A simple, yet clever, drill to develop power

Monday, Dec. 31st 2012

Because our discussion of Baseball Express’ Weighted Ball Set looked at how to improve throwing power through the use of a training aid, I thought that this week’s discussion on training drills should look at how to improve hitting power through the use of unconventional methods. Like the weighted ball set’s use of unconventional methods, this training method, that seeks to improve power a hitters power, may seem rather odd to individuals, but works!

In high school our team had a car tire that was suspended vertically by a wooden post. Players were supposed to hit the tire with a normal swing, and through repetition you would develop greater power by hitting through a heavier object than a baseball—i.e. the tire. While the basic principle of practicing hitting with a heavier target than a baseball is a great idea, hitting a tire does not enable you to judge the quality of your contact with what you are hitting. You hit the tire. The tire doesn’t go anywhere. However, the hitting drill that I found on BaseballCorner.com, while simultaneously building your hitting power, enables you to judge your quality of contact.

Because BaseballCorner.com’s Power Bat Drill has a short explanation, and it would be an injustice to whoever wrote the description in the first place, they do a good job, I have decided to post the drill verbatim:

The purpose of the Power Bat Drill for a baseball player is much the same as a boxer using a heavy bag to train with. Boxers learn how to develop power in their punch by trying to power through the heavy bag. Baseball players learn to develop power in their swing by hitting through a heavier object than a normal baseball. The result is the same for both athletes… increased power through the point of contact!

  • What you will need:
    • A batting tee
    • A plunger
    • A flat soccer ball or basketball
    • A hitting net (or wall)
    • A bat
  • How the drill works:
    • Slide the plunger handle into the batting tee.
    • Place the flat soccer ball or basketball onto the plunger cup top.
    • Execute your normal swing repeatedly.

The goal is for the hitter to strike the much heavier ball without having the bat decelerate at the impact point. This takes proper technique and explosion at the point of impact to achieve. What you will see is that with the first few swings, the barrel of the bat will “stutter” through the impact zone, meaning that it will decelerate at the point of impact for a fraction of a second before resuming its speed to the finishing position. Concentrate on the proper mechanics, not with launching the ball. Proper mechanics will accelerate the bat head sufficiently to power through the heavier ball. The flight path of the ball should be level (around chest high) into the hitting net (or wall). Power is all about bat speed at impact, not the size of the player. This drill will increase the power at impact if it is used on a regular basis. Remember to always use a flat ball for this drill.

The Power Bat Drill combines power with contact to make a better hitter. The nice aspect of the drill is that it is relatively inexpensive and requires objects that most people have at their home—a plunger and an old basketball. Power and mechanics will be at the forefront of youth hitting with the implementation of new BBCOR bats. Because of the new aluminum bats that restrict the trampoline affect that old BESR bats allowed, dills like The Power Bat Drill will enable hitters to work towards a competitive advantage against pitchers.

Hip rotation drills for hitting

Friday, Dec. 28th 2012

BaseballHittingRebelion.com, in one of their most recent blog post, has looked to explain common rotational hip problems that are present in swings. Through the use of videos, the blog post looks at the problem that hitting off of a tee while taking your stance on a 2×4 piece of wood, a common practice implemented by coaches, presents. Chas Pippitt, the blogs proprietor, looks at better and safer alternatives to this drill. In the end, hitters are still able to focus on their rotational hip movement and achieve a greater sense of balance.

Both drills, the 2×4 and Chas’ drill, stress fluid hip movement and balance, and look for ways to address these issues. Mechanically, the blog post and the videos embedded in them look to solve many of the problems facing hitters at all levels. Pippitt looks to show readers and viewers how to use their athleticism in their swings. Because, for Pippitt, athleticism is the source of a powerful swing, hitters must continue to develop and implement their athleticism into their swings.

Thoughtful teaching tips for youths

Thursday, Dec. 27th 2012

SwingSmarter.com is a website devoted to the collection of all things hitting, but for this blog post we will focus our attention on their article entitled Teaching Hitting to Youth in 9 Powerful Steps.  The article develops nine rules to help coaches teach their youth the science of the swing. Among the principles that guide these nine steps, which include keeping it simple, being patient, giving feedback, and the use tee work, the article stresses the importance of being able to relate to your players. Several ways that the article suggests a coach can relate with their players is by conducting drills in small groups that rotate every ten minutes, finding out what your kids like—video games, reading, other sports—and relate your messages through those vessels, and by rewarding them with games for good behavior at the end of practice.

Most of all, the article stresses the idea of keeping it simple for youth hitters, an idea that many baseball players lose track of later in their careers. Keeping it simple offers the opportunity for youth players to make large improvements through simple instructions. When you focus on one or two simple ideas you can increase your ability dramatically, whereas if you focus on ten ideas in a single session your hitter isn’t very likely to remember anything. Base your instruction relative to the age level, and remember that your instruction is supposed to be what is best for the player, not what will win games.

Weight training in baseball-What is appropriate?

Wednesday, Dec. 26th 2012

For this weeks blog on advanced hitting our focus will be on an article written by Dana Cavalea, a strength and conditioning coach in the New York Yankees organization, entitled Machine Training vs. Free Weight Training.. Train to Move! Weight training in baseball is a controversial topic and most often comes up as your young baseball player moves into high school. Cavalea’s stance is that there is no comparison between free weights and machine training; free weights win every time. From Cavalea’s perspective, you look at the sport of baseball and observe that the sport is played while you stand on your two feet. Consequently your training regiments should duplicate your on field actions. Cavalea’s more specific argument can be summed, in Machine Training vs. Free Weight Training.. Train to Move!, when he says:

If we are using machines, we are able to strengthen a muscle most likely in isolation, and are limiting the amount of stabilizer activity that would be necessary if we were using free weights. As an example, a leg press requires very little stabilization because the back pad works to lock in our spinal column, whereas during a standing squat, we are forced to activate our core musculature or else our upper body will collapse. With the free weight exercises we are getting more “bang for the buck” and strengthening the body in positions it will be placed in on the field.

The perspective that Cavalea takes in his article is a breath of fresh air. Cavalea believes passionately that free weight training is the correct approach to baseball strength conditioning, but believes people should come to this conclusion on their own analysis.  “Analyze the movements that take place in your sport then compare your program to these movements and see if you are incorporating these planes of movement in your program,” says Cavalea. You never find yourself on your back, like you do when you do leg press or bench press, in baseball. Consequently these motions are unlikely to help you gain a functional strength for baseball. That is all the analysis Cavalea needs.

Optimizing the Kinetic Link in the Baseball Swing

Friday, Dec. 21st 2012

ISOBaseball.com’s goal of developing scientific baseball/softball based hitting equipment and instructional videos is shown through their blog post entitled Optimizing the Kinetic Link in the Baseball Swing. ISO baseball looks to describe scientifically the link between kinetic energy and the baseball swing. Simple enough.

To make it easy for our readers I will explain some of the complex topic present in the article. Conservation of momentum is the way that, in a closed system (for our purposes the human body in a baseball swing), the total flow of momentum is constant once it is started.  For example, Newton’s cradle (Figure 1) demonstrates how momentum, once you drop a ball from the left side of the cradle, transfers all the way through the separate but isolated parts of the cradle. Now that we have defined conservation of momentum lets define the kinetic link. The kinetic link is the principle that body segments generate velocity by accelerating and decelerating adjacent links and using internal and external muscle torques applied to the body segments in sequential manners. Sounds like a fancy way to describe hitting a baseball. Now that we know what conservation of momentum and the kinetic link are, we can focus on the hitting philosophy developed by ISO Baseball.

While ISO Baseball uses the conservation of momentum and the kinetic link to describe hitting, the blog post relates these theories on physics to describe hitting a baseball through the metaphor of a whip. The batters legs represent the arm of the whip. The batters upper body—arms, wrists, hands—are the long tail of the whip. In the way that the power generated by a whip starts at the arm of the whip, the power generated by a baseball swing starts at your legs. It only makes sense that the power you generate from a swing starts with the largest muscles in your body, the legs. The power and momentum is transferred from your legs to your hands and is done through the conservation of momentum. The upper parts of the body are not used to generate momentum, but your arms, wrists, and hands are merely there to facilitate the energy created by your legs to the baseball.For ISO Baseball, hitting a baseball is the kinetic link, and the process that facilitates the action and momentum through your body is the conservation of momentum.

ISO Baseball makes an analytic leap between the conservation of momentum and the kinetic link that gets to the science of the swing. Through the application of scientific theories to baseball mechanics, the baseball world may be able to teach the game more effectively by understanding it more closely.

New bats reduce high school power game

Thursday, Dec. 20th 2012

Where aluminum bats use to accelerate the speed of baseball, new BBCOR (batted ball coefficient of resolution) bats have placed the speed of the games in the hands of the players. J. Mike Blake and Tim Stevens wrote about the new regulations for high school aluminum bats in an article entitled New bats reduce high school baseball power game. The article discusses the direct affect new bats have had on baseball in Smithfield, South Carolina, while it also indirectly addresses the long term affects the new bats will have on high school ball. While new high school regulations of aluminum bats have caused a decrease in offensive numbers for this particular district in South Carolina, the regulation of aluminum bats will have a correlation towards better mechanics at the high school level, for the future.

The article New bats reduce high school baseball power game addresses, through statistical means, the pernicious effect new BBCOR bats have had on high school baseball offense. Where as BESR bats, the old standard measurement for aluminum bats, measured the speed of the baseball after it was hit, new BBCOR bats, the new standard, measures the bats bounciness or trampoline affect. BESR measurements and restrictions were deemed ineffective and hazardous. BESR allowed bats to propel baseballs at a maximum of 97 MPH, but studies indicated that a bat’s BESR increased after the bat had been used, sometimes by 10 to 15 miles per hour. As a result, for safety reasons, the National Federation of State High School Associations changed the standard in January for metal high school bats. Smithfield-Selma coach Mike Joyner said his teams usually hit 30 or more home runs in a season. This year, they’ve hit five. Joyner’s teams have traditionally batted .315 in recent years, but his team has only batted .268 this year.

The new restrictions on aluminum bats have caused teams to develop different offensive strategies, but these bats will ultimately cause better mechanics for hitters. The News Observer article said the new aluminum bats have caused teams to adjust their in game strategies, and coaches are more likely to sacrifice bunt to set up a scoring opportunity. Smithfield-Selma shortstop Max Schrock said, “You see a lot more bunting, a lot more hit and runs.” Without proper mechanics to create runs with new bats, coaches have had the knee jerk reaction to try and create runs on their own. However, some believe that there is another way to view “small ball.” The run probability with a runner on first and no outs is .953 runs per inning. The run probability with a runner on second and one out—where a base runner would be after a successful bunt from first to second—is .725 runs per inning, and worse than the alternative of not bunting (run probabilities take for The Book by Tom Tango. Instead on small ball techniques, coaches should be motivated to teach their players correct batting techniques to generate offense. Hitting will take time to catch up to the new bats. But, once hitting catches up, the level of high school baseball batters will have risen as well.

New aluminum bats have changed the landscape of high school baseball. This change, for the short term, has had a negative affect while coaches try to manufacture runs in foul territory next to third base. For the long term, the future of high school hitting is bright. Over the next decade there will be several shifts in high school baseball. For now, pitchers have found success while hitters adjust to new aluminum bats. Once hitters do catch up, batters will surpass hitters because of better fundamentals and coaching techniques that are more advanced than their counterparts.

10 Tips For Baseball Parents

Wednesday, Dec. 19th 2012

David Keesee is a self-asserted “world-class coach, motivational leader and former professional player.” Keesee is the proprietor of AllAspectsBaseball.com, in which he offers training tips for on and off the field. This weeks youth hitters blog subject will focus on a blog post that Keesee made and is entitled 10 Tips for Parenting in Baseball. While Keesee does not directly write his post for youth hitters, the post is an article that all baseball parents should read and keep in mind for their child’s formative baseball years.

Keesee’s 10 Tips for Parenting in Baseball all revolve around the idea of perspective. When I say perspective, I mean to say awareness. Be aware of the importance baseball has for your child, and not you personally.  Keesee does not categorize his ten tips in any order of importance but does end his list with (10) leave the ego out. Keesee says, in order to reinforce the perspective that is necessary when you are a parent of a baseball player, “Remember, this is not about you.  It’s about your child.  Its about them having fun playing the game and using the game as a vehicle for learning life lessons.” Although this is Keesee’s last piece of advice, it is the structure for his lesson.

Keesee uses his first nine pieces of advice to either directly or indirectly stress the importance that a fun atmosphere can have on a baseball player. (4) Create a free environment, (5) Make sure they want to play, and (7) Have a good attitude are the direct ways that Keesee tells parents a positive atmosphere can have profound effect on their children. (1) Find a personal coach, (2) Get involved, That’s right! Get involved, (3) Learn with your child, (6) Make sure they are put in positions to win, (8) Don’t always blame the team coach, and (9) Make sure the priorities are in line are indirect ways that Keesee believes a positive atmosphere can be created around children and improve their baseball abilities.

Lets analyze an indirect, and commonly overlooked, way that Keesee believes a positive atmosphere can be created by a parent: (6) Make sure they are put in positions to win. Here are two examples. One, a parent decides they want their child to pitch. The child goes out to pitch, struggles, and decides they don’t want to pitch anymore.  Two, a parent decides that they want to play their child up a level with the thirteen year olds when they are only twelve so they can gain more experience. The child struggles at a higher level and doesn’t want to play baseball anymore. What do both situations have in common? In each case, a parent’s lack of perspective about their child’s abilities creates a destructive atmosphere. A better approach: Have your child try and pitch, but suggest to the coach that you might want it to happen in a game where the team will surely lose. What’s the difference between a ten run and a fifteen run loss? I doubt your child will be able to tell if they give up the last five runs.

Perspective, Perspective. Perspective. As a parent, make choices that will create a positive atmosphere around your child and set them up for success. David Keesee’s 10 Tips for Parenting Baseball are not age discriminative, but are applicable to all ages of baseball players through its overarching theme of creating a positive atmosphere through the use of perspective. Yogi Berra said, “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” Parents should want to help their children with the largest part of the game, and David Keesee’s advice is one way to start.

Weighted Training Balls – Training Aid Tuesdays

Tuesday, Dec. 18th 2012

Baseball Express, amongst their other great products, offers a weighted ball set that is a must own for baseball players of all ages. The idea itself seems quite ingenious. Personally, I remember as boy cutting open a tennis ball, filling the inside of the ball with change, and rapping the ball with duck tape so I could build up my arm strength by throwing a weighted ball.

While the “penny ball”, as my friend and I liked to call it, achieves the same objective as the Baseball Express Weighted Training Ball, Baseball Expresses product provides several key features that most weighted balls do not have. Baseball Expresses ball set takes on the characteristics of a normal baseball. Most weighted balls on the market are made of a rubber, plastic, or vinyl material and do not have laces like a normal baseball. Baseball Express’ ball set is made of the same leather material as a baseball and has laces so that a player may be able to get the same feel as when they throw with a normal ball. Unlike most weighted balls that only come in one weight, Baseball Express’ creation comes in a set of six different weights for $29.99, or individually for $5.99. The set allows you to gradually build up to higher weights, from the lightest ball—7 oz.—to the heaviest ball—12 oz. After all, with any weight lifting activity, you don’t want to jump right into the most difficult and strenuous weight.

There is very little customer response available online about Baseball Express’ Weighted Ball Set, and this particular blogger would appreciate any feedback that the baseball community has about the device. Particularly, can the balls last through more than the normal wear and tear a baseball endures? Do you find that the heavier balls should be reserved for a higher age group? Have there been injury concerns associated with the ball? And, most importantly, have you see any improvement in your baseball player’s throwing? This improvement does not necessarily have to be associated with velocity. Have you seen an improvement in command? Baseball Express, like most great inventors, has filled a technological gap that is characterized by need. In an era where arm injuries are prevalent at every level of baseball simple, yet practical, devices like this weighted ball set could help shoulder condition and strength, and lead to less arm injuries.