This is one of the chapters from my new book, Hitting with Torque: For Baseball and Softball Hitters. The eight hitting keys I describe in the book will increase bat speed and power immediately. If you like this chapter, I hope you will consider ordering the book at your favorite online bookstore. Click here to order the book.
Section 1- Chapter 3: How Fast Is Your Baseball/Softball Swing?
I am often asked about average bat speeds for baseball and softball hitters. I have scoured the Internet for credible information on bat speed ranges, but I have been unable to find any meaningful studies or insightful statistics. I have measured, recorded, and compiled bat speeds of baseball and softball players of all ages over many years. Based on this information and my observations, I have a good feel for the average bat speeds of grade school, high school, and college hitters. Here is a summary of my findings.
Grade School Baseball and Softball Hitters (40–60 mph)
At this level, it is more important for young hitters to work on learning and practicing the correct hitting mechanics, without worrying about bat speed. When parents and coaches of hitters at this age focus too much on bat speed, bad habits are inevitable. When I work with baseball and softball players at this age, I will actually encourage them to work on the individual Hitting Keys detailed in this book at less than full speed. Hitters of all ages should refrain from hitting at full speed in practice until hitting mechanics become natural and fluid.
Bat speeds can vary significantly at this age due to many variables. Grade school baseball and softball hitters grow at a different pace at this age. It is not uncommon to see really small and weak hitters and really large and strong hitters on the same team. The varied strength of these hitters will cause bat speeds to fall in a wide range. The size and weight of youth bats can also cause bat speeds to be inconsistent. When middle school parents boast that their son or daughter has bat speeds comparable to high school hitters, I am always skeptical. Frequently, these hitters are using bats too light for their size and strength.
Young hitters who slowly focus on learning and practicing the Hitting Keys and other hitting concepts in this book will enjoy high bat speeds and repeatable power in high school and college.
High School Baseball Hitters (60–85 mph)
The average high school baseball hitter has bat speed in the upper fifties or lower sixties. When I meet with baseball hitters for the first time, they are surprised and disappointed when I measure their bat speed after letting them know what the goal for a high school hitter should be. Using objective bat speed measurement is a credible starting point to convince hitters why they need to change the way they hit. After learning and practicing the power hitting mechanics described in this book, most hitters will fall in a range from the low to mid-seventies. Elite high school hitters will eventually enjoy bat speeds 80 miles per hour and greater.
College Baseball Hitters (70–90 mph)
Most college baseball hitters fall in a range between 70 and 80 mph. Although hitters in this range will enjoy some level of success, they will have a difficult time catching up with the best fastball pitchers. When reaction time from faster pitching is decreased, bat speed needs to increase. In this book, I will describe the simple Hitting Keys that will allow hitters to keep up with the improvements pitchers make from high school to college. Elite college baseball hitters have bat speeds in the mid- to upper eighties, with the some reaching the low nineties. There is absolutely no way for these hitters to attain these lofty bat speeds without solid hitting mechanics similar to the ones described in this book.
High School Softball Hitters (55–80 mph)
Similar to high school baseball players, most softball hitters have relatively low bat speeds, between 50 and 60 mph. Young women typically rely on only their upper bodies to generate bat speed, which will naturally limit their ability to hit for power. Until these hitters learn how to use the kinetic linkage from the lower body up through the upper body, their bat speeds will be limited. The best high school softball hitters have bat speeds over 70 mph, and a few elite hitters can top 80 mph. Like their baseball counterparts, these hitters have adopted hitting mechanics that are conducive to more power and consistency.
College Softball Hitters (55–85 mph)
Surprisingly, average bat speeds for college hitters at all levels still range from 55 to 65 mph, which is a only a small increase from high school averages. I believe this is due, in part, to traditional softball hitting theory that restrains women from reaching their power potential. Historically, softball hitters were encouraged to make contact at the expense of power. Fortunately, more and more softball hitting coaches and instructors are adopting progressive hitting mechanics similar to the ones I advocate and write about in this book. Due to this trend, the better hitters in college softball now have bat speed in the mid-seventies, and elite hitters often reach the mid-eighties.
Bat Speed v. Exit Speed
It is important to understand the difference between the terms “bat speed” and “exit speed.” Bat speed is determined by simply measuring the speed of the swing using a portable radar similar to the one pictured above or some of the newer bat speed measurement devices that actually are attached to the bat. Most of these devices are highly accurate. After a few swings, it is easy to determine average bat speed.
Exit speed is the speed of the ball (not the bat) after it leaves the bat. Exit speed will always be higher than bat speed. A high school baseball player once told me his bat speed was over 90 mph, which I knew to be too high, based on my observations of his swings in the batting cage. The 90 mph reading was obviously his exit speed. When I measured his bat speed with my bat speed radar, his average was actually 74 mph. This made more sense, given his age, size, and swing. This confirmed again for me that hitters and coaches should understand what is actually being measured.
How Can Hitters Improve Bat Speed?
When I first began working with a college softball team during their thirty-day fall practice period, I measured the bat speeds of the hitters as a baseline to track their progress. On the first day of practice, bat speeds ranged from 45 to 65 mph, with a team average bat speed of approximately 55 mph. Three hitters had bat speeds in the upper forties, nine hitters had bat speeds in the fifties, and four players had bat speeds in the sixties. These low bat speeds did not surprise me. I had worked with enough high school and college softball hitters to know that traditional hitting mechanics taught to women are ineffective to generate consistent power.
On the last day of the fall session (only sixteen total practices), bat speeds ranged from 57 to 74 mph, with a new team average of approximately 66 mph! One hitter had bat speed in the upper fifties, eleven hitters had bat speeds in the mid-sixties, and five hitters had bat speeds over 70 mph, which should be the minimum target for all high school and college softball players.
How Did These Hitters Improve Their Bat Speed So Much in Thirty Days?
High bat speed is achieved through rotational hitting mechanics that harness the power that begins in the ground, works its way kinetically through the body, and ultimately ends at impact with the ball. These hitters learned, incorporated, and practiced the power hitting mechanics in this book.
In the previous chapter, I listed the benefits of improved bat speed, which include the ability to watch the ball longer before pulling the trigger, increased power, improved consistency, and increased confidence. Hitters with elite bat speeds know that no pitcher can throw the ball by them consistently. This confidence translates into award-winning statistics.
By the end of the season, nearly every starter on this college softball team exceeded the 70 mph mark, and the record-setting offensive statistics for the season reflected their dramatically improved bat speeds.
I understand that bat speed is not the sole determinant of hitting success. Plate discipline, pitch recognition, pitch selection, count strategies, and an effective mental approach are also important. However, if I had to rank the most important trait of an elite softball or baseball hitter, high bat speed would always be at the top of the list.