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PART-2: Drastically Improve Pitch Recognition Skills For ANY Hitter With Best In Training Aids, Online Courses, & Drills…

 

This is Part-2 to the Facebook LIVE conversation I recently had with Bill Masullo, who is the Co-Owner and Senior Baseball Instructor at the Ultimate Edge @ Goodsports.  In case you missed Part-1, where we talked about the effect Fortnite has on our hitter’s mental health, then CLICK HERE.

The subject of this interview is complimentary to a post I did titled, “Why Fortnite May Be Dangerous To Building Hitters Who Crush”HEADS UP: us two knuckle-dragging hitting coaches were having technical difficulties (I know SHOCKER!) before the start of this video.  This is probably the fourth and final take 😛 jajajajajaPart-2 Interview About Fortnite's Effect on Hitter's Vision, Tracking, and Timing

Below are some highlighted notes I took for you…

  • At the 0:50 minute mark, how does posture effect the swing, studies show young athletes sit 80% of their day, certain groups of muscles get tight and others turn off, Gymnastics, Dance, Martial Arts, Swimming are great counter disciplines to friction free movement, rock climbing is also a great “counter” to chronic sitting positions.
  • At the 4:00 minute mark, how working on screens (mobile, tv, computer) for extended periods of time effect ball players, for every 20 minutes of screen time, the eyes need 5-minutes off the screen, Dr. Peter Fadde and “video occlusion” training using his Game Sense Sports app, pitch recognition training, The 6th Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition book by Dr. Peter Fadde.
  • At the 9:30 minute mark, Major League hitters track better than amateurs (but ALL hitters can improve), below average, average, and above average “learn-ability”, Aaron Miles High School story about coach, in mid-90’s, putting particle board in way of hitter during pitcher bullpens (similar to Dr. Peter Fadde’s Game Sense Sports app), Jaime Cevallos pitch recognition hitting aid interview post.
  • At the 13:00 minute mark, Bill asks what parents should know about vision training, Perry Husband foremost expert on timing, vision, and training research, simulating pitch plane, don’t throw to 7yo from standing position 20-30 feet away – like hitting up a mountain, throw seated on a bucket, size of ball short distance makes a difference – baseball players hitting golf sized whiffle balls from 30-40 feet, perceived ball size from 60-feet, 6-inches, or 45-feet.
  • At the 16:45 minute mark, pitch recognition cues, “fat” wrist versus “skinny” wrist, shape of the arm coming through, curve-balls sometimes look like a “bicep” curl, gets challenging when pitchers slot their arm in the same arm slot, Effective Velocity (EV) Tunnels, more strikeouts than hits in the MLB now, Perry Husband coined this concept, perceived velocity to the hitter, easier for corner-back to cover wide receivers running similar routes (deep & post), versus more difficult for one corner-back to cover two wide receivers when one runs deep and another does a 5-yard 90-degree cut, a pitch farther away from the hitter (low-away), perceived velocity is slower, a pitch closer to the eyes (up-in), perceived velocity is faster.
  • At the 22:00 minute mark, I asked Perry Husband how do you counter pitchers exploiting EV tunnels in hitters?  Learning to “hunt” pitches, hunting specific pitches in specific locations, “belly button”, back foot, and real catcher’s glove barrel entering the zone positions (CLICK HERE for more on this), random pitch rounds, my son “hunting” Ford Mustang cars when driving on the road, hunting pitches is less relevant with younger pitchers, and college and professional ball – hunting pitches becomes more relevant, data collection.
  • At the 30:00 minute mark, find Perry Husband’s vision, tracking, and timing products: https://www.hittingisaguess.com/product-category/online-academy/, my courses relating to vision, tracking, timing, and foot work are: On-Time Hitter 2.0: Engineering The Alpha (the essentials), and Reaction Time Mastery (full course which includes On-Time Hitter 2.0 videos).

Get Rid of Pitch Recognition, Plate Discipline, & Timing Challenges Once and For All 

Photo courtesy: News.Missouri.Edu

In this post,

I answer the following three fan questions:

  • How do you practice picking up the pitch early?
  • Do you have players swing at everything during batting practice or let them be selective? What drills are good for teaching a player to hit a ball where it is pitched? And,
  • Why is Timing not taught throughout majority instructors? Great mechanics are good but without Timing principles, you just look good going back to the dugout. What are some of the different ways you would teach/describe Timing?

The following is a compilation of resources I wish I had when I was still playing.

Coaches, if you aren’t taking full advantage of these, then you’ll be slowly losing ground in games over the next 5 years, that I can assure you.  Get out ahead!

Onward…

 

How do you practice picking up the pitch early?

Check out the feedback software you can use to work on getting GREAT at pitch recognition.  Dr. Peter Fadde calls this ‘video occlusion’, which allows a hitter to focus on pattern recognition for the first 10-20 feet of ball flight.  CLICK HERE for a blog interview I did with Dr. Fadde for more information on the benefits of his ‘video occlusion’ training.

As Jaime Cevallos said in this interview, “pitch recognition” is an untapped area for players these days.

The greatest thing about the GameSense software, is that coaches can keep track of their players’ use of the software with real numbers.  What’s measurable is manageable.

As a player, I would’ve eaten this up when I was younger.

And yes, it requires a subscription, and the pricing plans differ depending on usage.  On the homepage, GameSense is offering a free trial, so you can check it out and see if it’s right for you.

CLICK HERE to grab your FREE trial of the GameSense app that focuses on pitch recognition training…i.e. picking the ball up early out of the pitcher’s hand.

By the ways, gS Pitch-IQ was named one of the best products at the 2017 ABCA convention in Anaheim!

 

Do you have players swing at everything during batting practice or let them be selective? What drills are good for teaching a player to hit a ball where it is pitched?

I’m not sure I’d ever let hitters swing at everything during batting practice.  Everything we do at practice, as coaches, MUST have a purpose.  And that purpose MUST prepare our players for the game environment.

CLICK HERE to watch YouTuber Trevor Ragan compare the benefits of training “ugly” in a post I did showing how to EFFECTIVELY transition grooved batting practice swings into game ones.

Here’s why swinging at everything in the cages DOES NOT translate into games…motor skill learning in a competitive environment MUST follow these three steps:

  1. READ – i.e. pitch recognition and spin
  2. PLAN – i.e. timing
  3. DO – the swing

You see, when a hitter swings at everything in the cages, most of what they’re working on is in the “DO” portion.  There’s very little READ or PLAN present, which is required in a game environment.

“Massed Training”, as defined by SchoolOfThinking.org, is said to be a far less effective strategy for retaining knowledge or developing skills. In other words, practicing the same thing over and over again WITHOUT a break and evaluation period is inferior to spaced and/or ugly training.  CLICK HERE for my Hitting Outcomes Evaluation Checklist.

So what does being selective in the cages look like:

  • After every 5-swing round, the hitter is asked, “How many strikes did you swing at?”  (and they’re affirmed or corrected based on their answer)
  • You can also do what I call is a Reverse Strike-Zone round.  This is where they MUST swing at “balls” – within reason, you don’t want them throwing their bat in the cage – and taking “strikes”. WHY would you do this?  It helps define a hitters strike-zone/hitting zone, and offers a better variety of body movement which the body’s springy fascia LOVES!!  This will melt their brain by the way 😛 lol
  • CLICK HERE for this post I did on plate discipline – splitting the plate up into 2/3’s and 1/3 is another great way to teach your hitters to be more selective.
  • This answers the second part to the reader question above…you can also turn on READ, PLAN, DO by limiting what parts of the field you want the hitter to hit to, OR limit certain elevations you want the hitter to hit at, regardless of pitch type, location, and speed.  Addressing the former…you can setup targets out in the field preferably in spots where you don’t find any fielders (gaps/down the lines), and hitter has to hit the target as hard as they can.  Addressing the latter…I’ve seen some coaches place shagging screens about 30 to 50-feet from the batter’s box creating a barrier to hitting ground-balls, and the objective is to hit the ball hard over the screens.
  • Random pitch type rounds – an example of this is randomly throwing either a 2-seam fast-ball or a curve-ball, and having the hitter stick to seeking out one pitch over the other for one 5-swing round.
  • 2 or 3-plate drill rounds – where the hitter moves from different plate distances between or during 5 swing rounds.  The plates can be placed about 3 to 5 feet apart.  This is a GREAT timing drill.
  • Doing situational hitting rounds…hit-and-runs, move runner over, and bunts/drags/pushes.

I’m sure other coaches have cool deviations of the above, so please SHARE in the comments section below.

The point is, hitters should have a purpose when taking batting practice, NOT just swinging at everything, IF they want to match the game environment.

 

Why is Timing not taught throughout majority instructors? Great mechanics are good but without Timing principles, you just look good going back to the dugout. What are some of the different ways you would teach/describe Timing?

Totally.  I tell my hitters that the most effective mechanics in the world don’t mean a thing if they can’t get on-time.

Surprisingly, some hitting instructors don’t think timing can be taught?  I disagree.

Now, let me clear up a common misconception…do you know the difference between timing and reaction time?

I got the following demonstration from my good friend Taylor Gardner, co-inventor of the Backspin Tee.  Do this with your hitters…

Tell them to stand in front of you, and hold a baseball/softball an arm’s length away from you at about the height of their head.

Then tell them you’re going to drop the ball at a random time…try varying the times you drop the ball, and you’ll find it’ll be a challenge for them to catch it.  Repeat two more times.  This my friend is a demonstration of reaction time.

Then tell them you’re going to drop the ball after counting to 3 (no tricks here coaches)…count to three, then drop the ball.  Repeat two more times.  This my friend is a demonstration of timing.  And as you may guess, this will be much easier to catch for your players.

Timing can be taught with the right methods.  Here are my top three:

  1. The TWO or THREE plate drill mentioned above,
  2. Switching bat sizes and weights between or in the middle of 5-swing rounds, and
  3. Switching ball types at random…using baseballs, softballs, whiffles, golf whiffles, racket balls, Smush balls, and tennis balls.

Thank you Mike Ryan from Fastball USA for the last two.  A hitter will have to re-calibrate their timing between swinging a longer heavier bat than a lighter shorter one.  The different balls mentioned will fly through the air at different speeds making for a perfect off speed practice environment.  This can be really challenging for the hitter, and a lot of fun.

But be careful coaches, slowly layer in the difficulty, don’t do ALL three above at the start.  Some hitters excel quickly, while others take more time.

Do you see how important training beneath the READ, PLAN, & DO umbrella is?

I hope this helps coaches!!

Please share any other effective methods you do with your hitters that improve what was talked about above.  THANKS in advance!

How To Turn Pitchers’ Bullpens Into Pitch Recognition Dominance For Hitters

PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid: Jaime Cevallos

Prototype of Jaime Cevallos’s new pitch recognition training aid called: PitchView

I’m happy to announce the RE-arrival of Jaime Cevallos onto the hitting scene!

He’s a good friend of mine, and has some cool stuff to share.

He’s working on a new training aid that helps with Pitch Recognition that I think will revolutionize how that is trained at practices.

He’s also working on a new companion book to his latest book Positional Hitting.

We dig into quite a bit in this interview, so please let me know in the comments if you’d like us to do a Part-2 sometime.

Jaime Cevallos Interview (1-hour, 1-min total time for interview)…here are the time-stamps of the audio interview, so you can skip around:

  • I asked Jaime, “How do you explain to people what it is you do?” Talks about his interest in movement, and how he got invited to Golf’s Safeway Open as a swing coach [about 1-min mark]
  • Talked about how Jaime’s book Positional Hitting was a fantastic transition for me from when I used to teach Down & Through. Here’s the Jaime Cevallos Four Hour Work Week Blog post featuring him titled: How I Did It: From $7 an Hour to Coaching Major League Baseball MVPs [about 3-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, I understand you started in golf analysis before jumping into the baseball swing…what were your takeaways from golf that made a difference with the baseball swing?”  The pain from quitting baseball, made him obsessive about figuring out the swing. Importance of bent back arm impact position of good Golfers – noticed similar thing in baseball.  Comparing Ben Hogan to Babe Ruth and how similar their swings were.  Learning the “Slot Position” and spotting patterns.  [answers about 10-min mark]
  • The challenge of teaching amateur hitters to hit the ball as hard and as far as you can, and that only fixing ineffective mechanics – or not.  Teaching high level mechanics to youth hitters.  Player definitely needs to be curious about hitting, hard work not necessarily needed at a young age. How many young hitters would read Charlie Lau’s book at 12yo?  If teaching doesn’t allow hitter to not be robotic, then most likely it’s the coaching cue that’s the issue. [about 14:30 mark]
  • I asked Jaime, A question I get asked all the time is, do you believe the baseball and Fast-Pitch Softball swing are two totally different things?” Differences being reaction time and stride timing…no real difference in what you’re trying to accomplish with the swing. Understanding cricket and how golfers don’t care about Golf “Ball Exit Speed”, they care more about precision and accuracy.  [about 21-min, 30-sec mark]
  • Jaime quote that addresses those coaches that ask, “So how many Big League AB’s do you have?” Should we take what MLB hitting instructors say as gospel? Here’s Jaime’s quote I mentioned in the interview, MLB hitting coaches are motivated by keeping their job, not developing innovative principles. If they change a franchise player’s swing, and that player gets worse, their name is forever blacklisted. Word will spread that he makes good hitters bad. And regardless of how many hitters he has helped, the one he “ruined” will be the bane of his career. GMs will attach his name with money flying out the window. He can just take a seat next to Jose Canseco in the list of people who will never be offered a contract. Because of this, MLB hitting coaches develop vague hitting methods, appearing to help when the team is doing well, yet standing on no specific method when the team is struggling. It’s common for them to wait until a player on the team gets hot, and associate themselves to that player as much as possible. I’ve seen it time and time again.”  We’re in a swing instruction revolution.  The MLB hitting coaches are catching up.  [about 28-min mark]
  • If you have something of value you can offer to a professional ball player, then go and seek them out in the winter to work with them.  It doesn’t matter if you have baseball experience, if you have a passionate curiosity for finding out the swing, then go for it!  The fallacy credibility indicator of “30 years of coaching”…it’s not the year in your coaching, it’s the coaching in your years.  The willingness to take chances and experiment with your teaching/coaching young hitters.  [about 31-min mark]
  • Jaime talks about his new product the PitchView Pitch Recognition Training Aid. Biggest area of opportunity to solve a problem in a sport. Hitting is four different skills: Eye Hand Coordination, Mechanics, Strength & Speed, and Pitch Recognition.  Jaime feels eye-hand coordination is pretty much tapped out.  How juggling at a young age helped Jaime’s eye-hand coordination, however he feels it didn’t help him that much in hitting – more so in fielding.  What steroid-era taught us about the Strength & Speed category.  Swing mechanics is going through a revolution – opportunity here right now.  Pitch Recognition is untapped right now. [about 36-min mark]
  • The WHY, HOW, and WHAT of the PitchView PR Training Aid. How PR is currently being trained now.  Protecting the hitter freeing them up to actively learn how to make their PR better during pitcher’s bullpens.  Connecting release motion to flight of the ball to hitters movement (timing).  Currently working with Berkeley University baseball team as a LIVE case study.  Your team record will depend on how effective and efficient your practices are.  [about 40-min mark]
  • I mentioned Dr. Peter Fadde and his Pitch Recognition software GameSense, CLICK HERE for this written interview I did with him.  And CLICK HERE for Perry Husband in this interview about his Effective Velocity program on tracking and timing. [about 45-min mark]
  • Jaime mentions the new book he’s working on that will be a fantastic compliment to his last book Positional Hitting.  This book will talk more about feel to transition the positions of the swing.  [about 48-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, If you could put anything on a ballpark jumbo-tron, in any MLB ballpark, what would you put on it?”  Don’t give up. What this means to him isn’t what you think. Focus on movement – perfect most important movements.  [about 51-min mark]
  • I asked Jaime, What advice would you give the beginning Positional Hitting Jaime?” He wouldn’t change much, but would tell himself not to swing as much.  He’s someone who wants to perfect the swing, doesn’t necessarily enjoy teaching.  Swing motion is pretty hard on the body especially one-sided dominant hitters.  Raul Ibanez told Jaime at 35yo to save your swings.  Jaime’s work on Gymnastics now to take care of his body.  You need to start swinging from the other side – your body just needs it, and makes your preferred swing better. GymnasticBodies.com [about 55-min mark]

Where you can find more about Jaime Cevallos online:

Here’s a short video of the PitchView in use:

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…

Reader Question: “How to get youth hitters to be more aggressive to hit and not look to walk?”

 

There were times when I was playing Fall Ball as a Sophomore in High School, privileged to be playing against Juco competition,

That I found myself falling into an 0-2 hole quite frequently.

I’d say to myself, “WTFudge, why have I been in the hole my last 4 AB’s?”

Then, I’d make a conscious decision to swing at the first pitch,

No matter what the pitch was, or where it was located.

In other words, I decided to make a bold adjustment, going from being too passive at the plate, to being too aggressive…

In hopes that with future at-bats was I would land somewhere in the middle.

In those days it was just a feeling that I got…

Fast forward to a few years ago,

A good friend of mine Bob Hall, whose son Quin (a physical incarnate of Bo Jackson), had just finished performing at an MLB scouting camp in Canada.

Quin was about 15 years old at the time, and Bob shared the advice Quin received from one of the leading scouts at this camp.

And this is what we’re discussing in the above video:

  • The Hunter mindset, versus
  • The Fisherman.

My goal with this video post is to give coaches a practical strategy to use with your hitters (that I use with mine), which will give them a solid game plan at the plate.

PLEASE NOTE: like anything else, you have to work with your hitters on this at practice, if they have any chance at getting better at it.

 

The Hunter Mindset

Vladimir Guerrero Hitting

Vlad Guerrero – “The Hunter”. Photo courtesy: ProSportsBlogging.com

What does a hunter do?

They stalk their prey.

When would we use this mindset against a pitcher?

When they’re around the strike zone.

We SHOULD NEVER default to such hitting rules as, “NEVER swing at the first pitch.”

This is how I dug myself into holes during my career.

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Boxscore article which asks the question, “Does hitting performance change based on the number of pitches a hitter sees during a plate appearance?”

Look at what happens to Batting Average in:

  • 0-2,
  • 1-2,
  • 2-2, and 3-2 pitching counts…

Like a snake, strike fast when a pitcher is around the zone.

Think of some of the greatest Dominican, or Latin America, hitters.  As the saying goes, “You don’t get off ‘the island’ unless you swing the bat.”

 

The Fisherman Mindset

Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants launches his 762nd career home run off of Ubaldo Jimenez

Barry Bonds – “The Fisherman”. Photo credit should read DOUG PENSINGER/AFP/Getty Images (Newscom TagID: gettylive963981) [Photo via Newscom]

What does a fisherman do on the boat all morning?

Sit…AND wait.

When would we use this mindset with a pitcher?

When he or she cannot find the zone.

This approach requires a little more plate discipline not to swing out of the zone, AND

To know the strike zone.

Because when the pitcher throws one over, the hitter MUST be trained to jump on it.

Think about Barry Bonds from 2001 to 2004.  According to Baseball-Reference.com, he walked a total of 755 times.  That’s an average of 188 BB’s per year!

What’s more…

He hit a total of 209 homers, for an average of 52 dingers per year, in the same span.  Last time I checked PED use DOES NOT help with plate discipline.

How about his consistency over that same time period?

Bonds’s Batting Average over those four years, starting with 2001 was: .328, .370, .341, and .362 respectively.

How about how many times he struck out?

We have power hitters like Chris Davis and Ryan Howard routinely striking out 200+ times per season.

How about Bonds…?

  • 2001: 93 K’s
  • 2002: 47 K’s (he struck out one more time than homered)
  • 2003: 58 K’s
  • 2004: 41 K’s (he hit more homers than struck out!!)

By the way, his 162-game average strikeouts are 83.  83!!!  Over 22-years in the Big Leagues!

My point is, when Bonds got his pitch…he GOT IT!

He knew how to be a ‘fisherman’.

But can plate discipline be taught?

Sure it can!

It’s a muscle in the brain, and like any other body muscle, can be focused on and strengthened.

Here are my favorite 4 resources for training vision, tracking, and plate discipline:

Softball Hitting Drills Fastpitch For Timing: Bad Hitting Outcomes Evaluation Checklist

 

Softball Hitting Drills Fastpitch: Brandon Moss Timing Adjustment

Brandon Moss 2014 synced swings. Look at when he picks his front foot up (in relation to what point in pitcher’s delivery) when homering on a 77-mph KB off R.A. Dickey versus hitting a dinger off a 93-mph FB from Felix Hernandez. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

A softball hitting drills fastpitch reader question came in recently that relates well to baseball…

Why is Timing not taught throughout majority instructors? Great mechanics are good but without Timing principles, you just look good going back to the dugout. What are some of the different ways you would teach/describe Timing?”

Here’s what we’ll cover in this softball hitting drills fastpitch for timing post:

  • Bad Hitting Outcome Evaluation Checklist,
  • The Art of Variance: Bean Bag Study, and
  • Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill…

 

Bad Hitting Outcome Evaluation Checklist

After each 3-5 swing round with one of my hitters, we go through a powerful 3-step Bad Hitting Outcome Eval Checklist (in order of priority):

  1. How many strikes did you swing at?
  2. How many swings felt on-time?
  3. How did we do with our mechanical focuses?

I should probably mention that we do this while working softball hitting drills fastpitch drills such as the Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill.

I use minimal to zero feedback between swings, until the round is over.  Why minimal to zero feedback? CLICK HERE to read this post on “What Every Coach Must Know About Giving Feedback To Hitters”.

Why 3-5 swing rounds and not 15-20?  CLICK HERE to read this testimonial on how to make practice swings game ready.

And within 3-5 rounds of 5 swings each round (so 15-25 total swings), there’s a marked difference in the hitter’s plate discipline, timing, and mechanics…for the good.

And it doesn’t matter the age.

If there IS NOT a progression in their ability to swing at more strikes, get on-time, and hone effective mechanics within that swing round, then either:

  • The coach is instructing too much between swings, OR
  • The player needs a little education on their strikezone, how timing must change at the different distances, or, to take pressure off swing outcomes, and put pressure on executing a specific swing movement instead.

It must be said, that in games, coach will only focus on points one and two of the Bad Hitting Outcomes Eval Checklist.  Players MUST be free to compete in games, not worry about mechanics.

 

The Art of Variance: Bean Bag Study

So I don’t have to beat a dead horse, here are a couple resources to catch you up to speed on this:

Some of my hitting friends, whom I respect in their knowledge and experience, don’t believe we can teach timing.  I disagree however.  Not only can we teach timing, but we can SPEED UP the learning process!

Here’s one of my favorite drills for timing…

 

Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill

Using the same principle as the Bean Bag Toss Study above, I regularly vary reaction times with our hitters.  The following video is how to setup one of my favorite softball hitting drills fastpitch for timing (works well for baseball too):

Distances, whether we’re talking baseball or softball, are different, so use common sense on this.  Depending on the hitter’s official plate to mound distance, I will put 5-15 feet of distance between the two plates.

And remember, the L-screen stays where it’s at…the HITTER moves between the two plates.

How To Turn Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics Into A High Level Baseball Swing…Can It Be Done?

 

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics

Can fastpitch softball hitting mechanics be equal to baseball?

(WARNING: this fastpitch softball hitting mechanics post is a mini-RANT, about 2,000+ words, so please set aside about a 10-min reading time)…

I received this email the other day:

“I cringe when see hitting programs that are designed by baseball players and say they teach softball hitting as a 17 year fastpitch softball coach and 26 year slow pitch player the fundamental difference in the swing many programs ignore especially when teaching fastpitch the swing has to take the most direct path to the pitched generally released at 3 to 4 feet verse a baseball is released at roughly 7 such as right view pro I’ve seen many teams and worse players swings destroyed by coaches teaching baseball to softball players please take this in account, thanks”

Before addressing this reader’s email, I wanted to mention something for those who teach fastpitch softball hitting mechanics…

Later in the post, I want to make a BIG ASK to coaches and instructors currently working with fastpitch softball hitters that are using HPL hitting principles, to please share your triumphs and/or sticking points with us.

But before we get there,

I wanted to address a couple fastpitch softball hitting mechanics points from the email above:

  • Translating baseball into fastpitch softball hitting mechanics,
  • Differences between the two swings?
  • The BIG ASK…

 

Translating Baseball into Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Who To Trust?

Who can we trust to give effective information when searching “fastpitch softball hitting mechanics” on YouTube?

The BIGGEST problem with most self-proclaimed “baseball hitting experts” online is…

They promote a hitting ‘philosophy’ or ‘theory’.

Their theories are a mish-mash of popular hitting programs, books, websites, YouTube channels, etc.

Did you know…

There’s a more certain standard – or measuring stick – that most hitting experts ignore, or just plain don’t understand?

Hitting MUST be based off human movement principles, or rules, that are validated by science…NOT philosophy or theory.

We’ve reverse engineered the hitting system promoted at the Hitting Performance Lab.

What does that mean?

Good news for coaches teaching fastpitch softball hitting mechanics…

You can bring a certain and more effective hitting standard to teaching your athletes how to hit.

And it WORKS a majority of the time!!

Beautifully.

Do you remember the first time you stumbled into an online hitting forum, discovering how much of a pissing contest it was?

The people who “seemed” to have authority on the subject of fastpitch softball hitting mechanics were coaches who:

  • Had coached the longest,
  • Had played the longest OR had the biggest collection of trophies at the highest level, or
  • Had watched a million hours of slow motion video of ONLY ‘the best’ hitters.

Note to those who’ve coached the longest…

Someone belligerently throwing 30+ years of coaching experience in your face, most likely has the same one year of coaching experience repeated each year for 30+ years.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying.  And if you have to talk about how many years you’ve been coaching to desperately seek significance, then most likely your teaching has been obsolete for some time now.

You don’t hear Coaches Augie Garrido, Gordie Gillespie, or Bob Bennett lurching around online forums shoving their weight around demanding that people listen and respect them.

Note to those who’ve played the longest or have the biggest collection of trophies at the highest level…

The same lurching ego behavior can be seen, and is being used by you too.

As a matter of fact,

I just ran into an ex-pro guy last night on Facebook (I assume he was because he said he has a helluva playing resume, lol).

Brother, I hate to tell you, but…

Playing and teaching are totally different skills sets.  I don’t care what your playing resume is, because you’re starting over as a coach.

Furthermore, you MUST teach the RIGHT things.  The right fastpitch softball hitting mechanics.

Just because you ‘swung down on the ball’ to create backspin, DOES NOT mean that’s what actually happened if we looked at your swing using slow motion video.

I’m sorry, but what’s ‘feel’ and what’s ‘real’ are two totally different things.

Note to those coaches who accumulated a million hours watching slow motion video of ONLY ‘the best’ hitters…

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols photo courtesy: MLB.com

First of all, who are you studying??!

Pujols? McGwire? Griffey Jr.? Bryce Harper? Derek Jeter?

Although these hitters are and were effective in their swings, they also have, and had, ineffective human movement.  I’m sorry, but what’s ‘feel’ and what’s ‘real’ are two totally different things. that MUST not be repeated by younger and/or smaller hitters.

Not just because younger hitters don’t have the capability of doing them, but because THEY SHOULD NOT be doing them, PERIOD.

In other words, they succeed, and succeeded, DESPITE elements of ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.

Who you study is VERY important.

Big sluggers can get away with murder because of their body mass.  Think of some of the BIGGER hitters you’ve come across, swimming in the fishbowl that is a Little League baseball field.

You’ll learn more of what effective fastpitch softball hitting mechanics look like from smaller sluggers like (6-feet on down):

  • Sierra Romero
  • Lauren Chamberlain
  • Sadaharu Oh (if you don’t know who this is, you need to study up!!),
  • Hank Aaron,
  • Pete Rose,
  • Ty Cobb,
  • Josh Donaldson,
  • Dustin Pedroia,
  • Jose Bautista,
  • Andrew McCutchen, and
  • Robinson Cano.

AND by the way, video analysis is important,

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Sierra Romero

Sierra Romero is a great model for the Catapult Loading System. Photo courtesy: fastpitchnews.org

But MUST come SECOND ONLY to the human movement “rules”.

Now listen close, because this is IMPORTANT to translating fastpitch softball hitting mechanics into baseball…

Once we strip away a coach/player’s elevated credentials and/or experience, then look at their analysis through the lens of human movements “rules”, that are validated by science, and it’s revealed how inconsistently ineffective their teachings really are.

They soften their system’s ineffectiveness by saying,

“Well, every hitter is different and what works for one hitter may not work for another”…OR,

“You can’t teach young hitters to do what MLB hitters are doing.”

BULL.

They’re copping-out.

But it’s not their fault.

They just don’t know any better.

They’re not growing, they’re dying.

And if you believe that what works for one hitter may not work for another, then CLICK HERE to read about the HPL One-Swing-Fits-All system.

The HPL hitting system works…consistently, no matter if we’re talking fastpitch softball hitting mechanics or baseball…7yo or 24yo…black or white…big or small.

We have literally thousands of coaches and parents across the nation putting into practice the HPL hitting principles, and get this…THEY ACTUALLY WORK!!

I get a steady stream of weekly emails, from coaches, sharing their success stories with the system from both the baseball and softball worlds.

(If you go to the HPL homepage, scroll all the way down to the bottom, and you’ll find over 45 rotating testimonials from these coaches and players under “Customer Testimonials”.  It rotates through 5 of them at a time, then if you refresh the screen, then it’ll rotate through another 5).

The good news for the fastpitch softball hitting mechanics coach, is that credentials don’t mean a thing.

It’s outcomes.

Does your system consistently work?

Do you have a:

  1. 98-lb 11yo hitting the ball 300-feet, multiple times?
  2. 95-pounder hitting their first dinger over 270-feet? (this is actually the brother of the above hitter but 2 years younger)
  3. 115-lb 11yo not only hitting the ball 300-feet multiple times, but hitting over 40 homers in one season…to ALL fields?
  4. 66-lb 11yo hitting the ball over 180-feet? OR,
  5. a 115-lb 13yo hitting the ball 330-feet?

The video below is of my hitter #1 above hitting his 300-foot monster shot.  Please note, he was playing on a field in Manteca, CA that had 315-foot fences, so the ‘shot’ was a long double, not a homerun.  Dad played baseball at Division-1 Chico State in the late-90’s, and shared the batted ball’s estimated distance, in the following text message to me:

“This is Orin hitting the farthest ball he’s ever hit.  It landed a couple feet short of the warning track in Manteca, which is right around 300-feet away”.

If you aren’t achieving these types of outcomes with your hitters, then I fear that you should rethink the effectiveness of YOUR hitting system.

Differences Between Two Swings?

Now, before getting into the differences between fastpitch softball hitting mechanics and baseball…

It should be pointed out,

That I’ve spent 10+ years in the corrective fitness industry with too many certifications to count.  I’m self taught and have a passionate curiosity for the science of human movement, by people such as:

  • Dr. Kelly Starrett,
  • Thomas Myers,
  • Ida Rolf,
  • Dr. Erik Dalton,
  • Dr. Serge Gracovetsky, and
  • Many others…

And it’s interesting to note, that I learned more about the swing from the aforementioned people, than in all 17 years of my baseball playing career, the last four of those playing at Division-1 Fresno State!!

The bottom line is this,

There are certain ‘rules’ to human movement that are validated by science.  These “rules” don’t care if you’re male or female…black or white…7 yo or 24 yo…big or small.

THEY WORK FOR ALL HUMANS!!!

The ‘rules’ are like bumpers at a bowling alley.  They’re guidelines to an effective swing.  What happens inside the bumpers doesn’t matter, just as long as you work within them.

Now, on the differences between the two swings…

A friend of mine since High School, made this comment on a Facebook Post of mine:

“As a former baseball player and current fastpitch softball coach. I think hitting a softball at 43ft is harder than hitting a baseball from 60ft. I’m talking about straight fastballs too, special pitches would be difficult for anyone.  My first year coaching softball I had a hard time hitting a pitch. Had to adjust everything I learned from my baseball swing and vision.”

I told him, if he grew up playing fastpitch softball and hitting from the closer distances, he’d be a much better fastpitch softball hitter today!

It’s about collecting data.

The main differences in the two swings are:

  1. Reaction Time (or timing), and
  2. Knee Action.

Reaction Time (or timing)

Getting back to the original reader email, two differences they mentioned:

  1. “…the swing has to take the most direct path to the pitch”,
  2. “…the pitch is generally released at 3 to 4 feet verse a baseball is released at roughly 7″…

Look, the first issue is about reaction time.

Fast-pitch softball hitting mechanics DO NOT call for ‘shorter swings’ than a baseball player.  They have to start their swings sooner!

If we start teaching hitters to ‘swing down on the ball’, be ‘short to it’, or an A to B barrel path, then we set the hitter up for inconsistent productive outcomes.

Why inconsistent productive outcomes?

Because an A to B barrel path is ineffective when looking at it through the lens of validated science:

  • Centripetal v. Centrifugal Forces,
  • Transferring Linear into Angular Momentum, and
  • Inertial Forces changing directions.

Two priority hitting objectives, for ALL hitters, MUST be to:

  1. Get the barrel on the plane of the pitch as early as possible, and
  2. Keep the barrel on plane for as long as possible.

We coaches have to build a large margin for error into the swing, not shorten it.

WHY?

Because of a major dose of uncertainty, hitters don’t know what type of pitch is coming, its speed, or its location beforehand.

By the way, swings can still be compact without an A –> B barrel path.  We MUST be teaching both hitters, more of an A –> B –> C path.  My readers call the latter, the Nike Swoosh barrel path.nike-swoosh-logo

The second reader issue above has to do with the angle of the downward traveling pitch.

And YES, even a softball is traveling down by the time it reaches the hitter, thanks to Gravitational Forces and air density.

As soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand (both fastpitch and baseball), the ball begins slowing down, rotating less, and ultimately falls towards the earth.

Assuming you’re still on earth 😉

Even the “Jenny Finch rise-ball begins to fall 4/5 of way, approx 8 feet away”.

However,

What is clear though, is the down angle of a fastpitch fastball isn’t quite as drastic as a baseball fastball.  A fastpitch fastball just isn’t exposed to Gravitational Forces long enough.

Which is also to say, evidenced in the Sports Science video above, since there’s less distance for the softball to travel, it loses less energy than a baseball will.  So that’s why we see Jennie Finch put a hurtin’ on that force plate!!

If you had the baseball pitcher throw from a distance of 43-foot, I think he’d crush the force plate as well.  Just my thoughts…

So reaction time and the hitter’s barrel attack angle being different,

How does a fastpitch softball hitter manage her barrel attack angle differently than a baseball hitter?

With…

Knee Action

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Lauren Chamberlain

Lauren Chamberlain wide stance, but uses shifting foot pressure and HER KNEES to hit. Photo courtesy: YouTube user Paul Arebalo

In order to compensate for the slight difference in the downward angle of the pitched ball, a hitter should adjust the bending of their knees as follows…

Fastpitch hitter:

  • Front knee at landing should be bent between 160 and 170-degrees (at 180-degrees, the leg is straight) to optimize Ground Reaction Forces, build in margin for error on off-speed and breaking balls, while also not giving up too much on Time To Impact.
  • Back knee at impact should be bent between 105 and 115-degrees to get on path to the bottom half of the ball.

Baseball hitter:

  • Front knee at landing should be bent between 150 and 165-degrees for the same reasons above, but with more access to a longer Time To Impact,
  • Back knee at impact should be bent between 90 and 105-degrees to get on-path to the bottom half of the ball.

The BIG Ask…

I want to make a BIG ASK to those coaches or instructors that are currently working with fastpitch softball hitters using HPL hitting principles.

Please share your triumphs and/or sticking points below…

A Simple Way To Train Pitch Recognition That Works For Collegiate & Pro Hitters

 

The Sixth Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition

Dr. Peter Fadde applies sports science to batting drills focusing on pitch recognition.  He’s a Professor in Learning Systems Design & Technology at Southern Illinois University.

CLICK HERE for a great case study featured in the Baseball Collegiate Newspaper titled, “Pitch Recognition Can Be Done By Hitters”, where Dr. Peter Fadde was asked to consult with Southeast Missouri State hitting coach Dillon Lawson on the subject of pitch recognition with his hitters, in March of 2014.

I heard about Dr. Peter Fadde through a few of my readers who saw him speak at the 2015 ABCA conference (ABCA “Doing Damage at the Plate by Training Pitch Recognition” video above).

Since, I’ve read his ebook The 6th Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition” in less than an hour, corresponded with him via email, and felt it a MUST to put together an interview with him sharing his insights with you.

(NOTE: if you purchase his ebook, and after reading it you like what he has to say, PLEASE leave him a review on Amazon.)

You can see the presentations he’s done, recognition he’s earned, and his current work at his website:

http://peterfadde.com/

Here are some other places you can find him online:

By the way, the pitch recognition hitting drills that Dr. Peter Fadde proposes in The 6th Tool book link above, work well with both baseball and softball hitters at ALL levels, not just at the collegiate and pro levels.

Also, Dr. Peter Fadde is one of the experts in the area of vision, tracking, and timing that has contributed videos to the Reaction Time Mastery online video course.

Without further adieu, here’s the interview… (rhyme intended 😉 )

 

What are some great drills to practice vision/tracking?

Pitch Recognition: Dr. Peter Fadde

Dr. Peter Fadde meet my readers, readers meet Dr. Peter Fadde 🙂

What I focus on for Pitch Recognition (PR) is separate from vision skills (peripheral vision, dynamic tracking acuity) and tracking.

Sports science calls it a “perceptual-cognitive” skill, meaning that it is vision-based but a mental skill. It’s picking up cues in the pitcher’s wind-up, release, and the first 10-20 feet of ball flight. By picking up advance cues, expert hitters anticipate pitch movement earlier.

The best drill for practicing PR is Bullpen Stand-In Drill. Batters have been standing in forever. The difference here is the batter needs to call out loud “Yes” or “No” BEFORE THE BALL HITS THE CATCHER’S MITT. That’s what turns it from passive tracking to PR practice.

You need to recognize the pitch right out of the pitcher’s hand to get your call made in time. “Yes” can stand for a pitch type (usually Fastball), or for FB in Zone, or Strike, or Swing Ahead in Count — whatever a coach or hitter wants to work on.

Call LOUD so that it is good feedback for pitchers. Bullpen Stand-In Drill is one of six PR drills shown in the “The 6th Tool” eBook.

 

How do you teach kids to pick up the seams and stay balanced on off-speed pitches?

Kids should practice calling breaking pitches out of the pitcher’s hand, so that they recognize that most curve balls need to “pop up” out of the pitcher’s hand in order to come down in the strike zone. Their eyes and natural tracking want to give up on that pitch. Learning to see it early and plan to attack it should keep mechanics sound.

 

How do you use vision drills for high school hitters?

A high school hitter can learn the PR drills in the Sixth Tool eBook and then teach a parent or coach as a hitting facility for one-on-one drills. I also have several occlusion videos of High School and College pitchers that are available to coaches or players who get the eBook and email me.

How can I get my players to recognize which curveball is the right one to hit and which one to take?

Wade Boggs said he could feel his eyes bob up in his head for the hanging curveball. Every batter can use his own clues. The point is to TRAIN yourself not to give up on that pitch. Few high school pitchers can throw a tight enough curveball to have it come out flat and not drop below the strike zone. Learn to jump on that pop up curve rather than giving up on it.

 

What’s an easy way to explain the concept of vision,tracking, timing a pitch?

Without trying to make things more difficult, I am adding PR as another dimension to Vision and Tracking. The good news is that a batter can get better by improving any or all of the three. A good program includes all three.

 

What keys does a batter use for tracking the ball prior to the pitch and on the release?

Especially at high school level or lower, pitchers often give pre-release cues. I don’t mean pitch tipping things, like glove position. More like learning to “feel” the pitcher muscling up for his fastball, or throwing up hill for a curve. At release, some batters pick up “skinny wrist” for curveball. Some batters pickup more white or less thrust out of the pitcher’s hand for changeup.

 

How can I concentrate better and see “the ball hit the bat”?

The science suggests that hitters don’t see the ball hit the bat. Ted Williams said that, contrary to opinion, he did not see the ball hit the bat. “But a master carpenter doesn’t need to see the nail to hit it square every time.”

Concentrate on seeing the pitcher’s motion and release. These aren’t natural and so need direct practice. Tracking to (or near) contact is natural so needs less direct practice. Good PR approach and sound mechanics should generate plenty of good contact.

Again, Dr. Peter Fadde can be reached at the following places online:

There are Big Results in Baseball Vision Training & Technology (Works for Softball Hitters Too!)

Baseball Vision Training: Bryce Harper's amber tinted lenses

Check out Bryce Harper’s amber tinted lenses that help with the sun and different hitting backgrounds in the 2012 playoffs. Photo courtesy WashingtonPost.com

I have the honor and privilege of introducing baseball vision training expert Dr. Keith Smithson to you…

What does he do?

I HIGHLY recommend,

CLICKING HERE for a piece the Washington Post did about his baseball vision training, titled, “Washington Nationals Go Beyond The Eye Chart With Vision Training”.

In a nutshell, Dr. Keith helps his hitting athletes try and ‘buy time’.

By the way, his baseball vision training works for fastpitch softball as well!

His background?

Dr. Keith Smithson is the:

  • Director of Visual Performance for the Washington Nationals,
  • Team Optometrist for the Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics, Washington Spirit and DC United, and
  • Visual Performance Consultant for the Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals and Nike.

He’s also graciously contributed more BONUS baseball vision training videos that I’m including in my Reaction Time Mastery online video course that will help hitters track pitches crystal clear, accelerate decision-making reaction time, & get ON-TIME without losing swing effectiveness.

You’ll find nothing like this course in the hitting industry.

Dr. Smithson has also agreed to share new technologies and strategies with HPL in the future, so you guys and gals will truly be on the cutting edge of vision and tracking!

The Doc is a very busy guy, but he agreed to answer a couple interview questions, so without further adieu,

Enter Dr. Keith Smithson…

 

If you were to train me for four weeks for a HUGE tournament and had a million dollars on the line, what would the baseball vision training look like? What if I trained for eight weeks?

I would begin with a comprehensive visual performance enhancement using the latest dynamic vision testing technology such as the RightEye system.

Based on objectively quantifiable test scores, we would begin a protocol of in-office and home based visual performance enhancement.

We would discuss visual acuity and contrast enhancement using corrective lenses and nutritional supplementation. We would maximize eye muscle function, as well as neurological visual processing function and achieve results, as current studies predict.

 

What makes you different? Who trained you or influenced you?

VIERA, FL February 15 : Dr. Keith Smithson, sports vision specialist. works with Washington Nationals second baseman Steve Lombardozzi (1) on his vision skills where they would toss a ring and call out a color and they would attempt to catch the color during spring training workouts on February 15, 2013 in Viera, FL (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

VIERA, FL February 15 : Dr. Keith Smithson, sports vision specialist. works with Washington Nationals second baseman Steve Lombardozzi (1) on his vision skills where they would toss a ring and call out a color and they would attempt to catch the color during spring training workouts on February 15, 2013 in Viera, FL (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

All of my testing and training methods are scientifically driven. I use objectively quantifiable testing and training tools to establish performance baselines before training and follow those results throughout training to target the training program and customize each program per the individual athlete’s needs.

I also work with multiple different professional sports teams, therefore I gain a vast understanding of the complex and differing needs of these athletes specific to their sport and position in that sport. I truly learn as much from them, as I trust they learn from me.

 

What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in hitting? What are the biggest wastes of time?

By in large baseball players are the most passionate about understanding the visual needs of their sport and are the most open to emerging technologies to maximyze their visual potential.

The biggest misconception is that eye dominance plays an important role in visual performance in baseball. A study was done several years ago that showed equal hitting performance for same sided and cross dominant athletes.  

It is far more important to have equal visual ability and a coordinated eye muscle system to ensure proper eye tracking and depth perception judgements.

Dr. Keith Smithson can be found at: www.novaeyedocs.com

Also, as per Dr. Smithson’s recommendation, sports vision doctors can be found using the doctor locator on aoa.org.

Effective Velocity Helped Carlos Pena to Get On-Time & to Swing Effectively

Effective Velocity: Perry Husband on MLBNetwork with Carlos Pena

Perry Husband being featured on MLBNetwork with Carlos Pena explaining Effective Velocity. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

I’ve just put together a NEW online video course called Reaction Time Mastery, where we dig into the FOUR following topics:

  1. Forward Momentum (FoMo),
  2. Vision,
  3. Tracking, and
  4. Timing…

The Reaction Time Mastery online video course will help hitters track pitches crystal clear, accelerate decision-making reaction time, & get ON-TIME without losing swing effectiveness.

Because some of the above topics are slightly above my pay grade,

I enlisted the help of specific proven experts…

A couple Doctors, and a few “Mad Scientists” about their respective topics.

I asked these experts to contribute a 10-minute video or two to the Reaction Time Mastery online video course, and if they were up for it, an interview for the blog.

And here we are, expert interview #1!

For those who don’t know Perry Husband, he was featured on the MLB Network about the work he did with Carlos Pena using his Effective Velocity and Exit Velocity programs (EV):

CLICK HERE for an SBNation.com post about Perry Husband and his Effective Velocity system titled, “The Essence of Velocity: The pitching theory that could revolutionize baseball, if only the sport would embrace it”.

I believe Perry Husband has a truly revolutionary approach for hitters (baseball and softball).  And I wanted to share the following interview, where he answered a few pointed questions from my readers.

Just to warn you though, this post is a BEAST, and for some, may take up to 30-minutes to get through.  But let me encourage you…the information Perry distills about Effective Velocity, is golden.  

So kick up your feet, grab a brew of choice, and get to work.

Perry’s website can be found at HittingIsAGuess.com, and I’ll link to where you can find him on social media at the end of this post.

Enter Perry Husband, and his Effective Velocity system…

 

“What are some great drills to practice vision/tracking?”

Effective Velocity: Sandlot Slugger small ball training

MaxBP/Sandlot Slugger golf whiffle machine. Photo courtesy: TheStartingLineupStore.com

There are many drills that I would recommend to practice vision and tracking, but first I would say it is important to understand ‘how’ to see before you try to get better at ‘what’ to see.

Many of the vision drills that I have been introduced to, involve trying to get the eyes to focus on small details of a pitch, such as a tennis ball with a color or a number that the hitter is to identify.

I have been guilty of teaching players to focus in on small objects such as small beads with numbers and letters on them and many other detail oriented drill work.  Ask the hitter to identify and only swing at certain letters etc…..

However, what I found is that this did not lead to the student learning to identify actual pitches any better.  I am certainly not an expert in vision training, but I will try to explain my findings like this…

Imagine a ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand and the hitter using the eyes like a camera.  The center of the eye picks up infinite detail and the picture of the ball out of the hand is incredibly sharp and in focus.  The hitter sees the seams, the signature of the commissioner and yet……all that intense detail does absolutely nothing to help us know what pitch it is nor where or how fast it will arrive.

The still photo does not tell us the direction, spin, speed, pitch type or even whether it is a ball or a strike.

Now imagine the ball being recorded with an old video camera that is very unclear but shows an out of focus video of a pitch traveling 10-feet.  Which image would you rather have to hit the pitch, a clear photo OR a fuzzy video?

The eye has the ability to work as a camera and a video camera, but which way do you think the small detail training is heading towards?

Upon this discovery about 1990, I began teaching using a very different technique to help hitters learn to use their eyes like video cameras instead of still photography cameras.  Hitting a 95 MPH fastball is not about detail, but rather about:

  • ‘Where’ (initial direction or tunnel) it is going?
  • ‘How fast’ (radar speed) is it moving?
  • ‘Where’ will it move toward (pitch movement)?
  • ‘Where’ will it end up (location in the zone)?  And,
  • ‘When’ (Effective Velocity – or EV).

Now, of course there is spin to help hitters identify pitch types etc…. but the primary information hitters need is basic and quick and not all hitters can see spin well enough or soon enough to have it help them.

I began taking out the small details and began focusing on the bigger ticket items. Once we narrow the focus or rather broaden the focus to see the pitch in a different way, now we can practice the important factors.

Vertical Plane LHP

Effective Velocity: Vertical Plane LHP. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

I introduced a term called ‘Shape’ in my work with Carlos Pena in 2009.  Every pitch has a shape after it travels about 30-feet or so.  You can picture:

  • A curveball with the big loop,
  • A slider with a smaller hump or loop,
  • A sinker shape, or
  • A straight Kershaw four seamer.

Every pitch has a starting tunnel, movement laterally, or down and a final location.  The path the ball takes out of the hand to about 2/3 of the way to the plate is what creates ‘Shape’.

We can’t wait until it is completed all the movement before we have to swing because it takes about 1/3 the flight or about 18-20 feet to swing the bat.

Hitters have a 1/3 of the way to see direction and the beginning of spin and another 1/3 to see spin (pitch type/speed), estimate the final location and then begin the swing.

I named my initial hitting program Hitting Is A Guess, partially for this very reason……….it is most certainly a guess on many different levels and vision is just one of those levels.  I began training hitters to make better guesses………..and this worked very well.

Using smaller objects is one way to begin training the eyes to start ‘drinking’ in the pitch info in the right way.  Like speed reading,  hitters begin clumping sections of the pitch like a whole sentence at once, which helps you see the pitch in shapes.

The shape is key to knowing speed and final location in the shortest amount of time.

My favorite drill set is…

Effective Velocity: Golf Sized Foam Balls

Effective Velocity: Golf sized foam balls

To use small golf ball sized foam balls to train hitters to identify pitch traits sooner and more efficiently, which is part of my Time Training Level 2 hitting program.

This is done from a seated position to get the pitch trajectory as close to games as possible and at a distance of 16-20 feet from the hitter.  The balls are different densities so the same arm action can create multiple pitch speeds.

Pitch traits help hitters identify pitches, which in turn helps them time pitches better.  Reproducing these traits with a baseball is not easily done.  The small foam training balls are much easier to create game-like movements, trajectories, EV speeds and shapes.  They require some practice throws to get a feel for controlling them, but this is the very best way to get the closest to real live pitch traits without being in a game situation.

In my opinion, there is no comparison of  these foam balls to wiffle balls.  The wiffle balls do not fly the same, are harder to create movements, they hurt when you get hit with a ball off the bat at close distances and they break much faster.  I have used these [foam golf balls] for almost 10 years, and have destroyed less than 1% of them over all that time.

The Circle Drill Set is…

Another part of  my Time Training Level 2 hitting program that helps read the first 10 – 15 – 20 – 30 feet of flight.   There are speed awareness drills, early pitch recognition drills and all of them designed to maintain the most efficient swing possible at the same time.

The Time Training program was designed to introduce hitters to the most logical skill sets in the order that makes the most sense, based on my crazy amount of testing hitters, as well as the 3 decades of teaching hitting on all levels.

“How do you get your hitters enough practice at high pitch speeds?  Example … Is throwing 45 from 30 feet the same as throwing 90 from 60 feet?”

Effective Velocity: Pitch Angles

Effective Velocity: pitch angles. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

The previously described small ball training at 15-20 feet (golf ball sized foam balls), 7 inch baseballs at 30-36 feet and simulated BP from the closest to game mound as possible.  Most of the work becomes about game simulations and creating the perfect speed to match a pitcher type.

Simulating game speeds is easy enough, but that it is just the beginning of true simulation and training hitters to ‘hit’.  We learn to ‘swing’ and then we learn to ‘hit’.  Most physical swing designs include both swinging and hitting and this is a mistake, IMHO.

Separating the two things is the only way to truly get the most out of the swing and your approach, otherwise you will always be compromising one or the other.

The real work is in learning to control swing speed, mindset, anxiety control, pitch selection, taking pitches and staying focused on what we really want through a series of pitches we don’t want, dealing with failure and all kinds of other issues.

Hitting is complex, swing design is not.

If you really test all aspects, especially reactionary abilities of hitters, you will come to the same conclusions that I have, which is that learning to swing is very different than learning to hit.  Combining swinging and hitting is really the hardest element.  Effective Velocity efficient pitchers will eventually force hitters to ‘Act’ rather than ‘React’.

Short distance BP does have some drawbacks, especially if you use baseballs at all distances.  A baseball at 60 feet, looks about the same as a 7 inch baseball at 36 feet and a golf ball sized object at 18-20 feet.

I try to stick with these sized objects at these distances to keep the amount of visual info available to the hitter as close to game situations as possible.  It will never substitute completely the live at bats from 60-feet but it simply is not possible to get that type of training all the time for most amateur hitters.

To simulate 100 MPH fastball from 18 feet, the BP pitch needs to be 32.7 MPH………this gives the hitter the same amount of time from release to contact.

  • 90 MPH is 29.5 MPH,
  • 85 is 27.8, and
  • 80 is 26.2 etc……..

To simulate from 35 feet, 100 MPH would equal a 63.5 MPH BP pitch………

  • 95 MPH equals 60.5,
  • 90 MPH equals 57.3,
  • 85 MPH = 54.1, and
  • 80 = 50.9 etc…

You can never replicate all the factors but the time the ball is in the air is the most important element and that is not too difficult.

I recommend also trying to really pay attention to the pitch trajectory.  Standing up at closer distances will create a steeper angle than real game pitches.  Seated overhand BP best mimics the same line as a game speed fastball, at least at the higher levels.  High school and beyond, I would recommend throwing from a seated position.

 

“What are some drills or ways to help kids 8-10yo with their timing?  I have kids that look great at 20 ft front toss but not so good from 46ft?”

Matt Troupe Locked Pic

Effective Velocity photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

I love the small balls for youth players but I treat all hitters pretty much the same until we get into Level 3, game planning.

I fully explain every concept to youth hitters because they are much smarter than we give them credit for.  The more they understand why one movement is better than another, the more deeply they will try to make it happen.

I honestly treat the younger hitters the same when it comes to the Level 1 & Level 2 Time Training.  It is shocking how good very young hitters are at ‘Acting’ rather than ‘Reacting’ to pitches, once introduced to it.  They simply have not had all the years of bad swing training to get in their way of the more natural method of hunting pitches.

Fear and poor thinking (resulting in poor feelings, resulting in poor swings) are the primary reasons that hitters perform well at close distances and not at game distances.

This is another reason that I like the small ball training.  Hitters have no fear of being hit.  This is another major reason why I named my first hitting program ‘Hitting Is A Guess’.

When you get young hitters to think of it as a guess, they simply make a better guess.  After getting comfortable making an efficient guess (swing) for a period, you try to blend that really comfortable swing into drills closer to real at bats.

You have to practice their ‘Game Swing’ if you want that to get better.  It is easier to get better at their ‘Practice Swing’, but the game swing is a different animal.  Recreate as closely as possible the real speed, distance, visuals, perceived pressures etc…… until they are in control of their game swing as easily as they are for their practice swing.

I put together an instructional league years ago, including a 9 and under team.  And when I say they were beginners, I mean we had to use softy balls to play catch day one, for fear of them hurting each other.

By focusing on making good swings in games, not batting average or results, they made major progress very quickly.  When you take away the pressure of results, hitters get better at transferring their ‘practice swings’ to their ‘game swings’.  You have to practice your game swing if you want it to get better.

What is your opinion of FOMO’s impact on being able to hit the curveball? 

Effective Velocity: Overhead View Lateral Lanes

Effective Velocity: overhead view of lateral lanes. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

I assume that means “Fear Of Missing Out”, not sure on that, maybe forward momentum???

If fear of missing out, this is a major part of why Effective Velocity works and always will, to some degree at least.

Hitters want to cover all pitches, CB, SL, CH, FB, KN and all the rest, and they only have a small 6-MPH Effective Velocity speed range that they will be close to 100/100 (100% on time, 100% swing efficiency).

I believe this has caused most of the poor swing efficiency designs that have caused the severe dip in offense at the MLB level.

My 20+ years of testing proved that hitters have about 5 to 6-MPH Effective Velocity of reactionary ability while being close to 90-100% efficient.  When you test using exit velocity, hitters lose roughly 10% of their maximum exit speed with every pitch speed you show them because they are trying to cover all speeds.

If you test hitters with pitches right down central and get a top speed and an average speed, over 10 swings, most hitters will average about 85% or 90% of their top speed.  Now put them in a 2 strike mentality (they have to swing at all strikes) and locate the same speed pitch as the first round inside and outside randomly and they will lose about 10% of their average speed over 10 balls.

Now go up in and down away with the same speed pitches and the exit speed goes down another 10%.  Add in the off speed pitch that is in the same tunnel as the fastball and the top out tends to drop a bit and the average drops another level.

Most hitters get to 70% all the way down to 40% of their max over a 10 ball average.  This is all caused by FOMO…..or trying to cover all speed pitches.  It simply cannot be done at or near 100% on time with the 100% most efficient swing.

My goal is to get hitters to be 100/100 or 100% on time with 100% swing efficiency or make their ‘A’ swing exactly on time.  FOMO gets hitters closer to 70/70 or 85/85 but rarely, if ever, at or near 100/100.

If FOMO is forward momentum, this is a very different answer and not easily explained.  I have to admit that I am not a fan of the term FoMo all by itself.  I much prefer to look at the overall swing as either efficient or not.

Effective Velocity Zones

Effective Velocity zones. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

FoMo is just one element and does not take into account some of the key elements of exit velocity.  While increasing FoMo will add to the exit velocity in most cases, that is inherent in a great swing design.  The swing is either 100/100 (100% on time/100% efficient……all elements) or some level below that……….and all swing factors are typically affected by a timing change such as CB.

My philosophy requires you to change your paradigm away from sitting in the middle and reacting to all speed pitches, which starts with making the swing efficient as a whole and graduating from ‘Swing School’ to move into timing, pitch recognition and ‘Hunting’.

Effective Velocity works to control Exit Velocity (the other EV) due to the idea that hitters think they can cover all speeds with one approach.

In my teaching, the swing is the same regardless of the speed or type of pitch (at least that’s what we are trying to maintain), so the FoMo will be identical for either swing.  If hitters are sitting on a CB, they might load later or create a longer ‘Hang Time’ during the load, this will lead to the same FoMo exactly.

When hitters are sitting on FB and adjusting to CB, it depends on how early they recognized the CB and how in rhythm they were able to stay.

Bautista is going to load to FB at the fastest speed and adjust to CB if he recognizes it in time.  If he recognizes it late, he will try to hang longer to explode on CB, but this does not always work out.  When he sees it later, the stride may get longer to keep his foot in the air long enough to let the ball get there.  That will cause the FoMo to increase a bit.

This is really a touchy subject because there is a limit to over striding and having the FoMo increase.  There is a point of diminishing returns where the stride getting too long will cut down the turning ability or rotation of the hitter, as well as the ability to release the back side (or both).  A little extra stride length will help, a lot will hurt…….and even that depends on whether the hitter has his max stride length built in to his FB swing.

If that’s the case (which it would be if I helped with the design of the FB swing), then any change in stride length would likely hurt the hitter’s FoMo.

Traditional thinking has hitters getting the foot down early and trying to ‘keep the hands back’ to hit the off speed CB.  Forward Momentum is always affected when the hitter’s swing rhythm is interrupted.  Hitters that hit the CB with forward momentum in tact, adjust to the pitch ‘during the load’, not after the foot has touched down (depending on the method of their load).

When a hitter such as Jose Bautista loads, he is basically loading to FB at the top of the zone (Effective Velocity plus FB), so he is super early in getting his leg kick started.  His foot is in the air at release ——-non-committed to going forward in a hurry.  By the time he gets to the top of his load, he has recognized the pop of the CB over the FB.  If he sees this in time, he can create some ‘hang time’ with his foot in the air.

This allows him to stay in rhythm and hit the CB with the same forward momentum as the FB.  It is not a perfect science but when it works, it is the only way to sit FB and truly hit the CB close to 100/100.

 

Wide stance vs. Narrow Stance in relationship to FOMO. Does wider give more balance and ability to see the ball better, recognize curveball?   Wide stance vs Narrow Stance depends on quite a few factors.  How wide?  Does the wide stance include a stride or not?  Narrow Stance, does it include a tap load or a leg lift?

Effective Velocity: 25 Reachable Points Ball Illustration

Effective Velocity: 25 Reachable Points Ball Illustration. Photo courtesy: HittingIsAGuess.com

I think is about where the hitter is at launch.  I think any stance can work if the next movement includes a load that has leverage and sets up the most efficient movements.

CB is easily recognized no matter your stance, what you can do with it is really the issue.  I prefer a leg lift or a tap so the hitter can create hang time but any stance can work.

Recognizing the CB and being able to hit it at 100/100 are two different things.  The key is figuring out how to load and create hang time.  Every load has pros and cons and the only stance issue for me is whether it takes away from swing efficiency or hang time.  I want max hang time and max efficiency and the stance should enhance that.

No physical swing mechanic is going to allow hitters to hit all pitch speeds at 100/100.  Foot down early, wide stance or small stride to no stride, nothing works to allow you to be 100/100 to all pitches, it is physically impossible.

No hitter has ever done it day in and day out without learning to guess or sit on pitches, at least with elite pitchers at 95 MPH and commanding 2 to 3 off speed pitches.

Design the swing and then…………….and only then………learn to apply that swing at 100/100.

My programs begin at Level 1, swing design, move up to pitch recognition and timing Level 2 which blends the most efficient swing with timing and then game approaches in Level 3, which designs game plans based on the most efficient swing applied to today’s pitcher.

Learn to swing, then learn to hunt pitches, then learn to hunt pitchers.

It is possible for a hitter to get his ‘foot down early’ but not get his ‘mind down’ early.  In other words, if a hitter is prepared to hit a pitch at 100 Effective Velocity-MPH up and inside (Curtis Granderson is a great example of someone capable of this), even though the foot is down early, he can still ‘act’ on the fastest pitch he will see.

This is equivalent to saying that Granderson has an approach that is 90/85 or some semblance of that.  90-95% of his max efficiency of the physical swing and about 75-85% of timing, when he is reacting to all pitches.  At times, I know he is sitting on a pitch, which changes the dynamic and the ratio.  At times, he will be closer to 100% on time with about 90-95% of his swing efficiency.

I don’t believe that any foot down method can be 100% efficient because it takes away from rhythm and FoMo.

The hitting instructors that prescribe these get ready early-type approaches, are saying that this method allows hitters to hit all speeds and that is completely false.  The hitter shortens the stride, gets the foot down early or whatever, this gets the hitter ready to hit the fastest pitch, but then adjust to the slowest off speed.

I reject that idea almost completely, at least at 100/100.  The key element in all this is to learn to ‘ACT’ rather than ‘REACT’.  That is the last word…………..no hitter in the history of the game, including Bonds, Trout etc…. can hit all pitch speeds at 100/100.

There is always give and take, but these type methods will produce 85/85 at best but 85/65 is closer to the truth.

In other words, the swing efficiency is compromised as well as the timing taking its toll on the exit velocity.  This results in the top exit speed dropping as well as the average exit speed dropping significantly.

Neither Trout or Bonds use a foot down method, I am not implying that but I am stating that no method will allow a hitter to hit all pitches at or even near 100/100, while reacting after recognizing the pitch when pitchers are Effective Velocity efficient.

They both incorporate a stride and swing method, Bonds a tap load and Trout a load and hang method, but both stride to hit.  Both also require pitchers to cooperate and throw slower fastballs too.

With that said, there are ways to blend certain approaches so hitters can cover multiple pitch speeds.  I have not published this Level 3 Time Training info but many MLB pitchers create Effective Velocity crossovers  or ie…..FB 95 but located where the Effective Velocity is 90…………the slider at 86 is located close to Effective Velocity 90-MPH so the pitcher is throwing two pitches with the same EV with different radar speeds and in most cases, is not aware.

This gives the hitter (and the pitcher) the illusion that he is covering 95 and 86 but in reality, he is only covering 90-MPH Effective Velocity.

One hitting approach also allows hitters to sit on FB and adjust to obvious off speed pitches, even 20 MPH apart.  However, this requires a bit of help from the pitcher to throw the off speed with the hump that shows itself to the hitter early enough to react to.  When pitches are in a tunnel, hitting pitches hard with big speed differentials goes away to a large degree.

You can find more information from Perry Husband and his Effective Velocity system at the following locations: