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Hitting - Mechanics
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Hitting - Mechanics

QAhead of Pitch

My 10 year old is having problems hitting slow pitches in BP. He seems to be way out in front of them when he swings. Have you ever heard of this before? I am looking for drills that would help with this problem. He practices with a hitting machine that pitches golf ball size whiffle balls and he uses a thunderstick. Could that be the cause?

AIt could be. We don't have personal experience with the Thunderstick but we sell Rocket Rods so same idea. It may be that he is so good at hitting mini-whiffles that he is reading and reacting to the much larger baseball when it is still much farther away - especially with slower pitch - no patience. That's just a supposition but it makes sense to me as a possible cause. He needs to sit back and wait for the pitch longer - obviously. You also need to make sure he is seeing the pitches with both eyes - to help him judge distance by more than just the size of the "disc" - make sure his chin is tucked into his shoulder. You could also adjust his leg lift or stride length so he "buys" time to wait for the pitch to come in. And work with him to take his hands to the ball first - so that his barrel release doesn't happen until the the ball is closer to the hitting zone.

QAll Contact

In response to 'All Grounders', I have a 10 year old who almost never strikes out, bunts extremely well and can hit with consistency to the field he chooses -- all good, however, he hits with virtually no power. After extensive video work, I am convinced that he is actually SLOWING his bat in the hitting zone to increase odds of contact! Shows reasonable power in any non-competitive BP. One other problem that is surely playing a part is that he learned early on that he can put a bat on almost any pitch -- he almost never sees a 3rd or 4th pitch in any at-bat, opting instead for hitting a bad pitch in order to avoid a K. VERY hard to work on since these problems do not show themselves in BP.....any ideas?

AYeah, my own son was like that. You have to get him to start working on learning pitch location - which means get him to watch a few go by. But never the first pitch - tell him that that's the one he should guess at - guess what it's going to be and hold back as long as he can then go at it hard - it's okay to miss a pitch early in the count. Then get him to start learning pitching patterns.
This doesn't always work of course. Some kids are just naturally contact hitters, and they can do well enough through to mid-teens but then will not have enough confidence to succeed.
From a mechanical sense work on drills that incxrease his bat speed and power - knee drills, hidden drop balls, quick soft toss. If he can learn to react faster, he can adjust his timing to start swinging later. Be patient, it will take time.

QAll Grounders

I have a 11 year old who through 15 games has blooped to right field once and popped up once. All other hits have been grounders, not even line drives. Most of his outs were grounders to the infield, mostly 2B. He's batting around .360, OBA of .450, and has only struck out twice (both were called third strikes which I even thought were way outside). The last 4 or 5 games he's starting to hit the ball harder, had a triple down the first base line which almost went to the fence. But again on the ground. I think he could reach the fence (195') if he could only get the ball in the air. Is it possible to have too level of a swing? He's definately NOT upper-cutting his swings. His back shoulder doesn't appear to be dropping. He occassionally hits fly balls in batting practice, just not in a game. During the last 5 or 6 games he's more selective which I originally thought was the problem. This has helped him hit the ball harder but you know where it's been hit.

AThe correction needed may be part mechanics, part attitude. First, if he's hitting mostly to the right side, he's either only going after outside pitches, or he's hitting mostly with arms and shoulders - not opening his hips, not creating rotational axis power. It may also be that's he's reacting late - always wanting to read the pitch. A lot of consistent contact hitters (especially young ones) would rather ground out than strike out, so they swing cautiously - probably doesn't foul off many either (except to the right side). Here are the steps...

1. Change the attitude. This isn't tennis - it's okay to miss the odd close one. Encourage him to think ahead about the possible pitch - the hit-hit-hit / don't hit prep steps under [Hitting]. Get him to guess and swing, especially early in the count. No one ever got out with one strike.

2. Study his mechanics carefully - before suggesting any correction...

  • Study the bat-ball contact point. Is it well out in front of the plate (good) or even with his body (weak)? He may not extend enough.
  • Check his stride - can he get a good back-foot turn-in and hip rotation or should he adjust his stance?
  • Check his bat angle in the launch position. From the mound how much bat can you see behind his back? With the bat tilted too far back he'll have trouble, especially on low strikes and will usually make contact with the top half of the ball - hitting a grounder. With the bat head tilted more upwards it will swing down in the zone more and get under the ball - enough for those line drives.
3. Once you've found the single most likely mechanical cause (only one!) work on that one correction. Remember - too much coaching all at once, and he'll never recover.

4. Get him to work on that correction repeatedly. It's best in a batting cage - soft toss and have him hit into a net only 10-15' away. If possible tape off 3 target squares (18" on a side) - straight away, left and right lines - all from waist to shoulder height. This helps him visualize the results he wants.
5. Be patient. You have him for two years. It may be later coaches who really benefit from what you do now. But he'll remember who helped him.

Then again...

Here's an answer for another coach who is a regular correspondent with WebBall. I like the drill suggestion.

It could be that the hitter is dropping his back shoulder (this promotes a late and angled path through the hitting zone). The result is that you get contact, but that it's either a grounder to the 'pull' side of the field; and a blooper to the opposite field. Trying to hit hard grounders, a 2 tee drill - back tee being higher - and hands above the hitting zone can correct this. (If this is the individual's problem.) I see this a lot in our games (low hands).

QAll Pop Ups

I'm hitting pop up's that travel far but are still pop up's. What do you think I shoud do? I'm 6'2 220 pounds a freshman in high school and use a 34-in 31-oz bat.

AYou're undercutting, probably, or you could be slicing down on the ball - either way, catching it on a vertical angle that sends it more up than out. You need to flatten the arc of your bat so it comes through the hitting zone more on the same plane as the bat.

Couple of techniques to help this - adjust your starting hands angle at launch

  • if you're slicing down, try starting the bathead more vertical (pointing skyward)
  • if you're under the ball coming up, try tilting the bathead back over your shoulder more.
Also try to launch your wrist back towards the catcher a bit - this also can sometimes help flatten the arc. The final adjustment, if necessary would be to adjust your knees - more flex or less - only enough to put the bathead more through the plane of the pitch - but try the other slight adjustments first (and only try one thing at a time).

QAll Upper Body

I am 16 years old- a high school player. I am very cordinated and a good contact hitter. I compiled a very high batting average by just reacting to the pitch and taking an almost all-arms swing and dumping the ball into the outfield. I rely on talent and coordination to get hits. I lose my front side in my swing and end up getting very little body into it. I fully realize the problem but I have been htting this way and successfully for a long time so no matter what I do I can't shake this muscle memory. I would like to play the game at higher levels and I need to develop a smooth powerful swing. What can I do to change this muscle memory which is?

AOkay, let's see if we can break this down simply. (For a more complete explanation go back and re-read the hitting pages.)

"All arms" works because you have no sense of timing, no early read on the ball - so you have to react as the ball is almost on you - and you can only do this with your arms.

So the start of your solution - mentally - is to pick up the ball sooner - as soon as the pitcher's arm is up beside his head and coming forward - as soon as you can see the ball - try to read the grip.

Work on this (no physical change yet) until you feel yourself reading it so early that you are waiting impatiently for the pitch to get to you.

Now, with this much anticipation, you can start to get a body rhythm into your swing.

(By the way, this is not how I would teach a kid starting out, but you are a seasoned hitter.)

Begin by getting a little timing step with your front leg - move it forward just a bit as soon as you see the pitch in the pitcher's "window" (beside his head).

Then when you feel there is still a big gap - a calm space in time - between the timing step and the moment you need to get your arms moving to get your bathead in the strike zone, you're ready to fill in that gap.

It started as pitch-in-window/timing-step -- gap -- arm-swing/contact.
So now add a turn-in of the back foot (squish the bug) - maybe this should happen as the pitch is half way to you. Adjust it so there's still a gap - after the squish and before the arm swing.
Window/step - squish - gap - arm-swing/contact.
Now fill in the gap some more. As your back knee finishes turning in, let it push the front hip out. (This may have happened naturally with the last tip.)
Window/step - squish - hip - gap - arm-swing/contact.
Now as the hip goes forward and opens, tilt the bat head back towards the catcher to start the arc of your swing. Always adjusting the steps so that there is a gap to allow for the arm-swing. This last change will force more arm extension - which should eliminate some more of the Otis Nixon slap hit style.
Window/step - squish - hip - tilt-back - extension - contact.
Just remember. Don't try to make all these changes at once, or in one practice or one game. Let it happen gradually between now and the end of the season - at some point your body will take over and allow the smooth fluid swing to happen.

QAlways Pulling

I have a good batting average and good power but whenever I hit the ball whether against a slow or fast pitcher I always pull the ball to left field (I'm a right handed hitter). I'm afraid that coaches will soon catch on and put their fielders all toward left. Can you help me with my swing? If you can't correct my swing can you tell me how to correctly hit the ball to opposite field?

AFirst, there's nothing wrong with pulling the ball - it means you're reading the pitch well and jumping on it.

Second, you give opposition coaches too much credit. Maybe by the time you're up to bat for the 4th time in a game - after hitting fairly 3 times already, they might begin to wake up, but this isn't pro ball and the scouting isn't that good.

However, if you do want to scatter them more, try to work on inside-out hitting - taking your hands and the knob of the bat towards the ball before letting the barrel explode. You might also trying practicing with a stubby - a really short bat if there's one in the team bag.

QArms Close or Extended?

Should you always try to keep your hands close to your body when you swing? If you do this and watch the ball hit the bat, will your hands automatically extend to the outside pitch?

AThat seems a reasonable approach. I think too much has been made of extending the arms. Here's why... if you hold a bat out over the plate without moving it and rotate your body - you will see that you reach outside pitches farther back in the zone and inside pitches farther out front. There really is no reason to over-extend, or pull in too much, if you understand where over the plate to make contact.

QBat Angle & Weight Distribution

Two questions: 1. What should be the correct angle of bat head (ex. hands above barrel)? 2. At contact, should weight of torso be over back leg or forward? My son and I are getting conflicting information.

AMost recommend starting swing with barrel at 45 degree angle back over shoulder but if you have trouble against low pitches point the bathead more up and if you have trouble against high pitches tilt the barrel farther back over shoulder. Once it comes into the zone (hands leading the bat) you want to keep the hands slightly above the barrel - to let it stay level through the incoming pitch. We prefer rotation approach meaning weight shifts from back leg to a center point over belly button but never forward of that line, never fully transferred over the front leg. To emphasis forward transfer tends to make the body lead and keeps the barrel from speeding up through the zone - so you can hit but not with as much bat speed.

QCheck Swing

I make great contact, and drive the ball sometimes. I have a tendency to check swing, and I practice all the time and I can not break the habit. Do you know why I do this, and what I can do to break the habit?

AConfidence is the key, Mosty batters who check-swing are not convinced they're going to make contact, and are so concerned about just hitting the ball that they play it like a tennis shot!

I would practice first dry - i.e. no ball to hit - just to work on a swing that has a lot of hip torque and a good high finish. In doing this I would try to image high strikes and low strikes, inside strikes and outside strikes and adjust your kneebend and titk accordingly.

Then I'd go to a single tee - static ball. And work at the same follow-through and high finish. Then to a double tee, with someone helping you - telling you which of the two balls to hit.

QCrowding the Plate

I am on a traveling baseball team and when I go up to bat I am so afraid of the ball hitting me that almost always step out and never in towards the plate. I have never really been hit alot, only about 5 or 6 times but I am still afraid of the ball. Last year I was not that scared but this year I'm worse than ever.

AThere are at least 2 'ask the coach' answers on this topic already - stepping in the bucket and fear of pitchers.

Most important is the defence of turning your back - because you can't turn your back to a pitch and step out at the same time.

In truth, I think getting hit 5 or 6 times is a lot. You must be crowding the plate. When you position yourself make sure the bat held in your knob hand just reaches the near side of the plate (NOT across to the far side). Then, start your swing with a lightly flick back of the top-hand wrist to get a sweeping arc and lots of extension.

QDead Pull Hitter?

I have a 14 y.o. son who is a dead pull hitter. I was always the same so I have no idea how to teach him to go the opposite way any tip or drills?

AThe only time to be an oppo hitter is when the pitch dictates you should - outer edge of the K-zone. Arguably the coach might also tell you - whenever he wants to call a hit and run and have you hit behind the runner, but we still say that you need to get the right pitch to hit. The real secret is to let the outer pitch get deeper into the zone - make contact with the inside pitch out front, the outside pitch across the plate. I suggest he work on a double-tee drill called the in-out in which 2 balls are set up on the tees and the coach cals which one to hit just as the batter starts his swing.

QDouble Clutching

My coaches and teammates tell me when I bat I double clutch. What is double clutching and what can I do to stop?

ADouble clutching is doing a motion with a kind of stutter, in other words you lift your hand into launch position twice before starting to swing or you start the swing and stop and start up again. It is more common in throwing. In either case it is a hesitation that slows you down. Being aware of it is the first and most important step in correcting it. Practice your swings with a smoother motion from high launch to contact point - do it dry" with no pitches first, then with soft toss, then against wiffles straight in and then live (or machine) B.P. That will help with the mechanics. But the other part of the problem is reading pitches - that may create the hesitation that causes the double clutch. For that you should study pitchers' grips and arm angles - so you get more comfortable reading the pitch and know what kind of break it will have.

QDropping Back Shoulder

My coach says I have been dropping my back shoulder causing me to cut up on the ball. I have tried almost everything to help my swing but it isn't getting any better.

AChin to shoulder. When you practice dry swings (no ball), have your chin close to front shoulder and make sure back shoulder comes through to the chin on the swing. That's one step. But the problem might also be a collapsing back leg instead of weight transfer from back hip forward.

QDropping the Barrel

My son tends to drop the barrel of the bat before he swings. His elbow is up when he is in his stance, but then he drops it when he swings. How can I correct this? Also, how can I help him improve his bat speed?

ANote: We saw this question asked on another website. We disagreed with their answer so have posted our own.

Their Answer: In order to fix the elbow problem your best bet is to use a batting tee and work on the correct form. Essentially, the "correct" form would be swinging level to slight uppercut WITHOUT dropping the back shoulder. Once he has the correct form you can start working on bat speed. The main way to develop Bat Speed is by developing strength, mostly in the forearms and the wrists.

One way to help accomplish this is to use a heavier bat during drills. A heavier bat during soft toss for example, will force your son to get the bat through the zone faster. Same thing for live batting practice. Then in a game, go back to the slightly lighter bat. The muscles will still think they are swinging the heavier bat thru the zone therefore creating greater bat speed. The more and more you build the strength, the better the bat speed.

WebBall Rebuttal:
First, the other website didn't actually address either problem... elbow mechanics or bat speed. Biomechanically, the elbow must come down and in on the swing. Some would say that the elbow should never be up, I am less concerned about the elbow - it's the hands I want to see up and back - in the load position. All the elbow cock does is determine the angle of the bat at this point - important but not the only factor.

But I am much more concerned when the other site talks about keeping the shoulders level while generating an uppercut swing. So I want you to step away from the computer for a minute and try it. Go ahead. Notice what happens when you try to get the bat to lift with the shoulders level: the bat pulls up from the hitting zone, the power from the top hand dissipates, and bat speed bleeds off. I'd suggest these people go watch some good baseball hitters.

Notice that the shoulder does drop a little - that's to help the transfer of power from body to bathead. The swing is level with the shoulders but the shoulders are not perfectly level with the ground. Second, the other site, and almost everyone else, talks about using a heavier bat. This is meant to be an overload/underload training idea - and it's one which was on WebBall but we have modified our recommendations, putting them in a different context.

Why? Because I no longer believe swinging with a heavier bat ALWAYS improves bat speed. A heavier bat has more inertia - harder to get moving - so it often creates a cheat on the load-back position. When using the heavier bat, the batter tends not to pull back as far, so he can get it forward sooner. So when he switches back to the lighter bat in the game, but maintains the heavy bat "muscle memory", the kinetic (stored) energy at the start of the swing will be less. Not good. Also, once in motion, the heavier bat may be harder to control - which tightens the grip - and a tight grip means you can't throw (or flick) the bathead at the ball as readily. Bat speed bleeds off even more.

In other words, you can develop a consistent swing with a heavier bat, but in case you haven't noticed, pitchers change locations on pitches, so a consistent swing is not always a good swing. Now, I do think there are a couple of training devices that can help. The Power Source bat with resistance tubing will work on upper body because the initial inertia is less, it builds as your bat is moved into the contact zone. The other is the Power Swing Exercise (aka fins) - again, less initial resistance, building through the swing. Notice that neither of these are for swinging at pitches - they are training devices to use in conjunction with your game bat. (See more product guide info  in the WebBall Store.)

PS: Those of you who have been with WebBall awhile should know why I put "muscle memory" in quotes above - it's really neural pathway programming we're talking about.

QEven the Pros

I was up late last night trying to find the answer to my hitting problems. I used to have a leg kick very similar to A-Rods. However, since I made it to AAA this year the leg kick has been difficult because of the pitcher's ability to locate and change speeds. So when I stand up a little taller, and take out the leg kick, I have much better command of the strike zone with a smoother less complicated swing. However, there are 3 problems. 1. I have been hitting too many balls to the shortstop, some are rollovers, but some are rockets (still outs). 2. It's been tougher to stay though the ball and hit it with authority to the right field gap (much less oppo' pop). 3. Last and worse of all, it seems almost impossible to get my stride foot down and keep it there. I have always struggled with stutter-stepping and drifting to the ball. When I do this my head moves forward and my hand drag. But I guess that's why they made the minor leagues.

AFirst, thanks for writing with such detail on your problems. Lots of people just ask "what's wrong with my hitting?" which of course does not give me enough to go on.

can't be positive without seeing you, but from your detailed description it sounds mostly like a timing problem. By removing the leg kick you have shortened your reaction time which might help contact, but has slowed your batspeed or caused the hesitation (stutter step) as you wait for the pitch, plus it explains the inability to stay back on the opposite field hits. Generally it sounds like you are out in front of everything. This is confirmed by the head-in-front-of-hands / drifting-forward which you describe.
In effect what you are doing has turned you into a more predictable contact hitter, but with a slowing of batspeed and therefore less power.

You might have started on the right path with your stance. But standing taller is only part of the process - not the whole process - in making your hitting more rotational, less linear. By that I mean, the ability to generate torque through the mid section, get the hands going but keep the barrel back and turn quickly into the pitch through your center of gravity (CoG). The result should be more batspeed = more power = better hits to all fields.

Nice theory but how does we get there?

There are two parts to this - 1) getting the basic swing mechanics tighter and quicker, so 2) you can bring back the leg kick that helps you hold back and get the timing down.
The key I believe is your back knee - you want to pinch that back knee in towards the front knee. Your CoG (and axis of rotation) should be from your head down through your right hip and that knee. Standing taller helps with this. Also by being quicker in the torquing (the hip turn), your hands will fling out first (in front of your head) - which in turn will flick the bat quicker.

Once you have that you can bring back an adjustable leg kick with the confidence that the adjustment on the stride to pitcher's timing is okay because you can whip everything around quicker when you need to. Or you could just learn to minimize the stride as you have done and just start the reaction to the pitch later - more time to read the spin/break before committing. What you don't want to do is start at the same time then force your bat to slow down - that's what's been happening.

However, all of the above could temporarily mess you up. So it's important to make only one adjustment at a time to start. Maintain your taller stance and command of the strike zone but try to get the knee turning in more (under your body (CoG). After you see the effect of that in B.P. you will realize you are starting to be quicker with the hands than the bat. And so, you can start the swing later. If you then seem to be swinging ahead of the pitches you will know that your batspeed has gone up.

Knowing that, you need to launch later. And if you can't do that and hold back the power on your own - then reintroduce a leg kick.

I hope this all makes sense and you have a chance to gradually adjust in time to make a difference.

QExploding from the Box

Can you tell me some drills that will help me to explode out of the batters box when I hit the ball and stay quick around the bases?

AGetting out of the batter's box quicker requires a good push off the back foot, a strong hip turn (like pitching torque) to get that leg crossing over, and short steps to accelerate before opening up the stride. That's the basic answer but some new research published in Collegiate Baseball suggests that players may have a preferred power leg - the leg that should produce the initial movement (just as we are right or left throwers and right or left eye dominant). So in the same way you test your slide leg preference by going in the crab position and letting go, there is a way to test for the power leg - in a straight sprint which leg would you rather have pushing off the blocks? Based on that us either a frontside turn or crossover step to get yourself going out of the batter's box or from the bases.

QExtended Thumb

I was at the park the other day working on my swing, and I extended my right thumb so that it presses against the handle, and I was self tossing and hitting it. The point is I was making contact all the time, I also hit the ball harder. I dont know how well this would work in a game situation, but can you give me your opinion on this.

AI expect that in positioning the thumb, what you have ended up doing is flattening the palm of the hand - this is part of the secret of consistent contact - palm up / palm down. So let the thumb teach the flat hand position - but don't keep the thumb there when you are facing live pitching - this isn't golf with a static ball - it's coming at you at 70-80+ mph.

QEyes & Switch Hitting

Coach, I wear contact lenses and my right eye is my stronger eye and my left eye is weaker. I'm a switch hitter and was wondering if I should bat exclusively left handed since I see the ball better.

ABoth eyes are needed to track the ball from either side of the plate. It can depend on which eye is dominant which is not always the same as which eye has better vision. (The usual test is hold a finger up in front of you, aligned on a distant object. When one eye is closed, the distant object will seem to shift - that's the weak eye; the dominant eye will not have the shift.) Of course it also depends on the pitcher you're facing - against a lefty you are probably still better to bat right.

Added comment: That last statement is not always true: I have seen some batters who improve from the opposite side of the plate, regardless of who is pitching. I think one reason is that they may have acquired many bad habits in their natural hitting side and in learning to hit from the opposite side - under good instruction - they can be kept from developing other bad habits.

Also, on the topic of vision, we are working now with a company that has pioneered some unique vision training methods for hitters (and fielders) and we hope to present that soon on WebBall.

QFront Foot In

I play for a high school and I was wondering if you can send me some tips on how to keep my front foot in when I swing because it is a habit and I can't hit an outside pitch because of my front foot going away from the ball instead of to the pitcher.

AIt's not just your front foot you want to keep in but your front shoulder. So a couple of quick tips. In practice, put your hat or glove on the ground just behind where you want your front heel to be placed - avoiding stepping on the cap or glove will start building the new habit. If that isn't enough, try this - place your feet where you want them to be after striding - then leave them there from the start of the swing - keep your knees in, stay on the balls of your feet and lift only your heels to transfer weight. Also think chin to chin - keep your chin on your lead shoulder at the start of the swing and bring your body around in swing so your chin contacts your back shoulder on follow through - this reminds you to keep your head steady and may shorten your swing.

QGetting Back

I'm a 18 year old whose been out of baseball for about 5 to 6 years, and when I came back, my throwing arm and accuracy are up to par. My contact hitting left handed is decent, but my contact for hitting right handed is not. Can you give me any tips for increasing contact when you hit the ball. And one more question, is batting practice 2 to 3 hours everyday, including phase training and long toss feasible when beginning a training program?

AThe training program sounds intense. Some coaches recommend training to failure in theory that body will find the least painful way. I would stick to counts - number of swings, numbers of throws and chart this, rather than just setting a time. (Your body will give you the feedback called 'pain' if you push too hard too soon.) Contact is mostly a matter of hand-eye coordination - best training for that is with a tool like the Rocket Rod or Muhl. Once you have improved contact, work on training programs to increase bat speed.

QGrip Loose or Tight?

Coach you have been very helpful. My kids tend to complain that the bat hurts their hands when they hit. Are they gripping it to tight or to lose?

ATrick question. The grip should be loose in the launch position and as hands move forward, but as the bat comes into the contact zone it's forward rotation should cause the fingers to lock in. Important that the bat be held in the crux of the fingers not the palm.

QHand Drop

I have a batter that constantly drops his hands when he swings. Is there anything (a drill) to break this habit? When he swings the bat comes down, and his bat angle does not allow a level swing.

AWe would need to see him to know more because it may be a matter of when and/or how much the hands drop to determine the correction needed. Is he skying the ball, or topping it into the ground? Are his contacts fouled off or hit left or right side more? (Is he RHB or LHB?)

Some possible quick fixes...

  1. Get him to start with his hands higher up off his shoulder on load.
  2. Teach him to pull forward with bottom hand and throw the barrel forward with top hand.
  3. Adjust the barrel angle at rest and at load (tilt it back if he is hitting under the ball, tilt it more vertical is he is mostly on top of the ball.)
  4. Look at his stride and his back leg in turn - is he getting power from there - or does he need to work on lower half more?

QHands Back as Pitch Comes

Is it smart to bring your hands back as the pitch is coming?

AEvery batter needs to load-up to get maximum forward motion going - so pulling hands back at time of short stride is a good thing.

QHands inside the Ball

What exactly do they mean when they say a hitter should keep his hands inside the ball?

ASome people understand this instinctively, to others it's a puzzle. It all comes down to the problem of using language to describe actions in detail. That's a reminder to coaches to make sure that you and your student are using the same words in the same context. To answer the question... Basically what "staying inside" means is you should get the hands moving forward but keep the barrel of the bat held back. Your hands are between you and the ball - not out over the plate. The bathead then gets whipped into contact with the ball a little later in the swing. This is not a problem unless you are hooking the ball (see above) or are in a situation where you have to hit to the opposite field - maybe an RH batter who needs to hit to right, behind the runner.

QHead Turn, Slide Step

When batting the 3rd base coach told me that my head doesn't follow the ball. I don't see the ball hit the bat basically. Also he said my foot slides instead of lifting up. Do you know anything I can do to correct these problems? Do you have any drills or tips I can use?

ANot sure if either one by itself is the problem. To explain... It is impossible (and a mistake) to turn your head to track the ball into the strike zone (there's a page on visual perception on WebBall that explains why). But that doesn't mean your eyes shouldn't move. So the fact that your third base coach doesn't see a head move is a good thing.

However... you need to have your head positioned correctly first so that you can move your eyes slightly but minimize the eye movement needed for tracking. Start with your head turned slightly in from the pitcher - maybe towards first base. But the eyes are on the pitcher. Then track from their but don't try to focus on the ball - just the arm angle and wrist angle to see what pitch is coming. Pick up the baseball part way in to read the rotation.

As for the slide vs lift... Again, what your coach sees may or may not mean anything. I can stand perfectly still (from all outward appearance) yet still shift my weight from one foot to the other simply by tightening or relaxing leg muscles (pushing down on one leg more than the other). So what's more important than whether a leg lift is seen from the 3rd base box is whether you are transferring the weight to the backside - which you can do as easily with a slide step as a big leg lift - the important thing is to slide or lift the stride leg forward - while keeping the weight back.

QHit & Run Mechanics

I am starting to coach high school baseball. I told a player in b.p.(RH) to execute a hit and run. He asked me how to do that. What are the best mechancs to hit behind the runner?

AFirst, a pet peeve - a hit-and-run is really a run-and-hit, based on the order things happen. The idea is to get the runner to go at the instant of the pitcher's commitment to throwing home. Doing that, yhe runner successfully draws the second baseman away from the gap - to open the hole for the batter.

The only thing the batter should consider doing differently is to bring his hands through quicker and sooner so the bathead trails slightly when he gets it out in front of the plate - this could help direct the ball towards right field, behind the runner.

QHitting Breaking Pitches

I coach 13-15 yr. olds. I am working on their hitting. Some of the pitchers can throw a breaking pitch. Can you give me some tips on how to teach hitting the breaking pitch?

AGood question - because we are also working with a team of 13-15 year olds this spring - with a 15 game unbeaten streak. (Not all years work that way.) First, we emphasize not hitting the breaking pitch unless necessary. We want our guys jumping on the first fastball they see. That will always give you a better chance at a good hit.

For us hitting a breaking pitch only matters on a two strike count - and we don't want our guys letting two hard fastballs go by for strikes because they have worked on hitting curves. An 0-2 count is not a place you want to be, however... If the pitcher throws his fastball first, even if we only foul off that first fastball, it might encourage him to throw the breaking ball second - which we'd be best to ignore. Why? Because if you swing and miss at that breaking pitch, you are encouraging the pitcher to throw another one. However if you lay off the breaking pitch, he might feel it's not working for him, so he will come back with the fastball you want.

Same thing if the breaking pitch is thrown first. So what? No one ever struck out on one strike. And I don't know many young pitchers who will throw 3 curves in a row (not unless we tell them too). One of those pitches is usually going to be a fastball. Now with a two strike count you may be in a situation of still looking for a fastball but having to adjust to a curve. That's okay. better than looking for a curve and trying to adjust to a fastball. Time is against you that way. Unfortunately we have found that one of the last skills to develop in young players is the ability to be selective and intentionally foul off close breaking balls. Maybe it's just something not practiced enough. It should be, given the above... foul off the curve, jump on the fastball.

QHitting to Right

I have a problem involving my hitting. I have excellent bat speed but still always seem to hit the ball to right field. Why is that?

Also, should my front foot be pointing towards the pitcher or should it beat a 45 degree angle?? I bat right handed and am also right handed.

One other question. Just because it doesn't feel like I'm swinging correctly doesn't mean i'm not, right? I always think i'm dropping my back shoulder but am told that sometimes I do and other times I don't, but it always feels the same.

ASecond things first - your front foot should start out pointing towards first base, to keep the front side closed.

This should explain your first problem - If you open up (i.e. point foot to pitcher) too soon or too much you'll never stay over the ball, never be able to pull it - hence the shots to right field.

Answer to final question - sounds like your swing may be consistent, but your balance is not. Weight should be 60/40 to the back. If you transfer forward too soon or too much, as your back knee pivots inward your back shoulder will drop. If you stay back throughout the swing your shoulders stay even.

QInside Hitting

I coach high school age players and have two sons 15 and 17. Both hit the ball often but usually not with pace/power and have difficulty turning on an inside fastball. They have received instruction from some ex-pros and ex-minor leaguers but still struggle. Players are often told to stay inside ball which makes sense but may not be enough. They are also constantly told not to cast bat Isn't it also true that you need to get your hands going and almost begin to roll wrists above belt buckle to get bat head out moving to pull the ball. And doesn't this mean that, different from hitting a ball over center of plate, the bat head must get out front to pull the ball?

ATerminology is one of the toughest things about teaching baseball - because terms that have gotten into common use don't always means what some assume. Also just because a coach knows what he means by a term doesn't always mean the player understands it the same way. First, "staying inside the ball is a phrase that is meant (with best intentions) to apply to all pitches - it is not about handling inside pitches. Second "staying inside" might not as means as much to some players as telling them to swing "hands first". If the hands move forward towards the ball and the barrel stays back - you are avoiding casting out and you are staying inside the ball. Now lets deal with the other side of this "puling the ball" and "rolling the wrists". First - we would never tell or teach wrist-roll. This should be a function of follow through and should not happen before the contact point. What we do want to emphasize is palm up, palm down at the point of contact. It is a flicking forward of the barrel by the wrists, not a roll, that generates the bat speed in our view. Okay, backing up a step, it is the hip-first launch, the upper body torque-ing back, the arms lifting into load, and the quick release of shoulders to wrists, that all contribute to bat speed. But the focus here is on the final stages and the wrist flick. Now to "pulling". It depends on the hitter. Some hitters twist their legs around so much naturally that if we told them to pull the ball they would send every pitch into the dugout behind them. Other hitters - usually those with slower swings who hit mostly opposite field - if we told them to pull the ball, we might be encouraging them to cast out - thinking they have to get outside the ball with their slow swing in order to send the ball to the "pull" field. So, how to handle the inside pitch? First, understand that, yes, the contact point must be farther out front. But that is the only thing that needs to change in the swing. Here's why: Hold a bat out in the contact point for a pitch over the middle. Now turn the upper body (not the bat, the body) back towards the catcher and you will see that the bat head is over the outer half for a hit to opposite field. Likewise, from the center plate position, hold the bat firm at contact point and rotate upper body towards shortstop and the bat head will naturally cover the inside half - but be far more out front. Bottom line - work on staying inside the ball and quick wrist flick. For a pitch coming inside half of the plate - you need to turn on it faster - meaning turn your core section - transferring shoulders beneath your chin faster. The bat will get there, with no need to try to pull - that inside pitch is a pull hit anyway.

QLazy Pop Flys

I'm 14 and I don't do this all the time but some times I hit lazy high pop ups to shallow right field. What am I doing wrong at the plate to pop these balls up and to right field?

AYou may not be doing anything wrong. Almost any hitter can get under a pitch too much. If you are right handed it may be making contact at the wrong time on a breaking pitch (hitting off the end of the bat). Work first on reading the pitcher's arm angle as he comes forward while the ball is still over his head - so you know what's coming. And unless you have 2 strikes against you and a pitch is close or else your coach has called a hit-and-run play - don't be afraid to let a pitch go by that you don't like the look of.

QLeaning Forward

Two similar questions:
I have a son 11 years old who has a problem with hitting. He is leaning with his body before he hits the ball. How can I teach him to keep his weight back and drive the ball with his whole body?
And...
I am 14 and I have been having a problem about transferring my weight too quickly. I am hitting off my front foot and hitting with no power. I was wondering if there were any good drills that could force me to keep my weight on my back foot.

AAn old trick that I've seen work - tie surgical tubing around his hips and stand behind him (catcher side) holding the other end as his 'anchor'. An other important step is to have the arms fling the bathead back slightly toward the catcher at the start of the hip turn. And a newer idea, work on the front side of the mound - the need to lean back to keep from falling forward might train those leg muscles. (It's the opposite of having pitchers through up the backside of the mound, to get them to fall forward when really pitching.)

QLefty Not Pulling

My son is a left handed hitter and hits every thing to left field or third base. Very seldom does he pull it with any power. He is a big kid and has potential to rip it if he could pull it.

ANot pulling it may be an indication that he is not going after pitches on the inside half of the plate (away pitches should be hit opposite field). Or it could be he is setting up on the plate too far away (unlikely). Or he is reading the pitch late and starting his swing late and so catches up with the ball too far back in the strike zone - over the plate in the middle of his body instead of out front off his front foot. Or a few other things. Closer observation might help you decide which problem is his. (This goes back to the comment above about detailed questions providing better answers.)

QLefty vs Lefty

Why do left handed pitchers have advantages in certain situations and not in others. What specifically is it about a left handed pitcher that helps them against a left handed hitter?

AAs kids grow up they don't see that many lefty pitchers so it is simply less exposure to the ball coming from that opposite angle. What makes it worse for lefty-lefty match up, is that the ball can seem to come from behind your shoulder. At least right-hand hitters, while not all that experienced with lefty pitchers, do have a better view of the ball. And while righty hitters could have more trouble with right pitchers, they have seen more of them so the righty-righty match up is not as challenging as left-lefty.

QLevel Swings

I've ordered the new rotational hitting video you recommended. What caught my eye was what seems to be a conflict, ie, rotational hitting w/a level swing. Why it seems a conflict to say rotational hitting w/a level swing is that the Epstein philosophy is to get the bat in the plane of the pitch. In other words, the incoming pitch has a downward plane and to match it and keep the barrel of the bat in the plane the longest, an upper-cut is required.

AI agree with you completely. One of the problems you will find with the new video is the use of the term wrist roll when what happens at contact is wrist snap (roll is later). The other problem is this issue of "level" vs "horizontal" - both for eyes and upper body shoulder angle. I agree with Epstein. We recommend his book.
Sometimes sloppy terminology is the problem and "level" is one of those words. But then so is "upper cut" - some kids would take that to mean you want them to do a golf swing. What you want is a swing perpendicular to the axis of rotation - Epstein talks a lot about upper body tilt in good hitters rather than forearm drop - I agree. The optimum exit angle of the ball is 30-33 degrees and depending on the ball drop coming in (all balls drop) and the angle of attack of the barrel, it's easy to undercut or top-skim the ball (or miss completely) with both a down stroke or upper cut.

Once we get through all the new pitching pages we will turn our motion-capture/animation efforts to hitting.

QLifting Back Leg

I have a 10 yr old LL player who keeps lifting his back leg as he begins his swing. I have videotaped his swing and when I slow it down it appears he is tranfering his weight from the back leg to the front leg too early. As a result he is missing a lot of pitches. When he does keep his back foot down and rotates his hips through the ball he hits strong line drives. Do you have any suggestions for drills to correct this?

AYou'll need a tee and/or a soft-toss helper (machine or person), and a length of surgical tubing. The idea is to tie the surgical tubing around the player's hips and held behind him (i.e. catcher position - or tied off to a backstop) The tubing will help keep the weight back as the player goes through a series of dry swings, hits at static balls (the tee), hits at tossed balls, and finally some more dry swings - with the eyes closed. (The eyes closed part helps him visuallize how hios body is moving while the weight is back.) Then run the sequence again without tubing, and repeat if necessary. You may need to redo the drill before and or after some games to help reinforce the motion - this is a good drill for almost everyone on the team but it does take some time, so do it on the side as other teamwork is going on.

QLinear Hitting

All the talk is about linear hitting. Is this just a variant of rotational hitting?

AThe opposite (although I will probably get in trouble for giving such a short simplistic answer to this). Rotation implies everything is about the arc of the body and bat, linear is about movement forward into the path of the ball. I prefer to talk about torque (the rotational component but under tension in the muscles) which creates quickness, and a compact stroke path which results in getting the bat into the plane of the pitching and keeping it there for as long as possible (the linear component). Anyone who only considers rotation or only preaches linear is in my mind missing the point.

QLining Up Knuckles

I''ve played ball for years, through college, and am now coaching a Little League team. My batting grip was, and is, a grip modeled after Rod Carew, as I was not a long ball hitter but a line drive hitter. My grip is one where I line up my second, or middle, set of knuckles on each hand. But I see players with their middle set of knuckles on their top hand lined up with third, or bottom, set of knuckles, or even further back on their bottom hand, toward the wrist.
Am I correct in instructing to change their grip? Currently, I cannot see how they can swing properly, rolling the top hand over with their current grip. Can you please give me insight, or further references, as to how I can handle this basic?

AWe added a page in the WebBall hitting area about grips, but it may not be what you're looking for. So some other thoughts...

I've never seen a kid handle instructions that start by how to line up knuckles. I prefer to start by having them hold the bat in bottom hand out front down toward the plate, then just add the top hand where it feels natural - this after all is where the swing pays off at contact, so that's where the arms need to be well positioned. The other possibility would be to have them (without bat in hand) get into the swing contact point and adjust hands so we get a good palm-up palm-down position, then place the bat, and 'rewind' the swing to the launch position and have them look to see where their knuckles line up naturally.

To be honest I find your second-second alignment to be hard for me to do, I feel that at contact point my top hand (now underneath the bat) is curled back too much, and my back arm is stretched forward too much. But then I can see how that would result in a top-hand punch, or slap swing, or severe rollover swing. Remember as a coach you are not trying to create cookie cutter players - you need a mix of power hitters and contact hitters - and you will even want some doing the one hand power follow-through as taught by Charley Lau and others.

By the way one other thought re - 'I correct in instructing to change their grip?' If it ain't broke don't fix it. The only guys to correct are those not producing results.

QLong Drives in B.P.

In my batting practice I'm hitting long line drives and hitting the ball hard with power but when it comes to games I'm always hitting the ball off of the handle and popping up or grounding out to the pitcher or just hitting little infield dribblers. I was wondering if you have any advice that can help me hit in the game like I do in batting practice. I'm seeing the ball and hitting it but just off a bad spot on the bat.

AYour problem is likely timing. BP pitches are coming in slower and you have time to adjust. Game pitches are coming in faster and less predictably and when you try to react faster your mechanics break down.
Step one is to ask whoever is throwing BP (or running the machine) to crank it up a notch - you need the experience of reacting quicker. My feeling is that too many BP sessions are run as confidence builders not training opportunities - easy pitches, easy swings just don't teach.
Initially you may struggle during BP as a result, but what it may show you or your coaches is where you are having trouble with your mechanics - what falls apart against pitches that you can't read as well. It could be you need to shorten your stride, or your stroke. It may be that you aren't well balanced to reach low and high pitches, or that your hip torque is not happening as soon as it needs to, or that you aren't driving your hands to the ball first - not whipping the barrel around with enough bat speed.
Whatever the cause you have to find it by first pushing yourself to failure in a non-game situation. The mantra should be practice hard, play easy.

QLunging

What are some things that will help correct my son and his problem of lunging at the ball when hitting?

AHe needs to delay when his bat gets into the contact zone so that he meets the balls just in front of the front leg. As to why it happens and what to fix, make sure you identify the real problem... It may be that he is shifting his weight too much and you need to explain that the weight transfer back (40% front, 60% back) should only result in a transfer on contact to slightly forward (60% front, 40% back) and perhaps 50-50 is ideal - keep your weight over your belly button. Of course the other possibility is that he is just swinging too early and therefore has to keep shifting forward until the ball gets into the zone. So you might work on a higher leg lift (but not a longer stride) to delay his coming down. Or you might want him to load up with his arms going a little farther back - not his whole body, just his arms.

QMachine Fastballs

My contact problem isn't really because of specific types of pitches. At my camp, we use a pitching machine set up so that the machine is close enough to the batter that the ball doesn't have enough time to break, but far enough that it can be set up to have the similar reaction time to a approx. 75 mph pitch. Also, the camp uses a soft toss machine instead of a coach doing soft toss for you. Could this be a cause of my problem?

AIf everything you are doing off the machines is basically straight-in fastballs, then you aren't giving yourself enough experience working against breaking pitches. Your timing is so geared up to the fastball, you can't wait on breaks. You need to work on this - move the machine back so you can work on breaking pitches which a 2-wheel machine is very capable of delivering. And also get someone to soft toss with spin - again so you work on different pitches not always the same steady diet of straight shots.

QMimmicking Pros

I havent decided on my stance, but when I'm practicing I try to copy Mike Piazza or Alex Rodriguez. But lately I feel sluggish and I can't catch up with the pitches. I don't know if it's my swing (I tried chopping but Ted Williams says to have a slight uppercut and when I do I miss. I understand that you can't help me because you have to see for yourself. Do you have some kind of camp or something that I can go to for some help?

AIn fact, you have said a couple of things that help me see possible problems.

1. Are you a 6'3", 210-lb all-star shortstop or a 6'3, 215-lb catcher? There is always a danger in copying others' swings. What you need to do is have a tight compact swing (see the page on WebBall on compact swings for ideas) that works for you not ARod or Piazza.
2. You may be overdoing the uppercut effort and in effect doing what's called casting - throwing the bathead out too much as you start your swing. You want to be able to move your hands to the ball then let the bathead whip around quickly.
3. If you are concerned about chopping down on the ball, then hold the bathead more vertically off your shoulder (almost straight up and down) - this will allow you to get under low fastballs. What you should watch NOT to do is drop the back shoulder down in an effort to get under those balls. So - keep the elbows in tighter, the bathead off the shoulder more. As hips release, move hands toward the ball coming in (the inside out swing). Keep shoulders level. And fling the bathead through the zone to make contact.

Also, keep the stance standard shoulder width apart to start, and don't take a big stride. When trying these or any changes to swing, work on one adjustment at a time for 20 pitches (i.e. first try the bathead more vertical - ewhen you see what that does move on to something else.)

QMore Power

I'm 15, a sophmore in high school, and starting practicing my hitting. I do very well with contact: I struck out once last season in a JV league. Most of mine are medium speed ground balls that normally hit the shortstop in the chest. I'm looking to get more power from my swing so I can get the ball out of the infield.

AObviously you are forgetting the old rule - "hit 'em where they ain't". Seriously, your best quality is also your biggest problem. By not striking out much, it tells me you are a cautious contact hitter - and cautious contact hitters tend to make contact but that's it - no batspeed, no power, no distance. You need to be braver. You need to be willing to swing more aggressively - to risk striking out for the sake of more batspeed. Less accuracy but more power. I don't mean on every swing - but certainly on the first swing against a pitcher who is known to throw strikes. With two strikes against you, maybe it's time to be more contact oriented, but it still means getting your hands forward first, holding back the barrel, then snapping it around with more batspeed. Some refer to this as throwing the bat at the ball. Also, if all your hits are going to the shortstop then you are swinging the same at inside and outside pitches. You need to be willing to hit outside pitches the opposite away - again with more batspeed.

QNot Getting On Top

I'm having trouble hitting the ball - either hit weak pop ups or strike out. My balance seems fine and I'm seeing the ball well, I just seem to foul a lot of pitches down the middle of the plate. I don't seem to get on top of the pitch.

ATwo possibilities to consider... 1. You may be taking too much leg lift and too long a stride, which is dropping you down under the ball - moving your head too much. If so, trying shorting your stride - foot up, foot back down in same spot. 2. You are taking too wide a swing to the ball - casting out - this also can bring the bathead down or just talking too long to get to the ball and too slow a swing - not enough bat speed. If so try to keep the barrel back as your hands drive forward, then flick the bathead out just in time.

QOh! Those Slumps

At the end of last season, I seemed to develop a hitting slump. I had a hard time making contact, but when I did, it was always a hard shot. So, in the off-season before winter started, I did a lot of soft toss and tee drills, hoping that I'd work out whatever was wrong before my winter camp started in mid-January. I have been going to this camp for 7 weeks, and nothing has changed. My mechanics are pretty good, except for a little bit of a wrapping problem that I'm trying to get rid of. When I hit, it's always a hard hit, but I still have a low average for contact. What can I do to fix this?

AYou don't say if the problem is on breaking pitches or fastballs or change-ups. Because that would be my first guess. It's not the swing - which is good when it connects - but the ability to read and react, perhaps.
If there was anything mechanical that might contribute, my guess would be you are taking a wide swing rather than a short compact stroke into the plane of the pitch. The wrapping is a possible indication of the overextension early in the swing.

A quicker swing will also allow you to wait on the pitch longer - a better chance to read the break, for instance.

I do always recommend soft toss and tee work but in this case it may be that you are locking in what may be a good tee swing but doesn't help against live pitching. Suggestion - make sure whoever is doing the soft toss tries to mess you up in timing and with spin on the ball - this will force you to shorten up the stroke and increase the bat speed.

QOpen Stance

How do you feel about putting kids in an open stance?

AThis question appeared on another site with an answer we just could not agree with.

Their Answer: In my experience, it's not such a good idea. Assuming that you're talking about a little leaguer, it's better to teach the "fundamentals" of hitting, and an open stance is just one extra thing for him to learn and adjust to. I feel it is overload for very young players. It might be better from a safety point as well, to not have the open stance, because the batter would be looking right at the pitcher as the ball comes in. In the event the pitch is coming in at him, kids sometimes freeze instead of getting out of the way. With the open stance, its harder to get out of the way. For now, stick to the normal or closed stance and teach the fundamentals.

WebBall Rebuttal: Boy, where to start with this one. Any batter who starts in an open stance has to step in on his stride step, that's long before the pitch arrives so the injury-risk comment is just silly. Second, looking right at the pitcher with two eyes is kinduv the idea anyway - no matter how you stand, stereoscopic vision is mandatory to track the ball in 3 dimensions. Your head has to be turned to the pitcher no matter where your body is. Third, the point of teaching the "fundamentals" of hitting is to teach a player how to be a better hitter - whatever that takes. Now the real question - when would we recommend a batter start with an open stance - and this is not for every batter, only those with a specific problem to overcome. Here it is: Any batter who starts in but "steps in the bucket" (pulls his front foot out) on his swing, should consider starting out (open stance) and striding into the pitch. If you are already out, you won't step further in the bucket, you'll step to the pitcher. And that's the only time I would recommend an open stance... to correct that specific problem.

QOutside Reach?

I'm having trouble getting my son to stand close enough to the plate to be
able to cover the whole plate. He's constantly hitting the ball off the end of
the bat. Is there a general rule for a 13 year old?

AThe answer may not be what you expect. He should stand in comfortable
athletic stance so the extended bat touches the near edge of the plate - when
the bat come up in the zone he will have full plate coverage. But that will not
be the reason he has trouble hitting outside pitches. It may be that he is
trying to hit them too far out front. He needs to hit outside pitches to
opposite field making contact over the back side of the plate. If he is hitting
them off the end - he is trying to hit them too much in front of plate and/or
trying to pull them. We saw an interesting demonstration of this recently, If a
batter stands with elbows close to his sides (where they should be, and simpky
rotates his body from his hips - keeping the upper body as one unit - you can
see the effective of contact location for inside outside pitches - it involves
no greater or less arm extension - just a change in where you meet the pitch.

QPower vs Contact

What is the difference between a power hitter's swing and a contact hitter's swing? What do they do different? What do they do the same?

AGreat question. My take on this may not be consistent with anyone else's. To me, the difference is partly in the observable results and partly in the mechanics and approach.

Results: except for he-who-is-the-exception-to-every-rule (Barry Bonds), a power hitter is more likely to swing and miss, more frequently a strike out. A contact hitter is more likely to walk.
Approach: A power hitter is generating batspeed through the ball, with a fuller finish (either one hand Lau-style, or two hand follow-thru). A contact hitter's focus is closer in, more concerned with inside-out swing and point of clean contact.

Mechanics: A power hitter has the ability to generate torque through his core and hold back for faster release, a contact hitter will tend to start the swing earlier and have to slow up to make contact.
Pitching tip: go after a contact hitter with a change-up - harmless. Go after a good power hitter with tailing action - only way he might not get all of it.

In all of the above a good power hitter is not the same as a powerful free swinger. And also see the previous answer about rotation mechanics.

QPulling vs Pushing

I play vintage base ball where they pitch the ball underhand but play on a full size baseball diamond. My problem is that I consistently pull the ball to left field (I'm a righty batter). How can I learn to hit to right field?

APulling should not be viewed as a problem any more than pushing. The key is to hit the ball where it wants to go. Inside pitches are best pulled (unless you are trying to hit behind a runner) with the contact point out in front of the plate. Outside pitches are best hit to right with contact point farther back.
However, one of the reasons some batters pull all pitches is that they roll over their hands on contact - actually this probably has more of a vintage look to it anyway. :-) (Just like hitting more off the front foot, and hitting higher pitches.)

But if you want to apply new hitting techniques to your vintage game then practice with a frisbee. Hold it between your hands, cupped edges up. As you swing thru, let the frisbee release - if it wobbles on flight, you are rolling over your hands, if it sails straight back toward the field, you have kept your hands flat (one palm up one palm down) through teh contact point. Practice this until the roll over is gone.

QPushing the Ball

I always hit the ball to right field and I'm right handed. I have no clue why, if the ball is right out over the plate ill crush it to right , but most pitches that are a little inside that I should be hitting over the fence in left I am always too late and get jammed really badly. I try to time them but if I do that then I can't hit outside pitches at all. I want to be able to hit the ball to all fields and use my power potential too.

ATough call, a number of things could be happening...

  • You could be crowding the plate (that's why inside pitches always jam you).
  • You may not be getting good arm extension (that's why all hits are going to right - you don't get around on them).
  • You may not be reading the pitch soon enough - in the pitcher's window - and so are letting the ball get past the front plane of the plate before making contact.

Think about these and try to adjust one at a time.

QReading the Seams

I hit for average and have the potential to hit long drives and have done a few times. My only problem is the off-speed stuff. My coaches always say watch the laces of the ball as soon as it leaves the pitcher's hands, but I have read in many books that it takes the ball about .4 sec. to reach the plate from the pitcher. I find it virtually imposible to read the seams when the ball is spinning so much and with such little time. How can I improve on reading when off-speed stuff is thrown.

AWell, our coaches may be meaning well but explaining it wrong. If you actually tried to read the laces your eyes would be focused wrong for making the adjustment and swinging. It is more a matter of seeing if there is any kind of red stripe or dot cutting through the white as the ball rotates toward you.

But, like you, I've never found that to be foolproof. More often you watch the spin and let the ball go by so you can adjust for the next pitch.

A better method is to try to focus on the pitcher's window - the area over his shoulder where the ball is coming from - you can pick up an earlier signal from his grip on the ball and even his arm angle - an overhand curve is sure to be thrown from a higher angle and the grip with fingers in front of the ball is a dead give-away, for instance.

QSingles Only

I'm one of the best hitters [on my team], but the problem is that I can only hit singles. I usually follow through, but I just can't hit one that will go for a double. I'm seeing the ball well, and I have a good hitting trainer at home. When it gets to the outfield, it never goes far. I try to hit it in one of the gaps, but I can't. I'm really early on the ball, but I can't hit it down the line either. I think it's because I'm not generating enough bat speed, but I'm not sure. Can you tell me why?

AWell, without seeing your swing, hard to know for certain but yes, we would agree, not enough bat speed is usually the reason balls don't go far. What might be the cause is you are starting the bat in motion too soon. Get the legs and hips going early, but keep the bat head back a little longer than you do now, until you really have to whip it around to get it into the hitting zone in time to make contact. That said, before you change everything, I can't imagine any coach who wouldn't have appreciate a player that can hit himself on base consistently, can move runners around, can bring runners across the plate. Not everyone on the team needs a big slugging percentage - you can do a lot of damage with a good single!

QSlow Speed Ground Outs

Against slower pitchers I am grounding out and against faster pitchers I'm striking out. My coaches advise that I'm too late on the pitch and that I should start my step with my front foot as soon as the pitcher releases the pitch. I've tried this but I feel off balance especially if it's an off-speed pitch. How can I make my step and start my swing earlier without feeling off-balance as well as break out of my current slump?

AIf you are grounding out on slow stuff then you are not too late on those but too early at contact point - you are then trying to hold the bat in the zone until the pitch arrives but your power has fizzled out.
There are a number of ways you can adjust your timing.

Make sure you have proper separation between lower body and upper body. What I mean is the back leg needs to turn in first, and the hips torque forward before the shoulders and hands start moving. Keep your upper body back - trigger the muscles in sequence and you will get your legs to build more power which then transfers up your body and generates more bat speed. With more bat speed you can start your swing later - giving you more time to recognize the pitch for what it is when released.
Work at getting your eyes into the pitcher's window - the slot where the pitch is coming from - this might help you see the grip used and know what's coming - fastball or breaking pitch. (Look at the pitch grips/selection section under Pitching on WebBall) to see what different grips look like.
Once you learn to recognize the pitches, you might be able to adjust your timing with your stride - not longer or shorter, but higher or lower. Given that everything in your swing sequence starts after the front foot lands, the you can control when the foot lands by how high you lift that leg. So imagine this - you always start your leg lift at the same time in the pitcher's delivery, but if you see a breaking pitch grip - hold that leg up longer or lift it a bit more before putting it down. This is not easy but it can with practice work - practice it in the on deck circle - get all your body timing working - not just the swing part.

QSmall Hitter

My son is small for his age, he just turned 12 in July. Next year he will have to move up to 13 14 level. He's a good hitter however I think he will have to learn to hit line drives more consistently to survive and have fun on the larger field. How do you teach hitting line drives.

AYou want to make sure he stays back (sits) on the pitch and doesn't transfer his weight forward - dry swings with the bat behind the small of his back between elbows might help as he focuses on keeping weight over back foot - or else tubing around his waste - held from behind as he does soft toss.

By the way, based on scientific research, the maximum angle for getting distance on a baseball is 30-35 degrees - that's the angle the ball should leave the bat - and anywhere between 15 and 30 is probably good - so don't get him trying to lift too much or he might pop up. You want the bat to swing through into the plane of the ball contacting the bottom half - don't swing down on the ball, either.

QSoft Toss

We need help on hitting - making solid contact, pulling the head off the ball. Any sugestions on a drill. We work on a tee and they hit great in practice and cages--but in a game maybe they get nervous, try to hard, read bad pitches. I coach a 14 u select team. It seems like some of the other teams have no problem with solid contact.

ADespite advice that says 'keep your eyes on the ball' most hitters can't track their eyesight fast enough from pitcher's window to release to the strike zone. So what happens in tee practicing is that the eyes lock on the tee wich is not what is possible in the game. I like tees for working on swing mechanics, but I prefer soft toss (with tosser out front at an angle as if along the basepath) or straight in pitches from 20 feet with a wiffle ball. (There are also machines that do this like the Batter Up.)
Also, when you practice with them, do you give them breaking pitches to work on so they learn how to read them (even in soft toss you can give the ball a curve spin).

The other aspect is mental. Are they always ready to swing before they step in the box? Do they think hit-hit-hit-don't-hit on each pitch - in other words always planning to hit until they hold up on a bad pitch at the last split second? Do they sit back on each pitch or do they shift weight too far forward when wisnging in the game (a sign they are over anxious).

And, of course they are looking to see the results of their swing (a mechanical problem that is really mental) - Tell them that the only time to actually glance at the ball they've hit is on the fourth step toward first base - when the hit is clearing the infield. (Before that looking won't tell you anything so don't bother.)

Solutions are in details and won't come overnight - but I hope these thoughts help a bit.

QStepping in the Bucket

I am a good solid hitter when it comes to hitting inside pitches, but when the pitcher throws one right over the plate I hit it off the end of the bat because I step out. I also tend to get nervous, and I'm not afraid of the ball either. It's weird because when I get into the batter's box I get butterflies in my stomach. Do you have any suggestions or batting stances that would give me more power and keep me from stepping out?

AThere are physical tricks coaches use to keep hitters from "stepping in the bucket" - putting a glove behind the front foot in practice, working on one-handed swings, doing the hidden-ball-drop right over the plate to shorten the stride and stroke.

But if I had to guess at a physical cause, without seeing you swing, I'd say you might be using too heavy a bat! With a heavy bat, you'd still have control on an inside pitch. However, to "reach" for a pitch out over the plate or outside, you have to extend the arms. But when you extend the arms with a heavy bat, your body will want to compensate to stay in balance. So your upper body will lean back. And then to adjust for the lean, your foot will move back to get under your body more - stepping out. Check the [Bat Weight] chart and go lighter!

As for the "nerves" - you might be thinking too much about your problem and be worried about stepping out again. All you need are a few positive results with the lighter bat. Meantime, relax. Step into the box with a smile on your face - not a mad grin, just a little confident brightness in the eyes. You'll do just fine. :-)

Qstepping out

What do I do about stepping out

First, read through this page... http://www.webball.com/skill/hit_todd2.html - it's the story of one hitter we helped, and one of his main problems was stepping out. Our approach was to start him with the foot out - then he'd have nowhere to go but in. It helped him, might help you. That's just the starting point, of course. The long-term fix for stepping in the bucket is vision - how you see, read and react to the pitch - the more confidence you gain, the more experience, the more you recognize the pitches you like and go after them - that will keep your front shoulder and front leg in as you whip the barrel into the hitting zone.

QStop Golf Swing

I have a bit of a problem that I even talked to [a major league] hitting coach at a camp, and the way he told me to correct it didn't help. When I start my stride and begin to explode into the pitch with my hips and then the bat follows, my 'back bicep' in my back takes an arc to it similar to a golfer's swing. I'm not really leaning but I can't keep my back straight. I tried to keep my elbow up and pointing back in my stance but I lose my bat speed and I seem to uppercut too much. I'm 15 and going into high school and been working all summer to try to cure this problem. I would dearly appreciate some help.

AWhoa! First, I hope it wasn't the pro hitting coach who told you to keep your elbow up - that in fact could make it worse! When anyone swings - even a good swing - the elbow must move forward and clear the way for the forearms to move. So elbow up is wrong - for anyone - unless you are actually trying to slow your swing down!

Second, in your case, the motion of bringing the elbow down compounds the problem - that motion of elbow to body almost propels your lower back forward out of the way - collapsing your swing even more. (There is no muscle group called the "back bicep" by the way - but I think I know what you mean.)

So, that's what not to do.

First - try some one-knee drills - back knee on ground as you do dry swings or soft toss. Concentrate on keeping the hands inside the ball - an inside-out swing. See, what's really happening with the uppercut is that your back shoulder is drooping. You want to work - from both knee and standing on keeping shoulders level. Also try dry swings with your bat tucked behind your back between your elbows. Focus on keeping the bat level with the ground. You might also try to keep the bathead more vertical on load and launch - this should have the effect and tucking your elbows in more.

Don't try these all at once - try each one for a full session each and see which isolates and removes the problem best - and remember to do that same drill in the ondeck circle or in pre-game warm-ups.

QSwitch Hitting Choice

I've been working on my hitting and I can't decide which side to bat from. When I bat right, I get good bat speed but little bat control. Batting left I get great bat control but little power. Which is more important? Also, I am a lead-off speedster if that changes the answer.

AThe lead-off speed changes a lot. If you don't get on base, the speed is of little value to your team. If batting left gives you control, to get walks and contact base hits (assuming enough power to clear the infield) then doing that helps the team.

However, eventually you'll move on from that team - and, long term, it is your overall talent that will keep you in the game. So you also need to decide which is more learnable - control or power - and which is more valuable to any team at any time. There is no magic answer for that, though here's a hint: Bat speed is good against fastballs, but it has to come with the control to handle breaking pitches.

QThrowing the Bat

I am a 22 year old college student who loves the game of baseball and I would like to pass on this love through coaching. My focus in coaching is on the fundamentals and making sure the kids have fun. I am always looking for drills to use. When I was 14 I had a coach who gave us a drill that seemed rather odd - basically standing at the plate with an old bat and taking a normal step and swing, but when you visualized the ball in a certain position, and you wanted to hit the ball to a certain part of the field, you would throw the bat. The only benefit was learning to throw my hands out at outside pitches. Is there another drill that might be safer and do the same thing with learning, or attempting to learn, how to get your hands and bat head in the proper place for hitting the ball to certain parts of the field. By the way, the coach was a 19 year old who told us the legion (17-18) coach had used the same drill with them the year before when they won state.

AWow. That's a new one on me! I have a standing rule. Do mechanics in practice the way you want to do them in the game. (It's all about muscle memory and autonomic reflexes.) There are some exceptions, taking bat swings from one knee, or soft toss, or T-drills, of course. But throwing the bat? I don't think so.

But here's an approach that does the same thing with less danger - using an upside-down Frisbee.

As for the purpose of the exercise, hitting to target fields... first rule, go with pitch - hit inside or outside pitches where they want to go. With some exceptions (to hit behind the runner for instance.)

Best way to get arm extension I've found - flick the top hand back towards the catcher a bit as you start your swing - that will send the bathead on a wider arc. Or to send an inside pitch to the opposite field, pull through first with your knob hand, inside out, to keep the arc tight and have the bathead redirect the ball.

QTight Through Strike Zone

I am coaching a 13 -14 yr age group. One of my players is about 5'6" with a wide and round body frame. My guess is that he could weigh close to 200 lbs. When hitting, he is not moving the lower half of his body to get his chest out of the way of his swing. Plus he doesn't hold the bat properly so he comes through the strike zone very tight and with an upper cut. I have tried to encourage him to move his hips early, and drive off his back leg but this doesn't appear to be sinking in. I am tempted to suggest he open up his stance by moving his front foot out towards third. Giving up the outside corner for the benefit of having his hips open to facilitate his swing.

AI think I would go at it the opposite way. By having his hips open early you are almost forcing the hands to do all the work. If I picture what you are descibing correctly, I would get him into a more closed stance that requires (forces) lower body movement. But I wouldn't want to see this early - or he will end up in the open stance muscling the ball which is what he is doing now. Instead you want to see torque generated so he can swing well. As for the grip - with what are probably meaty hands to match his weight - the bat may be pushed back in the palms too much? The best thing he can do is wiggle his fingers until he starts his swing so the bat doesn't lock up early. You might also get him to start with bat tilted back over the shoulder - as this will tend to make the bat higher through the zone - less golfing.

QToo Many Drills

Within the last few months my 11 y/o son has developed some poor batting techniques. He is opening up too quickly and has suddenly lost bat speed. Both make a bad combination. What can I do as a parent to help him out of this? Is it time for some private lessons? We have tried a variety of drills, but it seems he is mentally out of it. Can you give me some advice?

APrivate lessons can help, provided the instructor is good - not only in his understanding of the mechanics but in his approach to teaching.

When you say 'a variety of drills' it may be that you have tried too many ideas in too short a span - the 'mentally out of it' reaction may be the result of instructional overload. Before you do anything else, read (or re-read) 'Approach to Coaching' in the TeamWork center - in particular the comments about the ten-swing rule.

If he is opening up too quickly - and that is, you think, his main fault, then you need to work only on the launch angle to keep his arms back and his arc flatter so he stays in longer.

QToo Quick?

My swing is too quick. I always pull the ball. Even fastballs low and away. What are some little things I can do to slow down? Should I slow down?

ANo, you shouldn't try to slow down, but it sounds like you are hooking the ball by extending your arms too early in the swing. Try to keep your hands inside the ball by keeping your barrel head back then release your hands later, whipping the bat head through the ball - this will give you more field coverage with your hits. Which begs the question...

QUppercut Swing

I have been batting with an uppercut swing for a while now. I want to get out of that habit and develop a more level swing. I have tried everything and still no results. Is there any hope that I can break out of this habit or would I just have to get used to it?

ATake a Frisbee, held upside down between your hands (one palm up, and one palm down) and practice your swings so that the Frisbee sails out horizontally to the ground with as little wobble as possible. Keep practicing that until you can do it consistently - now pick up the bat.

QWhat to Correct

My son is hitting ok but everything is going to the right side of the field. I think he could hit farther and stronger if he could pull the ball better to the left side. What should I look for in stance, etc.

AIt may or may not be stance. But what is certainly a factor is bat speed.
Understand, of course, that if the only pitches he goes for are on the outside half of the plate then opposite fielding hits are not only the likely result but the BEST result. Going against the pitch would be a mistake.

Now, if he stands well off the plate then even dead-center fastballs are going to be like outside pitches, so that is the one area of stance to look for. Positioning should be such that when he drops his hands and the bat down he can just tap the inside edge of the plate. During the swing the barrel will be up and provide full plate coverage. But if he is letting too many called-strike inside pitches get by him, then his swing and his view of the ball may dictate that he needs to move in a bit.

During the swing, look for signs that he is pulling his front shoulder out early. If he does this regardless of stance, he is pulling himself and the bat away from the ball and so oppos [opposite field hits] are the likely result. You want the hands to drive to the ball first, before the shoulders come into play - this will keep the body from pulling away.

Having said all that, let's get to the core issue - bat speed. Look for that early shoulder pull-out or a barrel-first swing (casting out). And look for stiff arms on follow-through. All these could be indicators that he is not getting hip-shoulder separation through the trunk. Depending on age, the body may all be moving in sync (locked or stiff) without the necessary disconnect (first hips, then hands, then shoulders). If that's the case, then his stiff trunk may be keeping him from generating a coil at launch or a whip action of hands through the contact zone. Hence less bat speed.

If you can't really tell if the hip-shoulder separation is happening, then have him cradle the bat in his elbow behind his back and do some dry swings. It will be easy to see if the belt buckle turns way before the bat - which is good - or if they turn at the same time, not so good. (Heavier kids and kids under 11 are more likely to have this problem.) That same dry-swing drill is a good training method, by the way, to create/practice separation.

Once separation has happened, and the hands come to the ball first, then more bat speed will be generated. That means he get jump on the pitches just a bit sooner and any pitches on the center or inner half of the plate have a better chance of being pulled - and pulled with greater velocity - i.e. farther travel.

QWorst Season

Last season was my worst at the plate. My big problem was pulling my head - taking my eyes off the ball. I'm scared I'll have a repeat of last season. Do you have any suggestions or drills that I should do to keep from taking my eyes off the ball?

AFirst do some dry swing training - cut out a circle the size of a baseball - paste it on a mirror and position yourself so it appears low in the zone - then concentrate on swings ( no bat) that keep your head focused on the ball. Watch your mechanics in the mirror. Do that for 10-15 minutes every day for a week - making sure your pivot (ankle-knee-hip) is right, your shoulders stay level, and your head stays on the ball. Now move the paper disc to a wall in front of you (pitcher angle), and do the swings for a week visualizing the ball approaching low in the strike zone. Now do three-four days (at least) moving the ball up the wall as if it's in the pitcher's window. Same mechanics, always the same mechanics. Now get out there and have a good season.

QWrist Roll

What specific drills can a coach use to help prevent the premature wrist roll before contact. Most of our hitters do this and it makes them late to the contact point. And when they do make contact the ball always has top spin.

AYou don't really want any wrist roll. I'd work on some one hand swings. And I'd get them to concentrating on having the lead arm hand on top of the bat - palm facing down - and the back arm hand coming into the zone with palm up. You might even try getting them to hold a table-tennis paddle between open palms as they try some dry swings so they and you can see if the paddle gets horizontal through the contact zone. Another approach is to use a Frisbee held upside down between the palms and let it fly. If it wobbles, your hands weren't flat or your wrists rolled through the zone.

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