1 - RHYTHM
In every sport, before a quick action, relaxation and rhythm precedes your explosive move.
Example: When a tennis player is returning a serve, or a basketball player is defending in a one on one situation, each defender is relaxed and waiting to explode.
In other words, it’s is the movement that helps keep the hitter on his toes and ready, but loose and not rigid or tense.
Why rhythm is important: This idea is the same for hitting. Once you get into your stance, the slight movement in your hands and legs will help to keep you relaxed and under control. This helps us not get too stiff or mechanical when we start our swing.
The bottom line is…
You are quicker and more in control of your body if you have rhythm and are relaxed.
This means better bat speed, and better reactions and adjustments in the split seconds you have before contact.
2 - LOAD
What is the “load” of a baseball swing?” In baseball batting, the load is where we gather our momentum to our backside to prepare for an explosive swing.
It’s like a snake coiling to strike, or pulling back the string of a bow and arrow.
Why is the load important? Use it as a timing device and a continuation of your rhythm. Getting your weight back helps you wait to explode on the ball.
No matter if you load with a leg kick, a toe tap, normal stride, or no striding and just picking up the heel, you have to make a move back before you can go forward. This small move helps to make your next move (weight shift) rhythmic and not jumpy or fast.
In depth description of the load:
The Starting Point. To start, our legs are distributing our weight almost evenly, between our front and back leg.
Timing. As the pitcher starts his load (leg lift) you want to start your weight shift by moving a portion of your weight on your back foot.
Weight distribution. If you started somewhere between 50/50 and 60/40 weight distribution, after loading you should be at least 60/40 (to your backside). Some hitters will get all of their weight on their back leg, cock their hips, and try to get all they can into the baseball.
Athletic Stance. But, as you shift your weight to your back leg, don’t let your back knee get outside of your back foot. Make sure your knee stays on the inside of your foot. It allows better balance, and is a more athletic position.
Hands. By transferring your eight back into your back legs and coiling, your hands will not be moving at this point, they will move back when your move forward creating stretch. This gets them to the strongest position to fire your hands to the baseball. It’s the same idea that the pitcher needs to get momentum going back before he delivers the ball, or someone trying to deliver a serious punch.
The size of this movement depends on who you are as a hitter.
Someone with a little more power may try to get a little extra weight going back before he explodes.
But a batter that hits line drives for average may use a significant smaller load so he has a shorter, more compact swing.
Direction of Movement. As you start your load, keep your body in a straight line towards the pitcher.
If you start to coil and turn your back to the ball, your swing will be more rotational and your bat will be in and out through the strike zone quicker than it should be, thus making it more difficult to consistently square up baseballs.
3 - SEPERATION
Separation (stage 3) is the portion of the baseball swing mechanics when we stride and separate the movement of our hands from our stride foot in order to create torque, in a strong balanced launch position.
Separation is essential for bat speed, and bat speed directly translates into power and distance. Separation also…
Starts at the completion of our load
Is finished after you stride, when your front foot makes contact with the ground.
It is during this phase that you will first see the ball out of the pitchers hand.
In this position you should feel as if you are waiting for the ball in the most powerful position you can be in before the violent assault happens on the baseball.
How we incorporate separation into the baseball swing:
This movement should start when the pitcher starts making his move towards home plate.
At this point we want to have our hands back and in a strong position (from our load), usually around shoulder height.
Stride and Separate.
You will stride forward in a very controlled and soft movement, while using your shoulder and outside oblique to pull the top half of your body in the opposite direction.
Our goal is to keep this movement slow and in control. This is important, because it will keep your head still so you can see the ball better.
Once your front foot hits the ground and your hands remain back from where the load took them, this will create tension in your front oblique area.
This tension is like a stretched rubber band that will allow for a violent action toward the baseball. The more stretched tension you create, the more bat speed you can create.
At least 60% of your weight should be on your back leg
Your front toe is softly placed on the ground
With your heel on the same (front) foot in the air
Your feet should be in line with each other out toward the pitcher. At this point of your swing, your stride should not be open or closed.
Your hands are still back – at or above the height of your back shoulder – and your bat should be at a 45 degree angle.
This is where you pick up the ball as quickly as possible and determine what pitch is being thrown, and if you are going to swing.
Final thought on swing separation:
The separation portion of the swing allows your load to turn into momentum to help create as much bat speed as possible. The separation is probably the most difficult part of the swing to consistently repeat.
4 - SHIFT
Your weight shift begins after you have completed your separation. You should now be in a strong, athletic, launch position. It begins with your front heel making contact with the ground, thus starting your back knee to turn and gain ground toward your front knee. Our goal is to move our weight in a way that starts our path to the baseball in a straight line through the baseball. The baseball swing starts from the ground up, and the weight shift is where we start our movement toward the ball.
Weight Shift Breakdown.
The separation step of the swing finishes with your front toe on the ground but the heel on that foot is still in the air. Everything starts with your front heel touching the ground to start your move.
1. Back Knee
Your back knee will start to turn towards the ball and gain a little ground toward your front knee. To help with this move you should feel like you are driving your back hip into home plate. This small move allows you to use gravity by staying on top of the baseball and swinging down hill. It puts you in the optimal position to hit a baseball.
Your momentum should be going towards the pitcher, while your back knee and hip are firing towards the ground.
This is where your weight shifting and rotation start coming together.
2. Front Leg
Your front leg is firm and not allowing the weight shift to get over your front foot.
3. Front Side
You should feel like your front side is holding this motion back, so once you start your swing, you will have a violent leg drive happen underneath you. This should place you in an optimal position for the best bat speed possible. Once the action hits your front leg and creates tension your front leg will halt any further forward movement and you will start to rotate around your head.
4. Front Leg
If your front leg collapses and doesn’t hold all of this momentum back, you will lose all of the built up torque you have built up in the load and separation portion of the swing. The result is a weaker swing, with less bat speed.
Your hands follow what your base does, so if you have proper strong leg drive in your weight shift, you will have a proper bat path towards the baseball. You will actually get your bat in the hitting zone quicker and it will stay in the zone longer, which is the ultimate goal. The longer the barrel of the bat is in the hitting zone, the better chance we have to hit the baseball with authority. Your weightshift will create a rubber band like torque action for your hands and will propel them into the zone as fast as possible. By using a strong and correct shift towards the baseball with your legs, you are allowing your hands to follow the path that your base started.
The weight shift heading into rotation will allow your bat to be in the zone longer than just rotating. It is this stage of your baseball swing that allows for last-second, mid-swing adjustments to tricky pitches.
5 - YES OR NO?
This is the last and most important part of hitting. It’s where you decide if you are going to swing the bat. If so, release the barrel of the bat towards the baseball and try to square it up.
How to release the baseball swing:
After we decide to swing the bat, we take our weight shift and turn it into a rotational movement, to get the most bat speed possible. With your lower half out of the way all you have left is throwing your hands at the ball.
1. To start your baseball swing, take your back elbow and drive it into your body. At the same time your bottom hand will drive the knob of the bat toward the baseball. Your bottom hand is the guide hand.
Your back elbow is key once it comes into the slot (where it physically touches your body) you reach a point of no return. This creates a lot of hand speed and once your elbow gets all the way to your body you will not be able to stop your swing.
Once your elbow gets into the slot your barrel will almost be in the zone and will start going through the zone.
2. Once your back elbow gets into the body, your top hand will start to take over and dominate the bottom hand. Your top hand is your power hand, guiding the barrel of the bat toward the baseball.
3. The action of releasing your swing happens as everything rotates around your head. Keeping your head still will allow you to see the ball better and make consistently better contact.
4. Finish your swing by following through the baseball. Hit “through” the ball, not “to” the ball. In other words, follow through.
The old saying of “Short to and long through” is a simple way of explaining the perfect swing. Meaning, quick to the ball and long follow-through.
Final thought on releasing your swing
Once you decide to swing and fire your hands at the baseball, swing hard and don’t try to guide the bat to make contact. Sometimes it is better to swing and miss than to guide your swing to make contact and hit a weak ground ball to an infielder.
How to identify types of pitches in baseball, and know what each pitch does.
What is a sinker? What is a knuckle ball? How do I identify and hit a cut fastball? How fast is each type of pitch? What do the pitch grips look like? These and other questions are answered in this summary of the types of pitches in baseball. Knowing the different types of pitches and their movements is important for both the pitcher and batter. As the batter, knowing the types of pitches and how to recognize them when they are thrown will help you make contact with baseball more consistently.
Understanding what each pitch does
This pitch is the hardest of the fastballs, it rotates backwards keeping the ball straight with not much movement.
2-seam fastball (sinker)
The 2-seamer or the sinker is a fastball that is just gripped differently than the 4-seamer. It is held with the seams rather than across.
This pitch moves arm side of the pitcher and down.
This movement is a result of the seams catching the air in a way that pushes the ball down and in to righties from a right handed pitcher.
1-3 mph slower than the 4-seamer.
2-seam fastball (runs)
This is the same pitch as the sinker, but some pitchers have trouble making the ball dive towards the ground.
If the ball moves to the pitchers arm side (inside to a righty from a right handed pitcher) and doesn’t have any depth, than the ball runs.
1-3 mph slower than the 4-seamer.
This one is still in the fastball family and moves the opposite way of the 2-seamer.
Out of the hand it looks a little like a cement mixer slider. With spin that that is looser than a slider, it can be tough to pick up the rotation early, because there is no red dot in the middle of the baseball.
Has similar action to the slider, just less movement. Also it has more velocity than the slider (5-8 mph slower than 4-seamer).
This pitch moves only a few inches to the pitchers glove side and doesn’t usually have much depth.
This pitch slides at an angle towards the pitchers glove side with depth.
Its usually 9-12 mph slower than the 4-seam fastball.
You will see tight spin with a red dot (seams converging and spinning) to help you identify the slider.
Usually has a break of 3-6 inches.
Has significantly more depth than the slider.
Usually has a 12-6 break (as if looking at a clock).
Spin is straight over the top, and the ball will look like it has a hump coming out of the pitchers hand.
Mixture of the slider and curve ball.
Usually big and loopy but its break angle is more of a 10-4 or11-5 if looking at a clock, pitched from a right hander.
Closer to the curveball speed than the slider speed.
The slurve is more common than a true curveball.
Is supposed to have the same spin as a fastball.
8-15 mph slower than the fastball.
Depending on the pitcher, some will throw a change-up that has a little depth, and some just float it in there and rely on the change in speed, and the similar spin for effectiveness.
Can be thrown hard or softer to act like a change-up.
Regardless of the velocity it is thrown, the action is the same.
There is a tumbling down action to the baseball, which can be seen out of the pitchers hand. The baseball starts in the zone and dives straight into the ground.
This pitch has very late down movement which makes this pitch to lay off of. Most times it is not thrown for a strike.
Is used mostly as a strikeout pitch.
Usually thrown very slow, and used on almost every pitch.
The ball comes into the zone with almost no rotation. This will make the ball flutter, having unpredictable movement which can make the pitch tough to hit and catch.
The old adage when hitting a knuckle ball is, “if its high, let it fly, if its low, let it go.”
SITUATIONS – HITTING SITUATIONS AND STRATEGY
Situational hitting is important slice of a balanced offensive attack. Understanding baseball situations and how to hit strategically in those situations set you up for a productive at bat, even if you don’t get a hit.
Effective situational hitting can keep pressure on the defense and push runners around to score even if the offense isn’t fully clicking.
Runner at 1st base with less than two outs (most likely 0 outs)
The direction of our bunt will be towards first base
Potential hit and run
When a “hit and run” is signaled to you the hitter, it means the runner is going so your number one responsibility is to swing and make contact with the baseball no matter where it is thrown – unless it is going to bounce in front of the plate.
If the baseball is going to bounce we are betting that the catcher won’t be able to block the ball, pick it up and throw out the runner that is stealing on the pitch.
Next we want to hit a ground ball, the runner is stealing the base and we have to protect him. If we hit the baseball in the air there is a potential for a double play, or at least the runner gets back to 1st but we make an easy out.
Ideally we would like to hit it to the opposite middle infielder.
If right handed, hit a ground ball to the second baseman.
If left handed, we want a ground ball to the shortstop.
We want to hit it to the off middle infielder because he likely will be the person covering the second base bag on a steal, so there will be a big hole open for you to hit through.
However, it is more important to hit it on the ground anywhere than try to for the hole and end up with a pop fly getting caught.
If the pitcher has a good sinker (especially righty on righty, or lefty on lefty) it may be difficult to put his sinker on the ground to the opposite middle infielder.
As a righty facing a right handed sinker, it is sinking down and in to the hitter. The bat is more likely to get under the baseball and end up with a weak pop fly to the 2nd baseman or right fielder than to bat a ground ball the other way.
In this situation it is probably better to just turn on a sinker and hit a ground ball in the 5-6 hole (in between the shortstop and third baseman).
Hitting behind the runner
When the 1st baseman is holding on the runner at 1st base, the 2nd baseman is in double play depth which brings him a little closer to the 2nd base bag it leaves a huge hole open to the right side of the infield.
This is much easier for a left handed hitter but there are many hits to be had by hitting the baseball in the lane between the 1st and 2nd baseman.
This isn’t so much situational hitting, its more handling the bat and taking what the defense gives you.
Runner at 2nd base with 0 outs (move the runner to 3rd base with less than 2 outs)
Potential bunt situation
The direction of the bunt will be towards third base in this hitting situation.
Hit behind the runner
Hit a grounder to the right side of the runner at 2nd base (toward the 1st or 2nd baseman)
Even if the shortstop fields the baseball and has to move to his left, he will most likely just take the out at 1st base. It is too risky of a throw to make to third base, because of his momentum and that the base runner will be potentially in the way of the throw.
Hit a deep fly ball
You can move the runner up from 2nd to 3rd base by hitting a fly ball deep enough for the runner to tag up and move up a base.
The runner is more likely to tag up if you bat a fly ball to deep center or right field, it is a much further throw.
Runner at 3rd base with less than 2 outs
Potential squeeze situation
As the bunter, wait until the pitcher is about to release the baseball. Square around and just get it on the ground, in fair territory.
This bunt can even go right back to the pitcher. We are taking the out at 1st base for a run.
Keep your sights up the middle and hit a ground ball. Keep the baseball away from the corner infielders (especially the 3rd baseman, sometimes the 1st baseman is really deep and its ok if he has to make the play.)
This is a great situation as a hitter because they are giving you a free RBI, all you need to do is just hit a ground ball toward the middle of the field.
In these hitting situations, you need a line drive or fly ball to the outfield so the runner can tag up and score.
Think of driving the ball rather than hitting a fly ball. More people get in trouble by trying to hit a great fly ball that they get a little loopy with their swing and they pop the baseball up in the infield, or they miss it all together.
Most people hit more fly balls to the opposite field and more ground balls to the pull side. Think of driving the baseball middle of the field to the opposite gap, this will give you a good approach for driving the runner in from third base.
Let me do my best to summarize how this impacts hitting…
1. Be aggressive with a purpose on strikes in predictable counts. This doesn’t mean you should be overly aggressive on 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, and 3-1, swinging at pitches out of the zone. And simply swinging at the strikes isn’t enough here either.
A foul will put the batter into a disadvantageous count. A swing and miss will also hurt him. It’s important that the hitter be aggressive, but on strikes that they can hit and with the purpose of putting the ball in play.
2. Focus on fastballs in predictable counts. There’s a reason hitters are more successful in 0-0 counts than 3-2 counts, even when removing strikeouts for Major League players. The first pitch is more predictable than on 3-2. Look for a fastball, don’t react to it. If you don’t get a fastball in those counts, let it go.
3. Taking strikes is still okay. Understand that the point of this isn’t to say that you should swing at strikes at all costs while in advantageous counts. Maybe the pitcher throws an off-speed pitch at an unpredictable time. Let it go. Maybe he paints the corner and throws a strike that is difficult to hit. Let it go.
Even if your odds drop as a result of letting a strike go, swinging at these pitches would not likely lead to positive results.
4. The first pitch may be the most important pitch. It’s probably a fastball. The pitcher wants to get ahead. It may end up being the best pitch you get in the at bat. Sit on a fastball in the zone. If you get it, hit it. Just as importantly, let the bad one go by.
Many coaches advise taking the first pitch, no matter what. I was one of them when coaching the 8-10 age groups. But with time, I’m realizing this is likely not the best approach at higher levels.
As a result, it may be difficult to break habits of kids who aren’t comfortable swinging at that first pitch. Help them understand the potential advantage of swinging at that pitch. Also, help them understand what they may be letting go by.
The key is to not only be aggressive in these counts but to be ready and have the intent of hitting the ball hard in play.