Conquer Batting Mechanics With A Concept NOT Too Many Understand
ATTENTION!! Some of the batting mechanics article links on this page are outdated (I've labeled the ones as such)...I DO NOT subscribe to the true-blue-Down-and-Through swing philosophy anymore. For more cutting edge hitting technique information, please visit The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power. Thank you so much for reading :)
In the Swing Smarter quest for simple and easy to conquer batting mechanics over the past 18 years or so, I've heard it all...rotational is the way to go NOT linear...squish the bug with the back foot, NO that saying is so outdated...have a bent front arm at contact, make sure to have a straight leveraged arm...and on and on the debate goes like a never-ending Merry-Go-Round.
As you may know, Swing Smarter adopts "Rotationear" Hybrid batting mechanics where the bottom half starts the swing and is rotational in behavior while the top half is linear guiding the hit baseball in a direction out into the gaps. Squishing the bug is a great concept especially for young kids to wrap their head around, as they get older, then their swings will automatically demand the back toe to slightly come off the ground after rotating it. The front arm should be straight at contact because that's our leverage arm NOT our power arm.
Another hot batting mechanics debate is whether we should "chop down" on the baseball...the answer is yes, but with strict guidelines.
Which hit baseball takes more energy to field, a ground ball or fly ball? Three things need to happen to field a ground ball: field it cleanly, throw it accurately, and the receiver has to accept it without error, while a fly ball just takes one easy action, catch it.
Working alongside 17 year power hitting Major Leaguer Jack Clark for two weekends with a group of local kids and professional player/coaches made me realize how important hitting down on the ball is. I used to play around with the concept back in high school because I read about it in some popular hitting book, but I wanted to get the ball in the air as a line drive, like all other young hitter's out there.
I really didn't get the batting mechanics concept at the time.
If you're a Swing Smarter student you know we have to be short to the ball in order to maximize our batting mechanics and swing energy. Jack Clark explained it like this, you take the barrel with the top hand and thrust it out in front to "cut the ball off" before it crosses the plate. If you don't, then you might get a hit, but the closer the ball gets to the catcher's glove the percentage of getting a hit goes down.
Let me repeat, sure, you might get a hit by letting the ball get deep, but your average will be quite drastic compared to cutting the ball off out-in-front.
I'll explain a little later...
Back to the ground ball versus fly ball controversy, so if keeping the ball on the ground gives us a better chance to get on base, what needs to be our philosophy to keep our hitting monkey brains from falling into the same ol' trap of wanting to smash the baseball into the air??
Jack Clark played 2 years for the St. Louis Cardinals and was up for the hitting coach job in 2009 but was edged out by Mark McGwire. Jack lives in St. Louis so he's around the clubhouse quite a bit and has been blessed to watch Albert Pujols's batting mechanics very closely.
Jack Clark says when Albert Pujols practices off a tee he makes sure to come down on the top half of the ball slicing it in half like a samurai to put backspin on it. Albert Pujols's strategy is to hit a hard one hop ground ball through the infield because he knows if making a contact mistake on the baseball (under the top half), the ball's going out of the ballpark.
Albert knows the value of fielding a ground ball takes more energy and resources than a fly ball, especially at the Major League level, most times than not a fly ball is a can-of-corn.
So, how do the batting mechanics play out?
Simple, launch the barrel from your back ear with a dominant top hand push, and cut the incoming baseball off out in front of the plate. Make sure to stay behind the barrel as you launch. Please reference the video above for two different types of upper cuts, the good and the bad.
Think about it like this...
If I were to set up to do soft toss with you and instead of tossing the ball straight at your front hip like a normal human being, I tossed the ball straight up where it would drop in front of home plate...what would be the best approach to hit that ball at its peak? Dipping your back shoulder and collapsing the back leg and uppercutting it? Or chopping down on it?
Obviously a "Tomma-Hawk Chop" would be the best way to make consistent fair ball contact. The one thing we have to keep in mind though are two things:
Keep your eyes and body behind the barrel, do NOT drift forward with the upper body,
Make sure the belly button does not over rotate at contact, it should be pointing at
your contact point and should NOT rotate much further after that.
Because you'll roll over the ball time and time again.
What about keeping the barrel in the swing plane of the pitch?
You will because all you're doing is cutting the ball off out in front, then you're taking the barrel through the line of 3 baseballs we talk endlessly about on Swing Smarter dot com.
What are some Swing Smarter drills to work on these batting mechanics?
Pepper, and a
Pre-pitch routine for a short down swing.
As we discussed earlier, the soft tosser flips the ball high and chopping down will help the young hitter get the concept of down, and also mixing in a couple launched high balls during live batting practice will help too.
This is an old game often seen in vintage video footage of the movie, "When It Was A Game." This is usually played with four players total, three fielding at close range and the other hitting. The players throw the ball to the hitter and he "cuts the ball off" in a down motion, and the fielders field the batted ball.
Swing and misses, Fly-balls, and line drives are outs, and whoever catches it is next up, otherwise if the hitter swings and misses, then the next fielder in line comes up (similar to a volleyball team rotation).
The swing is at about a 20% speed because for one, you don't want to knock the teeth out of your teammates' mouths, and two, is to practice being short to the ball, so slicing the upper
half of the ball in half...we should be hitting one hoppers with backspin every time.
This is also practice for the hitter to evenly distribute the baseball to each fielder at will.
Down Pre-Pitch Routine
You see guys like Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and Frank Thomas do this and for good reason...they do it to remind themselves to stay short to the baseball because they know that's the secret to swing success!
Please see the video for clarification, but it's a slicing motion out in front to help condition your muscle memory to be short to the baseball. Just this little detail can propel your swing to new heights.
Remember, down batting mechanics are going to get you swinging smarter NOT harder, and here's one more thing to note...Jack Clark wasn't given this information until 10 years into the Big Leagues, he hit 340 home-runs, just imagine what he could've done.