June 27, 2008

Ludwick needs to sting the ball

Most reports that will come out now are going to say Ryan Ludwick's current cool-down at the plate is due to Pujols not being in the lineup. Some of that does have an effect, but Ludwick is a good hitter regardless. And while Ludwick has plenty of baseball years under his belt already, he doesn't have too many at the major league level. Fans need to remember that he is like any other inexperienced big leaguer and needs more ABs to learn from.

Sure, there's a Pujols Effect, but there is a Sheffield Effect too, and an Ortiz Effect, and on and on, so Ludwick's situation is not unique to Ludwick. He would need to learn from this situation regardless of where he is. Ludwick falls more into the category as McClellan, where he has put in so many solid performances that it is hard to look at him as a rookie or a player of few seasons, in any case. More likely, Ludwick simply needs a few games off now and then, like everyone else.
If there is anything to analyze in Ludwick's swing, I would look toward the mental aspect of "pushing for a hit" maybe a little too much, but that is easy to mistake just because a hitter hasn't scored his usual number of hits. Ludwick has struck out a bit, and even got "frozen" on a few, which is more of a sign that opposing hurlers are learning how to pitch him more effectively. Now Ludwick must adjust.

As for pure mechanics, Ludwick is "muscling" a bit more at the expense of bat speed. For Ludwick, this is a fine line, as in his effective swings of excellent bat speed, he doesn't hold much back as far as the grunt-factor in slinging lumber. But his effective swings are set up more for speed on the boundaries of out of control than for crushing baseballs. Such a fine difference must be re-analyzed often, because it is easy to lose the touch, so to speak.

To attempt clarification, think of yourself swinging as powerfully as Ludwick. Certainly, it is going to take muscle to produce great bat speed, but the biggest difference is how you are accomplishing said velocity. If you muscle-up and muscle-through, you don't get the speed or accuracy necessary for successful swings on a regular basis, but if you allow your muscles to initiate from a relaxed state, the muscle-through becomes far more powerful and accurate, producing better bat speed.

A mental trick that a hitter can use is to replace his own brain's directives to crush the ball with thoughts of stinging the ball, or whatever word or abstract image works toward the stinging ends. There could be other factors in Ludwick's mechanics, but the aforementioned is what appears to be the current problem.