My Experience with Mark Trumbo
As soon as I saw this picture of Mark Trumbo I knew that, while his numbers superficially fit the profile of a hitter with Bat Drag, that could not be his problem.
What stood out to me in that picture was two things...
- Tremendous Whip.
- A Deep Point of Contact.
While it's possible for a hitter with Bat Drag to generate tremendous Whip, by definition Bat Drag forces the hitter to make contact out front, not deep in the contact zone. The picture above also showed an intact Triangle, which again (by definition) you do not see in hitters with Bat Drag.
That prompted me to send Mark the following email.
2014.04.16 12:18pm: As I was saying, I don't think Bat Drag explains your current high power and low batting average situation. I happened to obtain the (above) picture of your swing over the winter and added it to my set of favorite pictures because it's basically perfect.
It's extremely unlikely that someone with Bat Drag would get to that position with the back elbow still at the back hip.
For instance, I don't know if I have a single picture of Mark Reynolds (who DOES have a problem with Bat Drag) getting to the position in the attached picture. Instead, his back elbow pretty much always slides forward of his back hip. I have also done some work with D.M., who you may know. He also has a problem with Bat Drag and/or his back elbow and I also don't have any pictures of him at that position.
Now, the question is why someone who can get to the ideal position can't consistently hit for average.
That is something that I have a few thoughts on, but give me some time to download some clips from mlb.com to look at. Before I do that, I would be interested in knowing when, in the big leagues, you feel you were particularly locked in and when, in the big leagues, you feel you were particularly lost.
I ask about in the big leagues because I can probably get clips from those times from mlb.com.
Mark replied with the following.
2014.4.16 5:58pm: Starting this year in Colorado felt pretty locked in but truthfully it's been completely inconsistent since 2010 in AAA. I'm hitting with a narrower upright stance and worked down into my legs. Emphasis was always on keeping a firm front side which I have gotten away from and tend to drift quite a bit now. I used a fairly high leg kick that year but never worried about timing too much. The last 3 years I have spread out a little more. This year I wanted to emphasize being a more complete hitter and cutting things down a bit but it's not exactly working out. Been doing tee work with the tee very close to the body and working up the middle.
That prompted a few more standard questions from me based on what other clients have been taught and that could be causing Mark's struggles.
2014.4.19 9:12am: A few more questions. What have you been taught in terms of... 1. Swing plane? Have you been taught to go for backspin? How do you achieve that? 2. Head movement and watching the ball? 3. Ideal position at the point of contact? Extension?
In order to get a sense of the root cause of my clients' problems, I like to watch a few games to see what their at-bats look like; how their ball flies when it isn't a hit.
2014.4.20 9:23am: I watched the game last night on mlb.tv. The reason I asked about backspin is that I thought I saw some hints of a swing plane problem in some of the earlier clips that I downloaded and I saw the same thing in your first hit yesterday. Yes, it went for a hit, but what I saw in your swing plane could very easily explain a high power, low average predicament because swing plane problems can reduce your margin for error.
Mark replied with a number of very important pieces of information.
2014.4.21 12:11pm: I've been around a number or hitters and coaches who have probably imparted things one that have helped me develop my swing. When I was young I naturally had good backspin and have kind of done the same things for most of my career. From talking to Paul Konerko and watching him hit I started to realize the importance matching the plane of the pitch (slight uppercut). Approach wise I generally look to drive the ball into right center and let my hands naturally pull anything inside. My left shoulder tends to rotate early taking my hands with them. I have been working hard at keeping everything back and delaying this process.
David Freese's struggles during the 2013 World Series had prompted me to spend a lot of time thinking about the swing plane; how to teach it and how -- and how not to -- ruin it.
2014.4.21 1:49pm: I need good video to confirm this -- which perhaps I can get when you pass through St. Louis - but I think part of what is going on is that your swing plane is creating good/great backspin (thus the carry of your balls when you make contact) but you aren't swinging with the slight uppercut that Konerko is talking about and that I absolutely agree with.There are drills that can help reinforce the right swing plane and, just as importantly, drills to stay away from.
When you get a chance, look at the linked document, which is a draft that I have been working on for a while. Uppercuts, Elbows, and Chicken Wings
I started putting this piece together in an effort to try to fix David Freese's swing -- I think a major part of Freese's problem is his low front elbow, which keeps getting worse and worse due to a mis-diagnosis of the root cause of his problems -- but the topic is still relevant because I think Mabry is a barrel above the ball guy.
Mark saw in that piece most of what I hoped he would, with one exception.
2014.4.21 4:04PM: Love the slides. It is painfully obvious all of these hitters are basically in the same spots throughout the swing.
I see some flare with the front elbows and a tall posture in all of them. I bend at the waist on lower pitches at times which is not what these hitters are doing. Because of this I lose the arc in my swing and get very flat. I believe this goes back to the advice I got when I was younger..."go down and get it." I believe staying tall is the correct way and letting the bat travel down.
What drills would you recommend for me? I do a lot of tee work and have begun mixing in the towel drill.
While it's common advice to tell hitters to stand tall, often for leverage, I have had extensive experience with the problems that advice can create.
2014.4.22 3:24PM: The topic of tilting/diving and how to cover the lower third of the strike zone is one that Andres Torres and I spent a lot of time talking about and over which Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens and I had a number of passive-aggressive battles over.
I'd tell Torres to get lower (because he hit better that way) and Meulens wanted him to straighten up.
I am a believer in tilting over the plate to adjust to lower pitches because that is what I see the best hitters do. For instance, Mike Trout is a great example of a guy who adjusts by tilting over the plate. You can also see some tilting in the Goldschmidt swing in the eBook I gave you the link to. He doesn't just drop the barrel and his hands. Instead, you can see his shoulders tilt significantly.
I believe in tilting because...
1. It's what I see in the swings of most good hitters (especially Mike Trout).
2. It makes sense from a physics, efficiency of the swing standpoint.
Pujols takes a different approach to covering the lower third, in that he widens his stance so that he doesn't have to tilt as much. As a result, he (and Pedroia and Beltre) basically turn low pitches into middle middle pitches by spreading out and getting low. However, you can see from the two Pujols clips in the eBook, especially the CF/RF view from BP.
It wouldn't surprise me if people are telling you to stand up straight(er) because of what looks like a hole in your swing up and in (see Brooks Baseball whiff charts), but I would argue that problem is related to a different thing that I see in your swing.
The helpful thing about my flipbooks is that they are hard to argue with, and Mark acknowledged as much in his next e-mail.
2014.4.22 3:52PM: Appreciate the responses. The ebook help has been tremendous.
I have really benefited from the in depth photos that illustrate the correct path.
I had given Mark access to my client site and, after a few hours of study, he found something particularly helpful.
2014.4.22 3:52PM: After watching my at bats yesterday I realized a major component that I have probably overlooked. Timing.
What are your normal fees for consultation?
Mark's comment about Timing is interesting because, during the 2016 season, I saw him discuss it in post-game interviews and discuss its importance to his success.
Mark Trumbo Talking Timing