Saturday, April 25, 2015

Become a Better Hitter Immediately: Box Positioning

                                                                                        (Photo credit: risingapple.com)

Where a hitter stands in the box is crucial to his success. Proper box stance gives a hitter one of the few opportunities for adjustments that he can make.

Changing box position can allow a hitter to cheat to one side of the plate or the other, make the relative velocity of a pitch slower than it actually is, or change the elevation and height of a an incoming fastball or breaking ball.

Hitters with long arms should allow more space between themselves and home plate as they have more length in their swings, but also have better plate coverage, particularly on the the outside part of the plate. Shorter hitters shouldn't stand way off of the plate, as they won't reach the outside corner with consistency.

Box positioning is an important consideration when evaluating a scouting report. A team who knows that a pitcher is going to throw primarily off-speed pitches, should move up in the box to elevate the height of the off-speed pitches. Sure, this makes the fastball get on a hitter a tad faster, but this box positioning adjustment is made when a pitcher throws lots of change-ups or breaking balls with good depth.

Some pitchers unintentionally, yet consistently, elevate their fastball in the strike zone. These guys are tough to hit. Hitters feel like they have to cheat to the ball, and most college hitters have linear swing paths that don't allow their barrel to be flat enough, soon enough, to crush a truly elevated pitch. A change in box position, to deeper in the box, can make the relative velocity slower and the elevation of the pitch lower.

Any time a hitter faces a sinker-baller or submarine pitcher, it can be quite challenging to hit their fastball with downward depth. Moving towards the front of the batters box  takes away the majority of the depth of a sinking fastball.

Facing a pitcher with a plus 12-6 CB? Move up in the box and attack the fastball. The deeper you are in the box, the more like a strike the breaking ball looks to the umpire. If a hitter moves up in the box, he may get more breaking balls called as a ball high, crossing at the belly button, rather than at the belt.

Some pitchers don't have a ton of movement, but are wildly successful because they command pitches at the bottom of the zone, right at the knees. Don't just sit there and wear it for seven innings while their ace gets ground ball after ground ball! Move up in the box and get some pitches to hit at the quads.

Average hitters make game to game adjustments. Good hitters make at bat to at bat adjustments. Great hitters make pitch to pitch adjustments.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Energy Givers Win.


Energy givers win. To be an energy giver, you have to live outside of your circumstance. Energy givers are focused on what they can control. They have learned from the past but aren't going to drive down the road staring in the rear view mirror.

Energy givers have aggressive body language, good posture and focused intent in their eyes. They communicate firmly and positively with their teammates or players.

To be an energy giver, you must be so convicted in your own skills and preparation that your competitiveness overwhelms the meek.

Winners care about the last strikeout, but it is not a fatal blow. They are relentless, eager for the next opportunity, and preparing in each waiting moment.

Energy givers learn. They make adjustments. They grow.

Energy givers win, and winners give energy.

Be an energy giver!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Problem With Oppo Hitting Approaches


                                                                           (Photo credit: bajubekasbranded.com)

There are so many coaches who teach their hitters a linear hand path swing that chops at the ball, pushing the ball backside. Hitters with this type of swing are known as “bat control” guys, when in reality, we mean that they cannot hit good pitchers, with the exception of crushing a four-hole single.

Coaching your hitters to serve the ball backside like it’s a tennis backhand can be a valuable skill. Bat control is a terrific asset, but it should not be the core swing of a hitter with bat speed.

Too many coaches have clearly micro-managed hitters swings to the inside-out, “stay short” swing because they are A.) poor communicators of approach or B.) don’t understand what the mechanics of an efficient swing are, or C.) are afraid of the strikeout and thus, make all of their hitters “make contact” and “put the ball on the ground.” These are crappy ideas. These thoughts all come from a lack of comprehension...or fear. For most, I believe it is the latter.

Every weekend, I see a talented hitter with strength, a strong approach and plus bat speed that we can consistently get out by hammering him inside or spinning away before elevating.

Hitters who only possess a linear swing have a huge hole in their swing both inside and elevated, causing them to early commit to baseballs in these tunnels. Their maximum bat speed is only achieved on pitches middle in and down, making their barrel path steep, and causing them to hit choppers pull side on the ground and opposite field in the air. Particularly at the collegiate level and above, these hitters beat up weak pitching and soft lefties, but are easy to shift on and are exposed by velocity and movement.

These mechanical problems are only reinforced by the “oppo” batting practice round and teaching/forcing hitters to single their lives away backside. So many rounds of BP have been micromanaged, forcing hitters to push fastballs down the middle to right field. 

A hitter who attempts to force middle or middle-in pitches backside in batting practice is creating a physical and mental impediment that takes months, if not years, to break.

Earlier this season, we faced one group of knuckleheads who actually kicked their players out of the cage, during pre-game BP, if they were to pull a baseball to their pull side of second base. Needless to say, those cats didn't hit the ball well that weekend.


Allow your players the freedom to discover who they are as a hitter, with an understanding that it takes months to change a swing, and only a moment to destroy confidence and trust.