When I work with new hitters, one of the most common hitting flaws I observe is a linear hand path that is not conducive to power and consistency. Many of these hitters were taught incorrectly to keep their elbows and hands close to their bodies during the swing. Unfortunately, this causes them to “push” the bat to the ball, instead of relying on correct shoulder rotation to generate bat speed. I know this probably sounds pretty technical, but the solution is really very simple.
I recently came across this video made by Jack Mankin, who is a well-respected hitting instructor. Like me, Jack teaches rotational hitting mechanics. He does a great job describing and illustrating the correct hand path that leads directly to higher bat speed.
The video is self-explanatory, but I would like to emphasize a few points Jack made:
Power of the “Pendulum Effect”: Throughout history, warriors have known that throwing or shooting a projectile using “pendulum motion” will create the most velocity. Catapults and slings were early examples of weapons that used pendulum motion to generate the greatest deadly force possible. Hitters who rotate their shoulders without moving their back elbows and hands will create a circular hand path and the same pendulum motion and power as young David, who slayed Goliath with only his sling and stones.
Proper Front Shoulder Rotation: Over the years, a handful of my hitters have received negative feedback from their school or travel coaches who were critical of the rotational mechanics I teach. These coaches criticized my hitters for opening up their hips and shoulders during the swing. As Jack Mankin accurately points out in the video, coaches who advocate keeping the front shoulder closed are actually inhibiting the natural power hitters can potentially generate. My response when hitters share this erroneous feedback from their coaches is, “Congratulations! If your hips are opening, followed by the opening of your shoulders, you are generating as much power as your body will allow. Well done and keep it up!”
Better Plate Coverage: Jack Mankin also illustrates that a circular hand path will allow hitters to cover the plate more completely than hitters with a straight hand path to the ball. Hitting to all fields with power should be the goal of all hitters. When the back elbow and hands collapse into the body during the swing, hitters are forced to manually direct the bat into the ball. This will result in serious power shortage, especially to the opposite field. Conversely, hitters who keep their back elbow and hands perfectly still as the upper body rotates will generate consistent power to all fields, no matter where the ball is pitched.
Quickest Path To Extension: Hitters who have a circular hand path will also reach the point of extension faster and more powerfully than hitters who collapse their back elbow and hands during the swing. Hitters with linear hand paths have difficulty extending the arms at impact and some never achieve very good extension at all. With a circular hand path, the distance to total extension is shorter and more natural. After the powerful rotation of the lower body, the upper body should also powerfully rotate, without much help from hitters. The culmination of this independent rotation will be a bat that is propelled forcefully into the ball with the greatest velocity possible.
A circular hand path during the rotation of the shoulders has always been a critical part of what I teach, but I have never listed it as one of my “hitting keys”. Given the importance of the correct bat path prior to impact with the ball, I am adding it as my ninth (9th) hitting key to increasing bat speed, without sacrificing consistency.