Can you have too much bat speed?

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Question:

My son just went through the worst possible winter of his playing career. He had worked very hard this past off season to develop some serious “pop” in his bat. We measured his bat velocity while doing some heavy duty overload/underload training. His bat speed really increased and I could really see the pop.
The problem is that it is just in batting practice. In games he wasn’t making contact. When he did, it was a rocket. The first thing that I saw was that he was pulling off theball. The next thing was a loop in the swing. After that I saw the early rolling of the hands and then too much weight passing through center onto his front side. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:

It sounds like your son has improved his bat speed and therefore his power. Now, he expects to hit the ball out of the ball park. That may be the problem – he feels he should be hitting the ball out of the park. He is probably over swinging and his effort level is too high.

He must get back to thinking “hard contact” and “line drives”. An excessive effort level leads to many break downs – head movement, front side pulling off, rolling top hand, etc. Get him back to basics so that his goal is consistent hard contact and line drives. Look for good balance, correct head position throughout the swing, and a short hand path to the ball.

Maintaining a clean bat.

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Would you believe it if you were told, “If you take proper measures in caring of your baseball bat care it would should and could repay you by helping you be a better hitter?”

Sort of like being in the military once you are issued your rifle the drill sergeant will tell you flat out, “This is your Rifle treat it like a friend for if you take care of it –it will take care of you.”

A little special attention to your bat will keep that sweet spot smooth and clean so you can continue swinging for the fences. The sweet spot is the fat part of the bat barrel where you want the ball and the bat to meet.

Every bat seems to almost have a life of its own. The relationship of a hitter with his bat is something only realized by the hitter alone. Hitting a baseball solid and square at or in the sweet spot of a bat has a feel which only the hitter alone knows.

The choices of a bat which is “just right” now in our todays modern era of baseball could be a controversy of Aluminum vs Wood.

The pride you show in providing baseball bat protection for your favorite bat will have a tendency to make you a better hitter in that you have a penchant for caring and paying attention to details which matter.

Baseball bats care is nothing beyond plain common sense. The highest performance action for any piece of baseball equipment is to keep it clean and in the case of your bat make sure the barrel of your bat stays smooth and slick.

By golly you now are armed with the real truth of the matter about your baseball bat care. Make every effort at your disposal to ensure your bat barrel is always CLEAN AND SMOOTH. Here are some Do Not Notes:

 

  • Do not store your bat in extreme hot or cold temperature areas, such as in a car trunk or garage.
  • Do not clean or knock the dirt from your spikes or cleats with the barrel of your bat.If at the plate hitting and you feel compelled to knock dirt from your spikes. Do not use the barrel end of the bat flip your bat catch it at the barrel end and then tap the handle end of your bat against the sides of your spikes.
  • Do not allow burrs or nicks to remain on the barrel of your bat. Smooth the barrel down often with something unobtrusive which will not further the damage of the bat surface.Learning about baseball we were taught, in high school baseball, to use an old glass Coca Cola bottle to smooth and polish the barrels of our then wood bats.

     

  • Do not and I mean “Do Not” ever throw your bat onto the ground and into the dirt. It shows your poor sportsmanship and it will nick and booger up the barrel of your bat.Earlier on this page you were told if you took care of your bat someday it may repay the kindness. Here is how the bat repays you for your care:

    A baseball is round and your baseball bat barrel is round. Stay with me on this one.

    If the barrel of the bat has a small nick or burr and you fail to hit the incoming ball squarely, bat and ball making solid contact, and the ball touches at that burr or nick point the ball will tend to pop up into the air. However, if your bat did not have that nick or burr the ball would have a tendency to slip over or under and continue to the rear of the plate flying on the line instead of popping up into the air.

    Now you know if you do diligent baseball bat care then at just the right time your bat takes care of you. Remember what was mentioned about the soldier and his rifle.

How to build incredible bat speed for baseball and softball

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The speed of the bat head through the hitting zone is crucial for making good contact and for hitting the ball as far as possible, two good things for a hitter. There is no question that a slow bat is a bad bat.

To be honest, a quick bat does not ensure a hitter a great average either. We know a good hitter has many more qualities than strength and bat head speed. My point is to remember the other qualities which are important parts of hitting before expecting increased bat head speed to cure your average!

Now that we understand what bat speed can and cannot do, here’s how to create a quicker, stronger bat.


Abdominal Training

The trunk (abdominals and lower back) create a powerful twisting motion during the swing. Rotational torque provides speed and momentum to the arms and eventually the bat head. Like other muscles, it is necessary to develop strength by using resistance. A common mistake with abdominal training is to perform body weight resisted exercises and expect the abdominals to continually gain strength.

In the beginning you will develop a certain amount of strength. However, after a while the exercises become nothing other than calisthenics or maintenance type movements. To develop strength you must add some sort of resistance to the movement-as is the case in all exercises. The good news is that you can use most of the same traditional stomach exercises plus added weight, to get the desired results.

The three areas for you to concentrate on are the lower, upper and oblique abdominals.

Upper Abdominals

Weighted crunches (non-weighted crunches shown) – Lying on your back with legs up in the air, knees bent at 90 degrees, hold a weight of your choice at straightened arms length. Using only your upper abdominals, raise only the upper body, keeping your back flat on the ground. Three sets of 20-40 repetitions.

Lower Abdominals

Hanging leg raises - Hang from an overhead bar, with your feet not touching the ground. Your grip should be about shoulder width. Contracting the lower abdominals, lift the legs together, knees bent at 90 degrees, so the knees are just above waist height. Lower and repeat. Three sets of 10-25 repetitions.

* This a difficult exercise which does not require much weight to increase the difficulty. Use ankle weights for the resistance.

* Do not rock back and forth to make it easier to raise the legs.

* To increase difficulty without adding weights, keep your legs straight while lifting them.

Rotational Abdominals

Standing weighted twists – put yourself into an athletic stance with your feet spread at a comfortable distance and your knees slightly bent. Hold a weight about 6-to-12 inches in front of your body. After a slow warm up, begin to twist at the waist (do not twist or bend at the knees) as rapidly as possible. The key to rapid movement is maintain a low, balanced stance and make sure your shoulder reaches the chin on the twist. Three sets of 20-40 repetitions.


Leg Strength

Never underestimate the value of leg strength for good, powerful hitting. The legs do not appear active. And in terms of movement, they really are not. But it is the strength of the legs that enable the abdominals and trunk in general, to promote bat speed.


As the swing begins, the stride is in place and the body begins to rotate. Without a firm base, the body will not be able to generate any strength from the legs into the trunk. The force is generated from the ground, into the legs, to the trunk and finally the bat.

Without leg strength, the force necessary to start a powerful bat is not produced. To take it a step further, the swing might be flawed due to only upper body generation and nothing to stabilize the legs.

Basic leg strength has been outlined in previous articles. Do not expect to have the best swing or the most powerful bat if you are only going to work on the upper body and ignore your legs.


Forearms

Beginning with the grip and finishing with the forearms (the two are connected), the bat head will take the proper path if there is strength in the hands. Notice how I say hands instead of forearms. This is because the grip strength (fingers, hand) is the most important part of forearm strength for baseball.

Take a look at a swing and follow through. The movement is not about forearm flexors or extensors. There is really no point in the swing where these movements are dominant. However, the hand and hand strength are involved the entire time.

You can have strong forearms, but not necessarily a strong grip. This is why you must work grip-specific exercises into your routine, such as squeezing tennis balls, racquet balls and softballs. This will strengthen the fingers, hand and overall grip. When you add these exercises to the already common wrist curls and reverse wrist curls, you’ll have excellent results.


Total Body

When you are looking for running speed, a powerful swing or mph on your fastball, you don’t just work the specific muscles involved. Take the approach that the entire body is a system and when all the parts work together efficiently, the outcome will be much more positive than singling out certain muscles. Train your whole body if you want optimal results, not to mention reducing the risk for injuring yourself.


Other Tools For Bat Speed

There are a few gadgets and machines advertised to increase bat speed. My advice is to stick with the basics, because there are so many variables that affect bat head speed which cannot be directly trained, such as pitch recognition or reaction time. Factors such as strength and hitting mechanics are variables that can be improved by some legitimate means, or rather, means which have been tried over the years and have worked.

One thing that has been used often, but incorrectly, is the weighted bat. When you use this tool as a way to become stronger, it is important to maintain your game swing. What I mean by this, is that your swing should not change even though the weight of the bat is increased.

Most of the time the weight of the bat is far more than is needed to increase power in a swing. How many times have you seen a hitter work with a weighted bat in a slow, awkward motion that looks nothing like his swing? More often than you should!

One thing that has been discussed in the development of power, is the need for speed. Speed of movement must be present if power is to be increased. Speed can be slightly reduced if a weight is being used, only because power increases when using the correct weight.

Movement is also important when training for power. For the swing to increase in power, the weighted swing has to be similar to the regular swing or there is no transfer of power. The same situation exists when you run with a weighted vest or ankle weights. If you run differently with the weights, then it does not have a positive effect on your normal running style.

My suggestion is to use a bat that is only a few ounces heavier than your regular bat. Try to use the same length as well. This way the swing will be the same, but because of the added weight, you will be increasing power with your normal swing.

Be careful not to use the weighted bat in normal game or batting practice situations. Your reaction time will be the same, but your bat will be slower at game speed. I recommend hitting off of the tee or using soft toss to work on your weighted game.

 via: Bob Alejo

A Secret to Hitting

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Recently I was at a scout game at ASU that my son Jordan was playing in. Sitting next to me was Mark Verstegen, elite sports trainer to many local amateur athletes in the valley as well as numerous professional athletes such as Nomar Garciaparra, Roberto Alomar, Lou Merloni, Jason Veritek, and Mary Pierce, just to name a few. Mark had come to see Jordan and a few other players on this scout team that he works out.

Although playing in this scout league has many benefits, one of the drawbacks is the fact that they don’t have umpires. The catcher calls balls and strikes. In this particular game, in Jordan’s first at bat, the catcher called an unbelievably high and away pitch a strike, strike 3 for that matter. Jordan, being the type A personality that he is, was not happy, although to his credit, he did control his emotions. His next at bat the same thing happened. Knowing that he couldn’t get thrown out of the game, Jordan drew a line in the dirt informing the catcher where the proper strike zone is. His next at bat he turned around and hit right handed. This time he had a terrible at bat. His balance was off, his effort level was sky rocketing, he was swinging at 110% of his max and you guessed it, he struck out. Rita sarcastically asked Mark, since he works with so many baseball players, if he could suggest any professional hitting instruction for her son.

After that at bat, Jordan went to the dugout and motioned for me to go down and see him. I asked him, “Jordan, what is your confidence in? You take great bp, you hit rockets left and right (literally and figuratively), you look great in the cage and on the field during practice. What are you doing in these games? You are a totally different hitter. Why do you practice so hard if you aren’t going to take your practice into the games? Be yourself, relax and let all your hard work pay off by believing in yourself and not trying to do too much. You have to have the confidence to know that what you practice day in and day out will be carried over into the game.” His next two at bats were quality at bats hitting hard line drives up the middle, one from the right side, one from the left. He made the adjustment.

When I returned to my seat, Mark then asked me what I thought were common denominators shared by great hitters. I told him that once a player has sound mechanics as a given, ( being able to repeat their swing) along with excellent hand eye coordination, there are certain critical aspects which set great hitters apart from the rest:

  • Work ethic
  • Ability to make adjustments
  • Not being afraid to fail
  • Becoming a student of the game

See the Ball!

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Question:

My son struggled at the 16 year old JV level this season. The bottom line is he just doesn’t pick up the ball consistently. The zone he has the most problem with is that first zone, leaving the pitcher’s hand to the first 10-12 feet. He fights off a lot of pitches because they get on top of him, sees it too late. He can’t ever attack it out in front of the plate. When he sees it early and likes it, he most of the time jumps at it and gets out on his front foot, either topping the ball or getting under it. I have Harvey’s Vision Training, have used it a bit, he’s into his Legion Ball now for the summer and I want to help him NOW ! That’s where you come in, Dave. It’s not as easy as saying “See it coming out of the pitcher’s hand”. What now !!????

Answer:

The first action that needs to take place is that when his stride foot comes down, the hands have to go back. This will get him into a good position of power and allow him to see the ball. It sounds like he usually starts too late, and gets beat on balls, or he starts too early and all his weight comes forward. I would rather him start too early then too late, if he starts too late he will get beat on balls every time.

However, he can start as early as he wants if he gets into the position of power. Once he is in the position of power, don’t have him thinkn about seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand, have him only think about seeing the ball. If a hitter thinks about seeing the ball out of the hand he might follow the hand instead of the ball. Have him start early, and only think about seeing the ball. Good luck with the season.

3 Keys to Hitting Success

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Once you do have your hitting fundamentally correct, to set yourself above your competition, not merely resting on your laurels and thinking that your current success will be enough, you need to concentrate on these three keys to success:

Work ethic
What is your work ethic like? Are you the first to come and the last to leave? If you are not doing more than your coach asks, it’s not enough.

Ability to make adjustments
Don’t wait 2 weeks to make an adjustment. Adjustments should be made game to game – at bat to at bat-pitch to pitch. I used Jordan’s at bats as an example. Learn to make the adjustments necessary to get you past your present difficulties. Believe me, the difficulties will come. The sooner you make the adjustment the shorter the duration and severity of the difficulty.

Not being afraid to fail
Sorry but I have to jump to another sport to illustrate this point. Tiger Woods will possibly go down in history as the greatest golfer ever. What did he do after he had so much success including winning the Masters at his young age, something no one had ever done before? He changed his swing. His critics thought he was crazy. Having had so much success, why would he change? We frequently hear the saying, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” I disagree. Just because it’s not broken, doesn’t mean you can’t make it better. Tiger obviously agrees. He wasn’t afraid to change – to make himself better. He wasn’t afraid to fail. The results speak for themselves. You will only improve when change takes place. You’ve heard me say this before, you either will get better or worse, you won’t stay the same.

Fear of the Ball

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A major obstacle some young hitters find themselves facing is the fear of being hit by the ball.  Young hitters are not alone in this area.  Many older, more advanced hitters sometimes find themselves in situations where they too, have developed an extreme fear of the ball.  When a pitcher can instill fear into a hitter’s mind, he has defeated that hitter.

If you, the hitter, have a fear of being hit by the pitch, you are not concentrating on the job at hand- seeing the ball.  This doesn’t have to be the case, however, there are steps you can take to help you eliminate this fear:

  • Learn how to track the ball.
  • On pitches above your waist, turn your shoulder and head back towards the catcher.
  • Get the bat head down to the ground to avoid fould balls.
  • Practice this with tennis balls in your drill and practice times.
  • Have someone throw the tennis balls high and inside. Learn the technique of turning the proper way.

How to Hit with Leverage

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Question:

When I transfer my weight back at the beginning of my swing, my back leg seems to bend a lot (almost want to collapse). Is this because too much weight is going back, or my leg is not strong enough, or what?

Answer:

I am assuming the way you found out that your back leg was collapsing was by watching video of your swings. If not, then make sure to have someone record you swinging in batting practice, doing side toss, and in games. The reason you should look at these different stages is because you may be swinging too hard. Perhaps you are too far back on your leg, but usually a hitter’s back leg collapses when they are trying to hit the ball too far and hard. So make sure to see those three different shots, because if you are swinging too hard in the games, you probably are easier in your side toss drills when you are relaxed. This would just tell you whether you have an effort level problem, or a mechanical problem. If it is effort level, then you might just need to relax, and not try to do too much with the ball. And if it is mechanical, then you probably should take a little weight off the back leg when you start your swing. Hope everything goes well.