Thursday, April 01, 2010

Batting Instruction From a College Baseball Coach

Big thanks to Southern Brother for writing in with some excellent technical advice for advanced hitters. Since Southern Brother is a college baseball coach, his technical advice is cutting edge. I've always wanted this blog to be cutting edge!

Added his advice onto my blogpost: Everything I Know About Batting, but am also publishing it here.

from Southern Brother:

1. the baseball swing is NOT level nor should you teach swinging level...what you should teach is to keep your hands ABOVE the ball. You stated to stay off high pitches, correct, the reason is because you can't keep your hands above the ball on high pitches.

Greg's note:
Southern Brother is giving some simple advice which he intends an advanced player to quickly process, and then to never give another thought.

For young players, I don't like "keep your hands above the ball". What young player can understand this? Confusing. Further, I suspect the instruction tends to focus a child's attention on his hand position, and no one wants that. Southern Brother doesn't want that. A child's focus ought be: put the sweet spot on the ball. On pitches at the top of the zone, I prefer "swing level". It's simpler, and there's a subtle mental distinction in favor of focusing on putting the sweet spot on the ball.

Update: In the comments section, Southern Brother stands up for "keep your hands above the ball". He argues he has successfully taught it 9 and 10 year olds.

Also in comments, he recounts a funny exchange with his own son over watching the spin of the seams of the ball
Me: 'you CAN see those seams...I KNOW you can see those seams!'...Son: Uh, well, they are red.' I lost it!
and he adds a fundamental he forgot to mention: in the stance, front elbow s/b centered in middle of chest.

Back to Southern Brother:

2. Take your back hand and punch it up past your body, and to do this you have to take that back hand down to the ball and through it ... in that hammer movement Ted Williams talked about in his book Mom had for years, your back elbow has got to SLOT against your ribs to allow your hands to be thrown forward in the hammer movement. Left handed power hitters are famous for perfect slots of their back elbow, Williams, Musial, Mantle, Ruth, Maris, Reggie Jackson, Bonds, Ryan Howard.

3. Misc Modern terms you will hear given today and what they mean.

'See it BIG'

You have to read the seams: that's how you recognize pitches. You don't just look at the ball. Rather: read what the seams look like. After a pitch, can you describe what the seams looked like? To see the ball big is to recognize the pitch, when you do that the ball will look larger to the hitter.

'Let it travel'. 'Let it get deep'

Hitters get in trouble when they try to hit the ball to far in front of their body, causing them to reach, or be fooled on the pitch. When you see it big, let it travel, and let it get deep (closer to the catcher) you increase the percentage of hitting the ball hard on a line.

'Square it up'

Contact with the baseball should be made right at your front hip. The angle of the bat should be square to the hip, and the bat head square to the ball ... not inside the ball, or around the outside of the ball.

'Stay INSIDE the ball'

When the back hand drives up through the hitting zone and past the body, the hands need to stay inside the ball so you can square it up on contact. If your hands have a rounding swing, the bat head comes over the top and rounds the ball with a groundout. If your hands are on the same line of the baseball then they dip/loop and a pop up fly ball is hit. Staying inside the baseball is the best fundamental to help hitting the ball on the sweet spot.


Nelson Cruz shows how to do it.

Willie Mays said you have to go back in order to go forward. To physically torque the body to produce the most power and bat speed your weight has to be transferred to the backside before the swing begins.

The stance should be slightly wider than your shoulders and balanced. As the pitcher starts his leg kick, the hitter starts his load/weight shift to the instep of the back foot. Keeping the weight through the inside of the back foot allows for the body to stay balanced and proper physics to be applied in the swing.

Golf instructors have studied and copied the baseball weight shift with a modern swing mechanic called the peg and stem where the back leg stays straight and firm to allow the body to turn against it as a pendulum for the highest amount of tourque resulting in higher faster swing speeds and longer drives.

'Stay In'

In the stance, the front shoulder should be lower than the back shoulder. The hitter's shoulders ought be a bit closed. When the hitter loads his weight (closes his shoulders a bit), the hips should follow along with the shoulders, i.e. the hips should turn and rotate inwards at a similar angle to the shoulders.

Beware: telling a batter to keep their head in is a confusing instruction, negative, and frustrating to the hitter.

Instead, if you tell the hitter to stay in with their shoulder and hips, then their head automatically follows.

4. Keep the bat OUT of the back of the hand and thumb. Lay the bat in the fingers and align the knuckles.

5. Pitchers pitch to locations. Hitters need to look for a pitch in a location, then don't miss.


Southern Brother said...

Man, cant believe you edited the Baron story, that was one of our all time best arguments...Me: 'you CAN see those seams...I KNOW you can see those seams!'...Baron: Uh, well, they are red.' I lost it!

OK. you are incorrect about little kids comprehending "hands above the ball".

I first learned and taught this concept at Coach Butler's summer camp when Baron was 9. Dub Kilgo emphasized and reinforced this concept "hands above the ball" in ALL of his hitting drills to kids 7-12.

Baron, later that summer in All Stars in one of my best Sports Illustrated pictures, at the age of 9 , kept his hands above the ball and squared up a drive off of the 200' 8'high right center fence in the air 3/4ths of the way up the fence...probably the most clutch hit of his career...

In all of the T work we use to do during practice in Little League, and in batting practice I would always emphasize hands above the worked great with the little ones, and they understood the concept..

One thing I forgot to emphasize in last nights note...for right handed hitters, the left elbow should be in the CENTER of their chest...if they are holding their hands in their stance in any fashion that prevents them from establishing the left elbow or right elbow for left handers from
being in the center of their chest...change it immediately!

Because not having the elbow in the center of the chest prevents the hitter from obtaining the correct slot with his back elbow thus becoming prone to loops, dips, wales, and flings of the bat rather than good quick bat speed with his hands up through the hitting zone, driving through the baseball.

PS. Who are Bill and Kathy and Josiah?

MeeMa Karen said...

YA'LL are funny! I can just hear the 2 of you! HAHA. I've been "gone" in April and just read this repartee...priceless...where is my black Amex!?

gcotharn said...

Yeah, we should probably take our comedy routine on the road. :-)