Effective Velocity Roots in Softball
Most 16 year old baseball players are involved in travel ball or some type of off-season training program after their high school season ends. We didn’t have any of those things in my area when I was 16 so I played men’s fast-pitch softball because it was the closest thing I could find to stay in shape. My first at bat was against a pitcher that was throwing about 80 MPH from 46 feet. The reactionary time of this elite level fast-pitch softball pitcher was a joke. My first hit was a semi hard hit line drive to the opposite field; the only problem was I thought I pulled it. I was so late that my bat simply ran into the ball or the pitcher ‘hit my bat’, however you want to look at it. Either way, my understanding of what caused hitters to make solid contact was born.
I realized, although not readily admitting it, that it was not me that got that hit, pitcher error was to blame whether he was aware of that fact or not. I continued to play in the off season all throughout my high school career and then after my pro career ended I played almost 10 years and was part of a couple of national championship teams at the lower B and A levels, as they were called then. It was through fast pitch softball that I first understood Ev Tunnels and the idea of Ev Illusions as well as what quick reaction time truly meant.
Collegiate Softball & Ev
In about 2010, Missy Lombardi was introduced to Ev through the baseball pitching coach at Oklahoma at that time, Fred Corral. She worked through a lot of the conversion from baseball to softball as well as piecing together a pitching plan that was based on her understanding of Ev. Skip ahead a few years and she reached out to ask if I could help her with a presentation she was giving using Ev. We talked for many hours about her presentation and soon after, I began working directly with her to give her a deeper understanding of the science.
From MLB Network after their NCAA Championship in 2016, Missy Lombardi’s quote on their usage of Ev. This was the same episode that Drew Thomas, pitching coach from Coastal Carolina’s NCAA Champions, was being interviewed on his use of Ev through their run.
Eventually, I went to a game in person to watch and was introduced to Patty Gasso, head coach and JT Gasso the hitting coach. JT quickly became a very astute Ev minded hitting coach and Missy simply had the best understanding of Ev in softball. Their success is widely known and respected even if their use of Ev might not be.
Rachel Garcia Freshman of the Year to Player of the Year (twice)
Everyone in the softball world is aware of Rachel Garcia’s level of success. She was Freshman of the Year at UCLA and had been working out at my home facility with Todd Budke, USA Men’s National Team Captain and arguably the best hitter for a decade in men’s fast-pitch. They didn’t work on mechanics at first because she was concerned about changing any mechanics that would possibly go against the hitting philosophy at UCLA.
I met Kelly Inouye-Perez, head softball coach at UCLA, as a ‘fly on the wall’ at a meeting with a vendor who had asked me to sit in to get familiar with his product. Kelly began asking me about my involvement with the company and I said I was only observing. She asked about my world and things got a bit crazy. She was just starting to embrace the world of measurement and our meeting could not have been better timed. Ev was the originator of the concept of detailed metrics to explain softball hitting and pitching success or failure and she was on a quest for just that. Kelly was very intrigued and asked me to do some video with Rachel to give her a better idea what Ev was all about. With her next session with Todd, we did some before and after filming in a very quick 30 minute session. We tested off the tee, heavy ball and live pitching Exit Velocity and Launch Angle, asked her to try some simple adjusted swing movements and then re-tested.
Rachel Garcia, back to back Player of the Year doing a before and after session that resulted in an 11 MPH Exit Velocity increase off the tee and her live pitch Exit Velocity ‘average’ was the same as her maximum in the before round. She topped out at 75 MPH with an average of 68 MPH before and averaged her top out in the after round. Sometimes we get lost in the top eV but the average is really the key.
Rachel added 11 MPH to her Exit Velocity (eV) off the tee, 5 MPH to her live pitch eV and her Launch Angle improved fairly dramatically as well. This was in that one session, not over weeks or months of training. Kelly liked what she saw and we went to work helping her and the staff understand more and more about Ev. I think both Rachel’s and UCLA’s success speaks for itself, huge props to her individually. She is a standout in a very talent rich environment at the collegiate level today. It is no accident that UCLA and Oklahoma battled it out in the finals of the Women’s College World Series this year. Congratulations to both teams and Rachel for their amazing seasons.
A different day, we set up a filming session for her pitch flight to help do an example as to how to use Ev to create more deception. We will discuss that element when we get the pitching membership set up for softball.
Missy Lombardi – New Program
As the softball world knows, Missy Lombardi is now the head coach at the University of Oregon. One of the most impressive coaching feats I have seen in the game was how she and the staff rebounded from a devastating loss of so many of their star players leaving to follow their former coach. They made a great showing in their first tournament of the year and had some key wins throughout the season (including UCLA), even though their lineup was very young and not experienced at the highest NCAA level. I think you will see some very impressive things in the future with their team. I am looking forward to some ongoing work with their staff to explore some very advanced experiments utilizing their extremely high tech lab in the near future.
Softball Open Minded Approach
As a young instructor, the few softball hitters I worked with each year had an obvious difference in the way they looked at things. There was an open mindedness that was very impressive. Baseball coaches and players have a little tougher time opening up to change that goes against the current. Baseball has many biases that are not founded 100% in fact, even in today’s high tech phase of the game. For example, most professional pitching approaches include a strong focus for creating groundballs. While there are some advantages to a pitcher that keeps the ball on the ground, there are some other not so obvious down sides. Groundball eV goes up on low FBs intended to induce groundballs. The low away focus for FBs also makes them easier to predict, as well as the fact the deception and Ev speed differentials suffer. There are actually over 20 reasons why the low FB approach designed to induce the almighty groundball is flawed.
I won’t dive too deeply into that today but I ran a simple study of all flyballs from 2014 to 2019 (5 ½ seasons) in Statcast and the batting average is .109 on all flyballs that stayed in the yard. When you include pop ups with flyballs, the BA is .084 for almost 6 seasons. The groundball BA is .255 over that same period which means that MLB hitters are about 3 times more likely to get a hit on groundballs than flyballs that are not home runs. Baseball is in love with a stat that is misleading them on multiple levels.
Pitching at Coors Field Every Game
Softball pitchers are throwing in stadiums that feature the same fence distances as when they were in youth level. With around 200 ft. fences and many equidistant to all fields, softball is like pitching at ‘Coors Field’ every game……….only worse. Hitters can hit a bomb just as easily to any field so there is no relief in sight. MLB pitchers at Coors Field fear the flyball and try to induce groundballs. When pitchers focus on groundballs, they are like a basketball player who tells the opponent he is going to go right all night and then do it. Hitters simply kill the pitches that are designed for groundballs, which is why homers are at an all-time high (again), even though the focus is on getting more groundballs.
Ev Softball Focus is on ‘Timing’ not Groundballs
Ev softball pitchers and coaches don’t have that same hang up. They simply know that 100% timing with 100% swing efficiency is the enemy, not flyballs. In fact, if I had to focus on one type of batted ball over another (which I don’t even though it seems to be in the rule book) I would shoot for medium to weak flyballs. Oklahoma lead the nation in fielding percentage due to the fact they had so many pop ups. Since Missy’s days there in Oklahoma, they lead the nation many times in fielding percentage and Jennifer Rocha has followed suit with a pitching plan that lead the nation in Team ERA of 1.06 (not a misprint). One year the announcer during the Women’s College World Series said 75% of Oklahoma’s outs were pop ups………Ev Liquid Analytics.
Ev minded softball pitchers have no fear of flyballs or love of groundballs. They compete to keep hitters from being 100/100, letting the flow of the at bat be ‘liquid’ like its nature. A rigid analytic or data driven approach can’t ebb and flow with the at bat and reading the hitter’s timing. It is only a matter of time before this is understood in baseball but in the meantime, softball has embraced the idea at the very highest level. Ev is the first ‘applied analytics’ in baseball or softball so it isn’t analytics OR Ev, they are one in the same only Ev is the advanced ‘Liquid’ version.
New Ev Softball Membership & Ev Remote Softball Training
Working with MLB coaches and players has been done remotely, almost exclusively. There is no time with travel etc…. to keep up in person. Every 3 days, there are 12 or 13 new pitchers hitters may face and no time to get caught up with them in person. Remote video work is super effective because it hits players on multiple levels of learning – audio/visual/kinesthetic.
We have developed online video courses that are very successful at getting players and coaches to understand the Ev concepts in baseball and softball specific. Many coaches have shared the advantages of having video that explains the concepts much deeper than books can.
I have been asked to speak at the Cindy Bristow Pitching and Hitting Summit this next month and I am very much looking forward to the events (hitting and pitching separately). Looking forward to seeing some of you there and for those that will not be in attendance, I am offering a discount to the Softball Online Courses for the next few days as well as introducing a new membership for softball hitting.
I am happy to introduce a new video hitting membership program for softball. Together with Todd Budke, we will do a weekly deep dive into many elements of swing mechanics, timing and pitch recognition as well as drills for every facet of training hitters. There will also be multiple tips and drill videos as well. Eventually we will get into the most advanced levels of hitting training, game planning and pitcher profiling but we will start with some myth busting with swing mechanics.
We have 2 seasons of episodes written and will be doing some live demos as well as video examples of drills and concepts of the swing that may be very different than some of the accepted norm in the world of softball hitting mechanics. The one thing I will promise however, everything we will include is tested and re-tested at the very highest level of the sport. We will offer a special pre-sale for the week leading into the first episode next week.