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Analysis of A-Rod Hitting Analysis: Perry Husband & Joey Myers

Analysis of Alex Rodriguez Hitting Analysis: Real Versus Feel, How To Be An Effective Hitter, & Sabermetrics v. Experience…

Before you watch the above video interview with Perry Husband, please watch the following 7-min video of Alex Rodriguez sticking-it-to-the-hitting-man lol (I promise you, it’s rather entertaining)

Wow!  The Social hitting community had a blast with this video.  Coaches talking how:

  • Cool his blue pool (which turned purple periodically throughout the video), and green lush backyard were…
    Analysis of A-Rod Hitting Analysis: Perry Husband & Joey Myers

    Alex Rodriguez YouTube channel titled, “HOW TO HIT HOME RUNS | TIPS FOR THE BEST APPROACH AT THE PLATE”

  • He added some sweet after effects into his video…
  • He may have had a couple bottles of wine (not glasses) pre-shoot, probably at the cautioning of his gal-pal J-Lo…
  • And the elephant in the room, how he seemed disconnected describing the elite swing…

There was A LOT to unpack in A-Rod’s video…here’s what he covered in only 7-mins:

  1. Real v. Feel – How to get the ball up…Swing down to get the ball up…swing down for “line to line”
  2. How to be effective as a hitter (Launch Angles, Line to Line) – forget “Launch Angle”, “Line to line” (beat the shift)…Legs underneath you with leverage, knee down to the ground…Think with “Ferris Wheel” launch angle…Ferris Wheel & “blind spot”…can’t catch up to fastball up?
  3. Sabermetrics v. Experience – Top 4 of last 5 winning teams, #1 in contact, least in K’s…Sabermetrics v. Experience…”an out is an out”, “K’s are overrated”…”Made to measure” approach, contact is king.

So now back to the video analysis Perry Husband and I did (tippy-top video) of A-Rod’s video analysis.  Here are some bullet points of what we cover:

  • Does hitting 100-mph ball exit speed mean you’re maxing out?  How do you know what your max is?
  • How applying tested human movement principles validated by REAL Science results in almost instant changes to key metrics,
  • Why hasn’t analytics given more value to Perry’s Effective Velocity?
  • Are there instances that “swinging down” is okay to teach hitters?
  • Why fastballs down, hit on the ground, reveal some of the highest ball exit speeds & why curveballs are some of the farthest hit balls…

As always, the following are quick reference points you can use to jump around in the supplemental analysis:

  • At about the 0:00 minute mark, talking about Alex Rodriguez explaining feel and “swinging down”, “squishing bugs”, and knee going to the ground, A-Rod said only way to lift is to “go down”
  • At about the 5-min, 30-sec mark, three major issues A-Rod brings up in the video: 1 ) Real v. Feel, 2) How to be effective as a hitter, & 3) Sabermetrics v. Experience, coaches go to one side or the other, A-Rod is right and wrong at the same time, lets get player (ahem, A-Rod) on tee and measure ball exit speed and launch angle – test it!  Let’s quantify and prove it or disprove it, early barrel dump works if pitchers aren’t elevating fastballs, very little on internet is testable, guys not liking ball exit speed and heavy ball tee swings for evaluation – Why not wanting a baseline?  Just because you’re hitting 100-mph exit velocity, is that your maximum?  How do you know without a baseline?
  • At about 14-min 30-sec mark, 3-dimensional hitting – verticals, horizontals, and timing or pitch velocity, where does power come from (according to A-Rod)? what do certain mechanics contribute to verticals, horizontals, power, or timing? Testing a hitter off the tee with regular ball, then heavy ball, then test it LIVE with ball, can see where hitter is deficient, out of 7-8 new kids (current hitters Perry is working with) have increased avg. 7 to 8-mph ball exit speed almost instantaneously, cleaning up mechanics aren’t like getting stronger and more coordinated, which takes more time,
  • At about 22-min 30 secs mark, Launch Angles are numbers without brains and coaches treat it like a character in a movie! Has Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton ever hit a ball at their max in a game?  “Ferris wheel” swing and the “blind spot”, what happens when the low fastball disappears, from TM’s perspective what is the “Ferris wheel” swing or is he using the WORST metaphor ever?! “Merry-Go-Round” versus “Ferris Wheel” swing, having a little bit of both depending on pitch height, depth, and timing, 150 locations within the strike zone – can you take same swing to each of those?
  • At about 30-min mark, Perry talks about his swing was in low-80’s in Ball Exit Speed when 100% purely rotational swing, but in the high 80’s low-90’s when releasing backside, there are consequences to mechanics you choose, are you afraid to test it? Perry is starting a club doing a bunch of different tests and demos on the mechanical side and effective velocity (show hitters what they’re missing), 18 of 19 Reds losses came on an EV inefficient pitch,
  • At about 35-min, 30-sec mark, what’s your hitting operating system? Best hitters in the world miss 80% of the time and hit it on the screws 20% of the time, is your hitting OS to reduce strikeouts above everything else? What are you giving up because of your primary hitting OS?  Looking away and adjusting in works IF pitchers keep throwing fastballs outside and/or down, and leaving off speed stuff up, what happens when Trout doesn’t see one fastball down?  Or one off speed or breaking pitch up?  Why hasn’t analytics given more value to Effective Velocity?  Because they don’t acknowledge measurement of timing,
  • At about 43-min mark, how can a pitcher be effective with Trout, he chooses to adjust to pitches not sit on them, he gives up a longer front arm on pitches up and in to get extended on down and away, how do you move away from the “adjustable” swing, 2015 Trout hit 6 bombs in the up/in box – made adjustment to pitchers changing, Trout almost has a recession-proof swing,
  • At about 50-min mark, if did study May of 2019 – fastball use top of strike zone would be up, couldn’t do 100% ferris wheel or 100% rotational, A-Rod is right and wrong at the same time, “swinging down” is okay for uppercut hitters, the brain is one step behind the brain, however in REAL swinging down on the ball DOES NOT make it go up consistently – center to center contact does (or slightly below center), gotta get hitters better at verticals, horizontals, and timing, can’t be 100% metrics OR 100% experience, “econ” hitting coaches? Linking Sabermetrics to the Scientific Process – asking question, form hypothesis, research subject, gather and compare data, then come to conclusion,
  • At about 57-min mark, Perry discusses how overrated backspin is and the importance A-Rod gave to it, why fastballs at bottom of zone have high exit velocities on the ground – from hitter’s perspective fastballs have backspin, struck grounders don’t change direction of pitcher’s spin…same with curveballs, Dr. Robert Adair in The Physics of Baseball said CB’s are hit the furthest – think about it, from hitter’s perspective CB’s have topspin, and when a hitter puts “backspin” on it, this doesn’t change direction of pitcher’s CB spin, so a pitcher should reverse that, locate fastballs up and curveballs down,
  • At the 1-hour, 2-min mark, Perry’s starting paid membership club at 65% OFF* (for limited time only) to get people started, daily Monday through Friday, demos, study of hitter or pitcher, at bat that stood out from EV standpoint, 15-20 min video that shows in personal locker, do for baseball and softball,
  • At HittingPerformanceLab.com FREE book just pay $8.95 S/H, TheStartingLineupStore.com use coupon code: GET10OFF at checkout
  • At about 1-hour, 6-min mark, I talk specifically how to lock the front arm out – direction-wise – to get ‘showing numbers’ and ‘hiding hands’ as well, killing three birds with one stone

*The regular price on that will be $299 for the year, but the first 100 will get 2/3 off or $99 for the year.  They get their own personal online locker where the videos will be delivered Mon through Friday.  15-20 minute videos that will feature pitching strategy on sequencing, pitch design, hitter profiles, pitcher profiles and breakdowns, at bat of the day with data and Ev breakdown.  In other words, the truth about what’s really going on within the game, timing breakdown. 

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

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

Photo courtesy: MopUpDuty.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on,

As a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.