A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on the effects of knob "push" had on your ability to accelerate the barrel efficiently. Let me refresh. My belief is that top-level players do the following: Accelerate the barrel to top speed quickly and consistently arrive at the ball on the upward plane of the swing matching the downward plane of the pitch. Regardless of what they say they do or think they do, the reality is that is what they do, period, otherwise, they wouldn't be in the major leagues. If you want to read Part 1 on the effects of barrel acceleration you can read it HERE.
Onto Swing Plane
As many of you have probably heard and/or seen a coaching teaching the position above. I know I have, and at one time I taught it too. "Inside the ball", "knob to the ball", "hands to the ball" are all cues that coaches use to try to cue player's swing path. With a basic understanding of kinesiology, and how the kinetic chain you will quickly realize this is how the body is designed to work and this isn't a repeatable method to get your barrel to arrive on the upward swing plane consistently. Not only that, but it won't arrive on plane early and behind the ball deep in the zone. But why not? When the knob is forcefully pushed forward it changes 2 things, the pivot point of the hands/knob, and it changes the bottom of the swing arc.
Let's talk about the swing arc. When watching a video of high-level swings more often than not you will see the barrel parallel to the ground just as the hands pass the back hip in the sequence of rotation in the kinetic chain. This allows the swing arc to bottom out deeper in the zone (even or around the back leg) allowing everything that happens after that to be upward swing plane. With excessive knob push you see swing arcs now bottom out in the middle of the hitter's stance, and now balls that they should hit on the upward plane they are now hitting with level to a negative plane. This means now a ball that hit just inside the hitters front foot that could be launched between 10-15 degrees is now a groundball. As you know and have seen with Statcast data the offensive value of a line drive and a ground ball is as wide as the Grand Canyon. This is all because the hitter pushed his hands and knob out of sequence with the rotation of their body creating later hand/knob pivot and later bottoming out of the swing arc creating upward plane only well beyond the hitter's front foot if at all. With such a small window now to drive the ball in the air, the hitter will really struggle to hit higher level pitch speeds as this requires the swing to be on plane early and on plane for as long as possible to allow for adaptability to pitch heights and speeds.
Take Giancarlo as an example. He has always crushed baseballs. Lighting up Statcast for the better part of 2 seasons with exit velocities off the charts, but never being able to compile a number of homers he should have hit at those speeds because he fought 1. late hand pivot, 2. low swing planes at deep contact points, and 3. low launch angles. See the video below of his back to front loading action with severe knob push and late barrel parallel with the ground from past seasons.
Onto this season. 59 homers. What was different? He changed his setup. Closing himself off and orienting his spacing more to the back corner of the plate created a deeper hand pivot allowed his swing to bottom out deeper in the zone. Now arriving on a more positive swing plane deeper in the zone Giancarlo was able to launch balls at 25 where in past season he may have only launched at 5. The difference? One is a homer and the other is just a hard one hope line drive into the outfield. See the video below of the deeper pivot action of the hands and the barrel bottoming out deeper in the zone.
Would I recommend this to you? Maybe, if it works, it works which is why I measure these things using Diamond Kinetics. It gives players the freedom to try these things in an attempt to create better outputs.
What's the moral of all of this? STOP PUSHING THE KNOB TO ACCELERATE THE BARREL! It is killing your swing! Don't believe me? Buy a Diamond Kinetics sensor and see for yourself!