For all of you not familiar with the baseball slang “rake”, it refers to a hitter who is hitting the ball really well. In this postseason, David Ortiz is raking, especially during this World Series. If you watch this video of Ortiz in slow-motion, it is obvious why he is so powerful and consistent. His mechanics are similar to the Hitting Keys http://torque-hitting.com/category/hitting-keys-2/ that I teach and have been describing in this blog over the past few months. Here are a few of the hitting keys I see in his swing:
* A dramatic and powerful “load”– Ortiz lifts his front leg high in order to stack his weight on his back leg and foot. His leg lift is higher than most, which is how he generates high batspeed and power. As I have written, it also allows him to easily adjust to hit inside or outside pitches with authority. He will step toward the plate slightly for outside pitches and away from the plate slightly for outside pitches. Hitters who don’t lift the front leg have to reach for the outside pitch with their arms and are easily jammed by inside pitches.
* His hands are back (eventually)– When Ortiz lifts his leg during the “load”, his hands move down and then up. For young hitters, this would be called a “hitch” and would not be good. Ortiz makes this move, but eventually moves his hands back toward the catcher before he initiates the swing. I tell my hitters that professional hitters can get away with this pre-swing hand movement because they are—well—professionals! Young hitters should move their hands back toward the catcher when they set up and they should keep them there. Remember, by simply moving the hands back toward the catcher, a hitter can improve batspeed immediately.
* Powerful lower body rotation– Notice that when his foot comes down to the ground, his head and body stop moving forward. His lower body begins to rotate violently first, followed by the upper body. This is “kinetic linkage”, which is necessary for REAL power.
* Lightning– As the ball reaches the hitting zone, his arms are nearly fully extended. Almost immediately after impact, his arms are fully extended in the “Power V” and they stay extended throughout the rest of the swing. It’s like a lightning bolt that is fully extended when it hits the ground for maximum damage.
* No wrist break– Here is another example of a great hitter who never breaks his wrists during the swing. As I pointed out in a previous post, breaking the wrists after impact is unnecessary and only serves to restrict the swing from maintaining batspeed.
* The right path– Take a look at the powerful swing path the bat stays on. All great hitters have nearly identical swing paths that rise from the strike zone to finish well above the shoulders. Like breaking the wrists, if a hitter tries to manually change the path of the swing, they will sacrifice precious batspeed. I plead with my hitters to “let the bat finish where it wants to finish, not where YOU want it to finish”.
* Pose for the cameras– You can’t really see it that well with this video, but Ortiz holds his finish before he begins to run. He knows that pulling the bat back or leaving the box before the swing is complete will……you guessed it….hurt his bat speed. Too many young hitters are so excited when they make contact, they actually begin moving out of the box before the swing is complete. I tell them to hold their pose briefly and then run. They will be more likely to trot around the bases after hitting a long home run.
There are other little things that Ortiz does so well, but hopefully the hitting keys I have listed will help you better understand why David Ortiz has been one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball the past few years. He also is one of the most clutch hitters. I believe the hitting mechanics he uses, which rely on the big muscles in his body, also allow him to deliver in pressure situations.
I hope Ortiz rakes the Red Sox to a championship, so I don’t have to watch the Cardinals win another title. Go Cubs!