Directional Hitting: Find Consistency and Power to All Fields

Written by on April 9, 2014 in Hitting Methodology - 23 Comments

Like everything in baseball, directional hitting practice has a place and time. Too often, we force hitters, of all ages, to stay and hit to the opposite side of the field.  Dedicating entire BP sessions to going backside may be the most overrated and swing ruining type of practice.  It has a place as an approach for certain guys, in limited situations, but never should be the way to swing a bat,  but I digress. Hitting to all fields with power is accomplished by two things. These two things can not happen with out each other.

  1. Immediate barrel acceleration
  2. A simple understanding of the “Line of Hitting”(which is just a lot of words meaning, timing) 

The Baseball Rebellion “swing style” helps each individual player reach his or her maximum power potential. More importantly, it maximizes power potential, SUDDENLY in the swing.  You might say this is what we do best. Why is ‘sudden’ the big word to think about?  Baseball Rebellion’s mechanics gives the hitter the  ability to make later and more accurate decisions.  With this ability, hitting to all fields becomes easy and sometimes unnecessary. Case and point, Jose Bautista.

That is extremely impressive.  I am not advocating that everybody needs to try and pull away pitches out of the stadium, but I do think that ‘we’ as coaches and instructors do get caught up in the backside approach. (which I will discuss more later). The explosiveness of Bautista is obviously Big League level, but let’s not forget that without his swing mechanics, none of what you just saw would be possible. I could dissect Bautista all day, he is that good. But Instead, I will share our thoughts on the second phase of “The Line of Hitting”. The line of Hitting is a rather simple idea, but it constantly gets misinterpreted by coaches thinking that EVERY PITCH should be hit backside.

WHAT IS THE LINE?

The Line of Hitting is simply the contact points at which the barrel meets the ball according to pitch location.

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The picture above represents the line of hitting for a right handed batter. You can see that the ball placement creates a straight line, starting from the inside pitch location to the middle, then away location. These points represent the optimal contact points for each pitch location.  As teachers and players we understand that perfect contact placement on every pitch is impossible, there are too many variables. But, using the line of hitting, will give the best possible opportunity to make powerful contact, with consistency.

The important thing for young hitters to understand is that an elite level swing DOES NOT CHANGE due to the pitch location, just the point of contact in the “Line”.  Too often I hear players say, ” my coach wants me to step to the outside pitch”, or “step in the bucket for an inside pitch”.  Really?  As a former catcher I hope you show me that type of commitment to a location with your movements.  There may be some natural body weight towards a direction when the batter picks up the ball but we never should have a predetermined direction, besides forward.

Hitting on The Line

Right Handed Hitting Line

Directional tee

Left Handed Hitting Line

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As you can see from the pictures above, the contact position is exactly the same at each ball or point in the ball’s path to the catcher.   Notice a few things:

  1. 1. Palm up palm down at contact with zero wrist turnover.
  2. 2. Wrist, elbow, shoulder all turned together the same.
  3. 3. Hitter’s lower half is rotated further than their upper half. 

4. How the hitter turns the barrel into these points never changes.

Away Pitch

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One of the most misunderstood concepts of hitting, is that a hitter must “go get” the outside pitch.  In fact the hitter must do the opposite, especially for an away ball.  Notice how deep that particular ball is located in the pictures above. The ball is past the plate!  The problem is that most hitters do not have a swing that allows for this type of LATE explosiveness. The hitter must be able to generate SUDDEN and DEEP barrel speed or flail, in order to hit outside pitches. Once the barrel flail has started, the batter will then release the barrel to that side of the field. This can look like a reach to the pitch, to the untrained eye, which is why opposite field power is such a mystery for most coaches and scouts who come to the conclusion that the player “just doesn’t have oppo power”.  Wrong.  He hasn’t been trained to do so.  Why? Probably, the lifetime of opposite field rounds, and trying to hit the middle-in pitch over the first baseman have taken away his ability to create powerful, deep barrel flail.  For more on deep barrel flail, CLICK HERE.

Inside Pitch

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It is common to see pitchers go away, away, and away some more, to get hitters out. But why is the inside pitch, perceived as, more difficult to hit?  Simply put 1) hitters do not see many inside strikes and 2) the batter must have much more “swing discipline”  to turn fast, further, and keep their elbows bent.  You can see that the inside pitch above is contacted in front of the plate.  The last thing a batter would want to do is “stay inside the ball” or try and take it back side.  TRYING TO “INSIDE OUT” EVERY PITCH GUARANTEES A LOW SUCCESS RATE.  This type of mentality and coaching strategy has led to more broken bats and hitters getting dominated for the last 30 years than any other hitting approach in baseball.

Middle Pitch

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Generally, It may seem like this ball location would be the easiest ball to hit, and most of the time it is. However, most people think the middle ball needs to be struck way out in front of the batter’s stance. In fact, the batter must allow the ball to get deep in the zone. Notice the ball position in relation to the batter’s front foot as depicted above.  Optimal contact is always on the “line”  and with bent arms.  The picture above illustrates a SUPER elite contact position. Of course the variables like batter’s timing, pitch speed, and pitcher’s rhythm all come into play on every pitch. We know that perfect contact on the line will not always happen, so the hitter will have to make obvious adjustments mid pitch. These adjustments include early arm/bat release and front knee hesitation.

Final Thought

Learning how to hit the ball where it is pitched is important. However, teaching young players to hit one direction ALL the time can severely limit a players potential.  I can not tell you how many backside and hit-and-run rounds I had at a young age and in college. Maybe, one round should be dedicated to just hitting and getting the real swing ready.  Lets teach our young players a swing that allows them to succeed and smash each pitch location all over the field first, and then worry about where they are hitting it.

JK Whited- Leader of The Baseball Rebellion

About the Author

JK is the only certified Baseball Rebellion and I.T.S. Baseball hitting instructor. He has done over 7,000 lessons since 2008. JK works everyday alongside Chas Pippitt to create the most up to date techniques and drills to improve hitters of any age. JK played Division 1 baseball at UNC Asheville where as captain, he led the Bulldogs to a Big South Conference championship and their first ever regional birth in 2006.

23 Comments on "Directional Hitting: Find Consistency and Power to All Fields"

  1. ed kovac April 10, 2014 at 9:25 am · Reply

    excellent article! I have used the throwing of the bat head as a feeling que for the hitter. is this wrong?

    • jkhittingrebel April 10, 2014 at 10:25 am · Reply

      Ed,

      Thank you!

      As long as the hitter is using his/her body to create the energy in the swing then no at all. When coaches use words like throw the hands(arms) or snap the wrists to que the release of the barrel, it becomes a problem.

      JK-

  2. Bob H April 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm · Reply

    I love this article on so many levels! I help coach 12u girls softball & I hear things like softball swing, knob to the ball, elbow first. The contact point lesson above is so true and seems a lost & valuable tool today- I may be exaggerating a bit here. I always run up against opposition, say, if a player swing is ‘off’ or perceived to be, I tend to go contact points or check for hip rotation/shoulder. Check to see if the swing is sound- so a player is not throwing hands at outside etc,

  3. Scott Baird April 10, 2014 at 2:21 pm · Reply

    I love the illustration of the line of hitting. I have been teaching it for years. Another tactic I teach in regard to hitting pitch location is body “tilt”. Do you agree that to maintain a powerful line (path) to the ball the hitter must stay “connected” as long as possible creating tilt in the body. Inside pitch equals none to very little tilt. Middle of plate equals some tilt and outside would create most tilt in order to stay connected. Can you expound a little on this topic?

    • jkhittingrebel April 10, 2014 at 4:32 pm · Reply

      Scott,

      Really glad you enjoyed the article!

      I agree that “tilt” should be altered when it comes to height of the pitch and that we much stay connected to ensure maximum power. We want to always maintain a slight tilt in our forward move and during the turn. The batter will adjust his/her tilt depending on height of the pitch. So, pitch width(inside or out) will determine the rotation distance before release of the bat. Pitch height will determine the tilt angle of rotation. There will always be variations and combinations of both factors. Hitters should just know that there is no pitch location that can not be hit with power behind it. Some pitches are just more difficult to do so.

      JK-

  4. Dave April 11, 2014 at 8:25 am · Reply

    Ok Jk do you agree with pre set tilt like rickey henderson over the plate or straight up like moises alou because my coach says im straight up and thats why I swing through the outside pitch.

    • jkhittingrebel April 11, 2014 at 11:01 am · Reply

      Dave,

      I think you can start however you want to. Once the forward move starts you must have a tilted spine angle over the plate. Any strike that the batter will attempt to hit will be lower than their shoulders so tilt is always needed. High level swingers are also trying to create a slightly uphill swing. To do so, the batter must lower the back shoulder according to the pitch height.

      Bonds is a good example of a guy who starts pretty tall and then tilts in as he engages the forward move. Everybody is different. I would say find what is comfortable to you.

      JK-

  5. Charles Sherrill April 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm · Reply

    ”my coach wants me to step to the outside pitch”, or “step in the bucket for an inside pitch”. Ugh… I’m speechless… I read a lot of materials on baseball technique and I’ve never seen this recommended anywhere, but I have no doubt it’s being taught. Where do guys come up with this stuff? My other favorite coaching malpractice is “move up in the box to hit a guy that pitches slow.” Do they not understand what catchers do at higher levels of baseball?

    Question about tee practice… I work for a Manager that wants all the balls for tee work to be placed in the center of the strike zone at about belt level (balls driven to the back of the cage). I guess he just wants the players to practice driving the “hitter’s pitch.” For my part, I’ve always wanted guys to practice hitting various pitch locations along the hitting line as well as low and high in the strike zone. I know ITS doesn’t use much tee work, but I’d like to hear your recommendations for it.

    On a related note, a lot of the guys on my son’s middle school team set up with their front foot a good 6 inches or more in front of the plate, which I think is encouraged by a lot of coaches and/or parents. I’m not clear on what they are trying to accomplish with this set up. Seems to me it would be harder to judge balls and strikes if you set up that far forward…and it would move your hitting line out as well so that now the outside pitch has to be hit around the front outside corner of the plate. What are your thoughts on this?

    • jkhittingrebel April 14, 2014 at 12:09 pm · Reply

      Charles,

      Once the hitter can repeat a high level swing pattern, moving the tee around is fine. As long as the hitter has an idea about The Line of Hitting, they can accurately hit the ball where it is needed too. If the swing needs work then moving the ball around will likely be a waste of time.

      Moving the hitting line North to South (to the pitcher or to the catcher) is fine. When you move away or towards the plate you move but the line of hitting does not. That will make a lot of guys abandoned their best swings to make contact. We put our guys further back than most because we encourage body weight movement. Coaches put their kids up that far because of this great myth that all contact is make 5 feet out in front of the plate. I have also heard that they do it to help kids hit off speed pitches. Something about hitting the ball before the break of the pitch. That idea is just out dated information.

      JK-

  6. Colin April 14, 2014 at 8:38 am · Reply

    Is the tilt that you are referring to the angle over the plate or the downward angle of your shoulders in the front side move?

    • jkhittingrebel April 14, 2014 at 11:45 am · Reply

      Colin,

      The angle over the plate

      JK-

  7. Blake April 15, 2014 at 8:49 am · Reply

    When swinging at the outside pitch or anyone at that how do you keep your front shoulder from flying out so fast?

    • jkhittingrebel April 15, 2014 at 10:35 am · Reply

      Blake,

      If the hitter has already commenced the swing, the front shoulder should be flying out(rotating) fast. The trick is keeping the front shoulder in long enough to let the ball get a little deeper. In order to do this, the hitter must have a high level lower half movement first. At the same time have the calmness to allow the ball to get deeper in the hitting zone.

      Don’t forget Blake, having a fast shoulder rotation is a good thing as long as it happens at the right time.

      JK-

  8. MiltonUniversity April 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm · Reply

    I’m a highschool varsity ball player and I’ve read all of the articles you guys have posted. I understand nearly everything you guys have talked about and I absolutely love it.

    I do however have a question. I believe my back foot gets off the ground far too much. I understand the importance of the core and hip thrust pulling the back leg and foot off the ground to generate more power in the swing but when comparing my swing to your examples, my back leg/foot comes much higher and wilder off the ground. It’s causing me to have vision and balance problems. My coaches can obviously see it and they me to focus on staying on the ground by pushing onto the toe, which I know is very wrong. How can I fix it?

    • Chas Pippitt April 24, 2014 at 4:46 pm · Reply

      Milton,

      You’re pulling your leg UP with your hamstrings. Don’t do a Hamstring Curl when you hit, just turn your hips and that will pull your leg forward.

      Its great that it’s moving, but you’ve gotta stay lower to the ground. Don’t activate the back of your leg, and think of gliding forward with your back foot.

      Chas–

      • MiltonUniversity April 25, 2014 at 10:47 am · Reply

        Thank you for replying so quickly.

        Perhaps all the years of hitting coaches teaching me to drive the back knee down and forward while getting the toe up may have led to this problem. So in an essence, try to de-emphasize the use of the legs in the swing?

        Also, I’ve heard in a comment of yours, of a wrist snap in the swing. Can you explain?

        • jkhittingrebel April 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm · Reply

          Milton,

          Yes, let the back foot just catch you at the end of your turn. Do not de-emphasize your front leg though, just the use of any pushing with the back.

          We talk about wrist snap that happens early the swing, as the barrel goes into the hitting zone. Most coaches talk about wrist snap at the contact point of the ball. This is just too late to generate barrel speed. Remember, we want to be acceleratED at contact, not acceleratING. Check out the Rule of The Flail article that I did. I talk about how the hitter’s use of their forward move and explosive turn helps the wrist snap or barrel flail at the right time. This is the most optimal way to use your energy.

          JK-

  9. Sean Barone May 30, 2014 at 10:03 pm · Reply

    What does fouling a good pitch straight back mean in terms of swing mechanics is it just my timing is off or what?

    • jkhittingrebel May 31, 2014 at 9:29 am · Reply

      Sean,

      Well it is hard to say exactly what is wrong. I would first try to adjust your vision to see more of the top half of the ball when you swing and remember to swing up. Perhaps your hands are dropping below your shoulder line and therefore you can not have consistent contact. When it comes to barrel accuracy on pitches, the first thing I do is adjust the players vision.

      JK-

      • Sean May 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm · Reply

        I think it is my vision because I hit an outside pitch foul to right field so I think it’s my vision

        • jkhittingrebel June 2, 2014 at 12:56 pm · Reply

          Sean,

          That’s what I would look at first. Hitting the outside pitch foul might be a case of pull the knob at the ball. This will cause the barrel to be behind your hands at contact and almost impossible to keep that outside pitch fair down the line.

          JK-

  10. Sean June 19, 2014 at 2:52 pm · Reply

    Is the bat drag buster a tool that is useful when talking about directional hitting because for me it is a fantastic tool for me to help get early barrel acceleration to any pitch on the tee.

    • Chas Pippitt June 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm · Reply

      Sean,

      of course it is! Once you speed up…it’s easy to control the bat. think about driving on the highway…small moves in the steering wheel make big moves at high speeds.

      Chas–

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