Excerpted from www.BatSpeed.com Jack Mankin
I coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball for 15 years. Like many other coaches, I worked hard at giving the kids the quality of coaching that would encourage them to enjoy the game and reach the highest goals their talent would allow. I studied all the books, tapes and films on hitting that I could get my hands on. And I could rehash weight shift and extension batting theories with the best of them. My players were exposed to about every hitting drill imaginable. Over the years I had the pleasure of working with a lot of great kids and a few great athletes. They won state 5 times and went to the nationals 3 times.
But deep down, I knew that the batting techniques I taught really didn't help the ball players that much. Oh sure, they could usually make contact when the team really needed it. And they played their hearts out and scratched for enough runs to make me and the other coaches look good. But for them to reach their personal goals, the major leagues or even college baseball, they needed to have real "pop" in their bat. Here is where I failed my players. They either had real "pop" or they didn't, and what I taught them had little to do with it.
It may sound cynical, but I no longer believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or that old Truism that you have to be a Born Hitter to have "pop" in your bat. But something in a few players batting mechanics allowed them to swing a bat with much greater speed than other good athletes. I spent the last 12 years finding out what that "something" was. I was determined to give coaches the proven facts to teach the mechanics that generate power and bat-speed (and not simply someone's pet theory regarding it).
The study covered nine years and literally thousands of hours. The first two years I spent charting the swings of 185 professional players. I would video tape games shown on television and replay the swings back in frame by frame action. By placing a piece of clear plastic over the screen I was able to trace the movement of each part of the body and the bats reaction for each video frame of the swing. From the time the swing was initiated to contact required from 4 to 6 frames depending on the mechanics of the batter.
When I started the study, I made a sign and hung it over my desk. It read " Have no preconceived theory, report only what you observe." To make sure I correctly identified a players swing mechanics, I charted 15 swings (at good pitches to hit) of each player over a two year period. I then devised a system whereby I could identify players according to the characteristics of their mechanics. I used 39 different mechanical characteristics and developed 12 swing classifications that players fit into. It was truly amazing how close the performance stats were for players with the same classification. There was other very interesting findings I made during the charting phase of the research and I will discuss them with you when those subjects arise.
In the next part of the study I undertook the task of defining the forces acting on the bat that would cause the various reactions I had recorded. These reactions involve a great deal of rather complex physics. My only formal study of physics was those required for my engineering major in college. Not having a strong physics background, I spent a considerable amount of time discussing my finding with college physics departments. I cannot thank them enough for their help and patience.
To me, one of the most important findings to come from the research was that a player's swing mechanics was far more important in determining batting potential than the player's athletic abilities. Even a 6 foot, 4 inch, 230 pound Mark McGwire performed just as poorly as other players with the same swing classification in 1991 when he hit .201 with 22 homeruns. I discovered that whenever a hitter went into a batting slump, there would be a notable change in his mechanics and he was just performing according to his new swing classification.
The last couple of years I have spent a lot of my time developing methods to overcoming old muscle memories (long stride, weight shift and extension) and how to teach the rotational mechanics, a circular hand path and torque, which is used by the great hitter in the game today.