Monthly Archives: November 2017

R.I.P. Weighted Bat

Well, the weighted bat thing goes way back. Way back to the ankle weights and wrist weights days. The shorty shorts, the knee-high white tube socks and wide terry cloth head and wristbands days of old. Just as these signs of poor fashion judgment have gone by the wayside, it’s time for the weighted bat as a way of supercharging your bat speed to go away also.

To be more specific, it’s the weighted bat swing training in the cage or in batting practice that needs to go away and not necessarily the heavy bats themselves. A baseball or softball swing is not an equivalent movement to say a squat or a deadlift. The baseball swing is a much more complicated movement, an intricate sequential firing of small and large muscle groups from the trunk to the torso that generates force across a linear and rotational plane. This force culminates at the point where the barrel of the bat makes contact with the baseball and, if all goes right, the ball flies off the bat.

Swinging a heavy bat in bp or in the cage only throws off the balance of muscle coordination a hitter works so hard to develop. Somewhat of a surprise is training with a lighter bat also does significantly increase bat speed. This is a surprise since research supports this methodology in speed training and other similar specific sports skill development. Swinging a bat is a just too much of an intricate physical process.

It takes thousands of correct reps and drills to develop a nice swing. Timing and speed are much more important factors to develop in your swing rather than pure strength. Strength training for a baseball athlete starts with the lower body where explosive strength and flexibility are the keys and moves to the core muscles of the torso. A strong core is essential for any athlete because it acts as a chain to transfer the force generated in the lower body to the upper body. Without a strong core, the energy generated in the load and step portion of the swing is left in the lower body and doesn’t transfer to the bat.

(On a side note, a throwing athlete like a quarterback, a pitcher, or any other baseball position player, should avoid straight military presses or any shoulder weight training which promotes an unbalanced muscle support of the joint. The shoulder joint necessary for overhead throwing motion is susceptible to injury if there is not a balanced training of the muscles surrounding this complex anatomical joint. This subject is a pet peeve of mine in the high school weight rooms where the specific needs of the throwing athlete are often ignored. But THAT is another rant for another day.)

All that negative stuff said, I still like the weighted bat in the on-deck circle for a couple of reasons.

  1. Use the weighted bat or “donut” ring it to get loose with a routine of several windmills front and back using both left and right hands, followed by a side to side rotational stretch.
  2. Mental edge. In the research that showed the use of weighted bats to gain bat speed was false, it was also shown the batter perceived his swing was faster. After swinging a heavy bat, the hitter “felt” his swing was faster. Handling a weighted bat in the on-deck circle can trick your brain into thinking your actual bat is as light as a feather and your swing is lightning fast. I don’t know about you, but give me a shot of confidence in the on-deck circle any day.

Hopefully, as with the Bug Squish, we can put the myth of using the weighted or heavy bat to develop bat speed out to pasture. But unlike the Bug Squish, I think there is value to using a weighted bat or a “donut” weight in the on-deck circle.

And to repeat…

One of the best pieces of coaching advice I can offer is this: Do not simply teach sports skills or coach simply because that is the way you were coached. Times change. Do the work. Research and field testing are constantly making improvements to the what we understand about sports science. Technology gives us access to this information like never before.  Ask questions, search the web, watch coaching video, or attend clinics. Do whatever it takes to give your kids the tools they need to succeed. When the players find success, they enjoy the sport. When they enjoy the sport, you can get more out of them.

Everybody wins!

Next R.I.P topic? Swing repetitions! How many swings at a time is effective? How many is too many? The answers may surprise you.

By Ernest Lawrence Thayer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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GM For A Day: Free Agent Edition

Here’s my rapid free agency analysis of what I’d do as the Kansas City Royals GM For A Day. They missed a great opportunity to trade these players for some future value because they wanted to squeeze a few more marketing dollars from the fan base. Not trading at least the Big Three (Hosmer, Cain, Moustakas) throws the rebuild from a potential 4-5 cycle to probably a 7-10 years cycle. It won’t be another 25-30 year cycle, I promise…

The Royals under Dayton Moore built the modern model of competing in the post-steroid (???) age. Draft well. Trade smart. Put together a core group. Let them lose 90-100 game and slowly get better over next two seasons. Make a run at a championship by bringing in free agent pieces to the big puzzle picture. Don’t get attached, use veterans to get draft picks, retool, and repeat.

The Royals management played the plan to a “T” until it came time to let guys walk out the door. The Gordon signing sent the plan reeling. An organization that should have had at least two World Series championships and four playoffs appearances fell short without even showing their face in the playoffs the past two seasons.

Free agency 2017-2018 needs to be focused on getting back to the plan. Cycle back to first base and start again.

What would old Coach Hays do?

(Royals Free Agent List as obtained from MLB.com)

Eric Hosmer

  • Let him walk and go cry in the closet for a week. I love the way the kid plays, but he’d bankrupt the organization. Signing him at even 75% of his market value will handcuff the organization for years. They could have possibly pulled this off if they’d shown some discipline and let Alex Gordon walk.

Alcides Escobar 

  • Keep. Escobar can be signed for a reasonable amount. He is a proven defender. His offense fits into a 7-9 in the order batter. He’s a known swimming in a swamp of unknowns. Also will allow the club to try and sell the potential of Raul Mondesi for a couple young arms.

Mike Moustakas 

  • Sayonara, Moose! What does Moose’s production mean in terms of “W”s? Not much. Let me put it in simpler terms. He had a club record 38 homers in 2017 and didn’t even crack 90 RBI’s (85). Solo HRs don’t win baseball games.

Lorenzo Cain

  • Walk. He is 31. At this age, he is already physically breaking down. Money spent on Cain might be money spent remodeling the training room.

Jason Vargas 

  • Walk. He doesn’t have the arm stamina anymore and may not get it back. He should have been dealt at the deadline before his arm withered and he floundered the second half.

Melky Cabrera 

  • Walk. He was in the way of younger outfielders. Bringing him in for the second half of 2017 hindered development of Bonifacio, Orlando, and Soler. The future was now for these young guys. Melky was a waste of time.

Peter Moylan 

  • Keep. He showed promise in the bullpen. Ned just wore him to shreds by mid-August.

Trevor Cahill 

  • Keep him & hope to hell he finds himself. (That’s the subject of my next Royals GM for a Day post…Hope to Hell These Guys Find Themselves.)

Mike Minor

  • Keep. At his price point, it would be a waste to not find out what he can do for the next 2-3 years.

So there’s my Royals GM for a Day, Free Agent Edition. What would you do? Please leave your ideas in the comments section. I’d like to read your ideas! And stay tuned for the next Royals GM for a Day, where we’ll look at the returning roster and dream.

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R.I.P. Bug Squish

Squishing the bug.

Man, we used to teach this back in the day. Why? Lord knows!

Let’s squash the bug squish, once and for all. In 2017 terms and technology, it’s embarrassing to admit I fell under the spell of the bug squish back in the early 2000’s. The Load/Step/Swing philosophy of hitting I teach today used to be Load/Squish/Swing of yesterday. It’s crazy the way these things spread.

I don’t know how it happened, but the bug squish got out there in the world and people kept passing it along as the secret to good hitting. Looking back through the lens of speculation, it was probably a remnant of early video analysis or maybe just observation.

When you watch a good swing in real time, it looks like the back foot “squishes the bug”. It can be misinterpreted as this back foot, combined with the old school maxim of “pushing” off the back foot, made the outward twist of the batter’s heel look like the initiator of a good swing. It doesn’t though. The back foot twists after the swing starts and the movement of the force from the front foot strike to the hip rotation result in the back foot movement.

  • The Bug Squish screws up a proper and smooth weight transfer from the load to the step. It leaves too much weight on the back foot and results in a loss of force. And lost force = lost bat speed = not driving the ball on a line = not getting on base = making a lot of outs = not getting on base = not scoring runs = not winning games = NO FUN.
  • The Bug Squish screws up your balance. A good swing is built on the foundation of balance. Bad balance and you cannot build an effective or consistent swing.
  • The Bug Squish screws with a hitter’s mind. The hitter becomes so focused on what that back foot is doing, they don’t put all their focus on the ball.

No matter what the stance or the style, the best swings in the game all share the common factor of a good and consistent hitting position. Hitting position is the key. A simple lower body movement to get to hitting position only becomes a complex movement with the introduction of gimmick BS like the bug squish.

It’s 2017. It’s time to bury the bug squish for good. It’s time to look past these old sports coaching myths. It’s time to simplify hitting a baseball.

One of the best pieces of coaching advice I can offer is this: Do not simply teach sports skills or coach simply because that is the way you were coached. Times change. Do the work. Research and field testing and forward-thinking coaches are constantly making improvements to the what we understand about sports science. Technology gives us access to this information like never before.  

Ask questions, search the web, watch coaching video, or attend clinics. Do whatever it takes to give your kids the tools they need to succeed.

When the players find success, they enjoy the sport. When they enjoy the sport, you can get more out of them.

Everybody wins! Right, Crime Dog?

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