Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mechanics: What's Most Important?

                                                                                           (Photo credit:

Mechanics are not the most important part of hitting, but they are important. There are so many successful hitters who have mechanical deficiencies or weaknesses. The best hitters at the highest levels often have something that could be more “ideal.” Great hitters have first-class approaches, work ethics, strength, bat speed and toughness. However, hitters who are still unseasoned in these skills should pay close attention to their mechanics as part of the development process.

There are infinite potential mechanical issues to think about. Some hitters are frozen in fear thinking too much about their mechanics. Let's keep it simple. 

Here are my two mechanical absolutes for a young hitter to focus on improving:

1.)    Stance and Stride

A hitter’s stance can begin in many places. Where you start is not nearly as important as where you end up or how you get there. A hitter needs to land, post-stride, in a position of strength. The term ‘balance’ is often misused. A flag pole is balanced, but it isn't very strong. A position of strength must have a low center of gravity. Think of a mid-squat technique or the position you would be in to guard LeBron James. We want to activate our quads without being so wide that we have lost athleticism. If we land in a position that is too upright, the swing will be propelled predominantly by the upper body, resulting in less than his max bat speed. A hitter’s height and leg length determines his proper squat depth, defensive position and hitting stride length.

Hitters who over-stride beyond their optimum stride length become momentum-driven front-foot hitters with timing issues and are susceptible to velocity inside, located off speed and elevated fastballs. Hitters who “stay back” and do not stride at all, or under stride, don’t drive the baseball. They lack bat speed. Hitters should desire a combination of the two: an aggressive movement for timing with a low center of gravity.

The coaching key is paying attention to a hitter's finish. If a hitter’s head rises immediately after a swing, their stride is likely too long for their height. If their swing sees their back foot quickly flattening out post-swing to balance (to keep them from falling over), the stride is too narrow and the body's energy is traveling up, instead of forward.

 2.) Separation

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Separation, defined as the distance between a hitter’s load and stride, is a major key to bat speed. Many mechanical deficiencies can be overcome with great separation.

Hitters who have serious grip wrapping, where the hands/knuckles are over rotated, can lengthen the time their swing is in the zone by creating separation. Hitters who have a vertical bat after loading (meaning the bat is pointed straight up) are low ball hitters and cannot stay on or through the baseball. Separation should occur without allowing a large gap between the hands and the chest. The further from the chest or back shoulder the hands end at the load position, the more exposure a hitter will have to being beat inside. To compensate for this gap, hitters usually take a very linear/handsy swing path. These hitters are not as challenging to get out.

Separation allows the necessary space needed to create bat speed. No hitter can create maximum bat speed over a shorter distance. Creating a greater distance between the stride and load maximizes bat speed, allowing hitters to wait longer to commit, have a flatter swing path (rather than steep) and maximize contact and extension opportunities. 

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