With the college and high school baseball and softball seasons beginning, now is the time for all the hard work in the offseason to pay off. Confidence levels are high and everyone is anxious to begin the season on a hot streak. The truth is, over the course of a long season, all hitters will experience inconsistency and most will suffer through a hitting slump. The last thing hitters should do is change the hitting mechanics they worked so hard to perfect when they hit a temporary rough patch. Even though it is tempting to make changes during a slump, hitters should avoid second guessing the mechanics of the swing that has been successful in the past.
The best way to bust a hitting slump is not to fix or change the swing. Instead, I tell my hitters to “focus” on the hitting keys in their swing that are the most critical to power and consistency. I have seen too many hitters who are not hitting the ball well try to work on every detail of the swing to identify flaws they are convinced must be contributing to their struggles. In my opinion, this approach is futile and often leads to more problems.
As I wrote in a previous post about the mental side of hitting https://torque-hitting.com/2013/08/10/the-mental-side-of-hitting-a-must-read/, hitters should avoid thinking about all the detailed mechanics of the swing while standing in the batter’s box. Instead, a hitter should enter the box with a clear mind. The sole focus should be on the release of the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and the contact of the ball with the bat. For hitters who are in the middle of a slump or just want to improve upon the last at-bat, I ask them to add one more thought when they get in the batter’s box—a swing thought. Swing thoughts are more closely associated with golf, but I believe they are also effective for baseball and softball hitters.
Simply put, a baseball/softball swing thought is keen focus on one of the hitting keys that comprise the swing. For my hitters, I suggest choosing from one of following three hitting keys:
1) Focus on the “load”– The initial load, which is the lifting of the front leg and foot to shift weight to the back leg, is critical for a successful swing. Often hitters will rush the load or they will barely lift the front foot off the ground. When this happens, the body becomes confused and every motion for the rest of the swing will be negatively affected. If the body is accustomed to a slow, powerful load in practice, that is exactly what it is expecting during a live at-bat in a game. If I have a hitter who is inconsistent in the batting cage, I will often ask them to only focus on an effective load and nothing else. The next swing almost always produces a solid hit. The body remembers the slow, powerful load is the beginning of a sequence of hitting mechanics. If the beginning of the sequence fails, so will the rest of the swing. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/07/02/is-your-hitting-stuck-in-the-mud/
2) Focus on “extension”– If you have been reading this blog, you are probably tired of my preaching about the importance of extending the arms during the swing. When my hitters are consistently driving the ball hard, I know they are extending their arms and keeping them extended as long as possible. If I had to rank the eight hitting keys I teach, I would rank good extension as the most important one. If a hitter enters the batter’s box with the sole goal of extending the arms like lightning at impact, good things will happen. It’s that simple. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/06/16/how-to-put-lightning-into-your-baseballsoftball-swing/
3) Focus on the “finish”– Inconsistent hitters often have inconsistent swing paths and finishes. A very effective swing thought is to focus only on the finish of the swing. I tell hitters not to worry about the load, extension, or any other aspect of their swing. I ask them trust their hitting mechanics and focus only on finishing the swing high and away from their body. This will allow the body to execute the swing it has practiced hundreds of times, without any interference from the mind. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/08/06/finish-strong/
Hitting is difficult enough without the pressure of trying to remember and execute every detail of the swing perfectly during every at-bat. It is much easier to focus on executing one hitting key and trusting the rest of the swing. This trust will pay off with the consistency that will minimize slumps and will extend the hot streaks.