BP Throwing Case Study: Tyler Zupcic (Baseball Rebellion Employee)

Baseball Rebellion Hitting Instructor Tyler Zupcic came to me with a throwing problem. He was complaining about shoulder pain, that had now moved down to his below and forearm, as he kept throwing batting practice in his lessons. One day out of the blue he showed up to work with an odd black and blue mark on the inside of his throwing elbow. He asked me to watch him throw and see if there was anything mechanically I could help him with.

I immediately saw the reasons for his arm troubles. Tyler was an outfielder at Appalachian State where he never experienced arm pain but had a long arm swing with a big stride. When throwing BP behind an L screen it is not the same timing of arm swing to stride. What that means is when a thrower’s front foot hits the arm position should be 90 degrees cocked behind the head. The reason this position is important is that the upper body is able to rotate the shoulder more direct to the target instead of horizontal.  (Check out an article on why Horizontal Rotation is bad and drills to correct it. https://baseballrebellion.com/dshinskie15/how-to-stop-kids-from-throwing-sidearm/ ) You can see in the picture below the position of his arm at front foot strike is at 0 degrees.

Day 1


As you can see from the picture above, the ball did not get above his elbow before his foot is firmly in the ground. This is the culprit of his pain. The forearm cannot get to safe external rotation when in this position. As he moves into the throw his forearm drags behind body rotation, which causes stress on the elbow.   He gradually increased his arm action by focusing pre-throw on one simple thing and then executing the task. He increased on day 2 to about 60 degrees seen in the picture below.

Day 2


After day 2 he started to grasp the concept and the feeling of timing up his arm swing with the front leg. With a simple cue of feeling his arm get to 9o degrees behind his head, Tyler was able to relax more and allow his arm to safely wipe. Again the reason I wanted him to get to this position, is because the arm is more supported.  By Tyler using more of his body as he is rotating his shoulders at the target, his arm is in a more supported position. What I mean by “supported” is that the arm can move safely and freely with the body to cause less stress on the small muscles in the elbow and shoulder. When the arm is in a supported position, he is able to throw more consistently and safely.

Day 3


After day 3 you can significantly see the difference in where the arm is positioned as his front foot hits. After we fixed his arm action Tyler instantly was able to throw harder, more accurately and with no pain to his clients.  Although this was obviously a must fix for Tyler because of our profession here at Baseball Rebellion. Parents and coaches can make these simple cues to help throw more pain-free and more accurate batting practice for their kids and teams. Here is a video of the difference from day 1 to day 3.

 

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As professional hitting instructors we are always looking for different things to use to help make our hitters better, more efficient, and have a deeper understanding of their swing. One of the products we use on a daily basis here at Baseball Rebellion is the FollowThru Training Bat, which is a weighted training bat this is designed to something very different from what we use it for (to see more about the FollowThru bat and how its designed click here).

The purpose of the product is to have the hitter feel and hear the ‘click’ of the metal rod that is placed inside the bat at the point of contact, forcing the hitter to have a direct, down or level path to the ball. Here is a video showing the way the product is intended to be used:

If you have been following our company you know that is not the bat path we want our hitters to have at Baseball Rebellion. With that said, all hitting instructors have one common goal and that is to get their hitters to develop and generate bat speed. The training bat is a great tool to help the hitter feel the barrel working backward towards the catcher first to help achieve the fast, upward swing plane that we desire. To get the hitter to feel what efficient barrel path is they must feel the ‘click’ of the metal rod back behind them instead of out in front of them. It helps the hitter feel the initial move of the barrel as well as helps teach them the proper hand pivot to turn the barrel around the knob with extreme speed. The weight of the bat is also a great feature because it forces the hitter to keep the weight of the bat up by turning with their hands high.

You can take full swings and hit with the FollowThru bat but we rarely do that. We use it most when only practicing the movement patterns through half turns. Even though we use it differently than its intended use, it is an excellent product to help hitters generate early bat speed and turn the bat with extreme efficiency.

Here is an in-lesson look at myself explaining and demonstrating the way Baseball Rebellion uses the FollowThru bat:

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Baseball Rebellion Hitting Instructor JK Whited takes everyone through the first installment of his whiteboard series. During JK’s whiteboard talk, he goes over:

  • The difference between a fly-ball and a pop-up.
  • What causes a pop-up?
  • How to avoid hitting pop-ups.
  • Drills and coaching cues you should avoid to avoid pop-ups!

 

Seen above, the countdown drill is used to teach a hitter to be quick to the ball as well as be able to adjust to different timings. The thought behind this drill is if a hitter is able to square a ball up with a very short amount of reaction time, they will be able to adjust to different pitches better. The problem with this drill is that it doesn’t allow for a realistic pitch angle. With the coach or instructor dropping the ball from straight above, it doesn’t allow the hitter to adjust to the plane of the pitch.

A drill that you could implement instead of the countdown drill is the Rebel’s Rack Timing Drills. This allows a hitter to time their turn to certain pitches as well as giving them a realistic pitch plane to see.

 

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Hitting a low and inside pitch is really really hard.  Many right-handed hitters have even more trouble with this as most breaking pitches break away from them and in towards the left-handed batter’s box.  Something we do at Baseball Rebellion to make sure our hitters can get their bodies in position to drive the low and inside pitch is the launch angle tee noodle drill.

First, we use the Rebel’s Rack to feel a flat turn (which is how you hit a high pitch and how we start our learning to turn process).  Then, you add the Launch Angle Tee with the pool noodle as a barrier to go ‘under’ with your back shoulder and the Rebel’s Rack.  Sometimes, hitters need a longer instrument to ‘see’ their hip hinge and side bend working so we use a dowel rod or a broomstick.  Using the Launch Angle Tee’s angle as a guide, turn your body so the dowel rod works under the noodle and complete the turn as normal.  Lastly, we take full swings, with no ball at first to feel the hip hinge and side bend that the best players in the world use to crush low and inside pitches.  You can use another tee to hit balls under the noodle, or, if you have a great tossed (like the guys here at Baseball Rebellion) you can hit a moving ball either in front toss or batting practice with the noodle still in place.

The Launch Angle Tee Noodle Drill will dramatically help your range of motion inside your turn and make it effortless to get your body in position to smash low and inside pitches and ruin pitcher’s days.

Chas Pippitt

One of the most overlooked plays in baseball is the relay play to throw a runner out at home trying to score from first base on a ball hit into the gap. You see it so many times in world series highlights and that single play happens to be one of the most important plays of the series. While it is worked on tirelessly at the youth and high school level I don’t see it done properly or as efficiently as it should be.

Once the ball makes its way to the wall here are all the things that must happen all before that runner on first runs 270-feet (90-foot bases):

  1.      The outfielder must play the ball cleanly off the wall (if ball is not moving the outfielder must pick the ball up with the bare hand)
  2.      Make a quick and accurate throw to the infield
  3.      The infielder must catch, exchange, and make an accurate throw to the catcher
  4.      The catcher must catch the ball and apply the tag before the runner touches home plate.

Remember, all of that has to happen in 10-11.5 seconds (average time from contact of the ball to tag at the plate in MLB on plays at the plate on 20 different relays from the 2018 season) which takes precision and efficiency from all players involved.

The outfielder is the one who starts the relay, the outcome of the play usually is directly correlated to how quickly they can get the ball off the ground and into the infielder’s glove. A good rule of thumb to tell your players is that, on average, every step the outfielder takes with the ball in his hand, the base runner will be two to three steps closer to home. Efficiency in your movements is important! 

After watching the video above, I think you would be able to say that every single swing was taken with authority, purpose, and the plan of ruining a pitcher’s day.  If your player is not training with these same qualities, they are, without a doubt, falling behind. If you watched the most recent all-star game what you saw was non-stop action for ten innings. Every single run scored in the game was via the home run. Against the best pitchers in the world, the likelihood of stringing together three straight hits is nearly impossible. These hitters knew they had to go up there with the intention to do damage and that’s exactly what they did, totaling an all-star game record 10 home runs.

As researchers and instructors, we are always looking for the technical advantage for our players.  We study how the human body is supposed to work and how it can be used in the most efficient way to strike a baseball with accuracy and force in the shortest amount of time possible.  We want our players to have an understanding of the key components and principles of a great swing pattern.  The principles include but are not limited to, vision, hip and shoulder separation, and stride direction.  All of these principals have a very important place on the “hitter’s totem pole” so to speak.  Without these components working together as a system,  the player can not reach their full potential.  This is not to say they can’t still be good players, they simply just won’t be working at maximum potential.

Important as all of those principles are, there is one underlying concept that seems obvious but is rarely seen.  Intent.  There are many variations of the word “intent,” but put simply it means “what you are planning to do.”  If your dream is to be a great hitter, then there is only one kind of intention that works and that is the intent to crush the baseball…all of the time.

intent to swing hard picture

When a new client comes in for an evaluation, one of my favorite questions to ask them is,  “So when you come up to hit, what are you trying to do?”  Nine times out of ten, the response I get is, “To hit the ball.”  This is the mindset we see when a hitter is scared to swing and miss. They most likely have been handcuffed into believing just making contact is the goal of hitting. While it is embarrassing to swing and miss, it shouldn’t be seen as a failure. I would argue that success at the plate lies in taking a great swing with great intentions, whether they get on base or not.  If they have the swing pattern and more importantly the intent, I don’t worry about the results – they will come. 

As a staff, we tell our players that mistakes at top-speed don’t matter.  We want top-speed and aggressive mistakes.  It does the instructor and the player no good to make mistakes while going slow to ensure contact.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a phase of a player’s training where they must learn to walk before they can run. However, they need to top-speed as soon as possible. I often make the comparison to a first-time swimmer. If they were to jump in the deep in of the pool without the ability to swim, would they swim slowly to make sure they were doing it correctly? The answer is no, and it needs to be the same answer when a hitter is learning to turn correctly. The hitter must be willing to take aggressive swings and fail in practice in order to become more successful in games.  I will fully admit that one of my biggest challenges as an instructor is to not be over technical.  Quality instructors spend a lot of time analyzing every single movement from a technical view, which they need to do.  They also must be careful not to fall too deep into the technical hole which will at best produce good technique in a robotic fashion.

Intent can also lead to success in games. Intent has everything to do with hitters going into slumps as well as going on hot streaks. When it’s going well for a player and they feel like they can hit anything, they aren’t worried about making contact. They know that contact will happen and they aren’t anxious to take their best swing. However, when they start to struggle and second guess themselves, the goal then becomes, “let me just put a good swing on this” or “if I can just make contact here”. These thoughts and swing goals are passive and set up a hitter to swing slowly. So when a hitter feels like they are in the biggest slump of their life, chances are their intent to do damage isn’t there.

Baseball swing contact positions

Young lefty shows both technical skills and serious intent to crush the ball at all locations.

The young lefty you see above is an example of a great kid who has changed his swing for the better.  He has worked extremely hard and kept a phenomenal attitude through the good and bad times of his training.  However,  he never fully came into his own until he understood and believed that he could take the hacks you see him take now with no fear of missing.  If you notice in the series of pictures below, he was able to have almost identical swing patterns with intent to crush the ball on all pitch locations.  This entire series of eight swings took place during two rounds of five where he crushed every ball at every location.  It was a very inspiring round for him and myself, hence the video and this article.

The moral of this story is that no matter which swing pattern you choose to follow, make sure that you and your player understands what their true job really is.  Most players can be capable of so much more if they just have the right intentions. As parents, coaches, and instructors, we need to help and allow those intentions to be realized.  The right intentions paired with a proper swing pattern will allow a player to find out just how high their ceiling can be. 

 

The Med Ball Throw Drill will help hitters practice to move their whole body with intent. 

Eric Tyler, Hitting Instructor at Baseball Rebellion

As Baseball Rebellion/Softball Rebellion has grown, we have decided to be more open with the “HOW” of our process instead of just the results.  This, for years, was not the case at BR/SR, as we wouldn’t even let clients film the movement progressions we do with hitters.  We are all excited about how showing these movements can help players of all ages turn faster and hit with more power.  Releasing our movement progression has been something I’ve considered for a long time.  We haven’t done it, until now, and will be including an even more detailed breakdown inside of the Rebel’s Rack Drills for those who have and are going to purchase the Rebel’s Rack.  All in all, the movement progressions we are about to show you have built what we do here at BR/SR.  Without them, the Hittrax data we produce, the scholarships, draft picks/bonus money, and the opportunities for our position player athletes would be greatly diminished.  We at Baseball Rebellion are extremely excited to show our process and continue to push ourselves to be more transparent and give more back to the game that have given us so much.  Enjoy!

On May 29th, 2012, I launched the Rebel’s Rack, a rotational power trainer and ‘hitting aid’ that helps baseball and softball players hit the ball harder and farther.  At the time, Baseball Rebellion had no Hittrax machines, so all we had was a stalker gun we held up at the hitter to test their exit velocities.  Softball and baseball players of all ages and ability levels were radically increasing their ball exit speed in matters of minutes using our movement progressions and the Rebel’s Rack.  

Over 55 Rebel’s Racks being shipped!

Over the years, the Rebel’s Rack has changed some.  No longer yellow in color, the Rebel’s Rack now has 4 sizes that fit kids as small as 50 lbs up to 250lbs.  The ‘wings’ on the Rebel’s Rack are longer now, limiting any pinching that the first iteration of the Rebel’s Rack could cause.  More importantly, how we USE the rack has changed, as we’ve learned the nuances of training rotation and preparing to rotate and timing that rotation to a moving ball.  At the time, I had no idea how much I’d grow to love training movement and improving rotational range, speed, and power.  The first lessons with the Rebel’s Rack, the ‘non-hitting’ lessons, are my most favorite to teach.  The foundation of movement quality and speed built there translates into game acceleration, adjustability, speed and power almost immediately for most players.  Watching a player find out what ‘FASTEST’ really is inside of their bodies and inside of their turn/swing for the first time and their eye’s light up and the green numbers flash on the Hittrax is what I love most about my job.  The Green Bell has been a great culture builder, pushing players to want to come out of their comfort zones to get the applause of those in the building when they ring the bell after a new personal record.

BUT HOW do we as instructors help players, even pros, generate so much more distance and exit velocity so fast?  Over the past 5 years, through trial and error, painstaking video analysis, and constant exit velocity and distance monitoring, the team of instructors at Baseball Rebellion have created the Rebel’s Rack Movement Progression. Below, you will see the three (3) main moves we use, and make hitters MASTER before they are allowed to hit (in the cage) again in our program.  These foundational moves are practiced over and over, deliberately, with internal cues that the hitter must make on their own before he or she re-earns the right to hit.  

 

 

Movement One: The Stride (Tempo Based, Slowing the Game Down)

Once any hitter returns for their first ‘lesson’ after the evaluation they don’t even need their bat.  We head over to a mirror and the hitter is instructed to stride ‘at the mirror’ as if the mirror were the pitcher.  I want the hitter to see themselves move and hear our cues.  “The mirror is the best teacher in the building” is often said at BR/SR.  Another favorite is, “your eyes are for the mirror, your ears are for me”.  The hitter, strides and strides and strides.  Over and over.  All while watching themselves stride in the mirror and reacting and evolving their movements based on the cues and instructions of the BR Instructor.

Keys to the Stride:

  • Extremely Slow in the landing
  • Open front foot/kneecap towards the mirror (pitcher)
  • Heel to Heel Landing position
  • No opening or ‘flinching’ of the chest at landing
  • Head BACK over Back Hip (this is a change from what we taught years ago, as hitting is more than just generating rotational power…you have to be able to hit and lift a moving ball)
  • Once these keys are achieved, we move on to the Rebel’s Rack Movement Progression to Movement Two. 

 

Movement Two: The Show (Preparing to Turn, Storing Energy)

Now, the hitter has mastered the slow stride (this can be a leg kick, small lift, toe tap, pretty much anything the hitter wants) with an open front leg/kneecap towards the mirror.  The hitter’s head is back and he or she is not ‘flinching’ or opening their shoulders at any point in the movement or at landing on the front foot.  The hitter has earned the right to progress into the “Show” phase of the Rebel’s Rack Movement Progression.  Still in the mirror, facing the mirror as if it were the pitcher, the hitter is instructed to stride exactly as they did before with a few simple, and extremely important changes.  As the hitter lands, they are instructed to open their pelvis towards the mirror as they keep their front shoulder closed.  Cues we use range from “show your belly button towards the pitcher” to “open your stomach as far as you can while you show the back ‘wing’ of the Rebel’s Rack in the mirror”.  Essentially, we are twisting up the body in opposite ways.  The lower half is opening, and the upper half, specifically the upper back and back arm, are resisting that opening as hard as they can.  This stores energy and prepares the body to TURN as quickly as possible.  EVERY SINGLE THING done in “the Show” phase is preparing the body to turn quickly and instantly.  Store as much energy as possible and completely wind yourself up as far as you can without losing sight of the pitcher with your back eye.

Keys to the Show:

  • Open the pelvis from ABOVE the pelvis, using your lower back and stomach muscles.
  • Soft and slow landing with the front side, no ‘bouncing’ into the ground or ‘stomping’.
  • Keep your front shoulder totally still or ‘slightly close’ your front side shoulder by pulling back with your upper back and resist the opening/turn/swing with your back arm/upper back.

 

Movement Three:  The Turn

Now the hitter has mastered the MOVEMENTS of slowly striding and slowly storing up as much energy for the turn as possible.  It’s time to put that energy to good use!  The hitter goes into the “Show” phase of the turn move and lands and stops.  From here, we teach the hitter the turn, from a dead standstill.  Basically, the turn is three basic movements that happen all at once.

The hitter must SIMULTANEOUSLY pull their back hip forward from above the pelvis (this moves the back foot as well), forcefully straighten their front leg into the ground through the front heel of the front foot, and turn their belly button past the pitcher and back shoulder all the way to centerfield.  Usually, there are many different mistakes that happen, and almost ALL of them are caused by the hitter turning too slowly.  Remember, the turn must be LEARNED FAST while the preparation to turn must be learned and executed slowly.    The faster you turn…the faster you learn!  Slowness in the turn causes the hitter’s head to drift forward, the front leg to fail to straighten out, the back foot/hip not moving forward far enough or too far (both can happen) and the shoulders not to turn all the way.  Many balance issues arise when the turn is slow…and the hitter MUST be totally committed to the idea of achieving maximum speed in the turn from the beginning to the finish.  There is no slowing down…no easing into it…the turn must GO and be done.  

Keys to the Turn:

  • The hitter must turn as fast and completely as possible, there is no ‘almost’ or ‘kinda fast’
  • The hitter must lock out his front knee completely and hold the finish
  • The hitter must pull the back foot forward with no dragging of the toe
  • The hitter must land on the ball of their back foot and not let the heel drop
  • The hitter’s back knee must be in front of the hitter’s face at the finish of the turn (swingman finish)
  • The back shoulder must completely replace the front shoulder and be higher than the front shoulder at the finish

 

If a hitter is willing to spend the time mastering this movement progression with these executable internal cues, then the ‘chaos’ of hitting gets much much easier to deal with.  Problems like a change of velocity or break are more easily solved by ‘sinking into’ the front side.  Remember, we learned the turn from a dead stop position (Show Position), so now the hitter knows he or she can go fast from there.  If a hitter gets fooled, they have a better plan…and it’s built in.  Mr. Miyagi did this to Daniel Son by having him Wax on, Wax off and Paint the Fence.  These repeatable actions became ingrained in him so when Miyagi attacked Daniel, he knew how to defend the different punches.    Likewise, hitter’s posture and turn aggression become what we call ‘unbreakable’.  The “unbreakable” posture and turn speed can be practiced daily and once these movements are mastered, they become subconscious and are instantly recalled by the body when needed in games.  In minutes, a hitter can do hundreds of turns with the rack without any failure at all!  Imagine how efficient your training could be if you took away the stress of hitting?  No more frustrated faces from a rollover or a pop up…No more hitting until your hands bleed…no more confusion about WHY you went 0 – 4…you’ll know why you failed…your posture and speed of the turn broke.  The less a hitter ‘breaks’ within the game turn, the better he or she will hit.  Period.  

Training movements away from the cage and then taking them into the cage is common in instruction nowadays.  But much of that training and ‘feel work’ doesn’t translate and is just feels for feels sake.  We want everything a hitter does to increase their ability to accelerate their turn, time their turn, and find their top speed as fast as they can with their BODY, not with their arms and hands.  We even take the Rebel’s Rack into the cages at first, before they hit, so they can time a moving ball with their turn after they time their load with the pitcher’s arm swing or windup.  This sequence leads to the fastest improvements we have ever seen on Hittrax, the fastest ‘ah ha’ moments for our clients, the most confidence in our shared process, and the fastest carry over into games.  

Writing this article and posting these videos was scary for me.  I’ve had many, many people tell me ‘they just don’t understand what you guys do’ when people come at us on social media.  Players we’ve helped say, ‘Chas, if they knew how fast you and the guys did it, and how you guys did it, then they’d understand’.  For years we have hidden this information from ‘outsiders’.  Now, we at Baseball Rebellion and Softball Rebellion are going to bring you behind the curtain and you can try to duplicate our results for yourself.  Get some Racks, and learn how to turn.  Enjoy the success this will bring you, your team, and or your players.  The Rebel’s Rack Movement Progression is a secret no more, now let’s unlock whats inside your body already…the fastest turns you’ve ever experienced!  

 

The Rebel’s Rack

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Maximize your power to hit more doubles, triples, and home runs! The Rebel’s Rack is the best tool to train rotational hitting, which leads to an increase in bat speed, exit velocity, and line drive hitting consistency.

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Description

 

The Rebel’s Rack is the most efficient way to develop rotational power within the baseball and softball swing.  Made of metal and powder coated, the Rebel’s Rack is almost indestructible.  Custom drills for the Rebel’s Rack that include the range of motion, power and speed work, and isometrics are included at purchase and instantly accessible through your mobile phone, tablet or computer.  The Rebel’s Rack is used by dozens of professional players, NCAA teams, and high schools all over the country.  Easily fits inside a bat bag a perfect way to time pitchers in the on-deck circle or practice timing and pitch tracking in bullpen sessions.  Perfect for injured players who cannot hold a bat, now that player can ‘learn to turn’ as they come back to play.

 

Features

  • Promotes proper swing path & rotational hitting for baseball and softball
  • Increases power & line drive hitting consistency
  • Creates more power, harder hits, & more bat speed
  • Use the Rebel’s Rack by itself or with resistance from bands or cable machines
  • Comes with Step-by-Step How-To Guide and Drill Videos
  • 6-month guarantee against manufacturing defects
  • Hand-made in the United States and tested before shipping

Size Chart

Player T-Shirt Size Rebel’s Rack Size
YS-YM Extra Small
YL – Small Small
Medium – Large Medium
XL-XXL Large

 

Team Orders

For team orders please call Baseball Rebellion to receive a product quote: 919-309-0040 or email customerservice@baseballrebellion.com

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Chas Pippitt, Leader of the Baseball and Softball Rebellion

One of the common misconceptions related to an upward swing is that the hitter is selling out for power and sacrificing the ability to make consistent contact. In this article, I aim to debunk that myth. The game that we know and love is slowing but surely changing in the right direction with more and more players coming out and explaining their intentions to hit the ball in the air more often. Despite having more data and technology readily available than ever before (HitTraxRapsodo,  Blast MotionDiamond KineticsEdgertronic), there are still many neigh sayers that are struggling to wrap their head around the idea of swinging to match the plane of the pitch.

Here at Baseball Rebellion, we aim to raise the ceilings of each and every hitter we work with. That is not limited to an increase in power potential, it also includes being able to swing more accurately. Swing accuracy is a term to describe how well a hitter can deliver the barrel of the bat to the ball consistently. Hitting is far more complex than the ability to hit the ball as far as you can on each and every swing. Hitters must be able to adjust to different pitches in different locations. They also have to have the ability to hit in a situational setting to help their team. While the best situational hitting in any situation is a home run, a hitter must be able to deliver what is needed at that exact moment. That is where swing accuracy comes into play. These are the moments in the game that separate good hitters from great hitters.

In spring training Joey Votto spoke about how the best hitters in the game are able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

So we know swing accuracy is important, but how can we develop it? We start by equipping the hitter with the movements that give them the widest margin of error in their swing. Hitting is too hard to depend on being perfect with our timing and accuracy every time. By matching the plane of the pitch and swinging slightly upward, the hitter is able to be slightly off with their timing and accuracy and still be able to do damage and also whatever they are needed to do situationally.

These graphics below are a great example of matching swing plane with the plane of the pitch to allow the greatest margin for error:

 

Another key component of good swing accuracy is the speed of the hitter’s turn. Often times when a player struggles they react by slowing down their turn and just try to make contact, further digging themselves into a bigger hole. In reality, speed equals precision. Therefore, a faster, more precise turn will deliver a more accurate swing. Being stubborn with the speed of your turn and refusing to slow your turn down will only improve your ability to swing accurately. One drill we use with our hitters here is known as the Launch Angle Ladder. This is a drill (Shown Below) in which the hitter is instructed to hit the pitch within a certain range of launch angle. Once completed, the range is changed and the hitter must then hit a ball between the new range. This teaches the hitter to be able to control their body to perform the task at hand, without slowing down their turn. It is important to note that this is only done after a hitter has become competent in our movement progression system.

While swing accuracy can relate to the launch angle the ball is hit it can also be how directionally accurate a hitter can be. When starting at Baseball Rebellion this past December, I was introduced to an idea that seemed very foreign at the time. While we have all heard of wanting to hit with a gap-to-gap approach, meaning having the intention to hit every pitch in the middle of the field in-between the left-centerfield gap and right-center field gap, I was introduced to what is known as gap-or-gap hitting. While it looks great to hit the back corners of the net in a cage, think about who we are aiming to hit the ball at with that swing. In most levels of baseball, the fastest and best outfielder places Centerfield, while the best infielders play in the middle of the infield (shortstop and second base). Why would we aim to hit the ball at what is likely to be the best three defensive players on the field? I know myself personally would much rather hit it at the power hitting corner fielders (LF, RF, 3B, 1B), than the speedy middle of the field defenders. Not only is the centerfielder the best defensive outfielder, but also is the deepest part of the field which requires us to hit the ball even farther in order to do damage. Our job is to give our hitters the best chance for success and that includes the knowledge of what parts of the field to attack.

While both strikeouts and home run rates have increased over the past few years, this isn’t a direct result of players sacrificing contact for power. In the age of bullpening and 94mph sliders, hitting is harder than it has ever been. The players with the best swing accuracy will continue to separate themselves from their peers. Thank you for reading and please leave any questions or comments below!

It’s early in the season in Major League Baseball and even earlier in the minors.  Some guys have as many as 50 at-bats, others far less.  50 at-bats in high school in North Carolina, is about half your season though!  So what are some things you can do if you’re starting off the season a little behind where you want to be?  What can you do to make sure you continue on the successful tear you’re on if you’re having a great season?  Here are some quick ideas you can try to make sure you’re staying ahead of the pitchers and get your season back on track if needed.

Swing Early in the Count

courtesy of @derekhassel4 on www.twitter.com

Nothing frustrates players and parents more than ‘bad calls’ from the umpire.  That being said, that bad call almost never is the reason a hitter strikes out or struggles with weak contact.  Most often, those players afflicted with ‘bad-call-itus’ are the same ones who are TAKING STRIKES early in the count or fouling balls off that are crushable pitches.  Pitchers want to work AHEAD in the count, so make sure you’re ready for that first or second pitch fastball strike and punish it!  Nothing makes a pitcher work like backing up bases and watching the scoreboard for the hitting team light up…a few extra pitches thrown won’t chase a pitcher as fast as a few doubles or homers in an inning.

Practice Smarter Not Harder

Often times, after a bad game, a hitter will head to the cages.  2 hours later, bloody hands and sweated through gloves in tow, the hitter heads back to his or her car no closer to solving whatever ‘problem’ caused the bad day at the ball field.  These type of marathon hitting sessions can, in some cases, have a good purpose.  However, the lion’s share of these types of sessions just erode the body and the mind and bring more negative thoughts and negative swing movements. Ditch the 300 swings post-game after an 0-4 game and get in some low-intensity mirror work on your stride.  Get your tempo right and your mind relaxed so the next game you’re working towards success instead of still recovering from the blisters and frustration of the long session postgame.

Do Your Work Before Practice

Many players are relying on their coaches to give them the practice they need in a team setting.  Unfortunately, there is simply not enough time to get all the individual work you need in with a team setting, where there are often 15 players who need to hit.  From a defensive perspective, a tennis ball and a wall are all you really need to get pretty handy with the glove.  Hitting wise, grab a tee, make sure you’re giving your swing the time it deserves and needs to stay primed and ready.  Team practice has tons of value, but from an individual development perspective, you’ve must be willing to work while no one else is so you can gain ground on those who are more naturally gifted than you and keeping the distance between you and those who are coming for your spot from behind.

Eat, Sleep, and Repeat

Up all night playing Fortnite after a bad game?  Eating fast-food every day?  How you recover and fuel your body is everything to an athlete.  Make sure you’re getting the vitamins, minerals, protein and water intake needed to keep you in prime physical condition come practice and game time.  High school kids have tons of activities to do: homework, practice, and having a social life.  Sleeping well (and enough) and eating well (and enough) are hard for many driven kids who have good grades and high expectations on the field as well.  Make sure you’ve gotten a good night sleep (7-8 hours) before games and that you have your protein bars and water bottle during the day and on the bus to the game so you aren’t running on empty by the 2nd inning.

Glass Half-Full Mentality

Nobody likes a Negative Nancy or a Debbie Downer.  Be positive not only with yourself but also with your teammates.  Look for ways you can help the team that doesn’t just involve going 3 for 5 with a few doubles or making 3 diving catches in the outfield.  Are you picking up the other team’s signs?  Are you figuring out patterns in how the other team is pitching your top players or you?  How about how long the pitcher holds the ball with runners on first base or 2nd base?  After a K or an error, are you taking that back out to your position or into your next at-bat?  If you’re positive with your self-talk and trust your preparation, you can take an 0-2 and turn it around!  Get your mind on a positive wavelength and prepare for your next chance for success!

Chas Pippitt, Leader of the Baseball Rebellion