Written by Conner Watson
Luis Menendez was the first hitter assigned to me as an intern. If there is one thing you could ask for in this situation, it’s that the athlete has purpose and truly wants to be here to get better. This past year before coming to Driveline, Luis took a gap-year to work valet at a nightclub in Miami so he could pay for his training with us this summer.
I didn’t need to know anything else. This dude wants it.
During his assessment, Luis displayed good bat-to-ball skills and showed the ability to run his exit velo up around 100 mph. He also proved to be a front-leg dominant hitter with increased amounts of torso forward bend during the stride phase (more on this later). After his first-week assessment, Luis had me feeling like Scott Cochran: “You’re a Bentley right now, I’m just gon’ put spinners on that thing.”
Creating a Plan
After analyzing his data from the assessment week, we found that we could improve in a few areas, the first of which was bat speed.
He posted an average speed of 67.92 mph. That’s good, but not good enough for what he wants out of his career (the MLB in-game average is ≈74.5 mph).
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We also wanted to focus on decreasing his bent-over posture during the stride. If we do this properly, he’ll be able to set up at high pitch posture and adjust down from there. This is especially true for Luis because adjusting down is one of his strengths.
Lastly, we wanted to optimize his contact on the high pitch AND lessen slice on his balls to the opposite field.
Hitting the High Pitch and Opposite Field Contact
Luis’s bent-over posture limited his performance in two ways. He had a tendency to get beat by the high pitch, and to slice or “flare” balls to the opposite field.
Increase Bat Speed
Our biggest focus in terms of swing metrics was his bat speed. Averaging nearly 68 mph was good, but not good enough for what Luis wants to do with his career.
The biggest hurdle we faced with his mechanics was the increased torso forward bend during the stride phase. As you can see from the K-Vest graphs, Luis continued to gain forward bend (green line) until the swing phase occurred. Ideally, we want to set our posture for the high pitch and adjust down from there.
Luis’s K-vest animation provides a ton of clarity on what excess forward bend looks like. If you focus on the “bend” number on the right-hand side, you can associate that with what his upper half is doing in the animation to understand this concept more deeply. As you can see, as his torso bend increases, it becomes harder and harder to maintain that posture into the swing phase, and he has to come up and out of it as he rotates.
In his athlete meeting, Luis and our staff discussed goal setting for his time with us. We decided on setting an average bat speed goal of 73.5 mph, a top 8th exit velocity goal of 100 mph, and his own personal max exit velocity goal of 110 mph.
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The main focus of our training was to increase bat speed, improve contact quality, and learn how to set his posture for the high pitch.
Luis was periodically placed on a Bat Speed emphasis. The true key to unlocking his bat speed was educating him on intent, as well as programming our bat speed trainers into his daily work, multiple times per week.
An example of this was the drill Offset Open with the Long Trainer. This drill in and of itself is great, but when accompanied with a pull-side, high exit velo intent, it kills THREE birds with one stone. We learn how to efficiently turn behind the baseball, with good posture, and a ton of speed.
With the goal of improving his posture, one of the first drills we went over in his Swing Design was the High Tee drill. The intent behind this drill is to set your posture to hit this pitch between 10-25°. We also touched on progressions of this drill, implementing the Long Trainer and adding “bat from shoulder” swings as well.
To address the issue of contact quality, a staple for Luis was the Offset Open drill, utilizing our hitting Plyo Ball ®. This drill was huge because it also promoted better barrel depth for flushing balls to all fields. Check out other ways we can use Plyo Ball ® to train bat path.
Lastly, in order to test all the work we had been doing, we had Luis face some left-handed sliders, a pitch that really requires all of these tools to hit well. Coming from the opposite angle, it is really easy to bend over too early to get a “better look” at the pitch. If a hitter has to come up out of a bent-over posture, they are more likely to pop up the high pitch and slice balls to the opposite field (exactly what we were trying to help Luis do less frequently). Also, keeping bat speed up gives a hitter the opportunity to let this pitch travel and make better swing decisions. Do all of these things right, and you’ll be able to hit the LH slider hard to all fields. Here’s Luis putting on a clinic:
Luis absolutely dominated his training this summer. He increased his bat speed, began setting his posture for the high pitch, hammered balls up in the zone, and improved his quality of contact to the opposite field.
- Average Bat Speed
- 67.9 → 73.9 = +6 mph
- Opposite Field Metrics
- Exit Velocity
- 78.43 → 83.63 = +5.2 mph
- Launch Angle
- 46.38° → 39.61° = -6.77°
- Exit Velocity
- High Pitch Metrics
- Exit Velocity
- 79.31 → 87.57 = +8.26 mph
- Launch Angle
- 49.86° → 34.27° = -15.59°
- 0.181 → 0.549 = +0.368!!
- Exit Velocity
Luis’s max exit velocity when he first got here became his top 8th exit velocity by the time he left — that speaks volumes to how much he improved this summer.
Before & After
When we compare Edgertronic footage of swings from his first week in-gym vs. his last week, we can visualize the changes Luis made. The guy on the left is good, but has a bent over posture and swings with average bat speed. The guy on the right is really, really good. He sets up at high pitch posture, rotates smoothly through that posture, and works behind the baseball with pro-level speed.
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