Every coach, instructor or parent that has ever worked in baseball has dealt with a hitter ”spinning off”. If it’s so common and has been dealt with so often, why is it still around? Here is what no one is saying about “spinning off”.
The ability for an athlete to rotate in proper sequence allows for maximum speed gain throughout rotation. The first step in this sequence is proper hip/shoulder separation. Oftentimes in rotation, the first mistake is the worst mistake. Learning to properly disassociate pelvic rotation from shoulder rotation is key in creating bat speed.
There are so many different functions including vision, timing, power production, adjustability, etc. Sometimes one of these functions has to be sacrificed to allow another to bloom.
While that last sentence is true, it’s also very disingenuous to believe that all of these functions provide equal value. For example, if a hitter has elite-level power production (bat speed, max acceleration, smash factor), but isn’t able to recognize different pitches, their production will suffer.
But, that player is granted more opportunities than the guy with elite bat to ball skills but no juice. Power production doesn’t just rely on home runs. If you don’t have the ability to attack the gaps and create extra-base hits, there is becoming less and less value. Whether right or wrong this is evident in today’s game.
Power production gets you in the door, the ability to hit keeps you inside. With that being said, hitters have to create a swing that is able to produce some sort of power. Through efficient and explosive movement patterns a hitter has the ability to create more bat speed.
A hitter's ability to utilize the kinematic sequence through rotation to create proper speed gains allows them to create “effortless” bat speed. This can be accomplished through dedicated movement work completed outside of hitting. Examples of this type of practice can be seen throughout the sports world and can often get overlooked and ignored in baseball training. Check out the examples from Karate, Football, and Basketball below:
The sequence in which the body begins rotating allows energy to transfer up the kinematic chain and create proper speed gains. This is where hip/shoulder separation comes into play.
The ability for an athlete to begin rotating their core/pelvis outwardly towards the opposite side infielder (RH hitter: second basemen, LH hitter: Shortstop), while simultaneously resisting that rotation with their upper body, creates tension that allows for faster rotation.
This is often difficult to feel and train during the act of hitting. However, when trained and cued in the right environment, proper movement patterns can be obtained.
The technology system K-Vest, allows this to be tested by applying sensors to different parts of the body (Pelvis, torso, upper arm, and hand). These sensors relay not only when a segment of the body begins rotating but also how fast it is accelerated.
Not every hitter needs to be in a perfect (Pelvis-Torso-Arm-Hand/Bat) sequence to be a good hitter. However, if a hitter is struggling to produce the speed and power needed to perform at their level or give themself an opportunity to continue their career at whatever the next level is, this is a great place to look.
While K-vest is a great resource to have, I also understand not everyone will have access to that technology. K-vest is great because it catches what the naked eye doesn’t. However, here are a few cues to look for on video to see whether or not your hitter is creating proper hip/shoulder separation.
What you’ll notice in these screenshots is both hitters are beginning to rotate their back knee down to initiate hip rotation. While this is occurring the shoulders are remaining parallel to the path of the pitch allowing them to maintain their vision and their direction.
From a front-facing camera, the key point switches from the back knee to the belt buckle. Both hitters are beginning to turn their pelvis to which their belt buckles are now pointing at the off-side infielder.
The range of motion in the hips and pelvis will differentiate from hitter to hitter and will show up in how far open the pelvis can rotate.
By utilizing the rack, you give your hitters the ability to work on improving and developing their movement patterns without overloading them while hitting. The rack is useful while teaching separation because of the construction of the wings.
This allows the player to engage their scap and other upper back muscles to help the shoulders resist the rotation of the pelvis. This is what makes the rack so unique.
Take the frustration of learning something new away. Create awareness for your hitters of what exactly is trying to be accomplished so they can practice on their own and create their own thoughts and feelings for what is happening.
Knowledge is power. Don’t be scared of creating smart hitters. Anyone can get someone to listen to them for 30 minutes, but to get the most out of athletes they have to be learners, not just listeners.
Every hitter wants to hit more line drives. Every coach wants to see their hitter hit more line drives and every parent wants to see their kid hit more line drives. But how can hitters achieve this without changing their swing? The answer is in a hitter's contact point.
Thousandths of a second. That is how long the ball stays on the bat at contact. Everything we do as a hitter is to set up for those thousandths of a second. How we get to that point is extremely important to the result of contact, just as when we get there. Without the proper sequencing and path, limitations to the swing will always occur. Timing is considered vital to the swing. If you’re not “on time” for the pitch, very little damage can be done. But when we look closer what does timing control?
Being “on time” with the pitch to me means creating the proper contact point in relation to the hitter's body. The contact point being too far out in front of their front foot can lead to early timing, with vice versa contact being made too close to the hitters back foot leads the hitter to be late. A hitter's ability to control where in relation to their body they make contact with the ball is crucial to their timing and ability to consistently hit line drives.
Golf is a sport with similar movements in the swing as baseball. The only difference is a different plane caused by the ball being on the ground and the fact that the ball is stationary. The ball being stationary allows them to create the optimal contact point and positioning for each shot. Here’s where it gets interesting.
In golf, much like baseball, different ball flights are required on different swings. With the ball being stationary, the golfer is able to align themselves to the ball differently depending on how they want to shape their ball flight. The image below shows that the more they want to hit upwards on the ball, the farther the ball is moved in front.
With an understanding of a rotational swing that makes sense. The ball being farther in front allows the clubhead more time to rotate upwards in the swing. Unlike golf, in the baseball swing, we always want the club head (barrel) to be attacking the ball upwards or also known as “on plane”.
Oftentimes when referencing ball flight and a hitter struggling to hit line drives, mechanics is the first thing looked at. In actuality, they might have a good swing and don’t need mechanical adjustments; they just make contact too deep in the zone. Hittrax gives you the ability to check the point of contact on each swing
However, this gives feedback on the ball relative to home plate, not the hitter. So, the next time you have a hitter struggling to hit consistent line drives, first check where they make contact and how that can affect ball flight.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
One of my favorite movies of all time is an old golf movie, “Tin Cup”. Golf instructor Roy McAvoy is struggling to find his swing days before the biggest tournament of his life, so he resorts to a contraption of a golf device to find his once sweet swing. If you've been around Baseball/Softball long enough, I know you’ve seen many devices very similar to this that guarantee results.
...And to be honest, that is exactly what I thought of the Rebel's Rack before I started working at Baseball Rebellion. But then I learned how valuable it really is...
I played with a Baseball Rebellion trained hitter on a collegiate wood bat summer league team. I noticed that every day before batting practice he had this crazy looking red bar that he would spin around on. At least, that’s how I saw it. I thought it was just some gimmick device that didn't help and made him look ridiculous. Yet every night the lineup was posted, who do you think was hitting 3rd (hint: it wasn't me)? That limited engagement and youthful ignorance is how I saw the Rebel's Rack, until I got the opportunity to see it in action every single day.
In my 3 years at BR I have seen this once crazy red bar improve the turn speed of every single hitter in our building. And every single hitter is not an exaggeration. Since working here, every first-time client has shown improvement by using the Rack. I remember asking, “What else is there to this?” and the answer is nothing but the research behind it.
The Rack gives the hitter no choice but to learn to turn their body faster. The faster the hitter is able to rotate their body, the faster the bat moves. The faster the bat moves, the more opportunities they give themselves as a hitter. Rotational speed is a skill that must be learned and continuously trained. We do that using the Rack.
One question we always get is, “well I can just use a dowel rod or PVC pipe, right?”. These two devices can bring some of the same benefits as far as rotation. However, what they don't offer is the posture training involved with the Rack. Because of the shape of the rack and the requirement of the player to pull back on the rack to hold it, they are training to maintain good posture without even realizing it; which is half the battle when training movements.
We all know there's more to hitting than just speed. So how does the Rack help in other aspects of hitting? By using the Rack you are able to move and rotate your body into optimal positions without the constraint and worry of hitting well. Whether it is a stride, posture, side-bend, or balance issue, it can be addressed by using the Rack.
We are able to teach our hitters to get into the same elite positions that the best hitters in the world get to through our Rebel's Rack work. The difference is we can do it at a full rotational speed (which is how we always practice our turns), which translates quicker, and more effectively to athletes than walking through the process slowly with a bat.
While it is important that we train our movements separate from hitting, we know that everyone loves to hit and see the ball fly off the bat. They want to see that what they're doing is improving the way they hit the ball. So how do we adapt the Rack to be more inclusive to this? With the Rack Bat.
The Rack Bat allows the hitter to feel the speed of their turn while matching their posture and side bend according to pitch location. This gives hitters the ability to improve the speed and accuracy of their turn, while performing the task of hitting a ball.
Some of you may read this article and still see the Rebel's Rack as a gimmick, and that’s fine. I thought so at first as well. And then I saw it take a college team from 14 home runs in an entire season to 368 the last 3 combined (Which is not the only thing it does for all of you thinking "Well my 8 year old can't hit a homerun"). I’ve seen it work with youth, middle school, high school, college, professional, fastpitch, slow pitch, senior league, golfers, and even cricket players. Rotational speed is a trained skill. Train it or get left behind.
To see more drills with the Rebel's Rack, click here.
An approach is essentially a gameplan for how you as a hitter are going to be successful during the at-bat. There are many different factors that go into an approach or gameplan at the plate. What the pitcher throws, the velocity they throw with, what you’re good at as a hitter, what you struggle with, and the situation in the game are all factors of an approach. The fact of the matter is, hitting is hard, and the better your approach is at the plate, the simpler it gets.
I don’t want to go any further with this article without saying that a hitter’s approach is extremely individualized to themselves. What works for one hitter may be detrimental to the next. This article will go into what I believe is the easiest and most effective approach at the amateur level. However, know that this may not work for you. Sorry. I don’t write to individuals, I write to the masses so get over it and keep it moving. An approach is something that combines all of the factors I mentioned above and morphs it into one simple gameplan with the goal of being successful. This takes work. Time. Studying. It’s not easy and it’s not bulletproof. But in an event like hitting, all we’re trying to do is improve our odds. If going to the plate with a good approach helps turn that 2, 7 off suit hand into two face cards the same suit then you’ve done your job.
An approach is a way to simplify a hitter’s thoughts and make it easier for them to be ON TIME. There is a very simple reason why those two words are capitalized. It’s because those two words are what a hitter's goal should be 99.99% of the time at the plate. So by creating an approach of what pitch to look for and what we as a hitter are trying to do to that pitch (Hard in the air, backside ground ball, move the runner, etc.) we begin hunting a pitch. Every amateur hitter should be able to hit a pitch they know is coming. So, if they sell out to their approach and what pitch they are looking for, it makes that pitch easier to hit when it comes.
Creating your own approach takes time and effort. It starts with understanding yourself as a hitter. What are you good at? What do you struggle with? If you can’t answer those two questions then I suggest getting in the cage and swinging with more awareness instead of taking 200 mindless swings a day. You have to know your capabilities as a hitter. How do you handle inside pitches? Can you adjust to off-speed? Knowing yourself and what you can and can’t do is the first step in creating an approach.
After knowing yourself and what you’re good at as a hitter, we then look towards our opponent. What are the pitcher’s capabilities? Is he a hard thrower? Soft tossing lefty? What is his out pitch? Does he pitch backward? Knowing what the pitcher can and can’t do allows you to eliminate possibilities in your approach. If it’s the 6th inning and the pitcher hasn’t got a breaking ball over for a strike yet, you probably won’t get one early in the count. Again, this takes effort and willingness to pay attention to your teammate’s at-bats and what is going on in the game.
What situation are you in? If you’re up with the tying run on third with the infield in, your approach is going to be drastically different than no one on with 2 outs in the 3rd. Are we in a situation with a runner on second with less than 2 outs? What is the pitcher trying to prevent? How will they pitch us to prevent that? Same with 1st and 3rd with one out. That pitcher will do anything in their power to get a ground ball out of you. Our approach and what we’re looking for/trying to do has to change. Understanding the game and how to score runs can help mold your approach.
The video above explains what I believe to be the easiest and simplest approach given a normal situation; such as any at-bat that doesn’t require you to “move the runner” or get a run in. This approach allows you to be on time for more pitches and eliminate the need to adjust every single pitch. By being on time for the pitcher’s best fastball, you eliminate the need to hurry up. If ever late on a fastball, the hitter isn’t as sold out to the approach as needed. But, if they are always on time for the pitcher’s best fastball, they are able to only have to make one adjustment; slow down.
Again, creating a perfect approach doesn’t guarantee success. Even executing your gameplan doesn’t guarantee success. Hitting is hard and defenses are good. But, by establishing a good approach and sticking to it, you as a hitter give yourself the best chance of being successful. Create a plan that works for you and dive into it with full conviction!
Baseball Rebellion’s Kory Behenna takes young pitchers through all the movements they should be doing BEFORE they throw.
Oftentimes with youth hitters, a lack of aggression is prevalent. Whether be it from a fear of the ball, fear of mis-hitting and the sting and vibration of the bat hurting their hands, or just a passive personality, aggression is needed in hitting. On the opposite end of that, a hitter’s aggression can be used in the wrong areas and lead to swing flaws.
Pulling off the ball can be associated with a hitter’s aggression. However, we have to be careful as parents and coaches not to coach the aggression out of them. Instead, focus on where that aggression and speed should be used. The front side isolation drill does just that.
“Stop Pulling Off!”. Sit at a baseball field long enough and you’ll run out of fingers and toes trying to count how often this is shouted towards a hitter. This cue comes from a good place as every coach or parent wants their players to produce at their highest capacity. What the parents and coaches are seeing and trying to fix is the hitter starting their swing with their front shoulder rotating out. This first move creates a pulling towards the hitters pull-side and forces the backside to drag through and around, in an attempt to catch up to the front side.
Top-spinning hits to the hitters pull-side can be a common result of this swing flaw. The front side dominant move can cause a hitter to pull their bat above and across the incoming pitch creating end over end spin on the ball as opposed to backspin.
The opposite of the front side dominant swing flaw is the hitter creating rotation from their backside. You will often see this as a hitter’s back arm/elbow beginning a move downward before their front shoulder begins rotating out. This squeeze of the back arm allows the shoulders to stay “on-line” or in line with the pitch, while the core is beginning to rotate. This move allows the bat to stay through the hitting zone for the longest amount of time. Because barrel direction is improved, the ability for a hitter to impact the correct part of the ball increases.
This drill is for creating the feel of starting rotation from the backside. This drill should be done during a hitters prep work or outside of hitting. Create the feel of this move to create a better feel for the barrel.
Baseball Rebellion’s Kory Behenna takes young pitchers through all the movements they should be doing BEFORE they throw.