Josh Donaldson's swing change allowed him to become one of the best hitters in baseball.
The mechanics that he implemented are not new. The great hitters over the last 100 years have all used these movements.
They are able to create early bat speed, get on plane and consistently square the baseball.
Early bat speed means that the initial movement of the barrel is towards the dugout behind him. If you watch closely, all of the great hitters have some kind of tipping action. This tip of the barrel is a loading action for the hands and arms to send the barrel back towards the dugout behind them. The barrel continues around the back forearm and is then directed towards the baseball.
This swing path allows a smooth and efficient use of momentum.
The Barrel Turn
This is one of the furthest balls ever hit. Notice the tipping action of the barrel.
Here is Dick Allen. I slowed this clip down so you can see the blur of the bat and where that blur is happening.
The barrel is twisted into the baseball.
This tipping action is a load of the hands to twist the barrel.
Donaldson makes a strong triangle shape with his arms. He swings that triangle shape to swing the bat. The elbows and bat move together.
David Wright uses the same triangle shape when he swings.
And so does Ortiz.
This one concept can change the trajectory of a hitters career. Players might use a leg lift and think they hit like Donaldson, they don't.
The triangle turn is what made the difference in his swing.
This allows the tightest pivot for the barrel to turn around. This is the quickest, most powerful way to swing a bat.
We talked about the triangle turn and tipping the bat.
Creating this type of bat path has several positive effects.
The elbow pulling back combined with the twisting of the bat allows Donaldson to more effectively use his kinetic chain.
Because he is able to create more bat speed, he is able to wait longer before the initiation of his swing.
By pulling the elbow up and back, Donaldson is fully loaded to swing. The elbow is pulled back towards the dugout behind him.
Donaldson gets pulled back and then lets his lower body pull his upper body.
Donaldson himself is a proponent of matching plane with the oncoming pitch. This allows him to consistently hit baseballs at a 10-30 degree angle.
This teaching point may be the most controversial subject that I have come across. There is no evidence that proves that a downward swing angle is quicker or more efficient.
Ted Williams wrote about matching plane back in 1971.
The Kinetic Chain
Donaldson gets a great launch position.
I want to be clear, this is not a still position, his lower body has already started to power the swing. His weight is falling forward at the time of this picture.
I say "launch position" because his upper body has not yet begin the swing. Donaldson creates a great shape in the arms with the back elbow pulled back. This shape in the arms is maintained until contact. The back elbow drops, the barrel drops to level with the shoulders, but the bend in the arms doesn't change.
The hands stay at the shoulder while the barrel travels around the hands. The upper body is delayed for as long as possible to create a late, violent swing.
Donaldson changed his swing to become one of the best hitters in baseball.
He is not a freak athlete.
There are countless other players who are playing at 70% of their capability level.
Donaldson simply found a way to maximize his capabilities as a hitter. He is now able to consistantly make square contact with the baseball.
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