Tuesday, January 25, 2011

“What Type of Hitter Are You?”

One way to help your players have a very successful season this year is by taking a moment to ask them, “What type of hitter do you think you are?”

Most young hitters have never slowed down long enough to consider such a thought.  Typically, they run from hitting lessons to practice to games, with no consideration to the gifts they have blessed with and strengths they may have. 

There are only three “types” of hitters:  Singles Hitters, Power Hitters, and “Line Drive” Hitters, and in scouting young players, they all typically fall somewhere within these three categories.  None are more or less important that the other, because in truth, a line-up needs all three to be successful.
A “Singles hitter” is typically a player who has a very short swing, terrific hand eye coordination, a small strike zone, and good to great speed.  This player also usually exhibits a low finish to his swing in order to 1) create more ground balls, and 2) help them get out of the box quicker.  If your son or daughter is small, and blessed with quickness, becoming this type of hitter this spring could really help them 1) get more playing time, and 2) help their team to accomplish their pre-season goals.  This type of hitter is usually found in the 1st, 2cd, and 9th position in their respective lineups, and is typically known as a “table setter” or the “second leadoff.”

The second type is the rarest of the breed, the “Power Hitter”.  There are very few true power hitters in the game today, which is why they demand the highest salaries at the Major League level (supply and demand).  Typical attributes include big body types with long arms, a swing and miss mentality (meaning high risk/high reward), a flair for the dramatic, and a high finish (which encourages more fly balls).  Everyone loves to see this guy hit, because he puts on a show that few forget.  Typically, he is responsible for driving in runs for the team and can usually be found in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th spots of the lineup. 

The third and final type of hitter is a “Line Drive hitter”, and is the most common of the types.  In scouting young players, most kids fall into this category.  Typical attributes include medium to normal body size and speed, good hands defensively, and great discipline at the plate.  In other words, they are just “good baseball players”;  i.e. “doubles” power, very few strikeouts, and an innate ability to situational hit (meaning they hit and run very well, they drive in runs, move guys over, etc...)  If you son is this type of player, he usually fits into a lineup best in the 6th, 7th, and 8th spots, and there is no shame in that.  Always make sure to remind him that each and every lineup in America has a 6th, 7th, and 8th spot in it, and they all need great “baseball players” in order to fill those slots. 

In taking a moment to discuss which of the three types your young hitter might be, in truth, you are asking him or her in the short-term, “how best do you help your team?”  and in the long-term, “in what capacity are you going to maximize your talent?”  As Coaches, we all need table setters, grinders, and someone who swings for the fence, so have this conversation with your players in order to help them find out what they can do best to 1) help them have a very successful spring, and 2) help their team win a championship! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rubber Band Theory.

Whenever kids have trouble understanding the concept of "separation" at the plate, it always helps me to use the Rubber Band analogy.

If you were to take a Rubber Band and barely pull it back, the impact or "pop" of the Rubber Band is going to be very, very small (or in other words, with very little power.)

Now, if you take that same Rubber Band and pull it back to where there is an extreme amount of tension in the band (or in other words, through the torso of the hitter), the "pop" is going to be much more explosive (or in other words, with power.)

In truth, the distance between your young hitter's front toe down position and back hand position at the trigger is the definition of "separation". 

Now, does your young hitter separate?  Or could he or she use a Rubber Band?

Are Maple Bats Dangerous?

As a result of Tyler Colvin's most recent accident in which he was struck in the chest by a shattered bat, baseball pundits again are rearing their ugly heads calling for a ban on all bats made of Maple in Major League Baseball.

Jim Anderson, Vice President of MaxBats (and a close, personal friend) responded in this way when I asked him, "What in the world is going on with all these Maple Bats shattering?"

"The bat (not a MaxBat) that Wellington Castillo was using was a Model 243 (large barrel) with a -3 weight drop.  In order to make that model, the manufacturer is forced to use a light billet of wood (light wood = weak wood).  Couple that with the -3 weight drop, and you're going to have problems.  This is one reason I don't advocate anyone using a large barreled bat with a weight drop of greater than -2.  As someone who is in the industry, it didn't take long to realize that the bat in question is a bat with bad slope of grain."

So it's not just Maple then?

"Over the course of the last 2 1/2 years, MLB has collected broken bat data that has been categorized by manufacturer, player, model, wood species, etc.  Interestingly enough, such info reveals that Adam Dunn had 24 multi-piece failures last year.....12 of those failures were with maple, and 12 were with ash.  So, can we just continue to blame maple bats when we see a bat break in 2-pieces on t.v.? No.  Obviously the incident on Sunday between the Cubs and Marlins was very unfortunate, and I can only wish Cubs rookie OF Tyler Colvin a speedy recovery, but to simply blame it solely on the wood species (maple) is a bit of a stretch." 

 So after talking with Jim, perhaps manufacturers should be forced to impose certain dimensions (length, width, weight) on the bats they produce, rather than worrying about what type of wood it is.

What do you think?



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Baseball (Cards) Blog.

Check out this Baseball (Card) Blog that I was interviewed for back on Sept. 8th!
Very cool site, (and it's always fun to talk about your childhood!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Winning Baseball: "What Is a Two Strike Approach?"

Chinese Arithmetic...That's what kids hear now whenever a Coach tries to teach (and explain) a Two Strike Approach to young hitters.  But this "Dinosaur of the Diamond" is a very important part of what winning teams do at the plate.

Winning Teams keep an inning going by poking a ball the other way.  Winning Teams lay off balls and work a walk in order to keep an inning going.  Winning Teams find a way to put pressure on their opponent by forcing them to make plays.  Simply put, Winning Teams find a way to win, and having a Two Strike Approach is one of those ways.

At the plate, a Two Strike Approach is nothing more than moving two inches closer to the plate (to take away the outside pitch), moving two inches up in the box (to take away the curve ball), and choking up two inches on the bat (to have better bat control).  In other words, "2-2-2-2 (two strikes means two inches in on the plate, two inches up in the box, and two inches up on the bat)."

Physically speaking, it's also spreading out in the box (in order to keep your weight back), flattening out the bat (in order to hit line drives more consistently), looking the other way (to let the ball get deeper), and being quick with your hands (in order to be short to the ball). 

Mentally speaking, it's finding a way to get on base, it's competing at the plate, and it's putting pressure on your opponent.

And it's playing Winning Baseball.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Winning Baseball: "The Disappearing Two Strike Approach."

In the summer of 2010, there have already been two Perfect Games registered (well...actually, three, if you count the Armando Galarraga effort where Jim Joyce's bad call with two outs in the ninth cost him a Perfect Game as well), and two more No-Hitters.  And what makes this even more remarkable is the fact that prior to this season, there were only 18 Perfect Games recorded in the history of the game!  So what in the world could cause this remarkable change of events; a new pitching philosophy, a new pitch no one has seen, more velocity, more control?  No, the truth is these Perfect Games have become possible due to the extinction of a (former) staple of the game:  the Two Strike Approach.

When I speak to players today about having a Two Strike Approach, I often get a look of absolute befuddlement.  Players today do not understand how to move up in the box, how to move in on the plate, how to flatten out their bat, how to punch the ball the other way, and God forbid, choke up, in order to become a tough out at the plate.  They would prefer to swing for the fences at balls in the dirt while their batting averages suffer (and their teams suffer the consequences.)

In studying and teaching the Two Strike Approach, no one personified the ability to drive the ball early in the count, while "shortening up" and "putting the ball in play" better than Joe Dimaggio.  In 1941, the year Joe D. hit in 56 straight, few people know that he also hit 30 Home Runs that year, while striking out only 13 times!  He also had similar numbers in 1939 as well when he hit 30 more Home Runs, while striking out only 20 times that season.  And by the way, he was also named the American League M.V.P. at the conclusion of both seasons (and the Yankees also won the World Series both of those years!)

So how do we, as Coaches and Players, become better two-strike hitters?  Find out next week, when we discuss the "2-2-2-2" Principle at the Plate! 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Winning Baseball: "Being Aggressive At The Plate."

Each and every week, I hear Coaches screaming from the third base box for their young hitters to, "Be Aggressive And Swing the Bat!"  But really, what does that mean?  (And remember, teen-age ears hear differently than we do, and may not understand exactly what you, as a Coach, want them to accomplish)...

Next time out there, do me a favor.  Rather than yelling "Be Aggressive!" to your hitters from a distance, explain to the boys (and girls) prior to the game that you would like to see them "Be Aggressive on the Fastball in the Zone."  And let them know you are going to track their performance, not their results.  In other words, you're not concerned with whether they get a hit or not.  You are more concerned with their approach.

With today's kids, just "Being Aggressive" is not enough.  Adding "on the fastball" to your direction helps narrow down the pitch you are expecting them to jump on, and "in the zone" encourages plate discipline and the first rule of hitting from Ted Williams  (always get a good ball to hit!)

This simple explanation of what you are really looking for from them at the plate will help you to better communicate the approach you would like to see (and as a result, help your team to hit the ball harder and help your hitters to become better as a result.)