Why Driveline Baseball is part of Dodgers’ hitting program

It only took a day for Max Muncy’s routine to change this offseason.

Three months after the Dodgers retired after the season and more than 1,000 miles from the team’s home facilities, the veteran third baseman found himself south of Seattle in January spending an afternoon at Driveline Baseball.

The trip to the renowned data-driven training center was not originally his idea. It came as a suggestion from the Dodgers to meet coach Robert Van Scoyoc shortly after the 2022 season.

Muncy wasn’t sure what to expect, believing Driveline was a place for pitchers to improve using cutting-edge technology – not their counterparts on the plate.

But in the ever-evolving world of advanced baseball development, Driveline presented an intriguing opportunity. In recent years they had developed a hitting program designed to refine swing mechanics, build strength and most importantly, increase racquet speed.

So Muncy agreed and became one of six Dodgers hitters who made a team-organized pilgrimage to Driveline this winter.

“I thought, OK, I’ll try, why not?” Muncy recalled this week. “If it increases my racquet speed, if it helps me catch fastballs with guys throwing harder than ever, if it helps me play longer in my career – there hasn’t been a downside for me.”

The driveline visits emerged as an early action at camp this spring. In addition to Muncy, Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux also said they trained there during the off-season.

“We just thought there was an opportunity to go there with certain people and get information about them,” Van Scoyoc said, speaking of what he called a “collaborative process” between the Dodgers and the Driveline team.

“We’re always trying to find ways to improve,” said General Manager Brandon Gomes. “And while we were talking about it, we saw it as an opportunity to bring it to our boys.”

While Dodgers players have trained at Driveline in the past, it has typically been pitchers. Since its inception in 2008, Driveline has built a reputation for helping even veteran big leagues add speed, break and spin to their repertoire.

“You hear Driveline,” Muncy said, “you automatically think of jugs.”

Dodger's teammates (from left) Jason Heyward, Max Muncy and Freddie Freeman walk with their gear.

Dodgers teammates (from left) Jason Heyward, Max Muncy and Freddie Freeman walk to the practice fields at Camelback Ranch on Monday.

(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

“When everyone throws 100 [mph] now we have to be able to catch up.”

— Max Muncy, on the importance of bat speed

This offseason, however, the Dodgers made a concerted effort to also send batsmen to the facility — a “coach-driven” initiative, Gomes said, stimulated by Driveline’s intriguing at-bat speed program.

“It was just a thing with certain guys that we thought could help,” Van Scoyoc said. “We wanted to investigate”

Like other Dodgers hitters who went to Driveline this offseason, Muncy’s visit involved a few key steps.

There were biomechanical tests, with motion-capture cameras and wearable sensors measuring every component of Muncy’s powerful swing and even creating 3D animations showing how each body part interacted during movement.

There was instruction in a special system of weighted bat training that taught Muncy a series of drills that he later incorporated into his off-season activities.

“The whole theory was just to increase bat speed,” Muncy said.

It’s not a new revelation in the baseball community.

Just as pitchers have always tried to throw the ball harder, batters have long sought reliable ways to accelerate their swing without sacrificing mechanics.

“When everyone throws 100 [mph] now,” Muncy said, “we need to be able to catch up.”

What’s different about Driveline’s new system, Van Scoyoc says, is its ability to compile mountains of swing data and incorporate the information into newly developed training techniques.

“I just think the way it’s organized and tracked is what’s new about it,” Van Scoyoc said. “It’s just a matter of being a little bit more informed about where the boys are.”

Some of the hitters who contacted the Dodgers about going to Driveline this winter simply went with the suggestion.

“My employer told me I had to go,” Betts said of his trip, which led him to gain 8 pounds in the spring. “There’s only one way to find out, but so far I’m definitely a lot stronger and a little bit beefed up, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Mookie Betts attends batting practice at Dodger Stadium on October 7th.

Mookie Betts attends batting practice at Dodger Stadium on October 7th.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Others were intrigued by the opportunity.

“If you’re not using all the resources that are being given to you, you know what are you really doing?” Taylor said earlier this month. “I think it’s important to have an open mind, and some of these new things that we’re bringing into the game are obviously working and helping a lot of players. I think it would be very stubborn not to try.”

Taylor also noted the benefits of having such detailed swing data throughout the season for Dodgers coaches to evaluate.

“I think this information is very valuable,” Taylor said. “For me I keep things as simple as possible and I think it’s more valuable for our hitting coaches to tell me what to do.”

Lux, meanwhile, has seen dividends from his session, most notably a substantial 6mph increase in bat speed.

“I’m a visionary,” Lux said. “So if you put up a 3D image of my skeleton and what my body is actually doing, you can get a much better idea of ​​how to improve your swing.”

The Dodgers aren’t the only team hoping to capitalize on Driveline’s hitting program, which gained industry recognition last year after it was credited to St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado during his MVP season.

Although it’s unclear how much it will affect their mid-season results, Van Scoyoc said he was encouraged by the early return.

“Oh yes,” he said. “You can see some real wins.”

The Dodgers’ hope is that the impact isn’t just limited to home runs, slugging percentage and bat speed.

Thanks to the off-season driveline trips, Van Scoyoc says the Dodgers can now conduct “more informed coaching” — with more data and techniques at their disposal for the upcoming season.

“I think it’s been pretty beneficial so far,” Muncy said. “I think everyone made their own thing out of it.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2023-02-21/why-are-dodgers-obsessed-with-driveline Why Driveline Baseball is part of Dodgers’ hitting program

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

Related Articles

Back to top button