ChrisOLeary.com > Baseball > Hitting > Professional Hitter Analyses > Swing Analysis - Pete Kozma

Swing Analysis
Pete Kozma

Updated 2014.3.2

When I first looked at the clip below of Pete Kozma's swing, the thing that stood out to me was his excellent position at the Point Of Contact (POC).

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma

First, Pete Kozma is in the classic Power L position at the POC. Second, Pete Kozma's lower body also looks good at the POC; his back leg is in the Power L position and his front leg is firm and extending. Finally, Pete Kozma also does a reasonably good job of getting to this position; rather than hitting around the ball, he stays quite compact and connected through the start of his swing.

Of course, when evaluating a swing, it isn't enough to just look at what a hitter looks like at the POC. It's equally important to understand how a hitter gets to the POC, and that is where you can see some problems with Pete Kozma's swing.

The Not So Good

As you may recall, a good swing is 9 to 10 frames to contact when you are looking at a 60FPS clip and it's 5 frames to contact when you are looking at a 30FPS clip.

One underlying problem with Pete Kozma's swing became obvious when I tried to measure the length of his swing by counting the frames from the start of the swing to the POC.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma

Counting from the planting of his front heel in Frame 34 to the POC in Frame 42, you come up with 9 frames, which is quite good.

But there's a problem.

I always do my first frame count by counting frames from the planting of the front heel to the POC. I then confirm that frame count by taking a second pass and looking at when the hands and the bat head start moving around toward the ball relative to the frame in which the front heel plants. I do that to look for one of a number of swing flaws that can create an overly long, top-down, and fundamentally inefficient swing.

The problem with an inefficient swing is that the hitter will be unable to hit the ball hard enough to get on base consistently against major league quality defenses. Despite what many people still say and believe, the vast majority of hitters -- pretty much everybody but Ichiro -- have to hit the ball hard in order to be able to hit better than .220.

As it turns out, Pete Kozma jumps the gun quite a bit; his hands and bat head move quite a bit before his front heel plants.

Matt Carpenter's Hands

One way to understand a hitter's flaws is to compare to another, more successful hitter. As it turns out, if you compare Pete Komza's swing to the swing of teammate Matt Carpenter, you will see some significant differences.

Matt Carpenter's Swing

Matt Carpenter

The clip above shows Matt Carpenter absolutely destroying a ball and hitting it out of the Braves' spring training stadium. The thing to notice is how, as his front heel drops into Heel Plant, Matt Carpenter's hands and the knob stay essentially in place.

He keeps his hands back.

It isn't until his front heel plants that Matt Carpenter's hands start to move forward and down. That is important because it significantly increases the efficiency of Matt Carpenter's swing.

Pete Kozma's Hands

In contrast, if you look at clips of Pete Kozma's swing, you will see something very different; he doesn't keep his hands back. Instead, his hands leak forward and down as he goes into heel plant.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma

Even when he is hitting home runs, Pete Kozma exhibits the same pattern of his hands leaking forward and down, which is likely why his power is so fleeting and inconsistent.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma
Home Run 2012.03.26

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma
Home Run 2012.10.10

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma
Home Run 2013.04.02

Part of the puzzle has to do with Pete Kozma's batting stance. Compared to Matt Carpenter, Pete Kozma is much more upright and erect. As a result, to cover the lower 2/3's of the strike zone, Pete Kozma has to drop down significantly in order to get the barrel to the ball. Obviously, it is going to be hard for a hitter to hold their hands up and back if they have to drop them in order to get down to the ball.

Swing Plane Problems

As in golf, the concept of planes are quite important. It turns out that Pete Kozma has a problem with his planes at the start of his swing. That plane problem serves to lengthen his swing.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma

The thing to notice is how Pete Kozma's bat gets more vertical between Frame 10 and Frame 22, such that in Frame 22 his bat (the yellow line) is well above and out of the plane of his shoulders (the green line). As a result, he has to start his swing earlier in order to get the bat head closer to in plane in Frame 28.

The problem with starting the swing earlier is that it gives you less time to read the pitch and figure out what it is. As a result, that can leave you vulnerable to quality off-speed and breaking pitches.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma

To be clear, Pete Kozma's problem isn't that he gets his bat head moving. Both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday do that as part of a move called a Running Start that can help them overcome inertia. The difference is that as they get close to the start of their swing, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are dropping the bat head down into plane.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma

In contrast, as he gets close to the start of his swing, Pete Kozma is raising his bat head up out of plane.

Bad Feet

As I was looking at some other clips of Pete Kozma's swing, and trying to confirm that what I was seeing was in fact a habit and not just a one-time adjustment, I noticed another inefficiency in Pete Kozma's swing that may be costing him power.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma

The thing to notice in the clip above, and in the other clips on this page, is how Pete Kozma, rather than keeping his back foot flat on the ground, instead quickly rolls onto the inner half of his back foot as he shifts his weight forward.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma

This will tend to create power problems by reducing the force with which the hips rotate.

Pete Kozma's Purely Rotational Swing

As I discuss at length elsewhere, another problem that I have been able to get a good understanding of due to his spending a full season in the big leagues is Pete Kozma's purely rotational swing. The gist of the problem is that Pete Kozma doesn't have any significant linear compoent to his swing. Instead his swing is pretty much entirely rotational and, to use the common perjorative, "spinny".

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma
June 23, 2013

But Why?

When I see a hitter with the kinds of flaws that I see in Pete Kozma's swing, I always wonder if it's due to a problem with how they were taught to hit. As it turns out, I found the clip below, that was put together by Carlos Gomez and that shows Pete Kozma hitting in batting practice and in a game, shows that Pete Kozma has long had problems with his swing.

Video Clip of the Swing of Pete Kozma

Pete Kozma

The thing to notice is how extended Pete Kozma is at the Point Of Contact. While he is in a good position just before the Point Of Contact, Pete Kozma then extends and hits the ball well out front. While many people teach this, and you do it see in the swings of hitters like Aaron Miles...

Video Clip of the Swing of Aaron Miles

Aaron Miles

...you do not see it in the swings of the best hitters like Albert Pujols...

Video Clip of the Swing of Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols

Instead, the best hitters tend to let the ball travel and hit it closer to their bodies, which lets them swing with their entire bodies and not just their arms.

The swing that Pete Kozma used in high school is a very conservative, cautious, "just go for singles and get on base" swing that worked with the hotter bats that Pete Kozma played with in high school but that simply, and obviously, doesn't work with wood bats.

The Good News

The good news is that, despite all of the bad hitting instruction that Pete Kozma has received over the years, and all of his flaws, he doesn't have any glaring, hard to fix mechanical flaws. Instead, everything I am talking about is quite fixable and can usually be fixed relatively quickly. As a result, I believe with some hard work and well-directed practice Pete Kozma can get back on track and become the middle infielder that the Cardinals so desperately need.

Update 2014.3.2

I watched the Cardinals game yesterday and saw Pete Kozma hit a double to the left field corner.

Pete Kozma's Swing

Pete Kozma
Double to LFC
2014.3.2

What's interesting about this swing is that it addresses a number of the points that I make above.

First, Pete Kozma's feet are better. He starts out with a narrower stance and then takes a shorter, lower step forward. As a result, he stays in his back foot better and rotates better as a result.

Second, Pete Kozma's swing plane is better. His bat starts out flatter and then stays flatter. As a result, he's in a better position to hit the pitch up in the strike zone.

That isn't to say that Pete Kozma is entirely fixed.

He's still not keeping his hands back and keeping his front shoulder closed long enough (which are two slightly different ways of saying basically the same thing). Instead, his hands start to drift forward before Heel Plant and his front shoulder also drifts open a bit early. The result will be an inefficiency that will keep him from hitting the ball as hard as he could. However, I could see this swing producing a signirficantly better average than last year.

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