I went to watch two pretty bad baseball teams today—–Cubs vs. Astros at Wrigley Field. As usual, I arrived at the park as soon as the gates opened, in order to catch batting practice. Observing hitters in batting practice is invaluable (and fun) for me as a hitting instructor, because every hitter is using their “true” swing mechanics. They are not facing 90+ mph fastballs or wicked off-speed pitches. Due to the slower pitching, they can focus on perfecting the hitting mechanics they will use when the game begins. Even though most hitters look like all-stars in the cage, many of the flaws in their mechanics are also readily evident. These flaws invariably show up as soon as the game begins when they face “game” pitching. During batting practice today, every hitter seemed to have a unique approach and swing. Of course, all major league hitters share some basic mechanics, but it always looks like professional hitters adopt their own style, even though the team has one hitting coach. This doesn’t make sense to me.
Whether you agree with me or not, I believe there a few “keys to hitting” that should be used by ALL hitters. I’m not afraid to make this bold statement, because I have studied the swings of hitters my entire adult life, and know what mechanics produce bat speed, power, and consistency. I also know what mechanics are ineffective. Yes, I acknowledge all hitters are different, both physically and mentally. I also believe that hitters don’t have to look exactly alike. However, I believe strongly that hitters should use the same hitting keys, with the latitude to execute these hitting keys in a way that is most comfortable and effective for them.
In the early days of this blog, I have written about two truths and two (of eight) of my hitting keys:
Truth– Power comes from the ground. Any athletic activity is dependent on the ground as the only true power source. Hitters who believe this and are able to tap into this natural “power plant”, are the ones who will enjoy the highest bat speed, and the most power.
Truth– Baseball and softball hitting mechanics should be the same. The goal for both baseball and softball players is to increase bat speed to a point that maximizes their personal power and consistency. The only way to increase bat speed is to employ some universal hitting mechanics. I don’t know of any hitting mechanics that should only be used by baseball players or should only be used by softball players.
Hitting Key– The initial bat position should be slightly away from the body and back toward the catcher. I have proven over and over with my hitters that by just moving the hands back toward the catcher, bat speed immediately increases. The professional hitters I observed today were all over the map when it came to the initial bat position. Even the best professional hitters who hold the bat close to their body initially, eventually move the bat back toward the catcher. If they started there, that would take all the unnecessary pre-swing movement out of their swing, which would help them gain more consistency. This is especially important for amateur hitters.
Hitting Key– Full extension of the arms at impact creates a lightning bolt from the electricity and kinetic linkage that began in the ground. Many of the hitters I observed today had fairly good extension, but not enough, and they didn’t hold it long enough. If you watch the slow-motion swing of Miguel Cabrera, you will see full extension at impact. He then maintains this full extension throughout the remainder of the swing. He doesn’t even break his wrists to interrupt the lightning, which will be a topic (to break the wrists or not) for a future post.
In the future, I look forward to sharing more truths and the remainder of the hitting keys I teach to ALL (baseball and softball) hitters. My goal is to convince readers that one size does indeed fit all, when it comes to hitting mechanics.