Babe Ruth towel drill

Friday, Feb. 15th 2013

Have you ever heard of the Babe Ruth towel drill? I know I never have, and I am not sure if I think it is actually good for hitters either. I recently read about the Babe Ruth towel drill on eFastball.com, and while the drill seems like it could be effective, the site say the drill is only meant for certain types of swings. The most interesting part about the drill is about how it exists today. The story goes, Ruth told his pinch runner, Sam Byrd, who was used more often than not latter on in Ruth’s career, and then Byrd taught the drill to legendary golfer Ben Hogan. If this many influential athletes have used the drill, there must be something to it.

The drill has all of the characteristics to make it a great drill. It’s simple, easy, and inexpensive. Take a towel and place in under the armpit that is closest to the pitcher while you are in your batting stance. Next, take some swings during batting practice and try and keep the towel underneath your armpit. The common critique against this drill is that it can promote bar-arm, and if that is the case for you, it might be best to lay off the drill. More than anything, the drill is supposed to extenuate the punching effect of the back hand of your stance, as the barrel of the bat meets the ball. I would evoke our readers to respond to this post and let me know the effects the drill has had on their young hitters swing.


School comes before baseball

Tuesday, Feb. 12th 2013

We could go very in depth and talk about the next two pieces of information that I am about to present to you all day. However, I merely wanted to show these statistics to the parents of our young readers, for the next time their children say their more interested in baseball than school.

The probability of playing college baseball, for a high school senior, is extremely slim. And, even if your high school senior has the ability to play college baseball, and wants to go to school where he has a scholarship and a chance to play, as opposed to a school that he can go to with a better academic reputation but not play baseball, show him these statistics and this graph. The statistics and graphs were found on HSBaseballweb.com:

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While the odds to play college and professional baseball are extremely slim, many players may still be motivated to dismiss this information and say “I’m going to be that small percent to play pro/college ball.” However, lets look at another factor that many people are unaware of when it comes to professional or competitive baseball: birthdate. I recently heard about this phenomenon in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: the seceret to success.

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The reason for the slanted amount of professional baseball players born in August are because of the July 31st age-cutoff imposed by youth baseball organizations. As a result, the oldest players are the ones that happen to be born in August. A player born on August 1st has twelve full months of development more than a player born on July 31st, in the same league. As a result, the player born on August 1st will, on average, be bigger, stronger, and more coordinated than the player born on July 31st. The player that is born on August 1st will look better against his peers and make traveling all star teams where he will play against better talent, play in more games over the coarse of the summer, get more practice, and get better coaching. Tell your kids that if they are born in July, and not on August 7th like Mike Trout, that it might be a good idea to put school first.


‘Let it get deep’: Hitting the Outside Pitch

Monday, Feb. 11th 2013

Hitting to the opposite field is one of the most important qualities a young hitter can have, but few hitters know how to effectively handle outside pitches. Most hitters never learn to hit the other way, and, as a result, their careers are short lived. When I pitched in high school, my approach as a pitcher was to hammer the outside corner. At the high school level, surprisingly only fifteen percent of hitters can handle that pitch; Pitchers that read this article may want to take note of that. But, it’s true. Hitters cannot handle the outside corner of the plate, and end up rolling over pitches and hitting week ground balls to the infield.

 

SwingSmarter.com summarizes how to effectively handle an outside pitch:

  • Let the ball get deep into the strike zone; You have more time to hit an outside pitch than an inside pitch. Think about it.
  • When you hit an outside pitch, focus on swinging through the baseball. As they say, imagine that you make contact at the baseball and your swing continues three baseballs through the original contact point.
  • SwingSmarter.com also gives a piece of advice about hitting the outside pitch I have not heard before, but like a lot. Think about taking your back knee through the center of the three centers of off centered baseballs that you are trying to follow through on. It may feel like you are taking a half-swing, but you are really taking the energy generated by your hips and channeling it in a direction you are not used to. This will enable you to hit for greater contact and power.

Common hitting mistakes

Monday, Feb. 4th 2013

In order to improve at anything in life, we must look to improve our flaws. When it comes to hitting, we have the advantage of being able to look towards others when we want to improve our errors. Because, if this is the first time we have encountered a particular problem, the odds are that someone else has identified and corrected our mistakes. Matt Schilling is the Director of On-Field Instruction at Baseball Factory, a professional scout, and a former college coach. Recently he has decided to publish a collection of PDFs that address the five most common hitting flaws that he has seen.

Consequently, I thought we would take the time to look at the first edition of Schilling’s work. His first edition looks at the at the load, or as he calls it, “the launching pad.” Whatever you want to call it, the load is the first time when mistakes in your swing can happen. There are a variety of errors that may occur, and Schilling gives a general guideline of how your stride and movement of your hands should look at this phase in your swing. Take the time to read Matt’s work. It is a delight and is a piece of work that is applicable in its breadth from the novice to the professional.


Two dills you may have heard of, and one I haven’t heard of

Friday, Feb. 1st 2013

Livestrong.com has a surprising amount of credible articles about baseball training and exercises. For our high school hitter focus, this week, we will look at an article published by Steve Silverman entitled How To Train Your Eye Better To Hit the Baseball. Despite the glaring grammatical errors present in his title, the article contains three tips to help improve performance in the batters box; two of the tips you may have hear of, and one of the tips you probably have not hear of—I know I haven’t heard of it.

The drill in question—the one I have not heard of—requires the use of two baseballs: one regular and one painted orange. The drill also requires a partner. Between you and your partner, orient yourselves in the normal fashion you would when you do ‘soft toss’ drills. The partner will toss both balls simultaneously towards the batter, and as she/he tosses the ball he will say “white” or “orange.” The hitter will hit the ball that the tosser has called out, and while the drill works on swing mechanics it will also work on the batters concentration at the plate.

The second and third drills are probably the drills that you, as a baseball follower, have heard of.  The second drill really isn’t a drill at all, and should be what each batter tries to accomplish every time they go to the plate; hit the ball where it is pitched. The drill describes a pitcher throwing the ball to a hitter: three pitches on the outer half of the plate, three pitches on the middle of the plate, and three pitches on the inner half of the plate. The batters goal is to hit the ball in the direction it came from. All told, there really isn’t anything revolutionary or creative here. The third drill requires the use of a broom handle and bottle caps. If you have been around base baseball for any intermittent period of time, you can tell where I’m going. If not, you can read the article from where I linked it above.

While I do like the first drill that Steve Silverman prescribes, the second and third drills that he suggests are not very revolutionary.


Linear vs. Rotational hitting

Tuesday, Jan. 29th 2013

As promised from yesterday we will discuss the difference between a linear and a rotational hitter. The purpose of this distinction is to come to a conclusion about what type of a hitter your daughter/son is, and what drills best fit their type of swing. When you have a rotational hitter and try to do a drill that is meant for a linear hitter, you are trying to fit a square peg in a round whole. The key difference between a rotational and a linear hitter, as described by Chris O’Leary, is the hand path that each hitter takes to the ball and the area from which they try to generate power.

The linear hitter looks to take the shortest rout to the ball with their hand path, and generates its power from their arms, hands, and wrists. The linear swings hand path is characterized by phrases like “throw the hands at the ball,” or “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line” in an effort to place the emphasis of the swing on the hands.

Unlike linear hitting, rotational hitting has more of a curved hand path and looks to generate its power from the entire body, in particular the upper legs, hips, and torso. Linear hitters sacrifice much of their power because of the size of the key muscles—hands, forearms—that are meant to generate power, especially when you look at the muscles that generate power in to rotational swing. Consequently the linear swing is not taught anywhere except the lowest levels of baseball because of its inability to generate power, and it’s inability to translate to higher levels of baseball.


Lessons for linear hitters

Monday, Jan. 28th 2013

I found a hitting exercise that I though would be helpful for all of our readers, regardless of their age. Then I remembered that we have not discussed the difference between a linear hitter and a rotational hitter. And, while we will not discuss the difference between a linear and a rotational hitter today, we will discuss this divergence in school of thought tomorrow, our blog for today—January 28—will discuss a drill that is meant for the linear hitterBeABetterHitter.com has been the source of conversation on this blog before, and I have yet again found a simple and effective method to improve the hand path in a hitters swing.

The drill itself is simple and here is the description from BeABetterHitter.com:

Here’s a drill to emphasize the importance of the hands to the ball. This drill can be incorporated with a soft toss or a short screen. It is very effective even without the luxury of hitting a ball during the drill. Find yourself an old plastic chair, or a bucket with a lid and sit on it. Lock your ankles around the legs of the chair or base of the bucket; This is to anchor yourself into the chair. We want to eliminate the lower body action in this drill. The only thing moving will be from the waist up. Take your bat and get in the hitting position. If you have the luxury of a practice partner, have him toss a ball up into the hitting zone. You should be rhythmic and rock the hands back slightly on time with the tosser’s initial move so that you can properly load the upper body. As the ball reaches the hitting zone fire your hands inside the ball, concentrating on the proper wrist action into and through the hitting zone. You want a Top Hand ‘UP” and Bottom Hand “DOWN” position for your palms at the point of impact. Hit “through the ball” as flat as you can to create a line drive flight.

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This drill emphasizes what it means to be a linear hitter. The drill places an importance on bat path—a direct A to B motion from your hands starting position to the ball—and builds wrist strength, which is integral in the a linear hitter’s approach. Consequently, this drill is not meant for all types of hitters and needs to be reserved for the right hitter. Once you find that hitter, this drill will prove to be advantageous.


Baseball hitting myths

Friday, Jan. 25th 2013

Today I want to defunct two common practices that coaches try to instill in hitters, as far as technique is concerned. They are connected in the way that they take place in the lower half of the body, and in the way that one generates the other. Let’s look at the load and the action of the back foot during the swing.

Most coaches suggest a short and concise stride on the front foot. This swing is also known to some as the “Stanford Swing.” Moreover, I can hear my former high school coach scream, “Get your front foot down early!” and “You can’t hit it if you don’t have your load down!” While it is important to get your front foot down to hit the ball, it is also more important to take a stride that will generate enough power to hit the ball. With the implementation of new BBCOR bats, youths around the country will need to learn ways to generate power now that old BESR bats are no longer there to create the power for them. A stride of one inch forward, where your foot only get one inch off the ground, will essentially make you a slap hitter in modern baseball. A coach explained it to me like this years ago. Would you rather get punched in the chest by a person that can only pull his fist back one inch away from you chest and then hit you, or would you rather get punched by someone that has free rain to load up on their swing and use their whole body to hit you? Exactly. In the same way that the punch uses the load to generate power and incorporate the lower half, the baseball swing uses the load of the front foot to generate power and incorporate the lower half.

So we have just proven that the load can be integral to the generation of power in your swing. However, lets iconoclastically attack another commonly preached baseball technique: squashing the bug. When you “squash the bug” you restrict the movement of your hips and disallow the energy you created with your stride. You want your hips to be free to finish through the zone, and your back leg should be in the shape of an L on your finish. Here is a video I found on play sports TV, that brings both of the concepts that I talked about together, called How To Generate Power. Next time you here a coach scream “Get your front foot down!” or “Squash the bug!”, you have my permission to roll your eyes.


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.


Baseball Hitting Tips: The Mental Approach to An At Bat

Thursday, Oct. 27th 2011

Here’s a great tip from one of MLBs best hitters in the past 30 years. Don Mattingly shares some great advice in not trying to do too much with a pitch, waiting for something to hit and approaching every at bat the same way, regardless of the game situation or pressure involved. Yes, easier said that done…but good advice nonetheless.   Enjoy…


Baseball Hitting Tips: The Mental Approach to Practice

Wednesday, Oct. 26th 2011

We all know that practice is essential for becoming a better hitter. But keep in mind that not all practice is created equal. In this clip, Don Mattingly says a few words about trying to get the most out of your training sessions and batting practice.


Baseball Hitting Tips: Avoiding Strikeouts

Tuesday, Oct. 25th 2011

The keys here are starting slow and keeping your head still.  Moving your eyes even a few inches can be devastating for making good, consistent contact.  Watch Don’s tips for keeping everything in order to see the ball better, maintain a good swing and reduce your chances of striking out.


Baseball Hitting Tips: The Swing & Follow Through

Monday, Oct. 24th 2011

If you have used good fundamentals in all of the steps leading up the swing, you are probably in good shape.  For these initial hitting tips, we want to keep it simple and he swing should just finish the motion you already started.  In this clip, Don also touches on the importance of proper follow though. 

Now, for some of you who are more advanced, you might want to contribute some other points or have additional questions.  For example, in this clip, Don talks about the issue of swinging up or down to the ball.   There’s also the issue of where you want to make contact with the ball, etc.  Rest assured, there is more coming and we will address these and other important issues.  But for now, we’ll keep to the basics and follow Don’s good advice.   Enjoy!


Baseball Hitting Tips: Stride & Weight Transfer

Friday, Oct. 21st 2011

This is a great video tip. This is clip 3 in a 7 part series done by Don Mattingly.   A lot of hitters get in trouble with the stride so heed Don’s advice here. “Watch the first step…it’s a doozy”. That really holds true for hitting the baseball.  If you get yourself into a bad position with a poor first step, it may be difficult to recover.   The stride should be a soft step or touch…because the weight hasn’t transfered yet.   Keep your weight back…make a soft stride and then transfer your weight through the ball for maximum power and impact. Watch Don explain.


Baseball Hitting Tips: Batting Stance & Hitting Position

Thursday, Oct. 20th 2011

In order to put yourself in the right position for success, a proper setup is critical.  As shown in this video with Don Mattingly, if you put yourself back in the batter’s box, you have a little more time to recognize and react to the pitch. You also want to have your feet in pretty much of a straight line to be able to see the ball and rotate the hips…without being so open that you can’t hit the outside pitch.  Here’s the video clip.


Baseball Hitting Tips: The Proper Baseball Hitting Grip

Wednesday, Oct. 19th 2011

Heres’s the first video in a 7 part series put on by Don Mattingly of Mattingly Sports.  This first video focuses on the critical element of the grip.  That grip may seem simple but it can cause a lot ofmajor problems if done wrong.  Some of the key elements of a proper grip are to have the bat in the fingers…not the palms and to line up the “door knocking” knuckles.    Here’s the first video.

 


Staying Back…What Does it Really Mean?

Monday, Aug. 16th 2010

Here’s a video that was made to demonstrate what is meant by “staying back”.   It’s a bit technical and a little long but there are some good points here.

I would also add that if you can “stay back” and not lunge at the ball, you will be able to keep you head more still, which allows you to better see the ball. You will also have a much better chance of hitting an off speed pitch.


Another Cool Insider Bat Video

Saturday, Aug. 14th 2010

Here’s a cool little video showing a young player using the Insider Bat. Looks like the Insider Bat batting trainer is working for this kid.   Notice how he is quick, directly to the ball and then extends through impact.   Nice stroke!


New Informational Video – The Insider Bat

Friday, Aug. 13th 2010

Here’s a new video from Justin Ruchti, a member of the 2003 National Champion Rice Owls and former member of the Seattle Mariners. It’s a little long at just under ten minutes but if you are curious about what the Insider Bat is all about, you should check it out.

He gives an in-depth breakdown of what it’s good for, how and why it was designed, which hitting problems it solves and which drills you can do with it.

He also clarifies how to size the Insider Bat to know which model is right for you or your hitter.


Hitting Off the Tee

Thursday, Aug. 12th 2010

Here’s a nice video from Ripken Baseball talking about using the Tee for batting practice. We all know that when you bring out the tee at practice the kids start to groan. But as we learn in this video, even the major leaguers hit off the tee every day. The key in this video is focusing on practicing the coil and weight shift. Since the ball isn’t moving, you can really take your time and practice getting your weight through the ball for more power. Enjoy!


Taking the Proper Stride

Saturday, Jun. 12th 2010

For a young baseball player, one of the most difficult parts of a swing to master is the stride. The stride, however, is one of the most important aspects of the swing because not only does it help with the hitter’s timing, but it also helps to generate power. Therefore, it is vital that a baseball coach helps the hitter to isolate each part of the stride and understand what the most important aspects of the stride entail.

For this drill, all that is needed is a bat and a helmet. This is a great way to start off a batting practice because you can coach the player before any balls are thrown. You can then incorporate balls into it once the hitter has mastered the stride, which will allow him or her to see the results of taking a proper stride immediately.

To start this drill, have the hitter line up in his or her batting stance, just like he or she would do in a game. The coach will then go into a windup and throw a simulated pitch. The player will then coil and stride, without completing the swing. He or she is to freeze once the stride has been taken to see where his or her body ends up during this process.

The first thing that you are looking for in this case is a proper distribution of weight. If too much weight has gone forward at this point, the hitter will end up lunging for the ball, which will lead to a weakly hit ball or a swinging strike. The weight will come forward when the hips are turned but during the stride, most of the weight should still be back.

Secondly, you will want to look at the hitter’s hands. At this point in the process, the hands should still be back and they should not have dropped. The hands will come through the strike zone as the hips drive through but at this stage, the hands should still be back.

The body should also remain in the same alignment as the original stance. Many players begin bending their knees at this point in the swing, which can throw the body’s entire alignment off. This leads to the player swinging through the ball, as he or she cannot readjust to make up for the bent knees.

The player’s head should also be at the same height, which goes hand in hand with not bending the knees. In addition, the back should remain in the same alignment, so you are basically attempting to keep the body as still as possible while you take your stride. The more movement that they player has, the more likely he or she is to end up misaligned, which will produce an ineffective swing.

Have your players repeat this drill until they are able to produce the exact stride that you want to see. Have the players step out of the batter’s box before each stride and receive a sign from the third base coach. That way, a proper stride will become a part of their routine and can be incorporated into every swing.


Josh Hamilton Swing Mechanics

Wednesday, Apr. 28th 2010

Here is a video with Josh Hamilton in a hitting clinic talking about proper hitting mechanics.  The sound quality is poor but you might find it interesting.


Swing Analysis – Manny Ramirez

Monday, Apr. 26th 2010

For those who are interested in understanding swing mechanics, you might find this video interesting. This is a video of a swing analysis of Manny Ramirez. It’s a bit long…around eight minutes but effectively highlights some of the key hitting fundaments by watching one of baseball’s best hitters.