It is important for me to divulge early in the life of this blog that I do not believe baseball and softball swings should be different. I understand the arguments from those who believe baseball and softball mechanics have to be different because the pitching is so different. The best fastpitch softball pitchers in high school and college deliver the ball with velocities that range from 60-70 mph. With the pitching mound at 43 feet, this equates to a baseball fastball over 90 mph.
An ESPN Sport Science study compared the reaction times between baseball and softball hitters. They found the reaction time of a softball player is 20% shorter than a baseball player. This would lead most to believe that a softball players needs a shorter swing to catch up with the ball. I also understand that the angle of the ball coming toward home plate is different between softball and baseball pitches. The angle of the ball thrown by a baseball pitcher is on a slightly downward plane, compared to the flat or slightly upward path of the ball thrown by softball pitchers. Finally, many believe that just because the anatomies and strength of baseball and softball players differ, their hitting mechanics should be different.
Let me first address the issue of the two different trajectories of baseball and softball pitches. I teach all of my softball hitters the best way to hit a rise ball is not to hit it! The rise ball in softball is just like the curve ball in the dirt in baseball. These are sucker pitches that are intended to make the hitter look silly, as they swing and miss. If hitters alter their mechanics with the hope of hitting the rise ball in softball or the curve ball in baseball, this is a poor decision. The fact is, the majority of softball and baseball pitches approach the hitting zone in a relatively flat or sinking path. The bat position and swing path I teach to softball and baseball hitters are effective for pitches with upward, flat, or downward trajectories. I will describe the ideal bat position and swing path in future posts to this blog.
Here is the main reason I believe strongly that the mechanics of baseball and softball swings should be similar. It’s all about bat speed! In order for a baseball player to hit a 90 mph fastball or a softball hitter to catch up to a 65 mph pitch, both need to employ hitting mechanics that will generate the necessary bat speed to hit these pitches on-time, powerfully, and consistently. I have always tried to pattern the hitting mechanics I teach after the best baseball swings in the history of game. When I began teaching this “baseball swing” to fastpitch softball players, I received comments that ranged from skepticism to criticism.
The only way I have found to respond to my critics is through the performance of my hitters. The average bat speed of good high school softball players before I begin working with them is between 55 mph to 60 mph. By incorporating the key mechanics of the swing I teach, softball hitters begin to enjoy greater bat speed almost immediately. It is not uncommon for my baseball and softball hitters to increase their bat speed 5-10 mph after the first one hour workout. The goal of every softball player I work with is bat speed well over 70 mph, which is comparable to the best college softball players. My elite high school softball players will ultimately achieve bat speeds over 80 mph, which is comparable to the top high school and college baseball players. High bat speed not only translates into more power and hitting distance, it allows the hitter to see the pitch longer before committing to swing at the pitch. So, in my opinion, softball hitting instructors who believe fastpitch hitters need a short swing to catch up to a 65 mph pitch, have it backwards. A short swing will contribute to lower bat speed, which will force the hitter to swing earlier, and the result will be less power. For a great analysis of how bat speed translates into power, here is another link to a ESPN Sport Science video that I show to all my hitters to support my obsession with increasing bat speed.
Finally, the assertion by many that the differences in the physical makeup and strength of baseball and softball players requires different swings, actually gives fuel to my hitting theory. The hitting mechanics I teach will force both baseball and softball players to use their entire body to generate power to all fields. The average baseball and softball hitters rely on their upper bodies as the source of power. Baseball players rely on the upper body because men enjoy more upper body strength than women and feel they can generate enough power using just their arms. Even though softball players lack the same upper body strength as men, they still are wrongfully taught to rely on their arms to hit the ball because of the flawed logic I described earlier.
Hitting mechanics that result in optimal power and consistency require the kinetic connection between the lower body and the upper body. This blog will be devoted to articulating the hitting mechanics that are common to both baseball and softball players. The result is crazy bat speed, power to all fields, and a high average.