My son is 8. He has a great swing, very strong, uses his hips and body correctly, arms are in correct position, squishes the bug, etc. When we practice by doing t-work and soft toss, he hits very hard line drives and hard grounders. However, when we practice off live pitching or in a game off live pitching, he continuously hits weak pop flies.
From what I can see on this swing, he loads correctly, then the second before he starts his swing, he relaxes his wrists and the barrel of the bat drops almost parallel with the ground, then he swings, and the result is the barrel of the bat coming around flat through the strike zone and he gets under every pitch.
I may be completely wrong on the cause of the weak pop flies, but that is what I see. It’s a subconscious thing he does that he is having a very hard time moving past.
I am not completely sure how to correct it or what drills I can do to fix it. He sees the ball very well, keeps his head and eyes down on the ball when he swings. I have a feeling, once he fixes the problem, he will go from hitting weak pop flies to hard line drives to the fence every time. As I mentioned before, he has a very powerful swing.
I noticed when we do top hand and bottom hand drills (which I got from your great website), when he uses top hand, it never happens (dropping the barrel of the bat prior to swinging), when he uses bottom hand, it happens a little, but the amount that it happens when he hits live pitches. We have been doing top hand bottom hand drills for about a week.
Any ideas or suggestions on how I can fix the problem or is there something else I am not seeing that is causing the problem?
Swing Smarter Response: Hi Mike, it sounds like your 8-year-old is dropping his hands during the Slot Phase of the swing (stride foot lands, front hip starts to open, front leg starts to stiffen, and back elbow begins to slot near the rib cage).
I've seen this quite a bit in hitters your son's age. The Slot Phase of the swing is one of the most crucial spots because once this position starts to unravel, so does our ability to transfer hip rotational energy to the hands, evidenced in the weak fly balls.
In the YouTube video above, there's a great angle of Chase Utley's swing, the Slot Position lasts from 0:09-0:10 (go ahead and pause during these times to see what's going on):
The finer points...
To keep the hands from dropping, try starting with the bat hovering over his back shoulder until the Slot Position, whereas the barrel will slide alongside the rear shoulder and the hands stay around the rear armpit area...try this in front of a mirror (or outside in front of a big picture window) and off the tee.
Do NOT start throwing him anything (soft toss or live) until he can feel that position looking at his own reflection, then progress to the tee.
What may also help, is to get him used to using that bent front leg (once stride foot touches down), to leverage on by straightening during Slot, which will drive the back hip through (watch Utley's front leg from 0:09-0:11 in the video above). After, watch what happens to his back hip when the front leg starts to straighten...it explodes towards the pitch!
Progress slow...relection work, tee, soft toss, and then batting practice. Remember, it takes 3,000 repetitions to unwind a BAD habit, and 300 to set it straight.