Get A Grip

Grip-1

“Line up your knuckles!” Every time I hear a hitting coach give this instruction, I shake my head.  When this advice first became popular, I was confused.  Which knuckles should hitters align?  We all have three (3) sets of knuckles on each hand—the base knuckles, the middle knuckles, and the top knuckles. This means there are several alignment possibilities…..what a dilemma!

Hand

After speaking with other hitting instructors, I learned that “lining up the knuckles” was different from how I grip a bat or what I teach to my hitters.  These instructors believe hitters should line up the middle knuckles, as illustrated below.

Grip-line up knuckles

Ok, but why? When I ask new hitters why they line up their middle knuckles, I rarely get a meaningful response to this simple question.  Here are some of the most popular responses I have heard over the years:

“That’s just the way I was taught”

– ” It helps my elbows stay close to my body”

– “It will help my power”

Trying not to be too judgmental, I usually ask why keeping the elbows close to the body or lining up the middle knuckles leads to increased power.  I have yet to get a reasonable explanation. My rule of thumb is, if hitting instructors are unable to explain the practical benefits of hitting mechanics, hitters should be very skeptical.

By using my Swing Speed Radar or my Zepp  sensor, I can objectively prove that lining up the middle knuckles does NOT lead to more power. After I teach hitters the proper grip, I measure their bat speed using both grips. Their bat speeds are always significantly lower (3-5 mph) when they line up their middle knuckles.

Advocating a grip that causes the elbows to stay close to the body during the swing sequence is just bad advice. Instead of explaining here why this is bad advice, here is a link to a previous post that explains why the elbows should begin and remain AWAY from the body. https://torque-hitting.com/2014/11/23/dont-get-elbowed-out-of-hitting-power/

So, which set of knuckles should be aligned? The short answer is they don’t necessarily have to be perfectly aligned. It is more important for hitters to get in a comfortable and powerful hitting position before setting the hands. The ideal hand position for hitters is totally dependent on the set-up position. Unlike golfers, hitters should not grip the bat first and then get into the set-up position in the batter’s box. The proper grip should be a natural byproduct of a powerful set-up.  Hitters who set-up in the power hitting position I teach naturally have grips that line up the base knuckles with the middle knuckles.  Here is what that looks like:

Grip no alignmnet

Even though I advocate the same set-up position for all my baseball and softball hitters, their grips on the bat may vary slightly, due to their different physical attributes, including hand size, arm length, and flexibility.  Here is link to a previous post illustrating the ideal set-up position. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/06/21/the-calm-before-the-lightning/

Grip Strength

“Hitting With Torque” means using the natural points of resistance in the body to generate bat speed and power.  I am planning to describe all the points of resistance or pressure points in a future post.  The grip is one of the most important points of resistance, so I advocate a relatively tight grip on the bat.  Whenever a pressure point is ultimately released during the swing sequence, it contributes some degree to the force to the swing.  The kinetic linkage between all the various pressure points determines how much bat speed is generated. I often measure the bat speeds of hitters who apply varying degrees of grip tightness.  All other swing mechanics being equal,  the tighter the grip, the higher the bat speed readings.

It is important not to squeeze the bat with the palms.  If you pick up a bat and grip it tightly with your palms, you will immediately notice how your elbows naturally cave in, which will negatively affect bat speed.  Hitters should grip the bat tightly using only the fingers. The palms on each hand should not be touching the bat.  When pressure is applied with only the fingers, the elbows remain still and in a powerful hitting position.

Some good advice when trying to find the ideal grip is not to think about it too much.  I chuckle when I see hitters obsessing over their grip before they enter the batter’s box.  I especially get a kick out of the hitters who try to confirm their middle knuckles are in perfect alignment by lifting and pointing their index fingers in the same direction after gripping the bat.

There is an old baseball adage that I have always subscribed to when it comes to how to hold the bat…..don’t think too much and just “GRIP IT AND RIP IT!”