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Jaime Cevallos Part-1 Interview: Imagine Hitting Strategy That Is Safe For Hitters

 

 

Here's what we're going to discuss in Part-1 of the Jaime Cevallos interview:How To Turn Garbage Teaching Into Predictable Power

  • How is your understanding of the swing different?
  • Where do you get the principles and where do you get the science information from?
  • How your understanding is different than how people are teaching now?
  • “And the whole, the swing starts from the ground up suddenly wasn't correct to me.”

The following is the transcription of the above video.  You can find Jaime Cevallos at the following places:

Enjoy!

 

Jaime Cevallos  00:07

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I'm here with Joey Myers. And Joey, just to tell you a little bit about Joey Myers. He played four years of D-1 ball at Fresno State, the member of the American Baseball Coaches Association, International Youth and Conditioning Association, and the Society for American Baseball Research.

 

Jaime Cevallos  00:31

He's a certified Youth Fitness Specialist, a Corrective Exercise Specialist and a vinyasa yoga instructor and certified in Functional Muscle Screen. Joey was frustrated with his own hitting in college and wanted to figure out a better way and now he's the author of the Amazon bestseller the “Catapult Loading System How To Teach 100-pound Hitters To Consistently Drive The Ball 300-feet“.

 

Jaime Cevallos  00:55

Joey and I have known each other for a few years now. Joey and I were both fans of Tim Ferriss work. And I was in the Four-Hour Body and Joey heard of me there. And that's one of Tim Ferriss books and reached out to me and we started chatting. This was maybe five or so years ago. And so, we've had a relationship talking about business and baseball and what our strategies are as far as what we teach and all, and just get an understanding of his ideas of the movement. And so, Joey, thank you for coming on.

 

Joey Myers  01:52

Yeah, thanks, Jamie. Thanks for having me. And I got just in case we need any examples or need a demonstration, I got my bat here.

 

Jaime Cevallos  02:00

Nice Yep, I got mine too. You know, we're all set. Um, so, the first thing is what are your thoughts as far as the way the swing is taught out there? How is your understanding of the swing different? And I guess another way I could phrase this is, how is it different from how you understood it in college? And then maybe also how is it different from what you see being taught out there?

 

How is your understanding of the swing different?

Joey Myers  02:39

Yeah, good question. So being taught in college it was the whole down through, swing down, swing through type thing that we often see and hear the Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez is saying that they swing down or Mike trout says he gets on top of the ball. And those were after I got enlightened a little bit. Those are very frustrating cues to hear because “swing down!” That's what I was taught and I didn't make it to the big leagues like these guys, I was taught the same dang things and it didn't work.

 

Joey Myers  03:07

So fast forward to 2013, I we had our first kid a boy, Noah, who is now seven, so seven years ago, and in the sleepless nights the getting up six times a night, the wife was feeding Noah, and the wife made me feel guilty to go back to sleep, which I go to back to sleep really quickly. So she, she felt like, “Hey, you need to be up to if I'm up!”

 

Joey Myers  03:35

So in those nights, I picked up a book I think I was trying to fix something in my own body because of the swinging and things I was in fitness at the time. And so, I picked up Thomas Myers, his book Anatomy Trains.  And Thomas Myers, we aren't related directly, but I'm sure somewhere in the family tree were somewhere directly related. And I read through that book. It took me shoot, I had to read over pages for three or four times…

 

Joey Myers  04:12

Curious, you know that was something that you and I have in common. We have this passionate curiosity for the swing. And that just started a big, long deep rabbit hole that I went through. So, Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains, then it went to there was a book called Dynamic Body and it was a collaboration of different authors that were in that springy fascia Rolfing type of genre in the fitness industry.

 

Joey Myers  04:36

And in that book that steered me over to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky's, The Spinal Engine. So, what I was finding before I started going down that rabbit hole was a lot of the probably in the journey that you've been in recently in researching other people and what they teach. It was a lot of things being taught, retaught things that I was trying to reteach myself and it wasn't working.

 

Joey Myers  05:01

And so I figured oh well, it's probably user error. And then finally getting through a lot of that information I started, the lightbulb went on, I was like, you know what, maybe there's something to the human movement principles or rules to human movement. And when you look at it through the lens, you look at hitting through the lens of human movement science, say, physics, or biomechanics, or engineering or anything like that. It changes the game.

 

Joey Myers  05:30

So I always tell the, my coaches that follow me, I say, hey, you need a better standard for your hitters. It can't just be the same, what I call garbage over and over, that doesn't work doesn't really have much experimentation behind it. So that got me into what my thing is now is applying human movement principles that are validated by science to hitting a ball. So that's where I've fast forwarded to where I'm at now.

 

Jaime Cevallos  06:02

And when you say that applying human movement principles, where do you get the principles and where do you get the science information from?

 

Where do you get the principles and where do you get the science information from?

Joey Myers  06:13

Good question. Jamie, turn your camera a little bit. You got a little bit of a glare from the sun. Oh, better. There you go. There you go. That's better. Good just for the readers out there when they're listening to you talk.

 

Joey Myers  06:29

So the principles, the big, big ones that really opened my eyes were from Dr. Serge Gracovetsky's The Spinal Engine. So Dr. Serge is a physicist and electrical engineer. He took one of the biggest I think, case studies for me that sold me on the whole thing was he had a, I don't know if he's a patient client, but whatever, but he was a quadriplegic. He was born that way. So yeah, I think he had nubs for arms. He walked on the bottom of his pelvis. I think they call it the ischium.

 

Joey Myers  07:00

And he had hooked this gentleman up to… put pads on his spine along his spine to measure muscle output to measure the connective tissue output. And if you watch this guy walk and if you just go on YouTube and you put “Serge Gracovetsky Spinal Engine”, it'll come up (video above). It's an old video. It's like in the 80s, I think mid-80s, late 80s. And if you watch this, it's about the four-minute mark. So, he's got video footage of this gentleman walking and if you cover up his lower half like his pelvis basically and just watch him move. You would swear the guy wasn't a quadriplegic.  You'd swear yet legs.

 

Joey Myers  07:43

So he was born without legs and arms, and he was moving like normal people move, but without legs and arms. And so that was to me. I was trying to look for the foundational the foundation of the foundation and locomotion is what Dr. Serge talks about.  So, without locomotion, we aren't human. And he talks about three different and these are the principles, he talks about three different spinal movements, movements that the spine can do…

 

Joey Myers  08:11

There's flexing, so just imagine yourself arching your back, right, but your lower back is already in a has a slight curve to it anyway, so it's already started off, if you just stand there and don't do anything, it's already started off in an extended extension, sorry, extended position, they call it lordosis. The second one, why they put extension and flexion together. So, flexion would be like you doing a crunch where you're crunching up and you're bending your back that way. So those two he puts together, those are number one.

 

Joey Myers  08:44

Number two is side bend. So it's just going side to side. And then the third one, the last one is called axial rotation, which just means that your shoulders can move independent or not independent but your shoulders move one way and your pelvis moves. That's why our right arm and left leg comes forward at the same time.  We don't walk with the right arm and the left leg coming forward the same time. So that is basic locomotion and all three, or four, all three of those movements happen when we walk.

Joey Myers  09:15

And from the minute we start walking… The reason in the beginning, it's so hard for the baby to get into the toddler stage is because that lower back doesn't have the curve in it yet. It's actually straighter if not more flexed, because they're in that that crunch position. And then it's them trying to create that musculature to create that curve in the lower back. And so, once they get that they get more steady.

 

Jaime Cevallos  09:43

That's I'm sorry to interrupt. Yeah, that's really interesting. I didn't know that that that the curve at the bottom of your spine, takes a little while to develop. That must be an ontology recapitulates phylogeny type of thing where we were crawling, in the beginning, and then we needed that curve for upright walking.

 

Joey Myers  10:05

Yep, yep. Yeah, because think about it in in the wild where you have a good example of side bending are sharks. So, sharks when they swim, it's this this movement, right? And if you look at whales our fellow kin, mammals, right? They're extension flexion so their tails this way dolphins same thing, right? Dr Serge talks about a lot of this.  And then if you watch dogs it's similar it's like you see this move that goes like this it's up and down side to side, butt goes one way head the other.

 

Joey Myers  10:40

And what's interesting is there are three sections of the spine. You have the C the cervical, you have the T the thoracic, which is the middle the biggest part 12 full vertebra in the middle, and then you have… so there's seven in the top part and the cervical, two of them we can't see because it inserts into the skull. Then you have the 12 of the thoracic, which is the biggest part of the spine. And then you have the lumbar which is five, five vertebrae.

 

Joey Myers  11:05

And what was interesting to me is if you look at the curve so the neck so imagine the neck is curving this way, the thoracic part curves the opposite can't see it here we go through this way. So the, the thoracic curves the opposite way. And then the L the lumbar lower back curves the same way as the cervical so it's like C, C and then you have backwards C in the middle. Interesting how everything was designed.

 

Jaime Cevallos  11:36

Wow.  So keep going about how it's different from your understanding is different from how you understood in college or how people understand it right now.

 

How your understanding is different than how people are teaching now?

Joey Myers  11:54

Yeah, that's a good one. So connecting the dots of today and I know you've been doing your research and stuff.  There are swing people out there and I won't mention any names. Most of you out there listening to this will probably know who I'm talking about. But they talk about that the barrel moves the body. The body doesn't move the barrel.  Which if you have a human movement foundation, you hear that and it's automatically ignorant automatically.

 

Joey Myers  12:27

So the people that are saying that have no clue how the human body moves, and if they claim that they've read and understand Dr. Serge Gracovetsky's Spinal Engine, that's a lie. It's a con job because and you can go and look up David Weck, who, WeckMethod.com. He was the inventor of the bosu ball, most of you out there have been to a gym you see that ball that's got the big bubble on the bottom and the surface on the top and it's makes exercises really hard to do.

 

Joey Myers  12:58

So he was the inventor of that and then over the last probably four or five years, he's really gotten into the spinal engine stuff. And the guy's a sharp guy, you go on Instagram. He's really, really active on Instagram. Very, very sharp guy. And he's all about spinal engine. And you have so many others like what's his name Dr. Joe LaCaze, he's RotexMotion. There's a another one. I can't think of his name right off the bat. But he he's got a system. It's all based on body, there's a lot of spirals in the body.

 

Joey Myers  13:31

For those parents out there, those coaches out there that want to get involved in this, but have no clue how to start. If you just understand those three types of spinal movement, from there you can pretty much figure out how everything else is supposed to move. So when you have somebody that says that barrel moves the body, that doesn't make sense, because human movement we're fighting gravitational forces, but movement starts from the middle out is what we call it, not from the ground up. It's from the middle out from the spine out basically.

 

Joey Myers  13:31

If you read Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains, he talks about the spiral line that comes across the chest, and it comes back down around the butt and then you see one that comes under as a stirrup under the foot. And so when you understand any…you don't have to be, like again, I was self-taught. I just was curious passionate curiosity about everything. You don't need to know the language per se, but if you can understand the concept of just locomotion.

 

Jaime Cevallos  14:40

Wow. I came to that realization a couple years ago myself. And the whole, the swing starts from the ground up suddenly wasn't correct to me. It's more that it starts in the center of your body and shoots in two directions, almost like they're working against each other.

 

“And the whole, the swing starts from the ground up suddenly wasn't correct to me.”

Joey Myers  15:07

Yep.  That's a great observation man. And I know you're smart Dude, you like to think outside the box philosophically. And that's exactly what's happening. So if we take this idea of springy fascia. So fascia is, if you foam roll, that's what you're trying to do. If you foam roll your IT band and it hurts like the dickens. If you haven't done it in a while. It feels like somebody's stabbing a knife in the side of your leg, right?

 

Joey Myers  15:37

So fascia is a cotton candy or spider webby like material that your bones and muscles float in. It also gives muscles their shape. It's almost like if you think about it, the grocery store if you buy a bag of potatoes, the potatoes are the muscles. The bag itself that the potatoes are wrapped in is the fascia. It's connected. There's a sheet, or one line anatomy train that attaches the top of your eyebrow goes all, it's called the backline. Goes over the head and go straight down the back butt, hamstrings, back of the calves and attaches to the bottom of your or the back of the ball of your foot. It goes through your arch in there.

 

Joey Myers  16:15

So that's one whole sheet and there's nine different ones, I think is what Thomas Myers talks about, that are all intermingled interweaved. You have this idea of compression tension forces. This fascia is comprised of compression tension. Compression force is just a, say a piece of granite on or a brick on a brick, right brick on a brick, they exert forces against each other. That's a compression force.

 

Joey Myers  16:42

A tension force would be like a boom crane, you know a wrecking ball. You have the structure of the boom crane, you have the cable that, and it comes over and it holds the wrecking ball down here. So that cable that's connected to the wrecking ball that's a tension force, so you have force from the structure that's pulling up and you have the Wrecking Ball and gravity that's pulling down and you have this tensional force between the two.

 

Joey Myers  17:07

So with fascia you have both compression tension. What's interesting is this is all Thomas Myers stuff is he says that granite has a very high, granite the rock, like if you had a countertop, granite countertops, that granite has a very, very high tolerance for compression. You can put a ton of weight on top of granite and it's not going to break it's not going to; it's not going to snap break whatever.

 

Joey Myers  17:32

But it has a very low tensional force. So if you hooked up, you drilled holes in two sides of the granite so you had a countertop, a long countertop, drilled big holes in both sides of the granite hooked in like a big fat strong carabiner, you got the chain hooked up to a horse on both sides and you have the horses walk away or run away from each other. That granite's going to pull apart because its tensional force isn't very strong. But fascia in the human body is both strong compression and tension.

 

Joey Myers  18:03

So whether you're in a good posture, good position or you have some bad juju, your body's just not in that, right, you're going to have those compression tension forces but they might be off a little bit and it's going to create, it's going to wear out like mileage on your…say your car, you got a front end that's misaligned, you get the tires out like this. Well, you know, they're guaranteed 80,000 miles if your tires were aligned, but since they're misaligned, you might get about half the mileage on those tires…same thing with fascia, it's going to over time if it's off, then you're going to wear out joints, you're going to wear out shoulders, you're going to wear out necks, you're going to wear out lower backs, whatever.

 

Joey Myers  18:43

So it's amazing when you dig into the fascia side and spinal engine, they're both pretty related because without the fascia, it's like they both are dependent on each other. The fascia is a connective tissue, the spine is what they're saying bones are actually connective tissue as well their fascia, but fascia wound really, really, really dense. Bone does bend, but there's a threshold till finally it breaks but it does bend.

 

Jaime Cevallos  19:14

Okay.  What would you say?  Is your understanding of the swing back then? We keep going off on?

 

What would you say?  Is your understanding of the swing back then?

Joey Myers  19:25

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So how this relates to the swing is loading and unloading. This is the Catapult Loading System. This was the book you mentioned, that was the 2017 Amazon bestseller. This took power to a whole other level. And I ran the experiments when I was going through this, I was seeing what others were doing like Trout, and at the time Andrew McCutchen was doing well, and Bautista, Donaldson and all these guys.

 

Joey Myers  19:52

So I took that information, looked at the players to see how this was being translated how they were translated… (to be continued into Part-2)

Christian Yelich Says Barry Bonds Taught Him A Drill That Changed His Career…

 

 

I agree with ‘swing down'…

Christian Yelich & Barry Bonds: 'Swinging Down' in the 'Launch Angle' Era

Christian Yelich and Barry Bonds swing comparison. Photo courtesy: Jomboy Media YouTube channel

Let that sink in for a bit.

Some are pissed I just said that.  But those who've followed me for some time are nodding their head in confirmation because they know better.

Because guess what?  It depends.

‘Swing down' shouldn't be used as a blanket teach.  I have two things for you…

  1. Jomboy Media VIDEO: “Christian Yelich says Barry Bonds taught him a drill that changed his career” (watching it will reveal its relevance to this post), and
  2. Below is Chapter-2 of the new book I'm working on.  It's a longer post, but I think you'll like it.  Goes well with the Yelich-Bonds video above, like grass fed red meat and a fine red wine.

Thank you Grandpa Mike for sharing the video.  You know who you are.  Enjoy!

———-

WHAT AN OLD SCHOOL SWING FEELS LIKE & THE PROS AND CONS?

In Chapter-2, we'll look at what an old school swing feels like and the pros and cons.  We'll be discussing:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics,
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics, and
  • So, how do we interweave brainless data and confusing real v. feel hitting cues?

How Can Someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they Say about Hitting is Wrong?

Now, some of you out there have seen the video of Alex Rodriguez demonstrating how he swung down. Maybe you saw the preseason interview of Mike Trout discussing how he gets on top of the ball.

Or how about Albert Pujols on the MLB Network revealed he swings knob down to the ball?

‘Swing down'.  ‘Getting on top of the ball'.  ‘Knob to the ball'.  ‘Keep barrel above hands' is another one.  Nowadays, these are some of THE most despised hitting coaching cues on the market.  I was one of them.  “Was”.  About 2-3 years ago.  Now I have a different perspective and approach.  These cues DO work.  But it depends on the case.  And if reading or hearing those words made your blood boil…you can change too, believe me.  Here's how…

First, let's clear up and define “swinging down”. Well yeah, the hands do go down to the ball. And depending on how high or low the ball is, the hands will go down more or less. This is true.  But coaches HATE these cues for a different reason.  Here's the thing… if you watch players like A-Rod, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols physically demonstrate what swinging down means to them, you see them using a chopping motion. Yes. The barrel and hands travel down to the ball. But not ‘hands drop'.  That's different, and is a swing flaw we MUST fix.  In the high level swing, we see the barrel go down before coming up.

Here's my beef with ‘swinging down'…

When swinging down is translated into a NEGATIVE attack angle.  Meaning the barrel is going down towards the impact point.  Is not coming up.  And this is what hitting greats like Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols are demonstrating in interviews.  And where the confusion starts.  If you watch their actual swing on film, slow motion swing, what you're going to see is a POSITIVE attack angle.  Meaning, barrel elevating up to incoming ball descending down. Yes, even in Fastpitch Softball (more about this in Chapter-7).  Barrel coming up to impact, positive. Barrel going down to impact, negative.  We clear?

So if what these great hitters are saying and demonstrating isn't what they're actually doing, then what's REALLY going on?

Well, here's the thing … it's the mysterious case of real versus feel What's really happening on video doesn't square with what the high level hitter feels they're doing.  Two completely opposite things.  Take Mike Trout.  Let's look at his real (9-year career average batted ball numbers before start of 2020 season):

  • Ground-ball rate: 36.8% (League average is 43%)
  • Fly-ball rate: 40.8% (League average is 37%)
  • Line drive rate: 22.4% (League average is 20%), and
  • Homerun to fly-ball ratio: 21.4% (League average is 9.5%).

Significantly below average ground-ball rate.  Check.  Slightly above average fly-ball rate.  Check.  Slightly above average line drive rate.  Check.  And well above average home-run to fly-ball ration.  Checkmate!  This proves his performance – the real – doesn't jive with his feel of ‘getting on top of the ball'.  I want you to go to YouTube, search “Mike Trout slow motion swing”, and watch…

His barrels goes down, then comes up to the ball.  Up.  Positive barrel attack angle.  Not down.  Not on top.  Not a negative attack angle.

Before you get upset I'm telling Mike Trout, “You know ‘nothin'!”  Here's the beautiful crazy of this whole thing.   Coaches, understand this … the body is always one or two steps behind the brain. Thinking happens fast. There's zero friction with thoughts.  Nothing. It just goes, goes, goes, goes, goes.  No heavy bones, muscle, organs, and fascia required to move before a thought can fire off!

The secret to unlocking the real v. feel mystery can be revealed through a psychology term called paradoxical intention…

Pros to Old School Feel Mechanics

We have to understand what Mike Trout is REALLY saying.  Bring context to the numbers.  Remember Chapter-1?  Trout will say, “I'll take 10 swings off the tee or during batting practice to feel like I'm getting on top of the ball”. You see, his natural tendency is to uppercut. An extreme uppercut because he uses a significant shoulder tilt to effectively feast on balls down in the zone.  And this works well with pitchers targeting down in the zone, and away.

Although, this is different than the slight uppercut Ted Williams talked about in his book The Science Of Hitting.  Williams talked about barrel meeting the plane of the pitch.  Trout's natural tendency runs counter to this.  And what he tells himself, remember the body is one or two steps behind the brain, is to do the exact opposite of what his natural tendency is.  He tells himself to get on top of the ball. And what's the result?  The barrel ends up somewhere in the middle of extreme uppercut and negative attack angle downswing.  That's what he's trying to get for his real… to get to the middle.

The true old school hitting tragedy…

Some say hitters like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Pujols, and Trout are – or were – fantastic at doing, but not very good at translating what they did into teaching. Take Barry Bonds. Who was the Florida Marlins hitting coach in 2016.  Then they let him go.  Former Marlins President David Samson said this,

“Bonds was worst hitting coach of my career.”  

So why wasn't Barry Bonds able to translate the way he hit to his prized pupils like Giancarlo Stanton?  Bonds is the career Major League home run leader after all. Some say he can do, but he doesn't know how he does what he did.  I disagree these hitters aren't good at teaching.  Again it's a translation issue.

Dr. Victor Frankl, Psychologist and survivor of four Nazi death camps, in his book Man's Search For Meaning, calls this “paradoxical intention”.  Hitters like Trout and Bonds use extreme physical cues to establish a consistent slight upward swing plane.  This strategy is a “trick” played on the body, which is a step or two behind.   Paradoxical intention.  Take any hitter with an extreme uppercut, tell them to chop down (negative Attack Angle “feel” cue), and their barrel path ends up in a slight uppercut.  Just like Ted Williams said – like magic!  Feel cues are fantastic for making simple swing adjustments.

If you're coaching youth hitters, let's get into that world for a moment…

A lot, and I mean A LOT of youth players ages 7 to 12 years old uppercut.  Extreme uppercuts. Casting.  Loooong swings.  They don't need to be taught this!  This is typical, before they've built enough strength in their bodies.  In their core.  In the dynamic nature of the spinal engine.  They tend to cast the barrel out.  Meaning, the barrel casts away from the body, leaving the back shoulder too early. This causes a long swing.  Thanks to gravitational forces, centripetal and centrifugal forces*.  As they swing, they end up underneath the ball.  On inside pitches, they end up getting jammed a lot.  And swing under a lot of pitches up in the zone.  A LOT.

(*Centripetal Force is a center “seeking” force. Like twirling a rock on a string. The rock exerts force back to the two fingers holding the string. Centrifugal Force is a center “fleeing” force. Letting go of the twirling rock on a swing, causes the rock to shoot off in a tangent direction away from the original circle.)

There are other factors causing an extreme uppercut, like hands drop or constant deep barrel dumping.  But with youth hitters, the rules of Physics are bigger offenders. Here's the good news … swing an overloaded bat.  Overloaded bats help young hitters build strength to do that.  Regardless of mechanics.  More on that protocol later in the book.

Those are the pros of an old school feel mechanics. Now, let's look at the cons…

Cons to Old School Feel Mechanics

These are what the “metrics people” will typically bring up. You're so out of touch.  No numbers to support your gut feelings?  What does that mean?  How can I trust your “gut”?  Because you played or coached 20 years in the Big Leagues?  That's not good enough!!  What's measurable is manageable.  If you can't use numbers to support your gut, then I'm not listening.  This is a common conversation you've probably seen, heard, or participated in.

The old school coaching cues we just discussed in the pros to old school swing section can also be included in that gut conversation.  It's bad if the old school cues are used as a default. In a one size fits all way. For example, Johnny's coach sees Pujols demonstrate a chopping down swing on MLB Network's Diamond Demos. That coach goes to Johnny's 10 year old team practice on Monday evening, and tells every one of his hitters to swing like Pujols does. Chop, chop, chop. And he tells them with the conviction, vigor, and energy of a Sunday Pastor, that they can hit like Pujols.  How can you argue with Senor Alberto?  From his lips to coach's ears out of coaches mouth to kids' ears.  If Albert Pujols said it and it worked for him, then we MUST take the message literally!  He is Prince Albert for jimminies sake!

Here's the problem with that. Remember when I mentioned the translation issue?  By feeding the ‘swing down' or ‘chop down' mantras as a default hitting strategy to every 10 year old on your team, I'm sorry to say it, but you will lose. Let me illustrate with a thought experiment…

Apply the “one-third rule” to your team. In this example, assume a third of your hitters pop the ball up a majority of the time. Another third of hitters hit line drives a majority of the time.  And the remaining third are majority ground-ball hitters.  So, what if you tell the whole team to swing down or get on top of the ball?  A blanket statement to all.  Default old school hitting cue.  What do you think is going to happen?

Based on what was discussed with Dr. Victor Frankl's paradoxical intention – remember extreme uppercut, tell them to ‘get on top', and they end up in the middle?  Slight uppercut.  Inline with incoming pitch.  Here's what will happen to our team if we tell all to chop down … a third of the team that used to pop the ball up a majority of the time, will hit more line drives. Those middle third hitting line drives a majority of the time, are going to hit more ground-balls. And the ground-ball a majority of the time group, are going to hit even more worm burner ground-balls.  So how did the thought experiment turn out with a blanket statement old school hitting cue?

The only group on the team that benefits are the beginning fly ball hitters. The ones hitting fly-balls a majority of the time.  Those are the only ones you'll see a significant difference, for the better.  Look ground-balls are great.  Especially hard ones when the defense can't play catch.  But what happens when they can play catch?  When would your team come across a team that can play catch?  That's right!  In all-stars.  In playoff and championship games.  Not good if you just converted line drive hitters into ground-ball hitters.  And ground-ballers into hitting more worm burners.  Read our infamous Ground-ball Rant post.

Now, let's cook up a different scenario.  A more simple yet elegant solution.  Instead of giving a blanket statement, a blanket swing down, chop down to the whole team. But instead, I let the line drive hitters do their thing. Just keep doing what you're doing. I took the fly ball hitter and told them to swing down, chop down.  And I instructed the ground-ballers to hit the ball in the air.  Like pop the ball up instruction.  How do you think that thought experiment would go?

If I did that…now my pop-fliers AND ground-ballers are both hitting more line drives.  Remember Victor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning paradoxical intention?  Overall, my whole team is hitting more line drives. Now my line drivers aren't lonely.  They have more competition to deal with.  Competition makes everyone better.  Hungrier.  Especially when they're experiencing success.  Does that make sense?

The cons of an old school swing are when we apply a blanket statement shared by one of the best hitters on the planet.  Don't do that.  Bad coach.  You DO NOT pass go, and you DO NOT collect $200.

One swing fits all cues are a bad. And you wouldn't know this without data to measure and optimize. Gut feelings and hunches are like throwing darts in the dark.  It's like shooting an arrow and calling whatever you hit – after the fact.  It's guessing.  If you aren't collecting numbers using a PocketRadar, Rhapsodo, HitTrax, BlastMotion, or SwingTracker, then you're flying blind. You aren't going to know. And those hunches will just be hunches.

Same goes for blindly following what a Hall of Famer or future Hall of Famer says or said about hitting.  Become a scientist.  Test, test, test.  Blindly following a leader without question, will make you nothing more than a sheep.  Question, question, question.  Even question me and EVERYTHING in this book.

So far in Chapter-2, we talked about:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics, and
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics…

We talked about how what's real and what's feel are two totally different things. The scenery can be very confusing. The waters choppy.  How does a coach cut through the clutter and calm the waters?  The simple truth to make hitting easier – it's not easy, but we can make it easier – is called paradoxical intention.  Doing the exact opposite of what just happened to get the middle.  Extreme swing up?  Tell them to swing down – hit a chopper.  Extreme swing down?  Tell them to swing up – hit a pop-fly.  There's more to it of course, and we'll get into it more later.  Let's move on to…

How do we Interweave Brainless Data and Confusing Hitting Cues?

This DOES NOT cause that, and that DOES NOT cause this.  Question: Coincidentally, if I wear a green shirt and it rains, then is it reasonable to think I can make it rain by wearing a green shirt?   This is the exact dilemma many instructors find themselves in with what they teach.

Some teach ONLY using data.  Some teach ONLY using old school hitting cues.  Some claim to base their teachings on millions of hours watching ONLY the best hitters.  Some validate Science with their hitting theories (proudly saying their system can't be found in Science!!).  And others validate their hitting philosophy with Science, which is what we do.  Who's right?  Who's wrong?  Can we use a mix?  And if so, how do we know if we're on the right track?

Are you throwing dynamite in the air and expecting rain?

I want to share a true story from the book Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. The story will illuminate how to filter the hitting information available today. Interestingly…

Right before the Great Depression hit the Oklahoma panhandle, rain was plentiful.  This caused Doctors and Lawyers to quit their practices and join the ranks of farmers to buy land and plant crops that were being subsidized by the US government.  In other words, the gold-in-them-hills was harvesting and selling wheat and other bumper crops of the era.

Millions of acres of 6-foot high beautiful Buffalo blue grass were plowed under to make room for crops.  Fast forward to the beginning of the Great Depression, the rain dried up, and so did the crops.  Unbeknownst to the “new” farmers who moved to the area, typically rain was sparse in the location, and by coincidence, they had just experienced a rare wet 5-10 year period.

Now there’s NO rain.  And you know the 6-foot high beautiful Buffalo blue grass they cut down?  Well, it used to hold the soil down despite seasonal 60 to 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts.  So NO rain coming.  NO crops growing.  Super high winds are eroding dry barren soil and tossing it up in the air.  Grazing cattle have nothing to eat but tumbleweeds brought over by Russians (people often sprinkled salt to eat them as well).  The livestock soon get sick and die.  The drought is fatal for the majority who stay, others move west.  This is where we get John Steinbeck's book “Dust Bowl”.

Stick with me, because here comes the lesson…

The farmers who stayed behind were so desperate for rain, they hired self proclaimed rain experts to “create” rain, literally out of thin air.  The belief at the time was that an explosion in the air could bring clouds, and with clouds, rain would fall from the sky.  In plenty.  So what did these self proclaimed rain experts do?  What any self proclaimed rain expert would do!!  They sold the idea that if they lit a stick of dynamite, timed the throw just right, they could get a perfectly timed explosion that would bring rain-a-plenty.

…And as luck would find it, the “racket” seemed to work a couple times.  This only fed the foolishness we all see now – hindsight is 20/20.  Yes, this wasn't a proud time in American history.  You have to understand, people back then were DESPERATE.  Their hope blinded them to the MANY times throwing dynamite in the air didn’t work.  People lost limbs, fingers, etc. from timing the throw wrong.  Head scratcher  I know.

When it comes to hitting, we have to be careful of the causation-correlation relationship.  Is studying video and teaching only what the “best” hitters are doing enough?  I would argue it is not.  How do you know what you're looking at, if you don't know what you're looking for?  We see Pujols demonstrating a negative attack angle swing on MLB Network.  But then we see him NOT do that in real-time.  We bring that same Pujols gold nugget to Johnny's team, blanket teach it, and the end result looks nothing like what we see Pujols do during competition.  This DOES NOT cause that, and that DOES NOT cause this.

I'm going to reveal a secret about why coaches are terrible at the causation-correlation relationship.  Like shooting a random arrow and calling whatever is hit.  Here's a quote summing it up from Scott Adams, in his book Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America:

“There are three important things to know about human beings in order to understand why we do the things we do. [1] Humans use pattern recognition to understand their world. [2] Humans are very bad at pattern recognition. [3] And they don’t know it.”

So how do we escape this seemingly inescapable prison of misdiagnosis?  After reading thus far, you know it.  Be less subjective and more objective.  KeyDifferences.com says this about subjective versus objective:

“Subjective means something which does not show the clear picture or it is just a person's outlook or expression of opinion. A subjective statement relies on assumptions, beliefs, opinions and influenced by emotions and personal feelings.  An objective statement is based on facts and observations.”

Use the Scientific Method.  Develop a hitting Question…make a predictive Hypothesis…do the Research…collect the Data…form a Conclusion.  Swing experimentation.  We apply human movement principles validated by REAL Science to hitting a ball.  Scientific principles pulled from:

  • Physics,
  • Engineering,
  • Biomechanics, and
  • Body work.

How do we figure out if this DOES cause that?  Or if that DOES cause this?  Not by wearing a green shirt!   To know what you're looking at, you have to know what you're looking for.  DO NOT validate Science through your hitting philosophy.  DO validate your hitting philosophy through Science.  Set a higher standard for your hitters.  It's okay – watch your millions of hours of video…employ those expensive measuring gadgets…and flaunt those old school hitting cues.

But above ALL of that … understand what the rules to human movements are FIRST.  Once you know that, all other domino's fall where they're supposed to.  In conclusion of Chapter-2, we looked at what an old school swing feels like and the pros and cons.  We discussed:

  • How can someone tell Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez what they say about hitting is wrong?
  • Pros to old school feel mechanics,
  • Cons to old school feel mechanics, and
  • So, how do we interweave brainless data and confusing real v. feel hitting cues?

In Chapter-3, we'll answer the question of what leads to hitting more predictable line drives and less strikeouts.  Where we'll dive into:

  • What does “predictable” mean and why does probability matter?  And,
  • Difference between ‘Launch Angle’ and ‘Attack Angle’…

Onward…

———-

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.
Tee Drills With Adam Eaton

Tee Drills: Adam Eaton Speaks High Inside Pitch Approach Truth

 

 

Tee Drills With Adam Eaton

Adam Eaton photo courtesy: MLB.com

In this tee drills with Adam Eaton video, some main points Adam Eaton covers:

  • Ball flight tells you everything,
  • Demonstrates how REAL high level barrel path is on high inside pitches,
  • How most get the cue ‘stay inside the ball' wrong, and how to use it properly, and
  • Tee drills tip for putting the high tee on steroids!

 

Make sure you watch the brief 5-minute 30-Clubs in 30-Days Adam Eaton interview before diving into my notes below.  I time stamped the above video for quick and easy reference…

  • At the 0:45 mark, Adam Eaton talks about how tee drills are the most important part of the day.  According to the tee drills naysayers out there, man oh man, how many Big Leaguers are doing it “wrong”.  Haha!
  • At the 1:30 mark, while working tee drills, DeRo asks if Adam Eaton is worried about his hands, bat path, what?  And Adam responds by saying, ball flight tells you everything.  If ball flight is clean, he knows his body is in the right position.
  • At the 2:30 mark, Adam talks about letting ball get to belt buckle on pitches away.  He clarifies you aren't actually going to hit it there in the game.  Feel cue, pure and simple.  Interesting he mentions getting on plane quickly here in reference to outside pitch.  This is when deep barrel dump is okay.  Adam mentions his powerful impact position checkpoints: palm up palm down, hardly any bend in the front arm (he actually works on this!!), and nice bend in back arm (90-degrees).
  •  At the 2:55 mark, Adam Eaton talks about high inside tee drills. Uncomfortable drill because it feels like you're crowding yourself.  But it teaches body control and to control the shoulders.  “Blackout moment” defined as an experience when body takes over without thinking because you've practiced it so many times.  And just before the 4-minute mark watch him demonstrate how he gets to that high inside pitch — he keeps the barrel up, above his hands, until last possible second.  Much different barrel path he'd take to a pitch away.  I talk to my hitters about the difference between hitting a catcher's glove perpendicular to the hitter's “belly button” (inner third part of plate), versus knocking off the real catcher's glove (outer third part of plate).
  • On these tee drills, Adam Eaton talks a lot about ‘keeping hands inside the ball'.  The cue is great for hitters that do the opposite – hook the ball a lot.  And ‘get barrel around the ball' works brilliantly for hitters with racing back elbow or who tend to push the ball opposite a lot.  Over the years I've learned that every hitting feel cue has their place.  We used to laugh, cajole, and mock Major Leaguers when we'd hear them say things like ‘get on top', ‘swing down on the ball', or like in Adam Eaton's case ‘stay inside the ball'.  These cues do work, but mostly to the hitters who do the opposite of what these cues suggest.  It's called Paradoxical Intention.
  • Also note on Adam Eaton's slow motion game swings how virtually straight his front arm is at stride landing.  He's not a big guy, 5-foot, 8-inches, and only 176-pounds.  He can lever up that front arm because of a shorter wingspan for sure.  I've seen him do this on outside pitches as well as inside.  Although, here's the catch on the inner half of the plate, you have to take the barrel path approach he demonstrated on the high tee drill.  In addition to training my hitters to use a longer front arm on the high pitch, I also make them do it with an end loaded heavy bat.  Makes the drill even more uncomfortable – as Adam Eaton put it – BUT if they can accomplish it at that pitch location, everywhere else is gravy.

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

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

Photo courtesy: MopUpDuty.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on,

As a hitting instructor, what would happen if…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Maximizing OPS were Central to the “Operating System”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cody Bellinger Swing Dissection: How To Get “What's Real” Out Of “What's Feel” 

Thome on Bellinger – MLB Tonight

“His hands are absolutely electric.” – Jim Thome on Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Cody Bellinger

Posted by MLB Network on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I have a treat for you (and it involves the swing of hot hitting rookie sensation Cody Bellinger)…

…an analysis of an analysis if you will! lol

I've been licking my chops over the past week, to share the above video that multiple reader-friends asked my opinion on.

This was a perfect opportunity to discuss the “real” versus “feel” debate that confuses many new coaches.

Cody Bellinger Swing Analysis: Jim Thome

Look how well Cody Bellinger uses Knee Action to consistently “get under” the ball. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

And here are interesting Jim Thome talking points from the above video (watch this first, don't jump ahead to the video below):

  • “Hit through the middle…not hook the ball”.  Not letting top hand get out in front at impact…wanting to keep “bat flat” or flush at and through impact (about 1-min & 3:00 mark)
  • Want wrists to come through impact towards the pitcher, Harold Reynolds using terminology “stay inside the baseball”, Thome saying “stay through the baseball”…Thome makes comment that this game will tell you what to work on next (about 2:00 min mark)
  • About Cody Bellinger's swing: “Hands are absolutely electric”, back leg is straight (during stance), knob points down to back foot, back foot has a little bit of turn in it…allows hips to get through? Everything stays straight (he mentions “level” later in the video) to the baseball with shoulders and pelvis, hands are above the baseball (about 3:30 mark)
  • “King of the Mountain” Drill…down to the baseball means level to the baseball, barrel flat and level with the baseball, hit middle to a little bit below. Hit middle of the ball, not bottom or top. Hands above the baseball.  (about 4:50 mark)
  • Load slower and control my breathing…”diving steep”, not falling forward committing too much weight forward.  Good drill for controlling forward momentum (about 6:50 mark)
  • Straight back leg, turning the back toe slightly forward toward the pitcher.  Creates torque in the back hip. (about 8:15 mark)

I was just going to do a post and ask for your thoughts on this Cody Bellinger swing analysis, but some of the talking points fired me up, so I couldn't help myself with the following analysis of the Jim Thome analysis… 😉

Yes, I know, the video is a bit long, but there are MANY gold nuggets in there I think Jim Thome touched on, EVERY coach can learn and share with their hitters.

Here's a list of my talking points (in this order)…

 

Addressing Jim Thome Comments of Cody Bellinger's Swing

  • “Hands electric”,
  • Back Leg Straight,
  • Knob points down at stride landing,
  • Back foot turned slightly in towards pitcher (Supple Leopard book by Dr. Kelly Starrett), and
  • Shoulders/Pelvis should be straight or level.

And,

Jim Thome General Swing Comments

  • Hit through middle – “flat” or flush with impact,
  • Game tells you what to work on next (Golf Flow book by Dr. Gio Valiante)
  • Load slower, control breathing (CLICK HERE for this Jose Bautista video that discusses “load slow and early”,
  • “Diving deep” cue,
  • Swing down, and
  • Barrel above the hands.

Please share any comments, questions, or criticisms below… 😀