Posts

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics: Hit Top Part Of Cage? Or Back Part?

 

 

In this Albert Pujols hitting mechanics talk, some questions Pujols and Harold Reynolds answer:

Albert Pujols Hitting Mechanics

Albert Pujols & Harold Reynolds Interview, MLB Network 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

  • Hitting ball off same spot off tee or vary?
  • Dangers of a purely opposite field approach…
  • When is using ‘hands inside the ball’ okay?
  • Hit top part of the cage of the back?
  • How many swings until you should take a break to reflect?
  • Inside pitch barrel path: is it different than away?
  • Should hitter get “taller” to hit a high pitch?

Make sure you watch the 8-minute 30-Clubs in 30-Days Albert Pujols interview on grooving his swing, before diving into my notes.  I time stamped the above video for quick and easy reference…

  • At the 0:10 second mark,  tsk, tsk…notice Harold Reynolds isn’t following the 4-foot social distancing rule!! (for those watching this well after the craziness of the Coronavirus has passed – lol).  
  • At the 0:30 second mark, interesting Pujols talks about building a consistent swing, hitting off the tee in one spot.  He references variance training with some hitting coaches moving the ball up and down, in and out.  I do agree with him, but it depends on the end result.  If you’re just introducing a new hitting mechanic, then keep the tee in one spot.  If you’re looking to deeply embed a well worn hitting mechanic, then variance or chaos training is key.
  • At the 0:45 second mark, Albert Pujols talks about setting tee up slightly off center of the plate towards outer part.  He likes to work gap to gap and not force or push the ball to right field.  He mentions if he focuses too much on right field, then he gets under the ball too much.
  • At the 1:30 minute mark, Pujols dispels the myth of “staying inside the ball”.  He says of course you’re inside the ball…you don’t see hitters EVER getting their hands outside the ball.  ‘Hands inside the ball’ can be a great cue for those hitters doing the opposite – casting barrel early.  It’s not a perfect cue, but may work in some cases.  Then to throw gas on the fire, he mentions ‘knob to the ball’.  Real v. Feel.  There’s a reason you keep hearing this kind of stuff from guys like Pujols, A-Rod, and Bonds.  It has to do with top hand dominance and pronation.  We call it the “wrist snap”.
  • At the 2:00 minute mark, Albert Pujols talks about working on the liner, not trying to hit the top part of the cage. He picks a spot in the cage he wants the ball to travel.  External cue.  He wants the ball to come off the bat as high as the tee is set.  Harold brings up that some people are teaching to hit the top of the cage (I used to be one of them!!).  But Albert plays the politician and comments that he doesn’t want to say what those coaches are doing is wrong, but that he wouldn’t teach that.  And right now, I’d agree with him.
  • At the 3:00 minute mark, Harold asked Pujols if there’s a rhythm to working on gapping the ball, and Pujols says he tries to hit 3 or 4 in a row, then take a break to reflect on the feeling.  He tries not to rush when working out.  He tries to take his time.  Process what he just did.  Great advice!
  • At 4:00 minute mark, Harold asks Albert about his inside approach.  How to hit the inside pitch.  Watch how Pujols demos his barrel path to get to it … barrel above hands?  This Adam Eaton video reveals the same thing.  Interesting huh?  We call this knocking the “belly button” catcher’s glove off.  He says he’s just reacting to the inside pitch.  Typically, he’s looking out over the plate.  He doesn’t try to focus on one area of the plate.  He looks middle, then adjusts in or out from there.  Definitely works for Albert.  And Mike Schmidt also talked about it in his book the “Mike Schmidt Study”. Only downside is when pitchers start using EV tunnels Perry Husband talks about.  It’s easier to cover middle in/out/up/down (50% of the plate), based on pitcher’s pattern.  Obviously, this is more effective the better the pitcher is.
  • At 5:00 minute mark, in the above Albert Pujols hitting mechanics video, Pujols talks about keeping his shoulders “square” or keep front shoulder pointing at “400-foot” mark in straight center.  Not to close shoulders off.  Albert never really did ‘show numbers’ much, but he does a lot of other things right.
  • At 6:00 minute mark, Pujols talks about not getting “taller” to get to the pitch up in the zone, but to stay sink down and use hands to get to it.  Again demonstrates keeping barrel above hands.  We talk about getting shorter and staying shorter.  And middle in, middle up pitches are addressed by knocking off belly button catcher’s glove or telling hitter to keep barrel above hands.  Real v. Feel.  Now, this isn’t actually what’s going to happen.  The result of this hitting cue is a tighter, shorter, more compact barrel path.  Much needed closer the ball is to the hitter or the eyes.  He talks about using his legs to get to pitches down in the zone.

Here is a Method That is Helping Nelson Cruz ADD Ridiculous Batted Ball Distance

 

Nelson Cruz: 'Showing Numbers'

Nelson Cruz ‘showing numbers’ hitting a 2-run monster shot traveling 463-feet with a launch angle of 23.7-degrees off 75-mph CB on 09/23/16. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

(‘Showing Numbers’ Experiment REVISITED) 

Question: Is Increased Bat & Ball Exit Speed ALL in the Hips?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze whether ‘Showing the Numbers’ to the pitcher is more effective than ‘NOT Showing’ them when it comes to measuring Bat and Ball Exit Speeds.

In this swing experiment, I had professional hitter of mine that I’ve been working with for a few months, Preston Scott, do the hitting.

 

Background Research

I’m revisiting an earlier experiment I did, looking into whether power was ALL in the hips.  You can CLICK HERE to read and watch the experiment findings.

Not to beat the springy fascia horse, but you can get more background information on why this swing experiment turned out like it did by reading through the following video blog posts.

  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

From the research into Anatomy Trains (Thomas Myers), The Spinal Engine (Dr. Serge Gracovetsky), and from my past swing experiment, I expect to see similar results…maybe even slightly lower numbers favoring ‘Showing Numbers’.

I say slightly lower numbers because in the first experiment I didn’t counter-balance the swings.  In other words, I took 100 consecutive swings ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ first, then took another 100 consecutive swings ‘Showing Numbers’.  This may have caused a “getting tired” or “not warmed up yet” effect, therefore biasing the experiment results.

The big UPDATES to the experiment will be:

  • Adding the measure of Ball Exit Speed,
  • Counter-balancing the swings, and
  • Professional Preston Scott taking the swings, not me.

I’m interested to see how this experiment turns out…

 

ADD Ball Exit Speed Swing Experiment

Equipment Used:

  • Zepp Baseball app (to measure Bat Speed, Hand Speed, Time to Impact, & Attack Angle),
  • Bushnell Radar Gun (to measure Ball Exit Speed, or BES),
  • Backspin batting tee,
  • Two yellow dimple baseballs (feedback markers),
  • Android GS6 video camera and Tripod, and
  • 34 inch wood bat.

Setup:

Preston Scott: Showing versus NOT Showing Numbers

Preston Scott: ‘NOT Showing’ versus ‘Showing Numbers’

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length
  • 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 Preston hit from a 1-2 second pause at landing
  • We stayed as consistent as we could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length ahead of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Showing Numbers’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • On ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, Preston kept his shoulders in line with the blue band on the ground in front of him (towards the pitcher).  And on ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he kept his shoulders in line with the red band that was set at about a 30-degree angle from the blue band.
  • Preston Scott was sipping a protein shake throughout the length of the experiment to aid in recovery.
  • On both experiment days, Preston had finished “leg day” at the gym, so our warm-up was brief, followed by about 15-20 swings off the tee.
  • We had to break the 200 total swings (4 sets of 25 swing chunks each day) into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later because of time constraints.
  • It’s important to note, Preston and I were working on improving his mechanics slightly different both days (having nothing to do with ‘showing numbers’), but even though Day 1 (November 7, 2016), and a week later, Day 2 (November 14, 2016) swings may look a bit different, the slightly differing mechanics were used for BOTH ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ and ‘Showing Numbers’ tests, so as not to muddy the experiment results.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

‘NOT Showing Numbers’ Day 1 & 2 side by side comparison…

NOT Showing Numbers Day 1 & 2 (100 swings total)

‘NOT Showing Numbers’ Averages of averages: 71-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 27.5-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.165 Time To Impact, -25* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 4.5* Attack Angle

‘Showing Numbers’ Day 1 & 2 side by side comparison…

Showing Numbers Day 1 & 2

‘Showing Numbers’ Averages of Averages: 76-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 28-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.162 Time to Impact, 28* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 6* Attack Angle

Also, CLICK HERE to access the Google Drive spreadsheet with all Ball Exit Speed (BES) readings from the experiment.

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Starting with Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

  • 5-mph INCREASE in Bat Speed at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’
  • 0.5-mph INCREASE in Hand Speed Max with ‘Showing Numbers’
  • .003 second DECREASE in Time to Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’
  • 3* INCREASE in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact with ‘Showing Numbers’
  • 1.5* INCREASE in Attack Angle with ‘Showing Numbers

Now, let’s see how the Ball Exit Speed averages compare between the two mechanics:

  • 76.02-mph BES when ‘NOT Showing Numbers’
  • 77.32-mph BES  when ‘Showing Numbers’
  • That’s a 1.3-mph average INCREASE when ‘Showing Numbers’
  • Translates between 5.2-feet to 7.8-feet of EXTRA batted ball distance – depending on if you calculate using 1-mph BES = 4-feet of distance OR 1-mph BES = 6-feet of distance.

 

Notes

  • In this experiment, if you look at the ‘NOT Showing Numbers’ swings, they were actually ‘Showing Numbers’.  In other words, Preston already shows his number to the pitcher well causing him a challenge to not show them.  Therefore on the ‘Showing Numbers’ swings, he showed them more.  I think that’s why we didn’t see as much of a difference in Ball Exit Speeds.
  • One of the big objections from some is that ‘Showing Numbers’ causes an increase in Time To Impact.  These results show it doesn’t – it actually decreases Time To Impact.  WHY is this? It has to do with ‘taking slack out of the system’ as it relates to compression/tension forces acting within the body.
  • Preston Scott generally does a great job of ‘Showing Numbers’, even before I started working with him, so he felt like he really had to try and keep from pulling the ball too much when ‘NOT Showing Numbers’. And as you can see in the video, he was still ‘Showing Numbers’ somewhat, even when he wasn’t suppose to!

Reader Question: “What flexibility work do you do with your trainees to enhance counter-rotation of the torso as the foot lands open?”

 

Andrew McCutchen 'Showing his Numbers' to the Pitcher

Andrew McCutchen ‘showing his numbers’ to the pitcher, while landing open with lower half. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This questions stems from how I teach hitters to ‘show their numbers’ to the pitcher during the load, as close to stride landing as possible…

(see image of Andrew McCutchen)

But for this to work, here’s the kicker…

The hitter MUST land open with the bottom half…front foot open between 45 and 60-degrees.

This creates what some coaches call torque, or counter-rotation of the shoulders-to-pelvis…

These are basic walking mechanics of the spine…and is why, as your right leg swings forward, so does your left arm.

So how do we optimize this action with our hitters using flexibility and strengthening?

I’m about 8-weeks into an online gymnastics strength training course through GymnasticBodies.com myself.  I’ve finished their Fundamentals course, and currently working through their Handstand course.

GymnasticBodies.com Fundamentals Course Deal

Photo courtesy: GymnasticBodies.com

CLICK HERE to get $25 OFF full price of $100 for their Fundamentals course.  I don’t get paid if you purchase the course.  I just LOVE what they’re doing, and believe ALL hitters MUST be engaging in this type of mobility and strength training.

(PLEASE NOTE: I’m not sure how long this deal will be up, so jump on it!)

Why am I putting myself through this training?

#1: as my wife will tell you, this is a gross obsession of mine…sometimes bordering on OCD.

And #2: I wanted to pick up a few things about bodyweight training mobility and stability for my hitters.

One of my guiding principles is if you aren’t growing, then you’re dying.

And if you’re a coach that takes mentoring young athletes seriously, then you MUST be subscribing to the same proactive learning principles.

So, in the above video, we go over:

  • Rotation v. Anti-Rotation (acceleration v. braking systems)
  • Rotation stretch – hold each side for at least 30-secs
  • Rotation strengthen:
    • Windshield Wipers – do 10 repetitions each side
  • Anti-Rotation strengthen:
    • Side Plank (anti-side bend) – start off with holding for 30-secs, then increase by 15-secs after mastery
    • 3-Point Plank (anti-rotation of pelvis) – start off holding for 30-secs, then increase by 15-secs after mastery.

ENJOY!

#1 Youth Baseball Swing Fix To Deflating Bat Speed

 

Awhile back I posted the following to my Hitting Performance Lab Facebook fan-page (CLICK HERE if you haven’t “Liked” my fan-page yet…new content daily):

[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/HittingPerformanceLab/posts/565739680222497/” width=”400″/]

This video blog post will target one of the worst youth baseball swing offenders to deflating bat speed…bat drag.  In this article, we’re going over:

  • What is Bat Drag?
  • The science of Bat Drag (to hitting an unknown moving pitch), and
  • One way to fix Bat Drag.

 

What is Bat Drag?

#1 Youth Baseball Swing Fix To Deflating Bat Speed

Notice the difference in Charles’s barrel angle.

This is when the front arm “bars out” before the Final Turn.  Also known as “Casting.”  And it’s an oftentimes frustrating youth baseball hitting fix.

I received an email awhile back from James Brown (NOT the singer), that said:

…”I watched a video that perry husband had at the hitting hot stove at the abca in Dallas that showed analysis of the Homerun derby, and the furthest home runs by each individual competitor happened when their lead arm was extended early.  I think swing mass and leverage has a lot to power to the ball…  Think about having your hand slammed in a door.  Would you want a door with a short distance from hinge to knob, or a long distance?  Short would close faster, but do less damage.  Long will impart more force at a slower speed.”

James Brown’s email response was after I produced this youth baseball Shin-Soo Choo: Can Front Arm KILL Bat Speed? video post.

Here’s how I responded…

 

The Science of Bat Drag (to hitting an unknown moving pitch)

…”I see what you’re saying and agree…to hit the ball the farthest, a straight front arm would be ideal. Look at golfers for instance. But here’s the problem…a hitter in a game doesn’t know with 100% certainty: pitch location, speed, and pitch type.

So a hitter needs to turn quicker for the first half of the Final Turn, to get the barrel on the plane of the pitch as soon as possible.  Then extend on the pitch plane, depending on pitch location and speed.”

In the home run derby, hitters know the pitch speed, type – and for the most part – location.

I agree with Perry Husband in that hitters should make it a goal to get to impact with a long front arm.

However, I don’t agree in getting a hitter to bar that front arm out early on, pre-turn.

It’s a simple Conservation of Angular Momentum issue.  CLICK HERE for a short 2-minute Circus Physics video from PBS on this movement Principle.

An ice skater speeds up by tucking her arms in towards her rotating middle.  She slows down by extending her arms away from her rotating middle.

What’s going on here?

Rotating speed goes up when the rotation is tighter (bending the arms), but inertial mass decreases.  Inversely related, when the arms go out, her inertial mass increases, but her rotating speed decreases.  This is how Angular Momentum is conserved.

So, unless like Perry teaches, Pitch Recognition and Strategic hitting game plans against specific pitchers is supplemented, I don’t see the logic in teaching hitters to early arm bar, pre-turn.

Why?

Because barring the front arm out early will slow rotation down (think arm extended ice skater), and on higher perceived velocities to the hitter, high or inside the strike-zone, why would we want our hitters to turn slower at the beginning of the turn?

The bottom line? Youth baseball (or softball) swing game mechanics are slightly different than in batting practice.  “Five-o-clock” hitters typically aren’t very effective in games.  And let me tell you, all my pitching friends LOVE pitching to early arm bar hitters because they have a weakness to exploit.  Just like hitters that swing down on the ball and extreme upper cutters do.

One Way to Fix Bat Drag

Youth Baseball ALERT: Stop Arm Barring

See Cutch pulling his top hand, while bottom hand restrains that pull forward (look at muscles in left forearm and triceps). Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Typically, I have my youth baseball hitters practice the Catapult Loading System when we have an arm barring issue.  The finer points before a hitter lands in the Fight Position are:

  • Showing pitcher your numbers,
  • Hiding hands from pitcher, and
  • Slight downhill shoulder angle.

Another piece I’ve just added to the puzzle comes from Homer Kelly in his book The Golfing Machine.  The following quote may shed additional light on “educating the hands” to combat arm barring…

“Power Accumulator #1 (for right handed golfer) – is the bent right arm. Even though the right biceps is active, the backstroke is always made with the right arm striving to remain straight. But the straight left arm restrains this continuous extensor action of the right triceps with an effortless checkerin action. Consequently , during release, the right arm can straighten only as the left arm moves away from the right shoulder.”

You see, the problem with bat drag at the youth baseball level isn’t the move itself, but how the compensation is triggered.  What’s happening before the front arm bars out?  Is the hitter properly activating the springy fascia within the torso?

If you “Click here to ‘Get Instant Access'” button below, you can get a free video that explains:

  • Why the following advice: “Power is all in the hips”, “Load and explode the hips”, and “The hips lead the way” won’t produce the repeatable power you’re looking for…

  • Where power really comes from – the answers to how the body actually loads are validated by science…

  • The 3 Do’s & Don’ts that will help you execute this simple strategy without any hitches in swing quality…