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Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Zepp Swing Experiment: Here’s a Quick Way to Fix a Flat Bat at Landing (and WHY!) 

 

 

Fundamental Baseball Question: How Does a Flat Bat at Landing Effect Bat Speed, Ball Exit Speed, & Time To Impact?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app and Pocket Radar Ball Coach, I wanted to employ the Scientific Method to analyze how a hitter’s “Flat Bat at Landing”, or toe touch,  adds or takes away from key swing performance metrics including Bat Speed at Impact, Time To Impact, Attack Angle, and Ball Exit Speeds.

Let me define what I mean by ‘Flat Barrel’ versus a ‘Vertical Barrel’…

  • A ‘Flat Barrel’ at landing is anything less than a 30-degree angle (like Cargo in the above video as an example),
  • A ‘Vertical Barrel’ at landing is anything more than a 30-degree angle.

Now that we’ve defined the parameters, let’s look at the…

 

Background Research

Fundamental Baseball: 'Flat Bat' Swing Experiment

Notice where the “dot” is drawn on the two static images left side, and where it’s drawn on the two dynamic images right side. Photo courtesy: GymSmartsCommunity.com

My background research is more experiential, rather than academic.

I have hitters do a mini-experiment by holding the bat in their bottom hand, laid flat (parallel to ground) over their back shoulder.  And then ask them to hold the bat, using the same hand, but vertical.  I then ask them which bat position is heavier/lighter?  Of course they say the vertical bat is lighter.  I then ask WHY?  And I get a few different answers…

What is the fundamental baseball answer?  Because we’re not adding or taking weight away from the bat by doing this…

It has to do with center of mass of the bat in relation to the hitter’s.  A ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ pushes its center of mass behind the hitter’s. A human’s center of mass is generally around the belly button.  To find the bat’s center of mass you can balance it between your thumb and forefinger.

I’ve also observed when adjusting a hitter’s ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ to a more ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’, there’s a bump in Ball Exit Speed, which I measure at the beginning (before instruction is given) and end of a hitting lesson.  My hitter’s also share they feel quicker to impact, have a little more ‘pop’, and that it’s easier getting the ball in the air.

It’s also interesting to note that I see quite a bit of early barring of the front arm when the hitter lands with a flat barrel.  I also see the hitter “wrapping the bat” around their head.  In my opinion this is a compensation to manipulate the shifted center mass of the bat from behind the hitter.

CLICK HERE to watch this fundamental baseball video on how to fix a ‘Flat Bat at Impact’.

 

Hypothesis

Fundamental Baseball Swing Experiment: Carlos Gonzalez & Cody Bellinger Illustrating Flat versus Vertical Bat at Landing

Look at the difference in bat angle at landing between Carlos Gonzalez (left) – “Flat” and Cody Bellinger (right) – “Vertical”. Just because a Big Leaguer does it doesn’t mean it’s effective or optimized. Oftentimes they succeed despite ineffective mechanics. Photos courtesy: MLB.com

In support of the Background Research above, I’m hallucinating that we’ll see a bump in Bat and Ball Exit Speeds, in addition to a reduction in Time To Impact.  I also think that we’ll see a more positive move in the barrel’s Attack Angle.

 

Flat Versus Vertical Bat at Landing Experiment

Equipment Used:

Fundamental Baseball Experiment Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers to keep starting footwork the same = bat length…I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent.  One was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length ahead of the back marker.
  • Backspin tee was set one baseball’s length behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh
  • We stayed as consistent as we could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I broke each swing down into a couple steps: 1) Get to landing, 2) Pause for 2-secs, and 3) Swing.  The reason for this was to control the bat either flat or vertical at landing.
  • The two tests in the swing experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “warm up” factors.
  • The objective of ‘Front Facing Swings’ was to start the ‘belt buckle’ pointing at the pitcher, and to minimize pelvic movement.
  • Fundamental baseball Experiment Day-1 on 7/5 we completed 150 total swings (75 ‘Flat Barrel at Landing’ & 75 ‘Vertical Barrel at Landing’).  Experiment Day-2 on 7/10 we completed 50 swings (25 ‘Flat Bat at Landing’ & 25 ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’).
  • We had to break the 200 total swings into two days, with the second day coming 1 week later, because of time constraints.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App & Ball Exit Speed Readings):

‘Flat Bat Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Fundamental Baseball: Swing Experiment

Flat Barrel at Landing swing averages of the averages: 76-MPH Bat Speed at Impact, 26.5-MPH Hand Speed Max, .209 Time To Impact, -32* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 8.5* Attack Angle.

‘Vertical Barrel Swings’ Days 1 & 2 side by side…

Fundamental Baseball: Swing Experiment

Vertical Barrel at Landing swing averages of the averages: 76-MPH Bat Speed at Impact, 27-MPH Hand Speed Max, .206 Time To Impact, 30.5* Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, & 8.5* Attack Angle.

CLICK HERE for the Ball Exit Speed Google document.  The findings?

  •  Flat Barrel at Landing AVERAGE Ball Exit Speed = 79.01-MPH
  • Vertical Barrel at Landing AVERAGE Ball Exit Speed = 81.08-MPH
  • Difference = 2.01-MPH Ball Exit Speed bump with more Vertical Barrel at Landing

 

Data Analysis & Fundamental Baseball Conclusion

Zepp data analysis comparing the averages of averages:

  • We saw NO change to Bat Speed at Impact between the two swings,
  • We saw a 0.5-MPH boost to Hand Speed Max when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw a .003 second reduction in Time To Impact when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw a +1.5-degree increase to Bat Vertical Angle at Impact when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’,
  • We saw NO change to the Attack Angle between the two swings, and
  • We saw a 2.01-MPH increase in Ball Exit Speed when holding a ‘Vertical Bat at Landing’.

Based on the above Data Analysis it looks like my Hypothesis was proved right when it came to a boost in Hand Speed Max and Ball Exit Speed, and decrease in Time To Impact, but wrong when it came to Bat Speed at Impact and Attack Angle.  I think the increase in Ball Exit Speed can be attributed to the decrease in Time To Impact.

When we see ineffective movement at the Big League level, we have to understand that these high level hitters are succeeding despite ineffective movements, not because of them.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Question: How is Bat & Ball Exit Speed Effected by Bat Size?

 

Baseball Swing Tips: Mizuno Generation Bat Size Experiment

This was the model I used in the bat size experiment…

In this baseball swing tips experiment using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze what would happen to Bat Speed at Impact and Ball Exit Speed if I used a Mizuno Generation 33-inch, 30-ounce BBCOR versus a 34-inches, 31-ounces, same model.

 

Background Research

CLICK HERE for an article titled “The Physics of Baseball”.  Read under the subhead titled, “Swing speed vs. bat weight”.

The following information I received from a long time PocketRadar rep.  It’s what he does for a living.

In this baseball swing tips Mizuno Generation bat experiment, a good rule of thumb when looking at ball exit speed is:

A 1-mph of ball exit speed (BES) increase, adds 4-feet of distance to a batted ball (a 1:4 ratio).

So for instance, if an 9 year old hits the ball with 50-mph of ball exit speed, then they have the capability of hitting the ball 200-feet (50 X 4 = 200).

On the professional side of things, I’ve heard that scouts are actively looking for 95-mph+ ball exit speed in games because that hitter has the ability to hit the ball at least 380-feet.  That’s hitting the ball out down the lines, and to the gaps, at most ballparks.

It’s also interesting to note that you can add about 5-15-mph to ball exit speeds taken off a tee, to simulate what it would be in a game.  That extra 5-15-mph will depend on the pitcher’s velocity.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above baseball swing tips experiment research, I think swinging with the Mizuno Generation 34/31 will, on average, increase my ball exit speed.  I think that my bat speed will come down a bit using the 34/31 over the 33/30 because of the added weight and length.  Also, “trading up” a bat size will depend on how much forward momentum a hitter uses.  The less FoMo, the harder it will be to trade up.

 

Baseball Swing Tips Mizuno Generation Bat Size Experiment

Baseball Swing Mechanics Experiment: Zepp Baseball App

CLICK Image to Purchase Zepp Baseball App

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • A friend of mine, Juan Ortiz, took Ball Exit Speed gun readings while inputting into this Google Doc spreadsheet.
  • You’ll notice on the baseball swing tips experiment spreadsheet that there are missing numbers, these were radar gun mis-reads (where the radar gun lost coverage of the batted ball’s trajectory).  We eliminated ten mis-reads using the 33/30, and thirteen mis-reads using the 34/31.  We then adjusted the average swings in each test.  For instance, we eliminated 13 mis-reads using the 34/31, so spreadsheet added all swing ball exit speeds for that test, then divided by 87 total swings.
  • However, the Zepp app readings were all averaged over 100 total swings.
  • Dimple ball feedback markers were set at the bat’s length plus two baseballs
  • The two tests in the experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  “33/31 Mizuno bat swings” were letter ‘A’, and
    “34/31 Mizuno bat swings” were letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being warmed” up factors.
  • Now, we took readings with the Zepp app and with the Bushnell radar gun.  Please note, these aren’t an apples to apples comparison, so we’ll be looking at them in separate detail.

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App):

Baseball Swing Tips: Mizuno Generation Bat Size Experiment

Check out the little baseball swing tips experiment changes in average Bat Speed Impact & Time To Impact…

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • Zepp app findings – as you can see, there was an average increase of 1-mph  in Bat Speed at Impact using the 34/31 Mizuno Generation bat.
  • Zepp app findings – there was also average 0.057 sec drop in Time To Impact with the 34/31 Mizuno Gen. bat.
  • Bushnell BES radar gun findings (Google Doc) – there was an average Ball Exit Speed increase of 2-mph when using the 34/31 Mizuno Gen. bat.

Notes

  • I did not expect to see a major difference in Time To Impact like we did in the baseball swing tips bat size experiment.
  • I thought that average Bat Speed at Impact when using the 34/31 Mizuno Gen. bat was going to be less than the 33/30, but it actually increased by 1-mph!
  • In looking at the BES Google Doc spreadsheet, I topped out at 95-mph (twice) using the 33/30.  And topped out at 94-mph using the 34/31.  Btw, a week prior, one of my 12yo hitters wanted to see what “Coach Joey” could hit in ball exit speed.  And after about 5-6 swings, I hit 92-mph off the tee with wood.  Not tooting my own horn here, just interesting to see a ballpark difference between wood and the Mizuno Gen. BBCOR bats.  Also, I’m only 5’10” on a “good day”, and 165-pounds.  Add about 10-mph in a game, and I’m hitting 102-mph BES, which translates to 408-feet of batted ball distance.  My point is, you don’t have to be a big hitter to crush the ball B-)
  • What else is interesting in looking at the baseball swing tips experiment spreadsheet, that after about 75 total experiment swings, I started to consistently hit more 90+mph’s and find my highest BES readings.  Similar to how many pitches it takes a pitcher to actually “get warm”.  This is why we counter-balance the experiments now, to sidestep the “warm-up factor”.

The Bottom Line?

In this baseball swing tips experiment, using two different sized Mizuno Generation -3 BBCOR bats, we found that (for me), the 34/31 added 1-mph of Bat Speed at Impact and 2-mph to Ball Exit Speed, on average.  I was amazed to learn that using the bigger bat actually cut down on Time to Impact.  Some interesting findings and ones I hope others will test for themselves in the future.  My parents ask me the “bat size” question all the time.  So, by investing in a Bushnell radar gun or PocketRadar gun, you can gather some pretty convincing data as to which bat to use.

SwingAway Trainer: Pro Baseball Traveler

SwingAway Baseball Swing Trainer: How-To Build A Swing You Can Be Proud Of…

 

I’ve wanted to do a “how-to experiment” post for a long time.  But in the past, technology hadn’t quite caught up,

SwingAway Trainer: Pro Baseball Traveler

SwingAway Trainer: Pro Baseball Traveler

…and NOW it has!

Mark Twain once said:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

I want:

  • …To lay out the landscape, in this Baseball Swing Trainer post, about using the SwingAway for conducting hitting experiments,
  • …This article to empower you to take up arms with me, and turn conventional hitting wisdom on its stubborn little head, and
  • …To inspire you to use modern technology to build a swing we ALL can be proud of.

I’m embarrassed to share the following story…

I did my first hitting experiment in the sixth grade with a buddy, for a school project.

My friend and I ran an experiment to see if a wood or aluminum bat could hit the ball farther.

One day after school, we pitched to each other at the Little League diamond we played our games at.  We used two aluminum Easton baseball bats and a Ken Griffey Jr. signature Louisville Slugger woody.  One aluminum bat was 32-inches and 24-ounces, and the other was 31-inches and 23-ounces.  And I can’t remember what the woody measurements were, but it was comparable.

I think we might have hit about 50 balls with each bat (150 balls total), and get this…measured the distance with our feet! 😀 lol

Based on our results, guess which bat hit the ball the farthest?  Wood or aluminum?  The wood bat!!!  Waaa??

Well, it was only because we weren’t being very scientific with our scientific experiment.  One of the big reasons we didn’t get a good grade on the project was because we DID NOT isolate the variables

  • We threw LIVE batting practice to each other.  We should have used a baseball hitting trainer like a batting tee or SwingAway (wasn’t around at the time).
  • We both took turns hitting, and didn’t separate our individual batted ball distances.
  • We used different sized bats.
  • We measured using our own feet…I was a men’s 8/9 at the time, and my buddy was an 11. We should’ve used a rolling tape measure.
  • We only took a small data sample size. We should’ve hit 100 balls with the wood bat, and then 100 with aluminum.  AND we should have only used one of the aluminum bats (preferably the one closest in size and weight to the woody).  So 400 swings total (200 swings for me, 200 for my friend).  Then compared apples to apples.

Remember, failure is only a detour, not a dead end 😉

The good news is,

You don’t have to be a scientist to run a hitting experiment.

What follows is the exact formula I use now, to run my hitting experiments using the SwingAway baseball swing trainer.  My hopes is that you pick up arms, and join me in the fight…

 

The Definitive Guide to Conducting a Baseball Swing Trainer Experiment

Up until now, here are SIX hitting experiments I’ve run:

 

Equipment & Setup

You can read the full list at the above swing experiment links.  But here are a couple pieces of equipment that will have a drastic effect on bean counting and saving time doing the experiment itself…

Zepp Baseball App
Baseball Swing Trainer: Zepp Baseball App

Zepp Baseball App

Great tool for collecting data.  It’s not perfect, but all we need is an apples to apples comparison.  Unfortunately, the Zepp app DOES NOT allow you to separate experiment swings from recreational ones.  You have to delete ALL swings before doing an experiment, unless you want to do the bean counting yourself.

You’ll also need to create two email accounts with Zepp to separate the two experiment tests.  Zepp allows you to “Add a Hitter” in one account, but it doesn’t allow you to separate that data from other hitters or swings and average the data out.

SwingAway Baseball Swing Trainer

I just started using a SwingAway for my swing experiments.  I used to hit the ball off an ATEC Tuffy Batting Tee, but it was taking me 2 1/2 to 3 hours to run my experiments.  Fatigue could set in and skew the results.  Some experiments where you’re looking at ball flight (like Bent Back Knee experiment above) will most definitely need to be done off a batting tee.

Using the SwingAway baseball swing trainer took me only 1 1/2 hours!  NO need for:

  • Ball cleanup,
  • Ball setup, or
  • Waiting more than a few seconds for the ball to return to its stationary position.

This saved me a ton of time.  All you need is a 10 X 10 space to conduct your SwingAway baseball swing trainer experiment.

Baseball Swing Trainer Experiment Optimization Tips…

  • Limit Variables – The main objective of a baseball swing trainer hitting Experiment, is to isolate what you’re trying to test.  Like my sixth grade experiment from earlier, there were too many variables that we didn’t control.
  • Priming the Pump – I always start an experiment by warming up my body with a pre-practice routine, similar to this Dr. Stanley Beekman’s post.  You don’t have to do all included exercises, so pick about eight of them.  I’ll also take about 10-15 swings focusing on the specific mechanic I’m going to be testing that day.  For example, if I was testing showing the pitcher my numbers versus not, then I’d do 10-15 swings both ways, so 20-30 swings total before officially starting the experiment.  We prime the pump so nobody can see, “Well, your numbers sucked in the beginning because you weren’t warmed up.”
  • Counter-Balancing – The two tests in the experiment should be counterbalanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  Say “showing the numbers” was letter ‘A’, and “not showing the numbers” was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings are to be completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being warmed” up factors.
  • More Data Points – I take at least 100 swings for both tests in the experiment, so 200 swings total (not counting warm-up swings).  So, taking the “showing numbers” as an example, I’d take 100 swings showing my numbers, and then take another 100 swings not showing my numbers.  The Zepp App is a useful technology, but isn’t super accurate.  But the more data you collect, the closer to the “real” numbers you’ll get.
  • Break the Swing Apart – If you aren’t confident that you can repeat a specific mechanic consistently for 100 swings, then break the swing apart, like I talk about in this YouTube video.  I did this in the showing the numbers experiment above.
  • Collect Ball Flight Data (optional) – for some mechanics, like testing the back leg angle during the turn experiment, it’s critical to collect ball flight data on the Zepp app.  Zepp allows you to manually input where you hit the ball after each swing.  Testing the grip on the bat would be another example.  Also, adding Ball Exit Speed readings could enhance the baseball swing trainer experiment, Bushnell Velocity Radar Gun (about $80), or Stalker Radar Gun ($500+).  ESPN’s HitTrackerOnline.com uses the latter in all MLB ballparks.  Just remember, accuracy isn’t as important as an apples to apples comparison.
  • Recovery – I usually will give my body about 30-minutes rest between the first 100 swing test and the second.  I now use supplement timing like Zach Calhoon maps out in these posts.  I sip on Zach’s “concoction” throughout the full experiment to keep my muscles fueled.  I then take Vitamin C and E capsules afterward to help with soreness.
  • Brainstorming Experiments – Don’t have any ideas on what to test?  I did the heavy lifting for you.  And by no means is this an exhaustive list of possible experiments. CLICK HERE for my brainstormed list.
  • Take Notes – make note of my “notes” in the above experiments.  Basically, the notes section are things that you noticed while doing the tests that may not be apparent to the person reading about the experiment.

 

In Conclusion…

In this baseball swing trainer post about using the SwingAway for hitting experiments, I wanted to lay out the landscape and empower you to help me take up arms.  I want to turn conventional hitting wisdom on its head, and use modern baseball swing trainer technology to build a swing we ALL can be proud of.

Let’s revisit the Mark Twain quote from earlier:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

I need your help and can’t fight this fight alone.  I want you to take action…

My challenge to you is let’s band together and conduct 30 Experiments in the next 30 days.  If all of us do at least one swing experiment, then we should be able to knock this goal out by July 15th.

Just post your baseball/softball hitting experiment results below in the comments section.  Reply with:

  • What experiment you ran (from the brainstorm list above)?
  • How many swings per test (i.e. 100/100), and what order did you do the test?
  • What bat did you use (length, weight, and wood/aluminum)
  • Hit off tee or Swingaway baseball swing trainer?
  • What metric changes were significant (bat speed/hand speed/bat vertical angle at impact/attack angle/ball flight/ball exit speed)?

Thanks in advance for your baseball swing trainer experiment comments!

Jose Bautista Staying Closed

“Blocking” Like Jose Bautista: A Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed Experiment

 

Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed: Jose Bautista "Blocking"

Image on left is Jose Bautista at landing, and image on right is referred to in Discus Throwing circles as “Blocking”…

 

Question: Does Landing Bent with the Front Knee & then Straightening it, Add Bat Speed?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze if “Blocking”, or using Ground Reaction Forces (GRF), produces a significant gain in bat speed.

 

Background Research

Check out this YouTube video from ZenoLink about “Blocking”, or GRF:

 

CLICK HERE for a Wikipedia article defining Ground Reaction Forces.  Quote from post:

“The use of the word reaction derives from Newton’s third law, which essentially states that if a force, called action, acts upon a body, then an equal and opposite force, called reaction, must act upon another body. The force exerted by the ground is conventionally referred to as the reaction, although, since the distinction between action and reaction is completely arbitrary, the expression ground action would be, in principle, equally acceptable.”

CLICK HERE for another baseball hitting drills for bat speed post I did about Edwin Encarnacion: A How-To “Blocking” Guide.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above baseball hitting drills for bat speed research and study, I think “Bent Knee Blocking” will produce more bat speed than “Straight Knee Blocking”.  For some of you, this may be obvious.  But the data comparing the two is quite interesting to see.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed Experiment: “Blocking”Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed: SwingAway MVP Bryce Harper model

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers = my bat length, plus two baseballs
  • Distance from plate = end of the bat touching inside corner of plate, and knob of bat touching my mid-thigh.
  • SwingAway was set slightly behind the front feedback marker, and ball height was about the hip.
  • First 101 baseballs were hit with a landing leg angle of about 170-degrees.
  • Second 101 baseballs were hit with a landing leg angle of about 146-degrees.

 

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App Screenshots):

Baseball Hitting Drills For Bat Speed: Blocking Experiment

Check out the differences in average bat speed and hand speed (red arrows)…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

  • 6-mph average bat speed difference between “Straight Knee Blocking” versus “Bent Knee Blocking”,
  • 2-mph average hand speed difference between “Straight Knee Blocking” versus “Bent Knee Blocking”,
  • The Average Time to Impact was about the same,
  • The average Bat Vertical Angle at Impact had a 6-degree difference, and
  • There was only 1-degree of difference between the Attack Angles.

Notes

  • I broke my swing into two steps (stopping momentum), to make sure I could accurately isolate the difference in the front knee action.
  • The “Bent Knee Blocking” 6-mph average increase  is equivalent to 24-48 feet of batted ball distance (depends on the speed of the pitch).
  • What was interesting was the huge shift in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact.  I suspect it’s because of the higher landing position, and the barrel compensated down to accommodate hitting the sweet spot.
  • Looking at the nominal increase in Attack Angle and the wide degree shift in Bat Vertical Angle at Impact, it looks like “Straight Knee Blocking” would lead to more mishits.
  • Like in this “Blocking” Experiment, baseball hitting drills for bat speed need to be put to the test.  We can’t just feel something will increase bat speed.  We must look at what the data says.

 

In Conclusion

From the Baseball Hitting Drills for Bat Speed Experiment data, we can see that “Bent Knee Blocking” produces more average bat and hand speed than “Straight Knee Blocking”.  The other thing that landing with a bent knee does (approx. 146-degrees), is shrink the strike-zone.  Or at least create an illusion that it’s shrinking, to the umpire.  I call this “Getting Shorter”.

Coupled with forward momentum, the hitter is making a “cut”, much like a wide receiver would on an “L” route.  Except instead of the wide receiver changing from the Sagittal (forward/backward) to the Frontal (sideways) Plane of motion, the hitter changes from the Frontal to Transverse (twisting) Plane of motion.  And in order to do this, the “plant leg” needs to be bent in order to transfer Ground Reaction Forces efficiently.  You’ll NEVER see an NFL wide receiver “cut” with a straight plant leg…they plant bent, then push into the ground to change directions.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Getting Under The Ball Like Stephen Vogt – A Baseball Swing Plane Experiment

 

Baseball Swing Plane: Stephen Vogt

August 2014  Stephen Vogt (21) hits a solo home run. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Vogt side note: CLICK HERE to watch video of him doing referee impersonations, he’s apparently known for, on Intentional Talk.  That’s Johnny Gomes in the background 😀

Question: Can the Back Leg Angle Affect Ball Flight During the Final Turn?

Using the Zepp (Labs) Baseball app, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze the effect the back leg angle has on ground balls, line drives, and fly balls.

Background Research

Two posts I’ve written that talk about the back leg angle:

In the above posts, pay particular attention to what Homer Kelly says about Knee Action.

As of the beginning of May 2015, Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics, is ranked 2nd overall in OPS at 1.179 (according to MLB.com’s sortable stats).  Can he hold this up all year?  Maybe, maybe not.  But the metrics I’m about to reveal have a solid base in his back leg angle mechanics.

He has a very distinct back leg angle during the Final Turn and follow through (see image above).  Here’s how his metrics stacks up over four seasons, against the league average (according to FanGraphs.com):

  • Ground ball% – Stephen Vogt (32.6%), League Average (44%)
  • Line Drive% – Stephen Vogt (20.7%), League Average (20%)
  • Fly Ball% – Stephen Vogt (46.6%), League Average (36%)
  • Home-run/Fly-ball Ratio – Stephen Vogt (10%), League Average (9.5%)

So he’s well below the league average in ground-balls, slightly higher in line drives, and has  a 0.5% higher home-run to fly-ball percentage.  The latter meaning what percentage of his fly-balls go over the fence.  Lastly, as you can clearly see, Stephen Vogt has an above average fly-ball percentage.  Remember, fly-balls aren’t always bad.  Most times, they’re more productive than ground-balls in sacrificing runners over or bringing them in to score.

 

Hypothesis

Based on the above research and with my own experience, I think that having the back leg angle bent in an “L” (or 90-degree angle) during the Final Turn and follow through will produce more elevated line drives and fly balls.  Whereas a straighter back leg angle (closer to 180-degrees) will produce more low level line drives and ground balls.

 

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: “Staying Low”

Babe Ruth Hand-Tension Experiment Setup

Here was how I setup the experiment “work station”

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • Yellow dimple ball feedback markers = my bat length, plus two baseballs
  • Distance from plate = end of the bat touching inside corner of plate, and knob of bat touching my mid-thigh.
  • Tee was set slightly behind the front feedback marker, and tee height was about mid-thigh.
  • First 100 baseballs were hit with a 90-degree back leg angle during the Final Turn and follow through.
  • Second 100 baseballs were hit a straighter back leg angle (about 170-degrees) during the Final Turn and follow through.

Data Collected (Zepp Baseball App Screenshots):

Baseball Swing Plane Zepp Experiment: "Staying Low"

Fig.1: Here are the averages of both sessions. Pay particular attention to the “Bat Vertical Angle at Impact” and “Attack Angle” preferences…

According to the Zepp app user guide, let’s define the following terms:

  • Bat Vertical Angle at Impact – This is the Vertical angle (Up or Down) measured in degrees, of your bat barrel in relation to the knob of the bat, when it makes impact with the ball.
  • Attack Angle – Attack Angle is the direction the bat barrel is moving (Up or Down) at impact. A positive number would mean your barrel is going UP at impact, zero is LEVEL and a negative number is the barrel going DOWN at impact.

Check out the ground-ball, line drive, and fly-ball comparison:

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: Ball Flight

Fig.2: Check out the difference in ball flight between the two sessions. Pay particular attention to the ground-ball percentages.

Data Analysis & Conclusion

I wasn’t paying too much attention to bat and hand speed on this experiment.  I only focused on the metrics indicating a change in ball flight.

  • Attack angle had a 3-degree difference according to Fig.1.
  • Bat Vertical Angle at Impact also had a 3-degree difference according to Fig.1.
  •  27% difference in ground-ball% according to Fig.2.
  • 24% difference in fly-ball% according to Fig.2.

Notes

Baseball Swing Plane Experiment: Cage Labels

This were the rules I used for ball flight in the cage during the Experiment.

  • Here’s a picture (image to the right) of the cage I hit in and the labels for each batted ball outcomes.
  • I’m not sure why the Bat Vertical Angle at Impact was larger for the “Straight Back Knee”.  Maybe it had to do with my back knee starting bent towards impact, but then the barrel compensated by “pulling up” to accommodate the straightening back knee.  This disturbance in the pitch plane is NO bueno.
  • I found myself reverting back to old habits (Bent Back Knee) during the Straight Back Knee session.  There were at least a dozen balls I hit that had more bend than I wanted during that session.
  • During the “Bent Back Knee” session, about 65% of my fly-balls were “shots”, and didn’t hit the back of the cage to be considered a line drive.
  • I find with small sluggers like Stephen Vogt bend their back knee between 90-105 degrees during the Final Turn.  With fastpitch softball, the angle of the back knee isn’t quite so drastic because of the reduced plane of the pitch.  If I can get my softball players to be 105-120 degrees with the back knee angle, then I’m happy.

 

In Conclusion

So the back knee angle during the Final Turn does have a significant impact on ball flight.  More bend equals, more airtime for the ball.  I’ve seen Little Leaguers to Pro hitters straightening out their back legs.  And they often wonder why they aren’t driving the ball.

In terms of driving the ball like Stephen Vogt, think of the back leg angle as angling your body like a “ramp”.  Also, take a look at smaller sluggers (6’0″, 225-lbs on down) like: Adrian Beltre, Stephen Vogt, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Andrew McCutchen as great examples of back knee bend.

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

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

Baseball Equipment Training for Hitters

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

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

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

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

“Where focus goes, energy flows.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

Baseball Training for Hitters: Books

Baseball Equipment Training for Hitters: Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers

Anatomy Trains, by Thomas Myers

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

 

 Baseball Training for Hitters: Hitting Aids

Baseball Equipment Training for Hitters

TheStartingLineupStore.com

In March of 2011, I put together an online store selecting the best 9 hitting aids on the planet.  It’s called TheStartingLineupStore.com.  I won’t go into all of them here, but I wanted to highlight my top-4 sellers:

  1. Rotex Motion – helping hitters move better, so they can move better.
  2. Backspin Batting Tee – helping hitters target the bottom half of the ball, so they can hit more line drives.
  3. “Don’t Let Good Enough Be Good Enough” T-Shirt – one of many cool hitting themed t-shirts.
  4. “Goliath” end-loaded heavy wooden bat – get benefit of swinging end loaded heavy bat AND wood, so you’re hitters can get stronger and control the barrel better.

Top-4 essential baseball training equipment for hitters…

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

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

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

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

 

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

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