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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

WSJ: On-Deck Routines Hurt Hitters’ Bat Speed; Giving Up Doughnuts

Elston Howard just upchucked a heavenly Wasabi Cheese-filled.

Call it mind over physiology, a belief in the practices that have brought them to this level, but hitters are just now digesting the news that their time-honored on-deck routines are wrong. Scientific research makes clear that the more weight you swing in the on-deck circle, the slower your swing in the batter’s box. The slower the swing, the harder it is to catch up to searing fastballs and do what’s considered the toughest task in sports: get a base hit.

Coop DeRenne, a physical-education professor at the University of Hawaii, frames his findings in hard numbers: Increase—or even decrease—the weight of your bat between 10% and 13%, and you decrease bat speed from three to five miles per hour.

“As much as possible,” says DeRenne, who is known as the guru of the on-deck ritual among those who study the science of hitting, “the batter should mimic in his warm-up what he will do in the game—the same weight, the same motion.”

Given that his initial work dates back nearly 20 years and has been repeated by others with similar results, he calls baseball the “dinosaur sport” for its resistance to change.

Repoz Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:28 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:57 AM (#3890963)
he calls baseball the “dinosaur sport” for its resistance to change.

And yet I remember the days of yore when there were not doughnuts, so there.

And how about all those rope thingies that give you mojo that have taken off like wildfire the last 5-10 years?
   2. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:18 PM (#3890979)
Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?
   3. Hack Wilson Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:26 PM (#3890982)
Yeah I remember on-deck batters swinging 2 or 3 bats.

According to Wiki:
The donut was invented by catcher Elston Howard, in the early 1960s, and was originally called "Elston Howard's On-Deck bat weight".


What is unfair is that Elston was only Berra's back-up and what did Yogi ever invent? Okay beside the comic book.
   4. rfloh Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:36 PM (#3890991)
"In the headstrong, fragile psyches of professional hitters, their on-deck routine makes sense. Swing something heavy—anything heavier than your normal bat—just before your turn at the plate. Then, when you swing for real, your bat will feel lighter. A lighter bat means quicker hands and a faster, more powerful swing, and an extra shot of confidence."

Er no. It DOES make sense SCIENTIFICALLY, and is not just due to headstrong fragile psyches: post tetanic potentiation.

It isn't just headstrong "dinosaur" baseball players who do this. Sprinters do this too, for example sprinting a certain distance with a parachute, then, releasing the parachute. Throwers do this by throwing with implements with different weights.

The key part of this concept, that goes over the head of the writer, is that it works both ways. Using a heavier weight to "prime the pump", can work; it can also decrease the force you end up generating; this depends on the weight used.

"ou run sprints to get faster, and you should swing light for a faster swing"

So why not just swing a bat that is as light as possible? 16 ounces. 8 ounces. 4 ounces. No? So, maybe the physics and the neuromechanics are actually not so simple?
   5. Mr2bits Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:16 PM (#3891013)
It isn't just headstrong "dinosaur" baseball players who do this. Sprinters do this too, for example sprinting a certain distance with a parachute, then, releasing the parachute. Throwers do this by throwing with implements with different weights.

The key distinction here is the timing. I'd put good money on the idea that swinging a weighted bat can increase batspeed if done as part of a training regimen. I think the issue highlighted here is the wisdom of doing so JUST BEFORE the batter steps into the box. Its likely simple, miniscule muscle fatigue that leads to the decrease in batspeed.
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:32 PM (#3891027)
The key distinction here is the timing. I'd put good money on the idea that swinging a weighted bat can increase batspeed if done as part of a training regimen. I think the issue highlighted here is the wisdom of doing so JUST BEFORE the batter steps into the box. Its likely simple, minuscule muscle fatigue that leads to the decrease in batspeed.

I think we've got a winner.
   7. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:26 PM (#3891063)
Its likely simple, miniscule muscle fatigue that leads to the decrease in batspeed.


Muscle fatigue or are your muscles playing tricks on you - they realize there is less weight, so they compensate with less force?
   8. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:28 PM (#3891065)
The key distinction here is the timing. I'd put good money on the idea that swinging a weighted bat can increase batspeed if done as part of a training regimen. I think the issue highlighted here is the wisdom of doing so JUST BEFORE the batter steps into the box. Its likely simple, miniscule muscle fatigue that leads to the decrease in batspeed.


I'd put good money on the idea that swinging a weighted bat actually trains you to swing more slowly, just as the researchers state. It's false specificity. Grooving in a movement pattern that's different from your actual swing is just going to mess up your swing mechanics, regardless of timing.

To quote Mark Rippetoe,

"This may seem like a clever way to acheive training specificity, but it may actually detract from skilled performance. The similarity in motor pattern between the weighted and unweighted movement can induce interference in skill execution. Adding mass to a precisely weighted implement changes the execution of the skill, due to different movement velocities, muscle recruitment patterns, perceptual sensations, and implement trajectories. This essentially develops two or more motor pathways, where only one is useful--the one specific to the implement used in competition. Swinging a weighted bat, for instance, is a good way to practice swinging a bat more slowly, a skill which might not prove useful unless the pitcher agress to throw the ball more slowly. The line between the weighted and unweighted patterns is very fine, and the body may confuse the two."

I'd also point out that most modern sprinting coaches discourage the resistance parachute precisely because it changes your sprinting mechanics. Likewise with modern throwing coaches and implements with weights other than competition weight.
   9. tshipman Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:45 PM (#3891079)
This is a really interesting article.

I wonder if any team out there is brave enough to tell hitters not to do it?

There would be a huge backlash initially.
   10. Ron J Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:26 PM (#3891116)
#3 One of the things Pat Lennon did in a (successful) attempt to get noticed was use a sledgehammer in the on-deck circle. Kind of neat to watch.
   11. Ron J Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:31 PM (#3891122)
#9 Sport Science had a segment more or less on this topic. I say more or less because it was done with Jason Zuback (long drive golfing). Results were what was reported. He got less distance when warming up with a weighted club.
   12. Ron J Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:33 PM (#3891123)
And again
   13. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:47 PM (#3891132)
From TFA
Sveum, the Brewers coach, says he would intervene only if he saw one of his hitters taking "100 hacks" and tiring himself out, and he is glad that a few are heeding the science. Craig Counsell, a veteran utility infielder with the Brewers, says he was persuaded to stop using weighted bats after hearing of DeRenne's work a few years ago.


Perhaps Craig can be persuaded to retire.
   14. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 08:54 PM (#3891336)
I don't doubt the scientific work done by DeRenne, however there are factors he was unable to isolate. Such as confidence. If the hitter believes his swing is faster after using weights, that might be a positive influence in the at bat due to improved focus and or confidence in preparation.

Just as in theory the best relief pitcher should not be limited to just the 9th inning, but pitch in the highest leverage situation, which may be the 6th or 7th or 8th...... Turns out many relief pitchers greatly value routine and need to be able to prepare each game the same way. This boost of confidence outweighs the "waste" of saving your best relief pitcher for the 9th.

In medical science, the placebo effect has now been proven to result in measurable improvements in aliments, medical conditions, etc....
   15. rfloh Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:16 AM (#3891445)
"The key distinction here is the timing. I'd put good money on the idea that swinging a weighted bat can increase batspeed if done as part of a training regimen. I think the issue highlighted here is the wisdom of doing so JUST BEFORE the batter steps into the box. Its likely simple, miniscule muscle fatigue that leads to the decrease in batspeed. "

--Mr2bits

No. The timing is what the post tetanic potentiation, the using of a greater resistance, JUST BEFORE, is about. You are not doing it to build up your muscles over time, ala lifting weights. It is to "trick" the neural system into "over" firing, "over" turning on motor units, which is why sprinters, in training will run with a parachute for a certain distance, release the parachute, and CONTINUE running. They do NOT stop, or decrease effort, after the parachute has been released; I should have mentioned that, not assumed that people here would know this.

"Muscle fatigue or are your muscles playing tricks on you - they realize there is less weight, so they compensate with less force?"

--jacksone

The point is to trick them into believing there is more resistance, so they compensate with more force.
   16. rfloh Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:21 AM (#3891447)
"
This may seem like a clever way to acheive training specificity, but it may actually detract from skilled performance. The similarity in motor pattern between the weighted and unweighted movement can induce interference in skill execution. Adding mass to a precisely weighted implement changes the execution of the skill, due to different movement velocities, muscle recruitment patterns, perceptual sensations, and implement trajectories. This essentially develops two or more motor pathways, where only one is useful--the one specific to the implement used in competition. Swinging a weighted bat, for instance, is a good way to practice swinging a bat more slowly, a skill which might not prove useful unless the pitcher agress to throw the ball more slowly. The line between the weighted and unweighted patterns is very fine, and the body may confuse the two.

I'd also point out that most modern sprinting coaches discourage the resistance parachute precisely because it changes your sprinting mechanics. Likewise with modern throwing coaches and implements with weights other than competition weight. "

--mirabellidictu

Well yeah. It is a complex issue, with multiple factors involved (and certainly not just as simple as muscle fatigue). You want to get the facilitation, but you do not want to alter disrupt the mechanics (which means that the resistance used is very important, as even a slight difference can have different effects). That is my main disagreement with the article, how it simplifies the issue. My position is very similar to that of Rippetoe.
   17. Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:26 AM (#3891450)
It DOES make sense SCIENTIFICALLY

Conjecture and superstition are kinds of science.
   18. smileyy Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:00 AM (#3891469)
IIRC, sprinters used to like to train in the sand, figuring that because it was harder to run there, they'd train to run harder. Except the different consistency of the sand leads to training the muscles to fire in all the wrong ways to optimized solid-surface sprinting.
   19. Srul Itza Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:05 AM (#3891473)
I don't doubt the scientific work done by DeRenne


The fact that he is an Associate Professor of in the Department of Kinesiology & Leisure Science of the University of Hawaii doesn't give you pause?

I kid -- he has done a great deal of work in this area. Imua Manoa!
   20. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:11 AM (#3891480)
OK, so I don't actually get to watch many MLB hitters go through their entire on-deck circle routine very often, but does anybody really take multiple full force practice swings with a weighted bat just before stepping up to the plate? Seems you mostly see guys use the donut or weighted bat or sledgehammer or whatever to go through some contrived stretching routine and maybe take a slow-motion swing or two. Then they lose the weights and pick up their game bat and work on timing the pitcher's delivery. But maybe I'm just imagining that.
   21. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:21 AM (#3891489)
This is weird. Just yesterday I was reading something about Barry Foote and a sledgehammer. Now this article comes out. A few years back, I was playing Whiffleball with friends. My arms were sore after swinging that bat. It didn't have much weight, but numerous fast swings still wore me down.
   22. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:32 AM (#3891501)
I don't doubt the scientific work done by DeRenne, however there are factors he was unable to isolate. Such as confidence. If the hitter believes his swing is faster after using weights, that might be a positive influence in the at bat due to improved focus and or confidence in preparation.

I'm not sure what the point of this is. On one hand there's a scientific study. On the other hand there is you making a conjecture on something that you think might be true.

Turns out many relief pitchers greatly value routine and need to be able to prepare each game the same way. This boost of confidence outweighs the "waste" of saving your best relief pitcher for the 9th.


This is more of the same. You seem pretty confident that the "boost" outweighs the "waste" but I don't see how you could know that.
   23. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:48 AM (#3891511)
I cut out the second bat from my warmup routine in softball today and went 0-4. Four ground balls to third, which I can't remember ever doing before. Though I did reach twice on errors, so perhaps there was an effect after all.

Or it could just be that the third baseman sucked.
   24. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:00 AM (#3891518)
I don't doubt the scientific work done by DeRenne, however there are factors he was unable to isolate. Such as confidence. If the hitter believes his swing is faster after using weights, that might be a positive influence in the at bat due to improved focus and or confidence in preparation.


It's a hypothetical. Note the word "IF". Are you familiar with science? If you don't mind, I'd like to be just as smarmy and dense as you sound in your comments.

How long have you been following baseball? Are you over or under 13? Relief pitchers, especially today, often demand set roles, mostly for the purposes of mental preparation and routine.

The reason on-deck hitters have swung a weighted bat for all these years it because it feels like the bat is lighter in the batters box and it also feels like you can swing faster in the batters box. Anyone that has picked up a bat and played the game knows what I am talking about. Regardless of the--apparent scientific fact--bat speed is actually slower by 3-5 MPH by using on-deck weights, if a player gains confidence swinging weighted bat, it is possible, to have a positive influence on the results of the at-bat, even if the swing is slower by 3-5 MPH.

Nobody else struggled with it but you Greg Pope, and my point was rather obvious, and I will repeat myself the research only isolated part of the equation. I'm suggesting it is possible there is a net gain in overall at-bat performance from a hitter due to weights, even if the fact is bat speed is 3-5 MPH slower. The research failed to answer the entire question. Hitting, or success of an at-bat isn't limited to measured bat speed.

Going forward, if this research is shared widely in the game, as it should be, it is very likely players will no longer gain any confidence from swinging a weighted bat.
   25. MM1f Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:43 AM (#3891611)
I assume Coop DeRenne has to be some relation to longtime minor league soldier, and fellow Hawiian, Keoni DeRenne.
   26. MM1f Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:53 AM (#3891612)
I would also like to thank the copy editor who decided to make Melky Cabrera the first picture in a story about doughnuts. Well done sir.
   27. Squash Posted: August 03, 2011 at 06:54 AM (#3891627)
The key distinction here is the timing. I'd put good money on the idea that swinging a weighted bat can increase batspeed if done as part of a training regimen. I think the issue highlighted here is the wisdom of doing so JUST BEFORE the batter steps into the box. Its likely simple, miniscule muscle fatigue that leads to the decrease in batspeed.

This sounds like the static stretching (normal stretching) vs. dynamic stretching argument. Some studies have shown that static stretching actually reduces athletic output whereas dynamic stretching does not. My theory, postulated I'm sure by others, and I'm sure rfloh can fill in more, is that static stretching in itself is a workout that fatigues your muscles, so doing it just before you perform might not be the wisest course, but that it does have a place in the overall regimen. You do certainly seem to be able to get much deeper into a static stretch as opposed to a dynamic stretch as a general principle, whereas with a dynamic stretch you aren't pushing at your limit nearly as hard but do get more "warmed up".
   28. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:56 PM (#3891656)
Nobody else struggled with it but you Greg Pope, and my point was rather obvious, and I will repeat myself the research only isolated part of the equation.

My point is that the "flaws" that you pointed out are hypothetical and anecdotal. Are you familiar with science? Hypotheticals and anecdotes don't prove anything, and are in fact often wrong. They are often right, too, but that why we have the scientific method.

Relievers saying "I prefer a set role" or even "I perform better in a set role" does not mean that they actually do perform better given a set role. Relievers certainly pitched without the kind of 9th, 8th, 7th roles before TLR. You claimed that the "boost" outweighed the "waste", but I've seen no proof of that. And it may be unprovable. But if so, it's unprovable both ways.
   29. Dr. Phil Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:52 PM (#3891672)
The design of his study is an improper model of the use of weighted bats. No hitter truly uses the weight to perform full-effort game-intensity swings. It's used for stretching and warming up. His model should have compared batters who come straight off the bench versus those who went through their normal on-deck circle routine.
   30. rfloh Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:23 PM (#3891688)
Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 02, 2011 at 08:26 PM (#3891450)
It DOES make sense SCIENTIFICALLY

Conjecture and superstition are kinds of science.


So, take this up with SCIENTISTS who have done SCIENTIFIC research on the beneficial effects of post tetanic potentiation.

The issue is far more complex than your snarky reply attempts to simplify it to be. Every scientific text on the issue is very careful to point out the various factors that can result in an increase, and also decrease, in performance. The problem is that even slight differences in the weight, in forces, used can result in a change from being beneficial to being detrimental.
   31. rfloh Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:37 PM (#3891697)
This sounds like the static stretching (normal stretching) vs. dynamic stretching argument. Some studies have shown that static stretching actually reduces athletic output whereas dynamic stretching does not. My theory, postulated I'm sure by others, and I'm sure rfloh can fill in more, is that static stretching in itself is a workout that fatigues your muscles, so doing it just before you perform might not be the wisest course, but that it does have a place in the overall regimen. You do certainly seem to be able to get much deeper into a static stretch as opposed to a dynamic stretch as a general principle, whereas with a dynamic stretch you aren't pushing at your limit nearly as hard but do get more "warmed up".


The thing with (passive) static stretching is that before you engage in intense physical activity, it generally is not a good idea to do something that attempts to forcibly relax muscles that are going to be working. Not to mention something that might forcibly relax, even if only slightly, even if only for the short term, other soft tissues like ligaments. You want your neuromuscular system stimulated before intense physical activity, not (forcibly) relaxed.

As for how deep you can get into it, it tends to be a matter of warming up. With dynamic stretches, as you warm up, you progressively increase the range of the stretch: for example for hamstrings, you do straight leg kicks to the front, you start with kicking towards knee / groin / waist height, and then as you warm up, you go higher, to rib, nipple, neck, head height. You then also progressively increase the speed of the kicks.

There's also the issue of passive static stretching vs active static stretching. And the whole other issue of PNF (proprioneuromuscular facilitation) stretching / movement exercises
   32. rfloh Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:42 PM (#3891702)
The problem is that even slight differences in the weight, in forces, used can result in a change from being beneficial to being detrimental.


Also, it is why most sports scientists and trainers consider trying to too closely replicate sports specific athletic movements in the weight room with weights a bad idea. You just end up ####### up your mechanics, your timing, your rhythm.
   33. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:14 PM (#3891831)
Also, it is why most sports scientists and trainers consider trying to too closely replicate sports specific athletic movements in the weight room with weights a bad idea. You just end up ####### up your mechanics, your timing, your rhythm.


QFT.

Get stronger and more powerful in the weight room, then use your strength and power in practice to get better at the movements.

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