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Baseball Hitting Absolutes

Baseball Hitting Absolutes

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Published by Jason Bentley

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Published by: Jason Bentley on Aug 09, 2007
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05/24/2013

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McGiffin Consulting Hitter 2003 Natl’s
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By Kelly McGiffin
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In this first absolute, I stress the hand position at launch and through the swing. I believethe hands must stay up to stay short. If they drift down in the load or during the swing,other than as a direct ‘trail’ to the front shoulder’s path to the ball, the swing willlengthen and the hitter will start to have problems.While many coaches insist on balance as the first absolute of the swing, I try not to gettoo worried about it unless the hitter seems off balance throughout the swing. Balancewill sometimes be more evident as the load begins and that’s where it is more critical. Inthe stance, comfort and good head and hand position are more important.The head must be in position to see the ball from the delivery point clearly to allow thehitter to read it as early as possible. Pitchers know this and will often back up a hitter thattries to get their head right over the plate.I also recommend the hitter to be as far back in the box as possible. Fractions of secondsfor pitch recognition are crucial. Many hitters want to be up in the box to get the ballbefore it breaks. It doesn’t work that way.Here’s the question I always ask:
 If the opposing coach came up to you and said, “Heywe would like to move our pitcher 2-3 feet closer to face your hitters for this game, would that be ok?” What would you say? Then why allow your hitters to do it for them?
Seeingthe ball is the most important thing a hitter can do, give yourself as much opportunity todo that as possible. If you run into a pitcher that can make their pitch break earlier or laterat will, maybe an adjustment is necessary but even then, the Umpire calls the strike zoneby the player, so it still has to come in through the window (see mental prep below).The hand position is however, the key to this absolute. In Softball in particular (but alsoin baseball for good fastball hitting), the hands have to be prevented from drifting down.If the hands drift down, the swing will lengthen as their first movement will tend to be‘out’ (away from the body) or ‘down’ (creating a loop in the swing), rather than ‘in’(rotating forward across the front of the chest toward the ball). When your hands are lowyou will tend to throw the bat out earlier. Keeping your hands up will assist in stayinginside and on top of the ball, ensuring a shorter swing.
 
When I say up, it has to be comfortably up for the hitter. I’m not saying up by their ear(although some hitters do), probably a good rule of thumb is about the top of the back shoulder. Some hitters will have difficulty with the idea of keeping their hands upthrough their swing, visualizing the need to drop the hands to “go get” lower pitches butwhat the coach must understand is that a hitter’s front shoulder needs to lead the path tothe ball, not the hands. Picking up your front shoulder in your peripheral vision as youbegin your stance and thinking of driving it toward the pitch, wherever it is pitched, lets ahitter visualize how they can keep their swing short, with hands up, to go get the ball. Nocompromise to the absolute, and the ability to both turn on inside pitches and stay closedon the outside pitches. With this understanding, hitters will go down with their bodiesmore effectively for slightly lower pitches and keep their swing in tact.When looking for hitter’s hands to stay up, watch for bobbing of the hands or a “hitch”but be careful that you don’t confuse a good trigger mechanism for a hitch. A hitch iswhere the hands bob late and do not get back up to the proper hitting position (theshoulder area). A timing mechanism for some hitters (Barry Bonds) is where they willdrop the hands and come back up & back as they load the swing. The hitch is bad; itwon’t get the hands up and the swing short. The timing mechanism is not bad and couldbe a good trigger for the hitter. Assess carefully.
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222...L LLoooaaaddd,,,RRRhhhyyyttthhhmmm&&&BBBaaalllaaannnccceee 
Here is where balance becomes critical; but before we get to that let’s discuss “loading”or what I call rhythm hitting. One of the 1
st
Laws of Physics is that:A body at rest staysat rest unless an outside force acts on it. A body in motion will stay in motion unless anoutside force acts on it (Inertia).This means that to best start a powerful swing, we muststart from motion, not stand still mode. This is the reason for ‘loading’ the swing, to startthe motion and ensure inertia for maximum force.Loading can come in a variety of forms and is very unique for every hitter. The coach’s job becomes an observation of the load (or some would call it the trigger mechanism) andwhether the process the hitter is using is effective or works against the swing’s motion.Remember that an unrelated motion will not cause the same inertia, ie. if the handsmovement is straight down then back up
with no backward movement
, the verticalmovement does not create the inertia to go forward. Most timing dips go down and thenback (as they come up) creating the proper load:
 
 12 3Loading can also be thought of as rhythm. Think of it from other activities. As a pitcher,you would not expect to get maximum strength in your throwing if you simply steppedforward and threw. You’d like to rock back before driving forward. The rhythm sets theinertia. If you are running the bases, most runners will rock back before jetting forward.Inertia.Don Baylor, when he as hitting coach with the Colorado Rockies, insisted on playingmusic during batting practice to promote rhythm. You just cannot start from a dead stillbody. You wouldn’t expect a pitcher not rock back, you wouldn’t expect a golfer toswing with our a backswing, you wouldn’t want to see a hockey player take a slap shot oreven a wrist shot without loading up.
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As your body starts it’s attack, two important features need to be in place; an aggressivestride and a very effective (and disciplined) head position. The stride is your first attemptto ensure the inertia that we’ve just reviewed is utilized in the right line. Too tentative astride and the inertia is not forced forward at a quick enough pace. Too forceful a strideand the balance of the swing is compromised.This is caused by hitters that start their stride either too late and compromise theircommitment to the swing (which produces a late or defensive swing); or are too early andcompromise their load (which produces lunging).The stride should be aggressive on each pitch, making certain that if the engaged brainrecognizes a pitch to hit, the swing has commitment. However the stride must becontrolled to the lower half of the body. Hands stay back (achieved more easily whenremembering that the front shoulder leads the swing) and only a
NO!!
in the brain can(and will) prevent the swing. The body needs to be ready to uncoil on every pitch. This isthe right stride. Think of it as striding as hard and fast as you can, but touching downsoftly, waiting for the trigger.The Head position must be locked and loaded. The eyes are the key, if the head moves orturns too much or too vigorously, the eyes move and you’ll lose the ball. Get your headdown (to limit the chin’s involvement) and at a good angle to see the ball as early aspossible and be in position to follow it in as far as you can. Again, consciousness of thatfront shoulder eye-line will encourage this position.

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