Hitting Philosophies: Backspin and Pepper

The differences are already evident. Since taking over as the San Diego Padres roving minor league hitting coordinator, Tony Muser has instilled buzzwords like "backspin" and "just like playing pepper". There is a method to his philosophies – one he hopes will revolutionize the entire system over time.

One of the keywords being bandied about during Instructs was the term "backspin". What is it in reference to, and how do you create it?

Tony Muser: It is a word to try and create backspin off the bat to create and get balls to carry. If you visualize backspin in your swing and striking the object, getting slightly downhill to level and then finish creates backspin to the ball so that when you do hit it well it has carry to it. It has more of a double effect if you hit it in the gap, and if you hit it right at people, it has the tendency to carry and maybe get over an outfielder's head.

A lot of these guys come in with swings from childhood. How difficult is it to teach?

Tony Muser: It is something that won't be taught in one day. It is an overall philosophy of carrying it into your BP and tee work and all the work you do on your swing. Create backspin – if it is stayed with, you will change the swing plane over a season or a season and a half.

Something I have heard you say time and time again is, ‘Just like your playing pepper.' Is that a reference to your belief in working at 80 percent or 90 percent, essentially slowing down the swing and letting it naturally do the work?

Tony Muser: Slowing down the mind. Pepper is a nice easy game of see it and hit it. Hitting is an exaggerated game of pepper. If you look at it that way, it slows you down and you are not trying to do too much. Seeing the ball better, squaring the ball up better, and finding out how I don't have to create all of this bat speed to make a ball really move.

Again, that is something that comes with time.

The George Brett's and the Rod Carew's and those guys that look like they don't even care and the ball shoots off their bats. There is something to it.

Little Andy Parrino tried to hit the ball so hard and it went nowhere. When he finds out if he can just be fundamentally sound – stay back, see the ball, take a good swing at the baseball, he will have bat speed – you can't help but have bat speed.

It is the weaker kids that try and create it – and that is where they get themselves in trouble. They get out of whack.

You have to be able to control your swing. If you control your swing, you have a better chance of controlling the baseball and seeing the ball longer.

It is all about pitch identification. If you are trying to move a billion miles an hour, I guarantee you that you are not going to identify the pitch.

Those are just two phrases, backspin and playing an exaggerated, aggressive game of pepper – see the baseball. That is a long-term philosophy.


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