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Josh Horton Off Season Report: Heading to Spring Training Ready to Turn Heads

Written By: Chas Pippitt

 

josh horton back

After being named an MilB.com organizational All-Star for the first time in his career and setting full-season career highs in Slugging, OPS, Doubles, Home Runs…and Strikeouts…Josh Horton came back to I.T.S. Baseball to train, hit, and get ready for the season.  The main focus of his training last year was getting his barrel on plane with the baseball earlier so he could hit the ball deeper in the zone.  Also, we wanted to make sure we got the back foot off the ground so we could get a more complete body rotation in his swing and greatly increase his power generating capabilities.  We were successful in our quest to add power to his swing, but as you can clearly see from his statistics, (Stats Here) …we added lots of swings and misses, leading to strikeouts as well.

K’s are never an intended consequence of changing a hitter’s swing mechanics, but as with any change, there will be a few bumps in the road.  I was quite surprised that his K’s increased by that much due to how much longer his bat was in the zone and behind the baseball, but he frequently commented on how he felt ‘early’ and had not completely adjusted to the timing of being much later in his decision to swing.  Another factor in his most recent season was his position in the batting order.  In previous years Josh hit 7th, 8th or 2nd.  This past year, he quickly moved up in the order, batting over half of his season in the 3, 4, 5 spots.  Middle of the order hitters clearly are pitched differently than guys lower in the lineup.  Even with his ‘batting order promotion’, Josh raised his Batting Average for Balls In Play (BABIP) from .330 in 2010 his best year to date to .354 in 2011.  Basically, what that means on the balls he hit fair, other than homeruns, he was more likely to get a hit and with his slugging percentage he was clearly hitting the ball harder.

This year, Josh came in on December 17th, 2012 and I wanted to check out his swing on video and compare it to his swing when he left.   I was happy to see he looked pretty good up top with his arms and vision and was getting the bat in the zone well.  The videos from 2010 and 2011 were shot with different cameras, so they do not sync up.  You can see Josh’s intake video below.

Before we got started making new changes to his swing, Josh and I had a meeting about his season.  He said he was happy with his progression to a middle of the order hitter and increased power numbers but was disappointed at his first half strikeout ratios and batting average.  It was clear that our focus this offseason should almost exclusively be increasing his barrel ACCURACY, meaning less swings and misses, less mis-hit balls he should have crushed, and adding more hard barrel contact.  I told him that I wanted to work very hard on a forward movement early in his swing process to get his weight off of his back foot so that he could turn faster and more completely than last year.  I explained, that not only would this move relax his body and make his initial ‘turning’ action smoother and less jolting, but it would allow him to ‘sit into the front leg’ in order to adjust and react to change-ups, curveballs, and other off speed pitches.  (You can read more about the front leg HERE.)

Josh was initially extremely hesitant on working to get more ‘forward’ in his swing as we’ve all been told to ‘stay back’ so we can ‘wait on off speed pitches’.  Honestly, I wasn’t even sure after Josh’s initial reaction to my wanting him to glide out to his front side, that he would even try it and give it a real effort.  I am happy to report that Josh gave the new techniques a great effort, despite his reservations, and now has the ability to adjust to pitches with much more accuracy and much less ‘fear’ of being fooled.  The forward momentum and ‘sitting into’ his bent front knee allows him to make a much better ‘fooled’ adjustment than most players are capable of.

Normally when fooled, hitters lean their chests forward, and slap their hands out and forward sweeping the bat towards the ball.  Clearly this is not an athletic movement and it’s a ‘survival’ swing.  We, as hitters, must re-define failure in hitting from ‘missing the ball’ to ‘hitting the ball weakly’.  Remember: You get 1 fair ball per at bat…you get 3 strikes.  This technique does not efficiently and powerfully ‘use’ a hitter’s only fair ball.

The best hitters can shift into their front leg and hesitate slightly so they can wait just a second longer, delay the barrel, and then explode into the zone with much more power.  Hitters that ‘sit into their front side’ can slightly hesitate (not stop) and glide forward onto their bent front knee.   Again, you can see Ken Griffey Junior do this in a game swing on a curveball HERE.

Many times, Josh and I did this drill to teach him to be unafraid of the initial move forward and to show him how much power he really could generate from this position.

We knew we were on the right track when he took this pitch randomly during a session a few weeks before he left.  He was so excited when I showed him how easily he came out of his pattern and had no ‘flinch’ towards the ball and into his swing.  That’s the mark of a great hitter, the ability to take pitches without a huge hand move or violent posture changes.

So, after all Josh’s hard work with myself, Will Fox, and JK Whited…here’s the final product.  Enjoy.

Josh headed out to Spring training on February 17th.  For all the reasons listed in the video I think he’s going to have a great year.  His work with Will Fox, our Muscle Activation Techniques and CSCS, PES guy on staff was phenomenal as well.  Will’s training and work allowed Josh to grasp these movements much quicker than last year and really accelerated our process together.  From the I.T.S. Baseball and Baseball Rebellion Family, good luck Josh, you’re gonna have a great year.

Chas Pippitt, Leader of the Baseball Hitting Rebellion

 

 

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15 thoughts on "Josh Horton Off Season Report: Heading to Spring Training Ready to Turn Heads"

  1. Caleb D says:

    Hey Chas,

    Great article and I will be keeping up with Josh during his season to see his success. Also, do you have any numbers on Josh (swing speed) to judge his improvement? I wanted to share a couple of success stories with you. I have been working with a couple of players on their swings and before I introduced them to BHR style they were very week hitters or “arm” hitters with not much to show. But working with them just in one session (after getting parental clearance to overhaul their swings) I have seen great strides. The parents were even commenting that their son had a lot more “pop” than usual. So thanks for what you are doing. I have a couple of questions that I hope you could help me with. 1, were do you normally set up the tee for players, especially on the inside pitch? And what tips or advice do you have for these players that are falling away from the plate and having difficulty with the outside pitch?

    Thanks

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Caleb,

      I never tested Josh this off season for his swing speed until the end. With professional players, when they first get going again, the last thing I’d do is ask them to max out. That’s just asking for an injury…it’d be like asking a pitcher to go for a new radar gun high in his first bullpen of the offseason.

      On an inside pitch, I generally put the tee about 2 feet in front of them so they can have the forward move into the swing motion.

      Falling away from the plate can be caused by many things, but most often, it’s fear of the baseball hitting them. I’d say they need to wait more on their front side before swinging to make sure they stay in there longer.

      Chas–

      1. Caleb D says:

        Chas,
        Thanks for the response Chas. Not testing Josh makes sense, I always thought about it with pitchers but never with hitters about being cautios to max out early with swing speed. The falling away also makes sense. Thanks again for the tips and information you provide. Started reading “The Talent Code” great book thus far.

  2. Drew says:

    Chas,

    Thank you very much for the great blog on Josh, very eye opening. I like the way you teach teach going forward on the curve ball in the viedo above. are you teaching the same stride with a fast ball, but only not going forward as much?

    in these viedos Josh is lifting his back foot off the ground; but in this article, Anchoring the Back Foot & Hip Thrust: Why YOUR Swing Won’t Succeed Without It, we’re seeing to keep the back foot anchored. Am I reading this incorrectly?

    Thank you and keep up the great work!

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Drew,

      Yes, the stride is the same for any pitch, it’s just how much you ‘sit into the front leg’ that changes.

      Anchoring the back foot is a term that refers more to the load and how the weight is on the foot at the beginning of the swing. Once you’ve anchored your foot, you can move forward in a falling motion with gravity as your accelerating force. This takes all the push out of the swing and gets you to your front side in order to pull the pelvis and back leg with the abs and obliques.

      Getting the back foot off the ground is HUGE for power. Think about the physics equation F=MA. Force = Mass times Acceleration. We generate more barrel speed (F) if we Turn (accellerate) more of our Body (mass). By lifting the back leg with the turn, we add about 10% of our mass to our turn.

      I hope that helped.

  3. Drew says:

    Chas,

    Yes this helps a lot. Thank you for the response, can’t wait for the next blog.

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Drew,

      No problem man, this is what we do.

      The more you and the other rebels participate, the more information gets shared!

      Chas–

  4. Brent says:

    Hey Chas! Great article! It’s Brent from Catonsville, MD. I love the article and it shows how awesome the rebellion is. I hope that Josh has a great year and love to see great progress like this!

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Brent,

      Hey man, thanks for the kind words. Your swing is looking great as well, see what I mean about getting to the front side?!?

      It’s a HUGE help in hitting the off speed pitch for sure.

      Chas–

      PS, how awesome is it that you’re able to work on the EXACT same thing that Josh is from 500 Miles away?

  5. Steve Black says:

    Chas, Finally got all the way through your latest blog. Love how you incorporate the pause drill, now that Rach has the move we’ll add pause drills into every few sessions. I agreed with all the comments about how great your blog is, it truly is great – There is more than enough information here to develop the best hitters around, but online training has been such a blessing – each of my kids just changed in a matter of days. I am saying “days”. They can go as far as they want as a hitter after working with you, the only thing that can stop them is themselves. You do not have to wait to be a pro to improve this dramatically. You can teach this move to young kids and they get it, it is awesome to see the immediate improvement. I can attest to the power increase, the consistency increase, the ability to adjust to off-speed. The confidence in a hitter, wow, Rach is amazed at how hard she can hit the ball during the pause drills – I’m not – Pitcher’s (Justin) beware.

    best wishes,
    steve

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Steve,

      Thanks for the kind words man, I’ve really enjoyed working with you and Rachel and Zach.

      That’s right, Justin and his ilk…(pitchers) better figure something out, cause the Baseball HITTING Rebellion is here to stay.

      Chas–

  6. Little Gerty says:

    Chas,
    I’ve seen you discuss your right handed throwing/Lefty swinging batters and their tendency to use their right hand/arm too much. This is my exactly what my boy does. What have you found to be effective remedy for this? Is this something the Rebels Rack will help fix?

    Thanks!

    Gerty (minnesota and it’s cold outside)

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Gerty,

      Yes Righty Leftys are a tough horse to tame. It’s always difficult when your bottom hand (the hand closest to the knob of the bat) is your coordinated hand. Hitters ‘feel’ that coordinated arm more than they should and therefore activate all types of triceps and front side lat muscle in ways they should not. Both of my products, the Drive Developer and the Rebel’s Rack were specifically designed to help coordinate the top hand and then deactivate the lead arm. I battled Righty Lefty problems my whole career (not with much success…as I was one) but once I started coaching it became clear that there were not products designed to help switch hitters, righty lefties, or regular same side hitters/throwers to coordinate their top hand correctly and deactivate their arms in the swing.

      The Drive Developer and Rebel’s Rack have, available at http://www.drivedeveloper.com , Have been proven to help with the problems your asking about. They both come with programming but paired with our online lessons you really can’t go wrong. Even if it’s cold…you can get better with our system without leaving your house! You can learn more at the Hire Chas page if you’re interested.

      Chas–

  7. Jordan says:

    As always another amazing post. The changes that you have made in a professional hitters swing is incredible. It seems like you teach a lot of “falling” into the ball which I like. As the MLB season starts I have noticed A LOT of hitters using a toe tap (Tulowitzki, D. Brown, Rizzo, and many more). What is your opinion on a toe tap? They are still falling into the ball, however they have the initial backward movement into the toe touch before the fall. I think it’s more of a timing mechanism that they are using to let them start slower and earlier and keep the relaxed. I have always been a minimal stride guy with not much movement, however after watching big leaguers and reading all your posts I feel like I’d like to change my swing, specifically the stride. Basically I’m asking your opinion on the toe tap, and what you like teach in the stride.

    Thanks

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Jordan,

      I used to hate a toe tap…mostly because kids do it wrong.

      I love a controlled toe tap. Remember, most of the video I post is really ‘teaching’ video. So some of the ‘one direction’ things I talk about with momentum and movement are merely teaching things.

      Josh almost instantly added a slight sway back in his move to gain some timing and comfort.

      As far as toe taps go, I think they can be good, just can’t get outside the back knee and have to push to get back inside.

      Chas–

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