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Answering Baseball Stride Drills Reader Question: “How Important Is Forward Momentum I Know We Must Go Forward But Does It Matter If Stride Is Big Or Small?”

“…Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She  went for a walk in the forest.  Pretty soon, she came upon a house.  She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.  At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge.  Goldilocks was hungry.  She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

“This porridge is too hot!’ she exclaimed.  So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.  ‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said.  So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.  ‘Ahhh, this porridge is just right,’ she said happily and she ate it all up…”

More in a bit on how Goldilocks and the Three Bears relates to baseball stride drills, but first…

In the following post, we’re addressing the following concerns regarding baseball stride drills (also works for softball):

  • Stride direction and amount,
  • Stride type (experimenting with the ‘Float’),
  • Head movement from stride, and
  • Controlling center mass in stride.

Before getting into the how to baseball stride drills guide, I want to preface that the PURPOSE of a stride shouldn’t be power.  CLICK HERE for a Zepp swing experiment that may confirm this.  If it’s power you seek, then I’d advise looking at the Spring Loaded category.  What purpose does a stride serve?  A stride is for timing and initiating directional force.  CLICK HERE for this post on that.

Let’s get started…

 

Baseball Stride Drills Direction & Amount

Watch this video from Chris Welch at ZenoLink.  Using data and science, he’s found reasonable markers in guiding baseball stride drills

 

Here are highlights from baseball stride drills video above:Baseball Stride Drills: Stepping in Bucket Drill Using Bands

  • Stride length should be about 3.75-times hip width (hip-center-to-hip-center)*,
  • At landing, stride direction is to be closed about 10-degrees (straight forward toward pitcher is zero-degrees), and
  • Stride landing foot position to be about 65-degrees open (pointing perpendicular to home plate is zero-degrees, and straight at pitcher is 90-degrees).

(*Denotes 3.75-times hip-center-to-hip-center is length of stride measured from back foot to stride landing.  NOT the measurement of the stride itself.)

Chris says in the video that if a hitter is under or over striding, then they’re hampering body’s ability to create torque.  Stride landing MUST align ball of the foot with ball of the foot.

CLICK HERE for a post I did on how to fix “stepping in the bucket” using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT).  With the image to the right, it’s another one of my baseball stride drills using colored bands to fix stepping in bucket or crashing the plate.  If the hitter is crashing too much with their stride, I get them to feel stepping out, and the reverse is true if they’re stepping out.  I use variance to get them in the middle (blue band).

…Goldilocks Golden Rule. 

 

Stride Type (‘Experimenting with the Float’)

For most intensive purposes, there are 3 stride types:

  • Leg kick – medium (Mike Trout) or large (Josh Donaldson),
  • Slide step – most Big League hitters use this.  Aaron Judge, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, and Andrew McCutchen just to name a few.
  • Toe-tap – I recommend this for my younger hitters. Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, and Victor Martinez employ this.

Of course, there are variations to these, but these are the three broad categories of stride types.  I call the stride the ‘float’ and ‘fall’.  The ‘float’ is a momentary shifting of weight back towards the catcher before falling forward.  Matt Nokes calls this the ‘Ride’ and ‘Stride’.  Some hitting coaches don’t like this idea, but the reality is this is human movement.  The Chinese have been practicing exactly this move in Tai Chi for thousands of years…in stepping to my right, I have to make a brief weight shift to the left first.  CLICK HERE for a post analyzing this dynamic move.

I included a lot of video examples (CLICK HERE) of MLB hitters using these different stride types to help guide your baseball stride drills. In that post I concluded with this:

“When it comes to [baseball stride drills], Forward Momentum is the objective.  How we get our hitters there doesn’t really matter.  Just give them examples of how to accomplish more FoMo, and allow them to tinker and test until they find something they’re comfortable with doing.”

…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

 

Head Movement from Stride

There’s been few online Hitting Guru #57’s saying we want minimal to zero head movement when hitting.  They claim, the more the head moves, the less your eyes see the ball.  And they point to Barry Bonds as their champion.  On paper, this conclusion looks great, and with Bonds as their poster child seems argument seems pretty reasonable.

However, what science says and what the top 50 hitters in the Major Leagues are doing reveals something completely different.  The opposite actually.  Listen, I agree minimal to zero head movement when hitter’s stride foot lands.  And if baseball stride drills are done correctly, this should be a natural result.  But I don’t agree with minimal to zero head movement GETTING TO stride landing – BEFORE the turn starts.

In this post titled, Softball Hitting Tips For Kids: Why Late Head Movement Fails & Early Head Movement Succeeds, we discuss:

  • The Myth of ‘keeping the head still’,
  • Proprioception & dynamic movement,
  • First baseman stretching to receive a throw, and
  • Watching TV upside down.

The biggest bomb NUKING minimal to zero head movement argument, is this 2013 article by Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs.com titled, Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012.  Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraph’s batting component of WAR (this is a big deal metric).

He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season, in which each player hit a home-run.  Farnsworth says the main complaint coaches have with early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true, however during the stride the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  In the Head Movement piece of the article, Farnsworth concludes:

“Next to no relationship here.  I think this one can be considered dead, simply based on the fact that all of them moved forward to some degree.”

Did you catch that?! Farnsworth revealed in his research of top-50 hitters in 2012, that ALL moved their head forward to some degree.  You see, head movement is inevitable in ALL dynamic movement.  Early is okay, late is not.   Don’t sit there and point to hitting outliers like Barry Bonds, and tell me the top-50 hitters of 2012 all had it wrong.  It was true then as it is now.

Besides, did you know fresh out of the box, humans come with “video stabilizer” eye software?  Ask an ophthalmologist.  In addition, your knees, ankles (Achilles tendon), and hip joints act as shock absorbers too.  If we start our hitters in an athletic position, and most importantly, they land in one, then the hitter will be fully optimized for minimizing the ball “speeding up”.

If you’re still skeptical, then check out this post titled, Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum.  We discuss:

  • Balance without thinking,
  • Debunking a common objection & a study, AND
  • Perfect swing examples.

Not too much, not too little, just right…Goldilocks Golden Rule.

And last but not least…

 

Controlling Center of Mass in the Stride

Center of Mass (COM) in the human body is located at the belly button.  This was established in the womb.  The umbilical cord is the center of an unborn child’s universe.  I say this to demonstrate the importance of COM in controlling human movement.

Now, we don’t want baseball stride drills to promote too large or too small of a stride.  Remember? Goldilocks Golden Rule.  Chris Welch from Zenolink said the stride should be about 3.75 times hip-center-to-hip-center, and aligned are back ball of the foot to front ball of the foot at stride landing.  How do we teach this though?  In this post I received the following question from one of my readers…

One specific issue I see in a lot of my players is timing and getting over the front knee too far at contact. What are some good tee drills for staying back and any idea how I can get them to feel it when done correctly.”

In the post titled, Discover Science Of Successful Learning Secret To Fix Lunging (or any swing flaw for that matter!), as it relates to controlling the COM of our hitters, we discuss:

  • Reader question about lunging,
  • “Bean Bag” study from Make It Stick book,
  • WHY we separate PROCESS from PERFORMANCE with hitters learning something new,
  • How it takes time to change ineffective movement momentum into effective, and…
  • Training 4-5 days per week, for AT LEAST 5-mins each day.

And remember the …Goldilocks Golden Rule.

Tim Tebow Hitting Analysis: Get To The Big Leagues Without Playing College Or Pro Baseball?

Before we get to the Tim Tebow hitting analysis…

I wanted to take you BACK TO THE FUTURE!!

We all know the quote by Ted Williams that hitting a baseball is one of the single most difficult things to do in sports.  FP Softball ladies included.

Do you remember Michael Jordan hitting a double in an April 1994 MLB exhibition game…?

Arguably the best athlete ever, summarized by the Chicago Tribune that:

“…he was quitting because he couldn’t develop at the rate he wanted due to complications caused by the baseball strike”.

Or how about one of the best cricket players in the world, Kieran Powell, trying to make it to the Big Leagues…?

Did you hear him say that the hardest thing in baseball, “is to keep the bat on plane” 😉

Or how about Shaq O’Neal’s Versus show, where he took on Albert Pujols in a Home Run Derby for charity…?

We know Jordan retired permanently from baseball in 1995…

Shaq couldn’t even beat Pujols in a home-run derby where he was handicapped with a Little League distance home run fence

…and time will tell if Powell’s determination to be a Big Leaguer will continue.

Now we have another high profile athlete jumping into the quest for the Big Leagues, but this time a football player.

The NY Mets just signed him to a Minor League deal (CLICK HERE for this Cut4 article).

Tim Tebow Hitting Analysis

I’ll say, Tim Tebow has a pretty good finish. Must be from his golf game 😉 Photo courtesy: USAToday.com

In the above Tim Tebow hitting analysis video,

  • Using recent August 2016 MLB tryout footage, I compare Tim Tebow’s swing to Victor Martinez,
  • Analyze what Tebow’s swing has going for him, and
  • Discuss what he MUST change in order to be successful in baseball…

Here’s a quick rundown from the Tim Tebow hitting analysis…

PAT (‘Pat’ on the back):

  • Athletic Position – triple flexion at the hip, knee, and ankle.
  • Head Position at Impact – no sign of breaking the One-Joint Rule.
  • Knee Action – gets and stays shorter at landing and through the swing, definitely can get under the ball.

 

POP (‘Pop’ in the mouth – constructive criticism):

  • Limited forward momentum for such a big body – too much muscle use.
  • Abbreviated barrel path – he gets decent extension post-impact, but he’s too short to the ball. This may hurt him the most.
  • Catapult Loading System (CLS) – minimal showing numbers to pitcher, downhill shoulder angle, and hiding hands.

Forward Momentum: Tinker & Test Baseball Batting Techniques

Baseball Batting Techniques: Dustin Pedroia and Forward Momentum

Dustin Pedroia, the King of FoMo. Photo courtesy: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In this baseball batting techniques post, we’ll talk about how elite MLB sluggers employ Forward Momentum (FoMo for short).

I’m going to answer the following questions from my readers:

  1. Does a hitter transfer all their weight to the front leg at some point in the swing?
  2. Does FoMo stride need to be big or small?
  3. Does the back foot “follow” the front with FoMo?
  4. Can a wide no-stride hitter utilize Forward Momentum?
  5. Are FoMo hitters more vulnerable to off speed and breaking stuff?

Keep in mind, forward momentum is the objective, and in this baseball batting techniques post, I’ll show different elite hitter examples of forward momentum.  The important thing isn’t what you use to get Forward Momentum, it’s the Forward Momentum itself.

Let’s get to it…

 

Does a hitter transfer all their weight to the front leg at some point in the swing?

Yes.  With elite sluggers, it’s rare you don’t find them shifting their weight from back to forward.  We typically see one of a few baseball batting techniques associated with FoMo: 1) a “Float”, or a slight weight shift back, then 2) a “Free Fall” forward.

And FYI during the Float, yes it’s okay for the back knee to drift over the foot, and NOT have to unnaturally be ‘shoved’ inside it.

You’ll see the following hitters, who try and start with the back knee inside the back foot (Jose Bautista), will accidently float the knee back out before falling forward.

The dead give away of elite hitters shifting their weight is to look at the weight distribution at impact.  You’ll see a weight-free back leg at the start of the turning pelvis…

Andrew “Cutch” McCutchen

Troy “Tulo” Tulowitzki

Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista

Does FoMo stride need to be big or small?

Whatever the hitter is comfortable with.  In other words, don’t be so specific in teaching certain Forward Momentum baseball hitting techniques.  Remember, the objective is that they’re employing Forward Momentum.  We don’t really care how they get there.

Feel free to recommend your hitters tinker with and test the following FOUR stride types:

Josh “The Bringer of Rain” Donaldson (BIG Leg Kick)

Dustin “Laser Show” Pedroia (MEDIUM Leg Kick)

Robinson “Mercedes” Cano (SMALL Leg Kick/Slide Step)

Victor Martinez (Toe Tap)

Does the back foot “follow” the front with FoMo?

It doesn’t have to, but I like it too.  If a hitter gets too wide with the stride, and the back foot isn’t allowed to follow, then the hitter will have a challenge getting a tight back knee angle, which is responsible for a better ball launch angle.  CLICK HERE for the back knee angle Zepp experiment.

Roberto “The Great One” Clemente (watch at the 0:33 mark and beyond)

Mike “Millville Meteor” Trout

Bryce “Bam Bam” Harper

CLICK HERE for one of my favorite baseball batting techniques, the Back Foot Variance Drill.

Can a wide no-stride hitter utilize Forward Momentum?

Here are my questions for a coach who would ask this about baseball batting techniques:

  • “Why are you hooked on being so wide with the feet at the start, and/or not allowing a stride?…”
  • “Is it about minimizing head movement?”
  • “Is it cutting down on moving parts?”
  • “Is it a timing thing?”

Coaches on Facebook have told me, the stride is too hard to teach, or for a young hitter to get.  Apparently this poison was shared during a speech at the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) conference.

I’m not convinced, especially when 3-year-old Chinese females are learning some of the most complex human movements in Gymnastics.

Furthermore,

Look to other explosive athletes that almost NEVER start wide with their feet:

  • Pitchers,
  • Olympic Divers,
  • Olympic Throwers,
  • Soccer Players,
  • Quarterbacks, Linebackers, and Deep Backs…

Sometimes, it’s not about choosing particular baseball batting techniques.  It’s a mindset.  I always stress to my hitters, get athletic from the start, and be athletic when you land, so you can transfer the max amount of energy from your body, into the barrel, then to the ball.

About head movement, it’s going to happen. CLICK HERE for a compelling baseball batting techniques analysis by Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs.com, that demystifies that elite hitters are keeping their head still (Read under “Keep Your Head Still” section).

If it’s about timing, then it’s the timing that must be adjusted.  There are only two timing elements:

  1. When the hitter starts their swing, and
  2. How long they ‘Float’.

A hitter can change one or the other, or both.  It’s up to them.

Those are the adjustments, it’s not a “stride issue”.  CLICK HERE for my favorite baseball batting techniques for timing.

Even big guys use Forward Momentum.  It just looks more subtle…coming in the form of a ‘sliding’ of the pelvis (Cruz and Pujols are great examples of this below)…

Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera

Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz

Albert “The Machine” Pujols

 

Are FoMo hitters more vulnerable to off speed and breaking stuff?

This is common issue #2 that coaches have with Forward Momentum, a hitter cannot adjust to breaking or off-speed stuff.

I invite you to look at the following sluggers who use FoMo, and their stats don’t reveal they had trouble adjusting to off speed and breaking stuff:

All these hitters had exceptional power, high averages, low strikeouts, and high walks compared to today’s hitters.

Last but certainly not least…

David “Big Papi” Ortiz

And how about Big Papi?  Why wouldn’t we mention him, right?! He just hit his 500th career homer!  He starts and finishes in the same spot, but there’s a whole lot of FoMo going on in-between:

 

In Conclusion

When it comes to baseball batting techniques, Forward Momentum is the objective.  How we get our hitters there doesn’t really matter.  Just give them examples of how to accomplish more FoMo, and allow them to tinker and test until they find something they’re comfortable with doing.

CLICK HERE to Enter for a chance to Win one free account access to The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power online video course (a $77 value).  You have until 12:00pm PST today to enter.  To better your chances of winning, you can spread the word on social media.  I’ll be picking the winner Monday, September 21st, and reaching out via email.  Good luck! 😀

Contest UPDATE: this contest is now closed, and Jon Ball was our winner!

Perfect Swing Hacking With Forward Momentum: Mike Trout

Note the gentleman in the stands with the hat and Mariners shirt on (red arrow) as Mike Trout’s head moves forward to landing. Photo courtesy: YouTube user: PastTimeAthletics.com

The most common objection I hear from my hitters is that…

Their coaches are dumping on them for using forward momentum.

Because – they say – there’s too much head movement!

These coaches keep saying the perfect swing shouldn’t have head movement.

In a way, they’re right!

But there’s a bit of confusion as to when head movement is okay…and not okay.

You see, the perfect swing, has head movement.  ALL dynamic movement does.  Did you know our head bobs up and down when we walk and run?  Try watching television upside down and you’ll see it clear as day.

But it’s the timing of head movement that matters.

In this post, we’re going over:

  • Balance without thinking,
  • Debunking a common objection & a study, AND
  • Perfect swing examples…

 

Balance Without Thinking

Proprioception.  I know it’s a big ugly word.  But it has A LOT to do with the perfect swing.  At least when we talk about head movement.

Experiencing proprioception is easier than saying the word itself!

Try this…

Stand up, lift one leg, and close your eyes…

You feel your standing ankle and foot wobbling to balance your body?

This balance happens without you having to think about it.  It’s an unconscious process, like breathing.

Here’s how balance without thinking breaks down when looking at the perfect swing…

  • Scenario #1 The Sit Back Hitter – during stride, keep 60% of weight on BACK leg, being soft with the landing foot like you’re stepping on unbroken eggshells.
  • Scenario #2 The Forward Momentum Hitter – during stride, commit 60% of body weight to FRONT leg at landing, thereby breaking the “eggshells” in scenario #1.

Let’s apply proprioception to where the two scenarios left off above…

In Scenario #1, to bring the body back to balance, the brain shifts the weight forward during the Final Turn.  In other words, the heads moves later.

In scenario #2, to restore balance, the brain shifts the weight back during the Final Turn.  Because of the transfer of linear into angular momentum, the head will become the center axis of rotation along with the spine.

So we sacrifice head movement early, for little to no head movement later.

Do an experiment with the two scenarios above.  Record your swing using the Coaches Eye or Ubersense app.  Try and swing as hard as you can under complete control.  And note the change in head position between the two scenarios.

In a perfect swing, you’re going to have head movement.  But the question is, when do you want it?  BEFORE or DURING the Final Turn?

Debunking a Common Objection & a Study

CLICK HERE for a great FanGraphs study that Dan Farnsworth did on June 17, 2013 titled “Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012”.

Scroll down a ways and start reading under the section: “Keep Your Head Still”.

Farnsworth compiled a list of the top 50 hitters from the 2012 season according to Fangraphs’ Batting component of WAR.  He looked at side views of each of these hitters from highlights of the 2012 season in which each player hit a homerun.  You can read the details of how he compiled his measurements in his post.

As Farnsworth says, the main complaint coaches have with Forward Momentum, or early head movement, is that moving the head forward “speeds up the ball”.  This may be true…

But during the stride, the hitter hasn’t made a definitive decision to swing yet.  So again, if you know head movement is inevitable during dynamic movement, then when do you want it to happen?  BEFORE or DURING the Final Turn?

Does a quarterback “rolling out” to throw to a fast moving receiver have head movement?  Yes, until his plant leg hits the ground before throwing.  Does a soccer player have head movement quickly dribbling the ball down the field to get closer to the goal, weaving in and out of defenders?  Yes, until their plant foot hits the ground to kick.  I can go on and one with Olympic Throwers and Shot Putters!

Really think about the answer to that question.

 

Perfect Swing Examples…

When you watch the following videos, pick out someone or something in the stands behind the hitter to use as a frame of reference in watching for head movement. The following examples were the TOP-5 OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage) hitters in 2014:

1. Victor Martinez

2. Jose Abreu

3. Andrew McCutchen

4. Giancarlo Stanton

5. Mike Trout

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head movement during stride

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head position at stride forward. Camera angle is different, but watch videos below and note how V-Mart’s head doesn’t move with the front foot. Pictures courtesy: PastimeAthletics.com

Hint, hint…it has to do with balance!  This is a bonus to our Why Your Balance Fails series on balance.  I will be discussing:

  • The balance of pyramids,
  • The lateral movement of dancers, and
  • Mike Trout Slow-motion perfect balance during the stride…

 

The Balance of Pyramids

Pyramids have a capstone that is centered over the base.

Pyramid

In baseball, good balance occurs when the head is centered between the feet.

 

The Lateral [to the side] Movement of Dancers

I asked a woman who was a modern dancer for several decades who is making a film on movement,

What is the proper way to move to the side?”

Her response was,

The body has to move with the foot.

 

Mike Trout Perfect Balance During the Stride

Hitting requires balance…

But the stride requires dynamic balance, or balance while in motion.

A couple things I want to point out in the following slow motion swing of Mike Trout…notice how:

  • Mike Trout’s leg moves forward, so that the head is centered between the feet during the stride,
  • His body moves with his front foot, and 
  • Efficient his swing looks….

To Contrast and Compare, here is Victor Martinez. An extremely successful hitter, with a gift of incredible hand-eye coordination and strength…

Let’s compare them both at the moment the front foot touches the ground:

  • Trout- Head between the feet.
  • Martinez- Head closer to the back foot.
  • Trout-Shoulders angled down.
  • Martinez-Shoulders angled up (or level).

However, they both reach perfect position at the moment the bat hits the ball. And they both have the same backward lean with the head in line with the front leg…

Who has better dynamic balance?

Mike Trout.  To move more like him, the cue is move the body with the foot”.

(Note from Joey Myers: the camera angles are a little goofy, but I urge you to look at other “chest view” video of Victor Martinez, and you’ll see the same result.  Like Dr. Stanley said, he’s got SUPER hand-eye coordination!  BUT here’s the thing, he doesn’t angle his shoulders down, show his numbers to the pitcher or hide his hands as well as Mike Trout does before landing.  And as a result, his front shoulder has a tendency to “peel out”.  Adding these ingredients into V-Mart’s swing could have won him the 2014 AL MVP ;-))

In case you missed Parts 1-3 of the Why Your Balance Fails series, then here they are:

Baseball Training: 3 Easy Steps To More Barrel Time On Pitch Plane (Dylan’s Case Study)

 

Baseball Training VIDEO: #1 Hitting Mistake To Boosting BABIP [Case Study]

One of my online lessons Dylan from South Florida. Notice the change in front knee bend at landing (swings are synced).

I’ve heard during baseball training a thousand times, “Be short to the ball!”  If I put a nickel away every time I heard that, then I’d have my 3 old son’s first year at Stanford saved up.  A barrel on pitch plane longer means:

  • Higher BABIP (or Batting Average on Balls In Play), AND
  • Cutting down on strikeouts.

In this baseball training video, we’re going to lengthen barrel time on pitch plane by tweaking these THREE things:

  • Importance of landing gear (setting the stage),
  • When does the barrel accelerate? (enter pitch plane early), AND
  • Timing of Power-V (stay on pitch plane)…

Difference in pitch plane between baseball and fastpitch softball?  Yep!  Pitch plane is an imaginary line from the pitcher’s release point to the catcher’s glove.  In baseball, the pitcher’s release point is raised 10 inches (by regulation).  In fast-pitch, a pitcher’s release point is at about the pitcher’s hip, while standing on flat ground.  So there’s not as distinct a downward pitch plane in fast-pitch softball, as there is in baseball.

 

Importance of Landing Gear (setting the stage)

Baseball Training: Vlad Guerrero Fight Position (landing)

Vlad Guerrero (.316 career BABIP) landing with bent front knee. Photo courtesy: Past Time Athletics (YouTube)

Foot work is pretty high on my action item list in sitting down with a new hitter.  Initial baseball training boils down to getting on the plane of the pitch by bending the knees:

  • Fight Position – at landing front knee should be bent and stacked over the ankle.
  • Final Turn – front leg straightens while back leg bends to about 90-105 degrees.

Consider something Homer Kelly said about this in his book The Golfing Machine:

“KNEE ACTION – Knee Action is classified on the basis of (1) combinations of bent and straight conditions and (2) the Reference Points selected at which these combinations occur.  The combination and the Reference Points selected will determine the slanting of the Hips during the Pivot.  The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

 

When Does the Barrel Accelerate? (enter pitch plane early)

Baseball Training: Victor Martinez getting on pitch plane early

Victor Martinez (.316 career BABIP) quick on the pitch plane…check out how close his barrel is to catcher’s glove! Photo courtesy: ExplosiveBaseballSwing.com

“Be short to the ball!” is one of those cues that gets misinterpreted.  Most baseball training pro instructors, players, and coaches preach being short to the ball.  But what they should be saying is be quick to the pitch plane with the barrel.  Because of the following natural factors…

  1. Gravitational Forces,
  2. Conservation of Angular Momentum,
  3. Centripetal Forces (center-seeking) AND Centrifugal Forces (center-fleeing)…

…A barrel CANNOT efficiently accelerate, being pushed by the hands to a moving ball.  Watch/read these other Hitting Performance Lab posts for WHY:

 

Timing of Power-V (stay on pitch plane)

Baseball Training: Troy Tulowitzki Power-V

Troy Tulowitzki (.320 career BABIP) in the Power-V well passed contact. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

The last baseball training piece to boosting BABIP and reduce strikeouts is to keep the barrel on pitch plane.  “Power-V” is another misinterpreted coaching cue.  Hitters are sometimes told to be at extension with both arms at impact.  This is false.  The Power-V should be achieved 3-9 inches passed impact, depending on pitch location and speed. This ensures maximum inertial force transferred from body to barrel to ball.

The bottom line?

The #1 baseball training MISTAKE to increasing BABIP and cutting down on strikeouts is to “be short to the ball”.  What you want the hitter to do is:

  • Set plane early by landing with a bent front knee,
  • Maintain plane during Final Turn by straightening front knee and bending back one,
  • Be quick with barrel to pitch plane, and
  • Stay on plane by getting to Power-V passed impact.

#1 Youth Baseball Swing Fix To Deflating Bat Speed

 

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

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

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

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

 

What is Bat Drag?

#1 Youth Baseball Swing Fix To Deflating Bat Speed

Notice the difference in Charles’s barrel angle.

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

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

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

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

Here’s how I responded…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s going on here?

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

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

Why?

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

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

One Way to Fix Bat Drag

Youth Baseball ALERT: Stop Arm Barring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Jones: TWO Actionable Tactics To Decrease Strikeouts

 

Adam Jones: High K%? Do These 2 Things...

Adam Jones “stay through” photo courtesy: MLB.com

I wanted to compare two hitters who have reversed walk and strikeout percentages.  Adam Jones and Victor Martinez.  Can efficient OR inefficient mechanics have an effect on a hitter’s strikeout rate?  In this post we’ll:

  • Compare & contrast key offensive statistics,
  • Actionable tactic #1: how low can you go?
  • Actionable tactic #2: bringing sexy back…

The clip I used of Adam Jones is him hitting an outside 90-mph fastball to center-field.  According to FanGraphs.com Jones is 6’3″, 225 pounds.  A BEAST!  Whereas Victor Martinez is hitting an inside 93-mph fastball to right-center-field.  FanGraphs.com lists V-Mart at 6’2″, 210 pounds.

 

Compare & Contrast Key Offensive Statistics

In this article I used Michael Brantley’s example, of how to boost Batting Average, or Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP).  Although Adam Jones is a BEAST and does a lot right statistically speaking, there’s two mechanical elements that may lend themselves to improvement.  In the following stat table I want to pay particular attention to:Adam Jones v. Victor Martinez

  1. How virtually non-existent Adam Jones’s walk percentage is,
  2. How Jones’s Strikeout% fairs to V-Mart and the League Average, and
  3. The difference between both hitters’ Ground-ball% (GB%).

I’m using Victor Martinez’s mechanics as a model for Adam Jones.  Why?  When you want to reduce strikeouts, look to the guy who is the best in the game.  Victor Martinez has hit 30 homers, as of this writing, and only struck-out a “lean” 39 times…ALL season.  There are two key mechanical differences that I feel may be contributing to these numbers…

 

Actionable Tactic #1: How Low Can You Go?

Victor Martinez on pitch plane

Victor Martinez pitch plane photo courtesy: MLB.com

In baseball, the mound lifts a pitcher’s release point by 10-inches.  On top of that, the pitcher has to throw the ball to a squatting catcher.  To increase margin for error, and cut down on strikeouts, a hitter’s body has to get low on the pitch plane early.  THEN, stay on the pitch plane at least six to twelve inches passed impact.  In other words, get shorter, and stay shorter.

Getting low isn’t as important with fast-pitch softball.  The pitcher’s release point (mid thigh to hip) is almost on line with the catcher’s glove.  The pitching rubber will remain on flat ground and same distance from the plate, so hitters will experience less pitch plane arc at the higher levels.

As you see in the video, Adam Jones gets low but doesn’t stay low on the pitch plane like Victor Martinez does.  V-Mart starts low, glides forward, then stays low through his Final Turn.  This mechanical inefficiency – of Adam Jones – may contribute to his higher than average GB%, Strikeout%, and virtually non-existent Walk%.

 

Actionable Tactic #2: Bringing Sexy Back

Adam Jones taller Fight Position

Adam Jones “taller” Fight Position photo courtesy: MLB.com

The Catapult Loading System NEEDS the following three ingredients, up to the Final Turn…hitter:

  1. Shows numbers (their back) to pitcher,
  2. Hides hands from pitcher, and
  3. Has a slight down shoulder angle.

These three ingredients charge the springy fascial connective tissue in the body.

Victor Martinez shows his numbers longer than Adam Jones does.  I showed in this Tony Gwynn video that Gwynn keyed in on keeping his front shoulder in, which allowed him to stay on the ball longer.  Keeping the “spring” loaded longer may explain the difference in the GB% above.  Jones starts on plane, but finishes off (he “stands” up).

The key to efficient mechanics on a downward pitch plane is to get low.  Evidenced in the video, also showing the hitter’s numbers longer can have a reducing effect on higher than average strikeout and ground-ball percentages.