Mapping Out Each Hitters Development Plan - Part 2: Assess & Correct Your Players Physical Limits
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
This next portion of the development plan is going to focus on the physical aspect of your players. What's been hot going around the baseball world from Dr. Greg Rose of TPI is "why guess when you can asses?"
Whenever breaking down or evaluating a player, it becomes much easier to find the answers when you already know the why. Why is the hitter losing his front side? There is probably a stability issues in his ankles or core. Or why is he so quick to get to foot strike? Could be the same issue with core stability and may have trouble controlling his pelvis. Why is he struggling to get separation at foot strike? Well that is also probably due to his inability to control his pelvis. Which is going to leave power on the table for you, you won't be able to transfer the energy you build up and transfer it through your swing efficiently. Luckily myTPI provides a free screening at http://www.mytpi.com/articles/screening that I have been able to use and provide a good baseline. Ideally you have a strength coach with great knowledge of the human body that can assist with greater detail. If you don't have access to one, you will need to be able to diagnose the inefficiencies within your hitters and correct the mobility and stability issues your hitters will face.
There are other assessment resources to use. FMS testing has been sort of the "gold standard" for many years but times are changing and humans evolve. New resources develop and myTPI, OnBaseU are catered to ball strikers and their movements. FMS screening is better than no screening!
More importantly is to document this screening to evaluate if any improvements were made throughout the month, fall season or entire season.
Next is developing a plan for your hitters to improve the mobility or stability inefficiencies and issues they are dealing with. We will take player 1 (Johnson) in this case and start from top to bottom in what I would do to help correct his issues.
First you notice his bridge test, he is inhibited on both his left and right leg. He is losing power due to weakness in his glutes and struggling to recruit his hamstring muscles, with probably lacking some stability in his core. Now this particular hitter is a pretty good athlete, he runs very well and at solid size of 6'0" 180 lbs. The power he does display is typically driving gaps, but he is pretty much a low line drive/ground ball hitter who will occasionally run into a double or triple by driving the gaps. Hitting the wall is a rarity for this particular hitter. Now what if we improve his stability with his core and help build his glute muscles up to recruit more of his hamstrings muscles? I really like the split-stance med ball scoop I was able to learn from an Eric Cressey Seminar in Jupiter, FL during the same week of a Perfect Game WWBA Event 2017 for only $20! Anyway the med ball drill is below.
It's working on the recruitment of the lower half muscles while also stabilizing the the core and pelvis. Another drill I like to really focus on getting into the glute is the stepback drill:
The next thing you will notice that Johnson struggled with was wrist pronation. I think this is really important when talking about bat path and ensuring hitters have the ability to control the barrel through the zone. Many times hitters simply lose the barrel through the zone and will mishit a ball, which causes them to think there was some mechanical flaw behind them mishitting them. When in turn they may have just lost the barrel, I have seen it many times. Hitters swinging weakly through the zone, due to early unhinging of the wrist in bottom hand. I also think it will give hitters trouble of staying on plane or getting on plane late if they have low planar efficiency at times because of those limitations of pronation from the bottom hand will fight against the top hand. Some drills I like are below to help correct this issue:
1. Frisbee drill - Putting frisbee in the bottom and going through the swing motion and trying to get good flight to the right corner of the cage. Wish I had video of this and even tried searching for a video of one but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for.
2. Wrist strengthening with bat tilts - Holding the bat at the end of the handle and rotating it side to side getting to the 90 degree angle to strengthen the wrist for pronation and supination.
3. Bottom Hand Bat Path - You can use a normal bat, short bat, frisbee, or speed cone. Really the biggest thing here ensuring the hitter knows which part of the instrument is making contact with the baseball. I like to chunk this drill into separate parts. From initial movement of swing to contact, from contact to finish, and half way from initial movement to contact to shorten up the feel and really focus on the portion through the hitting zone to contact. We really just want to be able to breakdown the movement of the swing to build the correct bat path for the hitter by having him able to repeat the bath without losing the barrel. A video to where I stole the idea from is below:
The next issue Johnson faced was his lack of hip mobility from the lower quarter rotation test. This is going to cause some restrictions in separation for him at launch, he will not be able to generate as much torque as possible which will limit his bat speed and allow him to use what core strength he does have. There may also be some issues with your hitters if they are lacking hip mobility and in Johnson's case it is internal and external mobility. Johnson struggled getting into the back hip and maintaining his posture because his hips were fighting him so much in his load which he was prone to coming out of his legs and losing power. In turn it would also push him forward to early towards the pitcher which also made it difficult to produce good separation and maintain tension in his load. These are some drills I would use to correct the issues:
1. Start with improving the mobility of the hips and I love this drill from TPI. It is so easy to get done in some early work or even in the locker room before practice, but especially in the weight room would be great to tackle this. There are many different variations to the bird dog exercise, by also adding internal rotation. Along with a bent knee raise.
2. Fire Hydrants - This video is not the best quality from the camera man but it is defined very well and helps improve over all hip mobility from Joe Defranco who is pretty well known in the strength industry.
3. After tackling the hip mobility issues, I would move into disassociating the hips and torso to help create better separation. I have another video from TPI but I can't help but not use their effective and research based teachings. What's great is alot of these exercises can be used as warm-ups for these specific players. After assessing each hitter individually and knowing what they need to improve you can assign them all separate active warm-ups to begin the improvements on their mobility and stability issues.
4. PVC Pipe separation drill - I like this one and do not have a video, so I will explain best I can. Holding a long PVC pipe that is "stuck in the ground" in front of your back foot. Holding the PVC pipe with you hands at about shoulder height. while keeping your hands on the PVC pipe throughout the swing. You focus is to fire your back hip towards the pitcher. I use this to help create the feel of that separation.
Now I could keep going to break down each hitter and each of the inefficiencies they possess, but that will be a really long read. The biggest takeaway to understand, if you truly want to maximize your time spent of the field when really you are limited to about an hour and a half, maybe two hours if your lucky? Each player shouldn't be going through the same active warm-up as the entire team. I understand there is a team aspect and team building needs to be done but it shouldn't be during the players active warm-up. That is the foundation to their day and their movements can be primed for an extremely productive day of progressing through their inefficiencies. We can cut down that players development from half a season to maybe a month? Or maybe a month to two weeks? Each coach might need to be there along with the strength coaches to help with the hitters active warm-up coach them through their form. It is no longer just the strength coaches responsibility to help the hitters move well and become more mobile. The hitting coach should have a good grasp on how to improve each particular hitters mobility. That is your duty as a coach, have a grasp and concern over every aspect of that players development.
Side note: I will say after being exposed to K-Vest yesterday and learning the value of it tracking your kinematic sequence to again, SEE HOW THE BODY MOVES, it is an unbelievable game changer to pair with video and your movement screenings. It will also help you track the development along the way. Even more there are corrective exercises within the program to help improve where the inefficiencies in that hitter may lie. It is nothing short of incredible.