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Almost three years ago, Chas Pippitt exposed the WORST Hitting Drill in all of baseball and softball. After scouring the internet and thinking back on all the crazy drills that I had to do as a player, I have finally found what I would call the second worst hitting drill that you or your player can do.
In the search for terrible drills to avoid, I wanted to make sure that the drill chosen for this article really had nothing to offer hitters. Even in some bad drills there can be a silver lining that could help the occasional hitter with very specific needs. In this drill though, I honestly could not find one benefit for any hitter in any situation. This drill is a pure "eyewash" drill to take up time and it can significantly make you worse with every repetition. If your instructor is trying new drills on your player, make sure this is not one of them.
To be honest, I don't really know what to even call this drill. Most videos will call it simply, "Soft toss from behind". Here are two examples of this drill that I have found.
If you thought that was bad. It gets evan worse.
I think the second video did a lot of talking for me here but lets weigh the cons from this drill.
Where to start with all the bad things this drill forces you to do to just hit the ball. For me, though the worst thing about this drill is that it's simply just the wrong direction. In the first video the player will turn their head back to to the coach and then track the ball to contact. Seems good right? Wrong. The player is training their heads to turn the wrong way. Vision is one of the most important traits of all great hitters and all great hitters turn the heads back toward the catcher in order to track the ball deeper into the zone.
This drill if done enough can really do damage regardless of the way you choose to swing. No matter the "style" of swing you adopt as your own, vision has to be a huge part of what you train and this drill literally makes you turn your head the wrong way.
When the ball is tossed from the back, the hitter is forced to wait on the ball to pass them before contact can be made. Hitters using the "stay back and drive" method are once again encouraged to not move their bodies forward, thus leaving a lot of power on the table. It would be increasingly more difficult for the hitter to try to gain ground forward the right way, while letting the ball pass them. In the attempt to create momentum the hitter must be able to move forward. Here is Mark Canha demonstrating a good move forward.
As you can see from the second video the hitter can't even get ready in time to attempt a good swing. They are forced to pick the ball up and swing from the wrists. From a power generation standpoint, the last thing a hitter should be thinking about is having only quick wrists to generate barrel speed. Once again this drill especially in video two, can really hinder this portion of a high quality swing.
No matter how you train your body to generate power, the hitter is simply trying to get the barrel of the bat up to maximum speed in the shortest amount of time possible. Maximum speed is different for all hitters because they all vary in size, talent level, and athletic ability but the idea of immediate barrel acceleration is something that should always be a goal for the hitter. Unfortunately though, this drill once again proves to keep barrel acceleration from happening more than any other drill. The only thing worse would be a drill where the hitter is forced to hit the ball with the knob of the bat. Wait...is that drill really out there too?
Yep it's out there but let's just stay on one drill for this article. In this drill the hitter is forced to ease the barrel into a flat position and then pull the knob across their body without any shoulder rotation. This is the typical knob to the ball approach. Once again this will put way to much emphasis on the wrists to create barrel speed late in the swing. All great hitting instructors know that the wrists play a much smaller role further down the kinetic chain. Here is a great example of barrel turn with shoulder turn.
As you can see a high level barrel turn must incorporate shoulder rotation. Along with the rotation of the shoulders, the shoulder angle is also lost in this drill. Part of creating direct force and striking the ball well, the barrel must get in the path of the ball. With the ball coming from behind the hitter, there is no path of the ball. Teaching a player to get on plane early in their swing is borderline impossible here.
For most kids just trying to hit the ball harder is a big deal. They have been taught for so long that missing the ball and striking out is the worst thing they can do, that they just hope to make contact. This drill is a "hope to make contact" drill. Because of everything listed above this drill in no way encourages kids to create a more aggressive swing and therefore inherit an aggressive mentality. Coaches talk about having a "good approach" at the plate. Approach can only mirror the player's power output. If a player knows that he or she can drive the ball past the outfielders, then their approach will be drastically different than if they know that the best they can do is a single barely over the infield.
I realize that drills are usually created to focus on one particular flaw in the swing and not the train the swing as a whole. I just don't see this drill helping in any phase of training the elite swing. This drill promotes a weak-minded, wristy, back sided swing. STAY AWAY!