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Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when the downturn ends and the barrel begins to turn up or “on-plane” can dictate the impact a hitter has on the ball. The best hitters in the world hit the ball the hardest when contact is made out in front of the plate. With that being said, are you training to do so yourself?
Adjustability and bat speed are dramatically improved when an emphasis is placed on hitting the ball out in front of the plate with the barrel path carrying length through the zone. However, this skill isn’t easily attained. It must be practiced and perfected. The fear for most players, coaches, and instructors is that the player will then try to reach and lunge forward creating top spun rollovers. This is why, in my opinion, it’s even more important for hitters to practice and replicate where they will hit the ball in a game that will almost always be even or in front of their stride foot. Putting the tee out in front of the stride foot forces the hitter to move forward with balance. Because of this, creating the proper swing arch to create proper spin on a pitch out in front.
Putting the tee too deep can create a couple of different issues in the swing pattern. I’ll say this first, I’m not a huge fan of tee work but I also understand that it’s the easiest form of practice and doesn’t require anyone else being there or a ton of room. So I get it, but without the stress of velocity or a moving ball, bad habits can be created. So one thing to keep an eye out for when putting the tee too deep in the hitter striding and creating the contact point of the ball inside of their front foot.
This can create an inside-out pushy swing that forces balls to the opposite field. The hitter doesn’t give themself enough space to create proper bat speed and path to the pitch, in turn, side spinning a ball the other way. Whether cued to let the ball get deep (for fear of rolling over) or to make sure they hit the ball the other way, the hitter can even see this result as a success. I firmly believe a hitter should be able to drive the ball to all fields. The key in that sentence was to drive the ball. For different hitters driving the ball can mean different things. What it never means is a side spun, weakly hit flair into the opposite field. A hitter hitting the ball well inside of their front foot in a game, will likely result in a foul ball. So why practice ever hitting it that deep?
Another common flaw when the tee is set up too deep is the hitter swaying back. They do this to give themself enough space to create the proper swing arch for that location.
This move away from the pitch can be detrimental to timing of a moving pitch. Not only will timing and vision be affected but also proper weight shift into the front side. The ability for a hitter to track the pitch while remaining balanced and controlled in their forward move. Which allows for the most optimal adjustability as well as power output.
By putting the tee farther in front of the plate it forces the hitter to create a balanced forward move and keep their shoulders on line. Putting the tee too deep allows the hitter to turn their shoulders and eyes in. Because of this, it can lead to them pulling their front shoulder out to begin rotation.
As mentioned above putting the tee farther in front forces the hitter to make a forward move into a balanced position into the ground. Avoiding a swayback in the stride can lead to better vision and adjustability through rotation.
Putting the emphasis on creating more length with the barrel through the zone can help tighten up the launch of the barrel. The hitter knows the tighter the barrel turns off their shoulder the quicker they can be to contact. With the tee too deep often hitters will lose connection with their barrel in order to get it into the zone deeper.
The ability to hit the ball to all fields is extremely important to a hitter. However, the hardest thing to do in hitting is to hit the ball to the pull side with true spin. Many hitters are forced to roll over or topspin the inside pitch because of how they move and rotate. Practice doing the damage you want to do in games and get used to hitting it where you will to do so. Don’t just hope your flair singles off the tee will translate to game success.