A negative or downward swing path. Even talking about 'level' swing paths makes me want to cringe. It's 2019 and we have autonomous cars yet the baseball world still wants to teach a swing path that has been PROVEN to be suboptimal. It's time we talk more about barrel turn and what it actually means.
The barrel turn is simply the action of the hitter turning the bat behind them towards the catcher, and then back up through the plane of the pitch. Just like this hitter is below.
Why work back up towards the ball? This creates the largest possible contact path while helping the barrel get to top speed AT contact! #BaseballRebellion #baseballrebellion #baseballswing pic.twitter.com/FPD2sGQnX4
— Baseball Rebellion (@BRrebellion) March 28, 2018
Why is it important to turn the barrel and swing up? Check out the green line in the video above. That is the 'plane' of the pitch. The ball is traveling on that line and as hitters, we want our bat traveling on that long as long as possible. So if the ball is traveling down, we must match the plane by swinging up. This ensures a maximum window for contact depending on our timing.
Thank you to the coaches, parents, and instructors out there who are teaching kids to NOT swing down. You are the real heroes in the baseball world. However, if you are one of the people I just mentioned but can't quite get your hitters to be consistent with barrel turn and swinging up. There could be one MAJOR reason why.
If you are regular readers, you have heard us write a lot about spine angle. But how does that correlate to swinging the bat up? Most hitters land too far forward in their stride, like this:
When hitter's land like this they must either move their head and spine as they turn to create space or push down and forward to create space. Neither of these solutions is ideal for power or swing path.
We want hitters to move forward but to land with your head closer to the back hip. This creates the space for the barrel to turn deep and to enter an upward motion earlier in the swing. This helps players achieve ideal launch angles. Check out the comparison of two hitters below.
If the hitter is working getting their hips out from underneath their shoulders during their stride they will set their spine angle and head position back into a strong, loaded position. It is a cue that should be taught and practiced OUTSIDE of the cage first. Then once the hitter has established a strong, controlled stride forward with their hips outside the cage, they can then move to practice it while hitting a moving ball. If done correctly it will look like this:
This drill is super effective for teaching hitters how to properly stride forward. They must use their hips to stride in this drill and not just their front foot. The goal is to get the hitters lead hip up against the wall before anything else (Quad, Foot, Knee, Ankle) touches the wall. Check out Eric demonstrating this drill and how you can apply it to your hitters today.