MLB Coach: Fix this 1 Swing Flaw to Crush it in 2019!
Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late - Ben Franklin
Have you ever listened to a coach talk about hitting and thought to yourself…
…I’m not sure this guy knows what he’s talking about?
I know I sure have!
I have interviewed hundreds of the game’s top coaches/players/trainers over the last few years with Baseball Notes, and sometimes…
…it’s impossible to cut through the buzzwords and jargon to figure out what they’re saying!
Even during my playing days, from HS to JC, to not one but TWO D1’s and then a couple seasons in pro ball…
…I had these lifelong baseball men absolutely contradicting each other.
(and sometimes themselves!)
And here I am, what I’d humbly consider a “baseball guy”…
…STILL CONFUSED ABOUT WHAT MAKES UP A PROPER SWING!
It is so hard for everyone - whether typical loving parent or former player - to make sense of what's right[?].
It’s now 2019 and there’s so much information available to us today…
…and we’re drowning in it.
We're drowning in information...
...but starving for wisdom.
It’s hard to know who to trust.
It's like, have you ever heard a vegan talk about their diet and how healthy they are, and you’re like:
“That makes a lot of sense…I should become a vegan!”
[Ok, you probably never thought you should become a vegan. Being a vegan sounds awful – am I right? But for now, lets pretend you’ve thought this before]
Then, you hear some Keto expert talk about the benefits of meats and high fat diets and now you’re like:
“That makes a lot of sense…I should eat more Keto!”
It’s like, how the heck are we supposed to know?
And it’s the same with baseball instruction.
You go to Youtube, and let me assure you, the guys there are FAR better at getting ranked for keywords than they are making hitters better.
And the pro's on TV...they're great and all, but there's something you've gotta keep in mind:
They did not become big leaguers and have tremendous careers because they're good at explaining things.
It's not always easy to explain what makes you good at something.
Take a look at A-Rod breaking down a left handed swing a couple years back:
What is he doing?!
Now, I actually really like A-rod. I think he's super smart and I like listening to him talk baseball.
I'm cherry picking a funny example here...not really fair...
But what big leaguer looks anything like that during the swing??
Like, if you asked LeBron how he dunks a basketball, he might say:
"Well, I grab the ball with two hands - sometimes one - and then I'll bend my knees a little bit....then jump. Works every time."
Ok thanks! I'll try that!
The point is....who then CAN we trust?
This is the reason why I started Baseball Notes.
To take the baseball knowledge from people who have it - who are ACTUALLY making players better...
...and share it with those who need it.
And over the course of my search for knowledge and interviewing all of these guys, I've learned a ton....
...but I've also noticed a problem.
I hate to say it because these are good, genuine guys, but most of today’s coaches...
... are completely married to the way they’ve ALWAYS done things.
Guys have taken firm stances on difficult topics (some pretty widely disproven at this point)
...and they're ready to die on that hill.
They have one tool in their toolbelt.
They haven’t adjusted.
They haven’t evolved.
Have you ever heard the quote:
“Many people die when they’re 25 years old, but they don’t get buried until 75”?
Man, I've found this to be so true!
One of my favorite questions that I”ll ask is this:
“What is something that you’ve changed your mind on recently?”
You know the most common answer?
“Nothing that I can think of!”
That’s basically saying to us, “Nope! I’ve had it just right for a long time now!”
And you tell me…
…what are the odds that that’s true?
So here’s the tragic result:
OUR KIDS TODAY ARE PAYING THE PRICE.
They're not as good as they could be.
Parents are left to fend for themselves, putting their kid in front of any coach who kinda sounds like he knows what they're talking about because of all the baseball lingo they're repeating.
Really they're just throwing darts at The Buzzword Dartboard.
[Kid rolls over]
[Coach throws dart at the dartboard] “Um, hands inside the ball Billy!”
[Kid swings and misses]
“Um, front shoulder in!”
[Kid pops up]
“Um, I don’t know how to help you!”
Just kidding, coaches never say that.
Though that’s the real truth most of the time, right!
I know I want to say that sometimes.
Right now I coach my son’s 9u team.
[insert picture of me and mason?]
And even though I’ve played ball, have a decent resume where I should probably have all the answers, often I’ll watch a kid repeat the same mistake…
(can only go oppo, is badly topping balls, etc)
…and think to myself:
I’m not sure what he’s doing wrong.
Meanwhile, the Dad/Coach across the way seems SUPER sure what his players are doing wrong:
"FRONT SHOULDER BILLY, FRONT SHOULDER!"
And this is too important for us to get wrong.
Because we parents spend WAYYYY too much time at ballparks each year to let that time go wasted.
To work on things that will only lead our kid to a dead end.
Last year I'm guessing I spent about 500 hours on baseball related activities.
(490 of those hours were searching for my son’s cleats. "WHERE IS THE OTHER ONE HOW ARE THEY NOT TOGETHER WE HAVE TO GO!!")
That’s a lot of hours!
I have a friend who has a boat.
He has invited us onto his boat several times and I always say the same thing:
"Nope, can't go. We have baseball."
He has stopped asking me.
I don't know if you have spent time in Texas during the summer but let me tell you...it's warm here!
I bet it'd be nice on a boat!
[boat people image]
Truth is - boats are nice and all, but I'd rather be with my family at the ballpark.
My wife *mostly* agrees. Apparently parenting our other kids all day long by herself isn't all that easy.
I don't know though, seems like this would be kinda easy [note to self: maybe take this out before wife reads]
[insert family photo]
But the fact remains, if you're gonna give up your opportunity to wear collared shirts on a boat...
...if you're gonna spend 100's of hours and THOUSANDS of dollars every year helping your kid to play well and chase their goals...
You need to make sure they're working on the right things.
That they're learning from someone proven to get results.
Because your kid can't succeed on his own.
Now, do you like God? I'm a fan. Here's what he said:
"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."
It's really just a matter of who you trust to actually DELIVER the results you're wanting for your kid.
I want to introduce you to the guy I've been most impressed with throughout my whole Baseball-Notes-journey.
Name is Mike Brumley.
I first saw Mike giving a lesson at a local facility where my boy was doing some training...
...and though I didn't know who he was I was FASCINATED by what was going on in his cage.
The hitter he was working with - an average looking 15-ish year old - had an UNBELIEVABLY beautiful swing.
Left handed hitter and smooth, smooth, smooth.
The ball was JUMPING off the bat.
And they were doing some real unconventional stuff.
Things I had never seen.
Short bat, long bat...
...full swings, check swings...
...one hand, two hands.
And I wanted to be a hater, because that's usually my knee jerk reaction when I see a guy doing something new...
(not good, I know!)
But man, this kid was raking and looked sooooo clean.
So I find out more about this guy, and low and behold...
...he's the hitting coordinator for the Atlanta Braves!
("Hitting coordinator" means he's entrusted with the development of the entire organization's hitting prospects. No big deal.)
I was curious before about what this guy was teaching, but now I'm REALLY curious.
So he and I meet up and our conversation goes like this:
Me: I've actually seen you before. I saw you give a kid named David [not his real name] a lesson. I was fascinated.
Mike: Oh yeah? Yes, David's come a long way. We've got him at a good point right now.
Me: No doubt! I couldn't stop watching him. I noticed that you kept using different sized bats, did a bunch of bare hand drills and such....what were you guys working on?
[Pay attention right here, this is big]
Mike: "I've been in the game a long time [over 30 years at the professional level] and I've found it hard to "explain" adjustments to a player. You can't "explain" what a good swing should *feel* like. But over time I've tried every hundreds of different methods and the ones I use now are the best at making a player *feel* the right movement.
(Now I'm VERY interested.)
We keep talking and we happen to talk about a few big MLB names who he works pretty closely with, and I asked him if his techniques work with young players too.
Mike: Definitely. I worked with Raul Ibanez his last season in Seattle. He believes the changes I helped him make was responsible for extending his career. He asked me to work with his 12 year old son and we made great progress with him too.
And Raul told me, "You know you've got the truth when what you teach can help a 41 year old big leaguer AND a 12 year old kid."
I don't work with young kids too often just because of my schedule, but they actually tend to improve the fastest.
Their bad habits aren't as deeply engrained as the older guys. Plus the props I use kinda force them into the right positions anyway.
Me: This sounds fascinating. I'd like to see more. What are the odds I can get you to come to a practice and work with my 9 year olds?
And he agreed!
So Mike comes out to our practice and as you would probably guess...kills it.
The kids all looked better after a brief workout with him....
...and a few in particular looked SUBSTANTIALLY better.
So I ask Mike, "Have you ever thought about sharing your teachings online? The internet is so filled with garbage and clutter - people would be so benefited to learn from someone like you."
He says, "You know, it's funny you ask. I hate the idea of coming off like some guru - I'm no guru - but for a while now I've felt a pull on my heart to do more to help young hitters.
I've probably worked with thousands of local players youth/HS players while on the Major League trail, and it's always the same problems I'm trying to fix.
What most of these kids are being taught isn't great. Most coaches don't know how to help players, they're just trying to explain what they think worked for them when they played.
And it's too bad. These are good kids who want to put in the work and want to achieve something.
I see it all the time, kids have major flaws but nobody fixes them because they're having a decent amount of success.
But usually they're just one trick ponies.
Like, they only hit the ball hard to one side of the field...
...or can really only handle one particular speed...
...and one particular location...
...and only when their timing is juuuust right.
Basically, a LOT of moons have to line up in order for them to have success."
[PICK THIS OR THE PARAGRAPH ABOVE]
Like, I'll have guys tell me about a hitter and be like "Oh man he just crushes balls"
And I'm like, "Yeahhhhhh, but a lot of things have to line up for him to crush balls.
"If the pitch is just the right speed, and just in the right spot and he recognizes it in time and his timing is just right...then yeah, he crushes balls....
"But if you change that pitch location, or you change the speed....then I don't know.
"He's probably not "crushing" near as much as he should be."
...but I'll tell you this:
99% of young players today will never handle good pitching with how they're swinging now.
And I've found that what I teach now, the things I've learned and borrowed from so many good coaches before me...
Makes a hitter better. More contact. Harder Contact. It's as simple as that."
[Note: Mike doesn't love me sharing this. He's an awesome, humble dude and doesn't want to come off like Mr Know-It-All. But the fact is, is that he helps hitters get better and it's not fair to anybody to understate that. Sorry Mike :) ]
So right now, I want to share with you the biggest flaw that Mike sees in both youth level and professional hitters and two things you can do about it:
(Be excited :)
The fatal flaw for young (and old!) baseball players is...
Being reliant on PERFECT timing
Let's be clear on something: Hitting is tough.
"Perfect" is not a standard that anyone can live up to in this game....it's just too hard.
If we break it down to the most basic level - the goal of hitting is to get the good part of the barrel on the ball as often as possible.
If you get the sweet spot on the ball...you've got a chance.
And to echo back to what Mike mentioned earlier, guys are mostly accomplishing this only when EVERYTHING lines up perfectly.
Perfect pitch, perfect swing, perfect timing.
That's not gonna happen too often.
In his book, The Mike Schmidt Study, Schmidt says that the thing that determines a players success are the quality of his "miss-hits".
Meaning are you able to have ANY success when things didn't go well....like, if most of your miss-hits are weak ground balls or pop ups, you're in trouble.
Game is too tough.
How can you have even a *little* more success when things don't go perfectly.
Relying on perfect timing for success gets harder and harder as pitchers get better, throw harder and with more speed variation.
Back to Brumley, Mike was telling me:
"When you face a guy like Justin Verlander, he's got TWO fastballs. He's got 92 and he's got another one that's 98. And when that ball gets released out of his hand - you don't know. You just don't know which one it is. The only way to be able to compete is to have the barrel in the zone early, on time, and late."
Some people refer to this as "getting on plane" with the pitch, but I almost always see guys show a side view of a hitter to explain this
[SHOW SIDE ANGLE]
But what I think is more illustrative is the overhead shot.
What you've gotta be able to do is hit all three of these pitches...and what guys are taught today do a particularly bad job of helping a hitter hit that ball out in front.
That ball right there...is roll over city.
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