The key to hitting a baseball with power is staying connected to the body's rotational energy. Body rotation is powered by the larger and more powerful muscles of the legs, hips and torso. For a batter to hit the ball with maximum power, his swing mechanics must stay connected and make efficient use of these larger muscle groups. This article discusses the important steps needed to produce a swing that transfers the body's rotational power into hitting power.
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On-base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS): Yes, this is a made-up, smashing together of two useful stats to make a mega-useful stat. Or, somewhat useful stat. I'll say this, since I also had the batting average and slugging percentage entries, I'm a big, big fan of the slash line, it gives you a basic idea of what kind of hitter a player is with three simple stats. Of those three, really, the batting average is the least important, I want to know how much a guy doesn't make an out and how much power he has. OPS tells me that, and despite different ways to get the job done (high on-base, low slugging speedy guy or big slugger who doesn't get on as much) a certain OPS gives me an idea, at least, that no matter what he looks like, he's productive. - Rosecrans
When a hitter puts the ball in play, the major league average to get a hit is only slightly above .300. The upper tier of hitters can average around .340, which is how they manage to consistently hit above .300 year in and year out. What this number means is that a ball hit in fair territory (many swings do not hit the ball fair) has nearly a 70% chance of being an out. This is where the walk comes into play. Hitters who are patient enough to work counts and take pitches are much more susceptible to walks than those who chase every first pitch. The odds of reaching base after taking 4 balls is obviously 100%. Essentially, hitters must be lucky in order to get a hit, while drawing a walk guarantees them to reach base. This is why the walk is such a vital part of baseball overlooked by many.
What better time than now to delve into what exactly are the best offensive stats upon which to judge a baseball player? The Eye on Baseball staff -- Matt Snyder, C. Trent Rosecrans and Dayn Perry -- will do the heavy lifting and then let our readers argue among themselves. We'll make our picks, too, so you can call us idiots, as is standard in the Internet community.
A Strong Core is essential to a softball player. So why do so many players have a weak abdominals? Good question. This is another exercise routine that can get lost in translation. You’re not training your core to look good in your bathing suit, you’re training your core to be functional; to rotate when you swing, open up and rotate when you throw, stabilize your hips and create balance. Your goal is to mimic your core work in a fashion that transforms power onto the field. Here is a favorite exercise of mine to create rotational core power; rotational medicine ball throws. Start in your hitting stance and hold onto a medicine ball then rotate into a swing. Sounds pretty simple but super effective. My second favorite is bear crawls with bands. The key to this exercise is doing it correctly. Your butt should not be up in the air, back stays flat and your feet should move forward outside of your hips. This is a definite twofer. This exercise hits the hips and core in one movement.
While watching a New York Mets game early this season, before one plate appearance the broadcast graphics displayed that catcher John Buck had a batting average (AVG) of .400 and an on-base percentage (OBP) of .396. Several games later I saw a similar phenomenon for Buck, whose OBP was again several points lower than his AVG. (In other words, the stats presented were very likely to be actual and not an on-screen typo.)
Outfielder Ty Cobb, whose career ended in 1928, has the highest batting average in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. He batted .366 over 24 seasons, mostly with the Detroit Tigers. In addition, he won a record 11 batting titles for leading the American League in BA over the course of an entire season. He batted over .360 in 11 consecutive seasons from 1909 to 1919. Rogers Hornsby has the second highest BA of all-time, at .358. He won seven batting titles in the National League (NL) and has the highest NL average in a single season since 1900, when he batted .424 in 1924. He batted over .370 in six consecutive seasons.
On an individual level, I'm partial to OPS+ because it's a clear upgrade over traditional measures and, unlike oWAR (which I think is more accurate in a vacuum), it's not quite as off-putting to the uninitiated. I'll happily lean on oWAR when appropriate, though, as it contains a base-running component. On a team level, I tend to stick to runs scored and OPS with on-the-fly adjustments made for ballpark effects.
Batters actually hold a decent level of influence on their BABIP, which is something that not a lot of people realize. Because there are different types of hitters (mainly speed, power, and contact hitters), not everyone should be expected to have the same “30% outcome” for balls in play. The main source of this influence comes from what is known as a player’s “batted ball profile,” which consists of the following stats:
While all those stats can be very helpful individually, using them all to establish a batted ball profile will help you to get a solid idea of what a player’s hitting skill set really is. For the most part, a player with a solid LD% and IFH% can be expected to put up an above-average BABIP, while a player with a large FB% and IFFB% can be expected to post a below-average mark. With that framework in mind, let’s look at a quick example from the 2014 season:
How do these players create such a powerful swing? Rule number one; do not confuse POWER with strength. These are two very different dynamics. Power is an explosive movement. It is created through a combination of speed, and strength. Strength is created through maximal force. This is the biggest learning lesson here; you do not create power for hitting by lifting maximum weight. Power lifting like bodybuilders and muscle heads do, does not translate into softball power hitting. Power lifting is mostly all for show and not athletic performance. If you have the biggest arms, traps, and chest in the world, how are you going to swing the bat? Power lifting and Power hitting are two totally different things.
So OBP=Runs, Billy Beane was right. That doesn’t mean that the players on the left are bad, but they are inferior to the players on the right when it comes to scoring runs (and several other categories). Justin Morneau had a fine season, but 17 home runs and 62 runs scored hardly make him the better fantasy player. Lorenzo Cain stole 28 bases, but with 53 RBIs and 55 runs scored that .301 average is kind of empty, don’t you think? So far OBP favors the better overall player.
This is often overlooked but feeling torque in your front side is important. Work on this by trying to hit a ball as far as you can off a tee. Feel the hands back as your bottom half starts your swing. The torque created from separation is extremely important if you want to hit the ball further. Click here for more tips on how to achieve good separation in your baseball swing.
Through Phase 2 the hitter can start to also make adjustments to inside or outside pitches. If the pitch it outside, Phase 2 will be significantly shorter so that they can start to enter Phase 3, the “release”. If however the pitch is inside, the hitter should continue in Phase 2 longer so that there is zero loss of force. Hitters that stop their shoulder rotation too soon are almost always going to compensate with the pushing of their arms.
Durocher, a 17-year major league vet and Hall of Fame manager, sums up the game of baseball quite brilliantly in the above quote, and it’s pretty ridiculous how much fans really don’t understand about the game of baseball that they watch so much. This holds especially true when you start talking about baseball stats. Sure, most people can tell you what a home run is and that batting average is important, but once you get past the basic stats, the rest is really uncharted territory for most fans.
We need to compare the best batting averages from 2000 — when offense was at an all-time high, thanks at least in part to the prevalence of performance-enhancing drugs in the game — with the averages of today, with pitching strong and PED testing rigorous. In 2000, 30% of all major league players with 400 plate appearances finished with a .300 batting average or better. So in 2014, if a hitter ranks in the top 30% of batting averages, why shouldn't he be considered the equivalent of a .300 hitter from 15 seasons ago?