As a result of my experience working with college, minor, and
major league baseball players, I have come to believe that
many, if not most, college programs and major league organizations are unintentionally, but systematically,
ruining their best young hitters.
Hitters Who've Been Ruined
I believe the swings of a number of hitters have been ruined
by well-intentioned but ill-informed hitting coaches.
David Freese became the toast of St. Louis with his performance in the
2011 World Series. However, in the 2013 World Series he was
largely a non-factor.
Sometime after 2011, somebody -- likely in the Cardinals
organization -- taught him that he needed to keep his front
This reflects a misunderstanding of the swing plane that I
touch on in my piece on the
A to C swing. The problem is that this can create a (real)
flaw that I call a
Somebody, perhaps Mark McGwire, taught Yasiel Puig the same
thing; that he needed to keep his front elbow down. I would
argue that explains his recent struggles.
I don't know if Michael Jordan would have made it as a major
leaguer, but he was also taught the same thing and I would argue
that his career was over before it ever began.
A current example of a hitter who has been, and continues to
be, ruined is Jason Heyward. In his case, his biggest issue is
the movement of his head.
Jason Heyward 2010
When he first came up, and put up his best numbers, Jason
Heyward had a fairly typical head movement pattern. However,
over the years he has developed a problem that results from
trying to do something that is impossible; seeing the ball hit
are recruiting, signing, and drafting hitters because they can hit the ball well. Then, as soon as they get those hitters in their
system, they change their swings and hitting mechanics
and then act surprised when those hitters stop
being able to hit well.
While it may
surprise people that this could be going on, I know for a fact
that this is happening. This scenario describes the experiences
of most of my clients at the college, minor, and major league
There are a number of
reasons why hitters are being ruined by their teams and coaches.
Low Priority Position
I have had many people tell me that part of the problem is
how some minor league hitting instructors are selected in major
Many minor league hitting
instructors tend to be former speed guys. Because of their
speed, more often then not they were taught to swing down on the
ball, just put it in play, and try to beat out the throw. As is
common in life, these instructors now teach what they themselves were
taught, so the cycle perpetuates itself.
Of course, you have to question how good the hitting instruction
they received really was if they are coaching rather than
As an aside, you see the same cycle
perpetuating itself in the world of youth hitting instruction. I
have never understood why some parents are so eager to take the
hitting advice of a former minor leaguer who washed out due to
his inability to hit and who now teaches the same stuff that
likely ruined his swing.
Incorrect Use of Video
Some organizations don't use video at all, and most of the rest do
not use video correctly.
In my experience, most evaluation of hitters is done with the naked
eye, which simply isn't up to the task. What really matters in
the swing is the moment between the planting of the front heel
and the Point Of Contact. The problem is that that happens too fast for the
human eye to get more than a basic sense of what's going on.
When video is used, it is often used to review a hitter's
approach and not their mechanics. While that is a valid use of
video, the problem is that too often that video is used during
the game itself, which can lead to thinking and analysis
The Conventional Wisdom is Wrong
My contention that hitting instructors aren't using video at
all, or correctly, is born out by the persistence of the
conventional wisdom about hitting. If hitting instructors spent
even a few minutes, much less hours, looking at video of the
best hitters in the world, there is no way that they could
continue to believe the things they do.
Most major league hitting
instructors seem to teach the same basic stuff -- which I roll
up under the umbrella of the
A to C Swing -- most of which
doesn't match up with reality. It's as if everyone has read the
same, terrible book about hitting. That includes very prominent
You can see the same swing being taught at other levels...
All of these guys, and most people at the college, minor, major league level,
teach the same linear, extended, downward-chopping, level swing at the Point Of
What Kevin Long Teaches
Unfortunately, what you see in the picture above doesn't match up with
how the best hitters actually swing the bat.
Alex Rodriguez's Actual Swing
Of course, this creates a huge, Moneyball-esque opportunity.
Some smart major league baseball organization is going to start
mining the piles of discarded former top picks and find some
very cheap diamonds in the rough. Yes, they will have to sort
out the guys who flamed out because of their inability to hit a
good curveball, a lack of plate discipline, or another
fundamental reason, but that can be done very cheaply.
Why Do I Know This?
with Andres Torres makes me sure that this opportunity
exists. Andres was exactly the kind of person that I am talking
about; someone who is extremely gifted but whose swing was
ruined by well-intentioned, but ill-informed, hitting
instructors. Before we met, he had never been taught what good
hitters do. Once he learned how good hitters actually swing the
bat, his career took off.