Do you feel it? Even in the dead of winter there are those faint sounds of the thud of someone pitching a ball into a catcher’s mitt. The crack of the bat of someone practicing their swing.
Like in the movie The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe there’s a hope that winter is finally ending.
For us to get through the Void (see prior posts) we should be practicing, making sure we don’t come out to tryouts looking like we haven’t played in months, thus telling the coaches we don’t really care enough to get better for them.
On those chilly days and nights the movie industry has provided us with a couple of DVD’s we can get the thrill and excitement of the game. One is Fever Pitch and the other is Bad News Bears, Part II.
Fever Pitch is a love story of a guy in love with the Red Sox more than anything else and the girl he meets and their interaction. Some baseball scenes have major leaguers swinging the bat if you want to slo motion those frames.
I personally have a tie into the Bad News Bears movie as my daughter was an extra in the crowd in about 3 scenes. It has some very crude language to get past for the rest of the movie. Somehow they found a kid who can really swing the bat. Most movies have a kid take a horrible swing, then they cut and move to the ball sailing over the fence, but not this one. You can actually learn how to swing from this kid. Slow it down and see what I’m talking about.
Less than a month before pitchers and catcher’s reporting to spring training!! I’ll be getting more active as it gets closer to needing the advice. Of course if you listened to my earlier posts you’d be many thousand swings into your 100 – 300 swings a day.
Sorry for the absense. Taking a break. I’ve been doing my writing over at my main website as I had been spending all of the time here for a while and it needed attention.
Check out what I found for baseball fans for gift items. It’s not too late for some of these suggestions.
I also produced a hitting video that goes over many of the things we’ve talked about on this blog. There are two distinctive ways to teach hitting and most coaches only teach you one and tell you the other is wrong. What I did was assume you’re intelligent enough to make up your own mind if you had all the information at your fingertips. So that’s what I did. Check it out now!
I’ll be back from time to time, as I’m a lot like you and these next two weeks will be hectic.
See you then as we get through the void together discussing "How to Hit Like a Major Leaguer".
My first major in college was statistics, so that I could fulfill my lifelong (ages 13 – 18 is a life long) dream of becoming a baseball statistician. So from time to time I drift back into interesting stats that feed this fantasy and occaisionally I come across good information that helps me while I coach hitting.
Take an article I read today. Buried among the nuggets were statistics on line drive hitters among other things which I’ll save for other posts.
Do you realize that they now take statistics not just on hits and outs, but types of hits (actually not hits in the sense you’re safe at a base, but more on the line of how hard it was struck and if it went in the air or on the ground), grounders, line drives, no hit at all (walks, strikeouts, etc), and fly balls, regardless if it resulted in an out or the batter was safe.
So you can hit a fly ball that’s an out, an error, a home run, or another type of hit. The same goes for line drives, they can be hit for an out or for a hit (single through home run).
Now we thought it was difficult to hit like a major leaguer, who faces the best pitching in the world, against the best defensive players in the world. An average major leaguer hits around .260 with .300 being considered all-star material.
But guess what the highest percentage of line drives were hit by the absolute leader over the past 4 years combined was. Again you get credit for hitting a line drive if it’s stung and caught as well as hitting one in the gaps.
Did you take your guess? Do you have a guess as to who it is?
It’s Mark Loretta of the Padres and he only hit a line drive 21.5% of the time he came to the plate. And he’s the best over the past 4 years. With Adam Dunn achieving the dubious honor of least line drives with only 10.5% of his at bats producing a line drive. That’s like batting averages of .105 and .215. So if you think .260 is tough, think again about what it takes to hit a line drive.
The question we need to constantly ask is what does that mean? Does it mean that line drives are over rated, since they are so hard to hit? Does it mean we need to work harder to produce them? I know for years we coaches preach hitting line drives, so these stats really started questioning my position on what that means. The other question we need to ask is, is our assumption valid? Just because you came up with a conclusion doesn’t make it right.
Statistics are like the pictures we’ve been looking at. They tell us what actually happens not what we believe happens.
From my earliest days of collecting baseball cards and watching baseball games on TV, I was always fascinated with the various stances different batters took.
One of my first recollections was Stan Musial. He stood up their hunched up with his feet real close together.
More recently I am constantly amazed at how a Jeff Bagwell or a Gary Sheffield can hit (and very well I might add) with their stances so wide open. Bagwell’s is so wide that he’s the only person I’ve seen that actually strides backwards. (But stride is for another day, let’s stick to stance).
Then there are the Tony Bautista’s, Andres Gallaraga, Brian Downing types who stand their with their lead foot some place else way away from the standard closed position (toes pointed to home plate and ankles or hips lined up so that if you ran a line through the right and left they would be pointed to the pitcher). They normally use this to face the pitcher with two eyes focused on him.
I have another coaching friend that encourages kids to stand straight up. In the video on MLB hitters I mentioned a few days back there’s a whole segment on stances and they even talked to Cal Ripken, who changed his stance 4 – 5 times during his playing career.
All of these things are done in the name of comfort. What a batter’s comfortable doing. Most of these stances also focus on balance, although not all.
So is the stance important in a great swing. Well, it appears that having a stance that is comfortable and has good balance is, but that seems to be defined by you. This leads you to have confidence at the plate and that seems to be a necessary ingredient.
If you’re struggling with a stance that you’re comfortable with or getting on balance with or having confidence at the plate, here’s the formula I teach new students and probably reflects the stance of 50% of the Major Leagues. I list it as one of my six steps in hitting here where I describe the rotational style of hitting.
It’s called "Jump in the Box". The stance is similar to when you land from a jump – knees bent – feet slightly wider than your shoulders – on balance – bend slightly forward from the waist. I elaborate on it a little more in a free e-mail hitting course I produced that can be found at the link above.
What makes an MVP hit like an MVP vs. an average major leaguer? We’re attempting to learn how to hit like a major leaguer. That’s hard enough, then there’s the people who do it better than all of the rest of the major leaguers. This year’s winners have been doing it consistenly better than others for years and this year were rewarded for being outstanding in both average and in power.
Mark McGwire and others finished their swings with only one hand but others who hit well have used the two handed approach, so I’m going to discount that as a MVP type of swing. But if you’re still learning and your coach tells you that you need to finish with two hands on the bat, you now have a picture to show them that will disagree with that. I have a coaching friend who really cares less what happens after the ball has left the bat. On the surface that makes sense, since there is nothing you can do afterwards to add any more to the ball. Where I would possibly take exception to that is if you don’t finish quickly, you may have not swung quickly through the contact point or worse yet actually started slowing your swing down before contact. So it’s not contrary to what my coaching friend says, it is a caution to watch out for.
The swing Albert Pujols is exhibiting has a lot of good elements to it — head and eyes on the ball (or contact area), hips turned, bat still back and coming through, his body is matching the pitch plane of the ball, enabling the ball to travel to the outfield (possibly over the fence).
Since we’re modeling swings of MLB players, and because we can’t emulate everyone, it’s probably just as well to mimic the very best. And while the balloting was close, these two will be as good of models to follow as anyone.
I took advantage of my own advice from last week and took 2 days of rest :) Actually I was without a computer for those 2 days.
But over the weekend I had a chance to chat with a fellow coach and he was mentioning how so few coaches talk about what to do getting ready for a hitter’s at bat. What should they be doing in the on deck circle, even what they should be thinking about in the dugout.
Watching the pitcher from the dugout, listening to the hitters coming back from their at bat, even watching video tape between at bats (if you’re at a level that can afford that) can all help in gaining extra knowlege on what you’re going to see when you come up.
The on deck circle is the closest place on the field, outside of being in the batter’s box to seeing the speed, spin and location of the pitches. Don’t waste it. Many hitters use that time to swing at the time when they would if they were at the plate to get used to the speed of the pitch.
Listening to Major Leaguers, you’ll hear their thinking about what the pitcher is throwing well that day and what their tendencies are (through past experiences with them or through video tape).
Having a plan or knowledge when you come up to bat will help you hit better rather than having to just react to what’s being thrown and being fooled.
Less than a week ago I challenged you to get pictures of hitters. Did you do it? Good for you.
Well, I took my own advice and I found a picture of baseball hitters that was from the cover of a video jacket. It was to a video called "Hitters on Hitting, Finding the Sweetspot". So I hunted around for it and found it was an actual video produced by MLB on getting the best hitters of the day (2001-2003) to talk about how to hit. They even talked to hall of famers, Ted Williams, Al Kaline, Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, et al. There’s footage of each homerun derby from 1989 – 2000. They have scientists help break it down and even some shots of pitchers talking about how they try to disrupt the hitters.
If you’re a serious student of hitting and want to hit the way Major League Baseball Players hit, I can’t recommend this more highly. You can order it through Amazon.com.
It won’t be a step by step instructional video, so you will have to infer the proper way to hit from the way these great hitters describe it through their eyes. But I saw enough things in there to make up 2 weeks worth of entries in this blog and more. So get the video and we’ll discuss certain points as we go.
Have you heard a coach say "You’re dipping your back shoulder" as if that’s a bad thing?
Remember we’re looking at what MLB batters do to determine how to hit like a major leaguer.
I want you to look at the pictures in my photo album "mlb hitting HR" that’s linked on the left hand side. I have about 5 pictures in there so far and I have a question for you. How do you get into the position they have if you don’t dip your back shoulder?
What do you think is going on? What do you think your coach is trying to say? Is there possibly a difference between what actually happens and what a coach says?
We’ve got lots of time to discuss lots of these things before the Void is over and Baseball starts up again. After all we’re only into it 14 days :)