Saturday, June 21, 2014

Being On Time, Part Two: Holding the Bat Properly

Many hitters struggle to make consistent, hard contact. Often, the issue can be as simple as a poor grip. A proper grip should have the knocking knuckles of each hand lined up with the fat knuckles of the other hand.

Try it. Seeing the grip will help gain awareness of what your hitters are doing.

Now, the further towards the pitcher that your top hand rotates, the more difficult it will be to get the bat flat into the hitting zone early, thus creating late bat speed and earlier commitment to pitches. This grip also causes the contact point at which bat speed is sufficient enough to consistently hit balls hard, to be further out in front than that of a flatter swing.

This fault in grip causes hitters to be "good low ball hitters." Nothing wrong with being a good low ball hitter. But can you hit a fastball elevated within the strike zone? Probably not hard, or probably not fair.

This grip also causes hitters to be primarily pull hitters. Try it. Over-rotate your top hand, now take your bat to contact, and let go of the bat with your fingers, trying to hold the bat between your palms. See how it rolled? Now try the proper grip, big knuckles lined up with knocking knuckles. Go to contact. Release your fingers. See how the bat stays firm?

The PROPER GRIP allows for a swing to maintain a "palm-up, palm-down" grip through the hitters zone for the LONGEST POSSIBLE AMOUNT OF TIME. This maximizes the hitter's distance through the hitting zone, and maximizes opportunities to create backspin by staying through the ball immediately after contact. READ THIS PARAGRAPH AGAIN!

If your hitter has a high back elbow, check their grip. There is nothing wrong with a high rear elbow (1) as long as that elbow can be easily slotted near the abdomen early in the swing, allowing the barrel to get flat and (2) as long as the hitter has the proper grip.

The common mis-teach of "hands inside the ball" creates a very linear punchy swing is often a devastating mis-analysis and mis-correction for a hitter that simply has a poor grip.

Conversely, an under-rotated top hand, where ALL knocking knuckles are aligned, completely drops the rear elbow into a weak "chicken-wing" position near the abdomen. "But, isn't that where you wanted us to be," you say? Not so fast, my friends! Beginning in this position creates an incredibly compact swing: good. It also nearly eliminates any opportunity for SEPARATION between the upper half and lower half of the body during the commitment phase of the swing (the portion of the swing that generates bat speed): this is bad.

As with most things in life, moderation is key!

And, as always, these are guidelines for creating an optimized, efficient and violent swing. However, you can go to YouTube right now and find a dozen big leaguers who have huge hand wraps, extremely high elbows and love the ball down. You can find another dozen with extremely short swings where the hands cast forward "inside the ball" for what seems like forever, prior to the barrel entering the hitting zone.

These are elite athletes with freakish strength (even the skinny ones). If you think David Eckstein hit no better than your next door neighbor, or that Martin Prado is weak and small...you need to trot over to your neighborhood MLB stadium for pre-game BP and watch from the first row. Then call and tell me how weak and small they are.

And we have not begun to speak of their years of experience in hitting approach, mental toughness and hitting approach, and hitting approach...and hitting approach. You get the point.

Moral of the story, simplify. If your mechanics look sexy, they are probably impeding, at best, and disabling, at worst.

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