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This is the perfect time of year to sit down with your son/daughter and take in a ball game. What better way to start than the NCAA College World Series. The eight best teams in college baseball all gather in Omaha to crown the National Champion. Not only is this a great time to sit down with your youngster and point out the intricacies of the game, but it's also perfect to see what some of the best hitters in the country do.
My love for this game and the understanding of it came from my dad. I can't stress enough how sitting and watching the game intently, helped me in my career. You can learn something as a youth player from every single game you watch.
This article is designed to highlight one player from each team for you and the youth player in your life to sit down and admire. You will see many different styles from each of these players yet all seem to get the job done. Find out not only who to watch, but what makes them one of if not the best hitters on their team.
What better place to start than the All-time SEC hit king. Mangum doesn't possess the same power as the rest of the group (Five career HR's) but has collected more hits than anyone to ever play in the SEC. It may not always look great, but you don't luck your way into 378 hits. Mainly relying on low, line drives and hard contact, Mangum sometimes limits his ability to drive the ball and use his plus speed for extra base-hits. So what exactly makes Mangum so good?
While he may seem like a guy that swings "downward", the video shows us different. You can see in the still shot above, Mangum begins his turn by turning his barrel back and down towards the catcher. This allows him to get on plane on the pitch and work up through contact despite being a guy with limited power. Swinging "up" isn't just for power hitters. This is just one skill that makes Jake such a great player. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how Mangum plays the game. The passion and intensity he plays with are probably his two best attributes. Do yourself a favor and make sure you and your son/daughter watch one Mississippi State game this week.
Drew Mendoza seems like FSU's version of the college basketball player that never graduates (think Grayson Allen, Duke Basketball). Seemingly being there for the past ten years Mendoza has been a steady hand for the Seminoles since his Freshman year. Mendoza profiles much differently than Mangum, yet both seem to get the job done (Mangum drafted in the 4th Round, Mendoza in the 3rd). Let's take a look at the video and see what the 6'5" 225lb Mendoza does well.
As you see from the video above, Mendoza does a great job getting to a side bend position. This allows him to rotate the bat up through contact while still keeping his hands high above his back elbow. This is a very tough move for such a tall hitter however, this is one reason Mendoza hits for so much power (.620 slugging percentage). When people argue about the importance of swinging "up", their argument often includes "my hitters will drop their hands and swing straight up". This is unless you teach them how to correctly. If you teach the hitter to get into proper side bend to keep their hands up in the swing, this is never the issue. Check out the Rack Bat for more details on how to train side bend in the swing.
By far the most athletic of this group, Jordan Brewer was once a Michigan football recruit. Brewer has since used that athleticism to turn himself into a third-round pick, as well as Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. After showing limited power in two junior college seasons (12 total Home Runs), Brewer found his stroke this season posting a .612 slugging percentage with 12 home runs.
The swing is only as good as the stride. We say this continually throughout lessons here at BRHQ, meaning the turn (swing) can only be as good as you prepare it to be. And when it comes to preparing to swing, nobody on this list does it better than Brewer. From the hip/shoulder separation (blue arrows) at landing to maintaining a good head position over the back hip, Brewer is as close to perfect as it gets. This position at landing allows him to use his natural athleticism to drive the ball in the air. As you can see in the still frame above his hips are starting to rotate open as his shoulders stay closed. This not only creates separation but also the direction to be able to cover the entire plate. I love that Brewer lands with his front foot open allowing his knee to straighten in a safer, more natural movement. This is a move many are scared to try however when done correctly can be extremely beneficial.
We use the Rebels Rack as well as a strict movement progression to teach hitters here at BR to move like the best hitters in the world. Want to stride like Brewer? Try one of our online lesson packages or come see us in person at BRHQ in Durham. This is the first step every single hitter we work with goes through.
Since the moment Heston Kjerstad arrived on campus in Fayetteville, the power was real. Following an SEC Freshman of the Year season, Kjerstad continued his onslaught on SEC pitching was 15 more home runs as a Sophmore. There is no doubt the big lefty is considered one of the best power hitters in all of college baseball. Every Kjerstad at-bat in this years CWS should be appointment television.
The thing I like most about Kjerstad's swing is how well he maintains his head positioning in the swing. You can see from the still shots above, his head and spine are in the same position after contact as it is when the stride lands. This allows Heston to rotate the bat up and on plane through contact. He also does a great job getting his back knee in front of his head in the finish to allow him to support his weight staying back through his thigh instead of his back like you see with young hitters who push their heads forward.
Possibly the best college hitter in the country this season, J.J. Bleday, destroyed the opposing pitching all year long. After hitting a combined six home runs his first two years at Vandy, Bleday mashed a whopping 26 round-trippers in 2019. Bleday's power display caught the eye of the Miami Marlins making him the fourth overall pick in this year's draft. So what exactly does Bleday do to generate so much power?
The biggest thing that stood out to me after watching Bleday on film was how well he turned the bat. You can see above that at contact, the barrel of the bat is well in front of his hands. This allows the barrel to accelerate around his hands using the knob as a pivot point. Most people when attempting to pull the ball think about hitting the ball more out in front. This is correct however we must remember, the barrel is what hits the ball, not our hands. Meaning the farther a hitter's hands go forward, the later the bat is accelerated to the point of contact. This move allows J.J. to make later decisions on whether to swing or not because he can move the bat faster. This probably has something to do with his unbelievable K/BB ratio (102K/119BB).
Josh is someone we have kept a close eye on for a few years here at BR. When you have a career 1.031 OPS in over 700 at-bats, we tend to take notice. Another top-10 pick in this years draft, Jung has been one of college baseball's elite hitter for 3 years now. Josh is one of the more, if not the, most complete hitter on this list. A career .348 hitter with more walks than strikeouts isn't that difficult to find in college baseball. However, they don't usually come with 32 home runs and 53 doubles. Josh has proven over the past three years that he hit for both power and average.
Obviously, Josh does a lot of things well in the swing. However, the most impressive thing to me is how well he separates his shoulders and hips in the stride. It is very rare to see a hitter with as much mass as Jung (215lbs) have the flexibility to separate this much and create so much torque in the stride. With many hitters as big and physical as Josh injuries are a concern. However, with how well he lands with his front knee (Kneecap facing the pitcher at landing), there won't be much stress on the front knee and lower back. And we all know "the best ability is availability".
The Auburn Sophmore struggled throughout the 2019 season after bursting onto the scene after an All-American Freshman year. However, without a red-hot Williams, the Tigers would not be in Omaha. Williams has caught fire in the postseason and looks more like the power threat we saw in 2018. With three home runs in his last six games, look for Auburn to rely on Williams sweet left-handed stroke to make some noise in Omaha.
Williams does a great job within the swing on keeping his head and chest back over his back hip. This allows him to rotate the bat upwards and on plane as you see above. The stillness of his head and deepness of the turn allows him to accelerate the bat on plane as well as gives him more time to make good decisions. The more time a hitter has, the better.
The Cards are coming off a red-hot Super Regional in which 1-9 in the lineup were scary to face. Yet throughout the entire regional one guy in the lineup stood out a little more than the rest. It's not like the 51st overall draft pick put the team on his back and carried them to Omaha. But his presence in the box stood out. He always looked as if he was going to do damage. It's that amazing calmness/confidence that has made Wyatt an on-base machine the past two seasons for the Cards (131 BB's/84 K's).
So we know Wyatt has power from the left side (Career: 15 HR's, 45 doubles) and a great eye (back-to-back seasons of 60+ walks), but how does he do it? The picture above shows how well Wyatt creates space in his swing. What I mean by creating space is he allows the bat to travel up and through contact while seemingly pushing his head and chest away from the ball to give himself more time. This gives him exceptional depth within the swing creating allowing him to make late, quick decisions while still working on plane.
And just like that, you have something to watch on TV every night for the next two weeks. These guys all have things in common that make them such great hitters. Posture, head positioning and bat path all seem to be similar. Which is usually the case for most great hitters. But what makes baseball fun is the different styles you will see from each guy. Jake Mangum is completely different than Josh Jung. Yet both get the job done for their team and will be relied on at the pinnacle of college baseball. These next two weeks include some of the most intense, exciting games of baseball you will see all year. So take the time to not only watch it but learn from what you're watching. These are the best 18-22-year-old baseball players in the country playing in their sport's biggest stage, Omaha.
Playing summer ball at any level can lead to rapid skill development when done correctly. Playing upwards of four or five games each week allows a player the opportunity to get more at-bats and more plays in the field than ever before. The sheer amount of experience gained from the summer season is key in each players development. However, there still must remain an emphasis on skill development outside of the game environment. And I believe, this is where you can gain your advantage on the competition.
Training and skill development seems to be forgotten in the summer months. I understand that there are more games being played and with school out, the average youth player would rather be doing anything other than training in their spare time. So how can you get the most out of your player this summer without risking them burning out? I can tell you that it isn't another 200 swings off the tee. This is where the Rack Bat comes into play.
One of the main battles of training in the summer is fatigue. After playing up to six games in a weekend, all in the hot sun, it is tough for a player to want to jump right back to work on Monday. Even between doubleheaders, it's tough to get players back up and moving to get ready for the next game. Productive BP to get your hitters ready becomes tired, lazy swings for ten minutes. And who can blame them? They just played an entire game in the heat and have one maybe two more to go. I wouldn't want to hit in the cage in between either.
With the heat taking the energy out of players, they're unable to take their best swings. So why force the issue? The more half-effort swings taken, the worse the player gets. If the player isn't focused on taking good reps but more interested in getting back under the shade and resting for the next game, no development is really happening. Not only is no development occurring but, bad habits are being created. One major issue that occurs when hitting tired is the swing becomes armsy, meaning less of the body is being used in the swing and mostly arms are used to move the bat. This issue can be resolved by using the rack bat.
As you can see from the video above, the Rack Bat can be used to clean up rotational movements in the mirror, as well as actually hit a moving ball. This provides a fun alternative to the typical batting practice. They are forced to use their body properly in order to find success, leading them to avoid bad habits created by lazy, tired swings. The movement benefits associated with using the Rack Bat can be found in Tyler Zupcic's latest article.
If a player isn't dealing with a few bumps or bruises at some point in the summer it just means they haven't played enough. One of my favorite things about the rack bat is that if a player is hampered with a hand or wrist injury, they are still able to practice and prepare for the game. Speaking of hands, the rack bat limits the wear and tear on the hitter's hands that have to endure hundreds of swings a week. It is true, the best ability is availability.
As I stated in a previous article, the biggest challenge to preparing a hitter in youth baseball is the facilities available. Are there cages available? How much room do you have? Do you have balls to hit with? Are the balls you do have waterlogged? So much goes into pre-game preparation. The beauty of using the rack bat is that all you need is the tool and the softballs sent with the purchase.
|Regular Rack Turns||5||5|
|Rack Bat- Location: UP||2||3|
|Rack Bat- Location: Down||2||3|
|Rack Bat- Location: Middle||2||3|
|Rack Bat Hitting||4||5|
|Regular Rack Turns||5||5|
|Resisted Rack Turns||2||8|
|Assisted Rack Turns||2||8|
|Rack Bat Hitting||4||5|
There is no better way for a hitter to stay fresh and avoid the many struggles that come with continuing to develop while playing summer ball. Grab a Rack Bat today and improve your posture, hip hinge, side bend, and vision all without the wear and tear hitting takes on your hands. Stay healthy and continue to develop your rotational skills throughout the summer.
What is the one movie that no matter what is going on if you see it on TV, you stop whatever you're doing and watch? Everyone has that movie. The movie that seems to become more enjoyable after every watch. By now you can recite every scene word for word. You catch something new and exciting every watch. For me, that movie is “Major League”. From Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn to Willy Mays Hays to the unforgettable one-liners from Harry Doyle. And there is just something about old, beat up Jake Taylor winning the pennant on a bunt play. (I can’t believe I just said that about a bunt)
However, in honor of the recent thirty year anniversary of one of the greatest baseball movies ever made, I’ve decided to switch up our content on the website this time. What if the cast of Major League was redone, only with today’s active players. Who would be the unfazed fireballer out of the bullpen? The veteran catcher who doesn’t quite know his time playing is up? I guess you’ll just have to read and find out.
We start our recasting journey with the veteran third baseman who lately has shown a little more flash than production. Dorn was once seen as a rising star for the Indians, however, the skills have since diminished. An avid golfer still has some pop left in the bat, just doesn’t always show it. Sometimes seen as controversial and arrogant, yet the production still gets him on the field every day. So who in today’s game is playing Roger in our recasting?
The often brash Donaldson has rubbed some people the wrong way in the past and it’s safe to say he isn’t the MVP caliber third baseman that he once was. I will say the toughness level of Donaldson seems to be much higher than the prima donna Dorn. But with Donaldson also being an avid golfer, he was the best pick here to play Roger in our movie.
The wily veteran who needs every ounce of help he can get to continue getting outs at the Major League level, Eddie Harris is our next role to recast. Harris once owned a fastball that he could throw past anyone in the league. However, the years have since taken that fastball away and he is left with his wise tricks to help get outs. Harris was a calming presence in the clubhouse, (outside of the time Cerrano said Jesus Christ couldn’t hit a curveball). Harris also is the lead in one of my personal favorite scenes. A scene which proves just how much help he needs.
The 39-year-old Rich Hill is far from overpowering. However, using his devastating curveball and veteran tricks he has put together back to back dominating seasons for the Dodgers. The veteran pitcher has been a calming influence on young starters such as Walker Buehler and Julio Urias. It only made sense to have the aged, and a bit strange Rich Hill plays Eddie Harris.
“Runs like Hayes… hits like Sh*t”. Harry Doyle wrapped up Willy Mays Hayes’ production all in one memorable line. After winning a roster spot in a spring training which included sneaking into the facility only to be removed in the middle of the night, Hayes struggles to produce at the plate in his first season with the Indians. However, as the saying goes, “speed never slumps” and speed is one tool he had. Whatever production was lacking at the plate was more than made up for with incredible catches in the outfield and aggressive base running (scoring from 2nd on Taylor’s game-winning bunt). The same speed that won a sixty-yard dash while in pajamas, made Hayes valuable to the pennant-winning Indians.
Hamilton is the modern day Willy Mays Hayes. Lack of offensive production keeps Hamilton from being the premier talent once projected for the Royals Center Fielder. However, he keeps himself productive using his speed and defense. Now we just need Hamilton to order a pair of batting gloves for each stolen base.
We now arrive at the player with by far the most power of the pennant-winning Indians. Pedro Cerrano was a terror in the box. Fans hung on with every swing, wishing for another Cerrano bomb. That was until Cerrano saw a curveball. The Voodoo worshipping Right Fielder always made the clubhouse interesting. Whether it was his attempt to sacrifice a live chicken, or the time he veering off the basepath to check on a wounded bird, in turn losing the Indians the game. Cerrano is a wild card, but there is no doubt he has 30-35 HR’s in him.
The 6’5 220 Right Fielder plays this role perfectly. The hard-hitting Santana has bounced around from team to team unable to find a home thanks to his sky-high strikeout rate. However, the one constant has been the power production. Granted I haven’t heard any rumors regarding a live chicken sacrifice. The on-field production makes Domingo Santana our Cerrano.
The loveable veteran. It is safe to say the Indians don’t win the pennant without the leadership and toughness displayed by Taylor. Unable to catch every day, Taylor spends part of the season mentoring young catchers and being somewhat of a player/coach. Taylor is bound for coaching stardom once willing to give up playing. While the arm isn’t quite what it used to be, no one in baseball handles a staff quite like Taylor. From getting washed up Eddie Harris through starts to mentoring young fireballer Rick Vaughn, Taylor has his work cut out for him the entire season. Not to mention he single-handedly won the pennant with his gutsy walk-off bunt. (that’s now two mentions of bunting in a BR article...that has to be a record)
Atlanta has welcomed McCann back home with open arms to start the 2019 season. But let’s all be honest, McCann isn’t there to set the world on fire and be the all-star caliber catcher he once was. He can, however, work with the stable of young pitching prospect the Braves expect to have in the big leagues this year. His veteran presence and leadership are just what this Braves team needs. A big league manager in waiting, McCann is riding out his last days back in a Braves uniform. Now we just need that walk-off bunt.
The ex-convict fireballer is one character to remember. From the flashy haircut to the removal of the sleeves on his jersey, it is safe to say Vaughn moves to the beat of his own drum. Command is a bit of an issue for Vaughn however, velocity is not. Rick is electric out of the bullpen and isn’t scared to throw the heater to anyone. A late season addition of prescription glasses seems to help Vaughn harness his fastball and prove to be the Indians most valuable reliever.
Another fireballing reliever that has been aided by the addition of glasses, Joe Kelly is our choice for “Wild Thing”. Never afraid to throw the heater Kelly often gets himself in trouble with command, and doesn't seem to mind a little dust-up (ask Tyler Austin). Let's just hope he doesn’t start naming his own pitches.
Another fireballing reliever that has been aided by the addition of glasses, Joe Kelly is our choice for “Wild Thing”. Never afraid to throw the heater Kelly often gets himself in trouble with command, and doesn't seem to mind a little dust-up (ask Tyler Austin). Let's just hope he doesn’t start naming his own pitches.
The aged manager has his hands tied for most of the year. From health issues to poor ownership, Brown grinds through the season. His brash style of leadership seems to click with this band of misfits. From dethroning prima donna Dorn to harnessing Vaughn, Brown seems to understand his players. This is evident after leading the once laughable Indians to win the pennant.
Who else would play this role? Bochy has announced he will retire at seasons end and has been without a doubt, a hall of fame manager. The personalities he has had to reign in over the years are quite diverse. From Brian Wilson to Tim Lincicum to Madison Bumgarner, Bochy has certainly had his hands full. However, he always seems to have his team in contention.
Without a doubt the funniest character of the movie, Doyle drops constant one-liners throughout the entire movie. His mentoring of Monte did not go unnoticed.
I mean come on, who else could possibly play this part?
“Major League” is a timeless comedy that I will never grow old of watching. I hope that at some point in this article I have made you think of your favorite baseball movie and jarred up some great memories. I know this isn’t the normal content you are used to seeing with Baseball Rebellion but I hope you enjoyed reading this. I know I enjoyed writing it.
If you've ever written a lineup card for a baseball or softball team, this article is for you. This is designed to help you not only put your lineup together as a coach but also help parents discover what position is best suited for their child. Everyone wants their son or daughter to be the shortstop, but the fact of the matter is their skill set makes them a perfect fit somewhere else. Find where your player will flourish not just the most popular position. And as a coach, find out where to use players to maximize their individual skill sets.
As stated above, everyone wants to pitch and play shortstop. However, playing these positions can expose a certain player’s weaknesses while playing a different position, say centerfield, may highlight the same players strength such as their speed. Just because shortstop is the most popular position doesn’t mean everyone can play it. Different skill sets are needed for different positions.
Throughout this article, I will explain, position by position, what is required to play the said position. This article is designed for the little league coach, parent, player. Not that a high school or middle school parent couldn’t benefit from reading and understanding this article, there are just certain skills mentioned that are designed specifically for the little league age bracket.
Such as the importance of the catcher being the best at actually catching the ball. Or the fact that in Little League the first baseman doesn’t need to be left-handed whereas they get older it is more beneficial (holding runners, turning double plays, etc..). This article is designed for coaches that want to maximize their team's skills while hiding their weaknesses and the parent attempting to find the right fit for their son/daughter.
What better place to start than behind the plate. As they get older the catcher becomes more and more important, and as they reach the kid's pitch age the one skill that a catcher must have is a little self-explanatory. They must be able to CATCH the ball. Shocking, I know. But seriously, as kids are trying to learn how to pitch, the catcher is most valuable in making that transition.
Without a reliable catcher, the pace of the game is atrocious and you have almost no chance for the pitcher to be confident throwing their best stuff. With that being said, the catcher has to be the best on the team at receiving the ball. The arm strength, ability to block, and leadership qualities can come later if the player can’t consistently catch the ball and get it back to the pitcher, none of those other qualities matter.
Now we make our way down the first base line and cover exactly what is needed out of a little league first baseman. As stated before, it is extremely beneficial for the first basemen to be left-handed at an older age. However, at this young age, there are bigger things to worry about. Besides the catcher, the first basemen will be completing the majority of the team's outs. Therefore, this must be your next best catcher of the ball.
With the majority of outs being determined by the first baseman's ability to catch the ball to secure the out, it is an absolute necessity for them to be a reliable target for infielders. After that required skill is out of the way, now you can look at some skills that aren’t a must but create some advantages for your first baseman. Tall is one advantage that many of your infielders will thank you for. The most reach and bigger target the first baseman can be, the better. So if you have found the big kid on the team that can reliably catch the ball, you’ve found your first baseman.
The idea behind this article is to show coaches how to maximize their team’s skills as well as teach parents where their child may be most effective. In doing so there will be positions that you can improve your team by placing players in certain positions that hide their weaknesses. Second base is the first position we visit that you can do this. Second base is the easiest position on the infield. The player must be reliable fielding ground balls but does not have to be perfect as they are able to misplay ground balls and still have enough time, with the short throw, to complete the majority of outs.
Speaking of the short throw, the player isn’t required to have a strong arm. So as a coach you are able to take a smaller, weaker armed infielder and have them shine at second base. And as a parent, your child may be fast enough and a good enough fielder to play shortstop, but playing that position may expose their arm. Therefore, that player would flourish at second base while being exposed at shortstop, making them more valuable currently and on future teams, as a second baseman. Don’t take it as a demotion for your child, take it as the coach maximizing your son/daughters skill set.
Ah, the coveted shortstop. The position everyone wants to play and almost no one is suited for. Simply put, the shortstop should be the best player on the team. This should be the most reliable player. They should be fast to cover the most ground and have a strong enough arm to make the throw across the infield.
As a parent, everyone wants their child to play shortstop and be seen as the best player on the team. However, playing shortstop can expose a player quicker than any other position on the field. Little Johnny may be a great player in mom and dad’s eyes, but if his arm isn’t strong or doesn’t have the speed to cover much ground, he will get exposed as a bad defensive player, whereas a second baseman he may be seen as a great defender who can really help a team. As a coach, this is the one position that when the ball is hit to them, you feel the most confident that an out will be made.
We now slide over to the last infield position and take a look at what makes a great third baseman. In my opinion, the third baseman should be your second most reliable infielder. If you have two kids who can play shortstop, put the one with the stronger arm at third. Arm strength is the most valuable skill a third baseman can have.
They don’t always have to be the best fielder as they are able to block the ball then use their strong arm to get the ball across the infield. The willingness to field hot shots from the “hot corner” is a valuable trait. It’s called the hot corner for a reason and you don’t want your third baseman dodging hard hit balls and watching them trickle into left field. As a parent, if your son/daughter is a good infielder but maybe lacks the range needed to play shortstop at a high level, they can shine at third base as there is less range needed.
Into the outfield, we go and we will start in left field. Now before I start this section, to all you little league parents that think their child shouldn’t play the outfield because that’s where they put the bad players, see Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, etc.. for example. That is all. Now to Leftfield.
It goes without saying that every outfielder has to have adequate speed to cover gap-to-gap. However, left field is one position that you can hide a weaker arm. The throws to bases are shorter than say right field to third base. While speed is important a strong arm isn’t necessary for this position. As the player gets older, being a good hitter is a huge bonus, almost a necessity for a left fielder.
If your shortstop isn’t your fastest player, here is your guy. Speed is the number one attribute of a good center fielder. A strong arm is a plus, but not always necessary. This player must be your best outfielder and able to cover the most ground. This is the guy/girl you want to lead your outfield and catch the most fly balls.
As a parent, you have to realize that the older your child gets the more valuable this position gets. If your son/daughter can really run but struggles to consistently field ground balls, don’t continue to watch them struggle just so you can fulfill your wish of them being a shortstop. Be proud of the move to centerfield and enjoy watching them run down fly ball after fly ball and be considered valuable defensively instead of a hinder at shortstop. This is the one position on the field where athleticism outweighs skill.
Last but not least we take a look at right field. Two words. ARM STRENGTH. This is a must for a high-level right fielder. If you have a kid on the team that could play third base but the whole ground ball thing gives them issues, this is their spot. They have the two longest throws on the field (to third and home) therefore their arm strength can show and be a plus from this spot.
They have the centerfielder next to them which can make up for some lack of speed issues and putting them in left doesn’t show off their arm. Put the strongest arm in right and push them to show it off. You may even be able to steal a couple of outs at first on line drives to right.
The idea of this article wasn’t to show where the good and bad players play, but to show what skill sets benefit the most from players where. Just because your child isn’t playing shortstop doesn't mean they can’t be one of the better players on the team. The coach may see something in your son or daughter’s skill set that will allow them to grow and show those skills in a different position.
If your goal is for your child to play the game for as long as they want to and for them to have every opportunity in the game of baseball or softball, find the RIGHT position for them, not the most popular. And as a coach, use each players position as a way to shine a light on their skills and hide their weaknesses. This will not only help you win more games, but the players to develop and hone their skills at the proper position.
Do you think you run the perfect practice? Think again. How do we as coaches maximize our practice time effectively? The answer is preciseness and efficiency. Lay out what you want to accomplish and spend only the amount of time needed to work on that specific skill. I promise you it's always less than you think. Spending 20 minutes on rundowns at an 8u practice isn't efficient. No matter how many times you practice it, they're going to mess it up. Just look at how often it happens at the big league level.
One article we wrote was JK’s “5 Ways Players Get Worse From Team Practice”. This article explained all the ways a practice can be failed and actually make players worse. Topics included things such as bad front toss, quick pitching the hitter, and even not hitting at all (yes it does happen). Team practice can be extremely beneficial for the development of a player. Even more so for youth players whose development relies upon what they do in a team practice or lesson environment. Today, we flip the script with 5 Ways to Improve From Team Practice.
At Baseball Rebellion we pride ourselves on teaching each hitter the optimal movements from both a rotational power and adjustability stand point. Notice I didn’t say anything about hitting. This is a quite different approach than most player development facilities. We believe in training similar to how you would in a weight room. Teach the movements, then load the movements appropriately. You would never have an athlete load up a squat and hope they “figure it out” and self organizes to get the weight up. We believe in teaching proven movement patterns then loading that pattern once considered appropriate.
So why in team practice format would you never work and train these movement patterns? I realize that time is a major constraint in team practice, however, I think it’s safe to say we can sacrifice the 1,000th tee swing of the week for a five-minute movement station. It also doesn’t have to be over-the-top fancy. No baseballs are required for a detailed movement station. We have the luxury at BR of a movement wall which includes: taped lines on the floor, mirrors, Rebels Racks, dowel rods, resistance bands, and so on (see picture above). Adjust your station for whatever works for your team practice setting. This station is guaranteed to break up the monotony of hitting off a tee or front toss and is vital in your hitter's development.
In the article mentioned above, JK pointed out not only do some team practices not include Batting Practice at all but often are filled with majority situational hitting. Now I completely understand the need for situational hitting. I even include it in my individual hitting lessons as needed. There comes a time in the game where certain things are needed, whether it’s hitting behind the runner, elevating the ball over a drawn-in infield, or even just putting the ball in pay. As a coach, you want to feel confident in your team's ability to hit in any situation needed. However, if we look at the sheer percentage of your team's at-bats, it's obvious that the majority of at-bats are in more of an open situation setting. The ability to drive the ball needs to be taught and taught more than the ability to hit behind the runner which might happen once a game.
How your team takes batting practice impacts the confidence and aggression they hit with. If they are kicked out of their round for not getting the bunt down, how can you expect them to maintain their aggression to get it down when they know if they don’t, they don’t get to hit. If they aren’t allowed to hit with aggression in BP and are forced to push the ball opposite field for fear of rolling over, how can a coach expect them to hit that RBI Double they are ecstatic for in the game? Imagine going to a Golden State Warriors game and Steph Curry doesn’t attempt a single three-pointer in warmups. If you want your players to drive the ball in the game, they have to work on that daily in batting practice.
One great way to motivate your players to drive the ball is to do something similar to what the Tampa Bay Rays did in spring training. The great wall of ground ball prevention, with screens set up across the infield, players were instructed to drive the ball over the screen and into the outfield. This simple tactic can motivate your players to be aggressive and train to drive the ball. This isn’t about home runs or pop-ups, it’s about emploring your hitters to be aggressive and swing with the intent to drive the ball.
Short Rounds from film "Indiana Jones"
One thing I find interesting about hitting and how we train it is there are multiple sides of development. Training can be either training a movement pattern, challenging and loading that pattern, or just preparing for competition. I think all three are vital for development. However, the outcome that we all want is results in a game.
In that game you get on average four at-bats worth of results and in those at-bats you are allowed one fair ball per at-bat. So on average, our results stem from roughly four batted fair balls. However, in training, you often see rounds of ten, fifteen, even twenty. I understand the need for long rounds when training or changing a movement pattern, however, that usually occurs in an off-season. So why in a team practice setting would a player get a round of ten swings to try to groove their swing for results?
A hitter must be able to make adjustments from pitch to pitch not just rely on nine bad swings to finally feel good about the tenth. That tenth may never come in a game. Any decent hitter can hit when they are in a groove or in rhythm. How do we train them to be successful when they don’t have that rhythm of a ten pitch round? Rounds should be no longer than five pitches. Instead of the generic four rounds of eight, make it eight rounds of four. Give the hitter time to take their swings, make immediate adjustments and then have to do it again and again.
The aggression and intent of the swing will go up as well as their ability to make adjustments on the fly. This could be frustrating for hitters who struggle to make adjustments. However, those are the exact hitters who don’t understand why they struggle to make adjustments in a game. Shorten the rounds and take the rhythm out of batting practice. It’s not available in a game.
Much love to my guys @BRrebellion for challenging me and preparing me for the 2019 season! ?? Loud noises with my RD4 @PhoenixBats ??♂️??! pic.twitter.com/QLQmIGACyQ— Ronnie Dawson (@ronniedawsonn) January 29, 2019
We all know the 5 o’clock hitter and the front toss All-American who can light it up during BP. Yet those hitters tend to struggle when the lights come on and competition stiffens up. How do we as coaches provide a practice environment that trains that? The first step is to challenge your hitters during practice. A practice environment should be full of failure. The goal should be to make at least one station at practice, harder than a game setting. The difficulty level should change with the age group as well as how often a hitter is challenged.
A youth player benefits much more from movement work and aggressive rounds of batting practice than being challenged off a machine. However, it is important for them to feel the anxiety that comes with a challenge. The feeling should be similar to the one they feel when in the batter's box come game time.
As the age group gets older the challenge should become more frequent and difficult. A high school hitter has to learn how to be successful against higher velocities or sharper breaking stuff. This is where a pitching machine can come into play.
We use the Spinball Pitching machine daily. This should provide that feeling of anxiety that overhand BP can’t simulate as it does for younger ages. And the challenge doesn't have to be provided by a machine. Live at-bats from pitchers who need to get work in, or even simulated batting practice with the pitcher mixing pitches from a shorter distance can provide the same challenge. As long as the movement basics are remaining intact, it is vital to challenge your hitters and have them learn how to deal with the anxiety associated with difficult tasks.
Want to rev up the energy and get the most out of your hitters? Put them in a competition. Head to head or split them up in teams. Any time you can hold a competition you can grab the hitters attention and focus. Break up the normal day of batting practice and push the hitters for the results you want.
Whether it is the least amount of ground balls wins or most balls hit over an outfielder, whatever it is, give the hitters a goal and make them compete to win. This increases the focus of the hitters and can make hitting enjoyable for everyone.
You can even make the competition weekly or monthly. The more focus and intent the hitter swings with, the more they get out of their BP. Live at-bats are my favorite way to get the most out of both hitters, and pitchers during lessons.
We utilize competition in lessons by having “cage battles” at the end of lessons. This places one-hitter against the other with the goal often being distance battles. Using HitTrax to see who hits it the farthest one swing at a time.
The goal can change as it did with two sixth graders last week. Their goal was a line drive into right field (both right-handed hitters). These hitters struggle pulling off with their front shoulder and needed to learn how to drive the ball the other way. It is surprising how many times a hitter sets a personal distance or exit velocity record in these “battles”. The parents and awaiting hitters often get involved as well as instructors.
The goal of this exercise is to challenge the hitter and put them in a situation that they may not be comfortable in. Hitters have to learn how to hit when they’re not comfortable.
Baseball Rebellion's Eric Tyler breaks down the swing of 2032 Draft Prospect Bryant Pippitt. Despite losing 50% of the genetic lottery, Bryant has a swing that projects to the next level..aka 'kid pitch'.
If any other 2032 draft prospects want their swing analyzed, check out below for a one-time swing analysis or online lessons with Eric!
Coach after coach. Lesson after lesson. All I ever heard growing up was “don’t drop your back shoulder”. I’m sure I’m not the only one that went through that. However, let's take a look at how these two high-level hitters (2019 MLB Draft Prospect CJ Abrams and MLB Star Andrew Benintendi) use their back shoulder to rotate up through the ball, allowing them to make consistent, hard contact that often leads to the ball leaving the park! You may be surprised at just how low that back shoulder gets even on a pitch lower in the zone. Comment below with questions!
Ever wonder just how similar the bat path is for a high school All-American compared to the reigning MVP? Today we take a look at how both Tyler Callihan and Christian Yelich turn the barrel around their hands to allow the bat to speed up around them and in turn, hit for more power.
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Is it too early in the 2019 MLB season to start predicting who will have a big year, and who needs to make adjustments? Absolutely. Am I still going to do it? Absolutely. While we may just be a couple of weeks into the season we are already hearing about how poor Chris Davis and his $161,000,000 contract started 0-49. Once dominate reliever Trevor Rosenthal can’t seem to buy an out. Christian Yelich looks poised to make a run at his second straight MVP. Mike Trout, well he just keeps being Mike Trout. Despite being so early in the season, it’s never too early for a couple of bold predictions. This article takes a look at a couple players that seem to be going in two different directions and what they can do to sustain/change their performance.
Former 1st Round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays, Tim Beckham has had his ups and downs since draft day. However, through the first three weeks of the season, the Seattle Mariners are seeing the kind of production the Rays envisioned back in 2008. Through the first 11 games of the season, Beckham has a batting average of .400 with four home runs, five doubles and amassed a 1.314 OPS (on base % plus slugging %). Beckham has always had star potential. The question is, can he sustain it? Let's find out.
Ability and tools (hit for average/power, speed, fielding, strong arm) were never an issue. The only problem is that he has never produced at the level of his talents. So why now, through eleven games does Beckham look like he has broken through the wall and began performing like the athlete that he is? First, we have to look at why the production didn’t match the ability.
As you can see above through the first five years of Beckham’s career he seemed a bit too aggressive at the plate (yellow box). Averaging roughly a 6.3% walk rate and a 29% strikeout rate doesn’t quite seem like the talent level of a former first overall pick.
Because of these struggles, Beckham never collected an on-base percentage higher than .348 in a season (red box). Even that was a season in which he only appeared in fifty games.
But it’s not just about the walks and K’s. He’s also driving the ball more than ever leading to his nine extra-base hits and 1.314 OPS in eleven games. So how does a guy with strikeout issues and a career .720 OPS make these drastic changes? Even though it is a small sample size, check out the major differences to Beckham's stat line this year compared to his career.
The graphic below shows that not only is Beckham swinging at fewer pitches outside of the zone, but he’s also swinging less in general. Many of the concerns swirling around Beckhams trade to the Mariners was his lack of plate discipline. Beckham is doing his best to put those questions to bed. Not only is his newfound selectiveness at the plate leading to more walks and fewer strikeouts, but he’s also driving the ball more than ever in his career.
Career highs in average exit velocity, average launch angle, and barrel % (balls hit that have an expected batting average of .500 and slugging % of 1.500) can all be positively correlated to his increased patience at the plate.
Beckham is no longer chasing the borderline pitch. He is waiting to get the pitch he can do damage with and making it count. With all this said there is a long way to go and in baseball, anything can happen. I’m sure the Mariners are happy with the hot start and hopefully with the continued patience and intent to do damage, Beckham will continue performing like the star he was projected to be.
While some players are having the start to the year they dreamed of all off-season, some players aren’t so lucky. If you’ve played baseball for long enough, you have been through a slump or twelve. Less than a month into a new season is no reason to go throwing away the game plan you spend all off-season putting together.
However, I am noticing a scary trend from one player who was once considered a top three player in all of baseball. Buster Posey has been one of the most productive catchers the game has ever seen. However, the problem with being a catcher is the wear and tear that comes along with squatting behind the plate for nine innings every night.
The once perennial MVP candidate may be facing a harsh reality. Through Posey’s first nine games this year he has put together a whopping .581 OPS with just three extra-base hits (all doubles). Not only is Posey’s lack of pop obvious, but his lowered BB% and increased K% should be alarming for fans in San Francisco.
I’m not in the business of bashing a future Hall of Famer for the slow start nine games into a season, but let's take a look at why this is happening and how it can be fixed.
Buster Posey has been one of baseball’s most elite catchers since his debut in 2010. Those days may need to come to an end. That is if the Giants want the offensive production they’ve grown accustomed to. The toll playing catcher takes on the body is far greater than any other position on the field. A toll that wears and deteriorates a players strength and bat speed rapidly. It seems as if this is occurring with Posey right in front of our eyes.
Not only do the numbers show that Posey is facing more Fastballs than ever before, the fastballs being thrown are up in the zone. Posey is struggling to catch up to the fastball as well as in the past. The bat speed doesn’t seem to be what it used to be and pitchers seem to be attacking that.
Posey seems to be attempting to make up for the deteriorating bat speed by cheating to the fastball. The graph below shows Posey currently owns the highest chase rate of his career. Meaning that he is swinging at more balls outside of the strike zone than ever before.
We’ve have seen this kind of deterioration before from one of the games elite catchers. From 2005-2013 Joe Mauer was one of the most dominating catchers in baseball. However, his offensive production began rapidly regressing as the 7,221 innings behind the plate had finally caught up to him. If that amount of innings took a toll of Mauer, when does it start for Posey? That’s right ladies and gentleman, the next inning Buster Posey catches will be inning 7,552. The wear and tear have finally caught up to Buster. This isn’t the end of the world for the Giants. They appear to see the writing on the wall after drafting Joey Bart in the first round of last years draft. With the next great Giants catcher in line and ready, it’s time for Posey to turn in his catcher's gear and grab that first base mitt. Or maybe even try out the hot corner at third (Posey was a shortstop in his college days at FSU). If the Giants want the power associated with Buster Posey in the batter's box, they need to make the switch and get him out from behind the plate.
As I said in the beginning, it is far too early to predict who will have a big year and who will spend the rest of the season in frustration. But I gave it my best shot. Questions? Concerns? Want to tell me I'm crazy for saying Buster Posey is struggling? Feel free to comment and keep the conversation rolling.