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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…]

Baseball Hitting Drills For Power That Babe Ruth WOULD BE Talking About

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Power: Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth post impact…notice he’s not ‘squashing the bug’ with his back foot? 😉 Photo courtesy: ABCNews.com

This baseball hitting drills for power video post, featuring Babe Ruth, was recorded on Jun 11, 2013 for my old hitting site Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills dot com.

I’m going to revisit the information in this post because…

The coaching cues I teach now are a bit different, but what hasn’t changed are the human movement principles brought to light in the analysis.

Since I created the video, it’s amassed over 52K views on YouTube.

Probably more now that you’re reading this…

And by the way, the baseball hitting drills for power tips we’ll be covering work REALLY well for softball players too.

Don’t believe me?

CLICK HERE for a recent post I did discussing how similar the baseball and softball swings are.

Be sure to read some of the comments at the end of the post, where I asked my readers who coach softball players, to share how these same human movement principles are working for their girls.

In this baseball hitting drills for power post, we’ll REVISIT and ADD information to the above video:

  • What Forward Momentum looks like in Babe Ruth’s swing,
  • How The Babe uses the Springy ‘X’ Pattern, and
  • Compare how WR holding Shot Putter Ulf Timmerman uses the same human movement principles…

 

What Forward Momentum Looks like in Babe Ruth’s Swing

I mention a few things in the video…

How The Babe seemingly throws his body (or hips) forward, making an aggressive move towards the pitched ball.

This looks very similar to a pitcher falling down the mound.

There was no ‘push off’ with his back leg, just a natural fall forward with his front leg catching him at stride landing.

In the above video, I also mention, how Babe Ruth commits his body weight forward, similar to how we walk…

A person’s body weight is shifted forward to the swing through leg, as the heel approaches the ground.

Unlike a cat taking a tentative step forward as if the ground is going to give way, we don’t walk by ‘sitting back’ at every step forward.

We walk more like dogs! Committing forward with EVERY step.

And this is WHY we shouldn’t be teaching hitters to ‘Sit back’ when hitting.  Unless of course, you want to create timid and defensive swinging hitters that WILL reach a ceiling at the lower levels.

Now, using this same Babe Ruth style fall is where baseball hitting drills for power semi-fork away from fastpitch softball hitters.

Because of a shortened pitching distance and reaction time, we’ll see forward momentum look more like Lauren Chamberlain’s shifting foot pressure in the following video:

In this video, she starts super wide with her feet, but you’ll see her shift her weight back, then forward (watch her body move away from the grounded heavy bag behind her).

This is still a form of Forward Momentum.  Just more tailored for a fastpitch hitting strategy.

In the above Babe Ruth video, I mention Un-Weighting, or the Un-Weighting Principle.

CLICK HERE for an HPL video demonstrating a test I use to get my hitters ‘buying into’ Forward Momentum benefits.

The bottom line with forward momentum is that it increases a hitter’s reaction time by giving them a head start.

It’s easier to change planes of motion when you’re already moving…rather than standing still like purely rotational hitters.

Does it take more energy to push a car when it’s already moving, or at a dead stop?

We want effortless power, NOT a powerless effort.

Are you concerned about too much head movement?

Check out these FOUR posts that address that issue:

How The Babe Uses the Springy ‘X’ Pattern

CLICK HERE for an HPL post talking about the science of tension/compression forces in the body, known as fascia.

CLICK HERE for another HPL post analyzing the swing of Adrian Gonzalez highlighting the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.

I call this piece of my hitting system the Catapult Loading System.  This online video mini-course teaches exactly how to manipulate springy fascia for repeatable power.

Here’s one of my favorite YouTube interviews with Thomas Myers, who does a GREAT job explaining the role of springy fascia in the body, so the Layman understands:

Thomas Myers authored the book Anatomy Trains, which I highly recommend as a MUST read to anyone serious about teaching hitting.  The information in his book holds the key to how hitting will be taught 5 years from now.  BELIEVE IT.

Baseball Hitting Drills For Power: Josh Donaldson Springy 'X' Pattern

Watch how Josh Donaldson manipulates the Springy ‘X’ Pattern. Photo courtesy: YouTuber PastimeAthletics & PicPlayHost

There a couple baseball hitting drills for power points I’ve recently changed, when teaching hitting, different from the information in the Babe Ruth video above (thanks Lee Comeaux for pointing these out)

  • #1 – I don’t focus on the shoulders facilitating the Springy ‘X’ Pattern anymore, but the armpits (view Josh Donaldson RED ‘X’ image to the right). This is where, as Thomas Myers puts it, the Front Arm Fascial Line passes through connecting bottom of the left hand and arm, across the chest, to the bottom of the right hand and arm.
  •  #2 – Notice how Babe Ruth seems to be ‘hunched’ over from the start of his swing into loading the Springy ‘X’ Pattern? Dr. Kelly Starrett calls this global flexion of the spine.  This allows the spine to decompress. In his book The Spinal Engine, Dr. Serge Gracovetsky talks about this ‘hunched’ posture as the Posterior Ligamentous System (PLS) turning on, which acts like a harness supporting the spine under load.  There’s less muscle activation when this happens.  Think about a fishing rod bending under the weight and energy of a fish catching bait.  This keeps the spine vertebrae safe through torsion forces.

PLEASE NOTE: the hitter still MUST show numbers and get a slight downward shoulder angle, but we’re using a better coaching cue to get the mechanical outcome.

 

Compare How WR Holding Shot Putter Ulf Timmermann uses the Same Movement Principles

Ulf Zimmermann holds the World Record in the Shot Put using the Glide technique.

Check out his World Record throw on September 22nd, 1985 at a distance of 22.62 meters (about 25 yards):

What a BEAST!  By the way, that iron cannonball he just tossed, almost the quarter length of a football field, weighs 16-pounds!!

Three eerily similar baseball hitting drills for power tips you’ll find with Ulf Timmermann’s record breaking ‘Glide’ technique and Babe Ruth’s swing are:

  1. Ulf Timmermann gets his weight aggressively moving forward with a combination of back leg push off and front leg ‘reaching’ momentum.  What Ulf does with his front leg is similar to a Broad Jumper using their arms to build momentum before a jump.
  2. You also see Ulf Timmermann employing the same Springy ‘X’ Pattern, however more extreme than The Babe (track his compressed armpit and opposing hip).  Ulf is more extreme with the ‘turn in’ because Babe Ruth still has to keep his eyes forward to hit a ball coming towards him, whereas Ulf has the freedom to look away from his target.
  3. You also see both Ulf and The Babe ‘getting shorter’ before exploding rotationally (compare knee bend). They’re both using Ground Reaction Forces very well.

CLICK HERE for a baseball hitting drills for power video post I did outlining the ‘Back Eye Test’, so hitters don’t turn in too much, like Ulf.

A Couple Interesting Tid-Bits from YouTube Video Comments

  • “Excellent video. I recommend everyone read The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. You will be even more amazed with his achievements.” – YouTube user: Gto1927
  • One commenter said this video shows why The Babe hit for so much power, but also struck out A LOT. However, Baseball-Reference.com puts Babe Ruth’s 162-game batting average at .342 with 86 strikeouts per year. How about Chris “Crush” Davis? Same numbers: .255 BA & 200 K’s/year.  I don’t think The Babe struck out that much…what do you think? 😉

CRUSH the Ball Like Mickey Mantle

 

Mickey Mantle Bat Lag

Check out Mickey Mantle’s bat lag. Photo courtesy: LegendaryAuctions.com

I originally included this Mickey Mantle video in a Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills post on June 11th, 2013. I did this about 6-months before launching HPL.

Since publishing the YouTube video, it has amassed over 56,325 views, 76 video “Likes”, and only 7 video “dislikes”.

The basic premise of the video was to compare Mickey Mantle’s right handed swing mechanics to Czech javelin throwerJan Železný’s throwing technique.  Jan is a world and Olympic champion and world record holder. He also holds the top five javelin performances of all time…according to Wikipedia.

In the video, I brought up my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote many of you have seen me post before:

“As to the methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few.  The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

The human movement “principles” we’re comparing in the video are:

  1. The Un-Weighting Principle (or Forward Momentum), and
  2. The Catapult Loading System.

The reason I picked “The Mick”, is because he wasn’t really a big guy, according to Baseball Reference.com, he stood at only 5’11, 195-pounds.

Don’t get me wrong, Mickey Mantle was a naturally strong dude.  But he wasn’t the size of today’s behemoths:

And, some of The Mick’s dingers have been the talk of folklore, claiming to have traveled over 600-feet!

Although with the computation of Metrics now, as Christopher Harbour, a YouTube reader commenter on this particular video, put it:

“The farthest official home run in MLB history was hit by Babe Ruth in Detroit at a distance of 585ft. Mickey’s longest shot was 510Ft. It was often claimed to be much farther but that distance was the distance AFTER the ball rolled. This info is proven by SABR historian Bill Jenkinson.”

Whatever the case, it’s still amazing that a guy of Mickey Mantle’s stature, can hit a ball over 500-feet!  We don’t see Giancarlo, Miggy, or Trout doing that.

And by the way, everyone thinks Babe Ruth was this hulking mass of a guy…he was only 6’2″, 215-pounds.  And according to the above comment, launched the longest dinger 585-feet!

So what was Mickey Mantle doing mechanically making him so special that we as coaches should be teaching our younger hitters?

Mickey Mantle on the Un-Weighting Principle (or Forward Momentum)

Mickey Mantle Stride and Foot Pressure

Look at Mickey Mantle’s shifting foot pressure… Photo courtesy: http://s685.photobucket.com/user/BillBurgess

I said in the video that The Mick’s back knee wasn’t floating over his ankle, but that’s simply not true.  This was knowledge residue from past baseball experts I was listening to at the time.

What Mickey Mantle did really well was shifting his foot pressure.

We can see from the moment he lifts his stride foot to that foot touching down that his foot pressure looks like this:

  • Back foot pressure – is on the outside, and
  • Stride foot pressure – is on the inside.

This is similar to a story one of my readers, Stephen Reid, shared about prolific golfer Ben Hogan (5’9″, 145-pounds), saying in an email:

“A friend of mine worked at Shady Oaks in Dallas where Hogan played and practiced. Towards the end of Mr. Hogan’s time of ‘grinding it out of the dirt”, he was allowed the opportunity to sit and watch him hit balls. He said that Mr. Hogan started talking about the stance, and he stated that the way he thought it would come to pass in the future would be that both feet at address would both be turned slightly towards the target- 30 to 45 degrees. By turning the right foot in at address, the golfer would essentially be putting a governor on his/her right side.

He also reasoned that by doing this, the player would create the tension and brace with the right side and would create a strong coil that would not allow for any “over-coiling or over-swinging”. Therefore, you would be presetting the coil or brace of the right side in a controlled manner and would not allow oneself to overturn in the backswing. Conclusion was that the energy from a strong brace and controlled coil, the golfer would create greater energy in the release of the right side while creating greater swing speeds through impact.”

As Mickey Mantle’s stride foot lands the foot pressure shifts as follows:

  • Back foot pressure – moves to the inside, and
  • Stride foot pressure – moves to the outside.

Mickey Mantle is also most certainly picking up his stride foot and leading with his hip forward.  Just pick out a point of reference in the background, and track how far his hip moves forward.  He’s effectively ‘un-weighting’ his bat, or getting a “head start”, to make the transfer of linear momentum into angular (or rotational) easier.

And we can clearly see the Javelin Thrower, Jan Železný, using forward momentum sprinting down the track before slinging his “arrow” A LONG WAY.

 

The Catapult Loading System

The ‘Springy X Pattern’ I developed through reading the book Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.  Watch the following FunctionalPatterns YouTube video of Thomas Myers talking about the concept of Tensegrity, or Tension Integrity:

It’s the idea that there are compression and tension forces acting within the body at all times.  In the Mickey Mantle video, I talk about imagining a big ‘X’ on his chest and back…connecting one shoulder to the opposite hip.  The fascial lines are a little more complicated than this, but let’s take a general look at how this works…

When Mickey Mantle pre-loads his torso – before turning – we see his lead shoulder come down and in towards his back hip (one leg of the ‘X’ shortens), while the rear shoulder and front hip move away from each other (other leg of the ‘X’ lengthens).  And the reverse is true on the backside.

This is evidenced by tracking his LEFT shoulder:

  • Pre-loads DOWN before Final Turn,
  • Unloads UP during the Final Turn, and finally
  • Reverses DOWN during the follow through to decelerate rotation.

CLICK HERE for an interesting article titled “Muscle Power Golf?!…NOT!” by Kelvin Miyahira (big thanks to Stephen Lowe for the link).  It talks about how the swing – whether we’re talking baseball/softball or golf – IS NOT about activating fast twitch muscle fibers, but engaging the springy fascia.  It’s a rant that I wish I did FIRST!!

 

Interesting Factoids & Resources from Mickey Mantle YouTube Viewer Comments

  • Marie Louise Hunnicutt book recommendation – Baseball’s Ultimate Power: Ranking The All-Time Greatest Distance Home Run Hitters by Bill Jenkinson

  • Gabriel Pennington – “Mantle’s massive strength came from blue collar work, swinging a sledgehammer in a lead mine (on top of freakish genetics). Couple that with the workman mentality of your best never being good enough and you have a lethal combination for an athlete.”
  • koryguns“3.1 seconds to first. Legend has it when he was a rookie in 1951 they decided to have a foot race among the team. Mantle beat everybody like they were standing still, puked, and apologized to Stengel for being out of shape.

Any other Mickey Mantle stories, facts, or book recommendations on him?  Please share in the comments below… (THANKS in advance!!)

Softball Hitting Tips Fastpitch: Is Power ALL In The Hips?

 

This is Part-3 of a 3-part softball hitting tips fastpitch video series coming straight out of the Catapult Loading System online video mini-course…

The Catapult Loading System

Sick of struggling with getting your hitters to hit the ball hard with more consistency?  This is a simple 7-module online video mini-course that will help hitters weighing less than 100-pounds, hit the ball consistently over 300-feet in 60 days.  You’ll be able to dramatically increase power without sacrificing swing quality.

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In this softball hitting tips fastpitch video post, we’re going to answer one of my reader’s questions…

“Ways to use your hips to create bat speed?”

Before I get to the #1 Biggest Lie In Hitting, we’ll cover:

  • Inward hip turn towards catcher to load?
  • Springy ‘X’ Pattern, and
  • Landing open with the front foot.

 

Inward Hip Turn Towards Catcher To Load?

Softball Hitting Tips Fastpitch: Lauren Chamberlain Hitting

Are Lauren Chamberlain’s hips firing on their own, or was her spine pre-loaded earlier by her shoulders? Photo courtesy: YT user – Paul Arebalo

I picked up on this in High School after reading Ted Williams’s book The Science Of Hitting.

But is this really necessary?

After reading Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains, I don’t believe that it is.

To me, ‘Loading the hips’ by turning the pelvis inward towards the catcher creates more challenges, than benefits.

The biggest challenge is that if the timing isn’t right, the hitter will get stuck landing with a closed front leg at landing (front toe less than a 45-degree angle).

CLICK HERE for a Zepp swing experiment I did on landing closed versus open, and the affect on average bat speed.

Olympic Javelin Throwers, Boxers, and Sprinters do just fine without using an inward turn of the pelvis, away from their target, before throwing, punching, or running.

 

Springy ‘X’ Pattern

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, so here are two great video blog posts I did, that apply to softball hitting tips fastpitch, talking about the Springy ‘X’ Pattern:

 

Landing Open with the Front Foot

The guys at ZenoLink are awesome!  They find the truth behind human movement science.  This video discusses how the lower body position or stride setup will dictate how well you create and utilized ground reaction force to initiate the swing process and develop power and bat speed.

They found the optimal degree that the stride foot must be open at landing to be around 65-degrees (watch around the 2:00 mark)…

So WHY are we teaching our young hitters to stride closed?!!

To summarize…

‘Loading and exploding the hips’ by inwardly turning the pelvis towards the catcher can cause the hitter to land closed.  If the hitter lands closed, then bat speed WILL go down, according to the results of my Zepp swing experiment, and to the guys at ZenoLink.  As a result of bat speed going down, so will Ball Exit Speed.

‘Firing the hips’ is an over-coached cue, if anything, let’s ‘load and explode the shoulders’, not the hips.  Us hitting coaches MUST shift our focus above the pelvis, into the shoulders by way of the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.

So, what is the #1 Biggest Lie In Hitting, as it relates to softball hitting tips fastpitch?

That we MUST ‘load and explode the hips’.

You see,

We have to get away from learning inside baseball and softball hitting circles.  We must first learn human movement science, then break away, and begin thinking creatively about how to apply these human movement “rules”, that are validated by science, to hitting a ball.

 

Matt Kemp: Unique Ted Williams Power Secret

Matt Kemp faulty “braking” Functional Lines? Yep, look at his left shoulder higher than his right during the finish. Photo courtesy: ThinkBlueLA.com

Imagine if I asked you to take a ride in my 2-year-old son’s favorite sports car and ultimate luxury vehicle, the Lamborghini Aventador…cherry red.

Costs about $400K, has 720 horse-power, and goes zero to sixty-mph in 2.8 seconds.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.  What if I also told you it had no brakes.  The manufacturer just “forgot” to install them.  If you know I have a lead foot, then would you still want a ride?

I tell my hitters that someone like Matt Kemp or Ted Williams are using both rotational and anti-rotational systems during the swing.

Think of them as acceleration and braking systems, and both are important to a friction-free swing.  Our focus today will be optimizing these systems during the stroke.  We’re going to highlight:

  • The science of accelerating & braking systems,
  • Matt Kemp & Ted Williams (who has the more efficient braking system?)
  • How to tune-up your acceleration & braking system.

 

The Science of Accelerating & Braking Systems

Graphic of Thomas Myers's Functional Lines in his book Anatomy Trains

Front & Back Functional Lines from Thomas Myers’s book Anatomy Trains. Photo courtesy: AnatomyTrains.it

Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains talks about 9 different fascial lines found throughout the body that inter-weave and inter-relate during human movement.  We’ll be highlighting one in particular called the Functional Lines (pictured right).  CLICK HERE for a brief background on springy fascia.

Thomas Myers says that Functional Lines mainly come into play in the following athletic events:

  • Shot Put, Javelin, Discus, and Hammer Throws,
  • Tennis,
  • Golf, and of course
  • For hitters like Matt Kemp & Ted Williams

Thomas Myers says,

“These lines enable us to give extra power and precision to the movements of the limbs by lengthening their lever arm through linking them across the body to the opposite limb in the other girdle.”

Imagine a big “X” painted on your chest and back, connecting the right shoulder to the left hip, and vice versa.  Thomas Myers refers to them as Front Functional Lines (FFL) & Back Functional Lines (BFL).  He uses a couple different examples to illustrate the braking system in action:

“Pitching a baseball or bowling a cricket are perfect ways to engage these lines: the wind-up involves a shortening of the BFL and a stretching of the FFL, while the pitch itself reverses that process, shortening the FFL and stretching the BFL.  In the final act, the BFL acts as a brake to keep the strong contraction along the FFL and the momentum of the arm from going too far and damaging joints involved in the movement.”

You still following me?  It’s okay if not.  We’ll simplify in the next section…

Matt Kemp & Ted Williams (who has the more effective braking system?)

I want to compare Matt Kemp to Ted Williams because they have similar body types, according to Baseball-Reference.com:

Simplifying the acceleration/braking systems, we can just follow the front shoulder to see who is being more efficient with their Functional Lines.  Consider Ted Williams:

Ted Williams front shoulder path

Follow yellow arrows tracking Ted Williams’s front (right) shoulder path…photo left to right: 1) Down, 2) Up, and 3) Down again.

Now, check out the difference with Matt Kemp:

Matt Kemp front shoulder path

Follow yellow arrows tracking Matt Kemp’s front (left) shoulder path…photo left to right: 1) Slightly Down, 2) Up, and 3) Up again.

That’s right, Matt Kemp finishes with his left shoulder up!  Not convinced?   Check out the photo of his finish at the beginning of this post.  He’s not being very efficient with his braking system.  Matt Kemp is leaving repeatable power on the table (which is scary!)…to polish, he’d have to:

  • Get more downhill shoulder angle before landing,
  • Show more of his numbers to the pitcher, and
  • Focus on finishing “barrel down” with his top hand release.

 

 How-to Tune-Up Your Acceleration & Braking Systems

There are a couple quick exercises and stretches that Thomas Myers recommends to tune-up both Functional Lines:

  1. Engage BFL (Alternating Supermans) – 2 sets X 12 reps each side.  Focus on moving the body as a whole.  Arm and leg are to be lifted at exactly same time.  Head stays in line with spine.  Don’t arch head back like in video.
  2. Engage FFL (Alternating Supermans) – same as #1, but do Alternating Supermans on your back.
  3. Stretch BFL (Triangle Yoga Pose) – Hold position on each side for a deep breath count of 5-10.
  4. Stretch FFL (1/2 Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch w/ Rotation) – hold position on each side for about 60-seconds.  Keep the abs and “down knee” glute contracted during stretch.

Do the above four 1-2 times daily for 3-weeks.

Does Adrian Gonzalez Hit Backwards?  Common Mistake #2 (of 4)…

 

Adrian Gonzalez: Power Secret You Are Missing?

Photo credit: MLB.com

In the second installment to the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make video series, starring Adrian Gonzalez, we discuss why “walking away from the hands” doesn’t make sense.  A-Gon is a bigger hitter (*6’2″, 225lbs) who uses human movement science correctly to generate explosive rotational power.

*(According to Baseball-Reference.com)

We’ll use Adrian Gonzalez’s swing to talk about:

  • The simple science of loading,
  • How big hitters get away with ineffective mechanics, and
  • The power secret you are missing.

Contrary to popular belief, “walking away from the hands” is NOT how we load properly.  It decreases turning speed by arm barring.  In the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, if controversial gold medal winning ice skater Adelina Sotnikova could turn faster by barring an arm out, then don’t you think you’d see her do that?

 

The Simple Science of Loading

Cotton Candy Fascia

Photo credit: Thomas Myers

According to the book Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers, the human body is loaded by connective tissue called Fascia, which is:

  • A cotton candy-like material,
  • To the body, like steel is to the building industry,
  • Connective tissue your bones and muscles float in,
  • Gives muscles their shape, and
  • At a constant battle to balance compression and tension forces within the body…Thomas Myers calls this Tensegrity (Tension-Integrity)

Big Hitters Get Away with Ineffective Mechanics

We’re studying the wrong hitters.  Pujols.  Hamilton.  Griffey Jr.  Paul Goldschmidt.

Ken Griffey Jr. was the perfect example of “walking away from the hands”.  People don’t realize, he succeeded despite ineffective mechanics, not because of them.  Here are some other notable athletes getting away with ineffective mechanics:

  • Kevin Durant, NBA’s leading scorer, succeeds despite flawed shooting mechanics.  His knees crash in, which is called Knee Valgus.
  • Tiger Woods succeeded despite being ineffective mechanically, later in his career (4 knee surgeries, in addition to numerous Achilles and back issues). CLICK HERE to read this “Muscle Power Golf, Not!” post about this.
  • Numerous pitchers throw 95+mph despite career shortening flawed mechanics (Kerry Wood and Mark Prior just to name two)

Spend more time analyzing hitters like: Braun, Cano, David Wright, Jose Bautista, McCutchen, Hank Aaron, and Sadaharu Oh (Japan’s career home run leader).  These small-sluggers have to move friction-free (or nearly) to compete.  Big-sluggers with friction-free swings include: Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Chris “Crush” Davis.

 

Power Secret You Are Missing

Of the nine fascial lines mentioned in Thomas Myers’ book Anatomy Trains, the Spiral Fascial Line (SPL) is very important to hitting…according to Thomas Myers:

Science of Loading the Body

Photo credit: Thomas Myers

“The overall movement function of the SPL is to create and mediate spirals and rotations in the body, and, in eccentric and isometric contraction, to steady the trunk and leg to keep it from folding into rotational collapse.”

I call this the ‘Springy X Pattern’.  Imagine an ‘X’ on the front and back of the torso.  When one leg of the ‘X’ shortens, then the other stretches.  Golf training expert Jason Glass of Jason Glass Performance calls these Rotational Power Slings.

Adrian Gonzalez “spring loads” his swing using what I call the Catapult Loading System (CLS).  It takes the Stability ‘X’ Pattern or Rotational Power Sling concepts and applies them to hitting.

Here are a few other world-class spring loaded athletes who’s movements are very similar to a hitter’s:

  1. Golfers,
  2. Olympic Shot Putters
  3. Olympic Throwers – Javelin, Discus, and Hammer
  4. Lacrosse

CLICK HERE in case you missed Part-1 to the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitter’s Make video series.  And CLICK HERE for Common Mistake #3, where we look into why a friction-free hitter SHOULD NOT land with the front toe closed