What are some of the causes of not hitting on the sweet spot?

by Robert Canary
(OCASA, Hartford, Ky)

Picture from http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~cross/baseball.html

Picture from http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~cross/baseball.html

Joey,


What do you see as the cause of *not* hitting on the sweet spot?

Swing Smarter Response:
Hey Robert, great question, and as you know, finding an answer can get quite complicated because it isn't quite clear cut. To tell you the truth, I had to stop and think about this one, because hitting on the sweet spot is the Holy Grail, if you will, to hitting more consistently.

The following information is at the essence of the Swing Smarter site, these small set of ideals will lead to uber-success at the plate, guaranteed. How hard a player works on them is entirely up to them. As a rapper once said, "The cream of the crop, will rise to the top."

Here are the SEVEN best 20% of causes, if fixed or focused on, will net 80% of results for reversing sweet spot deficiencies. The following list is a healthy mix of mechanical and mental approaches to hitting the baseball consistently well on the sweet spot (arguably in order of importance):


  1. Patience

  2. Swinging too hard (Less is More)

  3. Broken Bottom Half

  4. Proper Down & Through Hand Path

  5. Positional Hitting (Jaime Cevallos

  6. Plate Discipline (Pitch Selection)

  7. Mental Approach (Plan at the Plate



1) Patience is Key

If we have too much patience, then we'll be late on our swing, and NOT being patient enough will result in being out in front, both will be a miserable end to the quest for the elusive sweet spot.

We can have the best hack in the world, but if we can't be patient, then our results suffer.

Read more Swing Smarter post.

2) Swinging Too Hard - Less is More Approach

Everything in nature has a rhythm, or rules of the Universe if you will.

In the The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi (a legendary Samurai Sage), he discusses if one moves too fast, then they will trip and fall. Lance Armstrong makes sure his Revolutions Per Minute (RPM's) when he rides are 85-90, whether he's going uphill or down, and the same numbers hold true for the fastest long distance Kenyan runners.

There's a certain tempo to the baseball swing (what I call an 85% swing)...does it look like Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Chase Utley are out of control when they swing? No. They're swinging as fast as they can under complete control, or 85% of the fastest swing our body can take.

You see, when we get out of control with a swing (100%), then our muscles tense protecting the body from destruction (pulls, strains, tears), slowing the swing down.

So, swinging too hard can be very detrimental to being consistent with hitting the sweet spot. Read more on this Swing Smarter post.

The following three points are more mechanical anecdotes...

3) Broken Bottom Half

When a hitter isn't rotating on the back leg the right way, then trunk rotation is inhibited, power cannot be transferred, and getting to the sweet spot will NOT happen very often.

See this Swing Smarter article on fixing this.

4) Proper Down & Through Hand Path

Once we get the bottom half getting us closer to hitting the sweet spot with more consistency, then we move onto how the hands are suppose to work as the hips start to open up creating rotational energy to be transferred into the linear Down & Through hand path.

First thing's first, we must be short to the ball. The purely rotational theory of hitting doesn't do this because they believe the hands and arms are just along for the ride, which causes a sweeping barrel to the impact zone, decreasing bat speed.

They hang their hat on Ted Williams being purely rotational, but I beg to differ, just watch old film of him and carefully watch his hands whip around the right (front) side of his body after he's pushed through the impact zone...the hips cannot get the hands to behave like that on their own, I'm sorry.

The last part is, we have to be LONG with the barrel through contact (linear). PLEASE NOTE: however, the upper body must stay behind with shoulders stacked above the hips and backside rotating Femur (bone of upper leg). A tendency for young hitters is to lean at the waist to "help" the barrel get further through contact, but this will NOT help in getting closer to the sweet spot.

Read this article for more in-depth review of the Swing Smarter article.

5) Positional Hitting - Jaime Cevallos

Jaime Cevallos came out with a pretty good book on Positional Hitting, or what I refer to as phases of the swing. He's goes into much more depth, but the major phase I think is most important at setting up all others is...

The Launch Phase (TLP)

TLP is when separation occurs between the stride foot and hands loading, there's also an almost never analyzed force going on that a small number of talking heads never discuss...a loading of the hips like a spring. You see it in countless footage of old timers like Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Ted Williams.

Tony Gwynn also said this, the more consistent we can get into TLP, the higher our average and slugging percentage, not to mention an increased likelihood of the baseball "moon landing" on the sweet spot.

It's also critical to note, our weight should be 50/50 at this point, so the eyes can pick up the clear reality of the location and velocity of the incoming pitch.

More on this coming soon to SwingSmarter.com.

This ends the mechanical part of curing sweet spot deficiencies in the swing, now to the grey matter between your ears.

6) Plate Discipline - Pitch selection

Ted Williams was a big promoter of plate discipline, this was why he could hit for such high average and rival the best in history in slugging and on base percentage.

It makes perfect sense, the better a hitter is at knowing the strike zone, and NOT hacking at bad pitches, the better pitches he will see.

I don't want to reinvent the wheel here, so I've put together an awesome article on Plate Discipline and building a stellar mental approach at the plate, in which I learned my last year at Fresno State. The thing is you have to subscribe to The Dugout Newsletter to get the password protected article.

7) Mental Approach - Pitch Planning

The difference between this and Plate Discipline (even though the password protected article you get for subscribing goes into both), is the Mental Approach addresses "the Plan" part of Ken Ravizza & Dr. Hanson's Control, Plan, Trust philosophy to the mental part of baseball.

Once we have "control" over our strike zone, then we can develop our "plan" against the pitcher. This is typically for more advanced hitters who have their mechanics down to mere maintenance.

We have to observe pitcher routines in order to anticipate "right," so we can get more consistent hitting the ball on the sweet spot.

Here's a great Swing Smarter article on how to do this.

Well Robert, to answer your original question, "in a nutshell," these are the 7 ways to more consistently hit the ball on the sweet spot. I would love to hear your thoughts on this and if you think of anything else major to add. I love your questions amigo, keep them coming.

Joey

Comments for What are some of the causes of not hitting on the sweet spot?

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REALLY like your site
by: Mike F.

Terrific article, Joey. I really appreciate the fact that you base the material on thorough research and give credit where credit is due. I also appreciate your explanations. They make it very easy to understand and absorb the information, so that I can then teach it to my kids/team.

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Right on!
by: Joey from SwingSmarter.com

Thanks for that one Chris! I agree 100%, and keeping the eyes still is most often overlooked when hacking a Smarter Swing, and sometimes the most obvious solution isn't always the most front and center.

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One more idea on sweet spot.!
by: Chris from Mahopac

All of these factors are crucial to finding that consistent sweet spot, but I believe their is one more. I believe that head discipline is huge. The quieter we keep our head, the easier to see the ball, its location and spin. A still head leads to viewing the pitch on one plane as opposed to multiple planes. Any kid who sees the ball all the way into the glove (ala Pete Rose)on a straight take. Should aim to see every pitched ball that clearly. Ideally, we'll just add the swing. This goes hand in hand with your point to keep the swing under control with" a less is more approach".

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