Are You A Linear Or Rotational Hitter?

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Over the Memorial Day weekend, I was observing my son Sam using a sling to throw stones. As I watched each stone disappear over the storage bins on the family farm, I was amazed how far he could throw such small stones with just two pieces of string attached to a small pouch. His motion looked effortless, but the result of each throw was impressive. Each rock exploded from the sling like it was shot out of a cannon.  Check out this slow motion video.

In a previous post titled Michelangelo’s David Would Have Been A Great Hitter!,  I described how easy it was for David to slay Goliath with his sling and five smooth stones. Goliath didn’t have a chance because David was using rotational force to throw the stones with overpowering velocity.

When I was a little league hitter, I was instructed to “Step into the ball”.  It was very simple—as the ball approached home plate, I would step toward the ball.  This linear forward momentum was intended to provide all the power I would need to hit the ball with power. I was unaware that this hitting style actually inhibited me from maximizing the power that only comes from the violent rotation of the body in a natural and logical sequence.

As I have written before, I teach a combination of linear and rotational hitting theories, but I emphasize rotational mechanics.  The only linear movement I recommend during the swing sequence is the natural forward movement of the body before the front foot hits the ground after a slow and powerful leg lift.

I can prove using bat speed measuring devices that “rotational” hitters enjoy more bat speed than “linear” hitters. In addition to increased bat speed, here are other key differences between linear and rotational hitters:

  • Linear hitters immediately push off the back foot as they stride into the ball.  They do not use a weight shift to initiate the swing sequence. Rotational hitters “load” their weight on the back foot after lifting the front leg. Rotational hitters use this important weight shift (and stack) as their primary source of power.
  • Linear hitters rely primarily on forward momentum to generate power. Rotational hitters use kinetic linkage that begins from the ground up to produce power. Rotation begins in the lower body and kinetically works upwards until the shoulders rotate and the arms extend powerfully into the ball.
  • Linear hitters are more likely to hit ground balls.  The more the body moves forward, the harder it is to maintain the correct body angle to hit the ball in the air. Linear hitters generally hit line drives and fly balls by using their arms and wrists.  Rotational hitters are better able to keep their weight back in a leveraged position throughout the swing sequence. Leverage allows hitters to naturally hit more line drives and home runs by generating power with the body.  The arms and wrists are merely tools to hit the ball after the body rotates, not the sources of power.
  • If the body is striding forward, linear hitters are more susceptible to being fooled by off-speed pitches and breaking balls. It is nearly impossible for linear hitters to stop the forward momentum to hit a change-up or curve ball with very much authority or consistency.  Rotational hitters are able to hit off-speed pitches and breaking balls more powerfully by keeping their weight back until the ball reaches the hitting zone.
  • Linear hitters have less time to hit the incoming pitch. Between slower bat speed and less time to hit the ball due to the linear movement toward the pitcher, linear hitters have to react quicker than rotational hitters.  Because rotational hitters enjoy greater bat speed and they don’t stride closer to the pitcher, they can wait longer before committing to swing. The extra split-second rotational hitters have before initiating the swing translates into higher averages to go along with the increased power.

These key advantages all stem from the simple premise that the rotation of the body and the bat generate more power than the linear movement of the body and the bat. Take another look at the video.  Notice how Sam effectively uses a combination of the linear movement of his body and the rotational force of the sling. The rock disappears into the blue Iowa sky and into some distant field of dreams.

Here are links to other relevant articles I have written on this site related to the importance and effectiveness of rotation in the baseball and softball swings:

“Independence” Day Hitting Key–

Hit Like A Tornado–

Circular Hand Path–