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The Hitting Program is a comprehensive 12-week protocol and it’s heavily reliant on data analytics to assess and develop players. It includes an extensive upfront assessment covering various hitting metrics, and the athlete’s strength and mobility profile. The information allows us to prepare a customized hitting program and individualized strength training specific to each player’s needs. The following is a brief summary of the initial evaluation:
- Movement Assessment
- Strength and Power Assessment
- Kinematic Sequence Patterns
- Swing Path Metrics
- Batted Ball Results
From hitting mechanics to physical strength and mobility, we work backwards from the results of our initial assessment looking to put the player into the most optimal position to succeed at the plate. In general, many of these are intertwined, so let’s review each in some detail:
Movement and Physical Assessment – Ball players move in all three planes of motion so their program and assessment should reflect that. The Assessment is an extensive anatomical evaluation of the player’s overall physicality and mobility. Physical limitations and imbalances, from a strength and mobility standpoint, can have profound effects on a player’s ability to perform at his max potential. The assessment covers a variety of topics, including:
- Mobility and Stability
- Strength and Power Testing
- Power and Force Production Testing
In addition, utilizing VBT (velocity-based training) sensors, we construct an initial Force-Velocity profile for each athlete. This tells us if an athlete is using the optimum weight in order to produce the greatest peak force, so programming can be adjusted accordingly. This crucial information helps put together important pieces of the puzzle on the strength-side that allow us to better individualize the strength training portion of the program.
(Deadlift @ 60 % 1RM)
Kinematic Sequence Analysis – Not all hitting motions are created equal. Some guys rely more on strength, some guys elasticity and some are simply genetic “outliers”. But analysis in numerous studies has revealed that there is one common denominator on how athletes create maximum power behind the plate and that’s creating a proper sequence of events from the ground up all the way through at the point of contact. This is commonly referred to as an efficient “kinematic sequence” (click here for additional details).
Generating and transferring speed throughout the body requires a specific transfer of segmental peak angular velocities that allows players to transfer force more efficiently. It can be only viewed through motion capture sensors placed on the athlete’s body.
The chart above is an example of a typical baseball swing with a proper sequence from the pelvis, to the torso, to the shoulder to the hand. As each sequence builds on the prior, peak rotational speeds continue to build along the chain. An out-of-sequence hitting motion, and it happens much more often than expected, can lead to a variety of issues from opening too early to losing bat speed.
Swing Path Metrics Analysis – From the moment it’s released by the pitcher to the moment it makes contact with the bat, a 90-95 mph pitch takes approximately 400 ms to reach the batter. That’s less than half a second. If you zero in on the actual point of contact, it’s a fraction of that. We are talking about 7 ms, that’s 7 thousandths of a second!
So, if anyone is telling you they know everything about your swing by just looking at it, they are missing the point. The whole thing happens way too fast for the human eye. There is a great deal that we can learn from a player’s swing path metrics. The following are examples of several that we analyze in evaluating the swing:
Attack Angle Range is the angle of the bat’s path, at impact, relative to horizontal. Although every player has an average AA, the standard deviation is often so wide that we also look at a player’s AA range to get a better idea of their overall swing path (click here).
Power generated during the swing is found from the effective mass of the bat, the Bat Speed at impact, and the average acceleration during the downswing. Higher Power is achieved when a hitter is able to swing a heavier bat and accelerate it to higher speeds.
Rotational Acceleration measures how quickly your bat accelerates into the swing plane. Rotation is a good indicator of how you build bat speed by sequencing properly. The quicker your rotational acceleration, the more power you will have and the more time you have to make a decision at the plate.
Average Bat Speed is the speed of the sweet spot of the bat at impact, measured six inches from the tip.
Batted Ball Data Analysis – Analyzing batted ball data from HitTrax speaks volumes about a players strengths and deficiencies behind the plate.
The following is a summary of metrics we evaluate from batted ball results using our HitTrax camera system.
- Basic Metrics
- Spray Charts
- Depth of Contact
- Strike Zone
Program Summary – The program incorporates the results of the assessments into one cohesive hitting and strength training program, both inside and outside the nets to address deficiencies in the player’s performance. The following is a summary of the various components:
- Strength training – Our strength program for players is 100% designed around the player. It is highly specialized and customized for each individual’s strengths and imbalances. The reality is that every player is different in every way and each needs a different approach to developing their strength and power.
- Kinematic sequence correctives – Other than Swing Path correctives, a proper kinematic sequence is paramount to ensure an efficient swing delivering the highest exit velo possible. A specified set of correctives addressing mobility and habitual issues will be prescribed to bring players back into a proper sequence. Depending on the specific issues the correctives may be inside or outside the nets.
- Swing path correctives – Swing path correctives are designed to help improve the batter’s ability to stay on plane with the incoming pitch for as long as possible. The program is highly reliant on the results from batted baseballs (both live and tee), but the premise is to reinforce a positive attack angle range at the point of contact.
- Hitting protocol – The hitting protocol is progressive and it’s customized to the individual needs of each player. At any given time, it might include hitting live, off a tee with regular, overweight and underweight bats. The purpose of the hitting protocol of the program is to bring all aspects of the training together at one time.
Incorporating assessments and data analytics into how we train players is a bit of an art. Since each and every player is different in every way, the key is to parse through the information and determine which pieces are relevant for each player.