Originally posted Sept. 29,2014
In 2012 ESPN was talking about Major League Baseball batting averages and production being down. They discussed reasons for this, the pitching getting better and ped's are out. They also talked about the real reason, maybe hitting was getting worse. Tim Kurkjian had the best statement "they swing as hard as they can just in case they make contact". His statement sums it up perfectly. I was curious and looked into the stats. I was amazed how much they had gone down especially the last six years. I wrote two blogs in 2012 titled "Why Major League averages and power are going down", showing the downward trend and the reasons hitting is worse.
This year many of my students and parents watched the 2014 all star game and they couldn't believe how hard so many of the hitters were swinging and missing the ball or fouling off pitches that were even down the middle. From our lessons they could tell these hitters were mainly using their arms and looked jerky in their swing. They could see the best hitters looked completely different using the body and were much smoother in their swing like Trout, Utley and Cabrera.
Getting this feedback made me revisit those two blogs and check out the statistics for the last three years. I was amazed to see the stats are still going down. Below shows stats according to Fangraphs.com and ESPN.com from 2006, 2011 and the last two years.
Year AVG OBP SLG HR AB/HR K's K's %
2006 .269 .337 .432 538 31.7 31,655 16.8
2011 .255 .321 .399 4552 36.4 34,488 18.6
2013 .253 .318 .396 4661 35.6 36,710 19.9
2014 .251 .314 .386 4186 39.6 37,441 20.3
This shows batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage are still going down. At bats per home run are going up which means power is also still going down. Strikeouts are going up every year. The 20.3% strikeout percentage this year is the highest in Major League baseball history. In fact each of the last seven seasons has seen a new all time high in strikeout percentage from then the highest of 17.5% in 2008 up to the 20.3% this year. Why is this happening?
Two years ago I had many people tell me the pitching is getting better but I very rarely see a Major League hitter look over matched in an at bat. According to fangraphs.com the average fastball in 2006 was 90.5 mph. In 2013 and 2014 it is 91.7 mph, an increase of only 1.2 mph. With less than two strikes I see hitters swing mostly at "their pitch", the pitches they want to drive. The problem is when they swing at these pitches many are not making solid contact like they should.
Even at the highest levels most hitters are taught fast hands, swing down through the ball, extend at impact, twist the hips, stay back and other hitting cues that make them swing mainly with their arms. The batters that do any of these hitting cues will be slower to the ball, meaning they have to swing faster and pull the bat out of the hitting zone way too quickly, their swing looks more jerky and the ball seems to float off the bat. They tend to pull weaker ground balls or hit soft fly balls to the opposite field or foul.
If your bat is slower to the hitting zone it causes another big problem. It now takes a rounder path rather than going straight forward. This means you have to start your swing earlier so they can't watch the ball as long as they would want. By startingearlier many hitters will now swing at more bad pitches out of the strike zone especially with two strikes. According to fangraphs.com in 2006 hitters were swinging at 23.5% of these pitches. The last four years Major League hitters are swinging at over 30% of the pitches outside the strike zone. This is because they have to start the swing earlier since they are swinging with their arms.
The best Major League hitters will hit 'their pitch" harder more consistently. Why is this? Because they mainly use their body when they swing. The bat goes straight forward into the hitting zone much faster and stays in much longer, up to four feet. These hitters can wait longer to start the swing, a big advantage. This slows down the game for them and their swing looks smooth, more effortless and the ball seems to jump off the bat. If the average hitter would just learn to use their body, like the very best hitters, they could have so much more success.
Every new student that comes in for lessons swings with their arms because of what they have been taught. They give so much effort in the swing with little results. When they learn to use the body like the best Major League hitters it is amazing the difference in their power, consistency and confidence.
If you would like to learn to use the body in your swing or when pitching you can call Mike Sedberry at 304-722-6393 for more information. Thanks and good luck to everyone.