Titanic Misunderstanding!

Quick Hands did not Sink the Titanic!

The underlying power of some obvious force is not always evident from the perception of the physical senses. Casual or ignorant observers of sports activities such as boxing, and baseball describe the best of those athletes as having incredibly “quick hands”. These same observers would attest to the greatness of a Nolan Ryan fastball by saying that he had a great arm. The truth to these matters is the same as the scientific fact that the visible portion of the iceberg could not have supplied the power that devastated the ill-informed/prepared luxury-liner, Titanic.Titanic6Titanic3

The power behind the 1/10th of visible iceberg Titanic2was the enormous 9/10ths mass that lay below the water’s surface.Titanic4

The power behind Mike Tyson’s fist while dispensing a quick “right cross”, emanates from the tidal wave of force that is supplied by his body. mike-tyson-2The arm that elicited the force of a Nolan Ryan fastball had only a fraction of the power that the coordinated action of the rest of his body supplied. NolanRyan 16NolanRyan 13nolan-ryan 15And the ultimate strength and speed of a batter’s swing is determined by more than the quickness of his hands or wrists.TedWilliamsShortSwing2Barry&Ted

If you are riding on a motor-cycle that is travelling at 100 MPH, and you are merely holding a baseball in your hand, then you simply drop the baseball from your hand, at what speed  does the ball travel as it leaves your hand? If you say 100 MPH, you are beginning to understand from where the ultimate power comes when a ball is batted or thrown by a player.

The two major components for demonstrating the prowess of a Professional Baseball player are batting and throwing. Does the power of the batting swing come from the isolated movement and personal strength of the players’ hands? Or does it come from the rapid and controlled rotary transfer of weight that occurs after the front foot plants and the front knee begins straightening diagonally to help force the front hip backwards, to allow the back hip to move quickly forward, with a turning bent back leg?Barry&Ted

These actions lead the upper body into an orderly series of movements that precipitate a power surge directing the bat into the ball. The front knee straightens diagonally, and the back bent-knee rotates forward and downward on a pivoting back foot (specifically the outside of Big Toe). The front shoulder shrugs upward and back, and accentuates the downward and forward action of the back shoulder. The lowered back shoulder facilitates a natural flattening of the bat as it begins its approach to the striking area. Before the body-weight transfer begins, as the ball is leaving the pitcher’s hand, the body starts to “gather”(brace itself). The front shoulder turns inward (just under the side of the chin), the knees stabilize, and the hands move slightly beyond the breadth of the back shoulder. The entire body anxiously awaits the precise instant to attack the ball as it enters the “Zone.” The “gathering” occurs at a slow steady pace to facilitate momentum for the quickest possible response at the moment of “weight-transfer.” At that moment, when the shoulder shrugs, the hands and bat are slanting, in order to quickly level the bat to the plane of the ball and provide substantial range for making contact. The turning body provides a centrifugal force to allow the front arm momentum to easily snap to extension as the bent back arm is starting its drive to fully extend itself and its “palmated” hand (palm up) through the contact-point. At the “snap” of the front elbow, the medial side of its upper arm is flush against its corresponding breast as contact is made with the ball. This assures that the power transfer from bat to ball is occurring within the confines of the main power source, the body. If the contact is made with front arm separated from the body, the power will be diffused. It should be obvious that the arm(s), acting independently from the body, has a diminished capacity for supplying power.

It is common to evaluate a player’s throwing ability by saying, “…he/she has a strong or weak arm.” It is incorrect, though, to assume that the power of the throw is determined by the strength of the arm. The main power source for throwing is the “Body.” The arm provides only a fraction of the power. From the coordinated precision of the movement from the feet to legs, to hips, to torso, to shoulders, to arm(s), wrist, hand, and fingers is the ultimate power registered in the “perfect throw.” Obviously, the player with the stronger body and arm, who applies the perfect mechanics, will be more effective than would be a weaker player.

Also, not generally observed is the fact that in throwing “anything” effectively, a principle law of physics always comes into play, namely, “…every action has an opposite and equal reaction.” If a player is right-handed, to be totally effective, he must use the left side of his body with the same intensity as he does the right while performing the throw. Tanaka 4Tananka 10This application is analogous to that which a Karate Master invokes to maximize the power of a “strike” or “punch.” The force exerted backward by the front side of the body not only accentuates the forward movement of the back side but magnifies it, adding considerable power to the throw.

The stronger the body, the greater the possibility for a strong throw, as long as the application of the proper mechanics for movement of shoulder(s) and arm come into playKimbrel 4kimbrel 3Kimbrel 2Kimbrel 1Randy J.3. Unfortunately, the stronger the body the greater the opportunity for injury to the shoulder and arm, if the application of proper mechanics is not enforcedd.dreifort 7d.dreifort 8. If the power generated by the body is complete, the torque action of the twisting hips and torso could be too great for a shoulder and arm ill-prepared to deliver the final dimension of the throw. If the shoulder is not locked into a position of stability to launch the (bent) arm, and that (5-ounce) ball forward at the precise time, the strain of having transported the spherical object from the point of origin to destination could have a deleterious effect on the accompanying extremities.

The weight of a 5-ounce object doesn’t seem like it should have any major affect on the throwing apparatus of a strong, well-conditioned athlete. But if you think about the strain one feels in his shoulders while extending his arms outwardly, away from the body, and sustaining that position for a period of time, you could see how any additional weight would accentuate the strain. Even more stress would be added if you realize the extra force exerted on “those joints” by the weight of the moving arm and ball. “The farther away the ball moves from the body as the arm is preparing to throw, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow).” Roy_Halladay1Roy_Halladay2As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand, it should remain as close as possible to the “Body-Proper” while the arm is “whipping” itself to the forward thrusting position.Tanaka 12Tanaka 2Randy J 15

It has been accurately stated that the best of throwers has an arm delivery of the ball that resembles the action of a fast moving whip. To acquire the “correct” type of “whip-action” arm movement, the thrower must proceed with the following arm sequence after the ball is taken out of the glove (presuming the arm is in a bent position as the hand and ball come out of the glove). The back of the shoulder (posterior deltoid muscle, specifically) brings the hand and ball from the glove, prominently displaying the bent elbow with the hand and ball apparently hanging below, next to the back hip. (Incidentally, the thrower’s position at this point looks similar to that of a person holding a bucket of water by the handle and has just lifted it upward along the side of his body.) As the thrower’s body moves sideways toward the “target,” and the front foot plants (toes pointed to-ward the target), the hips and torso begin to turn with the backward thrust of the straightening front leg.  The backside (hip and torso) gains momentum from the pull of the back knee, while the back foot is pivoting, off the outside of the big toe (same as in hitting). The throwing shoulder quickly rotates outwardly to force its bent arm to bring the hand and ball upward, slightly above the shoulder. At this point the muscles of the outwardly rotated shoulder contract forwardly (without hesitation) along with those of the entire upper body. As the shoulder thrust is completing its full range of motion, the arm quickly extends forwardly and the wrist snaps the fingers through the center of the ball (fingers straight, perpendicular to the ground) at the point just before release.

The coordinated action of the entire body (right and left sides) provides the power for the correct arm movements to occur rapidly (and safely), and thus sustain a whip-like action to move through the “throw” like a wave of tremendous force.

Mark McGwire 3Mark McGwire 2 The same is true in Batting!

Inertia: Power from the Back of the Bus

force

(This article and the one following will elaborate on my previous 5 Posts)

Most elementary Science teachers will begin their instruction on the study of inertia with the application of its principle along with a frame of reference relative to the Newtonian laws of motion. Simply stated, inertia is the tendency of a body at rest, or in motion, to remain in that state unless acted upon by an external force. The common imagery used by teachers is that of a bus colliding head-on with an immovable object. If the bus is travelling at a speed of 100 MPH, and the object hit is truly immoveable, then the entire contents (unless securely fastened) at the back of the bus will explode forward at the speed of 100 MPH. Newton’s third law of motion helps to enhance the imagery by understanding that, “every action has an opposite and equal reaction”.

The principles governing the aforementioned laws have their applications in various aspects of our National Pastime. A casual observer would be hard pressed to notice the specific application of Physics in correlation to the areas of fielding and running, although we all know they are there. But with regard to batting and throwing, everyone has at least an inkling of an understanding that proper mechanical application of the subtle laws of physics has afforded certain individuals uncommon advantage over their less astute peers.
Raw strength is usually a great advantage one has over a player with noticeably less power. When both are equally adept in mechanical technique, then the stronger will always have the upper-hand. But if the less strong player has better mechanics, he is usually the more proficient batsman, even with regard to hitting for distance. Look at Joe Morgan, Ted Williams and Stan Musial compared to larger, more muscular players.Joe Morgan 2williams.batWeight-training1
There are many facets to consider when establishing the proper mechanics for batting and throwing, but this essay will consider only how the “inertial principle” is applied, relative to the size and strength of individuals throwing and hitting a baseball. The forward movements of the bus and the body are not identical, but their accommodation to the Physics principle is similar enough to be of practical import. To be remembered is the additional fact that if the object struck by the bus is not totally immoveable, the degree to which the impact is defused will determine the actual speed of the objects thrown forward inside the bus ( if not securely fastened).
Newton’s equation, F=ma, is described as, the Force unleashed is equal to the mass (size, weight, and strength) times the speed of acceleration of the moving object. Therefore a bus and a motor-cycle hitting an immoveable object will not have the same force of impact. However, a rider on a motor-cycle and a rider on top of a bus, each travelling at a speed of 100 MPH, and each having a baseball in hand, toss the balls forward at 5 MPH. Both balls would travel at a speed 105 MPH.
So, how does a human-body generate the amount of force that is equal to the body’s mass times acceleration (F=ma) to throw and hit a baseball with maximum power?
In Baseball it is not uncommon to see a “little-guy” throw and hit a baseball as hard as does the “big-guy”. Although the “big-guy” might have more size and weight, he might not generate the same speed of acceleration as the “little-guy”. But in cases where the “big-guy” generates the same, or greater speed, the Force becomes uncontestable, and incomparable (Bo Jackson and Mark McQwire).Ossie Smith 1Bo Jackson 2Albert Pujols 15Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astros
Although the speed of a thrown ball is important at all positions on the field, we will place maximum attention on the pitcher. Except for situations when a runner is on base, the pitcher can take his time and build increasing momentum before coming to the point where his front foot will plant firmly into the ground to form “the immoveable” foundation, from which the entire back-side of his body will be catapulted forward with tremendous force. The extent to which that foot secures the ground while the strength and speed with which the quadriceps muscle of its upper thigh contracts to straighten the entire leg and brace the hip-joint around which the back-side rotates to a frontal position before catapulting forward, determines the initial surge of force from the lower body.NolanRyan 13nolan-ryan 5Tanaka 22Billy_wagner 9Billy W.13
The instant before the front leg is completely straightened, the upper body is arched back and squared to the target while the throwing shoulder and arm are prepared to launch the ball. At that point, the front foot and leg exert their final burst of power, sending the backward arched torso into an explosive forward tumbling action which in turn catapults the outwardly rotated shoulder and corresponding bent arm to deliver the pitched ball with maximum force. If the entire throwing apparatus is precise, and throwing “mechanics” are applied correctly, but the front foot plant is not presented as “immoveable”, but gives way, then the amount of Force to be generated is compromised and cannot attain “maximum” utility.
With regard to Hitting with power, the same principle is involved, the front-foot plant. But the big difference is in the manner in which the second surge of power is administered. During the first stage, the front foot secures the ground (foot pointed 120 degrees to the pitcher-to reduce ankle or knee sprain), with knee slightly bent. The back bent-leg and the front leg work synergistically at this point to induce a rapid turnstile hip-action that concludes with the front leg straightening forcefully as the back bent-knee provides the forward momentum of its backside by the contractual pulling of the groin and “butt” muscles.BarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds 42001-10-05-bonds homerun-follow throughC.Davis 6Chris Davis 2
While the front leg is in the process of straightening, the second phase of power has begun with the twisting-torque action of the “Oblique” core-group of muscles as well the entire lower torso. As the shoulders and upper torso are concluding the swing and the bat is ready to contact the ball, the front leg has completely straightened, providing that “immoveable” barrier from which the entire back-side has provided maximum force with which the bat can make contact with the ball.
 The front foot secures the ground with such force from the straightening front leg that the front hip is being forced open as the back hip is driven forward with equipollence by the aid of a forward driving back bent-knee. If performed properly, the vertical axis of spine and upper body remains constant while the hips are rotating along a consistent horizontal plane. The angle formed, by a diagonal front leg and an upper body and head, as the swing is commencing and concluding is usually not less than 180 degrees.
The “turnstile” action of the batter’s swing allows the vertical axis of the body to remain intact, which facilitates the least amount of head movement. The less head movement, the better the batter can detect the nuances of the speeding ball!
Mark McGwire 6Mark McGwire 5
A 450-foot drive, off a well-attuned swing from Mark McGwire, or any good power-hitter, gives reason to applaud a magnificent stroke. But, how is it that they sometimes hit a prodigious “shot” of 500 feet or more? When you really live up to that favorite expression of batters, “I got it all”, your bat made contact with the ball while the body was turning through the swing with the vertical axis intact!  The centripetal force provided by the stable position of the vertical axis produces the powerful centrifugal force, which magnifies the power elicited by the turning hips and shoulders. All of this is predicated on the “front-foot plant” that provides the “immoveable wall” from which all the power is transferred from the “back of the Bus”.
Anecdotal Notes:
1.      The Best, and most consistent, means for applying the “front foot plant” is for the batter to refrain from taking a stride. Simply, but forcefully, apply quick and powerful pressure to the front foot and leg to initiate the swing – Least margin for error.
2.      Those batters who incorrectly assume that they need a stride, or high knee kick to initiate their swings will unwittingly compromise the proficiency of their foot plants when good pitchers easily offset their timing with off-speed pitches – greater  margin for  error.
Coming Soon: Quick Hands did not Sink the Titanic! 

 

 

Part 5: Mike Trout

 

The Best! That They can Be? Mike Trout (smile)

Walk-Off H.R. 7/17/15 Unbelievable!

What would it take for the following Batters to become even better Hitters than they have already presented themselves to Be?

mike-trout-batting-1giancarlo-stanton5Miguel Cabrera 2during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.Bryce Harper 20153

How could there be a greater looking Baseball Player than Mike Trout? Mike T.1

Not only does his face and body “talk-the-talk”, but already his ability and demeanor Mike T. (1)Mike T.7have proven, to even the most “cynical” of critics, that he is quite capable of ‘Walking-the- Walk”.  Mike Trout 5 There isn’t any thing on the baseball field, or any “playing field”B. URLACH1, that he isn’t capable of doing to the highest level of performance. The only aspect of his game that I (personally) wish that he would change is his penchant for sliding “head-first” into bases.Mike T.3 I say this for the “selfish” reason of my being deprived of seeing him play when he is on the “disabled list” with jammed or broken fingers, hands, arms, neck, or some other upper body injury that is sure to occur at some time or other.Mike T.13 I know he can slide feet first Mike T.10, so why not and lessen the Rays vs. Angelsinjury potential.

Since this article is primarily on “Batting Proficiency”, I will henceforth cease from the voluminous rhetorical references to Trout’s superlative abilities in areas of running, fielding, throwing, base-stealing, hustle, team-spirit, universal fan-appeal, and commercial notoriety, etc., etc.

Mike Trout2Mike-Trout3 mike-trout11Mike Trout 4mike-trout7Mike Trout16Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout hits a home run against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif. Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)mike-trout-batting-1

Mike Trout seems to be a good hitter, not only from a phenomenal standpoint (big, strong, and quick reflexes), but also gives the appearance of being a “smart-hitter”(knowing what to look for in the “count”). He doesn’t seem to find himself at a disadvantage by taking the Pitcher’s first-pitch fastball for a strike (at least much of the time). Because he can easily go to the opposite field, most pitchers can’t slip a fastball by him, nor can they “off-speed” him away (normally). Even with his “leg-kick” stride, which usually leaves a batter vulnerable to off-speed pitches, he generally stays with a pitch in the strike-zone, and with his short, quick swing is able make solid contact (a good deal of the time), especially the low strike.

As I have described a “good-hitter” as a “smart-batter” who looks for a pitcher’s mistake, and capitalizes on it, and a “great-hitter” as “one” who can hit a pitcher’s best pitch with regularity, Mike Trout could easily fit into “both” categories. Right now I would describe him as a “good-hitter” normally, and a “great-hitter” when the Pitcher’s best pitch remains in the strike-zone (like Grienke’s perfectly placed outside corner fast-ball in the All-Star Game). He can legitimately take a first-pitch fastball right down the middle because he isn’t afraid of a pitcher’s awesome “breaking-pitch”. He can hit “anything in the strike-zone! But, when the pitch looks like it is coming over the plate, and breaks into the dirt, that is one of the only times he looks to be vulnerable as a batter. The only other time he appears to be vulnerable is on the high, inside fastball, a little above the strike-zone. ( That is because of his high stance and high bat, the position from which all his power is generated in downward direction, and toward the plate. On that high pitch his body drives his bat down under the ball on a majority of swings, or he is jammed. Most of the time he takes the high pitch, which attests to his astute judgment. )

The main reason he is vulnerable to those types of pitches is his “high leg kick”. Although it appears that he has terrific eyesight, any movement of the head and eyes is at least a “slight-margin-for-error” when a ball is thrown at speeds of 80 to 100 MPH while transcending innumerable horizontal planes. Since Trout has a keen eye and an almost flawless discernment of the “strike-zone”, the only reason he swings at hard sliders in the dirt (or away) is because his perception (as well as the “2-strike complex”) wrongly informs him that the pitch is about to be a “low-strike”. Before he realizes, he is swinging at a pitch outside or below the strike-zone. And the only reason for it is that for the moment his visual acuity was skewed.

The only practical reason for this momentary distorted view is the slight dis-lodgment of the mechanism for visual stability, the head and eyes, due to the high leg-kick stride and “glide” toward the plate. Novice fielders who have the occasion to chase fly-balls or pop-ups while running full-speed will verify how the ball sometimes seems to play tricks on them, and make them difficult to catch, because while running the head is usually bobbing and distorting their vision. “Hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports” (because of all the variables to be put in order). So, would it not be reasonable to presume that any head movement, while batting, is a natural deterrent to the most efficient practice of hitting of a baseball?

Mike Trout (or any “good hitter”), if he would like to become a “Great Hitter”, would have to eliminate as many margins for error as would be possible. Mike’s biggest “margin for error” has to do with his lack of complete “visual acuity” because of two things: 1) his high bat and high-stanceMike Trout2; and 2) his high leg-kick strideMike Trout10mike-trout7. Since even the slightest degree of movement of head and eyes diminishes maximum efficiency to that same degree, the lateral, vertical, and horizontal movements that Trout’s body displays will degrade the accuracy of his swing to that same degree.

It is reasonable to assume that Mike Trout (as well as Miguel Cabrera) could easily be considered a “great-hitter” because he has been known to hit the best of pitchers “best pitch” (Grienke in 2015 All-Star Game) on many occasions. Mike Trout may some day become a “Great-Hitter”, but because of his inconsistency in applying “perfect-mechanics” he is not yet as great as he would like himself to be.

Most (if not all) batters relegate themselves to vulnerability to the greatest “margin-for-error” in the entire batting regimen.  What is the only way to assure oneself of readiness to swing his bat? The front foot must be planted! The only place where “timing” can be disrupted is in the stride. The batter never really knows when to put his foot down. Therefore, never pick up the front foot. Simply generate the needed momentum prior to swing by readying the hips to bring the shoulders, arms, and bat to the ball. By not striding, any batter will see the ball with utmost clarity, and allow for much better contact, no matter how strong he is.” But a player with the power and precision of a Mike Trout would eliminate the greatest deterrent to batting proficiency if he would not stride. If he never raised his front foot, his batting acumen would be closer to flawless!

One thing to always remember, when trying to appreciate the ultimate power of the swing, is that, once the front foot is planted firmly all power is initiated by quick turning of the hips instigated by the driving back bent-knee, the leg of which never straightens. This principle is elaborated upon in an article entitled, “Inertia: Power from the Back of the Bus”, dated 9/13/13, on this website, www.johnpaciorek.com.

If anyone was not convinced that Mike Trout is the Best “all-around” player in Major-League Baseball, then, the 2015 All-Star Game should have made that fact ultra-clear. Not only did he spark his American League team to victory with his “lead-off” Home Run in the first inning off the National League’s “premier-pitcher”, Zack Greinke, but with his subtle brilliance in other areas of play secured an historic honor of being the first Major-League player to win back to back MVP awards in the All-Star Games; and at the tender age of 23 years.

His performance in the All-Star Game is simply a “post-script” to the essay you have just read. His line-drive Home-Run to Right Field against Greinke demonstrated his ability on one “At-bat” to hit the “Best-Pitcher’s” best pitch (“on the ‘black’, out-side corner fast-ball”), while striking out  his next time up on a “best” pitcher’s (Cole) hard, outside slider, completely outside the strike-zone. The “subtle-brilliance”, to which I referred earlier, is when Mike miss-hit a Clayton Kershaw pitch, and beat out what would have been an easy double-play to any one other than himself. He later scored, and helped ignite a rally that proved consequential to the Game’s outcome. The irony to this exceptionally honorific occasion is that it could’ve gone in a diametrically opposite direction if Greinke had thrown that, or  any other, “best” pitch outside the strike-zone. The “gods” certainly do seem to favor Mike Trout, and rightly so – even if does “take a first-pitch fastball strike, right down the middle”.

There is no better Baseball player than MIKE TROUT! But if he would like to be the Game’s “Best Hitter”, he will have to do a little better job at “REDUCING – HIS – MARGINS – for – ERROR”.

*Uhrehara made the mistake of placing his “best-pitch” within the strike-zone, and “low” in the strike- zone, to boot!

 

 

 

 

Part 4: Bryce Harper

The Best! That They can Be? 

What would it take for the following Batters to become even better Hitters than they have already presented themselves to Be?

Bryce Harper 20153mike-trout-batting-1giancarlo-stanton5Miguel Cabrera 2during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.B.Harper R3WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 09:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals bats against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on April 9, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) bryce-harper 2015 2Bryce Harper 20153B.Harper R2 Bryce Harper has finally begun looking and acting like the “Big-Leaguer” he seemed destined to become. I was never impressed with all the “hype” that came with the accolades that preceded his arrival into the professional ranks because I knew that all achievements attained in “formative” years could hardly stand the test of replication on the Major-League level. I wanted him to succeed from the beginning because he embodied everything I wanted to be, do, and have when I was 17 years old. (http://www.cbs.com/shows/cbs_this_morning/video/0Gczy9M1_YFSmuahcP_P6xUS_4ndES8v/paciorek-s-perfect-mlb-stats-after-one-day-career/)

But Bryce went beyond any superficial exterior dimension of sensationalism with his apparent arrogance and self-centered demeanor. Although he and I had the inexhaustible energy to do what it took to be the best we could be, he obviously went about pursuing his “Goal” in a much more intelligent way. In this modern era he probably had access to better means of facilitating a “strength-developing” program that would not have endorsed the practice of no-handed “head stands” to create a 19 1/2  inch neck to look like Mickey Mantle. Dumb! Whatever Bryce does, or did, to develop the strength and speed of his swing is a testament to a well conceived plan to maximize power, flexibility, and quickness with which to provide for the proficient use of his body to accentuate his efforts on the Baseball Field.

B.Harper R15B.Harper R13B.Harper R11B.Harper R7B.Harper R8B.Harper R9B.Harper R12B.Harper R5B.harper R10B.Harper R2

Although his first few seasons were marked with fewer successes than he envisioned, and quite a few “growing pains”, his batting potential was evident along with a high quality defensive prowess and a dogged determination to be the best he could be, or at least the equal to Mike Trout. I know that’s how I would have felt, “How can I be better than the ‘Best’?” To his credit, he made each of his setbacks temporary, until he found, what many “experts” concur, an intangible formula that has him blossoming into the Star he expected himself to be.

I say “intangible” because most, if not all, commentators are at a loss for tangible hypotheses as to why he seems to have suddenly found the secret to credible batting success.  “They” recall that the evidence first appeared in last year’s playoffs, where he was the only Nationals player to make a contribution to the ill-fated “post-season”. His short-lived individual triumphs must have whet his appetite for enhanced understanding of refined batting efficiency. The “new season” must have fostered a “new resolve” to temper somewhat the “old-mentality” to rely completely on an obsolete notion that he could dominate all situations with physicality alone. “With all my physical strength, there must be some technical reason why I am off-balance on “off-speed” pitches, and I consistently “slice” many fast-balls to the opposite field instead of making impact-full, solid contact,” he may have contemplated.

Bryce Harper may very well be on his way to achieving a status as one of Baseball’s best hitters with his adaptation to the Principle(s) of applying mechanical correctness  to his batting regimen. At this point in his developmental continuum he has reduced 2 margins for error that had previously limited his long awaited success. He begins his batting approach now with his bat on shoulders with arms and hands relaxed B.Harper R3(like Posey, Goldschmidt, Stanton) while awaiting the pitcher’s commitment to throw, instead of hands and bat above his head B.Harper R13. When the pitcher commences in throwing, Bryce addresses the in-coming pitch with elbow, hands, and bat below the shoulders B.Harper R8 and in a low center of gravity, instead ofB.Harper R11 with elbow above shoulders, taller stance and higher center of gravity.

With elbow, hands, and bat lowered,  in a strong, crouching stance a batter is assured of a low center-of-gravity, which allows for better balance and clearer vision of an incoming pitch, as well as a smaller strike-zone for the pitcher (and umpire) to negotiate. With his current stance and initial approach to the ball, Bryce will experience more success than he did previously, if he can sustain a “timing-mechanism” to differentiate consistently the contrast of speeds that any smart pitcher (Cueto, recently) will devise to off-set his “timing”. Herein lies the main problem Bryce will encounter while sustaining a consistent “Batting Regimen” to establish himself as the “Best” of the “Best-Hitters” in Baseball.

Bryce Harper has a Beautiful swing B.Harper R12B.harper R10B.Harper R9. The Principle he applies at the contact point is flawless, just like all good and great hitters.mike-trout-batting-1giancarlo-stanton5Yas1Chris Davis 2AlbertPujolsLOWER_HALF_DRIVE_HIPSMatt Kemp 13Kemp Front AnkleGood Swing 1BarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds HRTedWilliamsShortSwing3 However, even with the “great” swings that all the batters (above) demonstrate, not any of them experience the same consistent “effect” with every pitched ball they swing at. Even the great Ted Williams (above) would have appreciated the pitch to be delivered at the same place, at the same speed, and be able to demonstrate the same stroke all the time. He would have batted at least .500 perennially. He would know exactly when and where to place his front foot, and have perfect timing with every swing. “Hitting a baseball (with authority) is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports”, is a quote made famous by Mr. Williams. It is made even more difficult by those “would be” proficient hitters, with all their physical ability, who do not understand the “margins for error” that most of them impose upon themselves.

Bryce Harper appears to have reduced slightly two definitive “margins for error”, the extremely high-hands and bat, and a high stance. His center-of-gravity is thus lower, so his balance and vision will be better than before. With his physical strength and determined mental attitude, he needs only to diminish or eliminate the most detrimental of the myriad “margins for error” – The Stride – in order to attain his ultimate goal of being the Best of the Best hitters in Baseball. As of today (7/8/15), he has the strongest and fastest body-action for bringing the bat to the ball. But with his stride, he is sometimes at a loss for applying the “front-foot plant” at the correct time to initiate the hip and shoulder action of his powerful swing.

What is the only way to assure oneself of readiness to swing his bat? The front foot must be planted! The only place where “timing” can be disrupted is in the stride. The batter never really knows when to put his foot down. Therefore, never pick up the front foot! Simply generate the needed momentum prior to swing by readying the hips to bring the shoulders, arms, and bat to the ball. By not striding, any batter will see the ball with utmost clarity, and allow for much better contact, no matter how strong he is.” But a player with the power and quickness of a Bryce Harper would eliminate the greatest deterrent to batting proficiency if he would not stride. (See article, “Inertia…” 9/13/13)

* As a footnote to the Bryce Harper “Future-Legacy”, when he perfects his “No-Stride” approach to hitting, it will also have been revealed to him the additional advantage of “chocking-up” on his bat (for maximum bat control), as well as pointing his front foot at a 120 degree angle to the pitcher (like Williams, DiMaggio, Bonds) ted_williams_ bat routejoe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plateBarry  Bonds 9. The “120 degree Principle” will eliminate the sensation of twisting, spraining, or dislocating the ankle and knee when the batter’s stance has his front foot pointing toward home-plate when he starts and commences with his swing Kemp Front Ankle (like Matt Kemp and others). When the foot is at 90 degrees to the pitcher, it is impossible for a batter to apply maximum pressure to the front foot. It is simply natural for those who do place the foot at 90 degrees to abruptly twist it into a more comfortable position as the swing is concluding, thus disrupting the natural flow of the swing itself (like Ryan Howard).

Coming Soon: Part 5 – Mike Trout

 

Part 3: Paul Goldschmidt

The Best! That They can Be? 

What would it take for the following Batters to become even better Hitters than they have already presented themselves to Be?

during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.Bryce Harper 20153mike-trout-batting-1giancarlo-stanton5Miguel Cabrera 2

during the MLB game at Chase Field on April 12, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 13:  Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the San Francisco Giants during the game at AT&T Park on Saturday, June 13, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Paul Goldschmidtduring the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.

 

From a purely physical standpoint, Paul Goldschmidt doesn’t seem as imposing as the other 4 “bats-men” above. But as the truer representative of mechanical correctness, he reduces the “margins for error” better than the others, and therefore holds the top stop for “Batting Proficiency”. Although both he and Giancarlo Stanton initiate their addressing of the pitcher with hands and bat held high above the right shoulder, before delivery of the pitch they bring the bat to a more reasonable position below the shoulder by dropping the elbow closer to side, thus creating a lower center-of-gravity. From there they are both ready for the initial stages of the swing.

Where Giancarlo initiates the action of the swing with an obvious stride giancarlo-stanton1 Generated by  IJG JPEG Library Goldschmidt raises his front foot slightly from his starting position and immediately replaces it to the ground before the pitch is made during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.. With his front foot already in place, he needs only for the ball to come into his hitting zone where all he has to do is drive his back bent-knee and back hip forward, braced by the straightening front leg which assists in opening the front hip.  SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 13:  Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the San Francisco Giants during the game at AT&T Park on Saturday, June 13, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Paul Goldschmidt As the hips are turning by the application of force of the muscles of the groin, abdomen, and quads, the torso and shoulders have flattened the bat and together with the arms and hands are bringing it to the contact point with power and precision.

As the hips and back bent-knee drive forward, the front leg automatically straightens to keep the vertical  axis of the body erect and intact as well as assure that the power elicited from the back-side allows the bat-to-ball contact to be with full force.during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (See 9/13/13 article – Inertia: Power from the Back of the Bus.)

Paul Goldschmidt will be a notch above Miguel Cabrera in visual acuity as long as “Miggy” continues to stride (even minimally) and allows head and eye movement to occur. When the pitch is in route and the batter’s foot is in the air, the batter does not know exactly when and where to put the foot down. That little hesitation is a margin-of-error that Goldschmidt has almost (not completely) eliminated, because his foot is already down (at least partially). His only flaw is in the fact that his front foot is not yet planted firmly to the ground. Because the heel is up, his weight is not equally distributed. He sometimes begins the swing with the weight slightly on his back side, preventing the power surge of the back hip from being optimally quick and complete.  The other day on TV, I watch him hit a double into the left-field gap with just that kind swing. IF his foot had been planted completely, the same trajectory would have carried the ball over the fence.

Most good, precision hitters seem to instinctively know that if their hands are holding the bat on or over the bottom knob, the “instrument” for hitting will be slightly heavier during the swing than if a batter “choked-up”. The hitter who insists on holding the bat on the knob or over will find himself “just missing” pitches slightly away, and fouling them straight backBatting1, while the “smart-hitter” who “chokes-up”, at least slightly, will almost always have better “bat-control” and make better contact since the bat and  extended arms will not feel the added weight and go under the pitched ball. TedWilliamsShortSwing3Examples of “Hitters” who “choke-up” are:Ted Williams' grip Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Joe Morgan, Don Mattingly, Paul Goldschmidt, Hank Aaron, Tony Conigliaro. ted_williams_ bat routebarry_bonds_1992_piratesJoe Morgan 2don-mattingly 1during the MLB game at Chase Field on April 12, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.00934860.JPGTonyC1969 Those current hitters whose batting proficiency would improve if they’d reduced this particular “margin for error” are:

RodriguezAlex 1yasiel 2albert-pujols- 13Hanley Ramirez 7batting2 A-Rod, Puig, Pujols, Hanley, Mark Reynolds, and “This-Guy”- Coaching10

With everything that Paul Goldschmidt does correctly, he could be even better if he’d do the following: 1) Start here-during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. – to eliminate any superficial excessive movement. 2) Have his front foot planted at that same point, at an angle of 120 degrees-at which the swing would begin simply by driving the back bent-knee and hip forward. The front knee will straighten automatically to stop the forward momentum of the body, thus keeping the “vertical axis” intact. (Read article: “Inertia… 9/13/13)  3) He already does everything else perfectly.

Coming Soon: Part 4 – Bryce Harper

 

Part 2: Miguel Cabrera

The Best! That They can Be? 

What would it take for the following Batters to become even better Hitters than they have already presented themselves to Be?

Miguel Cabrera 2during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.Bryce Harper 20153mike-trout-batting-1giancarlo-stanton5

Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout are considered by most “experts” to be the “elite” hitters in Major League Baseball. They are all identified as “Super-Stars” who have the ability to change the course of a game if they are allowed to swing the bat in a crucial situation at a critical time in the contest. Since they are all “good” at their trade, they most likely wait patiently for the pitcher to make a mistake and then capitalize on it . That’s what a good hitter does! But the “Great” hitter is one whose mechanical advantage allows him to see and hit a pitcher’s best pitch, especially under those critical, game-saving circumstances.

Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay RaysMiguel Cabrera 5Miguel C. 4Miguel Cabrera 2

On any given day, it would appear to me that Miguel Cabrera is the most difficult batter for a pitcher to get out. His body is poised and steady. His powerful torso and shoulders are ready to apply the finishing touch to any kind of pitch that the mounds-man’s arsenal can supply. His knees have their slight bend and his arms and hands are fully equipped to navigate his bat with short and precise accuracy to the high-velocity projectile that would subjugate any lesser artisan of bats-man-ship.

Because all of his movements are short, and “to the point”, Miguel is uniquely qualified to make contact with a pitched ball even within the confines of Batting’s most denigrating “margin-of-error”- the “stride”. In a picture as this Miguel C. 4 it is easy to see why he is most proficient at hitting the ball to all fields. To get to that point of contact from

here Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay Rays he appears to lift his front foot while loading his upper body 

to take a short stride into the ball. The pitch was on the outside corner, so the fact that his hips are still the driving force that brings the torso, shoulders and bat to the contact point while the front foot has planted assures a powerful impact of optimal effect. If his hips and back bent-knee had been fully rotated as the ball reached that same spot at the plate, Miguel would either have missed it completely, as the bat would not have reached it, or the contact point would have had diminished power capacity.

In this pictureMiguel Cabrera 5, Miguel’s hips are completing their range of motion, and the torso, with shoulders , have brought the arms, hands and bat “inside” the path of an inside pitch in order to “pull” the ball. I’m assuming that the front foot is fastened to the ground, and the front-leg straightened at “contact, while a back bent-knee is moving forward with the back hip. We can also assume, because of the proper mechanics being applied, and the angle of the bat, and the trajectory of the ball, that the swing was optimally effective.

It is reasonable to assume that Miguel Cabrera could easily be considered a “great-hitter” because he has been known to hit the best of pitchers “best pitch” on many occasions. A few years ago, I was watching a Yankees/Tigers game on TV. In the 9th inning Mariano Rivera game in to “Close” with a one run lead. He was expected to face Miguel and two other batters to secure the victory, as was his unrelenting custom. It was known to all that Miguel was not at his best, suffering from a nagging injury. Rivera got two easy strikes but was unable to put Miguel away, as he kept fouling off pitch after pitch. Everyone watching felt it was just a matter of time before he makes an out, presumably striking out. Mariano threw “masterful” pitch after pitch, until finally Cabrera hit one those pin-point “cutters” over the center-field fence, much to the amazement of the commentators and all other on-lookers. Truly the mark of a “Great-Hitter”, at that moment of time.

I would like to consider Miguel as a “Great-Hitter”, but because of his inconsistency in applying “perfect-mechanics” I reluctantly consider him as a “great-hitter”. Of all the batters on my “list of 5″, Cabrera appears to have the best chance of becoming the “perfect – hitter”. My biggest hope in his advancement rests in the fact that he has in the past said the following: “When I get into slumps, I go to the batting cage and do Tee-work and Live batting while “not striding”. Then, in games, I try to follow that regimen, and my slump is gone.” My question to him would be, “then, why don’t you just practice that regimen all the time”?

“Most (if not all) batters relegate themselves to vulnerability to the greatest “margin-for-error” in the entire batting regimen.  What is the only way to assure oneself of readiness to swing his bat? The front foot must be planted! The only place where “timing” can be disrupted is in the stride. The batter never really knows when to put his foot down. Therefore, never pick up the front foot. Simply generate the needed momentum prior to swing by readying the hips to bring the shoulders, arms, and bat to the ball. By not striding, any batter will see the ball with utmost clarity, and allow for much better contact, no matter how strong he is.” But a player with the power and precision of a Miguel Cabrera would eliminate the greatest deterrent to batting proficiency if he would not stride.

The only times I ever see Miguel falter, even when he sometimes gets a “cheap” hit, is when his front foot isn’t planted early enough to twist his hips powerfully. But because he is so powerful in his shoulders, he is able to allow his arms and hands to bring the bat to the ball and send a mediocre soft line-drive to the opposite field while his weight is still on his back leg. When his front foot plants too early from his soft “leg-kick” stride, on any occasion, he still manages to rely on his shoulders to “flick” a ball over the infield or in the gap. If he never raised his front foot, his batting acumen would be close to flawless!

One thing to always remember when trying to appreciate the ultimate power of the swing is that, once the front foot is planted firmly all power is initiated by quick turning of the hips instigated by the driving back bent-knee, the leg of which never straightens. This principle is elaborated upon in an article entitled, “Inertia: Power from the Back of the Bus”, dated 9/13/13, on this website.

Coming Soon: Paul Goldschmidt

 

The Best! That They can Be? Or – Is There Room for Improvement? 5 Parts

What would it take for the following Batters to become even better Hitters than they have already presented themselves to Be?

giancarlo-stanton5Miguel Cabrera 2during the MLB game at Chase Field on June 5, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.Bryce Harper 20153mike-trout-batting-1

Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout are considered by most “experts” to be the “elite” hitters in Major League Baseball. They are all identified as “Super-Stars” who have the ability to change the course of a game if they are allowed to swing the bat in a crucial situation at a critical time in the contest. Since they are all “good” at their trade, they most likely wait patiently for the pitcher to make a mistake and then capitalize on it . That’s what a good hitter does! But the “Great” hitter is one whose mechanical advantage allows him to see and hit a pitcher’s best pitch, especially under those critical, game-saving circumstances.

Giancarlo Stanton has not yet reach that stage of “Batting Proficiency” where he could be counted on to consistently hit the Pitcher’s “best pitch”. In fact, in most critical situations, he seems to be consistently fooled by the pitcher’s “best pitch”. But at this point in his consistent development, he does something better than the other 4 members of my illustrious cinquain of elite performers. The best way to describe that attribute which distinguishes Giancarlo from all Major-League-Batters was already elaborated upon in my essay:  Hip Action—Fulcrum for Speed and Power to “Swing”.

Many baseball players have taken a liking to playing golf. Even a casual observer can notice the similarities of the swings in the application of strokes for each sport. Many batting coaches at all levels of play, from Little-League to the “Bigs”, are advocating the notion that the main ingredients to these swings are identical, and therefore a prospective baseball batter should adjust the mechanics of his swing to conform to those certain facets of the ideal golfer’s. The theory seems plausible, but under the scrutiny of scientific examination the idea becomes fraught with microscopic flaws that preclude ultimate batting proficiency.

An astute analysis of the golf swing differentiates two distinct actions of the hips when negotiating the two basic situations that a golfer can encounter. He/she is either swinging long, or short. When going for distance, with a wood or iron, the swing is facilitated by the powerful fulcrum effect of the front hip. The weight of the back hip and leg are pulled around and forward by the slow and sustained torque action of the muscles about the front hip and leg. A slight push of the back foot accompanies this action, and the body appears to end up in position close to an angle of 180 degrees, with head to toe perpendicular to the ground.Tiger Wood1Tiger Woods2

On short shots, the mechanics of the hips are such that the weight is concentrated on the back leg where the fulcrum effect is negotiated by the back hip. As the forward swing begins, the front hip is being pulled around and backward, a distance of the width of pelvis, by the torque action of the muscles stabilizing the back hip. Tiger8Obviously, the first swing is the power swing.

The power of the baseball swing differs from the golf swing in one major way, for two separate reasons. The fulcrum for the hip-action in the perfect baseball swing is neither the front nor the back, but rather the center, as both the front and back (hips) work synergistically to maximize the speed of the turn along a constant vertical axis and horizontal plane. (The contrasting actions are analogous to the “hinge-swing” closing and opening of a gateHinged gate1, and the movement of a turnstile.Turnstile1) In Baseball, the front foot secures the ground with such force from the straightening front leg that the front hip is being forced open as the back hip is driven forward with equipollence by the aid of a forward driving back bent-knee. If performed properly, the vertical axis of spine and upper body remains constant while the hips are rotating along a consistent horizontal plane. The angle formed, by a diagonal front leg and an upper body and head, as the swing is commencing and concluding is 180 degrees (or slightly less).Barry Bonds HRgiancarlo-stanton6Barry  Bonds 9

The dynamics of the golf swing involve a relaxed state of the body as it is gliding on a consistent steady course guided by a non-ballistic flow of the hips that carries the entire back-side (or front-side) of the body onto the weight of the front (or back) foot. Tiger_Woods7Since the power-fulcrum is the front hip (in a power swing), the slow buildup of torque in the “back-swing” precludes any loss of potential energy as the body efficiently glides through its range of motion. The head movement is minimal, yet unavoidable since all body parts revolve around the hinged front (or back) hip as the club is approaching a stationary object. Such a negligible infraction, while negotiating a moving object, would have a more debilitating affect, depending on the degree of difficulty.

In baseball, the most effective batsman will first assume a stance whose center of gravity is low enough to accommodate the rigors of fast moving ballistic reactions which are needed to offset the nuances of a baseball’s speed and directional proclivities. Instead of the slow steady flow of a golfer’s semi-flaccid body, the batter of a baseball has to have a body taut and ready to response in a “nanosecond” to the many possibilities that will confront him. Therefore the action of “turnstile” hips is what is needed to respond quickly to a 100-MPH fastball, or to patiently but apprehensively await the illusory action of curving or other off-speed pitches.

The “turnstile” action of the batter’s swing allows the vertical axis of the body to remain intact, which facilitates the least amount of head movement. The less head movement, the better the batter can detect the nuances of the speeding ball!Bonds -stanceBarry Bonds 2

IT is said that Mark McGwire is a pretty good golfer. If he played golf during the baseball season, he must have had a mentality that could easily adapt to each sport. If you ever watched him take batting practice before the game you saw him put on a show with what was essentially the same mechanism as in his golf swing. His stance was tall. The ball was not thrown with powering or deceptive intent. He stepped forward and swung off his front foot and hip. But during a game, he was in a low crouch that provided a low center of gravity, which afforded a much better opportunity to handle the moving ball with speed and precision.Mark McGwire 3Mark McGwire 1Mark McGwire 2

A 450-foot drive, off a well-attuned swing from Mark McGwire, gave reason to applaud a magnificent stroke. But, how was it that he sometimes hit a prodigious “shot” for 580 feet? When you really live up to that favorite expression of batters, “I got it all”, your bat made contact with the ball while the body was turning through the swing with the vertical axis intact!  The centripetal force provided by the stable position of the vertical axis produces the powerful centrifugal force, which magnifies the power elicited by the turning hips and shoulders. (Read article – 9/13/2013 – “Inertia…”)__________________________________

Because of Stanton’s muscular statuesque 6 foot 6 inch, 240 lb. body, most people would assume that his physique alone determines the power and strength of Giancarlo’s swing. No doubt his “natural” physical endowment contributes greatly to his phenomenal feats of strength. But the “power” that facilitates the consistent manifestation of that strength is the Principle to which his body applies perfect accommodation. Whenever Stanton connects with a wicked line-drive or a towering Home Run, the speed at which it leaves his bat and the distance it travels is consistently greater than any other Major-League player.

at Coors Field on June 5, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.Giancarlo+Stanton3Generated by  IJG JPEG LibraryMIAMI, FL - MAY 22:  Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins bats during a MLB game against the Baltimore Orioles at Marlins Park on May 22, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Ron Elkman /Sports Imagery/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Giancarlo StantonDENVER, CO - JULY 23:  Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins hits a solo home run to left field during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 23, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Marlins defeated the Rockies 4-2.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 04:  Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins bats against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on May 4, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)giancarlo-stanton5G. Stanton8

 

Over the years that he has been in the “Big-Leagues” his consistency for making solid contact has improved as he has consciously made an effort to decrease his stride and attain better visual discernment of the pitched ball. In the past, even with his exaggerated stride, he still managed to keep his “vertical axis” intact at the point where his front foot planted and allowed for complete facilitation of the “hip-action” spoken about previously.

Even with the horrific injury to his face by a pitched ball last year, he has managed a first half surge that defies belief. But, in order to take full advantage of his profound and fluid “hip-action” he must find a genuine means for eliminating the stride altogether. No one seems to realize that the “stride” (especially the leg-kick) is not necessary to facilitate the swing. In order for the swing to begin (properly), the front foot must be planted. Yet most (if not all) batters relegate themselves to vulnerability to the greatest “margin-for-error” in the entire batting regimen.  What is the only way to assure oneself of readiness to swing his bat? The only place where “timing” can be disrupted is in the stride. The batter never really knows when to put his foot down. Therefore, never pick up the front foot. Simply generate the needed momentum prior to swing by readying the hips to bring the shoulders, arms, and bat to the ball. By not striding, any batter will see the ball with utmost clarity, and allow for much better contact, no matter how strong he is.

With his natural advantage, when Giancarlo Stanton perfects his “NO-STRIDE” approach to  hitting, he will be Baseball’s Best Batter! But I guess we will have to wait 4 to  6 weeks before he can resume his dominance in punishing a pitched ball. G.S., don’t get discouraged. Best to the Best!

Coming Soon: Miguel Cabrera – How can he be better than he is now?

 

 

 

Albert Pujols: The Resurgence has Arrived!

 Albert Pujols 5 In October of 2013 I wrote the following article. Albert certainly had become the “rising star” of the Cardinals. As his Cardinal career was coming to an end, he was noticeably faltering until he had “Fallen” after the Angels acquired his seemingly over-priced services. But now in 2015, to “Everyone’s” amazement, he seems to have resurrected himself; but most experts fail to discern the factors most contributing to his apparent “Resurgence”- except Me!  Please read and see what you think?

Albert Pujols: The Rise. – The Fall! – The Resurgence?

Albert Pujols 1Albert Pujos 11Albert Pujols 14

Tony LaRussa, one of Baseball greatest managers, had the good fortune of being the “skipper” of the St. Louis Cardinals at times when the team included two of the Game’s outstanding hitters. And it is fair to say that these players, Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols, had the good fortune of being managed by LaRussa.

McGwire was just finishing a long and illustrious career accredited with being known as one of History’s most prodigious sluggers. His legendary “tape-measure” home-runs” were initially lauded, but eventually disdained because of the implication that “steroid” use was a contributing factor in his uncommon and mythical feats of strength. Mostly gone unnoticed, after the “steroid-era” had been contested and virtually diminished from Baseball vernacular, was the fact that, from his inception into the Major Leagues, his tall, lean, and trim body, which bore no trace of the insidious trappings that Steroids ultimately produced, Mark was reputed as a power hitting “student-of-the-game”. It was his “Mechanical advantage” and his natural strength and ability that produced an abundance of home-runs in his formative “big-league” career. (He hit 49 Home Runs in his Rookie Year.)Mark Mcgwire 4

At the beginning, as well as at the end of his career, McGwire’s hallmark of stability and power lay in the position he took when he addressed the pitcher while in the batters’ box. He was a big and powerful man, but found no encumbrance while assuming a low, crouching stance.  In fact it was this “stance” which afforded him the maximum of stability and strength which were the most contributable factors in his powerful swing, before and after steroid-accusations. It had been purported that his vision was less than the normal “20/20”, so to his credit, he eliminated that particular margin of error with his stance. Poor vision and at least a “minimum” stride were his two main foibles, which ultimately contributed to any batting dysfunction. His body’s altered structure seems to indicate steroid use; but if true, it’s too bad. He didn’t need it! His strength was at the top of the charts already.Mark McGwire 1

Albert Pujols had the good fortune and pleasure to play with Mark McGwire and for Tony LaRussa – he must have learned from both. Pujols is one of the strongest men in baseball, albert-pujols- 13so he must realize that he doesn’t need any extra strength to be a consistent home-run hitter, or a .300 hitter. Whether he copied McGwire’s low stance, or found it himself is a credit to his good judgment. The other aspect of good-judgment on his part is his determination not-to- stride. For the first ten years of his Major-League career, these two characteristics of his batting regimen established him as arguably the best hitter in baseball. But it simply demonstrates how essential these two aspects are to uncommon batting proficiency.Albert Pujols 1

Two characteristics of Pujols’ batting style have become detrimental to his ultimate proficiency as a hitter that will forever place him below Barry Bonds as the “greatest-hitter” in baseball history. The fact that he holds his hands and bat high, while his arms are inordinately stretched out away from his body produce two distinguishable margins for error that will only exacerbate any slight ineffectiveness he may have previously experienced in his past-younger days.Albert Pujos 11Albert_Pujols_spring_tr_2009Albert Pujols 5

He apparently hasn’t recognized why he is a perennial leader in hitting into double-plays, even though he has consistently demonstrated magnificent hand-bat-eye coordination. In 2012, with the Angels, no one seemed to be able to help him understand why he was hitting so many bouncing balls for easy outs, to establish a batting average of sub-.200 in more than 100 at-bats. But it was in the 2011 season that started to show those detrimental effects and their imposing “doom”.

“Poor-Albert” was the best hitter in the “post-Bonds” era, and can regain that status, but not if he continues his present batting regimen, even if his patronizing commentators continue to predict that he will find his old self. The pitchers had been keeping the ball low, and with his bat high, had forced him to chop down and hit mostly ground balls, or bouncing balls, or pop-ups when the bat slices the front part of the ball. His first 2012 home-run was not that of a powerful Pujols swing, but rather a testament to his natural strength, barely making it over the left-field fence, on a pitcher’s breaking-ball mistake.

In his low stance Pujols should be able to hit the low pitch easily (as Barry Bonds did). Barry did not swing down on a low pitch, with the hope that his bat would strike it just right so as to slice the front end exactly right and get the required back-spin to carry the ball the distance for a home-run. He, as well as hitters like Ted Williams, realized that the bat had to come from behind and slightly below the pitched ball that was always descending into the strike-zone in order to hit it with maximum effectiveness at an angle close to 180 degrees.

Pujols’ slump is not due to some things that he is doing new and differently, but rather what he has been doing all along, but not thought of as detrimental to his over-all technique. The things being mentioned at this time are simply considered as margins of error that, if eliminated, will diminish or eliminate current mechanical flaws that impede proficiency.

  1. The low stance is requisite, but the slight bouncing of the body by the movement of knees moves the head and eyes and creates degrees of visual dysfunction.
  2. The “no-stride” is required to keep head and eyes at maximum stillness and secure ultimate visual acuity. But avoid locking the front foot into a position where the toes are almost pointing backward (Like Ryan Howard and Harold Baines). This is not necessary to keep the front side from “opening up” early. The negative effect occurs when the swing begins and the front leg is supposed to straighten as the backside is turning forward. The front knee cannot hold that position and the imminent sense of knee and ankle displacement abruptly jerks the body out of its smooth rhythm. (Harold Baines can attribute his knee problems to this uncompromising technique. And perhaps Ryan Howard, at times of batting deficiency.) All that is needed is for the front foot to plant itself firmly into the ground (at a 120 degree angle to the pitcher) to begin the swing. It doesn’t need to twist and plant.joe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plate
  3. The problem with Albert holding his hands and bat high while having his arms extended away from his body is basically 2-fold:
    1. Even with Albert’s powerful shoulders, any extra weight extended away from the body will slow down the functionality of the body’s power source during the swing. Even more weight is added with the way he holds his bat in a horizontal position parallel to the ground.
    2. The hands and bat, if kept at that ultra-high position as the body begins turning into the swing, will have no choice but to swing downward at downward moving ball, even low in the strike-zone. The effect after contact is usually a ground or bouncing ball.
    3. It has been noticed by this observer that Albert has not been hitting the ball effectively to the opposite field, especially on pitches away. Perhaps balance is a problem. His stance may need to be widened slightly.

 

It is difficult for this observer to understand how a superb hitter, as Albert is, cannot detect what his problem is, and its remedy. He may very well feel that “no matter what, I’m going with what got me here, even if it kills me”. Well, I hope he has “9” lives, and the Angels have “Infinite Patience”. But there is an easier way — “adjust and adapt” with the help of an Absolute Principle.

Note: Before Albert started slumping, he held his bat more perpendicular to the ground while addressing the pitcher in his stance, rather than now, as the bat is almost completely parallel to the ground.Albert Pujols 14Albert Pujols 8

Can Albert regain his former batting prowess by  himself?  END!

Well, although I could not find any pictures or photos of Albert’s present “batting stance”, I have noticed from TV footage that 3 noticeable changes have occurred. His hands and bat are not so high; his bat is less horizontal (more perpendicular); his swing seems capable of coming from behind and under the ball (rather than swinging down).  Another change that might seem (to me) to be detrimental is that he is now taking a short stride. Although I advocate the “no-stride” approach, his present stride is fundamentally better than his previous “heel-lift-and-plant” from a side-way position.  His present stride allows his front foot to more easily turn to a 120 degree angle plant-position.

The only other change I would prescribe for Albert is his “hands-position” at the end of the bat. He is one of the strongest players in Baseball, yet he doesn’t seem to be able to hit a ball as far as many of the other “strong” players. Most of his Home Runs barely clear the fence. Barry Bonds and Ted Williams “choked-up” on the bat (at least a little), and their hands gripped the bat forcefully. Ted Williams' grip

Albert scrunches his hands tightly at the end of the bat (almost over-lapping), while his top hand lightly grips it with his fingers. That way, it would seem that the ball impacts the bat more than the bat could impact the ball.

I am hoping that Albert’s “resurgence” is not short-lived, but rather just a prelude to an even greater and complete “Resurrection”!

Baseball: “Penultimate” Expression of Perfection!

“Ultimate” Perfection within the Baseball Experience Will Be Attained only after the Following Imperfect Conditions Have Been Rectified or Enhanced:

  1. The D.H. has to be established in Both Leagues.
  2. The “Bean-Ball” must be eliminated, not justified.
  3. Umpires’ outside-inside corner discrepancy on wide breaking curve-ball must be resolved.
  4. Mandatory umpire assistance on Checked-swings.
  5. Establishment of a 2-bagged 1st Base (like Softball)
  6. 2nd & 3rd Basemen tap the “front” side of base to determine a “tag-out” (for fielder protection).
  7. Establishment of a D. R. (Designated Runner).
  8. Batters should get 2 strikes and 4 balls.
  9. No “intentional walk”. If at least 1 strike is not thrown to a batter, after four pitches he goes to 2nd. Base.
  10. A “D. R.” (Designated Runner) can also Pinch-Hit in the same game.

1.

The Pitcher is the hardest worker on the field! Let him focus on his primary job by letting him rest when his turn to bat comes up. The D.H. was the first solid attempt by Baseball to get rid of any superficial or perfunctory aspects of a game whose otherwise proud and purposeful intent was being undermined. The National League “Dinosaurs” continue to insist that the D.H. removes a distinct strategy that is integral to the Sport’s identity. All it does is remove a “little-skilled” or “no-skilled” hitter for a competent one, thus allowing for more competency where it is appreciated by all observers of the game.

A pitcher (now-a-days) can’t even bunt properly, and stands a good chance of smashing a finger, or two. Why run the risk? Ask Kevin Brown if he would rather have had someone batting for him when he smashed his fingers and couldn’t pitch for a good while. Or A. J. Burnett whose right eye might have given solid testimonybunting14 (Burnett) , and any of the others who have pulled hamstrings while running bases, when they could have been resting comfortably while mentally preparing to pitch the next inning? It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out the logical and rationally sound alternative to a pitcher batting. And other incidents including Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong breaking his hand while swinging at a pitched ball, and “relief” pitcher (Santiago CasillasCasillas2  ) pulling a hamstring legging an infield out, thoroughly exacerbates an intelligent person’s perspective on what is meaningful in Baseball. Is it going to take a serious injury to Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, or Stephen Strassberg, or their likes (Adam Wainwright for another) to finally come to the ultimately intelligent conclusion? I know that Kershaw, Strassberg, Greinke, Wainwright, and a few others think they have “batting prowess”, but their pitching is much more highly needed, without the risk of unnecessary injury.injured Pitcher (Wang) 1

The extension of a “Great” hitter’s career as a D.H. is another reason for admiring the American League initiative. Babe Ruth hit three home runs in his final game, before he was virtually forced into retirement. Babe Ruth 3 Just think of what it would have done for the fan-base as well as the extension of personal, individual worth to such Hall- of- Famers like Ruth, Jimmy Fox, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, and many others, to be able to continue their careers even while subjected to a somewhat limited fielding capacity, but still highly productive offensively. The whole process only improves the quality of team performance, and adds continually to the appreciative adulation of fans. Everyone benefits by innovation, even the stagnant thinker, once he accepts the inevitable aspects of positive change.

2.

Does Major-League Baseball truly want to stop the violent behavior that occurs almost always after a batter has been hit by a speedily pitched ball, or is IT merely giving “lip-service” to attempt to placate those fans who are repulsed by that barbaric tendency of most pitchers to stoically disregard the “well-being” and possible “livelihoods” of players whose healthy bodies are a requirement to continue in the game they (also) love to play (effectively)? There never was a good excuse to tolerate the abuse, and now there is absolutely no excuse for not obliterating its use in Major League Baseball.mean baseball face

Do you get the picture of, “Bludgeoning Effect” of a 90-100 MPH 5 ounce, hard, round projectile? hit by pitch13hit-by-pitch1Jimmy Rollinshit bypitch17hit by pitch14

The only practical RULE that will either eliminate, or at least diminish the hideous tendency to deliberately or “accidentally” hit a batter with a “Fast-ball” or “Hard Slider” or “Cutter”, is one that will award the batter 2 bases (not one), allowing him to pass First Base and go directly to Second Base, and putting him, or any previous base-runners, immediately in scoring position. If such pitched ball strikes a batter on a part of his body that is protected by “armor” of some sort (except helmet) then he is awarded one base. The umpire’s discretion would govern all aspects of the Rule.

Although Bud Selig did an admirable job as Baseball Commissioner, his most blatant omission or dereliction of duty was in not conceiving and enforcing this rule before he left office. His successor must (and will) do the “right thing”.  tony-coniglario2Will this guy ever play again? And will this guy Miami Marlins v Milwaukee Brewersever fully recover, to fulfill his potential ?stanton Face

 

3.

Not a day goes by, where I am watching a game on the MLB Station, that I see the circumstances of a critical situation, as well a player’s batting average, affected by the miscalculated judgment of the “home-plate” umpire with regard to a sweeping curve-ball over the outside or inside corner. I admit that in most situations, the umpires are uncannily accurate in their judgments on the bases. But for some unknown reason, they have not been tutored correctly on judgments regarding the action of the curve-ball as it moves around or across the outside or inside edge of “Home-Plate”.

When a right –handed batter is facing a left-handed pitcher (or vise-versa), and a sweeping curve-ball is caught a foot (or more) behind the plate, in the right-center of the plate, then the pitch is probably a strike. But if that curve is caught by the catcher off the right corner of the plate, it should be rightly judged as a ball, since it must have gone around the outside edge to be caught right on the corner, a foot behind the plate. But every day, I see an irate batter mumbling his way back to the dugout, silently or audibly cussing the umpire’s erroneous decision. Many times the game is dramatically affected by the call, inning ending with 3 men stranded, plus batter and manager being ejected for justifiably arguing the call.

But conversely to the previous example that negatively affects the batter is the circumstance that negatively affects the Pitcher. The same “lefty” may throw his sweeping curve that begins beyond the outside edge of the plate, but sweeps across the plate, and the catcher receives it a foot beyond and behind the home-plate. The umpire almost always calls that pitch a ball. But, in fact, it almost certainly “catches” some part of the plate, and should be ruled a strike. I admit that in order to call those two types of pitches accurately on a consistent basis would take more than mortal human skills. No umpire should have to be culpable for not accurately judging those pitches. That is why, eventually, MLB will install an electronic mechanism to make that judgment for the umpires (like It did with “Instant-Replay”).

It is unfair to the batter and pitcher, as well as the umpires and Major-League- Baseball, to have to endure traumatic and consequential effects of the poor-judgment that have been traditionally endured before this modern technological age arrived. If MLB has not yet thought of creating a “Home-Plate” that could be electronically implemented for practical use at all Big League Stadiums, then I would at least hope that some thoughtful executive would devise a prototypical model with which umpires could practice during the “interim”, so they could see first-hand that they are indeed missing those pitches, and attempt to solve the current problem by trial and error (for the time-being). I predict that, when that time comes, pitchers who previously received little or no notoriety will suddenly become “high-priced” Mounds-men, because that pitch will be found virtually impossible to hit.

4.

I’m sure that soon there will be a rule making “mandatory” that the Home-Plate Umpire be required to ask for assistance on all “check-swings” that occur in a baseball game. There is no reason not to have such a rule. No umpire, no matter how astute and highly skilled he is, can consistently discern whether the baseball thrown is a ball or strike, and still detect if the batter took an abbreviated swing at the pitch.

5.

With all the mishaps or arguments that occur around the First-Base bag, it would be appropriate that Major-League-Baseball take the initiative of installing a “double-base” First Base “safety” bag Softball double-base2to diminish the prospect of both injuries and disputes. The dispute that occurs most often has to do with a runner from Home to First who is running up the First Base line after striking out or bunting.runner Home to Firstfirst-base-image-basepath-33821467

The catcher or pitcher fielding the ball is sometimes in a direct line with the runner while throwing to First. Technically, this should not be a problem because the Baseball rule states that the runner must run on the outside of the base-line. IF the fielder hits a runner, who is on the inside of the base-line, with the thrown ball, the runner is supposed to be called out. But the umpire’s discretionary judgment naturally senses that the runner, after having hit the ball (or struck out), is simply taking a path most directly toward First Base.

So, in most cases, if the runner is only slightly on or over the line in question, the umpire will not call him out if he is hit by the ball. To an observer, it would be unwarranted to call him out because, in most cases, the runner would sometimes have to abruptly deviate from running in a straight line to the bag, since, when he begins his trek to First Base, he is generally 2 or 3 feet inside the base-line. Also, for a runner to deliberately attempt to run outside the base-line, he would inadvertently put himself in a vulnerable position when reaching First Base, if the foot extending to touch the base was his right. It would have to cross over his body, thus the awkward angle of his leg with relationship to the bag would easily subject him to a possible twisting of his ankle (or worse).

Therefore, the utilization of the “double-bagged” First Base would not only make it easier for the umpires to enforce the rule of running outside the base-line, but the diminishing of the injury factor in most situations would be greatly enhanced. The runner’s target would no longer be the singular entity on the inside of the baseline, but would now be the “colored” object of attention on the outside of the base-line. Thus the proximity of runner to fielder would be less acute. For the runner to be safe, while running from Home to First (to beat out an infield hit), he must touch the “colored” portion of the base on the outside of the baseline. first-base-image-basepath-33821467If he steps on the white portion, without any part of his cleat touching the “colored” portion, it would be as if he had missed the base completely, and would be considered out (if fielder had touched the white base while in possession of the ball). If a batter hits the ball to the outfield, and has a chance for extra bases, he does not have to touch the “colored” base, but proceed in the traditional manner of “rounding” the “white” base.

The injuries that would most likely be avoided are those that would put the runner and First Baseman in close proximity to each other on close plays, especially on errant throws. Even when the First Baseman makes an easy catch of a high throw that keeps his body close to the bag, many runners (especially those with wide shoulders) have tripped while crossing the base with even slight contact with some part of the fielder.

The latest “serious” injury, that occurred to Zack Cozart of the Cincinnati Reds, probably would have been avoided if he had more room to negotiate the base he desperately tried to secure. Many of the injuries I have observed occurred because at the last moment, it was impossible for either, or both, player(s) (First Baseman/Pitcher and Runner) to avoid each other due to the fact they were all vying for the same “singular” bag. The only practical Solution to the entire matter of the “First Base Dilemma” is the “double-bagged” First Base “Safety-Bag”. And the “Safety-Bag”(colored portion) should be made of a slightly softer material so the runner’s cleat would not slip off a hard top-surface, as in the Cozart debacle.

DOES ANYTHING MORE NEED TO BE SAID?

Coming Soon: The Last 5 Proposals for Baseball Perfection

 

Anatomy of Reaction: Timeline to Disaster!

mean baseball facebaseball brawlpac_1

Anatomy of Reaction: Timeline to Disaster

By

John F. Paciorek

There is a runner on first base. The batter hits a hot shot that bounces off the heel of the pitcher. The ball ricochets toward the short-stop position. Since the short-stop instinctively moved toward 2nd base on the initial batter contact, an alert 3rd base-man fields the ball and attempts a quick but forceless, reverse under-hand toss to the short-stop who is standing for an inordinate amount of time on 2nd base, waiting apprehensively for the arrival of the ball.

As the play is transpiring, a hustling, aggressive runner is speedily running from first to second base. Upon seeing the ball eventually being fielded, his training and athletic instincts demands of him an attempt to break up what could be a double-play. However, the only aspect difficult to immediately calculate is a time-differential not customarily applied to the now given situation.

Because a runner usually decides to take out the fielder after or as the ball is being caught in preparation to be thrown, this particular runner doesn’t calculate correctly the precise time in which to slide. KCvsAs7The consequence of his ill-timing  is disastrous to the fielder, potentially hazardous to the runner/slider, and enormously disastrous to the sequence of events that follow during this game, and the games that follow.

After the slide, and the effect it has on the now injured short-stop, the runner initially exhibits genuine concern for the fielder. But the over-zealous attention, brought on by the obviously injured fielder’s teammates and the umpire, presents a futility to his plea for reconciliation, which no one is willing to take to heart.

As the umpire somewhat forcefully escorts the “defendant” off the field, all non-essential players continue a verbal barrage of condemnation and justification  toward each other, a solution harmonious to ultimate reconciliation being far removed from present status. K.C. vs A's 1Baseball, at its Finest!? NO!

Nothing more belligerent occurred during that game, but “Karma” seemed to have interceded on behalf of the team suffering the “fallen player”. Last moment heroics portended a “come-from-behind” victory KCvsAs4 . You would have thought that the  baseball “gods” would have been appeased by the fortuitous outcome for those beleaguered warriors. But NOOOO! The worst was yet to come.

The pitcher of revenge-seeking team was either instructed, or took it upon himself, to rectify his teammate’s misfortune, and struck the “culprit” KCvsAs 5of the opposing team with a 95 MPH fast-ball, for which he was immediately ejected (without warning)KCvsAS6. Then the “Bean-ball” war began, and carried onto the next day’s ballgame. What a blatant display of unsportsmanship, combined with lack of respect, human dignity, and an unimaginable demonstration of bestial ferocity! All because of a simple misappropriation of logistical intent! And, of course, the team that started that day’s fracas lost the game (when will “idiots” learn – “Karma don’t do dat”). (And the following game ended the same way  KC vs A's 2KCvsAs 8 Karma again prevailing.)

If the runner initially had more reasonably assessed the timing of sequential action, he would have discerned that his own speed would have garnered a “safe” response from the umpire had he merely extended his leg and foot to the basesliding 7, instead of ramming the shortstop with his entire body. As it was, he still beat the throw with his incorrect and inappropriate slide, the fact of which went unnoticed by the umpire because of his hyper- concern for what transpired in the aftermath. Everyone involved was at-fault, therefore everyone was to blame, and there-after everyone should have been “forgiven”. They were all trying to do their jobs to extreme heights.

At the most passionate of moments, the runner was thinking, “what do I do to help my team the most?” The short-stop, out of position, but closer to the bag than the second baseman alertly thinks, “the time-frames are cutting it close to impending doom, but I need to help my team”. The 3rd baseman’s lunge with extended glove gave no mechanical advantage to his effort to relay the ball with adequate force and speed, but “it’s my last ditch effort; what the hell”. And the umpire, no doubt appalled by the ferocity of the slide, and it’s immediate effect, made no call on the play, but hastily attended to the victim while incorrectly removing the runner (who was actually safe) from the field of play, intuitively recognizing the ramifications that were sure to follow.

Who was at fault? No one! Who is to blame? Everyone who participated in the action of that specific play! But all of them was/is entitled the right of forgiveness! But the debacle that followed is inexcusable, especially when you think of the motive behind the actions of all those players who participated in that inexplicable play – to WIN, with honest effort! The behavior that followed can never be forgiven, because it should not,  and would not, ever present itself if M.L.B. would enact a new rule that would make it virtually impossible for a pitcher, manager, team, or Organization to seek retaliation for anything that occurs during the course of the game. The Rule would state that: “If any pitched ball that could be assessed at optimum, or near optimum, speed should hit a batter, that batter would be allotted 2 bases (not one)”.

This simple rule would satisfy those teams and managers, as well as players themselves who suffer the pain and indignity of their opponents’ justification that they were merely pitching inside, and the ball got away. KCvsAs3That would’ve been fine if the victim and his team didn’t suffer the consequence of the disabled list and rehabilitation, especially to a “star” player. Nor would pitchers feel the obligation to “protect” their own players! The ultimate consequence to that pitcher or team whose propensity to throw recklessly “inside” is the uncompromising prospect of putting a runner immediately into scoring position, not to mention the beneficence to those runners already on base. Only the most selfish, arrogant, and probably non-contending teams would consider such flagrant dis-concern for winning. ( See a previous article, on my blog, dated March 19, 2015.)

Does Major-League Baseball truly want to stop the violent behavior that occurs almost always after a batter has been hit by a speedily pitched ball, or is IT merely giving “lip-service” to attempt to placate those fans who are repulsed by that barbaric tendency of most pitchers to stoically disregard the “well-being” and possible “livelihoods” of players whose healthy bodies are a requirement to continue in the game they (also) love to play (effectively)? There never was a good excuse to tolerate the abuse, and now there is absolutely no excuse for not obliterating its use in Major League Baseball.mean baseball face