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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.

If You’re Teaching ‘Squish The Bug’, Then You’re OLD

This video is a definitive guide when it comes to WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is an inferior hitting mechanic.

Right now, if you find yourself asking if people STILL teach this, then sadly, the answer is yes.

I ran into one just the other day on the socials.  Nothing but pseudo science and circular reasoning.  Pretty mind numbing experience actually.

Here’s fair WARNING for the small few out there still teaching hitters to ‘squish the bug’…

If after watching this video, you’re still not convinced, then you’re old.

Consider what Henry Ford once said,

And while we’re at it, look at what Ayn Rand said,

In the above video, we discuss the:

  • Science,
  • Experimentation, and
  • Application…

…validating WHY ‘squishing the bug’ is DUMB, and no hitter should ever have to go through something as horrifying as that 😛 lol

Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

Also, here’s a recent case study post I did on skipping the back foot titled, “How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood.

DON’T BE OLD.

Zepp Swing Experiment Attempting To Put Value On Role Of Pelvis In Swing

Question: How Much Does Pelvis Add to Bat Speed at Impact?

According to InnerBody.com, the pelvis is a sturdy ring of bones that protects the delicate organs of the abdomino-pelvic cavity while anchoring the powerful muscles of the hip, thigh, and abdomen. Several bones unite to form the pelvis, including the sacrum, coccyx (tail bone), and the left and right coxal (hip) bones. Photo courtesy: OrthoInfo.aaos.org

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to employ the Scientific Method to analyze how much turning the pelvis (some refer to this as the hips) adds to Bat Speed at Impact.  The ‘Front Facing Swings’ are an attempt to isolate out the role of the pelvis in the swing, so we can analyze how much the pelvis adds to swing performance.

Just a heads up, the “pelvis” and “hips” are not the same thing.  The hips are a small part of the pelvis.  However, most coaches refer to “hips” when instructing the swing, when most likely they mean “pelvis”.

 

Background Research

For those coaches with a Growth Mindset that want to find out more about the science of locomotion.  I’d recommend reading the following technical books:

If working through the weeds isn’t for you, then you can click the following HPL posts that synthesize the information contained in the previously mentioned books:

I’ve done two swing experiments revealing the role of the shoulders in the swing that tested the value of ‘Showing Numbers’ versus ‘NOT’.  These showed an average increase to Bat Speed at Impact – Showing Numbers – of between 5 to 6-mph.  In addition, one of the experiments showed an average increase to Ball Exit Speed of over 9-mph ‘Showing Numbers’! That’s between 38 to 48-feet of ADDED batted ball distance by ‘Showing Numbers’:

This Zepp swing experiment is attempting to put value on the role of the pelvis in the swing.

 

HypothesisThe Science of Hitting by Ted Williams

Ted Williams, in his book The Science Of Hitting, said the ‘hips lead the way’.  This observation is irrefutable when watching slow motion video of elite hitters.  A majority of coaches teach primarily a ‘hips only’ strategy, which I disagree with.  I feel ‘firing the hips’ is over-taught and over-valued, while the role of the shoulders is under-taught and under valued.  The objective of this experiment is to see what benefit the pelvis (or hips) add to swing performance.

I predict ‘Regular Swings’ will have a substantial increase in Bat Speed at Impact than the ‘Front Facing Swings’.

 

Performance Benefit of Pelvis Swing Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length…I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent.  One was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length ahead of the back marker.
  • Tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • We stayed as consistent as we could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Front Facing Swing’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Regular Swing’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • The objective of ‘Front Facing Swings’ was to start the ‘belt buckle’ pointing at the pitcher, and to minimize pelvic movement.
  • Experiment Day-1 on 6/19 we completed 75 total swings (25 ‘Front Facing’ & 50 ‘Regular’).  Experiment Day-2 on 6/26 we completed 125 swings (75 ‘Front Facing’ & 50 ‘Regular’).
  • We had to break the 200 total swings into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later, because of time constraints.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

‘Front Facing Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Front Facing Swing Averages

‘Front Facing Swing’ AVERAGES for the following metrics: 77-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 30-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.177-secs Time To Impact, -24.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 3* Attack Angle.

‘Regular Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

‘Regular Swing’ AVERAGES for the following metrics: 81.5-mph Bat Speed at Impact, 33-mph Hand Speed Max, 0.130-secs Time To Impact, -28.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 0* Attack Angle.

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

  • 4.5-mph INCREASE to Bat Speed at Impact in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • 3-mph INCREASE to Hand Speed Max in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • 0.047 DECREASE to Time To Impact in ‘Regular Swings’,
  • -4-degree DECREASE to Bat Vertical Angle at Impact in ‘Regular Swings’, and
  • -3-degree DECREASE to Attack Angle in ‘Regular Swings’.

 

Notes

  • The increase in Bat Speed at Impact and Hand Speed Max confirmed my hypothesis, and didn’t surprise me since the first piece of The Spinal Engine to interact with Gravitational Forces is the pelvis.
  • It’s also interesting to note, that you can see from the side-by-side video of the swing, that I wasn’t able to keep the “belt buckle” ‘front facing’ as much as I would have liked to on ‘Front Facing Swings’, so possibly the pelvis could have added a bit more.  I was feeling inside right knee tightness when forcing pelvis to stay facing forward.
  • The DECREASE in Time To Impact with ‘Regular Swings’ could have been due to the increased step and/or unfamiliarity with the movement, while doing ‘Front Facing Swings’.
  • In past swing experiments testing ‘Down Shoulders’ and ‘Showing Numbers’ I increased my Attack Angle – in the positive.  I think the 3-degree increase in positive Attack Angle for ‘Front Facing Swings’ was due to better execution of those elements.
  • We were testing Ball Exit Speed in the beginning but had equipment malfunction (batteries went dead).  I was too many swings in when the equipment was fixed, so we threw BES out in this experiment.  I’d love to see BES measured in a future review of this swing experiment.
  • One last thought, because my pelvis inwardly turned toward the catcher – drastically – on ‘Front Facing Swings’, we saw quite a drop-off in production.  Does this give evidence that an inward turn before the swing may be inferior to keeping the pelvis in neutral (or belt bucket facing plate)?

Heard “Keep Your Eyes On The Ball!” OR “See The Ball Hit The Bat!”…?

 

Ted Williams Seeing Ball Hit Bat.

Ted Williams said ‘on the rare occasion’ he could see the ball hit the bat. Photo courtesy: BaseballHall.org

Me too…

Well, we’re about ready to debunk both of these well worn coaching cues by sharing the results of a scientific study.

This study was sent to me by one of my readers (and friend) Joe Yurko…THANK YOU 😀

Here’s where you can find the full cited study:

A. Terry Bahill and T. LaRitz, American Scientist, 72, 1984, pp. 249-253

I recently presented the study to my Toastmasters club as a “Technical Paper”, and we recorded it so I could share the findings with you.

Sorry, I wasn’t mic’d up, so the audio isn’t the best, but I think you’ll get the message.

CLICK HERE for the Powerpoint slides I used for the speech.

In this video presentation, we go over:

  • Statement of the problem,
  • How it was solved,
  • Data Conclusions,
  • Experiment Applications, and
  • The study’s limitations…

In a nutshell, the study goes into debunking the two coaching phrases:

  • “Keep your eyes on the ball”, and
  • “See the ball hit the bat” (which Ted Williams said he could do “on the rare occasion”)…

The study findings will SHOCK you.

What’s more…

There was one Powerpoint slide I accidentally skipped over during the speech, and you can view the information on elusive slide #11 in the above-mentioned Powerpoint link.

The forgotten slide contains the following study findings:

  • Slowest pitch for hitter’s eye not to fall behind would be 21-mph assuming no wind and thrown at a 45-degree angle. To see the ball hit the bat? Would need an anticipatory saccade*…jump from first 1/3 of the plate to last 1/3, but you’d miss the middle 1/3 distance to plate.
  • *Saccade suppression – look at your image in mirror, look at your left eye, then look at right eye…did you see the eyes move? Process that turns off visual system during saccadic eye movements…otherwise, we would think the world is flying around us.
  • Hitter uses predictive abilities to track the ball the last 1/3 of ball flight…using peripheral vision.

I’d love to hear your comments about this below…

WHY We Need A Better Standard Of Measure…

Sadaharu Oh Batting Stance

This is Sadaharu Oh, who is the Japanese career home run king, belting 868 jacks over the course of his 22-year career, at a height of 5’10”, and weighing 173-pounds.

(I apologize that this post became a rant, but DEFINITELY worth the read.  Please allow about 8.5 minutes of time)

In this post, we go over:

  • 7 reasons WHY we need a better standard of measure,
  • Who are you modeling? And WHY? And,
  • 5 gold standard criteria keys for a high level swing…

This post started when I entered into a discussion with a gentleman on YouTube that asked me, “Who is your swing model?”

And I feel this is an outstanding question.

Leading me to…

The success you experience is directly related to the quality of questions you ask.

And, we must note that success leaves clues.

So, if we ask better questions,

…then the answer to what swing to model will bubble to the top.

And let me be clear, I don’t care if people disagree with me.

Quite the contrary.

However, ‘willful ignorance’ among coaches debating which swing to model is a pandemic online, and most of the time, misguided – or unguided – thinking is the driver.

The standard of measure hitting criteria I routinely read online is, “I only study elite hitters” (said in the most condescending tone you can imagine).

WTFudge does that mean!!!?

Define your criteria please.  That statement is too subjective to be useful to ANYONE.

I think this explains why so many confused online people online say, “You can’t teach hitters a cookie cutter system because every hitters is different.”

This individual DOES NOT have a clue as to how human movement principles work…or that there are such things!!

Here’s a clue…ALL explosive human movements originate from a set of working principles that cannot be broken (as long as you’re on earth).

Whether you’re a hitter, pitcher, Hammer Thrower, Olympic Diver, or Acrobat.Ayn Rand Avoiding Reality Quote

Otherwise, we’re all just taking a stab in the dark at what we personally feel is a good swing.  Picking out a good swing isn’t like what US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography in 1964, “I know it when I see it.”

Again, success leaves clues.

There’s a recipe for optimal swing movement, and if you choose to be willfully ignorant about that fact, then consider this…

…quote by Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand (and thanks Bob Hall for sharing):

“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

To further drive this point home…

I wanted to share a quote from a book I’m currently reading called, “Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks, by Ben Goldacre

“I meet individuals who are eager to share their views on science despite the fact that they have never done an experiment.  They have never tested an idea for themselves, using their own hands, or seen the results of that test, using their own eyes, and they have never thought carefully about what those results mean for the idea they are testing, using their own brain.  To these people “science” is a monolith, a mystery, and an authority, rather than a method.”

 

7 Reasons WHY We NEED a Better Standard of Measure with Hitting…

Zepp Baseball Sensor

I use the Zepp app and sensor to do swing experiments pitting one mechanic against another.

  1. Information Overload – where does one start their quest for hitting truth when everyone and their mother has a YouTube channel?  In other words, how do we cut through the white noise?
  2. Playing Experience Fallacy – do we listen to the ex-professional hitter because he/she played at a higher level?  Let me give you a clue...“Doing a thing and understanding a thing do not automatically qualify you to teach a thing.” – Dan Farnsworth
  3. OCD Analysis Fallacy – do we listen to the Obsessive Compulsive humanoid who studies ‘only the most elite hitters’ for 25 hours a day, everyday?  Here’s another clue…it depends on who they’re studying because guess what, some elite hitters succeed despite ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.
  4. The 30+ Year Coach Fallacy – do we listen to the coach who makes it known they have over 30 years of coaching experience? Here’s even another clue…most likely this coach has the same year of coaching experience, repeated 29+ years.
  5. Willful Ignorance – Old thought patterns die hard. Getting into it with these people is just mental masterbation.  Take it from me, take scissors and cut your loses.  Nobody will ever change their mind.  They’re bitter human beings who feel the need to gain significance from heated confrontation, and might I say, putting people and their ideas down – despite reality staring them in the face! (revisit Ayn Rand ‘avoiding reality’ quote above)
  6. Upsetting the Church of Baseball/Softball – Debating the swing DOES NOT have to resemble discussing politics and religion.  I mentioned this already.
  7. The Sweet Spot – nowadays there’s so much quality information, easy expert access, and new technology that it makes cutting through the white noise so much easier.  We just need a better standard of measure.

Who are YOU Modeling? And  WHY?

Andrew McCutchen Hitting

Here’s Andrew McCutchen, who according to Baseball-Reference.com, has a 162-game average: .294 BA, 37 2B’s, 24 HR’s, .873 OPS, & 140 OPS+ all at 5’10”, 190-pounds.

Asking the ‘WHY’ is important, but a coach can still be misguided.

Here’s what I mean…

I had a Facebook reader tell me they modeled Miguel Cabrera’s closed landing foot because, as he somehow reasoned, is why Miggy gets outstanding plate coverage.

Wa??!

He also went on to name Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn, and Pete Rose also landing closed and that’s why they had outstanding plate coverage.

Argument looks believable, right?

It’s a straw man argument though – let me tell you why…

This is a classic case of correlation not equalling causation.

Meaning, this reader believed a closed landing front foot EQUALS outstanding plate coverage…it’s misguided thinking.  Looks good on paper, but doesn’t work on the battlefield.

I’d actually argue the opposite.

And don’t get me wrong, Miguel Cabrera is one of my favorite big slugger swing models, but as you’ve already heard me say, !!!BE CAREFUL!!! because bigger hitters tend to succeed despite ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.

Landing closed WILL:

  • Inhibit the turn of the pelvis (CLICK HERE for this Zepp swing experiment),
  • Make hitters more susceptible to fastballs inside and high in the strike zone,
  • NOT be what a majority of professional hitters even do (CLICK HERE where Chris Welch at ZenoLink explains his research in this), and
  • NOT maximize a hitters springy fascia (CLICK HERE for this post).

Landing closed is definitely an inferior mechanic, and is not how my handful of 12 and under hitters, weighing around 100-lbs, are frequently hitting the ball the length of a football field, in games.

The fact Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn, and Pete Rose landed closed is irrelevant to the plate coverage argument.

Again, it’s misguided thinking.

The bottom line is this,

…these hitters did A LOT of other things effectively that DID enable them better plate coverage.

But I can tell you, after looking at the research, testing this stuff out on myself, and on my hitters, landing with a closed front foot DOES NOT empower a hitter with better plate coverage.

What did Ayn Rand say about the consequences of avoiding reality? 😛 lol

So, what is the Gold Standard Criteria I use to define an elite level swing?

 

5 Gold Standard Criteria Keys for a High Level Swing

You don’t need to have 5/5, but at least 3/5:

  1. Smaller sluggers NO bigger than 6-foot tall, and weighing NO more than 215-pounds,
  2. Hits for both power AND average,
  3. Above average in key Metrics like: OPS, OPS+, HR/FB ratio, Line Drive%, Ball Exit Speed, Attack Angles, etc.,
  4. Minimal, if zero, injuries caused by the swing over career (in other words, the swing MUST be safe for the hitter – thank you Lee Comeaux for this one),
  5. Understanding that big sluggers may succeed with ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.

Why smaller sluggers?

Because they MUST be highly effective to compete with the bigger sluggers because they have less to work with.

You Little League coaches can agree with me on this one…

Think about how much of a power advantage a 6-foot hitter has on the Little League diamond?  Can I get an Amen on that?!

What’s more…

There are smaller sluggers that made my list that hit more home-runs, have higher average Ball Exit Speeds, and have higher average home-run distances than some of the high level big sluggers!!

So, what hitters do I suggest a coach model?  Here is a non-exhaustive list:

Dustin Pedroia Hitting

Here’s Dustin Pedroia, who according to Baseball-Reference.com, has a 162-game average: .299 BA, 44 2B’s, 15 HR’s, .809 OPS, & 115 OPS+ all at 5’9″, 175-pounds. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

These are not in any particular order, and not all are without blemish.  Hitters of yesteryear tend to be cleaner with their swing movements, but I wanted to give examples you could look up on YouTube in slow-mo.

My favorite swing model of all these is Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868 dingers over a 22-year span standing in at a mere 5’10”, and weighing 173-pounds (CLICK HERE for a post I did on him).

And by the way, I’m not against the big sluggers, I love and often cite the following swings with my hitters:

However, any of this doesn’t do any bit of good if we don’t have a grasp of human movement principles first, before analyzing.  This is methods without principles, and you’ll surely be misguided.

Principles are Few: Ralph Waldo Emerson quote

I use the analogy that human movement principles are like bumpers at the bowling alley. The path the ball takes down the lane, between the bumpers, MUST not concern us (the ‘path’ down the lane is what’s unique to a hitter).  Just that the ball stays between them, and positive predictable results will come.

This is WHY we need a better standard of measure when choosing a swing model, not just saying “I know a good swing when I see one”.

How to Become a Hitting Expert When You Come Across “That Guy” (Baseball Hitting Drills For Youth Included)

So, this is what I have to deal with on a weekly basis…

I also want to apologize in advance, this is a little bit of a rant.

Before going into the baseball hitting drills for youth, here’s some context,

It all started when I posted this image of Buster Posey in his ‘Float’ position on Twitter (CLICK HERE for Twitter thread):

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The caption I put over the Twitter image stated: “Hitting Misconception: ‘Keep the back knee inside the foot’. Buster Posey is ‘floating’ with his knee over ankle…”

This is when my conversation with @13tys started…

@13tys: his knee is inside his foot! No?

@hitperformlab (Me): nope, knee floating slightly off center of ankle.

@13tys: just showed the same pic to my 11yr old and asked him, reply “are you stupid? His knee is inside his ankle”.

(This is when I get the feeling that I was dealing with “that guy”)

@hitperformlab: he’s kind of bias don’t you think? Lol

@13tys: just showed the pic and asked. I usually use my 9 and 11 yr olds to call a spade a spade. They don’t know baseball politics.

@hitperformlab: it’s not the ideal angle, I’ll find another. You believe in keeping the knee inside at all costs?

@13tys: you don’t have to, but the further back it goes, the tougher u make hitting. Already tough enough w/o that much movement!

@hitperformlab: C’mon man! Had to prove to your 10yo I’m not “stupid” lol. Just did simple Google image search.

(Here are the two images of Buster Posey I posted to the baseball hitting drills for youth Twitter thread)...

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: www.BayAreaSportsGuy.com

AND

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: InWriteField.com

@13tys: still, we are looking at the same thing and seeing different things. To me, that knee is still not on top of the ankle.

(by the way, in the beginning of our Twitter conversation, I said “knee floating slightly off center of ankle”)…

@hitperformlab: let me get my 2 year old to comment on your comment lol

@hitperformlab: Posey is creating torque in his back hip. Also depends on the severity of the leg kick, Posey’s is about medium…hope this helps

@13tys: creating torque?? Seriously? This is y kids are so confused by their “hitting coaches” #keepitsimple

(Then like the “good American citizen” he is, posts a screenshot of the definition of “Torque”)…

@hitperformlab: I’m talking to you, not to kids. Read Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book The Supple Leopard.

@13tys: sorry, My experience and knowledge come from yrs in cages & video w/ the best hitters ever, some come from books on crossfit

@hitperformlab: book that’ll rock you’re isolated hitting world? Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.

(Then there was radio silence…)

FIRST of all, if spending years in the cages AND analyzing video of the best hitters ever, magically made you know EVERYTHING you need to know about effective hitting, then we wouldn’t have the problem we do today with guys like this, coming up with effective baseball hitting drills for youth hitters.

“That guy” is a soaked sponge, and has reached his ceiling of knowledge when it comes to hitting.

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Alex Rodriguez Barrel Down

Baseball hitting drills for youth: Alex Rodriguez NOT keeping barrel above hands like he said. Photo courtesy: NewsDay.com

If experience, cage work, and analysis were the only standard of learning the swing, then we’d all have to accept what Alex Rodriguez shared about the secret to his swing during the 2015 World Series FOX Sports broadcast…

How he talked about keeping the barrel above his hands when hitting.  And we ALL know how well that little tip would help our hitters 😛

And SECOND, this “talking down to you” TWEETitude, is a sure sign of an inferior coach, nevertheless, a knucklehead for a human being.

Slightly off topic…

Read this Business Insider article titled, “4 behaviors are the most reliable predictors of divorce”.

Guess which one of the ‘4 horsemen of the apocalypse’ is the worst offender in marriages…

CONTEMPT (aka, the “talking down to you” attitude).

Okay, back on topic…

Look, if we as coaches don’t have a solid foundation in human movement principles, validated by science, then we’re pissing in the wind!  Without this foundation, conversations about hitting would model a Merry-Go-Round.  Many of you have experienced this ridiculous insanity in popular online hitting forums.

Look at this slow motion video of Buster Posey.  Look at the difference of the back knee position (over the ankle, slightly off center) at the 0:03 video mark, versus at the 0:09 video mark during the fall forward…

Here’s the holdup with hitting coaches, even ones I agree with on a majority of things,

They think that the back knee MUST stay inside the foot at ALL times.  So, they teach ALL their hitters to do this, often putting the hitter’s back knee in an unnatural and awkward position before Forward Momentum.

If you think this knee position is healthy, then CLICK HERE to learn how bad putting the knee into a ‘knee valgus’ position is to our youth athletes from FunctionalMovement.com.

In addition,

These same instructors may also suggest and teach there hitters that when the back knee gets over the ankle, that it’s a BAD thing.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The shifting of the knee back over the ankle should have a purpose.  A couple baseball hitting drills for youth concepts:

  1. A timing mechanism that I like to call the ‘Float’, AND
  2. Creating torque, or stability, in the back hip.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #1: Using the ‘Float’

A ‘Float’ is a timing mechanism the hitter uses just before falling forward.  It generally can be observed as a slight weight shift back towards the catcher before falling forward.

With the ‘Float’, the severity of the knee shift will depend on the leg kick.  The higher the leg kick, the more the shifting of the knee over the ankle may have to happen.

For example, Willie Mays didn’t have much of a weight shift (or Float) back, he just fell forward with a slide step:

However, watch slow motion video of Josh Donaldson, who has a high leg kick, and you’ll see him virtually ‘pause’ on one leg, before his fall forward:

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #2: Creating Hip Torque & Stability

Okay, so what is creating torque to stabilize the back hip mean?  Let Dr. Kelly Starrett, Physical Therapist and owner of San Francisco CrossFit, at MobilityWOD.com explain its importance:

Here’s a baseball hitting drills for youth coaching cue that I use…

Borrowed from Dr. Kelly Starrett, I say to my hitters “screw the back ankle into the foot”.  I also advise them to point the back toe slightly inward towards the pitcher at setup, and to keep it there while screwing the ankle in.  The keyword is slight, not a lot.

Take a look at this video of Jose Bautista fouling a ball off, and watch how he ‘bows’ his back knee in, but at about the 0:06 second mark (when he begins his fall forward), the back knee starts to shift back towards the catcher…his back hip and thigh bone are searching for stability after being put in an unstable internally rotated (knee valgus) position at setup:

Now, CLICK HERE to watch this video clip of Ted Williams, and keep an eye on the back knee action between the 0:06-0:15 video mark.  Sorry, this YouTuber disabled the embed code so I couldn’t embed the video here.

What did arguably one of the best hitters of all time do with his back knee prior to Forward Momentum.  Boy, didn’t it shift back over the ankle?!

How about this homerun hit by Asdrubal Cabrera (watch the slow motion chest view at the 0:41 second mark)…

One more video…

Check out Matt Kemp.  As you can see, he starts with his back knee inside his foot, then watch for his back knee action prior to Forward Momentum:

Now, is this making baseball hitting drills for youth more complicated, like Mr. @13tys said?

Heck no!  It takes about 5 to 10-mins to explain to my 7-year-old hitters, and they begin applying it in their swings.  Easy peasy.

So after looking at all this, here’s the point of my baseball hitting drills for youth rant…

Don’t get caught up drinking the cool-aid of other hitting experts, blowhards, or “That Guy” without questioning what they’re saying.  Remember, we aren’t just observers.  We’re amateur scientists in a way.

I don’t claim to know it all.  And am still learning.  But I know for a fact, I’m on a better road than “That Guy”.

Look, I don’t mind being challenged, but if you don’t back up what you’re saying with human movement principles, that are validated by science, then you’ll lose.  We aren’t debating baseball hitting drills for youth philosophies or theories…we analyze through the lens of validated science.  Physics, Engineering, Bodywork, Biology, Chemistry, and Biomechanics.

I DO NOT care what level you played or coached at.

I DO NOT care if you’ve digested a million hours of slow motion video footage of only the BEST hitters.

I also DO NOT care if you’ve logged more hitting lesson hours than it takes to fly to Mars!!

If you don’t understand the human movement “rules”, then you DO NOT understand high level hitting, or better yet, high level human performance.

I know this may upset some of you out there.  But I don’t care.  The days of being “That Guy” are numbered.  If you aren’t moving with us, then you’ll be left behind.  And that’s the truth.

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…

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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.

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Never Suffer from Paralysis by Analysis Again

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters

This is a shortlist of the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on educating myself about how the human body moves…

I often get asked about equipment, books, and other resources to use, from coaches about hitting.

From hitting aids…to hitting programs…to hitting books.

There’s a potential for exponential growth in this information age, for coaches.  There’s no excuse not to succeed nowadays.  As Tony Robbins says,

“Where focus goes, energy flows.”

I wanted to share a list of equipment, books, and other resources that have helped in my own baseball training equipment for hitters journey.

I do a ton of research and study to find only the best.  The key is, does the information or hitting aid hold up to the modern human sciences?

At the end of this post, I’d like to hear from you.  What baseball training equipment for hitters (or for coaches) did I leave out?

By the way, this “guide” has as much to do with softball, as it does for baseball.

Think of this post as the definitive guide to baseball training equipment for hitters

 

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Books

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers

Anatomy Trains, by Thomas Myers

  1. Anatomy Trains, by Thomas Myers – this book changed my hitting world.  Probably the best book for understanding the way humans move and how to optimize it.
  2. Dynamic Body Exploring Form, Expanding Function, by Dr. Erik Dalton et al. – a collaborative of distinguished movement author experts.  Even if you read a couple of the articles in there, you’ll be farther along than the conventional coach.
  3. The Spinal Engine, by Dr. Serge Gracovetsky – he cuts to the heart of the main engine in the swing.  I want to warn you though, the information is jargon thick.
  4. Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance…, by Dr. Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza – this book is a beast.  The Golden Rule for hitters?  You have to train like an athlete first, THEN a baseball or softball player.
  5. The Golfing Machine, by Homer Kelly – Kelly was an aeronautical engineer for Boeing during the Great Depression.  He fell in love with golf and began applying engineering principles to the Golf swing.
  6. Make It Stick, by Peter C. Brown – the science of successful learning.  This book changed how I train hitting forever.
  7. The Science Of Hitting, by Ted Williams – need I say more?
  8. Disciple of a Master: How to Hit a Baseball to Your Potential, by Stephen J. Ferroli – written in 1986 as an answer to the Ted Williams book The Making Of A Hitter.  Ferroli was a bio-mechanical expert who gave more detail to Williams’s study.  It’s an easy book to digest.  When I was reading it, it was interesting how eerily similar our approaches were because of science.
  9. The Making Of A Hitter, by Jim Lefebvre – particularly the part when he talks about the swing being a combination of Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces.
  10. Positional Hitting: The Modern Approach to Analyzing and Training Your Baseball Swing, by Jaime Cevallos – his observations are great, but applying the information via his drills prove to be a challenge.
  11. Heads-Up Baseball : Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time, by Tom HansonKen Ravizza – one of the best books on the mental side of hitting.
  12. Sadaharu Oh: A Zen Way Of Baseball, by Sadaharu Oh & David Falkner – from the Japanese baseball career home-run leader (he hit 868 homers!!).
  13. The Captain: The Journey Of Derek Jeter, by Ian O’Conner – great example of hard work and dedication paying off.  Not to mention one of the better human examples of ethics and morals.
  14. One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season, by Tony La Russa – great insight into the game within the game, and great how-to example for coaches from a man who didn’t amount to much as a player in the game.
  15. Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Courtby John Wooden – I actually haven’t read this one yet, but have read through quite a bit of Coach Wooden’s stuff.  My college baseball Coach Bob Bennett used a lot of his coaching principles.  But I’d be remiss if I didn’t include one of Coach Wooden’s books as a resource for coaches.  By the way, this is the best rated on Amazon.com.

 

 Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Hitting AidsThe Starting Lineup Store

In March of 2011, I put together an online store selecting the best 9 hitting aids on the planet.  It’s called TheStartingLineupStore.com.  I won’t go into all of them here, but I wanted to highlight my top-3 sellers:

  • The MaxBP Golf Wiffle Ball Machine – this is my top seller.  My young hitters have so much fun with this.  Heck, I have fun with this 😀  The founder/inventor tests every machine before it goes out.  The quality is top notch.
  • Backspin Batting Tee – it’s like a Tanner Tee turned upside down.  It hides the top half of the ball (where ground balls are born), and shows only the bottom half to the hitter.  On-path bottom half is their motto.

Top-4 essential baseball training equipment for hitters…

  1. Zepp Baseball App – the Zepp device attaches unobstructedly to the knob of the bat, and registers bat speed, ball exit speed, hand speed, swing path, attack angle, etc. to the coordinating app on your phone.  It carries a hefty price tag at $150, but for coaches serious about running swing experiments, it’s a MUST!!  CLICK HERE for an experiment I did using it.
  2. Coaches Eye App OR Ubersense App – slow motion analysis for your phone.  Both apps are compatible with both the iphone and android.  I have the CoachesEye.  Both are free I believe.
  3. Powerchalk – web based motion analysis.  You don’t have to download any software to your computer.  The free membership comes with:  1) The ability to upload ten separate videos to your own Video Locker, 2) Two-minutes of recording time per analysis, 3) 10-slot video locker, and 4) Upload and share video content.

If you digest the baseball training equipment for hitters book suggestions alone, you’ll put yourself in the top 1% of hitting coaches, instructors, and trainers.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

And don’t just stop there.  Read player biographies and auto-biographies of past players like Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, etc.  That being said…

 

I Want to Hear Your Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters Thoughts…

What baseball training equipment for hitters (or for coaches) did I leave out that should be included in the definitive guide?  Please comment in the “Leave a Reply” section below…

5 Powerful Baseball Quotes From Top Hitters…

I often post inspirational baseball quotes from top MLB hitters on my Facebook fan-page. So I wanted to share my top five player quotes and photos that get the most engagement on Facebook…ENJOY!

 

Derek Jeter

Baseball Quotes: Derek Jeter

Photo courtesy: HighHeatStats.com

I read D.J.’s unauthorized biography The Captain: The Journey Of Derek Jeter, and baseball quotes like this of his sum up his whole career.

Even though Derek Jeter was the 6th overall pick by the Yankees in the 1992 draft, he made over 50 errors at Shortstop his first year in professional baseball!  The Yankees doubted him and talked about moving him to the outfield.  He improved on his fielding, and the rest is history.

Whether it was brutal contract negotiations with the Yankees, media scrutiny from one of the biggest cities in the world, “Stat-heads” saying he had no range to his glove side, or injuries, Derek Jeter found a way to beat the critics, his competition, and inevitably etch himself into the Hall of Fame.

 

Giancarlo Stanton

Baseball Quotes: Giancarlo Stanton

Photo courtesy: SBNation.com

Fangraphs lists Giancarlo Stanton as a beast, 6-foot, 6-inches, 240-pounds!  And according to Wikepedia.com he was a three-sport athlete.  Before being drafted in 2007 by the Marlins, he was offered a baseball scholarship at USC, and offers to play football at UCLA and UNLV.

I love hearing this quote come from such a “big” guy.  I subscribe to the fact that Giancarlo Stanton was such a well-rounded athlete, and didn’t have access to year-round baseball that contributed to his success so far.

Unfortunately, a lot of Little League coaches and parents focus on just hitting the ball, instead of hitting the ball hard. These types of baseball quotes are great to put hitting into perspective.

 

Jose Bautista

Baseball Quotes: Jose Bautista

Photo courtesy: BirdDogRealty.net

One of the “smallest big hitters” in baseball.  FanGraphs.com lists him at 6-foot, 205-pounds.  But his Metrics make him look like Giancarlo Stanton!!!

These types of baseball quotes are based on mindset at the plate.  And after watching Jose Bautista swing, we can see he doesn’t get cheated…shocker, I know.  Consider this…

One of my hitting friends Bob Hall from Canada shared with me something he heard from a scout about having a plan at the plate…

You’re either a fisherman OR a hunter.  The fisherman waits for the fish to bite, while the hunter stalks his prey.  I tell my hitters to use both, depending on the pitcher’s accuracy and hitting situation, to their advantage.

 

Sadarharu Oh

Baseball Quotes: Sadaharu Oh

Photo courtesy: rnishi.Files.Wordpress.com

Sadaharu Oh, another small slugger, is listed at 5-foot, 10-inches, 173-pounds according to Baseball-Reference.com.  Why is this significant?

During Hank Aaron’s time, Sadaharu Oh played in Japan and was considered the Barry Bonds (career home-run leader) of Japanese baseball.  He blasted 868 dingers over the span of 22 seasons…and that’s almost 40 per year!

CLICK HERE for a post I did asking for my reader’s reaction on his mechanics.  Judging by these types of Sadaharu Oh baseball quotes, technique was his saving Grace.  It had to be, because he had to “do it right” to compete the way he did.

And sure, against today’s Major League pitchers, Sadaharu Oh probably wouldn’t hit as many homers, but man, how consistent his power was over 22 seasons.  I agree with one of my reader’s comments from the article link above, that if Oh played in America today, they’d have made him a slap hitter, much like they did Ichiro, because of his small physique.  Ichiro can hit the long ball, but not allowed.  Darn shame 🙁

And last but certainly not least…

 

Ted Williams

Baseball Photos: Ted Williams

Photo courtesy: ESPN.Go.com

I don’t think Ted Williams needs an introduction.  Looking at this picture, it seems to be around his magical .406-year, three years into the Big Leagues and weighing about 180-pounds, soaking wet, while standing at 6’3″!  He had the height, but definitely WAS NOT gifted with body mass.

In his biographies he often cited “inhaling” multiple malt shakes per day to put weight on his frame.  Too bad he didn’t have access to the information we have on that today!

In baseball quotes like this, Ted Williams talks like a man who struggled to do it right. “…you can’t make a hitter, but I think you can improve a hitter,” is not something Daryl Strawberry would say.  Failure is a huge part of hitting, way more than pitching.  We learn from our failures more than our successes.  Our hitters need to know from an early age that failure is okay.  As long as we use it as a tool to get better.  Progress is a process.

 

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.