Keys to pull side elevation

Pulled air balls are the most effective batted balls but they are not easy to achieve. Last year in mlb the average pull side LA was just 5.8 degrees, vs 9.2 to center and a whopping 24.4 to opposite field.

But which factors make pulling the ball in the air so hard?

One is pitch selection. https://www.fangraphs.com/community/effect-of-pitch-selection-on-launch-angle-and-exit-velocity/ Pulling outside pitches yields lower lauch, the same applies to lower pitches, especially down and away.

But also hitting the inside pitch also has some problems. One problem is simply that the body is in the way. The sweet spot of the bat is like 20 inches away from the hands and the inside of the plate is closer to the body than that.

https://imgur.com/a/yEPTt7C
Creating space
Because of this to hit the inside pitch you need to create space.

1. Create space ahead of the body
This ist he first way. Every hitting instruction, traditional or modern teaches to hit the inside pitch out front more.This means the hands are slid across the chest slightly so the hands are more in front of the belly button instead of besides the body

https://imgur.com/a/iIiQqpY

2. Create Space laterally
The out front method is good but it also has issues if overdone. First of all raking the hand across the chest is breaking the kinetic chain, it creates some kind of „push“. This is needed to hit some inside pitches but it also can reduce exit velo, which is shown even in mlb were up and in leads tot he lowest EV of all zone locations.

Also a too circular swing that is too wide around the body leads to a strong right to left component which can create top spin and roll overs (same applies to too far out front contact when bat starts to arc out of zone).
Pro tennis players actually use that across swing actively to generate topspin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJHTQncT-AA&t=19s

However in baseball topspin is of course not wanted unlike tennis. Because of this it can help to make the path to the inside pitch more linear. It is still curved of course, but not as big of a curve.

To achieve this you simply need to increase the distance between the inside of the plate and the body. This is achieved by maintaining hip hinge a little longer and also using side bend to pull away from the plate.

https://imgur.com/a/Am3ETQ1
Trout is excellent at this creating space under his right shoulder to create a more direct path. This means he hast o hit the inside pitch less out front and rake the hands less across the chest even allowing him to hit balls on the inside black over the fence to straight center.

If you have created space laterally and bring the hands really tight forward under the right shoulder you can bring the path a little straighter to the pitch and hit the ball straighter too.

This is an extreme case though and most hitters will need a combination of both methods to hit the inside pitch.

So to summarize to hit pull side bombs, pick the right pitches to pull (inside pitches or middle pitchest hat are slightly elevated) and create space to pull the ball without going across it too much.

A common mistake that blocks off the inside pitch is a too wide arc to it that causes to hook the ball and also the hips coming toward the plate to soon. Found this golf drill to correct that. Don’t let hip extension occur until they are fully turned.

Letting the barrel do the work

A powerful swing takes a lot of effort but you also read to have a relaxed swing and „let the barrel do the work“. I think there is some merit to it. In the last years there was a lot of talk about turning the barrel early. The proponents of that theory want to accelerate the barrel back and down early using the forearms and elbows (supination, that „seesaw move“ of the front elbow going up and rear one going down). Now I think this is not quite correct because in the kinetic chain the lower parts have to fire before the upper parts.

Jason Ochart of driveline suggested that the supination shouldn’t start the barrel release before the shoulders reach their peak speed. That is an important point in „letting the barrel doing the work“, the trunk speed has to peak early in the swing to allow the distal parts of the chain to work correctly. This means you can’t power your turn all the way through contact. Strength helps but muscling through contact won’t help you much.

In a good swing the trunk rotation speed peaks around 50-60ms before contact and then it slows down. You can see in the early part of the swing the body will turn. The barrel will turn backwards but mostly tied to the tilt oft he shoulders and the „elbow move“.

Just after this phase the supination sends the barrel downward and pulls up the knob.
https://imgur.com/a/JTP0IDt

After this move the bat should basically be ballistic. The arms may or may not extend and the wrists continue to unhinge but you shouldn’t supply power to the bat, all the hands now can do is guiding the bat a little if even that.

If you have to power the bat in this phase
https://imgur.com/a/Jyxti0k
you have not worked correctly in the frames before that.The swing should be like a vertical jump, a frame before contact is basically take off and from then on you just fly. You don’t want the bat to decelerate but a lot of good swings actually reach peak speed slightly before impact.

Here is Todd Frazier demonstrating that the bat is actually ballistic at contact.

Swing power is relatated tot he amounts of watts you can put into the barrel but peak force should occur early in the swing and actually precede peak speed. The swing is less like a deadlift and more like a snatch were you accelerate the bar and let it fly in the end.

As for drills you can do actual bat throws. Try to throw the bat slightly upward into the cage net. Another drill you can do is a two tee drill, put a wiffle ball on the rear tee that is placed slight behind your front knee and a real ball on the front tee that is slightly higher and a foot farther out front. Now try to hit the first ball as har das possible and hit the front ball on the follow through without using effort.

Key motor skills for hitting

Hitting a baseball is often considered the toughest thing in sports. The ball arrives in less than half a second and in that time you have to calculate the trajectory and determine if you want to swing at it or not. Also the ball is hit with a round bat which is unique to batting sports, a round object really isn’t ideal for hitting.

Here are some requirements. If you identify them correctly you can train them separately with drills like classes in a school curriculum or integrated in a holistic approach. You can also create a scoring system.

1. Batspeed:
In order to get around to 90+ MPH and hit the ball hard you need batspeed. The harder you hit a ball the batter the results generally and this is mostly dependend on batspeed. So building batspeed is very important as most good MLB hitters are able to swing at 80+ MPH.
You can increase batspeed for example with an overload underload program as it is found at driveline baseball https://www.drivelinebaseball.com/hitting/ and also this side

2. A balanced turn: Baseball hitters turn in their swing to generate and store energy. To support a good bat path you need to turn while maintaining good posture (lateral and anterior tilt, a still head. From the side view the head should stay centered or even over the rear hip. It can help to pull the rear thigh under the body during the turn and skip the back foot forward but not everyone does that. Baseball rebellion has some good drills to teach that. https://baseballrebellion.com/cpippitt/the-movements-that-made-the-rebellion/

3. The ability to swing on a good plane: Ideally the bat should travel upwards 5-15 degrees at contact. This is to match the plane of the incoming pitch and to generate loft in the swing which creates power. Posture can help with this as well as a good hand and bat path. Things that can help specifically is lateral tilt to the catcher, the front elbow and shoulder working up, the bat being turned down behind the ball early.

4. A good direction through the ball: An old saying was short too and long through the ball. The swing is an arc around the body but it helps to elongate the arc to an elipse so the bat stays in the zone longer and doesn’t roll over tot he other shoulder too early. This also includes good extension through the ball which can occur before or after contact based on a lot of factors.

5. Deceleration/Anti-rotation ability: According tot he forthenbough paper „the biomechanics of the baseball swing“ the maximum angular velocity of the body is achieved about 60 ms before contact and then it slows down to transfer energy. Rotation is important but so is bracing and stability which helps with both balance and direction through the ball as well as batspeed. Also helps on outside pitches on which the body decelerates earlier to allow for a better direction to the other field.

6. A good loading pattern: muscles must stretch to fire at maximum efficiency. Both the lower body (coil) and upper body (hand cock, back elbow row, scap load whatever) must load. Ideally the lower body loads before the upper body so that it can also unload in that sequence.

7. A good unloading sequence: sequence must start in the lower body and continue upward into the trunk, hands and bat.

8. Good hand movements: A lot of people talk about turning the barrel to get the bat down on plane early. I think this thing is overblown but still having effective hand articulations (unlar devation, top hand supination, not too early lead arm pronation) can help delivering the barrel behind the ball more efficient and on a better path.

9. Ability to adjust for timing: Pre pitch: start loading sequence later. Pre toe touch: try to slow down forward movement if you recognize breaking ball mid air. Front leg absorption: this will hurt ideal batspeed but you can sink into the front leg and delay the upper body. Using extension to catch ball out front is the last string. To help for this it can help to hit many balls with bent arms a little deeper to have room for extension but not too deep either as optimum batspeed occurs around at the front toe. Train to hit different speeds.

10. Ability to manipulate the barrel path to all 4 corners oft he zone. Get behind the ball in every zone. Practice hitting balls in all locations.

Balancing different swing patterns

Bobby Tewksbary described three types of swings were one is a pull pattern connected to rotation, the second one is a push pattern using arm extension, lead shoulder abduction and a well timed release of a lot of lag and third basically a turn the barrel pattern were the barrel is turned around the hands and rear forearm using a kind of „hand swivel“.

Here is Tewks describing the barrel turning action:

Tewks described his favored swing as elite swing. Each type of swing has its own advantages as disadvantages. The push pattern provides a good lag and thus good staying inside of the ball as well as good direction to both sides of the plate and good whip in the end. However it also forces you to hit the ball out front costing you some time making deep contact hard and it can make it harder to generate power with your body due to a top down sequence.

The pull pattern provides good use of the body and power but can lack direction to outside pitches.

The turn the barrel/handle pattern is best at getting on plane early and generating early batspeed and depth but over exaggerated it could lead to casting and bad use of the body.

I think ideally you want a mix out of the rotational and the turn the barrel pattern but sometimes even adding a small element of push can help a subset of batters who have bat drag which essentially ist he swing lagging behind rotation. The can sometimes be curated with some active turning of the barrel around the hands but sometimes it might help to have a bit of push to get inside of the rotation with the hands.

So it might actually make sense to have kids doing a drill were you first do a pure rotational swing, then a push swing with lag-push oft he knob and then an extreme turn the barrel swing where the hands stay complete back and you just turn the handle around the hands. This can help kids to find a happy medium. The modern teaching is good but the new teaching of pure rotational or lately the „turn the barrel on plane early“ can sometimes create ist own sets of problem compared tot he first generation of „rotational hitters“ in the early 00s which had a base of 4-5 years of being taught the lag-push pattern. Because of this I think it is good for kids to get to know all three patterns and then find their happy medium vs a too extreme pattern.

I’m not a proponent of feel over reality (because obviously some MLB hitters do succeed with a wrong sense of reality and preaching a push pattern) and I like literal cues but experimenting with different styles to find the „goldylocks zone“ (credit to Joey Myers) isn’t always the worst thing. Generally I do like working on both ends of the extreme in some cases and then work from there towards the middle. This kind of teaching you can for example use with a big load (including hand drop and tip) and a small load or also with getting on plane very early vs direct too the ball.

I’m not saying those new cues are bad as I use them all the time but sometimes some of the traditional cues as a contrary feel are not bad to then find a happy medium. This doesn’t mean you should lump different patterns together, just provide the body with a range of feels as it can be easier to adjust when you are in the middle of a feel range vs shifted towards one extreme.

When to turn the barrel – the racetrack analogy

 

 

In the baseball community there is a debate how the barrel turns to square up the pitch. At contact the bat is about perpendicular to the pitch flight and at launch it is at least 180 degrees away from that so the barrel needs to make about a 180 degree turn. Classic instruction wants the knob to go in the direction of the ball first and then in the end the barrel is turned by unhinging the wrists. This approach means there is a rather passive first 90 degree turn as the bat lays back to the catcher during the „knob to the ball“ and then there is supposed to be a wrist snap for the final 90 or so.

 

In recent years there is another theory that ommits the knob to the ball part, it basically says that the arms  stay bent and the barrel is turned down and back actively from the launch position to „get on plane early“. This turn of the barrel is supposedly supported by the arms and hands, namely the back elbow dropping and fron elbow raising („the seesaw or „turn the triangle“) and also sometimes by a supination oft the top hand.

 

To proponents of the latter theory say their way is quicker and also helps to get on plane earlier while the proponents of the older theory say that the new one means casting.

 

When you look at the hand path from the side it is basically almost like a flat lying „J“. First is goes down in an arc and then almost level to slightly up. Using a race track analogy it is first a curve and then a straight. Now from above the hand path still will be somewhat curved as it follows the trunk rotation (although it does get slightly more linear because shoulder rotation slows down and the arms start to get pulled to extension) but from the side it will look curve then straigh. In the end then it will curve again as the bat pulls the hands over to the other shoulder (next curve of the race track).

 

http://www.directupload.net/file/d/5086/3pjfvbbb_jpg.htm

 

Now my theory is that you should actually actively turn the barrel at the vertex point oft hat curve. That is actually when a race driver accelerates. If he accelerates earlier he will fly out oft he curve (cast) and if he accelerates later and waits until the straight he won’t get up to speed. So basically you actively turn the barrel down just before you get on the straight.

 

With the old school way you would wait until you are on the straight or sometimes even until you are before the next curve

 

 

This would basically be the point where you turn over the bat

http://www.directupload.net/file/d/5086/wjbiozwf_jpg.htm

 

You can see that  the back elbow is almost down but the palm oft he hand still kinda faces the pitcher, so the hand is not supinated yet.

 

In the next frame then the knob gets turned up and the wrist supinated. The back elbow gets a little bit lower but most of the „seesaw“ and the supination are separated.

http://www.directupload.net/file/d/5086/z7ru22cd_jpg.htm

 

So basically it is switch the elbows while hands move slightly down (I like to say tot he „rear nipple“) and towards the end of that move (but not totally after it or it would be a two piece move) you snap the knob up to the sky (or more to the side with higher pitches where the bat angle is flatter). If you do that snap earlier you might cast and lack direction and if you do it later you might have late out front whip and being in the zone late.

 

So again in summary:

 

  1. Hands from the launch position to the rear nipple while doing the elbow seesaw and also tilt the shoulders but not open them too much.
  2. Towards the end of that move snap turn the knob and let the bat go through the zone with direction while also turning the chest towards the swing direction.

 

I have used that cueing with some kids I work with. This is of course just the hand path and bat path part of it, you also have to teach a balanced turn and other stuff like the load and getting to a good launch position but just for the hand and bat path I have liked that.

Is Bat Vertical Angle the Key for low launch angle guys?

Everyone is looking for keys to get players to elevate the ball. One important point is certainly the so called attack angle. The attack angle ist the angle of which the bat attacks the ball. Baseball used to teach swinging down but now you actually want a small uppercut. Players use different cues to achieve that. Common cues are for example leaning slightly back to the catcher and work up with the front elbow.

 

Up in the zone elevating is pretty easy. The league average LA in the upper third of the zone is 20 degrees. Even christian Yelich averages 15 degrees in the upper part oft the zone. In a prior analysis I also found out that LA in the upper part oft he zone has little influence on wOBA. 170 out of 182 hitters last year averaged 10+ degrees.

 

That is very different low in the zone. The league average LA in the lower third was just 5 degrees and over 30 guys actually had a negative LA.

WOBA bottom 20 WOBA top 20
Up in zone .402 .393
Down in zone .348 .427

 

So the key for the low LA guys is definitely still to lift the low pitch.

So how can this be achieved? You definitely need to swing up and you also need to avoid rolling over and hitting a grounder to pull field which is what the sinkerballers try to achieve.

 

One theory is that on low pitches you tilt the shoulders more down and hit with the bat pointing more to the ground. The cue is that for high pitchest he bat turns more like a merry go round and on low pitches more like a ferris wheel.

 

https://twitter.com/dominikkeul/status/790261525248352256

 

This ferris wheel like path makes sure that the bat comes through more straight through from below rather than going across the ball which leads to rolling over.

 

Mike Trout is so good at this that he is able to sometimes even hit down and in pitches to dead center for a bomb while most have to pull that ball. Jeff wrote a nice article about this https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/jabo-mike-trout-has-a-new-trick/

 

Of course this ferris wheel path also has his disadvantages, for example Trout used to be very bad on high pitches the first 4 years of his career. Still he got away with that because most pitchers would only pitch up like once per at bat and not live up in the zone so Trout would just take but ideally a batter would flatten out the bat up in the zone and swing steeper down which Trout actually did last year causing him to improve up.

 

But the traditional level bat, level shoulders cue is definitely hurting on low pitches and made the sinker so popular. Now that more guys learn the new swing path the sinker doesn’t work as well anymore but there are still hitters who struggle down (like Hosmer and Yelich).

 

The pitch up is getting more popular but it can not suppress launch angle. The high pitch lifts itself, when a pitcher pitches up he needs to compensate for the higher LA by more pop ups, lower EV and more Ks.

 

It is a good sign that Hosmer now thinks about swinging up more but if he wants to increase his LA he either needs to stop swinging at pitches in the lower third and target pitches up or change the rotation axis of his bat to more vertical on top of his attack angle because if you swing up but across the ball on low pitches all you do is hitting your grounders with more topspin.

I measured the vertical angle of some good and bad low ball hitters. On the left oft he picture you have Yelich and Hosmer and the other pics are Ortiz, Trout and Votto who are all excellent low ball hitters. All pitches I chose were about knee high and on the inside of the plate because that affects the bat angle.

 

you can see that yelich and hosmer have much flatter angles than trout, votto and ortiz (mid 20s degrees vs 40+ degrees)

 

https://imgur.com/a/JxTYO

 

Lead arm drill for a better swing plane and more compact, quicker swing

With the modern swing players are taught to get the bat and hands flat early to get on plane and have a chance for a good slight uppercut which you want.

 

However this can lead to laying the bat back too early, flattening the hands too early and a long and slow swing as well as still failing to get the slight upswing.

 

Here you can see the correct hand path with votto:

https://twitter.com/dominikkeul/status/788340822248919040

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_3H81WsW54

 

I tracked the rear elbow, front elbow and hands. You can see the front elbow goes forward 2-3 inches and then goes up. How much depends on the pitch height but it will go up almost always. The hands go down (and slightly forward) to around the rear nipple to mid trunk depending on pitch height and then go levelt o slightly up, like a flat lying „J“.

 

What you want to do now is not supinating the hand early and laying back the back. Instead keep the bat up and the palm facing the pitcher until the elbow starts up.

 

I created this sequence. I like allowing the wrist to supinate to help turning the barrel but not before the front elbow starts to work up and the hands and rear elbow down. Basically want that supination to happen where the turn oft he „J“ turns into the straight (only straight from side view of course). That way energy is stored and it really snaps flat instead of laying back.

https://imgur.com/a/sBjCy

 

This creates a pivot point around the hands that is going down and then turning up. If you lay the bat back early the laying back overlays with the down arc oft he hands which means you don’t get a good path. But if you delay the down arc oft he bat until the hand path flattens out which is caused by the fron elbow working up you get a tighter and quicker swing arc and actually a better upward path.

 

Now here is a drill: lead arm swing off a tee: To promote connection I put a towel between front elbow and chest. Make sure it is up against the chest like when doing that shoulder muscle stretch and not down in the arm pit so the elbow can be up. The bat should point up and the arm is flexed, then you load by slightly protracting the front scap and allow a few degrees of lead elbow extension.The towel should fall out after contact.

What you do now is putting the top hand against the barrel and force keep the barrel up until the front elbow works up (in real swing the top hand staying pronated for a moment hast hat role). When the elbow goes up, the bats wants to go down, but resist for a few inches and force it to point up. When the elbow has worked up like 2 inches you release the barrel and allow the barrel to snap downward to get on plane. Finish high and forward with direction.

 

First have the Tee slightly behind  the back hip. This sounds strange in these days, but stay with me for a moment: You want to hit the ball with the barrel arcing downward slightly or at the low point down to level. Later then you put the tee to the front knee to foot and like magic it goes up. Now you have a tight and quick snappy swing that still gets on plane early.

 

Setup

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng54P0hx-O0

Deep Tee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORm2upk6ElU

Out front

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqmtkmoHT-o

 

Depth jump turn drill

A depth jump is a plyometric exercise were you jump off a box and then immediately up to use the stretch shortening cycle and increase power.

But how is that useful for the swing? In a baseball swing the hips will extend in the end,especially the front hip. There is a great post about this by Jeff Albert on Eric cresseys Site.

http://ericcressey.com/hip-extension-and-rotation-in-the-baseball-swing

However many kids do make the mistake of standing up as soon as they land causing them to lose spine angle, weaken hip rotation and all kinds of other bad stuff. In Golf that is called losing the tush line, the hips come forward to the ball instead of staying back (back as in away from the ball, not away from the target)

I watched another golf video today that I found helpful. It stated to sit down a little more into the legs and hips as you start the hip turn, basically you turn like you would turn while sitting on a swivel chair. Then only after the hips have turned already a big part of the way you allow the hips to extend to get that proper posture at contact with a slight rearward spine tilt.

That video and a drill by Bobby Tewksbary on his blog he called the jump drill inspired me to a drill to train that.(BTW definitely sign up for hitting Dailey if you are serious about hitting)

The drill is a little different than tewks drill in that you land with both feet in quick succession and immediately start to turn.

Basically that drill combines a depth jump with a quarter turn of the hips. You are jumping up and slightly forward. During the jump the hands load slightly back and you land with the rear leg first. As soon as you land or actually a millisecond before you land the front foot) you swing, you start to turn the hips (while keeping the hands pulling back) and continuing to bend the hips and legs. When the hip turn is about 3/4 finished you explosively extend the hips and slide the back foot forward a little. That extension feels like you are pulling the head a little toward the catcher while you finish the shoulder turn (the head is not actually moving back but without that extension the head will often continue forward and you lose posture and “lunge”.

Advanced players can coil the hips slightly back as the take off the ground to simulate the coiling in the real swing.

Here is the drill:

Slow motion

 

Stop Swings with heavy bat

Physically energy in the kinetic chain is passed by decelerating the prior link. For example in a baseball swing the hips reach their peak speed about two frames before contact and then start to decelerate, the shoulders peak after that but also before contact (Dave Forthenbaugh in his piece “Biomechancs of the baseball swing” cited a max shoulder rotation speed of 766 degrees per second about 57 ms before contact slowing down to 430 degrees per second at contact in elite minor leaguers).

 You want to swing through the ball and not decelerate prematurely but for optimum stability and energy transfer you need to strengthen rotation and anti rotation.

A good way to train that is doing stop swings. For strong adult players I would use a 36-40 ounce bat like in the overload training. Basically is is like a check swing that is a little too late so that the bat stops around perpendicular to the pitch flight in what would be the contact position or better a hair before that. Make sure you stop with bent arms and the back elbow down and front elbow up.

Accelerate as hard as you can and then stop as hard as you can by tightening all torso muscles, back, arms and forearms. The front leg blocks hard and back foot will be pulled forward a couple inches with the torso being slightly leaned back in line with the front leg.

Position should look basically look like that:

http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/stltoday.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/4c/74c33d6d-f42b-53cb-a1ab-e19c5163df0e/518cf5a89c61a.image.jpg

This trains the anti rotation muscles of the torso but also improves forearm strength and teaches to reach a good contact position.

Warning:

Kids need to learn to complete the turn and finish the bat path. Many kids stop their rotation prematurely or never rotate at all and many don’t accelerate through contact. The shoulder rotation does slow down before contact but first it turns full speed until the chest almost faces the pitcher and even then it doesn’t go to zero but continues until the rear shoulder almost points to the pitcher.

So better only do this drill with advanced hitters who already turn well and finish their swings and not with kids who don’t have great intent and a good finish because it could cause them to stop prematurely. Learn to turn hard first and then worry about timing deceleration and optimal funneling of that turn energy into the bat. This is definitely an advanced exercise and great for hitters who pull off the ball and spin through without good direction through contact.