Mookie Betts has been off to a torrid start in 2018 as one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball showing a propensity to hit for both average and power during early parts of 2018. We take a look at some of Mookie's elite loading patterns as well as ability to build tension and deliver the barrel.in 2018
One of the interesting things about Mookie is his propensity to hit the baseball to his pull-side. If we look at his spray charts from 2017, we can see a heavy concentration of results to the pull side of the field. One of the other things that I happen to notice as well is a high concentration of pull-side ground balls and opposite field fly balls (for outs) which is indicative of a hitters path cutting across the zone. The cutting across the zone can be caused by a number of things, however one of Mookies swing changes this year has allowed for more consistency in this matter. While he does still have a pull-side heavy spray chart in 2018, the consistency he has shown for better swing trajectory must be noticed.
One of the areas that draws my attention to Mookie is the loading sequence with his hands/barrel. You can see that he really sets the barrel early as he draws his hands downward and creates a strong angle from his lead elbow through the lead wrist. His gather works to a point in which you can see the lead knee and elbow connected against the backside of his body. In previous seasons, Mookie had a larger pre-gather movement with more exaggerated barrel movement in his set-up. With the loading sequence Mookie has, any excess barrel movement pre-gather could make for some lapses in timing. So far in 2018, we have seen a more condensed version of that setup leading towards Mookie working through an effective launch of his swing.
In 2017, the movements were much more exaggerated pre-pitch causing for Mookie to speed up his process if the timing wasn't perfect. As we noted in the pull-side heavy results, much of this I believe came from a lack of efficiency and consistent timing.
For a hitter of his stature (5'9" 180lbs) to generate the torque and bat speed that Mookie posseses, we have to look at his ability to maximize tension. We can see that once Mookie has achieved a centered point to his gather (hands at their lowest point and lead knee at its highest point) he then works forward. This movement forward with the lower half is initiated by his rear hip as you can see the aggressive turning. With that, his hands work up and back as they begin the sequence of creating deep bat speed. allowing the barrel to turn behind his back shoulder.
Looking at his lower half, one of the areas that is a key contributor to his power source is the ability to stay through his rear heel. As mentioned above, his rear hip initiates the sequence as we can see the linkage between the rear hip and knee (femoral internal rotation) and through the rear foot. The amount of torque that comes from his rear hip is directly correlated to his stride length. As his energy transfers forward into the stride, he lands with a softer bent leg to which you can see an aggressive "pull back" of the lead foot. This dynamic breaking system of the lead leg essentially accelerates the rear hip through and up against the point of contact.
While these patterns are seen through a lot of excellent hitters, I do believe the exaggerated (bigger) movements are a key factor into the barrel speed and torque created by Mookie Betts. While the sequencing has been terrific given some adjustments to pre-pitch timing (or so it seems) his ability to get through a position to see the baseball effectively has been extremely noticeable to date.