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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.
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.
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.
There is no denying that Mike Schmidt was a great competitor and eventually, a great hitter, but I have found in my experience that most elite players don't know how or what they do and certainly can't teach it in a manner that most of us can follow. It seems that Mike contradicts himself in this article and also says some misleading statements. The so called rotational swing being taught, or trying to be taught today, is not necessarily being taught to make everyone a home run hitter. The "swing" of today has been around since Joe Jackson, Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Chipper Jones, even Mike Schmidt himself. Also, if you look close at swings today, most, if not all, ARE short and compact. There aren't a lot of Griffey Jr. long swings out there and before I hear that Jr. had a great swing, I am not saying he didn't. I am just saying his was a longer swing than most. 95% of MLB Hall of Famers and current players swing "rotationally" and the MLB swing of today is really a combination of linear and "rotational". This type of swing allows the hitter to put the path of the bat on the plane of the pitch for a much longer period of time than the "chop down" suggestion of Mike or anyone else. This allows for the batter to have a greater chance to make contact than chopping down at the ball suggested by this article and Mike. It begs the question by another big leaguer and hitting instructor/analyst: "Do we teach what we really see?" A lot of of MLB players tend to repeat what hitting coaches say to them, which the hitting coach tends to repeat what was said to him by people that did not have the luxury of slow motion analysis. Unfortunately, most of it is misleading or just plain disinformation. If you study Mike's swing in this clip - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKuEkL8UVck -, or most of the other great hitters in MLB history in slow motion, you will see that there is a slight downward path from where they hold their hands before swing launch and then an adjustment is made to get the bat path on the plane of the pitch; which the pitch is coming at a slightly downward angle, thus the bat travels on almightily upward path. Notice I did not say uppercut. This allows for a greater area to make contact with the ball. Maybe this is what they are really trying to say. Unfortunately, most people interpret that as take the knob of the bat to the ball, or hands to the ball, or chop down to hit the ball.
No question Mike was a great player once he "got it"...I read his book too and he says that it took him a while. You gotta respect the attitude of working hard and making yourself a great player. Salute.
PS: you can teach swing path and short, quick, and powerful rotational technique/mechanics at the same time.
Well said Richard....The rotational mechanics occur when the energy is driven correctly from the back side to the baseball. Unfortunately, over the years some baseball people have given these mechanics a bad name because of the way they are taught (such as Squishing bugs, spin on the back foot, turn your hips, etc...) Any type of conscious effort to force a rotational movement will indeed flaw the result. It's not about the movement it's about what is being accomplished through that movement.
Great points. I work side-by-side with Jack most of the year. He is a great influence on the kids. I clearly believe it is the hand path that guides the swing and one of the things I struggle with to teach kids all the time. But there are several issues that dictate it, rotation being just one. If your hitter has a great path but no lower body rotation, his hands get out in front and it's an all arm swing and he will produce a "check mark" type swing (down then up with the hands) or roll too early with his top hand. If your hitter has great lower body rotation his hands will lag behind and he will tend to pull off the ball with his front side and/or collapse his backside. Rotation and hand path are closely intertwined (approach notwithstanding) and must happen almost simultaneously. Easier said than taught, at any level.
At the major league level and/or professional level (that I played at back in the day), pitchers did not throw as hard. I grew up in the Perconte/Charley Lau (1980's) era of linear hitting. That approach simply doesn't work anymore with a pitcher throwing 95 mph. Hitters had to adapt. They did. They became more rotational because they had to. They needed to get quicker to the ball. However, 95% (or more) of all major leaguers get into the same "hitting position" at stride landing. That is, with their hands up off their back shoulder at shoulder height. It stands to reason that if the strike zone is from the waist and below, the hitter has to start his hands initially on a downward path to the pitch.
Without getting into too much detail, two strike hitting is a must that should be practiced. I don't normally teach situational hitting until the boys' teen years because they don't normally have a clue about it, nor do their coaches, and the majority have a hard enough time just trying to make solid contact. But when I start, it is eye opening. I might as well be speaking chinese. Bottom line is you are trying to get your hitters in the habit of controlling the barrel and looking for specific pitches in specific situations to produce a specific result. Until your hitters can completely control their bats, practicing this is futile and can be frustrating for the hitter.
Believe me I am not one of those people that think things were always better back in the day, but I miss guys that truly adapted. I actually changed hitting styles from rotational to linear in my big league days, depending on what was working at the time - rotational hitting is not a modern phenomena - swinging all out, even with two strikes is the modern phenomena.
If rotational hitting is the adaption guys made to catch up to the speed - it hasn't worked - strikeout rates have risen greatly - adapt means to do things that work - adaption would mean more contact and better hitting not less and worse hitting - they changed because the game changed into a homerun driven game and away from the get on base and speed game - guys got big, parks got small - do u mean George Brett and the Lau guys couldn't hit in the modern era - power made sense at that level because the agents and sabermetric guys said it made sense - maybe they are right, but it had nothing to do with the speed of pitching - there are more power pitchers today but some threw that hard back in the day and guys truly adapted by not trying to hit the ball a mile with two strikes on them. I get tired of seeing so many strikeouts without adjusting, as Mike Schmidt's point - Kids grow up believing its all about homeruns and power - dad's don't understand why their kid doesn't hit the ball farther - swing hard in case u hit it is the current state of hitting at the big league level and Mike Schmidt and I do not like it - hard to watch. There are a few that still adjust with two strikes like Konerko, Jeter, but they are few and far between.
What is it about rotational that leads to more strikeouts? In MLB, the strikeout is now just accepted as just another out. In some ways that is true, but at youth levels if you put the ball in play, you have a good chance of getting on base.
Watching the playoffs and World Series, it was shocking to see the Red Sox strikeout 10-15 times a game and keep winning.
Agreed - rotation, as all hitters must do - but without much weight transfer, spinning so to speak - does not keep the front side on the ball for long so contact is limited especially on outer half pitches - that is an acceptable way of hitting for those with power but to see lead off guys and singles hitters strikeout so much without knowing how to adapt and make contact is what is bothersome - home runs pad the checkbook, strikeouts come with that
Great answer Dave - agreed
Correction....Its not uncommon for MLB players to not stride at all, hense heal to guys like harper, to allow for their back knee to drive and rotate the hips. Hand path is NOT linear, neither is the follow though....trying to justifly linear hitting by finding things in a swing that are linear does not translate... The mistake you are describing by pulling balls weakly is really hitters inability to let outside pitch get deeper...a good rotational hitter will be on path even if they let the ball get deeper will still have power to drive the ball over the infielders because they create good torque...a linear hitter will slap the ball on the ground and will never have the path to get the ball over the infield. Also pulling balls fowl is usually a linear hitters issue because they often get their hands out and around. A well schooled rotational hitter has a much better chance to hit that inside pitch because they get their hips open quickly allowing them to get their hands inside the ball with the power to drive the ball. You can justify rotational mechanics for most pitches in the zone.....There is a reason why there are no more linear hitters..
One true belief of mine is that "Seeing the ball deeper is easier said than done." When we talk about seeing the ball deeper we are talking about 6-8 inches. That equates to seeing the ball for about 1/1000th of a second longer. That's why I dislike phrases such as , "See it deeper and See it longer". That's quite an adjustment you're asking a hitter to do for 1/1000th of a second." Instead, a hitter should know which part of the strike zone he is looking for when ahead in the count (Middle-in or Middle-away). Therefore, he can tunnel his vision and track pitches to that area of the zone while shielding out the unfavorable area. This allows him to know whether his contact point is deep in the zone or out in front.
When a hitter tries to cover everything from the inside strike to the strike on the outer half, he has about 1/2 second to determine where his contact point needs to be. This is after recognizing the location of the pitch.
Good point! This is why the hands DO take a somewhat linear line at the central part of the swing. I don't know what Dave is talking about that there are no more linear hitters. There were NEVER pure linear hitters, and there are NOT any pure rotational hitters. This whole argument over rotational or linear is BS. Both movements are present in good swings. A top view will show an elongated arc, kind of like a parenthesis mark. Similar to a good tennis swing. Keeping the hands inside allows the bat to take this arc which is slightly stretched and outward moving at the center. This allows greater plate coverage and a more compact hitting zone. In other words, the inside pitch can be hit deeper in the zone, and the outside pitch earlier. Any adjustment is purely instinctive and driven by the pitch speed and location. Instead of 6 - 8 inches, the difference becomes 3 - 5 inches for example. The bat path is such that you can cover the inside on the back half and the outside on the front half. Then you don't worry so much about whether the contact point is deep or out front. It's also why you see MLB hitters pull the outside pitch with authority. They don't roll over like every lower level coach would have you believe. A purely rotational swing would not allow that to be possible. The bat head would pull out of the zone too early, and the outside pitch would be popped up, topped, or missed altogether. Mark Texeira comes to mind as a great example of what I'm talking about. He can reach the outside and hit it with just as much authority as the inner half. Even pulling homeruns. Some coaches will argue that his is a rotational swing. But if look closely, the barrel takes an inside to outside approach, THEN rotates back out just after contact. Every coach who argues otherwise shows video of guys turning on the inside pitch. Of course it's rotational, the bat has to take a shorter path to catch that pitch as deep as possible then lift. Basically, it's always the same swing. The only thing that changes is how long the barrel stays in the zone to get to contact.