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13 Josh Donaldson Gold Nuggets: You Didn’t Have To Be A Professional, To Teach High Level Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques

(I apologize in advance…PLEASE set aside about 14 minutes of reading time for the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post. It’s a bit of an emotional RANT 😉

 

Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques: Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson talks hitting with Mark DeRosa on MLB Network. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

We FINALLY have validation!!!

To have 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson affirm A LOT of what we teach here at HPL!

Some of you may have seen the above video already…

If you HAVE NOT seen it, then please watch.

In the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post, I go into more depth about the 13 talking points Josh Donaldson mentions about the “NEW science of hitting”, beginning where Ted Williams left off.

By the way, CLICK HERE to see an article where JD CRUSHES an online pseudo-science ‘hitting guru’.

After we go over the @BringerOfRain20 talking points,

I want to address the few ex-Pro and MLB player TROLLS that wrongly tear myself, my colleagues, and my readers down on the socials for bringing up things Josh Donaldson addresses in the above video.

Without further adieu,

From my baseball batting stance & hitting techniques video notes…

 

Note #1: Back knee inside foot or weight inside back knee?

Buster Posey Back Knee Position

Is Buster Posey’s back knee being prematurely shifted inside his foot in the ‘Float’? Photo courtesy: InWriteField.com

This was a question from Mark DeRosa…

Josh Donaldson responds that he focuses his weight on his back heel and back hip.

I HATE when hitting instructors PREMATURELY force the back knee of every hitter they instruct, inside the foot (even in the stance).

There are phases to the swing, and Donaldson is talking about what my hitters refer to as the ‘Float & Fall’…

Matt Nokes calls it the ‘Ride & Stride’.

During the ‘Float’ or ‘Ride’, the hitter DOES NOT have to prematurely push their back knee inside the back foot…or focus the weight on the inside of the back knee.

CLICK HERE for a baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post I did on this, dealing with a Twitter Troll.

NEWS FLASH…

Self proclaimed elite hitting instruction doesn’t rest on taking a ton of ‘quality hacks in the cage’ and/or debating over millions of hours of video analysis footage of ‘only the best hitters’.

WTF does ‘quality hacks’ and ‘only the best hitters’ mean!!!!!?

Are we suppose to take your word for it that you know what you’re doing?!

Nah.

I’d rather watch The Kardashians.

Okay, back to focusing on where the weight is in the Float…

Prematurely forcing weight on the inside of a ‘dumb joint’, like the knee, can really put undo stress on the ligament material.

Coaches…please DO NOT wear holes in your players’ knees.  This is really important for those FP softball hitting coaches.

And on that note,

FP softball coaches, CLICK HERE for a great BreakingMuscle.com post titled, “Women: Protect Your Knees With the Sprinter Stance Squat”.

 

Note #2: Not thinking about hands going towards the baseball

Derek Jeter: Hands Inside The Baseball

Derek Jeter is one of the few having a lengthy career with an extreme handsy approach. Not too many hitters could get away with how he did what he did. Photo courtesy: BaseballByTheYard.com

I totally agree!

ALL the following baseball batting stance & hitting techniques coaching cues are destructive for youth swings:

  • Hands to the ball
  • Knob to the ball
  • Be short to the ball
  • Hands inside the ball

Yes! Especially the last one…

WHY?

Like the others, it gets the hitter thinking about doing something with the path of their hands.

Some of you use this cue when instructing hitters, and may get occasional positive results…

However,

Any coaching cue that requires an extensive explanation or doesn’t get predictably positive outcomes, is INEFFECTIVE.

I’m looking for cues that with a minimal number of words, gets my hitter to do what I want them to do, even if the concept is new to them…over and over.

 

Note #3: When Josh Donaldson begins his fall forward, that’s when he goes into loading his upper half (his ‘coil’)

Andrew McCutchen Showing his Numbers

Andrew McCutchen ‘showing his numbers’ while his lower half is beginning to turn counter-clockwise. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

YESSSSS!!

I get asked this baseball batting stance & hitting techniques question quite a bit…when does the ‘load’ start?

And this depends on your definition of a load.  But in Donaldson’s context…

The timing of Donaldson’s load, or ‘coil’, isn’t necessarily the rule,

It’s one of three options…

Option #1: Some hitters start in the ‘coiled’ position (highly recommended for younger hitters):

  • Yoenis Cespedes,
  • Hunter Pence, and
  • Ben Zobrist (from the left side)…

Option #2: Some hitters move into the ‘coiled’ position similar to Donaldson:

  • Bautista,
  • Cano, and
  • McCutchen…

Option #3: Some hitters move into the ‘coiled’ position later, like Dustin Pedroia.

The objective is that at landing, or what Josh Donaldson refers to as ‘heel plant’, the hitter is in this ‘coiled’ position.

I call this the Catapult Loading Position.

And it requires the lower half to be open at landing (pelvis on down), and the upper half (above pelvis), to be closed.

Additionally, I LOVE Jose Bautista’s timing cue of loading ‘slow and early’ (CLICK HERE for a post I did on that).

More on the lower half landing open a bit later…

Note #4: Creating bat speed with shoulders, NOT hands (effortless bat speed)

Josh Donaldson: Spinal Engine

Josh Donaldson’s swing illustrating the spinal engine and Springy ‘X’ Pattern discussed in the next section. Photo courtesy: PicPlayHost

This is VERY important…

WHY?

Because EVERY human movement is driven by the spinal engine…pelvis-spine-shoulders.

According to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky in his book The Spinal Engine, the spinal engine can move in a vacuum.

However, it’s the relationship between arms, legs, and Gravitational Forces that amplify how explosive an athlete can be.

Quite a few hitting instructors talk about hip thrust or loading and exploding the hips.

But what are the shoulder’s function in all this?

Being passive?

I don’t think so.

Some would say a right handed hitter’s front shoulder at landing should be pointing at the pitcher.

This is an ineffective hitting mechanic, shown in this Zepp swing experiment (CLICK HERE) where I observed an average 6-mph boost in Bat Speed at Impact showing my numbers to the pitcher versus pointing the front shoulder at the pitcher (not showing numbers), over 200 swings.

Don’t get me wrong, YES, the pelvis does ‘lead the way’ as Ted Williams said in The Science of Hitting.

But it plays a much smaller role than coaches believe.

Think about how we walk…

If I told you to fire your hips as you walked, what do you think your shoulders would do?

They’d FIRE also!

How about if I told you to fire your hips while walking, but don’t let your shoulders move

Would that feel awkward?

Dr. Serge Gracovetsky talks about the coupled motion of the spine…

Meaning, while the hips rotate when we walk (albeit small to the naked eye), the shoulders counter-rotate the pelvis.

This is why your right arm and left leg swing forward at the same time.

To have effortless bat speed, like Josh Donaldson says, you MUST teach your hitters to take advantage of these natural laws of human movement.

DON’T use baseball batting stance & hitting techniques to coach them out of them.

 

Note #5: Rubber band effect, ‘stretching’, creating tension at the finish of his load

Another YESSSSS!

Although Josh Donaldson uses different baseball batting stance & hitting techniques terms, he’s talking about the compression/tension forces in the body via connective tissue called fascia.

Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains describes, what he calls Tensegrity (Tension-Integrity), like this:

I don’t like to think of the body as a rubber band, but rather like a spring.

But what Donaldson is describing is correct.

I refer to this as the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.

CLICK HERE for this video post describing this using Adrian Gonzalez’s swing as a model.

 

Note #6: Creating the timing to hit the pitch

Most people probably missed this point in the video…Donaldson briefly mentioned it, but I find it VERY important.

TIMING FOR HITTING IS EVERYTHING.

This is why I don’t like rapid fire soft toss OR 15-pitch marathon rounds batting practice.

It’s NOT about quick hands either.

Look, a baseball player may only see one pitch every 12-20 seconds.

A fast-pitch softball player may see one pitch every 8-15 seconds.

In games, swing intensity EVERY swing matters.

I can take a hitter with seemingly slow hands, adjust his or her timing, and have them barreling the ball more.

Of course, we’ll have to address their still ineffective mechanics at some point in the future, but the point is, it’s not about fast hands.

It’s about using the shoulders to speed up the hands.

The opposite IS NOT true.

Coaches handicap hitters by using ineffective drills like rapid fire soft toss, drop toss, and/or marathon B.P. sessions.

Again,

TIMING IS EVERYTHING IN HITTING.

CLICK HERE for “The Dead Simple Guide To Optimizing A Hitter’s Timing In Games”.

 

Note #7: Front foot is open…hips can’t separate from upper half

Miguel Cabrera: Landing Closed

Miguel Cabrera is one of my favorite swings to model, except for landing closed (less than 45-degree angle). However, he’s a physical beast, and most definitely succeeds despite one ineffective mechanic. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Another baseball batting stance & hitting techniques golden nugget from Josh Donaldson.

However, there are quite a few other coaches getting their panties in a bunch about this comment.

CLICK HERE and follow the thread of one of my Facebook posts.

CLICK HERE and follow a Facebook post thread of my friend and colleague Taylor Gardner, founder of the BackSpin Tee.  Actually a lot of really good discussion happening on this one.

They’re reinterpreting it as Donaldson is saying to ‘point the landing toe at the pitcher’.

This may be what it looks like in the video, which we also have to be careful of camera angles…

But the point of the matter is, that Donaldson is saying to ‘land open’.

And this is where, us coaches, must define terms.

I say if the landing foot is opened less than 45-degrees, the foot is closed.

If the landing foot is opened more than 45-degrees, the foot is open.

Chris Welch at ZenoLink says the front foot should land open, roughly around 65-degrees (at about 2-min mark):

And I agree.

I do think hitters like Donaldson and Bautista are more on the open side than others.

With my definition of landing foot closed versus open, I’d rather have my hitters err on the side of open, than closed.

CLICK HERE for another Zepp swing experiment where I tested this and found an average bat speed boost of 3-mph boost when landing open, over 200 swings.

Kyle Harrington, dad of one of my online hitting lesson students Stephen, who’s currently 13yo, 5’7″, 130-lbs…

Recently, increased his Ball Exit Speed 5-mph in the last 5 months off the tee, to now 77-mph.

I asked Kyle, what were the two biggest contributors to the increase…and he responded with:

“He grew about 2″ but he’s only 5’7”.  I think the main thing is that he is not stalling the bat.  In the 3D testing with Chris Welch [of ZenoLink.com] his peak bat speed slowed almost 10 mph before impact, which is common.  So he is decelerating the barrel less coming into impact.   He was blocking with the front hip and all the speed was too early .  So he’s actually  moving the bat speed forward in his swing more (where impact is)  rather behind the ball before impact.  That’s the main reason.”
This can happen for a few reasons:
  • Too much forward momentum (yes you can have too much),
  • Landing closed with the front foot, and
  • Inward turning (coiling) the pelvis towards the catcher (shifts our 45-degree optimal impact zone too deep into the swing).

When the hitter lands closed, as Donaldson said, it’s more challenging to optimize the body’s natural springy fascia.

It’s also worth noting that the front ‘foot shape’ will change depending on pitch location at impact.

For instance,

On an outside pitch, we’ll see the foot more flat, and possibly more closed, than on an inside pitch.

 

Note #8: 10yo kid told to get on top of the ball, tell them NO…don’t get paid for hitting ground-balls

Effect of Speed Fades Only When Launch Angles Exceed 10-degrees.

Ground-ball Coaches, if you spent more time instructing 10-degree launch angles and boosting Ball Exit Speeds, than you do telling hitters to always hit the ball on the ground, our hitters will be in a better position to crush pitchers.

For me, this tip was definitely the highlight of this video.

Btw, I agree…AGAIN!

And I’m not going to get into this in detail, because I already did that in “The UGLY Truth About Hitting Ground-Balls” RANT post.

What’s more,

There was a comment on my baseball batting stance & hitting techniques Facebook post that is worth noting:

Reader A: “If I’m coaching a team of 10 year olds, and either the kid (or parent) tells me no, they ought to start looking for another team to play for. If you allow a kid to tell you no at that age, the kid will become uncoachable when he gets older.”

And here was a great response from another readers to this person:

Reader B: “If a teacher tells your kid 2+2 is 5, you don’t want him to have the courage and character to question the teacher?  This society man, anyone that questions authority is deemed to be at fault…how dare they!!!”

I agree with Reader B…however, I understand there are ignorant parents, as well as players, out there as well.

However, speaking in the context of what Donaldson is saying, I agree with Reader B on this.

If you’re a coach that’s teaching hitters to ALWAYS hit the ball on the ground, you’re being ineffective as a coach.  And you MUST get educated because if you’re aren’t growing, then you’re dying.

 

Note #9: Relaxed in stance…time that arms get engaged with the body is during his ‘coil’ (mentions ‘scap load’)

Jace: Fixing Bat Drag w/ Finger Pressure

Jace, one of my 11yos, weighs 67-lbs, and hit his first homer over a 180-foot fence. We fixed his racing back elbow bat drag with connecting his hands to his spinal engine through finger pressure.

I totally agree.

There’s a time to be relaxed, and then there’s a time to connect the body (driving engine) to the “things” holding the bat…the hands.

CLICK HERE for another Zepp swing experiment that talks about what I teach to my hitters as ‘finger pressure’, and how we’re banishing racing back elbow bat drag with this technique alone.

It’s ALL about “connection” folks.  Quite a few of the young hitters I see just aren’t connected.

But when they get connected…this is when we can triple their body-weight in distance (see Jace image above).

Note 10: Hands load it (versus shoulders), then barrel tips too much…leads to getting underneath balls

Josh Donaldson is talking about getting into his load (or ‘coil’) with his shoulders and not his hands.

When he uses his hands to get there, he feels it leads to an excessive ‘barrel tip’ (click following link), and to getting under the ball too much.

CLICK HERE for an AthleticsNation.com article titled, “Josh Donaldson: Changes in Approach & Mechanics”.

In this article, Jerry Brewer from East Bay Hitting Instruction compares Donaldson’s swing and metrics from 2013 to 2014.

The one big difference being an excessive barrel tip in 2014, leading to drops in his BA, OBP, & SLUG metrics by something like 50 points EACH.

By the way, Jerry is right on with the swing as well.

 

Note 11: At landing, wants bat to be at 45-degree angle, and to split his head from behind

I agree.

I don’t really want to get into this, but I thought it was a good little baseball batting stance & hitting techniques nugget from the video.

 

Note 12: Swing down to create backspin

The Science of Hitting Graphic on optimal bat path

This is where I see Josh Donaldson picking up where Ted Williams left off. This is a well known graphic from Williams’s book The Science of Hitting.

This is something Josh Donaldson is against, and I agree.

Yes, every once in awhile, a hitter can swing down on a ball and launch one.

Did you read the keywords there…?  “Every once in awhile.”

Do you know what the majority outcomes will be doing this?

Ground-balls.

And if you read my Ground-ball RANT, then you know how inferior default teaching your hitters to hit them is, unless of course you have hitters who run like greased lightning, or in a Hit & Run type scenario.

The biggest argument here, comes from Little League coaches saying, but the ground-ball is the hardest hit ball to field, throw, and catch.

And my rebuttal is, what happens when your ground-ball hitting team meets a team that can play catch?

It doesn’t matter anyway, because a majority of pitches are taught to keep the ball down in the zone to hitters.

WHY?

Because PITCHERS WANT HITTERS DRIVING THE BALL INTO THE GROUND.

 

Note#13: Intent – damage at all times

I thought this was a HUGE baseball batting stance & hitting techniques gold nugget.

When asked if Donaldson makes educated decisions to commit on pitches or against pitchers, he says, yeah it depends…

BUT,

His intent is to do damage at all times.

“Why wouldn’t I?” He smirks to Mark DeRosa 😛

Double and Dinger damage.

That’s what the Blue Jays pay him for.

Our objective as hitting coaches should be to get our sluggers hitting the ball as hard as their physical ability will allow them…as frequently as possible.

To return this baseball batting stance & hitting techniques post full circle, let me repeat:

You Didn’t Have To Be A Professional, To Teach High Level Baseball Batting Stance & Hitting Techniques Today

You just have to understand human movement principles that are validated by science, and apply these “rules” to hitting a ball.

And I’m out…

[Joey drops the mic…]

Question: Does a Slight “Downhill” Shoulder Angle Before Landing Boost Baseball Swing Load & Bat Speed?

In this baseball swing load “shoulder” angle experiment using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze what would happen to Bat & Hand Speed when we took 100 swings with a slight “Downhill” shoulder angle (about 8-10-degrees) versus another 100 swings with level shoulders.

The Feedback Lab parent testimonial about his 14 year old daughter Mia:

“Hey Coach,

It has been way too long but I wanted to share some information that happened yesterday. We are heading up to Chattanooga, Tennessee, the largest showcase in the southeast today. Yesterday was our last day to hit before the showcase and Mia was struggling with her power. We hit about 60-70 balls and Mia was hitting about 10% over the fence (she is usually 40%+). I was looking to make sure she was showing her number, which she was, hiding her hands, which she was, landing with a bent knee, which she was and etc., etc. It was getting late and we had to go and I told Mia she had only 6 balls left. I told her to show me her stance and I noticed that her front shoulder was equal to her back shoulder. I then told her to lower her front shoulder and raise her back one. That was the only change we made to her swing, Mia then hit the next 6 balls over the fence and 2 of them were bombs. I cannot believe the difference this one small change made.

Thanks,
Primo”

 

Background Research

Baseball Swing Load: Miguel Cabrera WSJ Info-Graphic

Wall Street Journal Info-Graphic at: http://gohpl.com/1NFi8qi

The best resource for getting educated on spinal engine mechanics is to pick up Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine.  For a teased out version of this,

CLICK HERE for a post I did that compared the pitching delivery, hitting, and an overhead tennis serve using this “bending sideways” technique.

Another good book from multiple authors on the subject of spinal engine mechanics, locomotion biomechanics, and springy fascia, check out the book Dynamic Body by leading author Dr. Erik Dalton.

Also, here’s a great Wall Street Journal post about Miggy Cabrera titled, Miguel Cabrera: The Art of Hitting.  Check out what the illustration says in the middle of the red circle above…

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above baseball swing load experiment research and one of the other countless online hitting testimonials I get about “bending sideways” benefits, I think using a slight “Downhill” Shoulder Angle will boost Bat Speed at Impact by at least 3-mph, and Hand Speed Max by 2-mph.

 

Baseball Swing Load: “Downhill” Shoulder Angle Experiment

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: Zepp Baseball App

CLICK Image to Purchase Zepp Baseball App

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Tyler Doerner, my intern for the summer and a hitter in HPL’s The Feedback Lab, is a redshirt college Freshman.  He did the baseball swing load shoulder angle experiment.
  • Tyler broke the swing into two steps: 1) get to landing position, pause for 1-2 seconds, 2) then swing, to better control the shoulder angle during the tests.
  • So, there was an absence of forward momentum in this experiment.
  • The two tests in the experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  “Level Shoulders” were letter ‘A’, and
    “Downhill Shoulders” were letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being warmed” up factors.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Baseball Swing Load: Zepp Screenshot of Shoulder Angle Experiment

Look at the significant jumps in average Bat Speed at Impact & the Attack Angle…

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • There’s a significant 4-mph JUMP in average Bat Speed at Impact with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle.
  • Average Hand Speed Max only increased by 1-mph with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle.
  • There was a small change in Time To Impact, in favor of the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle.
  • Not a big change in the Bat Vertical Angle at Impact.
  • And there was a significant 3-degree angle change in Attack Angle with “Downhill” Shoulder Angle.

Notes

  • We found a slightly bigger increase in average Bat Speed at Impact with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle compared to my Hypothesis (4-mph versus 3-mph).
  • I thought there was going to be a bigger difference in Hand Speed Max, than how it turned out.
  • What was surprising was the 3-degree angle change of the attack angle.  A 10-degree Attack Angle is a typical line drive.  Once you start to get into the 15-20 degree range, you’re looking at more of a home-run launch angle.
  • The “Downhill” Shoulder Angle is actually something we’re working in Tyler’s swing.  He tends to let go of his angle a little too soon.
  • I find that before and after Ball Exit Speed readings with my local hitters who’re familiar with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle, can increase from 1-3-mph when this it the only mechanic we’re working on.

The Bottom Line?

In this baseball swing load shoulder angle experiment, we can clearly see with the “Downhill” Shoulder Angle that there’s a significant 4-mph jump in Bat Speed at Impact, AND a surprising 3-degree boost in the Attack Angle.  The “Downhill” Shoulder Angle is a piece of what I call the Catapult Loading System.  The BIG-3 are:

  1. Downhill shoulder angle,
  2. Hiding hands from the pitcher, and
  3. For #3…

2014 AL MVP Mike Trout down shoulders photo courtesy: TheSportsQuotient.com

Yes, hitters can build consistent explosive rotational power into their swings by learning from tennis players and baseball pitching athletes.  CLICK HERE to check out this “Pitching Instruction Secrets for Hitters” video post I did featuring 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner.

I received an email from a teacher in Portugal named Alexandra Franco.  She plays competitive tennis and is also a tennis instructor.  She recently purchased my Truth About Explosive Rotational Power online video course to help her teach and play tennis better.  She asked a lot of really good questions around how the spinal engine mechanics I’m teaching my hitters related to serving a tennis ball…

In this video, we’re going to explore Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s Spinal Engine Mechanics, as they relate to:

  • Moving the spine for performance,
  • Comparing Alexandra’s serve to Roger Federer’s, and
  • Apply key baseball pitching & tennis principles to hitting for repeatable power…

 

Moving the Spine for Performance

Dr. Serge Gracovetsky, in his book The Spinal Engine says,

“The spine cannot be rotated axially without flexing.  The spinal engine theory requires the lumbar spine to be flexed laterally if an axial torque is to be induced.”

Baseball Pitching (Clayton Kershaw) + Roger Federer = Repeatable Power (Hitting Video)

2014 NL CY Young & MVP award winner Clayton Kershaw angling his shoulders up photo courtesy: LATimes.com

According to Dr. Gracovetsky, there are three possible spinal movements:

  1. Extension (lordosis)/Flexion – standing tall, or arching the lower back.  And think of Flexion as rounding the back,
  2. Lateral Flexion or Side bending – standing tall, then flexing the upper body sideways at the waist, and
  3. Axial Rotation – this is the shoulders rotating opposite the pelvis.  Think of this as torque or how a gear box works.

He then adds that if two of the above are present, then almost always the end result is the third.  All explosive rotational athletes, have to abide by these rules to human movement.  Let’s see how Alexandra and Roger Federer use a combination of the above three spinal movements for performance…

 

Comparing Tennis Serve of Alexandra to Roger Federer

Roger Federer angling shoulders up at apex of the ball

World tennis champion Roger Federer angling his shoulders up photo courtesy: WorldTennisMagazine.com

Here are some key differences Alexandra can use to up her tennis serve…Roger Federer tends to:

  • Bend both knees as he throws the ball in the air, which helps with
  • Maintaining strict alignment with his head and spine as he globally extends (head & spine as one piece) over his heels,
  • As he’s doing this, he angles his shoulders up towards the apex of the ball causing an extreme side bend of the spine (in the video, look how low his back shoulder gets compared to his front), and
  • Going into axial rotation to hit the ball, watch how both elbows move counter-clockwise, at the same time, and on the same plane with the shot.

 

Apply Key Baseball Pitching & Tennis Principles to Hitting for Repeatable Power

A page out of Dr. Serge Gracovetsky's book The Spinal Engine for baseball pitching...

A page out of Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine…

The tennis serve and baseball pitching mechanics are very similar.  Dr. Serge Gracovetsky says,

“The large torque required to propel the baseball demands such a large amount of lateral bending that the pelvis must be rocked as well.  It is this requirement that precipitates the characteristic lift of the left leg before the throw.”

One of the key differences to hitting is the shoulder angle (lateral bend).  Hitters need to move the front shoulder slightly down to hit the ball up.  I get this with my hitters by cuing them to raise the back elbow at or above the top hand (see Trout photo above).

Whereas baseball pitching athletes, like 2014 NL Cy Young and MVP Award winner Clayton Kershaw, and Roger Federer need to angle the front shoulder up before throwing or hitting the ball down.

One last thought from Dr. Serge Gracovetsky about proper spinal engine mechanics for explosive rotational athletes:

“The axial rotation of the spine cannot happen unless the spine is flexed by the right amount on the correct side.  Coaching an athlete to throw without a proper spinal position is an invitation to severe torsional injuries.”

Buster Posey: ADD 6-mph To Bat Speed Using The Shoulders

 

Buster Posey VIDEO: Not ALL In The Hips [Experiment]

Buster Posey showing his numbers photo courtesy: MLB.com

Question: Is Increased Bat Speed ALL in the Hips?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether Buster Posey’s hips OR spinal mechanics is what increases bat speed.

Background Research

Most elite hitting instructors, pros, and Hall of Famers think it’s ALL in the hips.  The “it” is a mystery even to them.  It shouldn’t be this way.  When we look at proven human movement science, we find that just firing the hips isn’t good enough.  My question to those people is, what about the piece of hardware above the pelvis, attaching it to the shoulders – the spine?

Before getting into the experiment and analyzing Buster Posey’s swing, we need to lay ground work first.  Watch this THREE videos first:

  1. Miguel Cabrera and the timing of torque.
  2. Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista: how spine engine mechanics are amplified by Gravitational Forces, and
  3. Adrian Gonzalez: how-to naturally spring load the body.

Hypothesis

Albert Pujols showing numbers similar to Buster Posey

Albert Pujols NOT showing his numbers like he could. Definite hip hinge (tilt) towards the plate. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Based primarily on my research and study of Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine, and Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains, I believe a hitter like Buster Posey, that shows the pitcher their numbers – while keeping the hips in neutral – creates the separation (or spinal torque) needed before landing to produce natural friction-free repeatable power.

Rather than just focusing on the hips to go first, and the front shoulder to stay on the pitcher.  In the experiment, for the sake of brevity, I’ll differentiate between the two with “showing numbers” or “NOT showing numbers”.

Buster Posey: Not ALL in the Hips Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers = my bat length, plus two baseballs
  • Distance from plate = end of the bat touching inside corner of plate, and knob of bat touching my mid-thigh
  • Tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • Forward momentum was eliminated in this experiment, and I hit from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • First 100 baseballs hit was “NOT showing numbers”, focusing on hips first, and front shoulder pointing at the pitcher at landing
  • Second 100 baseballs hit was “showing numbers”, focusing on showing numbers, slight down shoulder angle, and hiding the hands
  • There was about 30-45 minute break between both Buster Posey Experiments

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Buster Posey Experiment: Zepp Baseball App comparison

Difference after 100 swings…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • Average bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 73-mph
  • Average bat speed for showing numbers at landing: 79-mph (+6-mph)
  • Highest bat speed for NOT showing numbers at landing: 82-mph
  • Highest bat speed for showing numbers at landing: 88-mph (+6-mph)
  • Hand speed max for NOT showing numbers was: 27-mph
  • Hand speed max for showing numbers was: 29-mph (+2-mph)

As you can clearly see, “NOT showing numbers” puts a hitter at a clear repeatable power DISADVANTAGE.

 

Notes

Andrew McCutchen showing his numbers like Buster Posey

Andrew McCutchen: showing numbers, slight down shoulder angle, hiding hands, hip hinge (tilt) towards the plate. 2013 NL MVP. 3rd in MLB OPS in 2014. All 5’10”, 190 pounds of him! Photo courtesy of MLB.com.

  • I don’t go out and take 200 swings in a given day, so I was getting fatigued by the time I got to the last hundred swings (“showing numbers”) part of the experiment.  Goes to show this isn’t about muscles, but connective tissue.
  • Remember, I purposely eliminated forward momentum from the Buster Posey Experiment because I wanted to reveal how “showing the numbers” can effect a hitter’s bat speed.  CLICK HERE to see the results of a Forward Momentum Experiment I did using the Zepp Baseball App.
  • “Showing the numbers” IS NOT adding more rotational ground to make up during the Final Turn.  It’s a natural way of super-charging connective tissue over muscles.
  • A slight bend at the waist (hip hinge) towards the plate – before landing – improves efficiency, not detracts from it.  Just look at Posey, McCutchen, and Pujols pictured hitting home-runs in this post.  This is how an athlete takes the slack out of the posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, butt, and back).  ALL shapes and sizes use it.
  • During NOT showing the numbers, I felt like I had to guide my hands more.  It took more effort to extend through the ball instead of rotating off (rolling over), than with showing the numbers.
  • Make sure when “showing the numbers”, the hitter isn’t losing sight of the incoming pitch with the back eye.
  • Also, make sure when using a slight down shoulder angle that the head stays in-line with the spine.  The angle is slight, about five to ten-degrees.

 

The Bottom Line?

When we analyze hitters like Buster Posey, we NEED to hold our analysis to a higher standard.  Proven human movement science.  We have to go away from mechanical fixes based on “feelings”.  The “Oh, I’ve been working on this and it seems to work”, isn’t good enough.  Neither is, “Ted Williams said so!”  Or, “I watch 25-hours of high level hitting footage in a day, so listen to me.”  That stuff DOES NOT matter.  Science does.  I want to see the data, NOT listen to feelings.  The heavy lifting has been done for us.  It’s up to us to apply it.