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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get started…

 

Baseball Stride Drills Direction & Amount

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

…Goldilocks Golden Rule. 

 

Stride Type (‘Experimenting with the Float’)

For most intensive purposes, there are 3 stride types:

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

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

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

“When it comes to [baseball stride drills], Forward Momentum is the objective.  How we get our hitters there doesn’t really matter.  Just give them examples of how to accomplish more FoMo, and allow them to tinker and test until they find something they’re comfortable with doing.”

…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

 

Head Movement from Stride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And last but not least…

 

Controlling Center of Mass in the Stride

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

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

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

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

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

And remember the …Goldilocks Golden Rule.

Matt Nokes Reveals Ways to “Lean In & Compress Ball”, Swing in Same Direction of “Swing Motor”, & Quickly and Easily Get On-Time

I don’t give much of my time to others’ hitting instruction online…

And it’s not because I think I’m God’s green gift to baseball and softball.  Actually,

Since January of 2013, I took a needed break learning hitting mechanics from others in the field, no matter how popular.  I wanted to shed the hitting “BEER GOGGLES” that have stubbornly held this industry back for decades.

People ask me if I know anything about Tewks, Epstein, “Teacher Man”, etc.  I don’t.  And that’s the honest truth.  I see their posts on Twitter and Facebook, but don’t give them anymore thought.

Matt Nokes Snap Drill

Matt Nokes talking about “leaning in and compressing the ball”. Photo courtesy: Matt Nokes’s YouTube channel

The main reason?  I’m still learning my own system!!

Besides, everyone has a different approach, view, and style.  As you probably know, the language can get quite confusing.

Back in 2013, I decided to stick to resources on Bio-mechanics, Physics, Psychology, etc.   Because THIS is where the answers are.  It’s not opinion, or someone’s theory or philosophy based on playing or coaching experience.

My #1 rule is to digest information that is validated by science.  Don’t seek the footsteps of others, but seek the resources the “others” sought.  In other words, don’t just take my word for it.

That being said, there are a couple hitting coaches I do listen to, and one is Matt Nokes.  I think he has an unmatched passionate curiosity for hitting, authentically wants to help hitters, is open to new ideas (can’t say that for many online gurus), and gets dramatic results with his hitters in a reasonably short amount of time.

As always, I’ve taken video notes for you, so you can skip around to what interests you most.  Some of the things you’ll learn in the video are:

  • Swing intention: what Matt Nokes means when he tells his hitters to “lean on it and compress it” (this will upset the ‘bug squisher’ coaches out there),
  • Why hitters MUST swing in the same direction as their “swing motor” (and it’s not what you think),
  • The “Snap Drill” that will easily and quickly get your hitters on-time (an Ah-ha moment for me!), and
  • Much more…

Enjoy!

  • About 1:00 minute mark, Matt didn’t think about Bat Speed when he was playing, he was trying to “lean on it and compress it”.  He calls this “directional force”, in which he says it takes 8,000 pounds per square inch in one direction, to hit a ball 400-feet.
  • About 2:15 minute mark, Matt talks about how hips, knees and feet are the base, core is the motor, and arms are swing levers.  What happens when swinging off the plane of the core motor.  Swing in same direction as swing motor.
  • About 3:30 minute mark, Matt distinguishes between keeping the barrel above hands as a cue versus what really happens.  Don’t miss this.  He uses this oftentimes blanket-used-coaching-cue to get the hitter flattening his/her barrel to the pitch plane.  Barrel MUST match shoulder plane.
  • About 5:30 minute mark, Matt defines an approach as summing up what you’re trying to do mechanically into a one or two word cue.  Ever changing because getting new info, new feelings, new observations.  Talks about 2-3 minute “priming” movements before heading into battle.
  • About 10:15 minute mark, great hitters don’t “keep their hands inside the ball” in a way that creates what Matt calls slack.  He refers to the Fence Swing Drill that exaggerate swinging down.
  • About 12:00 minute mark, Matt talks about transferring force with a bent landing knee, comparing to a Pole Vaulter’s pole when it sticks into the ground before propelling the athlete up.  Landing bent allows for adjustment.  “The front knee isn’t straightened, it gets straightened.  The back leg doesn’t turn, it gets turned.  The core moves the legs.”
  • About 14:45 minute mark, Matt breaks down how to “flatten” the swing.  Tells hitter minimal movement from lower half swings, just focus on moving shoulders, hands, and bat.  Matt gives limited parameters, and let’s hitter learn the lesson…in other words, he doesn’t map out step by step how to move the way he wants the hitter to move.  Gives hitter an outcome and allows them to fill in the blanks.
  • About 16:30 minute mark, Matt talks about swing approach like what you’d do to chop down a tree.  You wouldn’t think about how did I swing the ax yesterday.  You’d just start swinging it!  Finishing low with the hands and following the line of impact. I call this driving the big nail (Matt’s bat in the video) flush into the wall.  At about 20:00 minute mark, Matt adds to this and tells hitter to “lean on this” and “compress it” (referring to his bat).  He says that he just gave hitter permission to hit the crap out of the ball.
  • About 18:30 minute mark, compares big picture hitting cues to Fence Swing Drills.  The latter being ineffective as a default way to hit.  You have to hit with big picture in mind of what you want to do to the ball.  Swing intention.
  • About 21:00 minute mark, Matt begins to talk about timing.  Timing is a distance, and to make it simple by synchronizing timing from release to contact.  Matt talked about how he took a guy hitting the ball 360-380 feet to hitting it 480-feet in 2.5 months…over the fence, 400-feet off a tee.  “Feel” contact…stay sideways and feel contact by leaning and compressing the ball.  Matt talks about the “Snap Drill”. This is golden!  He also talks about the “Ride” part of “Ride & Stride” that Matt promotes within his system.

If you remember one thing from this video, it’s from the 21st minute on… 🙂  Golden.

Unlike most MLB players and coaches, Matt Nokes has an intuitive sense of the swing.  He can explain it from a “real” point of view, and transition that into “feel”.  His system seems to fill in the blanks that I’ve always had about the swing.  The good news about his principles is they’re very simple and easy to implement.  Matt has a very common sense approach to hitting.

Thanks Matt!

Reader Question: “How to improve my son’s timing?”

 

Josh Donaldson Timing Interview with Sean Casey

Josh Donaldson talking to Sean Casey in an interview about timing. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

In this post, I wanted to tease out the adjustment tactics discussed by US Marine Col. Mark Coast in this case study post on how to take well timed practice swings into game at-bats.

(And by the way, Col. Coast has a college background in Physics and Engineering. He’s currently a Tactical and Firearms Training Specialist for Navy Seal and Marine snipers)…

But before I get into what’s in the above video, I want you to watch the following of Josh Donaldson explaining his approach to timing with Sean Casey:

Now, leg kick or no leg kick, the point I want my hitters to get is there MUST be some sort of ‘FLOAT’, which I get into more detail in my video above.

Notice how Donaldson connects music to rhythm.  He mentions the ‘flow’ of Manny Ramirez in the box…I actually tried to copy this as well when I was playing.

Josh Donaldson is one of the first elite hitters I’ve seen (Bautista does a good job too) to break down what he’s actually doing, and not what he thinks he’s doing.

In my video above, we’ll cover:

  • 3-5 swing rounds,
  • Game intensity swings,
  • Using the Hitting Outcome Evaluation Checklist,
  • Minimal coaching feedback & okay to make mistakes,
  • Tactical: Float & Fall or (Ride & Stride), and
  • Tactical: Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill.