( 14U ) Manassas Generals: We Hit!

Friday, May 21
Should we spend 75% of our practice time on 5% of the game?

Good info....
The Oakland A's have been one of the best teams in the American League West for the past five years. Yet, they spend only a fraction of the money on their ballplayers vs other teams. How do they do it? Read Michael Lewis' new book ,"Money Ball".
When the A's were purchased by businessmen in the 90's, they wanted to focus their money on what gave them the best return.
page 58 ".......The new owners made it clear that this had to be a business. And so we suddenly were put in the position of: we can only afford a one-tool player. Which tool is it going to be?  What --- and this is what the question amounted to -- was the most efficient way to spend money on baseball players? The first, short answer, according to a pamphlet commissioned by Alderson, was to spend it on hitters. The pamphlet was written by a former aerospace engineer turned baseball writer, Eric Walker. Fielding, Walker wrote, was " at most five percent of the game." The rest was pitching and offense, and while "good pitchers are usually valued properly, good batters often are not."
Alderson's rules
1. Every batter needs to behave like a leadoff batter.
2. Every batter should possess the power to hit home runs because home run power forces opposing pitchers to pitch more cautiously, leading to more walks and a higher on-base-pct.
When Jason Giambi was scouted,  the  A's scouts said he couldn't run, couldn't throw, and couldn't field. But he could hit. So the A's drafted him. 
....small ball wins games, big ball wins championships.
The Red Sox adopted this approach last year. The Yankees used this approach since 1927.
Coach Hoyle

4'7" + 70lbs = 200 foot Homerun Hitter!
Ryan Engle 1

The Hitting Mechanics of Ryan Engle

    Who is Ryan Engle? He's a 4'8", 75 pound, 11 yr old who just hit a ball over a 200 feet for his first home run in the West Springfield LL. When some coaches see hitters of this stature, they write them off as weak and exploit them by having them bunt, wait for walks or slap hit to the opposite field. This small ball attitude toward young players is reprehensible. Thank God, Ryan and his dad do not believe in slap hitting. Ryan has worked hard at his hitting mechanics over the past year and it has paid off handsomely.  I always ask my clients how much they weigh when they start lessons with me. Because if you weigh over 70 pounds, you can hit the ball 200 feet as a rotational hitter. Ryan also uses a Connexion that weighs over 20 ounces. In the photos, you can see the transformation from a weight shift hitter with a downswing last year to a powerful rotational hitter. Congratulations to Ryan and I am confident there are many more to come!

Coach Hoyle

Ryan Engle 2

Coach Hoyle Hitting Review
Rotational Hitting
Get centered in trigger/stride
Rotate around the center
Firm up front leg on contact.
Swing level with the ball

Do not:
Swing down through the hitting zone
Swing up through the hitting zone
Go forward in the swing
Bar the lead arm early in the swing
Cast the wrist of the top hand early in the swing

Barry Bonds' Swing
Bonds' swing with reference to yellow lines:

In all the frames his head is frozen in space. Perfect balance. You can see the side of his face during the entire swing. This is not a down swing, nor is it an upper cut. It's a swing that is level with the ball. This is what Ted Williams preached for years, but very few would listen to him.

Frame 2 and 3: Notice how he rotates around the center axis. There is no forward or backward movement during this sequence. Too many young rotational hitters are leaning back several inches before the swing leading to an uppercut, groundballs to third  and K's. The 2 inch tilt occurs in frame 4.

Frame 4: Shoulder dip occurs; back elbow against body. The prayer drill teaches this position.

Frame 4 and 5 : This is the two inch tilt that occurs at contact. The front leg firms up. The middle section locks forward, transferring lower body energy to the upper body. If the front power line is missing, the hitter relies on his hands to generate power.


Bonds swing with reference to red lines:

Frame 2:  The box or hinges are present as his front foot lands. His hands are not above his shoulder, but rather the knob is exactly at the top of the strike zone. The upper body is closed, the lower body is open. This is the torque position in rotational hitting. I call it the half-pivot drill. This is the most important position in hitting. The torque position does not exist in weight shift hitting.
Frame 3: The box is still present only negligible casting and barring is present in the early part of the swing. Hands are inside the plate. The fence drill will help hitters maintain the box early in the swing. The farther the hands get away from the body in the early part of the swing, the less power transfer.

Frame 4: The swing begins, but note how his arms are not extended on contact. 

Frame 5: Extension through the ball with the letter L in the back leg and letter I in the front! The pivot drill teaches the proper lower body technique to set the letters.

Coach Hoyle

Tony Gywnn on Bonds

Bonds' swing isn't unique, says Hall of Fame-bound Tony Gwynn. What separates him from the pack, Gwynn says, is his ability to consistently get his hands and body in optimum position to hit almost any pitch fair. "He can discuss it, and he can describe it anyway he wants to," Gwynn says. "But good hitters have been doing this for years. You read Ted Williams' book, Charlie Lau, Rod Carew, Dusty Baker. I've read them all, and everybody talks about the same thing. You've got to get in a position so that your hands can work so your body can work. "And that's what Barry Bonds does," Gwynn says. "He gets in position, he lets his hands go and, in letting his hands go, his body goes where it's supposed to go." Gwynn was the consummate contact hitter during his 20 years in the majors, eight times the National League batting champion. The former San Diego Padres right fielder says the same swing principles apply to great home run and contact hitters. "Once you make contact, it's whatever you are," Gwynn says. "Whatever type of hitter you are, that's what's going to come out. I'm not sitting here saying you're going to do the same things Barry Bonds does. But if you get to the proper position, whatever it is you do, you'll do it better.
"The key is to do it consistently every time, and he's the only one in the game who consistently does it. Ask any pitcher in Major League Baseball, 'Can you get in on him?' because he's right on top of the plate. The answer is no because he takes the knob of the bat to the ball and keeps his hands inside of the ball. When you try to bust him in, he pulls his hands inside the ball and that's why he doesn't pull the ball foul. He keeps it fair. He takes the knob first and pulls it through the zone. Everybody else wants to get the barrel head there, and they hook it foul."
Gwynn says the problem with trying to teach hitters the proper swing is they focus on the end result: Bonds' record 73 homers last season and his 594 career home runs. "They see the pose and they see how far the ball goes, instead of concentrating on seeing the actual mechanics."

Monday, April 5
Coach Hoyle on Javy Lopez
Javy Lopez
After viewing the photo of Javy Lopez, it's obvious he didn't grow up in Northern Virginia. No downswing in this photo. This is the one he hit out last night against Pedro to beat the Red Sox.

Review of Lopez swing:
Great balance (button on cap is up)
Head over back knee
Level with the ball
Great extension
Aggressive on first pitch fast ball from Martinez

Lopez 2003 Season (Better Numbers than A-Rod last year)
BA .328 
HRS  43
Games 128

Griffey Balance
Ken Griffey Jr.
Notice how Griffey is able to stay relatively vertical in hitting a low pitch. His eyes remain level. Again, the same can be said for Mays. Remember excessive tilt of the head lowers the hands and results in a long, loopy swing. Also, Dr Smithson (sports doctor for vision) explained it to me at the FCA camp last July that hitters who tip their head during the swing change their astigmatism as the muscles shift due to the changing gravitational forces on the eyes.

By the way neither hitter is swinging down on the ball..................they are swinging level with the ball.

Coach Hoyle

Willie Mays

Stance & Trigger
Tony Clark
Tony Clark
The Yankees are looking to pick up .232 hitting first baseman, Tony Clark. Compare his upper body stance with .344 lifetime hitter,Ted Williams.

Hopefully, Don Mattingly, Yankee hitting coach, can give Tony some help.

Coach Hoyle

Ted Williams
Ted Williams

First Pitch
    Should we take the first pitch as Ted Williams advocated? Read the attached article by Eric Bickel, PhD, at Stanford University Baseball.

Coach Hoyle

Handout: To Take or Not to Take: That is the Question

Cal Ripken missing pivot...ouch! on that back knee
Cal Ripken
No wonder Cal ended up with back problems!

Cal Ripken

A-C Downswing
Dave Roberts, Padres, demonstrating his classic A-C downswing that has generated 19 HRs in 9 years of playing MLB. In 2002 he hit 2 HRs in 388 at bats or one HR for every 194 trips to the plate. Even with all his speed and the fact that he bats left handed, he is only a lifetime .262 hitter. His lead elbow is the problem. He is bigger than Willie Mays. Mays hit more HRs in four months than Roberts hit in his career.
Coach Hoyle

Dave Roberts

The Downswing Disguised as an Uppercut
Forward Back
  The "level" swing has always been advocated. I used to believe it and I used to say the same thing. But the ideal swing is not level and it's not down...."

Ted Williams on "The Proper Swing"       The Science of Hitting, page 13

    When a coach pitches BP, his view from the pitcher's mound of a player swinging and missing may not always be accurate. He sees the player's bat clearly coming under the ball followed by a high finish. From the pitcher's view, the downswing looks like an uppercut. Players with downswings, who swing and miss, are early. Early downswings show the bat in front of the ball (dugout view) with slow motion video.  Coaches will mistakenly instruct a player to swing down on the ball to correct the perceived uppercut. The succeeding swing may be under the ball even more as the bat travels down at a steeper angle, missing the ball. The A-C advocates would argue that the player has a timing problem and I would agree. But the question is why does he have a timing problem. And the answer is because he is swinging down on a ball that is coming down. The combination of the bat being clearly under the ball and the high finish looks to any coach pitching batting practice like a uppercut. It is not. I have done over 175 clinics in the past 18 months, filming over 1200 players. The uppercut is not a common swing in this area. You may see it appear in very young players or players with very little strength. Too weak to hold up the bat, they drop their hands and swing from their thighs.

    There are many reasons why the downswing is common in NV. In tee ball you often hear the phrase, "get your back elbow up " in the stance. There really is nothing wrong with this advice. Many pros have high back elbows, but unlike young players, the pros move their hands slightly below and behind the back shoulder as the front heel rises during the trigger sequence. The high elbow is style, not mechanics. For very young players a high back elbow means high hands and a high starting position which contributes to swing path problems. Also, the tee forces your view of the ball down instead of out front. Many heads are pointed down and tipped after a season of tee ball. Ted Williams said, "Where you look is where you will swing. Look down and you will swing down. "  In tee ball, you may also see the tee incorrectly set out in front of the front foot . The young player must now take a long stride with his high back elbow. You get the picture. High elbow, high back shoulder, high hands, head down, ..... Down we go.....  The result is popups, groundballs and strikeouts.

    Most hitters have no idea that their swing path is incorrect. Only video analysis of the swing will show them that a change is required to be a better hitter. Clients, who have private lessons with me at Pinkman's in Sterling, come away convinced that the correct swing is level with the ball, after viewing side by side video clips of Abreu and Bonds. Every video frame shows the identical movements necessary to get the swing path on the same plane of the ball's path.

     I recommend video taping often. It accelerates the learning curve. Batting practice, without focus on a player's correct muscle memory, will significantly lengthen the learning curve. Practicing the drills in front of a mirror early in the learning stage is imperative especially for players who "sit in the chair." The "chair" group is the most likely to fail at mastering rotational hitting. Regression to the chair position is very common. Unable to get their hips forward, a small number will even return to their A-C  hitting instructors to become contact hitters. They quit the game by age 14 realizing they lack the power to drive the ball out of the infield on a 90 ft diamond. Or they rely on bunting to keep their batting average over .250. If a young player weighs over 100 pounds and still cannot hit a ball over 200 ft, he either lacks the strength and/or sits in the chair during the swing.

Coach Hoyle

Timing Affects Mechanics
   In the Fall, players making the transition from 46-60 to 50-70 AAU or 60-90 fields, will struggle with timing the ball.  The longer distances and slower pitching will have players out early on most of the their swings. Linear hitters will be off balance and lunging. Rotational hitters will struggle to get keep their upper body tilted back prior to  contact. Regression to sitting in the chair (upper body vertical on contact.) will be commonplace.  The result will be moderate to severe down swings out in front of the front foot. Popups, groundballs and foul balls will pepper scorebooks. K's will be seen often, especially for players losing their balance toward the plate. 
   The ball should be hit between your front hip and front foot depending on pitch location (green zone). I videotaped 18 players recently in game situations. Only two were hitting the ball in the green zone. There were very few quality hits in both games. Players were not waiting. Timing is mental, not mechanic. Commands to stay back, use heavier bats, etc have very little effect on changing timing.
   Timing Drill: Timing is changed from the backstop to the plate, not the mound to the plate. In BP have players purposely swing and miss at pitches that have already gone passed home plate. When we give players permission to swing and miss by purposely swinging late, we take the focus off of performance and put in on timing. After several pitches have the player swing at every other pitch to make contact in the green zone (hip to front foot). For alternate pitches, they will continue to swing and miss as the ball passes the plate. After two or three BP sessions, timing the ball in the green zone will occur more often. I thank Mike and Jake Epstein for this drill.
   Ted Williams made it clear in his book, "The Science of Hitting". "We need to get on the plane of the pitch."  Pros get on the plane of the pitch by tilting the upper body back and tucking the back elbow to raise the front elbow. These two movements MUST occur before you take the bat to the ball with your hands. If the hands release to the ball before these two movements, you will swing down and out front.  Players who fail to employ the first two movements are in a hurry with their hands to hit the ball out front. If the pitching is slow, this makes matters worse. Timing affects mechanics. Do not let players go forward in the swing in BP or you will have to practice bunting drills.

Coach Hoyle

note: Beltran, Guerrero, Rodriquez, Teixeira, Bonds, Williams all hit the ball in the green zone. The tilt and tuck are in place early in the swing. If you hit the ball out front, you will lose your rotational mechanics and become a linear hitter and blame your poor performance on rotational hitting. You are not rotational, if you are hitting the ball out in front of your front foot.


Thursday, October 13
Letter Written to Hitting Coach Mike Epstein

Hi Mike,
My son grew up studying the "The Science of Hitting" by Ted Williams. His
swing looked like a copy of Ken Griffey, Jr. He was selected the Player of the Year in Colorado two years ago by the Denver Post. He led the state in HR's. His senior year he hardly ever saw a good pitch but still batted .545 with 7 home runs. He was All-State again. He was drafted by the Phillies last June, selected an All American, and has a Junior Olympic gold ring. He received many Division 1 offers and signed with UNLV after hitting 4 of 8 out at a showcase in Las Vegas.
This past fall, UNLV's head coach went to TCU and Buddy Gouldsmith took over. He tells all his players it is his way or the highway when it comes to hitting. Buddy is a little guy (5'6") and believes in Charlie Lau’s, linear down swing, shoulders level, weight on front foot, etc. Half way through Fall Ball my son was struggling. 2-15. His swing looked really bad. My son said to heck with it and switched back to rotational hitting. He led the team in HR's the second half of Fall Ball and went 7 for 15 despite trying to get rid of the bad habits caused by hitting drills such as the 2-tee drill, swinging down, etc.
He left UNLV to go to CNCC to rehab.
Wayne Estey

Thursday, February 19
Preparing for Spring Tryouts
With the season less than a few weeks away, young players from ages 9 through 18 are attending clinics and private lessons to hone their skills for upcoming house league, AAU, JHS and HS tryouts. It is a tense time and preparation both mental and physical are in order. Coaches will be looking for poise and confidence as well as the skills of the game. You will be judged by how you look. Dress properly. Wear baseball pants. Gray is better than white. Baggy pants are out. If your tryouts are outside, wear spikes that are clean and polished. Get rid of your favorite old dirty hat and replace it with one that matches your shirt. Your shirt should be clean and wrinkle free. Dark colors such as burgundy, navy blue or black are a good choice. Avoid yellow, orange and bright green. Avoid shirts with the names of your favorite rock bands. Long sleeves look better than short. If you are short, wear pants with pinstripes to make you look taller. Address the coaches with respect. You can get a lot of mileage out of "Yes, sir" ,"Thank you, sir". On the other hand, " Hey you", won’t go over well. Hustle at all times. Pick up your feet when walking. Never drag your feet. Run on the balls of the feet. Everything you do will be judged consciously and subconsciously by coaches. When hitting, do not swing at every pitch. Let the coaches know that you can demonstrate patience and control. Swinging at bad pitches will make your mechanics look poor. Hit 20-30 balls off the tee before showing up for tryouts. Stretch often. The more flexible you are, the more fluid your movements will be. Be aggressive with balance in all phases of the game. And remember to relax at the plate. If you don't make the team, please don't give up. I will continue to be here to help you with hitting and I will find coaches who can help you with fielding and pitching. Remember Michael Jordan was cut in his first year of tryouts. If you love the game, you will succeed. Good luck. Coach Hoyle