3 Questions to Ask When Analyzing a Kinematic Sequence

By Evan Klugerman (BA, Director of Hitting at RPP)

HITTING IS HARD! Fortunately, technologies such as K-Motion, Blast and Rapsodo allow us to measure many metrics and movements, thus, giving the hitter a better chance to succeed. Unless you can understand and incorporate data into your training the value of data would be meaningless.  I should also add that it is easy for hitters to get lost in the numbers unless the collective data is properly incorporated into their training.

As an athlete, you are not able to move efficiently if your body isn’t in a position to do so. In terms of timing, if your lower half isn’t in a strong stable position to efficiently transfer energy and allow the upper half to move, then you will have a tough time hitting at any level.

It is important to understand how the lower body is behaving and how it should behave when a player is “on time”.  Here are 3 questions to ask when analyzing timing through the Pelvis of a Kinematic Sequence as measured by the K-Vest:

    1. What is the player’s Kinematic Sequence?
    2. How much separation is there between movements?
    3. How well is energy being transferred up the kinetic chain?

What is the Player’s “Kinematic Sequence”?

The easiest way to check your timing is through the simple sequence of your swing. Image below illustrates the most efficient (in most cases) way to swing a bat via a 1-2-3-4 sequence, starting with your Pelvis (the red shorts), then Torso (Green), then Lead Arm (blue), and lastly, the hand (brown).

By simply reviewing WHEN the lower half begins to rotate in the sequence, it is easy to visualize if an athlete is ready to begin his rotational phase. This puts the athlete in the best position to begin to rotate and clear his hips in order to create optimal acceleration and deceleration rates all the way through to the point of contact. If the athlete initiate his swing with his Torso, say a 2-1-3-3 sequence, where you get  the Torso (green) moving first and his Pelvis (red) is slightly delayed, then he will probably have early committals and need to make decisions prematurely and thus likely to have a hard time finding consistency at the plate.

How Much Separation is there Between Movements?

After understanding how the hitter is progressing through the swing, we move on to K-Motion‘s  Efficiency Report to further break down his ability to create space. Each report provides for three vertical lines (visible on the chart further below) which represent distinct points in the swing:

    • Heel Strike (first vertical line on the left side) is marked when the Pelvis reaches an angular velocity of 100 degrees per second, which basically meant to show when the hitter’s front foot is planted
    • First Move (second vertical line) is marked when the hitter’s lead hand begins to rotate forward
    • Contact (third vertical line) is marked when the hitter makes contact

Each Efficiency Report also provides for four colorful lines which track the transfer of energy from body segment -to-body segment measured in angular velocities (degrees per second).

    • Pelvis (red)
    • Torso (green)
    • Lead Arm (blue)
    • Hand (brown)

The image below shows a proper 1-2-3-4 sequence. The best way to review such a chart is to look at the second and third vertical lines from the left, First Move and Contact as if they are uprights of a field goal in football. with the Pelvis (red) initiating the swing shortly after the left goal post (First Move), followed by separation to the Torso (green) toward the middle of the goal post. As energy is transferred up the chain, the Lead Arm (blue) hits peak height just before the right upright with the Hand (brown) following into making contact..

Note how velocities build off each other in the chart above all the way through contact, as one decelerates the other accelerates. For example, as the Pelvis (red) begins to decelerate at approx. 750 degrees per second, the Torso (green) continues on to a higher level. You can clearly see how the angular velocities continue to rise up the kinetic chain, reaching over 2100 degrees per second at contact.

Now let’s look at an example where a late Pelvis (red) can be mistaken for an early Torso. In the image below with a sequence of 2-1-3-4, the Pelvis is late (closer to the center of the two goal posts), causing the Torso to appear to be early. In reality the Pelvis is firing late, causing the Torso to be robbed of better power transfer from the lower half—causing the hitter to “spin off” the baseball.

If this athlete had started his swing earlier and had initiated his swing from his back side, he would been able to create more separation between his upper and lower body. This would allow him to have more time to clear his hips, and more importantly, be able to shut down his forward progression and check his swing if needed.

In addition, a player should be looking for at least a 250-degree difference between each of the Pelvis, Torso and Lead Arm, and reaching as high as 500 degrees between the Lead Arm and Hand.

 How Well is Energy Being Transferred Up the Chain?

A hitter’s speed gain is a product of how well a hitter can both stabilize and transfer what he has loaded from the ground up the kinetic chain all the way through to contact. The images below illustrate the progression of a hitter whose Pelvis is delayed.  As you can see from the initial chart:

    • Lead Arm (blue line) is the 1st body segment to begin the sequence here, with Pelvis coming in 2nd
    • Peak Pelvis (red) speed of 596 degrees / sec loses energy transferred into his Torso with a peak angular velocity of 595 degrees / sec, while he should be getting an uptick of 250+- degrees as he builds acceleration
    • Initial sequence of 2-3-1 (instead of 1-2-3) limits his ability to create optimal angular velocities up the kinetic chain, and ultimately power at contact
    • Hand speed is only 1314 degrees / sec at contact
    • Speed Gain is 1.0 between the Pelvis and Torso, instead of 1.5+-

Working with this athlete to initiate with Pelvis first helped him improve his sequencing and overall efficiency in his swing. In comparison, in the chart below:

    • Pelvis has begun rotation earlier in his swing, maximizing his ability to properly clear his hips and create better torque/separation between his hips and shoulders
    • Peak Pelvis speed has a much higher angular velocity of 646 degrees / sec, and better separation is resulting in a higher transfer of energy to the Torso with a peak speed of 801 degrees / sec which also continues to increase throughout his swing
    • Hand angular velocity reaches 1538 degrees (vs. 1314 initially), which will undoubtedly create more power at contact

To recap, when you look at angular velocities side-by-side, before and after, you can clearly see an improvement in not only better sequencing and separation, but also the final velocity in each segment.

Although the hitter is still late initiating his Pelvis movement, and needs to further exaggerate starting early, it shows how additional angular velocity can be generated and how greater force can be transferred when timing is synch-ed.

Please stay tuned for Part 2 on what an action plan may look like, and a few of the drills we perform to help initiate the rotational phase with the Pelvis first and optimize sequencing.

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