PITTSBURGH – As the 2015 MVP of the Cape Cod League and preseason SEC Player of the Year, University of Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel went from being a productive college hitter over the first two years of his career to a perennial Top 15 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.
Described by some as the best pure hitter in the draft, Senzel has hit .353/.477/.594 over the course of 133 at-bats this season with five home runs, 46 runs, 47 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a more than 2:1 BB/K ratio.
At 6’1, 205 lbs. Senzel is very stocky with broad shoulders and a strong barrel chest. But it’s the sequence of his swing that creates efficient energy – i.e. power – that allows him to take advantage of his strength.
At the set position, Senzel has a very standard stance. His feet are square and wide, and sit outside of his shoulders. His hips and shoulders are very neutral, with his head facing the pitcher with both eyes – giving him the vision he needs to see the incoming pitch. Finally, his hands are holding the bat above the back shoulder with a high back elbow.
All pretty standard stuff.
From here, though, is where it starts to get interesting.
As Senzel loads into the back leg, he starts to create a little bit of flex with that leg and starts to push down into the ground. The hands have dropped down and are level with – and behind – the back shoulder, causing the barrel to tip into a more vertical, straight up and down position. He still has both eyes locked on the pitch, with the front shoulder having closed ever so slightly.
At this point, Senzel is going to shift his weight and create some lateral movement forward. This change in momentum means he went from pushing his back leg down into the ground at the start of his move, to getting his back leg to extend while moving the back hip forward.
As he shifts forward and lands on his front foot, he hasn’t created much rotation yet. He has not started to turn his hips or his pelvis, as the belt buckle is still facing toward the camera. The back knee is still in a very neutral position, with the hands in the loaded position by his back shoulder.
Now we are going to start to see some things happening.
As Senzel’s front heel plants, we start to see the first sequence in the kinetic chain¹.
At this point Senzel is pushing his back foot toward the catcher, while his front foot is pushing into the ground toward first base in order to transfer energy into the hips. This allows the back hip to rotate the back leg toward the incoming pitch.
From here, the front foot is pushing forward against the ground in the opposite direction of the back foot to allow the front knee and leg to rotate back, in the opposite direction to which the force is being applied by the foot.
That completes the first sequence of the kinetic chain.
With this, we can see the pelvis start to rotate around the spine as the belt buckle moves out of view. The trunk of body now takes the energy created by the lower half and transfers it to the arms, to the hands and then later into the bat.
The barrel now picks up speed and Senzel makes contact with the ball, sending a line drive back up through the middle for a base hit.
What we can learn from Senzel’s swing, that applies to players of all shapes and sizes, is there is a sequence of the swing. There needs to be lateral movement forward – some weight shift toward the pitcher – and from there, the swing can begin from the ground up.
The hips begin to rotate, the pelvis will rotate, the trunk will take the energy, the arms will catch up and the bat head will be delivered to the baseball.
1) The kinetic chain is how we transfer energy from the ground up through the big muscle segments of our body into the smaller muscle segments of the body (hands, arms), eventually transferring the energy into the barrel of the bat.
Special thanks to Coach Jeff Leach for the in-depth analysis of Seth Beer’s swing.