I’m sorry baseball and softball hitters, but it is finally time to quit squashing the bug for no good reason. For years, hitters have been encouraged to “squash the bug” to teach hip rotation during the swing. For those who have never heard this strange instruction, it simply means to pivot and press the back foot into the ground. In theory, this is intended to force the hips to rotate into the ball. Unfortunately, this is rarely the result. Too many bugs have sacrificed their lives for hitters who believe squashing them into the ground will lead to more power. It is time to stop squashing bugs and begin freeing them!
In an effort to use this silly analogy to actually teach proper hitting mechanics, let’s assume there really is a bug under the back foot of hitters. If you follow this blog, you know that I teach hitters to lift their front foot and leg in order to transfer weight to the back foot and leg (the load) to initiate the swing. As this happens, the bug should feel pressure from this powerful weight transfer, but it should not be life threatening. However, I would suggest a helmet for the bug, so it will have some protection from the weight of the load. This is the moment of truth for the bug. Does it get squashed or is it allowed to escape execution and live a long and happy life?
I have seen too many hitters squash the helpless bug by pivoting the back foot without moving their hips. It looks more like a dance move, than an athletic action. Even if there is some hip rotation after this murderous act, it is artificial and not very powerful. These hitters have it totally backwards. Pivoting the back foot does not lead to powerful hip rotation. Instead, powerful hip rotation will naturally cause the back foot to pivot.
Here is how hitters can generate power without taking an innocent life. Picture the bug under the back foot wearing that protective helmet. When weight is transferred to the back leg through a slow and powerful load, the bug should feel pressure on its helmet. As soon as the front foot is placed back into the ground, the hips should begin rotating powerfully into the ball. Toward the end of this hip rotation, the hitter’s weight should shift, until it ends with a stiff front leg forcing the back foot to pivot. Not only will the back foot pivot automatically from the rotation of the hips, it should actually begin to lose connection with the ground . This is when the bug can escape to freedom! Most hitters will maintain some connection with the ground, but is not uncommon for the back foot of power hitters to actually pop into the air.
Here is a video of my favorite baseball player of all time, Roberto Clemente, hitting a home run in the 1971 All-Star Game. Toward the end of the video, you will see his back foot lift high off the ground after his hips rotate fully. Clemente’s back foot comes off the ground higher than even I think is practical, but it clearly illustrates how the hips drive the back foot to pivot, not the other way around. At the end of the video, the announcer states that Clemente’s power weight transfer is “not advisable as a hitter”. Obviously, this Hall of Famer was ahead of his time.
So, for all you “bug squashers”, it’s time to give them a reprieve. Your hitting will improve when your hips lead the swing and you will also have a clear conscience.