I went to a hitting camp about a week ago and got these tips. Figured i’d put them out there for anyone who wants to read them. Quite long, but needed. Tips are from Coast to Coast Baseball.
An Approach To Hitting
Coast to Coast Baseball
I. Fundamentals: What Every Hitter Should Know
Grip – The key to gripping the bat properly is to get it out in your fingers, not back in the palm of your hand. Gripping the bat in your fingers allows you better control and you are in a much stronger position. Be sure to wrap your fingers gently around the bat (Don’t “choke”). We know that a relaxed muscle is a quicker muscle……by choking the bat we make our hands slower.
Stance – A good stance is similar to getting in a “good athletic position” in virtually any sport. Your feet are slightly wider than shoulder width, knees bent and weight on the balls of your feet.
· Feet should be parallel or slightly open so that you can see the pitcher with both eyes.
· Weight should be roughly even and on balls of your feet.
· Check yourself (in the mirror) for “posture.”
· Find yourself a spot in the batter’s box and stay there. Remember we are trying to create routine. You should not change from front of box to back of box with each at bat.
· Check to see that you have good plate coverage from this spot.
· We strongly encourage you to take up a stance in the back half of the box that allows you good plate coverage. “Getting up in the box” to hit breaking pitches is a fallacy. If this did give the hitter an advantage you would likely see most Major League hitters in the front of the box (MLB pitchers certainly have better breaking pitches than what we are likely to face in our local league this season) All this does is upset your routine, timing and visual understanding of your surroundings. Setting up in the back half of the box allows you several advantages:
a) Allows you more time to see/react to the pitch.
b) Forces the catcher to stay deeper in throwing situations.
Stride – The stride acts as a timing device for hitters. The stride MUST be completed before the swing can begin. There are many variations of the stride.
· Traditional Stride (4-6 inches) – toward the pitcher.
· No Stride (Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Doyle)
· Tapper (Chipper Jones) – Tap front toe (timing device) and then stride.
· Kicker (Gary Sheffield) – Provides timing and slightly more bat speed than other strides.
· Negative Stride (Jeff Bagwell) – Starts overly wide and then returns to balanced position.
Trigger - Most good hitters use one of two triggering actions to create movement prior to launching their swing. The trigger allows upper and lower body to work in unison.
· Hand Trigger - Slight backward movement of the hands at the same time you are striding.
· Body Trigger (Ichiro Suzuki) - Rather than triggering with the lower half of the body, this hitter triggers with the upper half……a slight inward turn of the front shoulder and front knee. You might imagine what a snake looks like when it coils up before it strikes…….or what a cat looks like before it pounces.
Bat Path (Swing) – Proper bat path is “down across your body” to contact. In other words, your hands should begin at the top of the strike zone and move in a straight line DOWN to contact. We always want our bat path to be as short as possible as a short swing creates power and the shorter the swing the more time we have to gather information on the pitch and make a good decision. Some concepts we’ll talk about with regards to bat path are:
· Keeping your hands inside the ball/catcher’s glove.
· Knob to the pitcher.
· Hands to the ball/down across the body (chopping wood).
a) Tennis swing vs. baseball swing
· Extension after contact. A hitters arms are slightly bent at contact……they only reach extension shortly after contact.
Finish – Finish is what happens (to your body) after you make contact. Your finish is a very good indicator of what you have done right (or wrong) during your swing. There are several checkpoints we can use to see if you have taken a good swing.
· Front Foot Closed – The toes of your front foot should never end up pointing at the pitcher when you finish your swing. If they do, you have lost your balance as a hitter and you are much easier to get out.
· Back Foot Pivot – Just the opposite of the front foot, the toes on your back foot SHOULD end up pointing towards the pitcher. This shows you that you’ve gotten the proper hip turn in your swing. Remember your ability to drive the ball comes from that hip turn.
· Belly Button to Pitcher – If you finish with your belly button toward the mound, you know that you’ve gotten a good upper body turn to go with your lower body (hip) turn. Without the upper body turn you will “block off” your lower body and not allow yourself to hit the ball as hard as you can.
· Head at Contact – Your head should linger at the point of contact for a split second after you’ve hit the ball. This will help you emphasize setting a good target (i.e. “you can’t hit what you can’t see”)
II. Key’s to Hitting
- Balance – The most important key to hitting is balance. Poor balance will disrupt all aspects of your swing. You might have great hands, a keen eye, and a great mental approach but if your balance as a hitter is poor, you will struggle to succeed. How do you improve your balance?
- Spread your feet
- Weight even
- Head over belly button
- Bend your knees
- Front Foot closed
- Back Foot Pivot
- Short & Quick – Hitting is about efficiency. Goal of a good hitter is to get the barrel of your bat (Point “A”) to the point of contact (Point “B”) in the shortest time possible. Another way to say this is to “stay small and intercept the ball.”
How Do I Stay “Short?”
Create a short swing by keeping your hands “inside the ball” (i.e. close to your body). A hitter develops a long swing by allowing his hands to get away from his body early in his swing or by dropping his hands to swing level through the ball.
How Do I Develop a “Quick” Swing?
Quickness is developed by maintaining posture and having good axis rotation.
i. Good axis rotation allows the hitter to transfer the energy (speed) from the lower half of his body to his arms and hands.
ii. Maintaining your posture is critical. If your head gets behind or ahead of your belly button you lose body speed and balance.
iii. Example – Figure skater. When they want to spin quickly, they bring their arms in toward their body and keep their head over their belly button. When they want to slow rotation, they move arms away from body and bend their head forward.
Eliminate Extremes – As part of your effort to be short and quick you need to eliminate extremes in your stance and swing. Examples:
· Feet too wide/close
· Bat too high/low
· Back Elbow up (both elbows)
· Extreme Posture (Mickey Rivers, Peter Rose, Rod Carew)
· Stance too open/closed (Brian Downing, Danny Ford)
Develop a Routine – A pitcher’s job is to make you uncomfortable as a hitter. They do this in many ways. They change speeds to throw off your timing or they might throw inside to bring fear into the equation. There are very few things that you, as a hitter can control. Hitting is inherently a reactionary activity (i.e. you react to what the pitcher throws). Most good hitters will develop a routine they like to follow as they prepare to hit. For some this begins on the on-deck circle (getting in a stance and striding with the pitcher’s delivery to work on timing). Others will always enter the box with the same foot, tap the plate with their bat, tap their helmet, etc. Your routine should not be overstated (I shouldn’t know that you’ve got a routine unless I’m looking for it) It should also be yours entirely, a “comfort zone” in which to operate.
III. Your Approach at the Plate
See It – A good hitter works to find the pitcher’s release point (box) so that you can see the ball “early” out of the pitcher’s hand. This allows you more decision-making time. All pitchers have different release points. Find that release point while the pitcher is warming up before the game or while you are standing on deck to hit. Some hitters like to visualize a box around that release point and simply look for the ball in the box on every pitch.
Tony Gwynn: “soft focus” (pitcher’s hat) vs. “firm focus” (box)
Practice this skill when playing catch.
Read It – Pitchers try to fool hitters by changing speeds or by throwing pitches with movement. As a good hitter it is incumbent upon us to recognize what kind of pitch is coming at us as early as possible. If you have found the pitcher’s release point, you can then begin to focus on the spin of the ball. This will allow you to tell the difference between a fastball, curve, etc. Recognition of an off-speed pitch allows you to keep your hands back and still drive the ball.
Information Phase (Ted Williams)
1) Lasts about .25 seconds for an 80 mph fastball
2) Hitter is finishing his stride and moving bat to launch position
3) Hitter is determining speed, spin and plane of the ball
How to Improve Information Gathering?
1) Identify the “box” (pitching window) while in the on deck circle.
2) Learn to soft focus/firm focus.
3) Practice stride/trigger on deck while timing pitcher’s fastball.
Explode – We’ve all been in the cage or in batting practice when we’re getting nothing but fastballs. We feel pretty good about ourselves as hitters as we consistently drive balls against the side of the cage or into the outfield. It’s pretty easy when you know what’s coming……. Well, if you’ve found the pitcher’s release point and you train yourself to read the pitch as it approaches the plate, YOU DO KNOW WHAT’S COMING! Your goal is to explode on the ball (in the game) the same way you do in batting practice. Swing hard (but with good balance). The explosion in a good swing comes not from turning of the hitter’s wrists, but rather from good hip rotation. Explode with your lower half and your upper half will follow.
1) Lasts about .25 seconds for an 80 mph fastball
2) Hitter is launching swing
3) Average MLB hitters only need .16 seconds (15 feet) of reaction
4) Average MLB bat speed is 73 – 75 mph.
How to Improve Reaction Time?
- Zone hit (make the plate smaller) – anticipate pitches being in certain areas.
2) Get stronger
3) Learn to relax hitting muscles
4) Improve bat path to ball – two hands to ball/down across body.
5) Maintain posture – stay back with hands and body.
6) Stay inside ball. Shorten the swing.
IV. Mental Aspect (what makes a “hitter”)
Be ready to hit every pitch.
· Be aggressive at the plate. Give yourself an advantage by swinging at pitches you want to hit, not those that the pitcher wants you to hit.
· A good hitter knows the pitcher is trying to get ahead in the count. The first pitch is often the best pitch you’ll see.
Never waste an at-bat.
· Whether it’s the championship game or the last at-bat of practice your intensity should be the same.
· Never be satisfied with a “good day” at the plate. If you’re 3-3, you want to be 4-4.
· How do you know if you have had a good at-bat?
i. Did you study the pitcher from the dugout/on deck circle?
ii. Did you use your hitting routine?
iii. Did you clear your mind before you hit? If you lost focus, what caused it?
iv. Did you have a clear and simple plan on each pitch?
v. Did you follow the plan?
Know the situation and do YOUR job.
· Know what is expected of every hitter in the lineup. If you’re the lead-off hitter, your job is to take a few more pitches, get on base, and score runs.
· If you’re hitting clean-up you should look to drive the ball, put it in play, and drive in runs.
· Understand the game situation and do the job you were sent to the plate to do. That may be moving the runner by hitting to the right side, taking a pitch so the runner on base can steal, executing a hit-and-run, or getting the ball in the air to score a runner from third.
· If you don’t know your job, ask.
Visualize yourself succeeding.
· Your mind cannot tell the difference between scenarios you create and “reality.” See yourself being successful in game situations.
· Imagine a pitcher’s release point, your swing, a line drive, etc.
· Challenge your mind to make the situation as real as you can.
· Once you’ve created your “reality,” run it over and over in your mind. When you’re presented with the same situation in a game you’ll succeed just as you have already many times in your own mind.
Practice putting yourself in a game situation.
· You should practice what you’re going to be doing in the game.
· Don’t take so many swings that you become a “tired hitter.” This leads to a repetition of mistakes. Take 6-8 swings and switch with a partner. You’ll never get more than that many swings in one game at-bat.
Stay in the present.
· Your goal every time you go to the plate is to be 1 for 1.
· Focusing on the present will help you eliminate ups and downs that come as a hitter. It’s hard to be in a slump when you’re evaluating each at-bat individually. It’s similarly difficult to get complacent as a hitter when you take each at-bat one at a time.
Become your own “swing doctor.”
· Learn your own swing. Swing in front of the mirror to create a visual image of your own swing. Evaluate your swing frequently and according to what you know to be true about hitting.
· Become your own best supporter (criticism is easy). Be positive with yourself.
Allow yourself to succeed by clearing your head (before you get in the box).
· You will not be a good hitter if you are thinking about technique when the pitch is coming.
· Develop a routine that helps you clear your head before you get in the box.
Know the strike zone.
· Without a good understanding of the strike zone we significantly decrease our probability of success. We will often swing at bad pitches and take good ones.
· To improve your knowledge, “stand in” while your pitcher(s) are throwing at practice or as they warm up for a game. Ask your catcher to call pitches.
· A hitter that gets 30 hits in 100 at-bats has a .300 average, but a hitter that knows the strike zone and walks 10 times during those same 100 plate appearances is now 30 for 90 with a .333 average. One of the biggest keys to hitting for a high average is to know the strike zone.
· Strike zone is three dimensional (width, height and depth).
Stay positive regarding your development as a hitter.
· You are trying to hit a round ball traveling at 80-90 mph with a round bat.
· Great MLB hitters fail 7 out of every 10 times at the plate. You must be able to handle failure in order to be a good hitter.
· It takes about 30 days (10,000 reps) to develop a new motor skill into an automatic response.
· Motor skills normally regress before improving. You will get worse before you get better. Ex. Tiger Woods overhauling his swing.
· Practice makes permanent. Do things the right way, not just to complete the task.
A HITTING BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bissinger, Buzz, with Tony LaRussa. 3 Nights in August. Boston – New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.
Boggs, Wade, with David Brisson. The Techniques of Modern Hitting. New York: Perigren Books, 1990.
Gwynn, Tony, with Roger Vaughn. The Art of Hitting. New York: GT Publishing, 1998
Lau, Charley, with Alfred Glossbrenner. The Art of Hitting .300. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
Ravizza, Ken, with Tom Hanson. Heads-Up Baseball. Chicago: Masters Press, 1995.
Robson, Tom.The Hitting Edge. Chicago: Human Kinetics, 2003.
Will, George. Men at Work.
Williams, Ted with John Underwood. The Science of Hitting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970.
Coast to Coast Baseball - Drill Page
Drill #1 – Quick Toss
The purpose of this drill is to help the hitter develop quick hands, hand strength, and bat speed. We especially like this drill because it enables the hitter to feel and see that a short swing and proper bat path are the most efficient way to deliver the bat head to the ball.
The hitter and his partner set up in a standard soft-toss format with the hitter standing across from his partner (partner is down on one knee). The person tossing gives the hitter five pitches in rapid succession. The person tossing should toss the next ball as the hitter begins to return the bat to the starting position. The hitter should hit not more than 5-6 pitches before resting.
Drill #2 – Toss & Hold
The purpose of this drill is to help the hitter check his body control during the “trigger” phase of his swing. Daily use of this drill will help the hitter get to a good trigger or launch position and refrain from lunging at the ball (i.e. letting his hands get too far forward too early in the swing).
The hitter and his partner set up in a standard soft-toss format with the hitter standing across from his partner (partner is down on one knee). The person tossing gives the hitter normal soft-toss pitches, but every 4-5 pitches he holds the ball. The hitter should freeze in the hold position. In this position, the batter will feel whether his weight or hands have come forward.
A natural extension of this drill is to add a swing after the hold. We recommend the hitter stay in the hold position for a three count before completing his swing. This will further illustrate for the hitter the importance of “staying back” in his swing.
Drill #3 – Toss From Behind
The purpose of this drill is to reinforce the importance of keeping your hands “inside” the ball during your swing. This is a great drill for hitters who have a long swing or have a tendency to allow their hands to leave their body during a swing. Hitting a ball tossed from behind forces a hitter to keep his hands nearer his body.
Set-up for this drill is similar to normal soft toss, but the person tossing moves behind the hitter (approximately where the catcher/umpire would be). The hitter should “face the pitcher” but turn his head to look at the person tossing. Balls should be tossed to the outside half of the plate, allowing the hitter to stay inside the ball with his hands as he swings.
Drill #4 – Deep Tee Hitting
The purpose of this drill is to illustrate for young hitters how deep (in the strike zone) they should hit the outside pitch. Most young hitters know the strike zone has width and height, but they forget it also has depth and that outside pitches should be allowed to travel in the zone before contact.
This drill can be done as a soft-toss or off a tee. If you are using a tee, you should position your feet so that the ball is even with the instep of your back foot. Keep in mind you are hitting the outside pitch so you should move approximately 6 inches away from where you would line up to hit the pitch down the middle. Work to drive the ball in direction of 1st base (3rd base if you are a lefty). Your hip turn and bat path will be the same when hitting this pitch as they would be when you hit the inside pitch or the pitch down the middle.
*The following checklist for young hitters was developed by Tom Robson – hitting instructor for the New York Mets & Seattle Mariners. We think it is a great way to “grade” yourself as you work on your swing.
What to watch for in a young hitter’s swing:
______ Load and timing movement (stride to balance)……we call this “trigger”
______ Stride foot lands on inside ball of foot
______ Bat is over the shoulder when the stride foot lands
______ Back heel comes up when stride foot comes down
______ Body rotates from feet to hands and out the bat
______ Head stays over the center of gravity throughout the swing
______ Posture remains strong
______ Firm front leg at contact
______ Arms not extended at contact
______ High finish (with hands)