Sunday, July 20, 2014

Being On Time, Part 4: Creating a "Flat" Swing

Our next series in being on time is a dissertation on creating a "flat" swing.

First, it is imperative that we get on the same page. A flat swing is about the BARREL PATH to the ball, not about the angle of the swing. The best swings that produce an elite contact percentage and power have a slight upper-cut to the arc and trajectory of the barrel path. Slight. As in 6-10 degrees lift.

Swings that look like THIS one create high contact ratios with low power. This dude is enormous. Lots of strength, good bat speed, and the worlds most handsy swing.

Don't hit like that.

Can't tell what he's doing? Too fast to see with the naked eye? Go to 1:10 of the video feed, and keep clicking on that swing.

The knob of the bat should not point towards the pitcher BECAUSE we used our hands to do so. The rear elbow slots first, then the hands take over the direction of the swing.

When the rear elbow slots first, the barrel immediately flattens out, parallel to the ground. This is what we want to achieve. The paralleled nature of the bat and ground IS WHAT CREATING A FLAT SWING IS ALL ABOUT.

From there, our hands will create a tilt or lift angle on the ball. A hitter may also tilt his chest and legs in an effort to lift; this,we wish to avoid, as it creates massive holes in the swing with elevated and elevated inside pitches.

Hitters that are "low ball hitters" often have very handsy swings and cannot hit elevated pitches that have higher velocities. The reason for this is that a handsy swing pushes the hands forward, but the bat stays high above the hitting zone until the hands release the barrel out in front, always lower in the hitting zone.

Hitters who hit for a high average AND for power....what we all seek to achieve...slot the rear elbow early, creating a flat barrel and maximizing contact points. These hitters can hit pitches that are high, low, inside or outside...all with power. When their approaches are good, their results are elite.

Watch this video from the HR derby.

Yoenis Cespedes has approximately a 25 degree lift. This explains why he is a perfect candidate, in combination with his bat speed and strength at contact, to lift dozens of balls out of any yard, even Target Field. HOWEVER, this is batting practice. Sort of. This is HR Derby BP.

A typical BP is 38-43 mph and his BP from Mike Gallego was approximately 33-35 mph: big ol' beachballs coming in there with their own downward plane. He can easily get away with such exaggerated lift in BP.

When Yoenis takes that swing into a big league game, he has to commit sooner, is exposed by elevated pitches, and ends up with a slash line for his career that looks like this : .261/.318/.464, for an OPS of .782. Above average offensive production for a big league outfielder, but certainly not the .264/.382/.530= .913 OPS Jose Bautista has put up since arriving in Toronto, or the .270/.361/.538 numbers that Giancarlo Stanton has. All 3 are freakishly strong, despite different body types. All 3 have very strong and consistent approaches at the plate (watch them hit for a couple of games). This is where swing plane, i.e. creating a flat swing, is a difference maker!

Lastly, it is important to understand that their are outliers. We should not mimic them.

Derek Jeter...

... was extremely handsy. He has a .311/.379/.443=.822 stat line. Realistically, he could have had significantly more power had he had a flatter swing. His average may have been 10-15 points lower, but his OPS (which has a significantly greater statistical correlation to runs created) would have been markedly higher.

Miguel Cabrera....

... is a magician at altering his swing. Sometimes he gets slotted early, sometimes his approach is to punch one through the right side to get a free RBI with a shift on. He's smart. If you attempt to take one of his backside HR swings and mimic it as a hitter, you'll be trying to mimic what a 6'4 240 lb. athlete does. He is freakishly strong. Are you? If you have his strength and can alter your swing from pitch to pitch, you are likely a first-rounder next year- congrats!

Lastly, Mike Trout...

... is a notoriously terrific low-ball hitter. However, he gets slotted very early. Watch again. What he does differently is he dives- a posture tilt to reach low and outside pitches. To beat Trout, you must come in and you must elevate. Big league pitchers try to do this to him. Problematically for them, the big league strike zone is 17 inches wide and about 18 inches tall. So anything elevated that most hitters swing at, is often called a ball...and Trouty just takes those pitches. His approach is FIRST CLASS. He knows his swing and knows what pitches he can and can't hit. This is, perhaps, the most important skill a hitter can have.

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