After writing this blog for over three years, I still receive comments challenging the importance of bat speed for baseball and softball hitters. These people believe hitting coaches like me spend too much time preaching the virtues of increasing bat speed. I also receive feedback from those on the other side who are obsessed with bat speed. They believe it is the sole determinant of hitting power. Who is right?
I must confess…I do believe hitting is (almost) all about bat speed!
I will concede that too much emphasis can be placed on measuring bat speed. High school players and their parents can often become too focused on bat speed while trying to get the attention of college baseball and softball coaches. They know it is one of the key metrics coaches look at when evaluating hitters. The internet is now filled with sure-fire ways to increase bat speed, ranging from special training equipment to unique conditioning programs. I believe increasing bat speed has little to do with swinging a weighted bat or doing more push-ups.
So, why is bat speed so important? It’s simple…the higher the bat speed, the farther the ball will travel. It has been scientifically proven that for every one mile per hour of additional bat speed, the ball will travel an additional five feet. Using grade school multiplication, it is easy to see how increasing bat speed can have a dramatic effect on the distance of a fly ball or the speed of a line drive. As I wrote in an early post, if a hitter can increase bat speed by only five miles per hour, the outfielder who is positioned based on the old bat speed of this hitter will now look up to watch the ball go twenty-five feet over his or her head. If a hitter can increase bat speed by ten miles per hour or more, the additional fifty plus feet of distance will result in very long home runs.
Another benefit of increased bat speed that is often overlooked is the ability of hitters to wait longer before initiating the swing. This is a luxury that allows hitters to see the velocity, spin, and direction of the incoming pitch longer. It has been widely estimated that a Major League fastball reaches home plate in approximately .40 seconds. By the time hitters recognize the type of pitch being thrown and the direction, they have only .20 seconds to complete the entire swing sequence before the ball enters the hitting zone. Any extra time, even a few hundredths of a second will increase the probability of a successful outcome for hitters.
I often remind my hitters that when their bat speed reaches an elite level, no pitcher will be able to consistently throw the ball by them. They may swing at a pitch out of the strike zone or they may be fooled by a pitch they were not anticipating, but it will be very difficult for a pitcher to blow the ball past them if their bat is on the correct path. This realization can be a game changer for some hitters. Hitters who enter the batter’s box armed with bat speed to match and even negate the arm strength of the fastest pitchers, enjoy a decisive advantage. I have written often about various effective mental strategies for baseball and softball hitters, but there is no substitute for confidence. Confident hitters are dangerous hitters.
The ONLY Way To Increase Bat Speed
Weighted bats and other hitting aids can be helpful, but their impact on increasing bat speed is only marginal. The same holds true for improved conditioning. The only way to increase bat speed dramatically is through the Hitting Keys and power hitting mechanics I have described in this blog. When I work with new hitters, they are always surprised when I make this strong assertion. They have been led to believe that getting stronger is the only way to hit with more power. When they experience how each individual Hitting Key I teach increases bat speed, they are ready for the real surprise. It is not uncommon for bat speeds to increase between ten and fifteen miles per hour after only several workouts. I challenge any strength and conditioning coach to match these results on a consistent basis.
Increasing bat speed through improved power hitting mechanics is more effective than improved strength for another reason…consistency. I have seen too many baseball and softball hitters who gain a few miles per hour of bat speed, because they become bigger and stronger. Unfortunately, these hitters may have faster bats, but they lack the hitting mechanics that produce a repeatable swing. Power without consistency is a sign that more time was spent in the weight room than in the batting cage. Here is a previous post related to the question of whether conditioning or hitting mechanics have the biggest impact on bat speed. http://wp.me/p3zdlH-ah
The Marriage of Hitting Mechanics and Bat Speed
Learning power hitting mechanics and increasing bat speed are directly related. Hitters who focus on developing a swing that is comprised of the individual mechanics described in this blog will never have to worry about improving bat speed. It will happen naturally.