Monthly Archives: May 2018

TO BE GREAT!: PART 3 – AaRON JUDGE

Aaron Judge could be the Greatest Player in the history of Baseball. He is Big, Strong, Fast, Outstanding Arm, Hits with Uncommon Power, could be a Consistent Contact- Hitter – That would make him a 6-Tool Player. But in order for him to attain that “Highest of High” status, he needs to change one “little-thing” and one “Big-Thing.” —  his Batting Stance and his Stride.

His Stance is a little-thing that facilitates the Big-Thing as you will notice below — His zig-zag Stride toward the plate, and away. Watch the horizontal and vertical movement of head and eyes.

See the source imageSee the source image In the picture to the left, his hands and stance are lower, providing a lower center of gravity and faster reaction time. But his zig-zag stride to and away from the plate not only presents visual distortion, jeopardizes his front foot plate to possible injury, but makes him vulnerable to hard breaking pitches moving away from him. The inside fastball (in view) is right in his “Wheel-House,” and a pitch all pitchers should avoid throwing to him.

Because of his “indirect-elliptical” stride, his body tends to drift left, creating difficulty for swinging structurally at fastballs and breaking pitches away. But even then, his uncommon power and fluid mechanics often has him “smelling like a rose” – but on an inconsistent basis.

See the source imageSee the source image Once he gets his front foot down and planted, he has the best and most mechanically sound swing in Baseball. Since he is already the strongest man in the Game, he must ask himself, “What can allow me to be most consistent in swinging to make solid contact with the baseball? Why do I need to stride? I don’t need extra forward, linear movement to gain momentum of force to propel the ball out of the park! The rotary action of my hips and shoulders (after my front foot is planted) is certainly powerful enough to make sufficient contact of my bat to the ball — especially while I’m seeing the ball with optimal acuity, by not moving my head and eyes.”

A procedure he could use, if he doesn’t know how to get his body in a “no-stride” position, is to pretend the pitcher has thrown the ball, stride normally, then hold that position until the pitcher actually does throw the ball — then wait, gather, press down on the front foot, and rotate hips, shoulders, arms and bat through the ball as usual, but without the frantic, cumbersome, and useless accompaniment of the “stride. From the “no-stride position, he should not have his front foot pointed at home-plate, but rather pointed 120 degrees toward the pitcher to assure more stability as the swing is proceeding, to avoid turning the ankle. Like Williams, DiMaggio, and other “smart” hitters!

At this point in their batting techniques, Judge’s mechanics allow for better and more complete hip-action than Stanton with his extremely closed stance. And they both can be Great if they just make slight corrections in their “mechanics.”   See the source image

To Be Great: Part 2 – Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish is one of my favorite players, and I want him to do well all the time, and become a pitcher that baseball fans will appreciate for his “Greatness.” He has all the tools, as well as the temperament and cordiality, that makes him my candidate for “good-guy” that will not “finish last,” but rather at the Top.

In my previous essay on Giancarlo Stanton, I quoted a passage from my new Book, If I Knew Then What I Know Now. It bears well to apply to Yu:

“Greatness is a humanly exaggerated or a spiritually magnified sense of being. To be extolled with greatness, one must step up above one’s peers, beyond the casualness of conformity, into the altitude of ‘Uniqueness,’ wherein the atmosphere of Soul the inspiration of life a lesser man cannot inhale.”

Yu Darvish looks a lot like Corey Kluber, except for one thing. As you can see from this recurring video shot, when Corey throws his fast breaking slider, it looks exactly like a fastball to the outside part of the plate. The batter can’t stop from swinging until it’s too late. When it leaves his hand there is no upward trajectory at all.

When Yu throws his slider, the ball starts from his hand in a slightly upward trajectory, purportedly fighting gravity, while slowing to break downward. When he throws it starting slightly inside (to a right-handed batter), it slows and sets up perfectly for the batter to smash it. When he throws it starting low, its break begins early enough for the batter to usually detect it will be a ball, low.  From watching replays of the 2017 World Series, the Astros had little trouble distinguishing his fastball and his breaking pitches. The fastball had a straight line trajectory starting low and either staying low or moving diagonally upward.  His breaking pitches all started from his hand moving slightly upward, then slowed up to break downward or across, not providing any substantial deception.

From what I can detect, Yu might be dropping down too low with his back knee, and when he starts his delivery, his low position might be forcing his breaking pitch upward before it actually breaks effectively away from or into the batter. Or, he is not allowing his throwing shoulder to come over the top enough. See the source imageSee the source imageSee the source imageSee the source image

IF I were Yu, I’d study the video above, and adapt slightly to the mechanics of Corey Kluber. I’d tell Yu, “Good-Luck,” but he doesn’t need luck; he simply needs to apply the Pitching Principle that will facilitate the perfect body mechanics to make his breaking pitch go down quickly without first moving upward.

Coming Soon: Aaron Judge, The Prospect for being “The Greatest-Hitter Ever.”

 

TO BE GREAT! Part One – Giancarlo Stanton

To those who would, and could, be Great, I have prepared a Series of essays that are meant to awaken these supreme athletes to the subtle facts as to why they are presently deficient in achieving their collective Goal, and suggest a means to enhance each one’s prospect for ultimate Fruition.

GIANCARLO STANTON WILL BE GREAT WHEN HE MAKES THESE ADJUSTMENTS!

 

 

    Inspired Thought stimulates the action of the human body to either modest or grand achievement via practical utilization of Universal Laws governing their perfect mechanical application to the mental/physical apparatus.              

 

What’s wrong with the picture above? The average baseball fan would normally conclude that the body of the person on the right could not possibly respond to a pitched ball in the same manner as the person (player) on the left. But the contradiction merely emphasizes that a magnificent physique does not assure a baseball batter of the good effect he would desire unless his mechanical advantage corresponds to how powerfully built he is.

The following is a short passage from my new Book, If I knew Then What I Know Now :
“If the darkest hour always precedes the dawning of a new light, then when its brilliance comes to full effulgence, does it not seem reasonable to presume that “one’s finest hour should prefigure some form of impending gloom? Could greatness be sustained within the grasp of hubris? Greatness is a humanly exaggerated or a spiritually magnified sense of being. To be extolled with greatness, one must step up above one’s peers, beyond the casualness of conformity, into the altitude of ‘Uniqueness,’ wherein the atmosphere of Soul the inspiration of life a lesser man cannot inhale.”

In my previous essay series entitled The Best!, beginning on June 27, 2015, I again featured Giancarlo as my first example of a player whose nearly perfect mechanics would qualify him as one of the best of the Best. As I described his greatest mechanical advantage then, it was his ability to maximize his strength and fluid “hip-action” to produce a centrifugal-force that accommodated his inherent body-hand-eye coordination. Although his slight stride and open-stance were his only observable flaws (read the early essay to find out why), he was still capable of maintaining fluid horizontal and parallel hips to negotiate an unfettered swing.

(Batters of a now generation have come to speculate that a hitter gets a better view of the pitched ball if his body is “frontally” positioned so his eyes could see the ball more directly. The concept is impractical not only because while striding toward the plate he turns his body sideways to the pitched ball anyway, but he also presents himself with an inaccurate visual acuity to the moving projectile coming from less than a straight angle.)

Last season, Giancarlo finally figured out that the movement from the Open-Stance must have diminished his visual capacity, so he changed to a closed-stance, and reaped the rewards that his more stable head and eyes and new confidence afforded — 59 Home Runs and National League MVP. Unfortunately, his obsession with his new and effective stance must have turned the wheels of his brain to think that “If a slightly closed-stance was good, would it not be even better to exaggerate the ‘closed-ness’ a little more”? See the source image   

The consequence of trying to accommodate a well functioning body with the hubristic aggrandizement of the mortal brain has presented Giancarlo with the debacle he is faced with at the present time. His extremely closed-stance does not allow for his hips to freely and fluidly rotate through his previously prodigious hitting zones .His hips now stop half-way through their range of motion, forcing his shoulders and upper body to disassemble his powerful “vertical-axis,” and have his arms work independently  from their main power-source – his body.  On inside fastballs, he can’t bring his body through the contact point. Then, on breaking balls away, he unwittingly finds his hips opening too quickly when the pitch starts inside. And, as the pitch is moving away, he is in no position to use his “spent-body,” and flails away with his arms.

Apparently he and his teammates are presuming his dreaded slump is over. But his Home Runs against Houston on Wednesday, May 2 were the result of his natural athletic prowess and Keuchel’s mistakes. Even though his hips only proceeded to the half-way point, he somehow waited long enough to stretch his powerful arms in the direction of that outside pitch and mustered a “not so propitious drive” into the short Right Field stands – Hoorah!

His second Home Run was off a breaking pitch inside and low, where his prematurely-spent opened hips were in the right position for his lunging upper body to facilitate the downward action of his powerful arms and hands to flick a “screaming-mimi” into lower section of Houston’s short Left-Field pavilion. He also had a double on a subsequent at-bat, and a 4 RBI night. It was a well-acclaimed performance based solely on his natural athletic prowess and uncommon strength. Let’s see if his next games are as fortuitous as Wednesday’s.

If however, he would like to feel confident that he is more than a physical phenomenon who can sporadically excite the fans with heroic feats of monumental proportion, and consistently refrain from becoming the tragedian embodiment of epic disillusionment, he must first “change the way he looks at things (baseballs) so he can clearly see the things at which he is looking. Then, he must apply the “Perfect Principle of Perfect Practice to his otherwise mechanical advantage of hitting a baseball.

When Adrian Beltre was with the Dodgers, his stance was opened, and he was erratic in batting effectiveness. Later, he changed to a closed stance, and eventually became the potential Hall of Famer he is today, after making adjustments to a closed-stance that is not so extreme as Giancarlo’s.

In watching Giancarlo take batting practice for a television commercial, he was in a moderately closed or even stance, and took no stride at all, and successively hit scorching ascending line-drives that went over the fence. He should use that same approach in games, except address the pitcher in a lower stance, for a lower center of gravity which will assure quickest possible reaction, like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds did.  

Coming Soon: Yu Darvish, then Aaron Judge.

Part 4 – “Unified Field”… Fielding: Infield!

The three major components in effecting the proper technique for fielding a baseball on the infield are these: balance, vision, and power. As play is initiated, fielding readiness implies being in a low balanced position, eyes focused on the point where the ball would contact the bat, and the body responding to that instant with preliminary movement to brace himself in anticipation of the ball being hit to “him.” If it becomes evident that the play is “his,” the preliminary action sets the stage for a quick sequence of smooth, rhythmical, ballet-like movements that follow, in preparation for engaging the on-coming ball, as well as completing the play to its entirety.
An infielder establishes stability and balance to perform his task when his center of gravity is low. His ability to see the ball most clearly is determined by the extent to which his eyes are on a parallel level to the ball, and the degree to which the body and head maintain a stable vehicle for proper focus. Power is generated most effectively with the body in a stable, balanced position, from which all movements can be produced most speedily, and with a minimum strain to accompanying body parts.

If the outfield can be a lonely place to play, the infield is just the opposite in that there is a more heightened sense of camaraderie as well as imminent expectation. Players are in close proximity to each other. They talk to one another. They communicate more easily. They don’t seem to have a great need to be highly creative; they usually have more action than they want or can handle. Rather than having to be “fast” runners, their effectiveness is determined by how “quick” they are in a confined area. They don’t cover vast territory, but must be extremely adept at moving laterally with quick bursts to handle “bullet-like” projectiles with the courage, confidence, and agility of a “mongoose.”

“Ballerina-like” footwork and the hand and finger dexterity of a heart surgeon typify the common physical characteristics of a professional infielder. There is one quality that no infielder can be without—Courage! All infielders have it. It’s never a case of one having more than another. It is only a question of whether or not he’ll “muster it up” consistently, on every ball hit, as evidenced in the occasional “Ole.”
The best infielders use every conceivable means to gain an advantage over the ferocious ground-ball that would like to “eat them up.” Fielding ground balls properly involves a physical procedure which runs contrary to every human instinct to self-preservation—to lean forward as low as possible to the turf while a hard hit grounder is approaching your position. It’s like going nose to nose with a rattlesnake. Now, the procedure is sound because it allows the fielder a sure tracking view from ground level.

A tennis player returning a serve, and a batter attacking a pitched ball, understand the value of seeing the in-coming object on a parallel level. But an infielder has the added dimension of coping with the traumatic possibility that the ball could easily pop up and “bite off his nose,” loosen some teeth, or cause irreparable damage to his prospects for video endorsements.
Third and First basemen hold down positions referred to as the “hot corners.” Playing “even” with their respective bases, these two infielders are closer to the batter than any one besides the pitcher and catcher. But only the pitcher is subject to more hazardous ballistic encounters with a baseball than the third and first basemen. Since there are more right-handed batters in all of Baseball, then presumably a third baseman would be in possession of the hotter of the “hot” corners. But in general, the sense of “imminent responsibility” is the same, especially when the first baseman “holds” the runner.
While the choreography involved in fielding ground-balls amongst infielders is generally the same, there are subtle differences in “prep-time” (stance, as pitch is being delivered) between the “hot-corners” and “middle-infielders.” Time and speed are always of the essence. For obvious reasons, to be able to respond quickly at the “corners,” those fielders assume a “tunnel-vision” mentality, positioning their bodies with a low center of gravity with eyes focused at the point where the bat is likely to strike the ball to force it in their directions. The low positioning of the body is for heightened anticipation that the ball will be hit on the ground where the eyes are able to make more acute visual contact. Anything other than a solidly hit “grounder” is a welcomed sight to any infielder. The adjustment to “lined-drives” and “pop-ups” is minimal, hence nothingmuch to fear. However, much applause is heralded by all onlookers after a leaping or lunging third or first “sacker” spears a wicked “lined-shot.”
The shortstop and second baseman can assume a more relaxed posture as the pitch is being delivered because they are farther away from the batter and have a panoramic view of the entire infield, which facilitates a surer sense of how the ball will come off the bat. If the ball is hit to either player, he quickly assumes the characteristic fielding position, body lowered and “face to the ball,” then glides through the ball while preparing to engage the “throwing mechanics.”
The rhythm which all infielders develop when learning to “attack” the infamous batted-ball is a defensive-mechanism established to preoccupy thought from petrifying with fear the mind of the inanimate body. It’s like reverse psychology! The more fearful you are, the more you must look to be fearless. Animated body parts unconsciously convey this message. No one is totally fearless, but a sense of confidence does much to deny fear its manifestation—hesitation, misjudgment, over-anxiousness, mental and physical error.
Confidence is enhanced as one becomes assured of his ability to counteract the undermining element that elicits fear. Quick reflexes of head, neck, and hands are the usual defenders against the perpetrator of fear on the infield—that little bolt of “white lightning.”
Being hit in any part of the body by a thrown or batted baseball is not an experience that most individuals anticipate with relish. In fact, there are many instances where prospective players of the “game,” from “little-league” to “college-ball,” decided to “hang-em-up” after being hit too many times (or even once). An outstanding 250 pound line-backer on a prominent college football team, who never hesitated taking on 300 pound line-men or powerful running-backs (or even a “Mack-Truck”) stopped playing baseball in high-school because he couldn’t get over the thought of being hit by that little white, 5 ounce, leather-bound projectile.No sane person would intentionally subject himself to the continuous prospect of physical abuse unless there was a sense of tangible hope for lessening the chances of undesirable engagement. The only legitimate solution to “the dilemma” is a “skill-development” progression that affords an “inoculatory-effect” by decreasing physical intensity and promoting a build-up of resistance to the initial, overwhelming, mental effect that the image of the “Hard-Ball” projects.
Little-leagues” have increased enrollment recently by prudently affecting the density of the ball used at their lowest levels of play, to protect their youngest prospects from experiencing the debilitating trauma of hard-ball contusions that could curtail their desires to continue to learn the game. This “inoculation period” enables the players to develop the initial skills with less trepidation, and hopefully become proficient enough to counteract the effects of higher intensity in the future. Since “Fear” is what ultimately impedes progress of every sort, any tool that would lessen its effects could only be thought of as positive and promoting a better, more healthful learning environment for any of life’s endeavors (fielding ground-balls and batting included).
Ultimately, if you’re going to play Baseball you have to either overcome or cope with the fear of “ball-contact.” The “Seasoned—Veteran” has learned to “shrug it off” as merely part of the game that his sharply defined reflexes can help him cope with most of the time. The “Metaphysically-astute Veteran” seems to be able to overcome the physical trauma by denying that it has any affect on him by showing his disdain with stoic indifference.
At this point of considering the means to establishing optimal fielding prowess it may become evident that playing the game of Baseball at the highest level may not be for everyone. But the opportunity to get to that point and realize what it really takes to become a “big-leaguer” is a valuable lesson for which to hold enormous pride and appreciation for having gone through one of life’s human gauntlets that will no doubt serve one well in any future challenging encounters.

Coming Soon: A New Series entitled – Assisting those who would and should be Great, to BE GREAT! First three candidates will be Giancarlo Stanton, Yu Darvish, and Aaron Judge.