My "uncle" Chuck, despite being extremely loud and
embarrassing, is a product of Princeton and, I gather as a
result, does the best he can to be polite. His trademark display
of politeness is, when he encounters shall we say an unusual
looking baby, rather than speaking what is truly on his mind or
lying, he instead offers the very non-committal phrase, "Now
THAT's a baby!" The phrase, "Now THAT's a swing," comes to mind when I
look at St. Louis Cardinals prospect Pete Kozma's swing.
Let me explain why I say that using some clips of Pete Kozma that I
shot in late July 2010.
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).
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
The Not So Good
One 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. As you may
recall, a good swing is 9 to 10 frames to contact.
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
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 a swing flaw, that I call Jumping the
Gun, that can be an indication of an overly long and
top-down swing (which can lead to problems with AVG and
Well, as it turns out Pete Kozma jumps the gun quite a
lot, and his hands and bat head move quite a bit before his
front heel plants, and the video clip below shows one reason why.
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.
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.
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. In contrast, as he gets close to the start of his
swing, Pete Kozma is raising his bat head up out of plane.
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
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. This will tend to create power
problems by reducing the force with which the hips rotate.
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.
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...
...you do not see it in the swings of the best hitters
like 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 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.