3 Bat Weights – Underload Overload Training Increases Bat Speed
In 2001, I released the Hitting Is A Guess Video with Jay Bell, 2 time All Star shortstop and former ‘roomy’ in the Twin’s organization. In this video, we introduced the concept of using overload and underload training with hitters, as well as using Exit Velocity and Launch Angle as metrics to diagnose swings. The basic idea is to swing the heavy bat to gain strength and to counter the slower movement, the hitter swings a lighter underload bat much faster than normal. This concept has been proven in increasing bat speed and Exit Velocity in hitters but there are many other benefits of this type of training as well.
Multiple elements that are accomplished with ‘small ball training’ and Timing Stix.
- Increased Bat Speed
- Body Timing Enhanced (Inner Timing Adjustment Controls)
- Sweet Spot Awareness Increased (Contact Quality or Hand-Eye Coordination)
- Improved Swing Path
- Enhanced Bat Lag Angle
- Improved Pitch Timing
- Improved Tracking of Pitch Movement
- Training With Proper Amount of Visual Information (small ball at 20’ = baseball @ 54’)
- Practicing At ‘Near’ Game Pitch Angles/Speeds/Movements
Every time you change from your normal weighted bat, over or under weight, you change the inner body timing to a given pitch speed. When you change the bat weight plus vary the pitch speeds, you create a harsh timing atmosphere. Your mind/body has to work much harder to be on time with your ‘A Swing’. The 3 Bat Weight concept was over/under/regular weighted bats as a patented system for training timing, with many by product benefits. Changing bat weights fine tunes the body’s sense of getting the barrel to the ball on time, constantly stretching the mind/body to work together for better timing.
‘Timing’ Stix Training
Timing Stix are small diameter bats that are over/under weight for the previously mentioned benefits of bat speed and timing, but also have several other great benefits. One is enhancing the hitter’s ‘sweet spot awareness’ or their ability to find the center of the ball with the center of the bat. The 1” diameter aluminum bat is used with small golf ball sized foam timing balls. Hitting the center of a golf ball with a 1” diameter bat is challenging enough but now with 3 different weighted bats, even more so. The hitter’s spatial awareness of the bat head, in relation to the small training ball, greatly enhances their quality of contact.
Improving Swing Path or Being ‘On Plane’
The fourth benefit is learning to get ‘on plane’ with the pitch. We have heard a lot about this of late with the Launch Angle craze that is a bit skewed in the understanding of ‘on plane’. Launch Angle enthusiasts preach to hit balls in the air by trying to hit more flyballs at 25-30 degrees. The problem with this theory is that trying to swing up at 30 degrees is not conducive to solid contact and certainly not producing swings that are ‘on plane’ for pitches other than severe downward pitch planes. The evidence is record strikeout levels and weaker groundball and flyball miss hits. Hitters using Timing Stix are forced to have to create the best possible swing plane to make solid contact, there is a very small margin for error.
This swing path is directly in line with the pitch at the top of the zone and at an angle that will produce the optimum Launch Angle.
Bat Lag Angle
The angle that the lead arm and the bat form as the bat enters the pitch path is called the Bat Lag Angle. The longer hitters can hold this angle, the faster the bat is traveling at impact, assuming solid mechanics with the rest of the swing movements. With the traditional heavy bat, trainers have argued that anything over 20% is too heavy and will produce a ‘casting’ effect or an early release of the wrists, losing bat lag and resulting in slower bat speeds. This is actually true, but with a serious training caveat.
This is two videos overlayed, heavy and light Timing Stix swings. The heavy Timing Stick tends to make the hitter release the tension in the wrists early or ‘cast’, fighting against that release is where the benefit lies. Casting is of course not the ideal movement, rather the opposite, however, the struggle to hold the angle longer is the answer.
When a person loses the use of a muscle, to get the muscle working again, the therapist pushes against the muscle, which responds by pushing back. This is a bit counterintuitive but true. With the heavy bat that exceeds the 20% theory, the hitter has to fight harder to hold the bat lag angle and even then, the hitter will cast the bat early. However, it is in the ‘fighting’ trying to hold the bat lag angle longer that creates the effect. When the hitter gets the regular weight bat in their hands, it is much easier to hold the angle longer, thus improving their bat lag angle. To be fair, I must say that without being strict on making sure the hitter is fighting the casting effect, this will actually make the casting a permanent part of their movements. With the proper attention to this pitfall, the hitter will see improved bat lag angles.
Josh Donaldson BP swing – when players hit their hardest balls off the bat, they create bat lag angles that are similar to the above example. This angle creates maximum energy stored in the wrists, creating maximum bat speed at impact.
There are actually a couple of more benefits that are very unique to this type of training. With typical batting practice, ‘game-like’ movement is very hard to reproduce. The small foam balls (XLR8 Timing Balls) are very good at recreating pitch movement in about 20 feet of flight. The pitch speeds can be reproduced to give the best possible simulated game speeds. Of course this can never replace the real live game at bats but it is a lot closer than the standard BP of today, again, not that this is a replacement to batting practice but rather in addition. Pitch Timing is greatly enhanced when you simulate game speeds in BP. Training at or faster than game speeds will help hitters make better decisions in games.
Pitch Angles – Downward Pitch Angle & Lateral Attack Angles
Lastly, you can reproduce the pitch angles that are more realistic as well. Madison Bumgarner creates an angle with his fastball that is not the same as a Kershaw ‘over the top’ delivery. Bumgarner hass a lower release point as well as much more from an angle coming from where the second baseman plays. For all these reasons, the small ball training with the Timing Stix is an integral part of the Ev hit training concepts.
Visual Pitch Information
When a pitcher releases the baseball, it is at about 54 feet from home plate and the baseball looks very small to the hitter, about the same visual information equivalent to a golf ball. So when hitters train using a baseball during soft toss or shortened BP, they are receiving far too much visual data, far too early, to be realistic in the task of identifying pitches. At 20 feet, the rcommended distance for small ball training, the hitter has to work harder to see and identify things about the pitch when the ball is golf ball sized. The hitter needs certain information about the pitch, direction, spin, speed and the eventual location. With close BP and a regular sized baseball, this is far too easy to be game like. At 35 feet, the smaller diameter baseballs are best but at 15-20 feet, the golf ball sized object is closer to the right amount of visual data to make it a little more game like.
The term ‘deep practice’ is from the Talent Code (book by Daniel Coyle) that refers to identifying the most important elements of a skill and really practicing it on a deep level. Others have referred to it as ‘purposeful practice’ and I have described it as ‘practicing the core elements with intent’ or ‘Practicing Precisely’. Regardless of the name, hitters are not training many of the core elements involved with timing multiple speed pitches.
Timing a pitch is a skill set that is not very well understood, most have not even come to grips with the fact that inside and outside fastballs have very different reactionary times. 100/100, 100% on time with 100% efficient swing mechanics, almost never happens in real games. Most hitters at the MLB level only accomplish this task once or twice per season, or 1 in 250-500 plus at bats. One reason is the lack of identifying key elements and then a lack of precise practice. Hitting practice is very shallow in most cases, with hitters working on all the wrong things for the wrong reasons. BP pitchers throw the same wrong speed pitch from the same wrong angle and with the same wrong movement, with a ball too large to hide what pitch it is and something they will never see in real games. The reason is to make the hitter feel comfortable with their own sense of inner timing or ‘body timing’ in Ev Hitting terms. None of this is of value to real game speed at bats.
Would it make more sense to watch a video on a computer to learn reactionary skills or would it be better to take live at bats? Now would it make more sense to take live random at bats without an understanding of what you are doing right or wrong or identifying what the ‘deep’ elements are to practice timing a pitch? Perfect timing requires many things, none of which are being preached right now. This is a highly sophisticated event that is very difficult to perform, especially without the right type of practice.
The small ball training with Timing Stix creates an atomosphere for trial and error necessary to really train the body and brain to work together to learn timing. How are you practicing the most important element of hitting?