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Congratulations to South Korea’s Seoul Little League for completing their undefeated run to the 2014 Little League World Series (LLWS) title! This year’s LLWS took the world by storm. There were many great story lines including Mo’ne Davis dominating boys, a fun loving group of kids from inner city Chicago winning the U.S. championship, and South Korea quietly cruising to victory. As a hitting instructor, I love seeing good offense lead to success. This was the case in this year’s LLWS. The top four teams in the LLWS (Great Lakes, West, Asia Pacific, Japan) accounted for thirty of the sixty-two total home runs hit in the sixteen team tournament. That is a whopping 48%!
I was able to collect video from most of the home runs hit during the LLWS. Surveying this footage, I quickly observed that all LLWS home runs are not created equal. The fences at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport are 225 ft to all fields. Because the early teen years are extremely variable in terms of body development, many of the LLWS participants stood over six feet tall while others were still under five feet. Some of the larger kids could take check swings and still clear the fence with their aluminum bats. Here is an example:
Below are my rankings of the best five home run swings from the LLWS. These are the types of swings that maintain their effectiveness as the field dimensions grow. They videos display various components of the swing we teach here at The Baseball Rebellion.
#5 Trey Hondras (Great Lakes)
Trey Hondras was one of the most exciting hitters to watch in the LLWS. He batted .429 with two of his team’s seven home runs. He plays with an enthusiasm that is contagious. His pre-game antics (talking to girls before the game and brushing his hair) made him a crowd favorite. Trey is an explosive turner who uses the lower half of his body very well. He moves forward slightly and opens his hips and front foot with a great deal of smoothness and athleticism. Trey has a great blend of control and explosiveness in his movements. We do not have a good side view of this swing to display his back foot movement but I have seen multiple side views of other swings where his back foot comes off the ground at contact. The main reason Trey doesn’t rank higher than #5 is because of his downward extension through contact. This causes him to strike the ball with a glancing blow at times. All in all, Trey is a very talented hitter with a great deal of upside.
#4 Ren Takeuchi (Japan)
Ren Takeuchi was quiet for much of the LLWS. He batted .294 with one home run. I believe he would have had a greater impact had he taken more swings like the one you see above. He does a masterful job of creating hip and shoulder separation. Watch as the wrinkles in his jersey change as his hips open. This is something we see in elite hitting patterns. Takeuchi also turns the barrel very well. He keeps his hands with his back shoulder as it rotates. This allows him to remain connected to his power source and reach a strong position at contact. He displays good upward extension. This is in contrast to Trey Hondras in #5.
#3 Ji Ho Park (South Korea)
Ji Ho Park was a major contributor to South Korea’s offensive success. He batted .375 with one home run and a 1.132 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage). Park’s swing has many of the same swing qualities as Ren Takeuchi in #3. His better movement forward to get to a bent front knee and a good back leg angle is the sole reason he is ranked higher than Takeuchi. Park also creates a great deal of hip and shoulder separation leading to the wrinkles in his shirt tightening and stretching diagonally across his back. Like Takeuchi, he keeps his hands with his back shoulder to contact and matches the plane of the pitch very well.
#2 Austin Krysczcuk (West)
In my opinion, Austin Krysczcuk was the best hitter in this year’s LLWS. He batted .667 with two home runs and a 2.021 OPS. Unfortunately, I was unable to get video of Austin’s two home runs so above is a video of the triple he hit off of a Mo’ne Davis breaking ball. I wrote a LLWS preview article with a more detailed breakdown of Austin’s swing mechanics. You can read it here. The swing above is not one of Austin’s textbook swings when his timing is perfect. However, it is one of his most impressive given the fact that he was fooled by a breaking ball. Austin showed no panic, sat into his front side for a moment and was able to remain close to his optimal swing pattern which allows him to to turn explosively while remaining balanced. Austin has some arm bar issues where he extends his front arm as he loads. At this point in his baseball career he overcomes this issue with athleticism and turn speed. I will be interested to see if this is something that he has to change as he gets older. If I had been able to collect Austin’s home run swings, he may have finished #1 on this list!
#1 Jae Yeong Hwang (South Korea)
Jae Yeong Hwang had a great LLWS and was one of the statistical leaders in the major offensive categories. He batted .375 with three home runs and a 1.536 OPS. Hwang’s swing is superb. His swing has most of the qualities mentioned above for Takeuchi and Park but Hwang displays a smoother and more athletic look while maintaining a high turn speed that is associated more with Trey Hondras from #5. Hwang displays a better barrel acceleration and a steeper barrel angle than Park thereby enabling him to handle lower pitches more effectively. He also finishes his turn completely while maintaining his balance. Congratulations to Jae Yeong Hwang for finishing #1 on my list and for winning the 2014 LLWS!
Gabe Dimock – Baseball Rebellion Certified Instructor