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Mike Schmidt: Will they Listen to a Hall of Famer

My new “go to“ line with my hitting students is “Try it, you may end up with a homerun.” Thank You, Mike Schmidt

Hall of Famer, Mike Schmidt just came out with an article on postseason hitting and the state of hitting in general. Mike Schmidt knows hitting and I feel it validates much of what I teach, but will anything change.

Here is a portion of what Mike writes:

Swinging for the fences is futile. In general, that's the state of hitting today. Hitters aren't accountable, they don't value contact, don't have a "go-to" swing in the arsenal for contact at-bats.

What is a "go-to" swing? It's a swing that produces contact. It gives the hitter the confidence to wait and identify the pitch, and get a piece of the ball with two strikes. It makes a hitter tough to strike out, like Pete Rose or Rod Carew. What happened to hitters like that, hitters tough to strike out?

Mike Schmidt finishes with, “Here's a secret for any hitter reading this: A short, quick chop down-stroke will create contact on any fastball. Try it, you may end up with a home run.”

When people reviewed my book (The Making of a Hitter) on hitting, one refrain was, “Same old stuff,” as many so called experts saw drills promoting a short compact swing and figured it was the “swing down at the ball” hitting approach. Nothing was further from the truth, but my approach does teach contact and swing path first, power later. After all, what is wrong with the hitting techniques of a Tony Gwynn and a Wade Boggs, from my day? If kids struck out at the youth levels of baseball, as the major league players of today, they would have quit the game long ago, or at the least, earned a nice seat on the bench.

In the steroid era, hitting the ball out of sight became the norm, and coaches thought, “Hey, if that rotational-power swing works for them, it is best for all.” Of course, they forgot that only 2% of kids would ever have the power to hit balls over fences. The result has been kids that rotate beautifully, but with little solid contact.

Mike Schmidt - Rock on

No hitting coach denies how important the hip rotation is to a good swing, but a good fundamental swing path is still a major key and necessary to make consistent contact. As Mike says, with two strikes, players should have a “go to” swing, so contact comes. Additionally, no one denies the importance of the home run at the higher levels of ball for run production, but you cannot tell me that more contact would not produce more runs, in the end, especially with men on third and less than two outs. Finally, no one denies swinging hard isn’t important, but there is a way to do it with contact and good results more probable. As Mike says, “You may end up with a home run.” “Amen,” I say.

Mike does give pitchers of today their due, and I agree, as the power arms, with control, are nasty to face , different from my time in the major leagues and all the more reason hitters should adjust.

But come on, they have seen those power arms all year and have had enough time to figure it out. And the hitting coaches, do they not preach a two strike approach, where contact would benefit the team more than swinging for the fences does as certain times? If a hitter has power, let them go for it, until two strikes, but cut down on the swing then. The all or nothing approach is not working. Of course, I have the feeling the coaches coach correctly, but the players of today are not convinced.

As implied, the youth through high school levels of baseball are different, as the home run is not as big a part of the game. It is more reason to teach a shorter compact swing, that puts balls in play and pressure on the defense.

I guess the moral of the story is, when looking for a hitting coach, be sure to find a coach that teaches the swing path first, as a super quick and powerful rotation is useless without consistent contact. Remember major league players, the kids are watching, or maybe not as the games go so late, but that is a story for another day. Mike Schmidt, you rock, for a nobody like me, no one listens, maybe they will for you, a Hall of Famer.

 

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Jack- This is a great topic. 

This statement stands out for me:  "In the steroid era, hitting the ball out of sight became the norm, and coaches thought, “Hey, if that rotational-power swing works for them, it is best for all.” Of course, they forgot that only 2% of kids would ever have the power to hit balls over fences. The result has been kids that rotate beautifully, but with little solid contact.

It's going to be interesting to see if coaches change their approach.  For the past several years, every coach on the planet used an Albert Pujols video as the example. Let's not forget that Pujols is 6'3", 240 pounds.  Does a 5'7", 160 pound 16 year old need to swing like Albert? 

The college game quickly adapted now that BBCOR is the standard.  Contact hitting, bunting and base running is now a big focus with college teams as home runs are way down.

The main thing I take away from this is to coach each player individually. There is not one swing fits all in baseball.

    This is a great topic to discuss.  There is no doubt that striking out as long as you hit for power has become extremely accepted in the major leagues.  A perfect example of this is Mark Reynolds.  Mark Reynolds hits consistent home runs with a very long swing that is engineered to produce power.  The problem with this is that Mark does not have a Mark Mcgwire or Sammy Sosa frame to create this absurd amount of power.  In the steroid era they were turning strong pop-ups into the outfield and into home runs with sheer muscle.  These long swings for home runs have a serious down-side, the strikeout.  I rarely see what I was taught in high school and college, "a two strike swing."  In order to benefit your team and pressure the defense into making a play, and putting the thought of a home run out of your mind you simplify your swing.  One does this by making their swing extremely fundamental and quick to the baseball.  By simplifying your swing and focusing on contact a hitter is aiming to hit a single and making something happen, basically doing his best to not strikeout.  This does not mean that by shortening your swing and going straight to the baseball while using quick hands means to not swing with power.  As a Yankees fan this is difficult to say but one of the only players I see use a two-strike approach is Dustin Pedroia.  He takes big hacks but when he has two strikes it is rare to see a huge hack unless its a miss-pitch down the middle or in an area that you can really drive the ball.  

      I teach my hitters to take strong hacks while staying extremely fundamental in their first two swings and when there are two strikes to "Choke and Poke."  This means to choke up and put the ball in play by using quick hands to drive the ball through the infield.  All we are looking for is a clutch single/double with two strikes, which I think and know is much more effective than striking out by taking the risk to hit a bomb.  A true baseball player is one that will make sacrifices in his power numbers to benefit his teammates.  I feel there is a strong sense of being a "macho-man" stereotype left after the steroid era, which is unfortunate because it is not pure baseball.  

    There were a few teams I played in college where almost every hitter had the same swing.  It was very strange to see.  These were teams that focused so strongly on fundamental hitting without taking huge hacks that the hitters looked strangely similar.  They worked walks and played pure baseball by focusing on hitting the ball square in the middle.  The result of these teams is that they were the opponents that wore the defense and pitching out.  As a defender you have to always be on your toes because the ball is getting hit hard, not necessarily over the fence but throughout the field.  

    Fundamental fielding looks so similar between player to player but it is very interesting that everyone has such a different swing from little league to the MLB, many lacking fundamentals in exchange for power.  

    This is an interesting statement to go out on.  Ken Griffey was one of the best power hitters of all time, yet he had a very long swing, which created many strikeouts, especially in his later career.  If Griffey shortened his swing and tried to only hit for contact he could be close to a .400 hitter with his type of talent in my opinion.  However, what would you prefer to watch?

Bill, I respectfully disagree with your "logic" here. Also, why were home runs way down in College ball with the introduction of BBCOR bats? Because they didn't know how to swing...and they didn't know how to hit with wood bats.  Wait, BBCOR isn't wood, Richard! I know, but they simulate the wood bat. HR's are up now that everyone has made the adjustment to the bat. Granted, they will never be the same when they were using ultra-light allow bats with sweet spots the size of Texas skies.  Heck, even I could hit a HR with those bats and that's saying a lot for how much the bats helped.

Coach's should change their approach to hitting if they are teaching a liner path type swing of the 70's. You mention the 160 pound HS kid shouldn't be swinging like Albert Pujols-6'3"/240lbs. Let's think back a little: Willie Mays was 170 lbs when he was hitting home runs. Hammering Hank Aaron around 170-175. Dusting Pedroia-maybe 165-170lbs at 5'6". The list goes on of smaller guys hitting the gal with power. Maybe not home runs, but with power...aka, hitting the ball hard ingot he gaps! The college game, and HS game for that matter, didn't adapt quickly or otherwise because they have always played a "small ball" game. A lot of coaches still hang on to the "back in the day? when they perceived the game to be tactical...pitching may not have been as strong, or maybe was stronger and they had to bunt, slap, etc, to score because of a softer ball and a higher mound...advantage pitcher...not to mention "astro -turf" venues and very fast runners in the 70's & early 80's.

I agree with your last paragraph/statement in the thought of style vs technique. Not to sound like I am contradicting myself, but there is one swing, but many different styles, such as the way they enter the box, open vs closed stance, hand/arm hitch (Bonds, Hamilton, T. Willaims) hold their hands before toe touch/heel plant then launch, Every player has their own individual style, but 95% or more MLB hitters get to the same fundamental positions of "Launch, Approach, Contact and Power V-Extension". It was down like this back with Joe Jackson, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mantle, and 95% of MLB Hall of Famers, not to mention today's Trout, M. Cabrera, etc.  As the greatest hitter T. Willams said, "The hips lead the hands" is such a true statement and with the MLB swing (as some refer to as rotational), most, if not all do with their best pitch to hit.

Thanks for the great content.  RJL

That was truly an excellent read and thanks for the share! To me, "short to the ball" is one of my favorite baseball expressions. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and this very much applies to the baseball swing. Point A, where you're loaded up, to point B, where you make contact. The only way for this to be a straight line is if the front elbow is pointing DOWNWARD at the very START of the baseball swing. And like Jack said, you don't have to listen to little old me. BUT....it's the first thing that Todd Helton looks at when he's in a hitting slump. Last time I checked, Todd had a .315 lifetime BA. Thanks again for the share.  

Excellent post, it is so frustrating as an umpire to see coaches attempting to turn 5'2" 120 freshmen into power hitters because they don't know how to teach any other way. AMy bible in college was The Return of the .400 Hitter. I was a 5'9" 155 lb college player with wheels and knew I was not going to help my team by trying to jack everything.
I think the biggest issue that goes unaddressed with hitters of all ages is that the hands can be your worst enemy. Think about the four most common flaws with a younger hitter (Bat wrap, Arm Bar, Loop, Cast). All four of these issues are caused by the hands and nothing else. If hitter's a are taught at a young age that keeping the hands "Quiet" while the larger muscles of the body (Legs, Torso))start the swing, the hands will remain in the hitting slot. They will then react in a short, compact manner when launched.

Instead, too many hitters want to SWING the bat and allow their hands to do too much, too soon, taking the larger muscles out of the picture and usually leading to one of the above-mentioned flaws.

Next time you work with one of your hitters, prove to him that his hands are not that important. Have him set the bat on his shoulder and leave it there until his lower half clears, then launch the hands like the shoulder is a launching pad. He will be surprised with the results. Now tell him to take the same approach, just with bat in the hitting slot where it belongs.

Dave-  BRILLIANT! 

They all use the same sequence and start it at the same time.

I like how all these guys have very little head movement during their swing giving them a better chance to hit the ball..

True, to appoint Dave. I would add that head movement stops at heel plant and the body rotates under the axis of the head. With Boggs and Kent, you see more head movement during their weight short, or stride, and then the head stops at heel plant. Pujols has very little head movement because he uses the no-stride.

I watched the videos closely.  I think it's pretty obvious that Gwynn and Boggs both have a MUCH shorter finish.  Gwynn's bat continues around as part of his release, but if you look closely you can see he's already broken down the front side and started his sprint before the bat even comes around.  Pujols and Kent have WAY more extension, making contact out in front.  Gwynn and Boggs are letting the ball travel and are much shorter from launch to contact.  Their extension is after contact, not to it.

The sequence is the same.  It will be for most any good hitter.  But the "business" part of these swings are drastically different.  The contact hitters are relying on about 25-33% of that entire sequence to get to the result.  The power hitters are relying on about 80% of that sequence.

ALL hitters rely on a combination of rotational and linear motion.  The difference is only in where the focus is placed.  Contact hitters tend to allow the ball to travel deeper, giving them a better look, but sacrificing part of the torque being generated.

The swing sequence doesn't change, only the approach.

The whole linear vs. rotational argument is BS in my opinion.  Good contact hitters ARE shorter to the ball, but not because they actually shortened their swing path.  They're simply getting to contact at an earlier point in the swing.

The business parts of all those swings are the exact same. They all start at the same time based on the ball being in flight. In the air.

The extension differences is a timing feature built in to their swings because of having the exact same sequential flow. When a hitter is closer to perfect with his timing of the ball he will have less extension. The extension is how great hitters adjust to differences in speeds and locations.

Extension is a symptom. What must happen is that the top hand has to get turned. Has to be turned. Has to swivel around towards the ball so that the barrel gets behind and to the ball.

Then and only then should extension happen.....AND....that extension or lack of extension will happen based on how well the timing is of the ball.

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