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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.
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.
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
Left Handed Hitting Line
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:
4. How the hitter turns the barrel into these points never changes.
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.
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.
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.
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