Five Principles to Great Hitting Mechanics
Have you ever really looked at what is happening in the swing process of the best players in the game? Do you know what Ted Willams meant when he was talking about the hips leading the hands, or “Ideal Impact” and leveling of the bat to the incoming pitch. Do you feel that weight transfer is a hitting technique, or just good hitting mechanics? What about the Power “V” and why it is important? What about extension or having a long swing? All of these questions and many more are answered in the following pages of the website. For many years I played the game not knowing exactly what great hitters were/are doing, but during my years of instruction, using video and research I have determined that great hitters do something totally different than I was taught.
# 1 – Weight Transfer
First of all, we believe that weight transfer is an essential element of great hitting mechanics. We do not believe it is a hitting technique, but rather an element of great hitting, and a major one at that. There has to be back to front movement of the body of a hitters stride process in order to hit with any kind of consistency and power. The transfer of the weight occurs against the front leg not over it. Sitting, squishing the bug is simply poor hitting mechanics.
Take a look at the back foot – players are either on their toe, or the foot is completely off the ground at contact. This is the look of great weight transfer and there has to be front to back movement in the swing. This linear movement is suddenly stopped and is turned into rotational power. There is no sitting, nor squishing of the bug.
#2 – Hips Leading the Hands
Hitting a ball with the hips leading the way is such an important part of hitting and is an area that a majority of young hitters never fully develop. The power that is produced by the hips/core in a baseball swing is based on the principle of touque. This is the mind set that the big muscles pull the small muscles. The same way a pitcher, golfer, tennis player, boxer uses their core muscles to produce power, so do the best hitters in baseball. Players need to learn to lead with their hips and “turn” to the ball.
#3 – Leveling (Swing Plane = Pitch Plane)
The largest difference between a linear and rotational hitter has to be their approach to the ball. Leveling is the technique that gets the bat in the path of the pitch and is irrefutable as to whether it is really happening, because it is. Dipping the back shoulder, dropping the barrel of the bat level to the pitch and swinging on an upward plane through the “downward” incoming pitch.
Due to the fact that there is a direct relationship with the front elbow and the barrel, it is essential that the front elbow works up and around the body to assist in the leveling process. This allows the player to get the barrel where it needs to be. Whether players like Albert Pujols stay up on a high pitch or drop down to get a low pitch, one thing remains the same – they allow the bat to become “level to the pitch” and they are swinging “up” through it.
#4 – Ideal Impact
Another term that is used to describe ideal impact is hitting with your hands “inside” the ball. Ted Williams wrote about the ultimate impact point being made when the barrel of the bat and ball meet at a 90 degree angle. Two things have to happen to make ideal impact; one is that you have to let the ball travel deep into the hitting zone and the other is that the front elbow must work up and around the body. Of all my years of playing ball, from little league through my short stint in Pro ball, nobody ever explained to me what staying inside the ball truely ment. It was just left up to me to fiqure it out on my own. Mike Epstein stated that the true definition of staying inside the ball is “the hands follow the rotating body around its axis”. As long as a player throws his hands at the ball, it makes it impossible to truely stay inside the ball (Ideal Impact). Man if I would have known this during my hay-day there is no telling what I could have done!
#5 – Power “V” & Extension
Finally, we will take a look at the Power “V”, also called extension, which is the longer part of the swing. Great swing mechanics can be broken down into two simple elements; short and compact to the ball, and long through the ball. It is the concept of “getting long” that really seperates good hitters from great hitters. The longer a player can keep the bat on the plane of the pitch, the better chance they will hit the ball and make contact. Great hitters understand the importance of keeping the wrist square at contact and push through to the V without rolling through the ball; but rarely is it taught. You simply cannot ignore the significance of having a long swing and keeping the bat in the plane of the pitch as long as possible. It is way too important to not address this important issue. Many coaches teach a high finish, but the most important issue in this is how the player got to the high finish. The linear thought process is to swing level or down and finish high, which delivers the swing down through the pitch plane then back up to the high finish which creates a “V” in the swing path. The rotational thought process is to get the bat on the pitch plane as fast as you can and keep it there as long as you can, which will finish the swing in a high position. So, it is not just finishing high, but more importantly, how you got there!!!! Teach your players to be short to the ball and long through it.
Great hitters transfer their weight forward, let the back shoulder dip, pull with their hips, keep their hitter box intact, get level to the incoming pitch, understand what ideal impact really means, have a long finish, and swing up through the ball. They are short and compact to the ball, and long through it. Great hitters also understand the importance of keeping the bat in the hitting zone for a long period of time, and stay calm and under control at the plate. Hitting is a series of linked movements that all come together as one and is based on the principle of slow to fast; nothing rushed, nothing jerky, just nice and smooth, step and turn to the ball. LESS IS MORE!!!!
It is very hard these days to find a major league player not using rotational mechanics. So, some are linear, but not many. The true run productive hitters are rotational hitters and the linear hitters are usually table setters. What do you want to be, a table setter or a table cleaner? I know my choice. The best hitters in the game are using exact opposite mechanics than a large majority of coaches in this country are teaching. Sorry to say it, they don’t swing down and they are not trying to hit ground balls. Let me ask you a question. Do you think that Pujols ever goes to the plate looking to hit the ball into the ground?