Let’s Learn: Why does rotational power matter?
The more powerfully and efficiently the body can rotate, the faster the implement being swing will go. There are several factors that then go into making the ball go very far after that. Collision force at impact deals with the mass of the implement and the efficiency of that collision. For example, making contact with the ball in the middle of the bat’s barrel or the club head will transfer as much force as possible into the ball. However, the speed of the implement being swung matters a great deal for how much force that implement will then impart on the ball. All of this swing speed is a result of efficient and powerful rotation of the entire body!
In baseball, batting exit speeds are highly correlative with how fast the athlete can rotate the bat through the hitting zone. Balls will often travel harder when bat speed is higher so long as an efficient collision is made between the barrel of the bat and the ball. “But, hey, what’s the difference between a ball hit at 90 and 95 mph? It can’t be that big of a deal right?”
Per Baseball Savant Hit Probability increases drastically on balls hit at 95 mph vs those hit at 90 mph. The goal of hitting in baseball is to reach base as frequently as possible, attempting to improve a team’s chances of winning by filling the bases up and clearing them with lots of hits and extra base hits. This consistent rise in batting average, slugging percentage and rate of runs created are is seen with each mph of increased exit velocity.
Some numbers to chew on…
(Based on 2019 MLB stats)
85 MPH: .202
90 MPH: .246
96 MPH: .333
102 MPH: .579
85 MPH: .206
90 MPH: .256
96 MPH: .382
102 MPH .763
Home Runs Hit
85 MPH: 1
90 MPH: 13
96 MPH: 119
102 MPH: 582
So what we see here is that all three metrics that greatly impact a hitter’s success are greatly influenced by exit velocity. This makes sense. The harder a ball is hit, the more difficult it is for defenders to make a play on it.
Interesting note: Every batter who accumulated more than 80 at bats in 2018 & 2019 hit at least one ball over 100 mph (yes, even the speedy runners who don’t seem to be very powerful hitters). So if you want to be a hitter at the highest level, it is imperative to have the ability to hit a ball over 100 mph with a wood bat.
Some more numbers to chew on…
(Taken from training data of 20 in-house trainees)
- Those who could create an exit velocity over 100 mph all could throw the 2 and 3 lb med ball over 40 mph in the Rotational Shotput Throw and all could throw the 2 and 3 lb med ball over 35 mph in the Rotational Scoop Toss
- Those who improved Rotational Shotput and Scoop Toss velocity by 3 mph or more all saw improvements in peak tee exit velocity by 4 mph or more
- Bench Press numbers were somewhat correlative, as 5 of the 6 trainees who could hit over 100 mph exit velocity could all Bench Press their Bodyweight at 0.8 m/s or faster.
- Athletes who improved Bench Press by over 50 lbs in a year (8 of the 20) all improved batting exit velocity by 5 mph or more
How should this impact your training?
- Keep training with the intent to make the swing more powerful and explosive. That should be the end-goal if you are not in an elite range of exit velocity already.
- Track medicine ball rotational throw velocity. This is a great representation of the power necessary to hit balls very far. Make sure that all the strength and explosive training done positively impacts rotational power!
- Don’t just track exit velocity off the middle tee. Though the middle tee is a fine measuring stick for younger players’ development, the older players must be more greatly challenged. The problem is that the pitching faced in games is much more difficult than just hitting a ball off a tee. So, with the higher level hitters, measure swinging speed and exit velocity against real pitching to see how average exit velocity and bat speeds increase over time.
- Focus on long-term growth and in-game success. Make sure that whatever swing you test with does not negatively impact your swing or mental approach in games. It takes a long time to develop exit velocity to a high level, so focus on slow, consistent progress. If you’re a high school kid, I’d recommend a rate of 0.5-1 increased mph exit velocity every month or so.
- Know where you sit on a Force-Velocity Profile. If you need more strength training, focus on improving those numbers with progressive overload. If you need more high velocity strength, focus on increasing volume and speed with high velocity medicine ball throwing, sprints and plyometrics. Regardless, use rotational power metrics as your measuring stick every 2-3 weeks to see how effective your training is!
Over the past two years, I’ve tried to take very streamlined, less-guesswork approach to programming. Here’s the way I approach someone who needs to gain exit velocity.
Make training fun. Take them to a park and see how far they can hit it. Let them dictate their own movement. Then challenge them with live at bats. I throw 50-60 mph live at bats to 12-13 yr old kids once every week or so and track exit velocity once every week or so. The results have been outstanding. They seem to love training and playing. They seem to have become comfort at taking an aggressive swing in games too!
High school kid
This is where tee exit velocity and weight room strength training seem to matter a lot. They all want to do showcase events where tee exit velocity is a main metric, so we had better make sure that’s improving. Typically, I want their strength training numbers in the Bench Press, Row, Deadlift and Split Squat to all improve by 50 lbs or more in a year. Do that year after year and you’re looking at a very strong individual. I’ll also track rotational medicine ball throw velocity and shoot for improvements of 5 mph or more over the course of a year.
Advanced trainees (college/pro)
This is where it gets a bit tricky. I really rely on Force-Velocity profiling to guide programming with them- because just heavy strength training won’t cut it anymore! This will guide the loads, speeds and volumes they will be training with in the weight room. I’ll also try to track bat speed in live at bat situations. Bat speed and exit velocity in live at bats matters a lot more at this stage of their development, as hitting in games takes such a high level of reaction and coordination to be great.