Zach Britton Demonstrates his Sinker Grip

Zach Britton has been filthy this season. The Orioles’ closer hadn’t allowed a single earned run since April until Wednesday night. The streak spanned nearly four months. Over 43 appearances, the left-hander struck out 48 batters and allowed just 33 runners to reach base. Britton’s success isn’t surprising when you see his arsenal of pitches, especially his devastating sinker. He recently joined the MASN Orioles broadcast to discuss his sinker grip and how he attempts to get it to both dive away and cut in. Video is below.

Here’s Britton’s sinker in action:

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Trevor Bauer on Controlling his Sinker’s Movement

Trevor Bauer’s sinker has had some of the best horizontal movement of his career this season and it’s been a highly effective pitch against lefties. This excellent article from Fangraphs highlights that further and features a video of Bauer explaining how he manages the pitch’s movement. It involves drawing two large black circles on each side of the ball. The video is below.

 

Royals’ Catcher-specific Training

I’ve always been amazed by how great of a defensive catcher Salvador Perez is considering he’s listed at 6-3, 240 pounds. The catcher position obviously requires a certain level of flexibility, which one would think could be difficult for man of Perez’s size. This article from Sports Illustrated takes an inside look on how the Royals train their catchers and offers actual training drills from their award-winning strength and conditioning coach, Ryan Stoneberg.

“Each of these players are individuals and that’s how I treat them,” says Stoneberg, who enters his 15th season with the 2015 World Series champion Royals. “They are different ages, play different volumes of innings, have different training backgrounds [and] injury histories….It’s important to recommend what they need moving forward, while recognizing their individual backgrounds. It would be very easy to have all of these players do the same things, but it would not be as beneficial to the player or the team.”

 

Danny Duffy and Experimentation

The Royals seemingly have a new home-grown ace in left-hander Danny Duffy. The 27-year-old began this season in the bullpen and is now a dark horse Cy Young candidate in the American League. Rustin Dodd of the KC Star chronicled how Duffy bounced back from one of the most ineffective seasons of his career. The process involved developing a new pitch, simplifying his delivery, and a trip to the bullpen which showed him just how dominant his stuff was.

His future as a starting pitcher uncertain, his career at a plateau, Duffy stood in the outfield grass, looking out toward Medlen, some 60 feet away. He gripped the baseball like a fastball, and he chucked it like a football, and even now, one year later, the moment still kind of blows him away.

“It literally was one of the nastiest breaking balls I’ve ever thrown,” Duffy says.

The baseball broke late and darted down, popping into the glove of Medlen. The pitch resembled a slider, and as Medlen caught the ball, he looked back toward Duffy.

“Dude,” Medlen said. “You got to use this in the game.”

I often preach experimentation when it comes to hitting, but the same could be said for pitching. Duffy appears to be proof of that. Even if it doesn’t produce anything, your original way of doing things will always be there to fall back on.

Ted Williams and The Science of Hitting

Ted Williams’ The Science of Hitting is no secret among the baseball world. It was published in 1971, fully revised in 1985, and has been a go-to for players, coaches, and instructors ever since. Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto often references it and has even memorized entire sections. After reading it myself, and following Votto’s entire career to this point, it’s obvious the 2010 National League MVP lives by most of the book’s philosophy.

What it doesn’t provide is strict technical hitting instruction. This isn’t a book for beginners, but with that being said, I doubt that was Williams’ objective in the first place. It’s rather jam packed with theory and the misconceptions of what makes a great hitter that are still spoken like gospel at all levels of the game today. Williams bounces back and forth through ideas. That’s where the “science” aspect appears. It often reads like a scientist’s notebook. In this case, it’s one of the greatest hitters of all time letting his thoughts spill out on paper. Due to that, there’s not much organization.

I’ve attempted to pick out and highlight specific sections of the book and order them by how a player would approach hitting. From developing and practicing the swing, the mental side of hitting, the dugout and on-deck circle, to the batter’s box, and finally the process of hitting in real time. The idea is to provide a spark notes-type breakdown if you will for a book that is a must-read for any student of the game.


“Most hitting faults come from a lack of knowledge, uncertainty, and fear — and that boils down to knowing yourself.” — Lefty O’Doul

O’Doul’s quote is referenced early in the book and it’s the first words I literally highlighted. It feeds directly into what Williams believes is the correct approach to building a swing.

Hitting is…

50 percent from the neck up
50 percent hitting according to your style

Williams on changing players’ swings:

“…except when something is radically wrong, you won’t find me doing much to alter a player’s style.”

“Show me ten great hitters and I’ll show you ten different styles.”

Williams on experimentation:

“I was forever trying a new stance … and then going back to my old way. I recommend that for kids. Experiment. Try what you see that looks good on somebody else.”

On kids playing too many games:

“With all the regimentation they get, and all the emphasis on playing games instead of practicing, a kid isn’t afforded the time he needs in the batting cage.”

(Keep in mind, Williams said this in the 70s. It might be even worse today.)

“A great hitter isn’t born, he’s made. He’s made out of practice, fault corrections, and confidence.” — Rogers Hornsby

On watching the pitcher warm up:

“You watch a pitcher warm up, and you see everything’s high, or his breaking ball is in the dirt. If he isn’t getting the breaking ball over you can think about waiting for the fastball.”

Rules:

  1. Get a good ball to hit
  2. Proper thinking (Do your homework)
  3. Be quick with the bat

On stance:

“The important thing is to have plate coverage with the bat.”

On bat position:

Held bat “almost perpendicular to the ground. The bat felt lighter that way, more comfortable.”

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On first pitch:

“For me as a batter hitting third in the lineup, there was one thing that was 95 percent certain: I was going to take the first pitch.”

“You’ve refreshed your memory of the pitcher’s speed and his delivery.”

“You must learn to make that first time up a key time by striving to find out as much about a pitcher as possible, and you do that by making him pitch.”

“I didn’t want to hit until I had seen a fastball. Why? Because the fastball clears you up for everything.”

On “guessing”:

Known as a hitter who “guessed” a lot. “Guessing was observing.”

“Obviously you don’t want to ‘guess’ curve or ‘guess’ fastball. You work from a frame of reference, you learn what you might expect in certain instances, and you guess from there. Certainly you won’t guess a pitch the pitcher can’t get over; he might have a terrific curve, but if he can’t get it over, forget it.”

On the importance of the hips:

“Cocking hips is at the root of batting power.

“The hips and hands cock as you move your lead foot to stride, the front knee turning in to help the hips rotate back. You are cocking your hips as you stride, and it’s so important to get that right.

“The hips set the swing in motion and lead the way. If they are restricted, if you don’t open them wide enough, the wrists will roll prematurely.”

On the upswing:

“…but if you swing slightly up you have the hips leading and then out of the way, generating speed and power.”

(He has an entire section with illustrations on this, slicing through the notion that a “down swing” or to “hit the ball on the ground” is correct hitting instruction.)

On getting to the low pitch:

“…drop the head down, but do not lunge toward the pitcher.”

“…if you lunge too much, if you come forward too far with your head as you swing, you are diminishing your power. You are escorting the bat instead of swinging it.”

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Other notes of importance…

On opposite field approach:

“The tendency to the opposite field is to be late, and when you’re late, you’re swinging under the ball and more likely to pop it up.”

On having a problem with a particular pitch:

“If you’re having a problem with a particular pitch, say a slider, a way to solve it is to always anticipate a slider.”

On pitchers going back to a pitch:

“Most pitchers, of course, will have a high enough regard for their repertoire that if they get you out on a good pitch, they’ll invariably come back with it.”

On the (false) notion to hit an outside pitch, a hitter must step in that direction:

“…you the batter have already made your stride before you know where the ball will be or what it will be.”

On two-strike approach:

“You have to think in terms of making everything quicker. How do you do that? You choke up a little bit. You quit trying to pull.”