At various times from 2010-2014, and then from January 2015 to September 2015, I helped Tommy Pham go from a marginal prospect to putting up one bWAR in 10 days.
What did I say to him?
This is my actual hitting diary and is filled with are a combination of notes to myself and text messages and e-mails we exchanged.
And what happened in 2016? Tommy ended our relationship in late September. Since then, he's gotten away from nearly everything I taught him and went back to listening to the Cardinals' coaches.
It showed in his .226 batting average.
ME: "There's a lot to like in that swing, especially at contact, but I'm not sure you're getting your hips into your swing as much as you could. And I'm TOTALLY unconcerned about the chicken wing thing. It's a myth that a 'chicken wing' is bad. It's actually good. Key to Alignment."
HIM: "When I cut down my stride to try to raise my average, I lost all of my power."
Because he's too linear and not rotational enough. Too much linear momentum. Not using hips enough.
Talked about Coil. How Grichuk coils.
Talked about my conversations with Josh Donaldson. Loading. Scap loading.
Talked about Timing. Jose Bautista's real secret. Josh Donaldson "I focus on getting my foot UP early, not DOWN early."
FRONT FOOT: Lands with front foot a bit too closed. Not as bad as Grichuk, but could be part of reason why hips don't fully rotate. But he's reluctant to open up his front foot a bit because you DO see it in some good hitters. But that's correlation, not causation. Guys like Mike Trout are successful IN SPITE of it not BECAUSE OF it.
GRIP: Needs to use a box grip.
ME: "Some thoughts...
1. Coil AS You Stride
You were coiling too early. You were coiling THEN striding. You need to coil AS you stride. As Ted Williams says on page 45...
You are cocking your hips AS you stride, and it's so important to get that right."
Think AS not THEN.
Remember that coiling means closing your hips as you start to stride, turning your front knee in and pointing your belt buckle at the catcher.
You should be coiling AS you stride and loading your hands AS you go into foot plant, not earlier. Remember how late Torres loads his hands.
3. Maintain The Box
Why is your front arm flexed and away from your body when you swing? It's correct to label what your front arm is doing into contact as disconnection. On a pitch down the middle, your front elbow should stay flexed, not tighten up as it does. What I would work on is Maintaining The Box; keeping your front elbow flexed as you work on hitting pitches down the middle. If you are going to pull, pull from your left scap and not your front elbow.
On pitches inside, your front elbow angle will tighten up. On pitches outside, your front elbow will extend.
As it is, you are limiting your adjustability by flexing/pulling with your front elbow on every pitch.
3. Shorten Your Stride (A Bit)
The reason you lost power the last time you shortened your stride is because you took your stride out and didn't put anything else in to compensate. If you learn to Coil, you should be able to shorten your stride while gaining AVG and not losing any power. In fact, I'd say you will gain power because you will be more efficient.
4. Keep Your Back Foot Flat on the Ground Longer
One reason why I think you would benefit from shortening your stride a bit, is because it will make it easier for you to stay in your back leg and power your swing with your hips. Your biggest problem when we talked in 2010 was that your stride was so long that you got too spread out and rolled out of your back foot. As Ted Williams says on page 46...
Be careful not to over-stride, because then you spread your hips and prevent a good pivot, diminishing power.
5. Other Things to Consider
A. Trout loads by keeping his hands back until his front heel plants.
B. You want your back knee to start moving forward before the knob does. Load by pointing the knob at the catcher like Josh Donaldson and Buster Posey. Don't worry about bat wrap."
ME: "Your front foot is a bit late getting up in this one, too. I think some of what is going on is some inconsistency in your Timing, which is why you are streaky. You've got to more consistently get your front foot up by the release point. There also might be a just bit too much head movement into contact. Not a lot, but try to move your eyes more than your head. Your stride, angles, and connection look REALLY good."
ME: "Biggest thing I'd worry about your lower half is staying in your back leg and keeping your back foot flat on the ground as long as possible (so your hips have as long as possible to fire)."
HIM: "Have to stay on that back side as long as possible. (Lunging) causes my inconsistency!"
ME: "Read Ted Williams' thoughts on the stride and stride length in A Real Rap Session. A simple thing to try would be moving back in the box so that your back foot is on top of the line. You're close. Just a tweak away."
Upper body angles look good. Just a tick late.
ME: "Stop swinging at crap down. Pitchers' pitches. Especially when the count is in your favor. Look for fastballs up until you get 2 strikes."
HIM: "This is the double off of 100mph it looks like my foot was up sooner here. Hour thoughts."
ME: "This is a lower front leg/knee lift than in some of the other clips.Your knee doesn't get as high and your foot barely leaves the ground.Very much like Pujols' classic stride. I like it."
ME: "While Ted Williams strides, his front foot barely leaves the ground.I call that a skim step or a glide step. Grichuk does something similar when he's on. It lets you get your foot down quickly if you get a fastball and keep gliding if you get off-speed. Combine that with a slightly open stance and then a step closed to encourage coil and I think you're hitting for power and average."
Moved him back in the box just a bit. Upper body looked good on balls up. Just a half frame late.
First major league hit. First home run.
Chasing pitcher's pitches with the count in his favor. Balls down in the strike.
ME: "Looking at clips. Couple thoughts. Hesitancy/Hitch/Double-Clutch in load suggests ur loading ur hands too soon. Also, read what Ted Williams said about stride length and hip rotation. See page 33. Talks about over-striding hurting power. Read the whole chapter Hips: Where the Action is."
ME: "I'm a big fan of scap loading. Increases efficiency. Reduces need for big stride which improves adjustability. Donaldson preaches scap loading."
ME: "You're killing the ball. What's working?"
HIM: "Just trying to improve my load."
Hit everything hard, but line drives right at the outfielders. LO to LF. LO to RF.
He has said he was hitting a lot of doubles to the base of the wall in AAA.
ME: "Upper body looks good. Approach was better. I think warning track power is due to lower body. Stride too long. Locking up hips. Rolling in on back foot. Basically ur hips aren't firing as much as they need to. Stay in ur back leg. Keep ur back foot flat on the ground as long as u can. This is why Ted Williams doesn't like longer strides. Thinks it locks up the hips. Talk to Holliday about his back foot. He does what I'm talking about."
ME: "Load looks better. Listen to Ted Williams. Take first pitch from new pitcher. Look for fastballs up to 2 strikes. Most importantly stay in ur back leg longer. Let the ball come to u. Don't lunge and do pitcher a favor. Stay back. Read Ted Williams."
ME: "Here's a great clip that shows Pujols' back foot during 2009, when he was killing the ball. See how, rather than rolling forward onto the inside of his back foot, as you tend to do, Pujols keeps his back foot flat on the ground as long as possible. Then it just pops up as his hips pull his back leg around."
ME: "Here's a clip of Holliday (playable on iPhone/iPad) that shows what I'm talking about. See how long he keeps his back foot flat on the ground, rather than rolling onto the inner part of it. His foot is flat, flat, flat, and then pops up as his hips pull it around. By keeping his back foot flat on the ground as long as possible, he maximizes the force with which his hips can turn."
ME: "Here's another iPhone/iPad clip that shows how long Holliday keeps his back foot flat on the ground."
ME:"I really like the upper body and head on this clip. CIMG2815.AVI What I see that I think explains the warning track power is not quite enough hip rotation; your hips stop a bit short compared to Donaldson or Marp (see attached pics). Some possible reasons...
1. Stride Length: In TSOH Ted Williams talks about the problem of too long of a stride; how it can limit hip rotation. I would study Heyward's set-up or Marp's. Both are a bit narrower, which keeps their stride a bit shorter. If you want to get lower (which is a good idea), bend at the knees and the hips a bit more.
2. Front Foot: Keeping the front foot closed is designed to keep the hips closed. That works as a cue before foot plant, to ensure the hips don't open too soon, but the hips have to open as the toe plants.
3. Back Foot: A cue that works for some people is 'Keep your back foot flat on the ground as long as possible.' What I see in your back foot (and Kozma's) is you tend to roll onto the inside of your foot sooner than many good hitters do. I don't know if Holliday knows he does this, but he does it well. I can send you a clip if you want."
ME: "There u go. I really like ur approach. And ur driving everything. Just keep working on staying in ur back leg and keeping ur back foot flat on the ground as long as u can and things will start going out."
Concern with stance and stride is he is so spread out when he lands that he's like Allen Craig or Brett Wallace. Wide stance and then stride on top of that. So wide after stride that it's hard to keep hips rotating (fully).
ME: "Nice night. Good job swinging at better pitches and hitting them where they r pitched."
ME: "Just saw a side view. Back foot looks better. Stays flatter and cleats down longer."
ME: "If they gonna go after u outer third drive it into right field corner for a triple."
ME: "Attached is a flipbook of Bryce Harper of a swing from a couple of days ago. This was a double into the right field corner. The thing I want you to pay attention to is his back foot. Notice how, while he takes a big stride toward the pitcher, while he does this his back foot stay flat on the ground until his front foot plants. He doesn't roll onto the inside of his back foot. Instead, he keeps it flat on the ground as long as he can. That lets his hips rotate as powerfully as possible."
HIM: "Yea I don't know why I do that"
ME: "I think you're still thinking a bit too linearly (stride) and not rotational enough (coil). A good swing is both, but I think you may be a bit too much linear and not enough rotational. Starting with an open stance can be an easy way to pick up some coil. Watch Grichuk; how he strides closed."
Still rolling onto inside of back foot. Lunging a bit. Not striding as much, but still striding/spread out too much to keep back foot flat on the ground into front heel plant.
ME: "You look like ur getting a bit pull happy. If they r going to test u outer third put that ball in rf corner for 2B or 3B. And stay in back leg longer."
Sent him new flipbook that shows the stability of Bryce Harper's back foot.
ME: "There u go. They go inside on u, pull it. Hard."
ME: "Been looking at high speed of ur home run on ______. Great swing top and bottom. Back foot flat and stable."
Hitting the ball where it's pitched. Back foot stays flat on the ground longer.
ME: "Hit the ball where it's pitched."
1. Listening to Ted Williams
Moving from Charley Lau linear lower body swing to Ted Williams rotational lower body swing.
2. Get a Good Pitch to Hit
"Stop swinging at crap down. Pitchers' pitches. Especially when the count is in your favor. Look for fastballs up until you get 2 strikes."
3. Less Linear, More Rotational
Before was sway, not coil. Phony loading. Back to front. Lau, not Williams. Narrowed stance. Shortened stride. Staying in back leg longer. Back foot flat. Not lunging.
4. Letting the Ball Travel/Come to Him
5. Hitting the Ball Where it's Pitched
Don't try to pull everything. Don't try to push everything.
When struggling he was pulling outside pitches and pushing inside pitches. He'd roll over on pitches outer third and weekly push/flare inside pitches the other way. Pushes were hits, but flares. No power to any field.
6. Loading (Later)
Earlier on in the season he was loading too early. Had to load hands twice. Hesitation in load. Stutter. Double pump.
First, he didn't load. Then, when he started loading, he did it too early.
The real secret to Jose Bautista's success.
8. Head Movement and Position at Contact
Very good head position. Head is down, but still able to see ball as long as possible.
9. Opening Up the Front Foot
When we first started working together, his front foot was basically sideways to the pitcher. Over the years, he has let it open up, which helps his hips finish rotating. It's pretty good now, but could still open a bit more.
Extra base hit tonight that came off the bat at 110mph. Perfect alignment and extreme swing efficiency due to the chicken wing -- front elbow up, off his chest -- which he was told is a flaw.
Front foot is more open than in the past, which enables his hips to rotate more and more powerfully.
Only problem is over past few days I see some signs of front elbow down and more vertical barrel, which I assume is coming from his hitting coaches. That will screw up his swing plane if it worsens.
We haven't talked since 9.16 and he's gone into quite a slump, with several days of ohfors.
I'm not sure if the problem is that he's pressing and trying to do too much or his coaches are giving him bad advice. From what I see as his at-bats go on in the game, it's probably a bit of both. The problems I see include...
1. Shift of Focus: When's he's hitting well, he's focused on his back arm, scap loading, and getting and keeping his hands back until his front foot plants. Now, he seems to be focused on his front elbow and keeping it down. He's developed a tic in his front arm and load as a result.
2. Swing Plane: While before he was hitting for (huge) power with an in-plane load, he's now front elbow down, barrel up at Foot Plant. I don't know if he's trying to do a barrel tip or is trying to keep his front elbow down in order to keep the barrel above the ball. Regardless, it has created a major problem with how he launches his swing and has created a huge hole at the top of the strike zone.
3. Hands Farther Away From His Body
4. Chopping Down on the Ball: I don't know if he's trying to create backspin or just trying to keep the barrel above the ball, but the result is he's started chopping down on the ball and popping it up with an alarming frequency.
5. Approach: One of his main problems was trying to pull outside pitches, rather than hitting the ball where it's pitched. That problem has returned.
Looking at some clips to figure out the possible cause for the reappearance of Warning Track Power. Among other things, his hands aren't staying back into Heel Plant. Compared to his swing on an earlier monster home run to left field, he's showing significantly Leaky Hands. This is the same thing that he came to me for originally. It may be symptomatic of what the organization teaches in terms of hand path (e.g. short to the ball).
Let me summarize what I see as the (visible) results of our countless text exchanges and 97 e-mails (including 30 e-mails, mostly from late June and early July 2015, in which he sent me clips and asked for my feedback).
1. Hand Path and Loading: The original problem he came to me with was a combination of an overly linear hand path and a lack of loading; his hands would leak forward before his front foot planted. Recent clips of him hitting home runs show the difference, as do the more recent clips that show that he has reverted to his old, leaky hand path of late (and the warning track power has returned).
2. Timing of Hand Load: During his first stint at the MLB level in early July, he was loading his hands too early. He would load his hands early and then load them again late. That hesitation and double-pump/double-load has disappeared.
3. Back Foot: When we first met and talked in 2010, he was rolling onto the inside of his front foot, which was causing him to bleed off power. Now, when he's hitting well, his back foot stays flat on the ground until it is peeled off the ground by the rotation of his hips.
4. Sway: Less linear movement, especially back toward catcher.
5. Hitting the Ball Where It's Pitched: When he's thinking well, instead of trying to pull, and rolling over, on balls over the outer third of the strike zone, he instead drives them the other way into the right field corner. If he's not driving balls into the right field corner, he's not thinking right.