower levels or that there are no “bad hops” in the air, but where those arguments lose traction is:

  • What happens when you face a team with a better defense?  FACT: teams – at any level – that tend to end up in Championship games can play catch better than others.  And,
  • If you're a coach pinning your “hopes” and “dreams” on the other team making an error or booting a ground-ball, then you're teaching your players to control the uncontrollable.  No elite athlete or coach in their right mind – in any sport – focuses on uncontrollables.  This means you're teaching an inferior model.

In this post, I wanted to share the growing MOUNTAIN of evidence being produced by Sabermetric sites, such as Beyond The Box Score, that are churning out, with increased frequency, Major League case study after case study showing that ground-ball hitting approaches are non-conducive to scoring MASSIVE amounts of runs, and non-productive for hitters at ALL levels and genders.

Onward and “upward”…

What Addison Russell's swing adjustment means for 2016

Addison Russell made a change to his swing during the 2015 season, which could alter his offensive impact significantly in 2016.

By: Randy Holt

“The declining ground-ball rate will likely be a bit more significant in the long-term, as those changes continue to go into effect, given that Russell's changed stance means he isn't swinging down at the ball so much. So it's only natural, and perhaps beneficial, that that number comes down. His line-drive rate didn't change significantly, but the uptick in his fly-ball percentage was nice. Especially if you're of the belief that as Russell continues to grow and develop, his strength will increase, leading to a nice uptick from his 11.4% homer to fly-ball ratio.”

Swinging down DOES NOT get the ball consistently AND productively in the air, getting the barrel on an upward plane with the downward traveling pitch does.  Ted Williams said this in his book The Science of Hitting.

 

Scooter Gennett and ground balls

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

By: 

It’s obvious that an increased amount of grounders is diminishing Gennett’s ability to tap in to his power, and is behind the drop in his offense over the last couple seasons. It’s easier said than done to put the ball in the air than on the ground, but without overwhelming speed it is tough for hitters to last by putting the ball on the ground. It is one of the main reasons we have seen his BABIP deflate from the .380 total he posted in his rookie season. To think that he could return to that total and sustain it is ridiculous, but the he also has gone from well above average to essentially average.”

I included this BTBS post in my book on Amazon titled, “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground-Balls”.  Piggy-backing on this, here's a more recent follow up about Gennett's dramatic turnaround…

 

Scooter Gennett: power hitter

Home runs are up all around the league, and Scooter Gennett has joined the power party.

By: 

“In the interest of keeping up with the fads, the first thing I checked was his launch angle difference between 2016 and 2017. He went from 11.7 degrees to 15.0 degrees, which is certainly a change worth noting. It is not, however, in the range of launch angle darlings Yonder Alonso and Ryan Schimpf, who jumpted to 22.1 degrees and 30.2 degrees respectively. Despite not reaching the astronomical levels we’ve seen from some players this season, Gennett appears to have settled in a reasonable range that yields line drives, doubles, and a fair share of home runs as well.

His move towards better contact based on the change in launch angle can be seen through a 5.8 percentage point decrease in ground balls in tandem with a 1.3 percentage point increased in line drives and 4.4 percentage point increase in fly balls. Even with a 21.6 percent HR/FB that’s bound to regress, the underlying improvement of putting balls in the air should allow his increased level of power to continue. That may manifest itself in more doubles than home runs, but that’s still a productive profile.

The Reds got Gennett for nothing. He was in the midst of a multi-year slump in which he provided nearly zero additional value to the Brewers. Then Gennett, like so many others this season, added some lift on the ball and power to his game. The addition of power has helped him become a well above average hitter that should be able to provide 2-3 fWAR by the end of the season. That’s a huge win for the Reds, who simply claimed Gennett off waivers.”

This is pretty damning evidence for those coaches promoting a primarily ground-ball offensive approach.  COACHES QUIT SABOTAGING YOUR HITTERS!!!

 

Has Hanley Ramirez lost his power forever?

Hanley Ramirez is having the worst offensive season of his career. Can he rediscover his power stroke, or are the underlying signs of decline too strong to counteract?

By: 

“Since it is usually advantageous to pull for power, it is no surprise that Hanley's decreasing pull rate has coincided with his rapidly falling ISO and home run totals. Over the past three seasons, Ramirez has seen a simultaneous increase in ground ball rate and decrease in pull rate. These factors, along with increasing age, are probably the main causes of his diminishing power.

So will the power come back? Probably a little bit. As his HR/FB ratio returns to normal levels, some of Hanley's fly balls will likely turn into home runs. And since his hard hit rate has remained consistent, it is reasonable to expect a higher ISO going forward. However, if Ramirez's launch angle remains as low as it has been thus far, a steady stream of ground balls can be expected, which will put major limitations on his power.

Please re-read that last sentence.  On second thought, memorize and burn it into your brain.

 

Bryce Harper is pounding the ball into the ground to no avail

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

By: Kevin Ruprecht, Jul 28, 2016

“The batted ball distribution clearly reflects the launch angle, though perhaps the trend up in ground-ball rate started earlier than 75 games into the season.

Harper is walking a ton and striking out less than last year, but his overall production has gone the way of his launch angles – down. His 116 wRC+ this year is a far cry from his 197 wRC+ last year. Pitchers are throwing more outside and lower than last year out of fear of his power, so Harper just isn’t getting many good pitches to hit. Harper will have to adjust to reverse this slump.”

There are beautiful radar charts illuminating the differences in his launch angles in this post (just click the article “title” link above to see them).

Evan Gattis fixed his ground ball problem

With a move back to catcher and a more patient approach Evan Gattis seems to have cured what ailed him early in 2016.

By: Chris Anders, Sep 26, 2016

“Early in the season it looked like Evan Gattis might have been finished as a productive hitter. A player who is limited to DH and doesn’t hit the ball in the air enough to maximize his power is simply not an appealing roster option for most teams. Thankfully for both Gattis and the Astros the early season struggles seem to be merely a blip on the radar. As it turns out, a move back behind the plate and an increase in launch angle was all that was needed to re-energize his career.”

Here's a more recent Beyond The Box Score piece on Gattis about the difference in the two halves of his 2016 season…

 

Evan Gattis’s power surge: Is it real?

The Astros DH/catcher smacked a lot of extra-base hits in the second half of the year. Is this the new normal, or did he run into a few?

By: Evan J. Davis, Jan 8, 2017

“Where the swing might come into play is his batted ball types. Grounders fell nearly 13 percentage points between halves (47.1 percent in the first, 34.4 percent in the second), while fly balls jumped accordingly. Statcast confirms this: Gattis’s average launch angle jumped from 10.8 degrees in the first half to 13.1 degrees in the second. The sizable decrease in his pop-ups (from 5.3 percent to 3.9 percent), in tandem with the softly-hit and ground ball percentage drops, also suggests that Statcast wasn’t missing too many of his batted balls.

Gattis was finding more optimal launch angles to hit the ball. He was getting more loft, and keeping the barrel through the zone.

There's a formula coaches, on how to consistently barrel the ball more often.  Sabermetrics have given hitting coaches the answers to the test!!!

 

Franklin Gutierrez is wasting his hard contact

It helps a player’s cause to hit the ball hard, but that alone won’t make him great. Just ask Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

By: Ryan Romano, Sep 30, 2016

“In 2015, Gutierrez put 46 balls in play in the lower part of the strike zone, according to Baseball Savant. 25 of those, or 54.4 percent, went on the ground, which ranked him in the 42nd percentile. In 2016, his ground ball rate on low pitches has leapt to 74.2 percent, moving him up to the 98th percentile. When given a higher offering, Gutierrez will still put it in the air, but that can’t compensate for the spike in grounders down below.

If Gutierrez remains at this level of offense, he’ll be a solid player. Most teams will find a spot for a capable (in theory) defender who can hold his own at the plate. He won’t go back to being elite, however, unless he cuts down on the ground balls. Making hard contact is half the battle; the other part is making sure that contact goes where you want it to go.”

The next piece for those of you Ground-ball hitting coaches addressing the objection that hitting for higher Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles contribute to more strikeouts (HINT: causation DOES NOT necessarily equal correlation here)

 

Whit Merrifield is here to elevate and celebrate

The Royals’ breakout infielder is the latest to embrace the launch angle revolution and is making sure he gets a chance to put the ball in play.

By: Anthony Rescan, Aug 5, 2017

“Arguably the most impactful change is what happens when Merrifield makes contact. Currently, his average, observed launch angle is up from 16.89° to 20.51° and he’s seeing a spike in exit velocity from around 84 mph to north of 87 mph.

This has caused a massive shift in how his batted balls enter the field of play. Both line drives and ground balls have been siphoned off to fuel his fly ball spike.

In addition to that, Merrifield has been much more successful at turning those fly balls into long balls. The effect of this change is seen across the board with Merrifield — a near-80-point spike in ISO [Raw Power – Slug% w/out singles factored into the equation] certainly isn’t anything to scoff at.

Merrifield has also become more efficient at the plate. Though he’s experienced a slight dip in walk rate, he’s drastically cut his strikeouts. His previous mark of 21.7 percent has been struck all the way down to 13.1 percent. When looking at his plate discipline statistics from Pitch Info, we can spot the changes. His O-Swing rate has dropped two percentage points, but resulted in a 6.7 percentage point increase in O-Contact rate. He also is swinging at more pitches in the zone by a 3.8 percentage point margin, but his contact rate there dropped from 92.1 percent to 90.9 percent. Overall, his contact rate has jumped to 84.4 percent from 82.6 percent. So, he’s offering at less pitches out of the zone, but doing more with them and also swinging at better pitches.”

Look coaches, the longer the hitter can match the plane of the pitch with the barrel, the more opportunity to drive the ball.  Increasing power doesn't have to sacrifice swing quality.  Plate discipline and pitch recognition MUST also play a MAJOR role in the hitter's development.

Francisco Lindor is enjoying a big power surge

It’s almost as if hitting the ball in the air is better than hitting it on the ground!

By: Luis Torres, May 15, 2017

“What really jumps out at you is the change in his ground-ball and fly-ball rates. He went from hitting way more ground-balls than fly-balls, to being a fly-ball hitter. His fly-ball rate went from 28 percent to 45 percent. That is a huge change.

It used to be that coaches at all levels would encourage their hitters to swing down and keep the ball on the ground. In recent years, hitters are learning how ineffective that really is. Ground-balls will go for base hits more often than fly-balls will, but will go for extra bases less often. It is really hard to score by stringing together a bunch of singles.”

At this point in the post, if you still find yourself a Ground-ball hitting coach, you may be thinking, “So should I teach my hitters to hit fly-balls?!”  Check out this FanGraphs.com article…

 

Which is Better? A Ground Ball Pitcher or a Fly Ball Pitcher

“Let’s take a look at a little bit of data to get started. Here are the results on each type of ball in play from 2014:

Type AVG ISO wOBA
GB .239 .020 .220
LD .685 .190 .684
FB .207 .378 .335

You can see that line drives are bad news for pitchers any way you slice them. They lead to more hits and huge run values compared to the other types of balls in play. But there’s a trade off in the ground ball-fly ball department. Ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls but fly balls go for extra bases much more often when they do drop in for hits.

In other words, if you’re a fly ball pitcher, you can usually sustain a below average BABIP, but you might get tagged for a few extra doubles, triples, and homers as a result. Ground ball artists, on the other hand, don’t often allow homers and extra base hits, but they allow singles to squeak through more often.”

Let me clarify the above graph…ISO refers to Isolated Slugging% (aka Raw Power), which is like Slugging% but with singles factored OUT of the equation.  Weighted On-Base Average (or wOBA) measures a player's overall offensive contributions per plate appearance.

I think every hitting coach can agree on Line Drives being the ultimate hitting objective, but picking between the two “evils” of either a GB or FB is where hitting camps diverge.

And according to the graph above, even though Fly-balls lose 32-points in Batting Average compared to ground-balls, I'll take a boost of 358-points in Raw Power (ISO), and a jump of 115-points in a player's offensive contribution per plate appearance (wOBA) ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

I want to end with this beast of an article by The Hardball Times, authored one of my favorite authors Dan Farnsworth…

 

Ground Balls: A Hitter’s Best Friend?

“Alan Nathan [retired Physicist] has a great research article posted on his website detailing the math behind hitting a home run based on experimental measured ball flight. In it, he summarizes the results pertinent to this common teaching axiom:

‘For a typical fastball, the batter should undercut the ball by 2.65 cm and swing upward at an angle 0.1594 rad.'

That value in radians converts to a 9.13° uppercut swing, representing the maximized swing path for energy transfer and backspin using a typical major league hitter’s bat speed.

I do not believe this is common practice or knowledge in major league baseball, which is unfortunate. I have heard a lot of second-hand horror stories about the philosophies of many organizations in the game. Especially at the big league level, there is little evidence that a true ground-ball swing will lead to success. Line drives are the key to hitting, regardless of hitter attributes. Speed appears to have less of an impact on a hitter than what popular belief says. While speed may help boost a player’s batting average on balls in play, fast hitters do not have an automatic incentive to hit the ball on the ground, based on these results. They can turn doubles into triples rather than just outs into singles.

The bottom line: leave swinging down to bad hitters at the amateur level, who have no chance at playing at the highest levels of the game. Otherwise, hit the damn ball in the air.”

There is A LOT of great stuff in this Farnsworth article, so I advise you read the whole thing.

And if you think teaching speedy hitters to hit the ball on the ground is a good thing, then let me share this fact from Rob Arthur from FiveThirtyEight:

Let me repeat,

The effect of speed starts to fade only when launch angles exceed 10-degrees, as exit velocity begins to take over as the biggest determinant of a batted ball's fate.”

My friend and retired Big Leaguer Aaron Miles once told me that even the Dee Gordon's of the hitting world have to learn how to drive the ball at the Big League level because the infielders' arms are well above average.

Ground-ball hitting coaches, are you starting to run out of excuses yet?

Let me leave you with some quotes from some “pretty good” hitters, talking about the importance of Launch Angles and Ball Exit Speeds

Now look,

If you still aren't convinced that higher Ball Exit Speeds and Launch Angles are the way to go, then I chalk it up to willful ignorance.  You don't know what you don't know, right?  Hopefully this post moved you to more of a conscious incompetence.  In other words, you now know what you don't know.

Don't worry, I understand, you may not be familiar with how to teach your hitters how to elevate the ball with authority.  The good news is, there are resources.  Get educated because your hitters are DEPENDING ON YOU.

There are quite a few individuals on Twitter teaching this approach (this is by no means an exhaustive list, if you know of others, then please post in the comments section):

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't share my online video course titled Pitch-Plane Domination.  Sorry, shameless plug 😛

Mark my words, this hitting approach will be the norm in the next few years.  Just remember that I told you so 😉

Also, if you're on the Twitters, then use the hashtags #GBsSuck, #GroundballsSuck, or #PitchPlaneDomination to spread the “elevate to celebrate” gospel.