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MLB Swing Fundamentals
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Understanding swing fundamentals is the first step to becoming a truly great hitter and the most important part of softball or baseball hitting lessons.
If you don’t have a firm understanding of the core attributes of hitting, minor technical adjustments will only mask your core hitting flaws.
Below you will see full explanations of the fundamental concepts of hitting. You can clearly see the difference in players who grasp these concepts and those who don’t in the videos and pictures.
Correct Process of the Swing
“Load” or “gather” energy back before you go forward.
You must go back before you go forward. If you only go forward, you force yourself to swing with the upper body only, reducing power, and shortening the time the barrel is in the hitting zone.
Also, pay attention to the coil that these players achieve in their load.
· Former LSU hitting coach Turtle Thomas discussing the load
· Example of Evan Longoria, and Bryce Harper. Watch how smooth the weight comes back before the swing occurs for the big leaguers. Once hitters learn this, other concepts further in the swing become much easier to learn.
· Example of a poor load that leads to future problems in the swing
2) Stride Separation
The hands move back/don’t float forward as the front foot moves forward. This is creating a stretching of the core muscles.
This will allow the hands to work independent of the shoulders for maximum bat speed. Players who are said to “carry their hands” have the problem of not stretching/separating the hands and the feet.
· Manny Ramirez getting a good stretch, for stride separation
3) Correct Hand Path/Weight Transfer
In order to allow our body to use the momentum that we have built up in the “load” or “gather” phase and to allow the barrel of the bat to remain in the hitting zone the longest, our hands must take a direct line to the pitch (No shoulders swingers, see Don Slaught video below).
I’ve heard it described as staying inside the ball (not casting), keeping your hands close to your body as you approach contact, Rudy Jaramillo (Former Texas Ranger’s hitting coach) calls it bend to extend with the front elbow. There are many ways to say the same thing. This will allow for the correct position at contact to occur.
This is by far what I see most young hitters doing. When students have a poor load, they have to create power with their upper half of their body, which forces the hands to “cast,” and power is reduced due to poor weight shift.
· Former major leaguer hitting coach Don Slaught discusses Shoulder Swingers
· Former major leaguer hitting coach Don Slaught discusses Hand Path
· Examples of poor hand path (hands cast away from body) that inhibit correct weight transfer, and minimize bat speed. When this occurs the barrel doesn’t stay in the strike zone for an extended period of time (barrel cuts across the zone, doesn't give player a large margin of error), and weight is not transferred into the front side. The player is leaving power on the table. Another way to think about it is punching someone, but keeping all your weight on the back leg, not letting it transfer into the front leg. How much harder could you punch if you transferred the weight compared to keeping it back? It is the same concept in the swing, and the correct hand path facilitates its occurrence. This is what takes the longest to correct.
4) Point of Contact
This is where the ball meets the bat. If there are deficiencies at this point, it will be from poor timing, or a previous principle was not mastered.
At the point of contact the hitter must be in a palm up/palm down position with the hands, the back elbow bent (near the ribs, like a stomach punch) not extended, and the back foot must not be weight bearing. This is from all the weight being transferred into the firm front side.
· Albert Pujols
· Alex Rodriguez
· This is an example of a player who casts (poor hand path), which causes bad direction, which causes lost power (spinning off the ball) and a short time for the barrel to be in the hitting zone. Watch the front side. This happens because when the hands cast (get away from the body) the body rotates around the back hip, and doesn’t allow the weight to come forward (weight transfer). The first two swings you are able to see it the clearest.
5) Follow Through
During my hitting lessons (batting lessons, softball and baseball hitting lessons, etc) in College Station and Brenham, Texas, I strive to engrain these fundamentals so they come naturally to the players when they are out on the field.
Only then do we address the highly technical and minor adjustments to the player’s individual swing.