Directional Hitting: Find Consistency and Power to All Fields

Written By: JK Whited

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

directional tee L

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

paul-konerko

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Bob Hoffman
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Bob Hoffman

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,

Scott Baird
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Scott Baird

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?

Blane Cannon
Member
Blane Cannon

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.

Charles Sherrill
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Charles Sherrill

”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… Read more »

Colin
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Colin

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?

Blane Cannon
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Blane Cannon

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

MiltonUniversity
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MiltonUniversity

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… Read more »

Chas Pippitt
Editor

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
Guest
MiltonUniversity

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?

Sean Barone
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Sean Barone

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

Sean
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Sean

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
Editor

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–

Blane
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Blane

What would be a reason someone pulls the ball all the time and not follow the line of hitting? Because i seem to pull everything.

Steve Scott
Member
Steve Scott

Brilliant article! Thanks for sharing!

Glenn
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Glenn

not sure where I can ask this question but I was hoping to get your opinion on this product

http://www.speedhitter.com/

I think it’s terrible but I was hoping to hear your thoughts

Bill
Guest
Bill

I have never understood why hitters should strive to hit the outside pitch to the opposite field. It seems to me that a hitter’s swing achieves it’s greatest plate coverage when the bat is perpendicular to the flight of the ball. And when the bat is in this position at contact, the ball would of course be hit to centerfield, not the opposite field. And by waiting a little longer to hit the outside pitch when the hands are slightly ahead of the barrel of the bat, it seems to me that this not only limits the hitter’s plate coverage… Read more »