It has often been said that hitting a baseball is one of the toughest things to do in sports. Trying to hit a round ball with a round bat makes it definitely hard, and the more the player advances to different levels, the tougher it gets. As pitchers begin throwing the ball harder and learn different pitches, such as curveballs and off-speed pitches, the more a hitter has to enhance their skills as well.
At an early age, players are taught the basic fundamentals of hitting, and those are things they should try to remember for as long as they play the game. As they advance, coaches will introduce more hitting skills and drills to continue to improve the players hitting abilities. All of these fundamentals are important and are things hitters can always go back to when things are going bad.
Many players, however, struggle to find their focus when in a slump and become confused and down on themselves during these times. The right move would be to revert to the fundamentals of hitting. Improvement can only start with the next at bat and sticking with the fundamentals will likely get them back on track.
In this article, we will review the key hitting concepts, and discuss seven of the key fundamentals a good hitter needs to have. We’ll also talk about some hitting flaws that may be the cause of your struggles. So let’s dive in and take a deeper dive into some of the key hitting concepts each hitter needs to learn and understand.
What do we mean by baseball load. Well, basically it means loading your weight to your back foot prior to striding to meet the ball. Sounds easy, right? Some players do this naturally and that’s okay. But if you are having trouble hitting the ball, especially with very little force, maybe you haven’t perfected the load stride swing. A hitter should always start with a stance that has perfect balance before starting the load, and then shift some weight back as they start to load up.
A key part of this concept is determining when to start your load for the baseball swing. It can depend on several different factors, but most people say that about the time the pitcher starts his own load by lifting his leg, the hitter should shift weight to his back foot. The hitter should have the feeling of moving his weight to the inside of his back knee.
The baseball load is the way a hitter gets themselves set to move and explode into the ball. It is also used to create a rhythm and timing for the player to shift their weight forward during the swing. If the hitter is not loading for their swing, they will probably appear flat-footed and lose power and the ability to drive the ball.
Since the load moved the hitters weight to their back foot, the stride is what starts the process of moving it forward. Players will have different stride lengths, usually based on the type of leg kick or method of loading their weight back. For that reason, the length of the stride will vary among players.
There are a couple of key things that hitters need to remember related to the baseball stride. First, the direction of the stride should always be towards the pitcher. Hitters have a tendency to bail out, or open up as they move forward. In these cases they may stride towards the second baseman or shortstop based on the side of the plate they hit from. Many times, this alone can be a main reason for some of their problems.
Second, hitters don’t want to stride and land too quickly, especially before they get a chance to recognize the type of pitch coming their way. Instead, they should attempt to land softly on their front foot. This will give them an opportunity to get a better look at the pitch.
Another thing that players should work on is the stride and separation. The separation will actually move your hands and shoulder in the opposite direction of the stride. This creates torque and allows for optimal bat speed which helps the hitter with added power and distance. Learning to properly stride and separate is many times the most difficult part of the swing to become consistent at.
The key to hitting a baseball is getting the barrel of the bat to the ball and into the hitting zone. You also want to keep the bat in the hitting zone for as long as possible. The bat path you take to do this is an important factor.
One thing to help with this is having good posture at the plate. Hitters should not be in an upright position when swinging, but instead put their body in an athletic position in order to rotate their body to bring the bat into the hitting zone. It’s important that hitters use their body to create a good bat path and not use an arms-only type of swing.
Common sense will tell you to bring your hands to the baseball to create the proper hand path. And there is definitely truth to that. But there is more that goes into it than that. Good hitters will use the rotation of their body to begin the path to the ball. Watch some video of great hitters and you will see how they drop the rear elbow in their baseball swing. Doing so will allow you to keep the barrel of the bat back and delays the hands just enough to create extra torque and bat speed once they reach the ball.
During this process remember to keep the shoulders square and your head on the ball. If you do this, it will prevent you from opening up and dropping your hand path too low. The hand path baseball swing will take some practice, but learning the proper path to the ball is something that a good hitter should learn to become consistent with.
For years, young players have been taught to have a level swing. This means that the bat angle would end up being parallel to the ground. But in recent years, the baseball swing plane has been modified, especially among professional players. Swinging on a slightly uphill plane is the way many coaches today teach their players.
So what are the things that determine a players swing plane? Hitters will almost always drop their back arm and shoulder as they swing. This is normal as they rotate through the ball. However, what happens with the front arm can be responsible for the swing plane they have.
For instance, keeping the front arm low will create more of a downward or level swing plane. But rotating the front arm upward will modify the swing plane to create more of an upward path. There is still nothing wrong with the theory of bringing your hands to the ball, but based on the type of swing path you prefer, the front arm can make a difference.
Also, if a player has a racking back elbow (elbow tucked too closely to their body), it can result in a swing plane that is much more uppercut than they would probably like.
Something hitters may not always think about when it comes to the baseball swing, is the baseball swing finish. One thing a hitter should incorporate into their swing is extension. This means that once you have brought the barrel of the bat through the hitting zone, reach and extend the bat as you complete the swing.
Typically, you want to extend the barrel directly towards the middle of the field before finishing the swing. During this point in the swing you want to remain balanced with your eyes on the ball and your head down.
The absolute end of the swing is the follow through. To make sure you have a complete and repeatable swing, you need to make sure that you develop a good baseball swing finish. Continue to remain balanced from the beginning to the end of the swing process.
As you complete the baseball swing follow through, always remember to finish high and balanced. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, it helps to maintain the proper posture and balance. Two, finishing your follow through low has a tendency to cause the hitter to become off balance which could result in balls being mis-hit.
Common Swing Flaws
Sometimes, just knowing what you might be doing wrong can help a hitter correct any flaws they might have. A good coach can usually detect the problem pretty quickly and point you back in the right direction. Here are a few of the common swing flaws that hitters have.
Stepping in the “Bucket”
Players who do this are stepping to the side with their stride foot rather than stepping towards the pitcher. This could be because they are worried about being hit by the pitch. However, when a hitter does this, they pull off the pitch and sacrifice power and plate coverage. This can be easily corrected by having the hitter always remember to step towards the pitcher.
Casting Baseball Swing
When a hitter has a casting baseball swing, they are normally using their hands to swing the bat rather than making the swing part of their body rotation. Think of it as similar to casting a fishing rod. To correct, have players keep the bat back until they begin to move their hips and turn towards the ball. This will insure that the swing becomes part of their body rotation.
An arm barr happens when a hitter extends their front arm all the way without any bend. The problem this causes is that it can greatly affect your swing path. The hitter has a tendency to swing down at the ball rather than on a level or upward plane. This can be corrected by bending the front arm and making sure you keep the bat resting on or close to your back shoulder as you begin the swing.
The problem with over striding is that it causes you to put all of your weight on your front foot prior to swinging. This can make the player feel off-balance and they end up swinging with their arms. It obviously can cause a loss of power and on judging the pitch coming towards you. The correction for over striding is simply to step softly and use the stride to begin the process of the swing. Also, try to keep the stride short.
Stiff Front Leg
Hitters landing on a stiff front leg when hitting can have several problems. They may be more susceptible to off-speed pitches or have trouble seeing pitches low in the zone. There is also a better chance at injury. Hitters should practice landing on a bent but firm front leg. As the swing finishes, the leg will normally straighten.
So as we said at the beginning, going back to the fundamentals is always a good idea for hitters going through a slump. Take the time to practice the fundamentals until you feel you can consistently repeat them. Also, work with your coaches to help you identify any specific flaws you may be experiencing and which fundamentals you need to work on to correct them. And like anything, stay patient and practice as much as possible. Hopefully you’ll see the results you’re looking for.