Scap Load

Every once and a while there are players that I work with who talk about certain mechanical things that are great, but are not really sure why or how of whatever it is. The “Scap Load”. is one of those. Often times, I have players who are trying to scap load but don’t even know what their scap is. So, today I want to discuss what a Scap load is, why it is so important and how to work on it.

What is the scap?

The “Scap” is a shortened version of Scapula, or shoulder blade.

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What is a scap load?

A Scap load is when the shoulder blade retracts towards the middle of the body and spine. The easiest way to think about this is to think about doing a row at the gym. Another way to think about it is to sit up and pull both shoulder blades together.

Why?

Scap loading can be a vital part of getting more power and more consistency at the plate and it all has to do with the kinetic chain.

Power: In order for the body to create maximum power, the body must sequence the kinetic chain properly. That means that energy is created from the ground up. Perhaps the most vital link in the kinetic chain is the link between the hips and the torso. In a powerful swing, the hips begin rotating as the upper body stays back. In order to keep the upper body back, a scap load can help anchor the torso to stay back longer, thus allowing the hips to turn more before the torso rotates, creating more stretch.

Consistency: One of the qualities that the best hitters in the world possess is the ability to keep the upper body and the hands back for as long as possible. A proper scap load can allow the hitter to keep the upper body and the hands back longer to allow more time to see the ball before committing the hands. The longer a hitter can wait to commit the hands, the more information they gather on speed, spin and location. This allows hitters to show better plate discipline and decrease chasing and swing and misses.

How to work on the scap load






Welcome Tyler and Steve to the Elite Diamond Performance Staff

Welcome Tyler and Steve to the Elite Diamond Performance Staff

Up to now, the facility has run mainly as a one man show.  However, as more people have joined the Elite Diamond Performance Family, I have decided to add 2 new, very trusted and qualified coaches to the team: Tyler Benson and Steve Zavala.  

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Tyler Benson

Many of the current players at Elite Diamond Performance have seen Tyler around the facility over the past few years.  He is one of the pro players who has trained here since opening and comes in just about everyday in the offseason.   Having trained here for so long, he has a complete understanding of the concepts, ideas and techniques that are taught at Elite Diamond Performance.  Tyler is coming off of another great season in the San Diego Padres minor league system where he continues to move up the ladder, advancing up to Double A.  

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Steve Zavala

Steve Zavala is a former outfielder at Rutgers where he was a 4 year starter.  he is also a former student of jimmy’s from his college career, and has extensive experience in working with hitters. Combining his high level playing experience with his knowledge of hitting mechanics makes steve an exciting new addition to the team.



I am very lucky that the Elite Diamond Performance family continues to grow and am grateful to the wonderful players and parents who have helped in that process.  As much as I would love to personally train every player that comes in, there are only so many hours in the day.  Many of you that know me know that I am very particular in how things get taught to each and every player that comes through the door, so allowing others to train is not something that I would hand off to anybody.  Tyler and Steve are two very trusted and fully capable instructors who will deliver the same experience that I try to deliver at Elite Diamond Performance.  I will still have a personal involvement with each and every player’s development and am looking forward to having two great new coaches to get players improve this offseason!

Benefits of Semi Private training

Since the inception of Elite Diamond Performance, there have been 2 main types of training offered: one on one and small group/semi private. After 2 years and hundreds of hours running broth types of training, I have come to understand the both the benefits of both. While I believe that both types have their benefits, today I want to discuss the benefits of small group training as it will be offered more at Elite Diamond Performance.

What is semi private training?

Many of the players and parents who come in to Elite Diamond Performance have seen semi private training in action. It is the primary type of training that is done with college and pro players at the facility.

Semi private training consists of hour long sessions comprised of 3 players per session. Players arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled lesson time to do their individualized warmup. From there, each player performs their personalized tee and movement drills.

Once front toss begins, one player will be in the cage, and the other 2 are performing personalized drills to train flaws in the swing. The session proceeds like most one on one sessions with BP and when ready, live at bats.

The biggest difference in semi private training is the final 15 minutes. The session usually ends with some sort of competition. Quality hit games or live at bat games provide a more real life atmosphere for players with other eyes on them in a game like setting.

Benefit # 1 Competitive Atmosphere

Competition beings out the best in players. I have seen a really cool phenomenon happen during semi private training. The highest percentage of exit velocity and distance records that get set at the facility happen in a group setting. My theory is that competition make players focus more and give just a little extra than they would in a one on one setting.

The competitive atmosphere also allows players to have fun. At the end of the day, having fun should still be the most important part of the game. Players are able to test out the skills that they have been working on, enjoy training just a little more, and build friendships among other serious players.

Benefit # 2- More time at the facility

The biggest reason that I believe semi private training is so effective is that players are able to come in more often due to the lowered cost per session. The average cost of semi private training per is significantly lower than that of private one on one training. College and pro players are routinely at the facility multiple times per week instead of the average player coming in once a week. This allows each hitter to train their swing more often utilizing data driven feedback to ensure they are progressing.

Benefit # 3 Enhanced learning environment

The main goal at Elite Diamond Performance is to teach players about their swing and to educate them about the correct way to hit. Players who train in a semi private setting are given the opportunity to watch other players, observe what they are working on and learn from them. This allows hitters to gain a deeper understanding of both the mechanical and mental sides of hitting.

What players say about semi Private training

“The competitive atmosphere is awesome. Competition gives me an opportunity to try out the changes in my swing in a more game like setting.”- Pro Player

“I feel like I still get the one on one attention that I would get in a private session but am also able to compete against players with similar drive and motivation which pushes me to improve.” -College player

“Getting to hit alongside college and pro players in a small group session was awesome. It showed me how those guys train and prepare to get to the highest levels.” -High School player

FAQ

What about one on one attention?

Most semi private sessions have a front tosser/bp pitcher so that I as the instructor can get a better look at each hitter than I could when throwing to them. This allows me to more easily diagnose and communicate to players what needs to be worked on.

How many swings are taken in a semi private session compared to a one on one?

Average 1/2 Hour Private: 40-60

Average Hour Private: 80-100

Average Small Group/Semi Private: 70-80

Who can join Semi-Private training?

Any player who is currently playing on a 60/90 field

Why Data Matters

Why Data Matters

Baseball, like much of the rest of the world is undergoing a technology and data revolution. Never has there been access to more information than there is right now. Anyone who has been to Elite Diamond Performance knows how much data drives the training that occurs here. Still, the vast majority of coaches and facilities stay away from technology and data. Today, I want to discuss why I believe the data that we collect is so valuable and is the focal point of training at Elite Diamond Performance.

If you had an injury, would you go to a Doctor who didn’t use X-Rays or an MRI machine and just told you to trust them rather than use technology? Probably not. That is the equivalent of hitting instruction in 2019. If you wanted to get your swing to the best possible point, wouldn’t you want to have the most information possible to help in that process? The certainly is the philosophy at Elite Diamond Performance. Lets take a look at why data is so important.

  1. Tailors Training

Whenever a hitter comes into Elite Diamond Performance, my first job is to be the detective and figure out what is either causing struggles or how to get more out of a hitter.

The more information that I can get on a hitter, the easier it is to tailor training to their unique needs and either figure out why they are struggling or how to get them to the next level. Everything that goes into hitting falls into 4 categories. 1. Biomechanical 2. Mechanical 3. Equipment 4. Mental. The data collected by all of the technology used at Elite Diamond Performance helps to shed light on 3 of those 4. The only one that cannot be measured is the mental aspect of hitting.

Once we have identified what is either causing struggles or areas of potential improvement, the data helps to tailor the drills, cues, and training modes that are used.

2. Shows Progress

Numbers don’t lie. In a way data makes my job easier. With all of the data acquired, building a road map to helloing a hitter improve is much clearer. It is easier when a hitter trends in the right direction with their numbers because that indicates that the training is working. It is also easier when a hitter’s number don’t move in the right direction because it is an indication that the drills used or cuing of technique may off and we can switch modes quicker. However, it also makes my job harder in a way. Since numbers don’t lie, the data holds both me and the hitter accountable for the progress or lack there of. It would be much easier to not use data and tell every hitter that they looked great, but the numbers tell the truth.

3. Increases Hitting Potential

Will increasing a hitter’s exit velocity, improving their average launch angle or maximum distance make them into a great hitter? Not necessarily, but it gives them the potential to do so. Let’s look at an example.

Say I have a hitter who comes in day 1 and their maximum exit velocity is 60 mph, average launch angle is 5 degrees and their maximum distance is 95 feet. They play on a MLB size (60/90) field. With those initial numbers, they may have all of the other components that go into hitting, but they are not going to be able to hit the ball hard enough or far enough to get the ball out of the infield. Unfortunately, hitters who can’t do that don’t have much success as they move up levels. If we can improve this hitters max exit velocity to 75 mph, average launch angle to 15 degrees and max distance to 200 feet, they have just given themselves the potential and the foundation to be able to be a more successful hitter.

Exit Velocity and Launch Angle:  Why so much debate?

Exit Velocity and Launch Angle: Why so much debate?

I had 3 of my high school players come in right after tryouts and tell me they had a funny story for me. They said that their coach told them that “Exit Velocity and Launch Angle were (expletive).” For some reason, this feeling is not uncommon among baseball coaches, parents, spectators, etc. Today I want to discuss what these terms mean and why they are not (expletive). Rather they are paramount to understanding hitting and how to get hitters to improve.

Exit Velocity: The speed of the ball off of the bat (How hard we hit the ball)

The biggest correlating factor to success as a hitter is how hard we hit the ball. The best hitters in the world hit the ball hard and do it consistently. The harder a hitter can hit the ball, the greater the potential for success at the plate, period. Take a look at the chart below.

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What do we notice? The harder the ball gets hit, the better the chance of success. Chances of getting a hit, getting on base, getting extra base hits, and so go go up with higher exit velocity.

Launch Angle: The Angle of the Ball off of the Bat

My biggest aim at Elite Diamond Performance is to educate hitters. This is why I get frustrated when I hear people bashing data points when they don’t have an understanding of what they are. So I apologize in advance if this next paragraph comes across more heated than my usual writing but I believe that much of the debate around the data revolution in baseball comes from a lack of education.

I always get a kick out of people talking about launch angle like it is the downfall of hitting. I hear people talking about a “launch angle swing” or say that “launch angle is no good” or a hundred other statements that tell me there is a lack of understanding when it comes to this term. Let me say this very clearly, LAUNCH ANGLE IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH FLY BALLS. When people hear launch angle, they immediately think balls in the air and trying to hit the ball as high in the air as possible. This could not be further from the truth. EVERY BALL THAT HAS BEEN PUT IN PLAY OVER THE PAST 150 YEARS, EVERY ONE, 100% HAS HAD A LAUNCH ANGLE. Groundballs, line drives and fly balls all have launch angles. Finally, THE ONLY BALL THAT DOESN’T HAVE A LAUNCH ANGLE IS ONE THAT GETS MISSED.

Take a look at the chart below with outcomes in MLB at different launch angles.

Batted Ball Type  (Launch Angle)       OBP          SLG        OPS

Grounders (10 Degrees and Under)                   .232           .250       .483

Liners    (10-25 Degrees)                         .685          .883       1.568

Flies      (25 Degrees and Over)                         .213           .621        .834

If you believe that hitting line drives is important (as you should), you emphasize launch angle. The first statement that I tell every hitter that I work with, whether you are a 100 lb little leaguer or a 250 lb professional, everything that we do is designed to hit more line drives. Balls in the 10-25 degree range are what make hitters at every level successful.

Conclusion

Like I stated in the beginning, I continue to be confused by the heated debates between coaches, parents and players over the terms exit velocity and launch angle. If I had to pick 2 metrics that measured not only the potential of a hitter but the productivity of a hitter they would be exit velocity and launch angle. Essentially, if you are a successful hitter, you have the ability to hit the ball hard and constantly hit the ball at line drive launch angles.

Bringing a Batting practice approach to the game

Bringing a Batting practice approach to the game

Often times when a hitter looks great in the cage but struggles in games, approach should be the first aspect to look at. While mechanics can certainly change from a practice setting to a game setting, approach is often the culprit to the discrepancy. More often than not, a lack of aggressiveness is to blame.

What is a batting practice approach?

The batting practice approach is made of of 2 components:

  1. Expect the pitcher to throw a strike

  2. expect to swing the bat

Incredibly complex I know, but the implications are incredibly powerful.

In this approach the hitter is EXPECTING the pitcher to throw the ball where they are looking and are EXPECTING to crush the ball. This is a far more aggressive way of thinking than the opposite approach.

The opposite approach would be when a hitter is looking for a pitch in their zone and deciding to swing if the ball is thrown there. Doesn’t sound incredibly different but these two approaches couldn’t be more apart.

Think of it this way. The Batting Practice approach is the YES YES NO approach and the more passive approach is the NO NO YES approach. With about 1/3 of a second to see the pitch and decide on swinging or not, it is far easier to anticipate swinging the bat and put on the brakes on than it is to switch from having the brakes on to swimming in that time.

Observe the way that you approach swinging the bat in batting practice and try to replicate that in any hitter’s count that you get to in a game.

All About Weight Shift

All About Weight Shift

Weight shift is a very delicate part of hitting mechanics. Get too far out front and bat path and timing get messed up. Keep too much weight back and we can screw with bat path and limit power. Weight shift is unlike most flaws seen in swings. Where with most flaws most hitters tend to fall on one side weight shift is different. I probably see just as many players who stay back too much as players who shift too far forward. Today I want to review why we weight shift, what it should look like, implications if we are at either extreme, and how to work on it.

What should weight shift look like?

  1. Counter movement: The initial phase of weight shift is loading back onto the back leg. This helps to load the muscles of the back hip to transfer energy.

  2. Weight shift: The weight shift occurs as soon as the lower body begins to move weight forward. For most hitters, this phase begins right around the time of ball release.

  3. Stabilizing: The final phase is when the front leg absorbs the force of the weight shift and no more linear (forward) movement occurs. In high level hitters this is seen right when the heel of the front foot is planted in the ground.

Why do I need to shift my weight?

Simplest answer is power. Lets follow the way that high level hitters transfer weight. In phase 1, the energy in the lower body is transferred to the muscles of the back hip. From here, that energy is transferred to the front leg. Once the front leg stabilizes (stops moving forward), that energy is sent back up through the body as the body begins to rotate. Without a weight shift, the swing would lack the energy to generate maximum power.

Now, lets take a look at what happens when we get too far to either end of the weight shift spectrum.

Sitting back (not shifting enough weight forward)

What it looks like: Head stays over back leg. No forward shift. Back shoulder drops too soon

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Problems

  1. Lack of power: As discussed earlier, the primary reason for a weight shift is to help energy transfer in the lower body to generate maximum power. Sitting back also causes the upper body to unload too early leading to a lack of stretch through the middle of the body which also limits power.

  2. Impaired bat path: Check out this article from a few years ago. To summarize, the more I lean back, the more natural it is for the bat to move up through the zone, and vice versa. The more a hitter sits back and doesn’t transfer weight, the more the hitter is inclined to move the bat at too steep of an incline through the zone.

Drill: Dowel dry swings

  1. Get into stance

  2. Feel the wight load back and shift forward so that the head is in the middle of the body with stick pointing down the baseline.

Lunging (shifting too much weight forward) Full Article on Lunging Here

What it looks like: Heavy landing on front side. Head over front leg. Too upright

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Problems with Lunging

  1. Impaired Bat Path: As discussed above, the body position is a key factor in a correct, slightly inclined bat path. When a hitter gets shifted too far forward, the hitter loses the ability to drop the back side and move the bat up through the zone. This causes hitters to either swing level or down and try to create the proper path with just arms. Many times hitters who lunge will create hard ground balls to the pull side and weak fly balls to the opposite field.

  2. Timing Issues: The biggest key to timing is having the ability to keep the upper body back in the most loaded position until the swing fires. This is nearly impossible to do when too much weight gets shifted onto the front side.

  3. Lack of power: Many times, hitters who lunge limit power because they don’t have the strength or stability on the front leg to absorb all of the force being place on it. Without the final phase of the weight shift, energy cannot be redirected back through the body and into rotation. This causes an energy leak and limits how much power can be created.

Drill: Deep Tee Drill



The Importance of Posture: Hip Hinge

Out of all of the hundreds of hitters that I have worked with, there is one thing that leads to most of the flaws seen in swings. That is posture. Get too upright and we lose power and hinder bat path. Get weight too far forward we lunge and impair bat path. Stay too far back and we limit power and so on. Most flaws in swings begin with a postural cause. Of the many different posture issues seen with hitters, on of the most common is an inability to get into a hip hinge position. Today we will discuss what a Hip Hinge position is, why it is important and how we can fix it.

What is a Hip Hinge Position?

Think about the body hinging at the hips, the position of a basketball defender, a dead lift position, etc. The hallmarks of this position are the hips behind the heels and the head out in front of the feet. Watch this quick clip of Pete Alonso getting into and maintaining this position from launch position through contact.

Why is it important?

The hip hinge is important for 3 reasons.

  1. Power generation.

    In short, the hip hinge loads the biggest strongest muscles of the body right before we initiate the swing. Think about a deadlift. For most people who have good form and are injury free, the deadlift should be the most weight an athlete should lift in the gym. Why? The deadlift, which utilizes a hip hinge position, uses the hamstrings, glutes and other muscles of the posterior chain. These muscles are extremely big, powerful muscles. When we hit, getting them loaded is essential for power generation.

  2. Covering the entire plate

    Take a look at this video of Cody Bellinger hitting a Homerun against the Mets. The biggest take away should be where he strides. Hitters are always taught not to step in the bucket. So how in the world can he reach outside pitches and hit them extremely well? Look at the position of his body when his stride foot hits the ground. Hips back, chest forward, head out in front of feet. This allows him to get closer to that outside pitch and cover the entire plate.

3. Proper Bat Path

Every good hitter at high levels moves the bat on an upward plane. In order to achieve this, the back shoulder must drop. Beginning in a hip hinge allows this to happen and make it easier for the bat path to follow the plane of the shoulders by keeping the upper body tilted over home plate. Take a look at the video below.

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How to work on the hip hinge

The first step in getting into a strong hip hinge posture is to know what that position feels like. Below is a drill to feel the position.


What my daughters have taught me about hitting

What my daughters have taught me about hitting

Most people that get my emails know that I have 3 kids, a 4 yr old boy and twin 1 year old daughters. They have taught me a ton about life and often times, can shed light into my coaching. Today I want to talk something cool my daughters have recently taught me that I think applies to my hitters.

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As I have written about in the past, one of the biggest intangibles that my successful hitters have is the ability to fail and to trust the process. They buy into what we are working on and understand that there will be stumbles along the way. Some of my best hitters have had some of the worst training sessions I have seen since opening Elite Diamond Performance. Why? They are willing to try things out, understand that struggling is part of the learning process and trust that the end result is worth the failures.

So, how does this relate to my girls? My daughters are at a very cool stage where they are learning how to walk. While the mode of locomotion they still prefer is crawling, they have been testing the walking strategy for about 2 months now. They have spent the past year observing people walking, and are beginning to realize that in the long run, walking will be the best mode of transportation for them, just like each and every one of us does at some point in our infancy. So with that, they have been trying it out for a few months. Each day they get a little bit better. Not much, but ever so slightly. However, unless they land in the arms of someone at the other end, every attempt at this en-devour has ended in failure. They take a step or two or three and fall on their butt. Do they cry and give up? No. They don’t make a sound. They get right back up and try again.

Applications to hitters

  1. Successful players are continually trying to get better

    Babies realize that crawling gets them from point A to point B. So why do they want to continually try walking? They realize that it is the best method in the long run. Many hitters (especially hitters who have success at younger ages) are afraid to change anything. They may realize that there may be a better, more successful way to do things, but aren’t willing to try something and risk short term failures. Players who get complacent and aren’t willing to change, get left behind.

    Take a hitter who swings down through the hitting zone. Many young hitters who have good hand eye coordination can have success in the early stages of the game with this approach.. However, try to find a high level hitter who has success with this approach. Swinging the bat on an upward path is a better way to hit long term (walking), but many hitters aren’t willing to change, want to stick to swinging down (crawling) and get left behind.

  2. Successful hitters are persistent and willing to fail

    I watch my girls fail continually at their attempt to walk but continue to have the determination to get back up and try again and again in hope that each time they can travel a little further than last time. All of the successful hitters that I have ever worked with are willing to fail because they understand that results usually are not instant and that the end result will be worth it. They are able to realize small improvements and take those away from a session instead of focusing on the struggles. Babies focus on the small successes, walking another step further, reaching mommy or daddy, not on the continual butt fall. Hitters who give up on something because it “doesn’t feel right” or they don’t see instant results rarely make very far in the game.

Conclusion:

Every one of my players has gone through the same process that my daughters are going through right now. They are willing to continually try, most of the time unsuccessfully to try and achieve a better way to do things. The most successful hitters that I have every worked with continue this same approach when it comes to baseball. They know that achieving success in the long run is often taking a path that includes a good deal of struggling.

Controlling what we can control in the Batter's Box

Controlling what we can control in the Batter's Box

There is a ton that goes into hitting. During the off-season, we spend time breaking down minutia of the swings to improve the swing that we will eventually take into the box in the spring. Not to say that we can’t continue to work on swing mechanics during the season, but when it comes to the mental approach once we get between the lines, it is a whole different ball game. I speak constantly this time of year about only worrying about what we can control as hitters. The 2 things that we can control once we get into the box are the pitch we swing at and the way that we swing the bat. Lets dive into each.

The Pitch we Swing At

Listen to my discussion on day one with a hitter or listen in on any session that I give and you will hear me talk a lot about pitch selection. I truly believe, that above almost anything else we can do as hitters, pitch selection is paramount to success at the plate. Many, many hitters are able to get in the box with less than perfect mechanics and be relatively successful simply because they swing at good pitches. I will take a hitter with good pitch selection any day over a hitter with ideal mechanics and lousy pitch selection.

So what is the pitch we are looking for? That is dependent on the hitter and the situation. Check out these articles on what our approach should be in different counts.

Hitter’s Count

Neutral Count

Generally speaking, with an advantage count, the hitter should be looking for their favorite pitch in their favorite part of the zone. Neutral counts open that box up a little, but still looking mostly for their favorite pitch in a slightly larger area of the zone. 2 strike counts should see the hitter focusing on an outside fastball to help stay back on an off-speed pitch while still maintain the ability to catch up to a fastball.

The Way that we Swing the Bat

This may sound like we are focusing on mechanics, but mechanics are the last thing that should enter our mind at the plate. For the vast majority of hitters, the way we swing the bat simply means be aggressive.

Hitters come to Elite Diamond Performance, go to practice, and hit on their own to improve their muscle memory so that when they enter the box, they have as sound of a swing as they possibly can have.

Give yourself the Best Chance to be Successful

The only thing that I can ask of a hitter at the plate is to get a good pitch and put an aggressive swing on the ball. The reality is that we are going to fail most of the time when we get up to bat. Control the pitch that you swing at and the way you swing the bat and it will give you the best chance to be successful. After a game, go through your at bats in your head and think if you were able to check off both boxes during the swings you took.

Intangibles of a Successful Hitter

Intangibles of a Successful Hitter

With my college and pro players gone, high school kids starting practice this week and my younger players gearing up for the home stretch of the off-season, I think about what traits the kids who have success possess. Yes, there are players who are physically more gifted than others, but regardless of the level a player starts at, there are a handful of traits that every one of my players has the ability to possess that can make them into an exponentially better player. Here they are:

1. ABility to understand Key Concepts and interest in learning

The biggest thing that I try to do with my hitters is educate them. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of swings that each and every one of my players takes will not be with me watching them. The ability to understand and grasp the concepts that we are working on and the desire to learn, are paramount to success.

I love when players are constantly asking questions. I would say that most of the hitters who succeed here at Elite Diamond Performance are the ones who ask the most questions. I wrote an article about a year ago speaking to the most important word my hitters can use is “why.”

The baseball world is still filled with a ton of misinformation and fallacies when it comes to hitting. Just about every week I have at least one player come in and say “my coach tell me that what you are teaching me is wrong.” The players who don’t grasp the key concepts will jump ship and immediately throw everything we have worked on out the window. The players who truly understand what is being taught here and the ones who have a true grasp on the key concepts of successful hitting are the ones who are able to drown out that noise.

2. Ability to fail

If there is one constant over the last 150 years in baseball it is that hitters fail. Not only do they fail the vast majority of the time, they fail at a rate unseen in just about any other sport. I get a kick out of emails from players and parents asking me why they or their child had a bad round of batting practice or an O-for game. I wish that every hitter would go out and hit .500 with a HR every game. However, that is not the reality. Successful hitters have the ability to understand that they are going to fail and not get down on themselves.

This goes back to Trait # 1. Those hitters who have a true grasp on what we are working on usually have the understanding that change doesn’t happen overnight. When we understand why we are trying to do certain things, we understand that struggling will be part of trying to figure it out.

3. Patience

Change take time. It is why working with a new player right before the season or in the middle of a season in extremely challenging. I often think about one of my pro hitters and how the first 10 sessions that we did together were exclusively tee and front toss work. This is a professional player who needed 10 sessions to learn certain concepts and movements before I ever threw a ball overhand. However, he was patient and understood why we needed to do that. The successful hitters I have worked with understand that mechanical changes take a lot of time. Even if a swing may not produce the best outcome, these patient hitters are able to trust that the results will come.

I often talk about muscle memory, which is, in a nutshell, the body’s ability to reproduce a movement without conscious thought. It is incredible how many reps it can take to rewire the bodies muscle memory.

Lastly, I have seen an interesting trend in many hitters when it comes to the data collected using the Hit Trax. Many hitters will see an initial spike in their numbers. This often comes from big changes such as moving the bat up through the zone instead of down, or using the lower body more effectively. However, after this initial spike many hitters will fall off slightly. I believe this is due to the body trying to rework much of the incorrect muscle memory that has been ingrained over the years. This stage can last from 1-2 sessions to a handful. However, many hitters will put everything together after this stage and the new muscle memory takes hold. It is getting through that rough patch in the middle that successful hitters are able to do.

4. Work Ethic

There are a lot of hitters who come through the door at Elite Diamond Performance. Aside from my pro and college players (who are home for such a short time that they are in just about everyday), the most frequently I see most of my hitters is twice a week. I tell every player that coming in 1-2 times a week on its own will not get most hitters to where they desire to be. The players who succeed the most, are the ones who take the information being taught in their session and work on it on their own. One of my favorite quotes is “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” I am a true believer in that. I have yet to see a player who makes it to the higher levels of this sport who does not put in the work.

Player Profile: Max Matilsky

Player Profile: Max Matilsky

A Huge Congrats to Elite Diamond Performance hitter Max Matilsky for hitting a HR in his first at bat in nearly 2 years! After suffering a broken leg in pre -season last year and missing the entire season, Max went 3-7 with a HR, 2 Doubles, and 4 RBI in his first action for Dickinson College since April of 2017.

Max’s story

Max, a shortstop, played his high school ball at Morristown Beard, where he helped lead his team to a county championship in 2016. Max began his training at Elite Diamond Performance during the winter of his freshman year of college in 2016. Max trained a few times a week for about a month before embarking on what would be an amazing freshman year. He led the team in batting and was the only freshman to be named 1st team All Conference.

What makes Max unique is his ability to trust the process of what is being taught at Elite Diamond Performance. During his initial evaluation, some of the bedrocks of what he thought went into a good swing were dispelled. Many players who had success in high school may be resistant to change, however, Max bought in. He was hungry to improve on a good high school career and through a ton of hard work has become a very successful college hitter.

Interview with Max

What were the biggest differences in what you had been taught in the past and what you were being taught at Elite Diamond Performance?

All my life I had been taught what was thought to be the basic swing technique of a level swing path working my hands down to the ball. When I started my training, everything was thrown out the window. I began developing a vertical swing path while meeting the ball along the same path it was being thrown at.

What were your thoughts when some drastic swing changes were being proposed? 

While initially hesitant, I trusted this idea and had it glued into my brain. It began to make sense and the results came instantly. The keys to my success with this new concept came as a result of repetition and certain mental cues that helped me develop into my new and improved swing. In addition, videos, hands on training, and advanced technology in the facility contributed to my progress. 

What has been the change to your swing that has contributed the most to your success?

My bat path has been the most drastic change in my swing since beginning at EDP. There was no change ever made to my stance, stride, or load, but simply the path I took to the ball, a minor change with incredible improvements to my overall hitting but specifically to my power numbers.

Front shoulder at Launch Position

Since using the K-Vest and having the ability to measure the bio mechanics of all of my hitters, I have been able to track the differences between high level (college and pro) hitters and younger hitters. As you may guess, there are many differences. Today I want to discuss one of those differences: The position of the shoulders at the Launch Position, specifically the front shoulder.

What is the Launch Position?

The position when the heel of the front foot lands.

What should the shoulders look like?

Compare that with what most younger hitters look like

What do we notice? Most younger hitter’s shoulders are slanted the opposite direction with the back shoulder below the front shoulder.

Now, lets take a look at the shoulders from the pitcher’s perspective

3 Takeaways from the Pitcher’s Perspective

  1. Front shoulder lower than back shoulder

  2. Front shoulder turned in so that the torso is angled back towards the catcher

  3. Front shoulder pointed in direction of 2nd Baseman (Shortstop for a lefty)

Why should the front shoulder be lower than then the back?

  1. Power Generation

    One of the most important components of generating power is loading the upper body correctly. The best hitters in the world are going to position the upper body in the most stretched position possible to allow the hips to pull the torso around faster. This means that they stretch from the front hip to the back shoulder as much as possible before unloading the upper body.

    One component of loading the torso correctly is the keep the upper body turned back slightly towards the catcher at heel plant. However, we can increase the amount of stored energy in the muscles and connective tissues of the upper body by lowering the front shoulder as we turn back towards the catcher. Try it for yourself. Stand up and get into the launch position. First, turn the upper body back towards the catcher. You should feel a slight stretch across the torso. Stay in that position and drop the front shoulder. Notice what happens. The stretch should increase.

  2. Ability to commit later to the pitch

    The best hitters in the world are able to commit as late as possible to swinging at a pitch. They are able to keep the upper body and hands back as the hips start to allow them to pick up velocity, spin, and location on a given pitch. This allows them the ability to adjust and gather more information on what they are swinging at.

    How much lower should my front shoulder be than the back?

    Every hitter is different, so the answer is: it depends. The examples shown above show that some hitters (Betts, Baez, etc.) can get into more extremes than other guys. From a numbers perspective, some hitters can get the front shoulder sloped 15-20 degrees below the back shoulder. Most pro guys will be slightly positive, meaning that the front shoulder is just slightly lower than the back. Even having the shoulders level is acceptable. However, we just don’t want the back shoulder lower than the front at heel plant.

    How do I work on the shoulder positioning at my Launch Position?

    1. Active takes- During BP, take pitches and get into the launch position, focusing on getting the front shoulder slightly down and in.

    2. Tee and front toss from Launch Position- Get into the launch position and hit the ball from that starting position. This will allow you to feel the body firing from the new, more loaded position.

Stride Leg Mechanics

Stride Leg Mechanics

What is the role of the stride leg in the swing? Most players are taught to lock out the front leg. Others are taught to stay bent on the front side. So what should the front leg look like and why?

Lets take a look at what the stride leg does in an elite hitters.

Hitter 1: Max Muncy- Bent front leg at contact

Hitter 2: Matt Holliday- Slight bend, almost locked at contact

Hitter 3: Jose Reyes- Locked at contact

Which is correct?

The short answer is all are correct. Most hitters will be either locked out on their front leg or very close to it at contact. Some, like Max Muncy create tremendous power with a ton of bend.

The role of the stride leg

The stride leg is responsible for receiving energy from the stride, stabilizing and allowing the lower body to have a firm base to rotate from. The key is stabilization. If you go back and look and the previous videos, you will notice that as soon as the heel of the stride leg lands, there is no more forward movement from the front leg. The reason why most players get locked out on their front leg or very close it it is that this position is easier to stabilize from. The more bent stride leg is harder to stabilize, but can still be done. The biggest key is that the front leg does not move forward once the heel lands.

How to work on front leg stabilization

In order for the front leg to learn to stabilize, the most effective drill that I have used is the launch position separation drill. It teaches the hitter to land in the launch position, firm up and stabilize the front leg to begin rotation of the hips.





Feel vs. Real

Feel vs. Real

One of my favorite articles that I have ever read was from a 1986 sports illustrated conversation between Ted Williams, Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly. IF you have never read it here it is. Essentially, it is Boggs and Mattingly (both near or at the prime of their careers) talking hitting with arguably the greatest hitter ever. The conversation goes back and forth between what Boggs and Mattinlgy think they are doing with their swing and Williams continually telling them that what they think they are doing is wrong. The best example is Mattingly and Boggs talk about trying to swing down to which Williams accurately corrects them that they actually swing up. It is a great example of what I want to address today. The concept of feel vs. real.

While many of the hitters of today have come around to Ted Williams teachings, you can also listen to some of the greatest hitters of all time (Mike Trout, Don Mattingly, George Brett, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter) and you will hear that they want to try and stay on top of the ball. Then watch the way they swing in a game. Bat gets under the ball and moves up like every other great hitter of all time. Here is a picture of Albert Pujols talking about what he is trying to do at the plate with another picture of his actual swing.

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So how do these great hitters think of things that are obviously wrong and turn in hall of fame careers? TO be honest, I’m not really sure. Could they be even better if they didn’t think about swinging down and staying on top of the ball? Maybe. Ted Williams certainly thought so. However, I don’t think that I need to change the way that Mike Trout thinks about hitting. I want to address younger players following what these great hitters talk about.

Should I follow the thinking of hitters who talk about trying to visualize things that I know are wrong mechanically?

My suggestion is it depends. You have to know your swing inside and out and what helps you to create the best swing possible. Mike Trout and Derek Jeter could think about staying on top of the ball and swinging down because their swings are already pretty good and mechanically sound. If you have trouble swinging down too much, thinking the same way that they do will only exacerbate the problem.

I certainly think that some hitters can think about something completely off the wall and still have success at the plate. However, with all of the information we have today, there are just as many if not more that think about doing things that should actually happen in a swing. My general advice is the practice and think about what actually happens in a swing, much like what Ted Williams was trying so desperately to get across to Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs.

How Hip Rotation contributes to power generation

Every player that I have ever worked with from little leaguers through pro players all know one thing:  your power comes from your legs.  After all, this is what kids are told from their first days on the t ball field.  However, while almost every player I have ever worked with can recite that to me, I find that very few players understand and/or can implement how to actually use the lower body to generate power. While there are a number of factors that go into how the lower body produces power, today I want to discuss the most talked about: hip rotation.

“Squish the Bug”

One of the first cues that young hitters get is to “squish the bug”. While I have my reasons for not liking this cue for older hitters, it highlights the importance of rotating the hips from day one on the baseball field. Players know they need to turn their hips, but why?

The way that I like to describe the lower body is as the engine of the swing.  The hips are what should start the swing and drive power.

Take a look at Justin Smoak.  Watch how once his foot hits the ground his hips start rotating first as his upper body stays closed. Once his hips can’t rotate any further, the upper body pulls around because of the hips.  

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Separation

The video above shows how, in its simplest form, how the body works to generate power. The hips and shoulders “separate”. This simply means that the hips rotate towards the pitcher as much as possible and the upper body stays rotated back towards the catcher. The best hitters in the world do this to generate power and the best pitchers in the world do this to generate velocity. It is why Mookie Betts at 5’9” and weighing 175 pounds can hit 32 homeruns in a Major League season.

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Why the timing of the hips is more important than turning the hips (Short Anatomy and Physiology Lesson)

For most younger hitters, or hitters who don’t generate much power, the timing of the hips and upper body is off. Watch a little League hitter and most likely, they will lead the swing with the upper body first. While these players may turn their hips fully, there is almost no contribution from the hip turn because the hips are not pulling the muscles of the upper body. Hitters who start their hip rotation before the upper body can generate a ton more power even if they don’t fully turn their hips.

The muscles in the body generate power by what is called the stretch shortening cycle. Simply put, we want to stretch a muscle just before firing it. This will produce the most amount of force possible. This is why when a basketball player goes up for a rebound they will drop down an immediately jump up instead of squatting down for 3 seconds before jumping.

This means that we want a hitter to stretch the muscles in the upper body just before they fire them. If the hips don’t go first, we won’t activate this process.

K-Vest Application

Since I have begun using the K-Vest at Elite Diamond Performance, I have been able to gather some incredibly valuable data on how much separation players create at different points in the swing, as well as the sequencing of body parts. I knew that I would find that many young hitters struggle with leading the swing with the hips but it certainly helps to have a quantifiable measure.

The first thing that I am looking for with the data is that the hips reach peak velocity and pull the upper body around. This means that the lower body should power the rotation of the upper body, which should rotate faster than the hips. If the hips rotate at 600 degrees per second, the torso should move about 1.5 x that or 900 degrees per second.  If we see a torso that rotates too slowly, their is almost always a lower body flaw that can be corrected.

The second thing that I look for is a hitter who creates separation during their first move (the beginning of upper body rotation after the launch position). Major League hitters are able to create between 25-45 degrees of separation between the hips and upper body. Here is data of an amateur hitter of mine and a pro hitter of mine. The amateur hitter’s upper body is 3 degrees ahead of his lower body. The pro player’s upper body is 31 degrees behind his lower body.

Amateur Hitter

Amateur Hitter

Pro Hitter

Pro Hitter

 

Drill

Below is an introductory drill to allow hitters to feel the separation of the upper and lower body, and help the hitter feel the hip rotation lead the swing.

Elite Diamond Performance Welcomes K-Vest!

Elite Diamond Performance Welcomes K-Vest!

In a continued effort to provide the players at Elite Diamond Performance with the most state of the art technology and learning tools, I am excited to announce the integration of the K-Vest System!

What is K-Vest?

K-Vest is a system of bio-mechanical sensors that track every movement of the body throughout the swing. It is the latest technology that is currently being used by 15 different MLB organizations to help hitters get the most out of their bodies. Some of the metrics that it tracks are:

  • Efficiency of the swing

  • Hip/Upper Body Rotation speeds

  • Proper body sequencing to produce power and a mechanically sound swing

  • Body positioning at different points in the swing

  • Compares hitters to the sequence, efficiency and speeds of professional hitters

The K-Vest gives players at Elite Diamond Performance another tool in their tool box to help correct flaws and limitations in the swing.

What else can K-Vest do?

The amount of information that the K-Vest gives us is amazing. However, the biggest reason that I wanted to invest in K-Vest is the training module. In the training module, a player can see an avatar of their body in real time and be forced to get into the desired positions needed for an efficient, powerful swing. Most players are either visual or kinesthetic learners. The Hit Trax allows my hitters the visual component: to see, in real time, what the mechanical differences were between a good swing and a poor swing. The K-Vest will allow players to feel the difference.

Why is the k-Vest Important?

I want to provide all of the players that come to Elite Diamond Performance the best tools to help them improve. If there is technology that can help give players an edge and learn more about their swing, I think it is worth investing in. All of the technology at Elite Diamond Performance helps to give the best look at different aspects of hitting. The Hit Trax can tell us a ton about the swing. It gives us insight into really the most important things about hitting: exit velocity, launch angles, line drive percentage, distance, essentially, how the ball comes off of the bat. The Blast Motion gives us insight into how the bat moves from start to finish. The K-Vest will help teach hitters about their body, show any bio-mechanical limitations, and help them learn to move their body in the best way possible to get the most efficient, powerful swing they can.

Launch Angle vs. Attack Angle

Launch Angle vs. Attack Angle

I was scouting at a high school game recently, and another scout asked me if I teach the “Launch Angle Swing.” Before I could answer, the player that we both there to see did something of note so we never returned to the subject, but it got me thinking. There seems to be some confusion as to the difference between Launch Angle and Attack angle. Today I want to clear up that confusion.

Launch Angle

The term Launch Angle has recently become a popular and for some reason polarizing term in baseball. The reason is has become so well known and has such a strange connotation is it really began being used right around the time a few years ago when many hitters began trying to hit the ball in the air more. Those who disagree with this approach will talk against launch angles. However, launch angles have always been a part of the game, it just wasn’t until recently that we really had a term for them. Let me state this very clearly: Every single ball that gets hit has a launch angle. Launch angle refers to the angle of the ball off of the bat, so without a launch angle, you are missing the ball. Launch angle refers to the way that the ball moves off of the bat.

Groundball: -90 degrees to 10 degrees

Line Drives: 10 degrees to 25 degrees

Flyballs: 26 degrees to 90 degrees

Look at the chart below (From a pro hitter I train): The highest batting averages are seen between 10 and 20 degrees: Line Drives. Launch angles above and below this range begin to fall off and limit our ability to get a hit.

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Attack Angle

Attack angle is about the bat not the ball. Attack Angle is the path that the bat takes as it makes contact with the ball.

Downward bat path: Anything negative

Level: 0 Degrees

Upward bat path: Anything positive

How do Launch Angle and Attack Angle interact?

Launch angle is determined solely on where the bat meets the ball. If the bat hits the top of the ball, the ball will go down and if the bat meets the bottom of the ball it will go up and everything in between are varying degrees of launch angles.

We can get any launch angle with any type of attack angle. No matter whether a swing is up, down or level, a hitter can hit any part of the ball.

Why do high level hitters swing up?

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Good hitters have a positive attack angle, swing up, uppercut or whatever you want to call it. The best hitters in the world get the bat on the path of the ball early and stay in the hitting zone for a long time. The average fastball come in at between 6-12 degrees and they need to move the bat up to stay on the plane of the pitch for a long period of time. This increases their chance of hitting the center of the ball and creating a line drive.

While any attack angle can produce any type of launch angle, most players and coaches have the opposite view of what really happens. To read more about why swinging up does not actually produce pop ups check out my article here on EliteBaseBallPerformance.com


Exit Velocity Update

Exit Velocity Update

About 2 years ago, I wrote an article on Ball Exit Speed detailing things that can effect exit velocity and tips on how to improve it. While all of those things still hold true, I now have much more data than I had then. When the article was written, I was using a radar gun set up in front of an L Screen, much like what is now done at most showcases. While this worked, there were a number of variables that effected the results. Since opening Elite Diamond Performance and have been using the Hit Tax with every session that I do, I have obtained thousands of data points on exit velocity from players of all ages from 6 years old through professional players. In today’s article, I wanted to give an updated version of Exit Velocity Ranges for each age group.

Exit velocity is very important. Simply put, the harder the ball gets hit, the batter chance the hitter has to get on base. However, there is much more that goes into hitting besides exit speed. Each age group has a minimum that I feel has to be reached to be a consistent hitter. Beyond that, there are so many factors that go into success at the plate.

Note: All of the exit speed numbers below are from live batting practice.

Level Average High High

Pro 97.5 104.4

College 93.8 101.8

High School (Varsity) 90.9 101.2

High School (Fresh/Soph) 84.6 96.4

13-14 81.7 86.9

11-12 67.9 79.7

9-10 59.5 69.1

The Most Important Word my players can use:  Why

The Most Important Word my players can use: Why

My biggest job as an instructor is to educate my players. I want each and every player that I work with to understand their swing, their approach, etc to the best of their abilities. This is simply because the vast majority of swings that my hitters take will be outside of my facility, and the only way for them to improve is to truly understand what can make them better. The hitters that do the best with what I teach are the ones who overuse the word “why.” Let me explain.

Someone once told me that the 6 deadliest words are: “That’s the way its always been.” This could not be truer in baseball. The sport, and hitting in particular, are going through somewhat of a “revolution”. The typical wisdom about hitting is changing. The terms “Launch Angle”, “Exit Velocity”, Flyball revolution, etc. highlight the perceived change that are going on in the game. However, hitting really hasn’t changed over the past 150 years. Much of what the great hitters from 100 years ago are the same as what the greats of today’s game do. However, we have so much more information and technology that can highlight what good hitters actually do, rather than relying on theories.

In the coaching world, baseball has never been so contentious. There are the old school coaches fighting with the new school coaches, hitting gurus getting into online fights like kids over mechanics, and numbers guys arguing with eye test guys. Why is this? Baseball, like every other sport has never had so much information, so many statistics, and so much technology that can disprove much of the old wisdom. Baseball is improving, yet many who have been around the game for a long time, are trying to hold on to outdated thinking. Baseball is older than any other american sport and is usually the slowest to change, but slowly, people are beginning to.

Going back to my original point, the players who do the best with my instruction are the ones who come in with an open mind and question everything that I tell them. Yes, many of the things that I talk about sound completely backwards from the traditional wisdom surrounding hitting. The board of rules in my facility reads like a list of what bad hitter do, not good hitters. Here are the first 2:

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However, as against conventional teachings as some of these things may be, the hitters who succeed the most are the ones who ask me a ton of questions as to why I am teaching them things that are completely different from what they have always been taught. They are eager to learn and don’t close off when they hear something that goes against what they have been taught previously. They can see from exit velocities, launch angles, video, that when they do certain things their swings improve.

I was taught many of the wrong things throughout much of my career. When I began to be introduced to correct information, I fought it because I didn’t want to believe that what I had been taught could be wrong. However, if I didn’t get exposed to correct mechanics and began to question what I had previously been taught, I never would’ve had the opportunity to play professionally.

Think about what has been taught to you over your career. If you have always been told to swing down on the ball or squish the bug, ask yourself why. Don’t simply trust someone because they played at a certain level or have coached for x number of years. Use the technology that we have at our disposal that coaches who came up with many of the fallacies surrounding hitting didn’t have. Watch players, observe what they do and always question the “conventional wisdom” because as soon as we stop learning, we are doomed to failure.