Thursday, February 13, 2014

Teaches and Non-teaches From a Big-League Swing

Here is a great Jose Bautista video with many takeaways.

Bautista speaks mostly about approach in this video. Notice that his mechanics are elaborate and must take thousands of hours of repetition and honing. There is, no doubt, something both awesome and sexy about his swing; he has something that makes young hitters emulate him.

So what can we take away, mechanically, from Baustista?

Things that “Joey Bats” does that we should teach young hitters:

1.)    Start the swing slow and early. Tempo is best under control. Only the swing, beginning at front heel plant, should be fast.
2.)    Maintain tension in the legs and resist drifting forward as long as possible (see Uncle Charlie)
3.)    Slot the back elbow, immediately after heel plant, flattening the barrel prior to hitting zone

Things that “Joey Bats”does that we should avoid teaching young hitters:

1.)    Allowing the rear knee to align over the back ankle, creating huge momentum.
2.)    Start with your hands above your ear, requiring more movement pre-slotting.
3.)    Have a leg kick that transfers large amounts of energy.

None of these mechanics are hindrances to a swing IF a hitter maintains proper sequencing, or in other words, maintains proper balance, positioning and tempo. “Well that’s a lot,” you say? Exactly. This is a professional athlete: statically and functionally strong, flexible and dynamic. 

When youthful hitters mimic these mechanics, they quickly and consistently can come out of sequence. They lack the strength and low center of gravity to maintain proper sequencing in the swing. At heel plant, most young hitters are already spinning on their back leg or trying to stay standing up because of a loss of a low center of gravity.

On the contrary, each of these items could help create improved timing and tempo IF the hitter is athletic and disciplined (Bryce Harper, Gary Sheffield, Juan Gonzalez, Andres Galarraga, Prince Fielder, Carlos Gonzalez, Adrian Gonzalez, etc.).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Choosing a BBCOR Bat

Like many college programs, we had our bat/glove day this fall to give our players an opportunity to swing different models in an effort to choose the proper bat for each player.

While we let our guys choose which bat they really want (confidence is most important), we do steer them in a certain direction.

We have a 6’2”, 210 lb. lefty that has 95-98 mph exit velos and with some lift in his aggressive swing.

We have a 6’5” 230 lb. right handed frosh who has some length and some lift in his swing with 90-93 mph exit velos. He is raw and unrefined in his approach. We need to help him slow the game down and gain control of himself.

Then there’s the 5’11”, 190 lb. lefty senior who is built like a brick house with 95-99 mph bat speed and an uber-flat swing. His strength is as impressive as his bat speed. He is not as experienced at the plate, even for a senior, but could be a breakout star this year.

We have another 6’2” 190 lb. hitter who has 87-90 bat speed and above average barrel control. He has a more difficult time keeping strength and sequence in his legs. He is an everyday starter because of his defense and leadership and is on the precipice of being a good offensive player.

My point is, we all have varying levels of hitters with different swings paths, body types, bat speeds, experience levels and approaches.

What is consistent among all of these players? They all need to be able to control the barrel.

Entering a new conference, we now have a new bat contract with Easton, who offers some terrific options. The S1 and XL1 are at two different ends of the bat control spectrum. The XL1 offers slightly more exit velocity due to its larger barrel and more end-loaded weight distribution, but there is some sacrifice in bat control for a player lacking superior strength.

The S1 and Mako offered more barrel control with a more evenly-distributed weight. The S1 appeared to maintain more “juice” or exit velocity than the Mako, though the Mako had slightly more weight distributed towards the handle, leading to better barrel control and consistent hand path.

As they should have, all of our younger hitters chose the Mako or S1. The strongest and most experienced hitters chose either the S1 or the XL1.

When a hitter was undecided between the S1 and XL1, we reminded them that it didn’t matter if the XL1 had 5% more “juice” if they weren’t centering the ball on the barrel. Besides, the hitters hung up between models were upperclassmen who have terrific bat speed and strength. What became most important was choosing a bat that gave them a smooth, aggressive and confident swing without wondering if their bat was too “heavy” or end-loaded. 

Doubt is a stinky beast. Our hitters have bats that, more than giving them a shiny weapon to swing, enable their confidence.

Here’s a Sports Science video on BBCOR bats.