I recently observed a talented college softball hitter going through some drills in the batting cage with her father. They were working on a drill they referred to as the “Barrel Drill”, which is very similar to the “Half Swing Drill” I use with my softball and baseball hitters. Basically, she stops her swing just after the moment of impact to ensure both arms are extended and the barrel of the bat is in the correct position in the hitting zone. If you have followed this blog, this full extension (or lightning) is one of the hitting keys I teach to improve bat speed, power, and consistency. After watching a few swings, I noticed a small flaw as she was holding the barrel of bat out in front of the plate.
Here is a picture of what it looked like:
What I noticed was her hands and wrists were in a weak position at impact with the ball. Her top hand was noticeably lower than her bottom hand. This hand position creates several problems that affect bat control, consistency, and power.
First, when the top hand stays below the bottom hand during the swing, this will cause the back elbow to “cave” into the body. When the back elbow caves, the hitter will be forced to manually push the bat into the ball. This makes it very difficult to hit the ball squarely. Conversely, when the back elbow remains still as the upper body rotates, the bat will explode into the ball without any intervention on the part of the hitter.
The second problem with a weak top hand is inconsistency due to the instability of the bat. Notice in the picture how the head of the bat is actually angled toward the ground. This awkward position makes it difficult for hitters to control the bat before making contact with the ball. More importantly, when the bat is angled like this, hitters are unable to maintain the big part of the bat (sweet spot) in the hitting zone long enough for consistent results.
Finally, I believe the biggest problem with the top hand under the bottom hand at impact is the lack of “lightning”. The moment of impact between a bat and a baseball/softball, a racquet and a tennis ball, a golf club and a golf ball, or a hockey stick and a puck, should be the “peak of violence”, just like when lightning strikes its target. It is impossible for a hitter to violently strike the ball with this weak hand position. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/06/16/how-to-put-lightning-into-your-baseballsoftball-swing/
When this hitter and her father were taking a break, I asked if I could suggest a small change. I asked her to do her barrel drill again. While she was holding the finish of her first swing, I merely rotated her top hand so it was now slightly on top of the bottom hand.
Here is what her new hand position looked like:
After explaining the problems with her weak hand position, she smiled as if a light bulb just went off in her head. She told me that she would often get frustrated because her power was inconsistent and she didn’t feel like she was always in control of her swing. It is important to note that when the top hand gets to this powerful position, the hitter should hold this position as long as possible. Here is a post that reviews why the hands and wrists should NOT break right before or immediately after impact with the ball. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/09/26/wrist-inaction/
I didn’t stay to watch the rest of the workout, so I am not sure if this hitter actually adopted this small adjustment. She is now back at college preparing for her freshmen season in a D1 softball program. With her already great swing and her natural talent, if she incorporates this small adjustment into her swing, I have no doubt she will enjoy BIG SUCCESS against college pitching.