Gain Early Bat Speed with “The Rule of The Flail”

Written By: JK Whited

Bat speed.  Where does it start and how is it created?   This could possibly be one of, if not, the most controversial aspects of the swing among those looking for the best way.

The problem for most people in regards to bat speed or barrel acceleration is when it actually happens.  The magic word there is "ACTUALLY." Outside of The Baseball Rebellion, anybody I discuss the swing with will immediately say that, "The barrel should be moving the fastest at contact." This idea would make sense because speed at contact is what we want right? WRONG!  We want speed into the zone (path of the ball). As we continue to turn, we will maintain that ACCELERATED barrel. Once the barrel gets to a point, we release through the rest of the zone.  Now, I know that seems like a lot of technical jargon but simply put, we want the barrel to be fast way before contact.  The same principals of bio-mechanics and physics are at work in other sports. The golf swing is like the distant cousin of the baseball swing. Here is a great video about the "flail principle" and how it relates to golf.  Try to bridge the gap to the baseball swing for yourself as you are watching.

Notice anything similar in the next two pictures? Below are photos of Bryce Harper and Tiger Woods. I have lined up the points where true acceleration happens in the top photos. In the bottom photos, I have marked where the flail lines back up with the front forearm of both players.  Notice the arrows pointing in the direction of acceleration.

Bryce Harper Hitting vs Tiger Woods Swinging

The major differences in these two swings is the location of the ball, the length of the "flailing" object, and the bat/club alignment at contact. If done properly, Harper's bat will flail to the point of the elbow on his lead arm.  Tiger's club will flail to the point of the elbow on his lead arm, which is also in line with his lead shoulder.  The faster the hitter can get the barrel lined up with the lead elbow, the faster the the barrel is.  If the hitter can get into this alignment as the barrel enters the zone, the bat will be fully accelerated before turning all the way to contact.  You hear coaches talk about "quick hands at contact," along with a ton of other bad cues which you can read about here.  Once Bryce and Tiger get the bat/club to the end of the alignment, they just keep turning while they release the bat/club out.  How many times have you seen either of these two monsters stop turning their bodies?  Never.

The hands will be used more passively in a high-level swing than most people realize. In order for the "law of the flail" to work for baseball, the hitter must start the barrel in motion back behind his shoulder and then with his/her turn, transfer energy through his unwinding body and into the hands.  At this point the hands will act like a hinge, as mentioned in the video we saw earlier.  If the hands are rigid or actively moving at the ball, the hinge is broken and deep acceleration can not happen.  Here is a video of Chipper Jones showing us a high level barrel path and deep acceleration.

I think most people do not realize this because they never see it.  This part of the swing happens so fast and without close analysis of slow swings, you will never pick it up.  The average viewer sees the bat get to the ball at super speed and thinks the hands must be fast because the bat is held by the hands.  Always remember that the "rule of the flail" can not work properly without the correct footwork and hip rotation. This is why "hands first swings" and "knob to the ball coaching cues" do not work from a mere physics perspective.  If the knob of the bat is moving at the ball, then what is the barrel doing?  It is not picking up speed, not turning, and not coming around.  The player can not generate enough speed with "hand snapping" to catch up to high level pitching.

Final Thought

Like I usually do here, I urge you to think about what coaches are asking you or your player to do at practice or lessons.  Look out for one-handed bat drills where top hand or bottom hand dominance is the goal.  Remember, early bat speed is not just a power generator, but also an extra ten feet of distance to watch and read the pitch.  Thus, having more decision time and ultimately selecting better pitches.  This concept will become more and more important for your player as he or she reaches faster pitching levels.

JK Whited, Leader of the Baseball Rebellion

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Josh
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Josh

What are some verbal cues you would give to a hitter to achieve quick and early barrel acceleration?

Paul Wright
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Paul Wright

Another term you may consider using to describe this aspect of the swing (which is used in golf) is the “lag” of the (clubhead) barrel. The “lag” is where the energy is being “stored” while the torque of the body is being initiated until the “release” at contact where everything has “snapped” through the (contact) hitting zone. Great stuff!

Hank
Guest
Hank

JK- can you clarify this line at the end of your article: “Look out for one-handed bat drills”

So, I’m guessing you are saying that they promote the movement of taking the knob/hands directly to the ball first and thereby short circuiting the “flail” movement? Is that the point or am I way off?

ed kovac
Guest

even in pro ball their was no one, including ted wiliams who could communicate what I personally felt as a hitter although I felt the side ways bat speed. I would often hear that old phrase ( it looked like you took the bad out of the catchers mitt)! Through video analysis this now can be displayed. I just watched Oregon and Washington play in LL world series. A guy took a swing where hands and bat head went just past his front foot and hit a home run to center! Of course fences are very short but the 12… Read more »

Charles Sherrill
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Charles Sherrill

JK, Another great article. I really appreciate you guys doing these. This one brought to mind a number of questions that I’ve wanted to ask you guys… 1. Grip – align the door knocking knuckles or axe grip or does it even matter within the context of rotational hitting? Seems like I’ve read some people that emphasize wrist action, which never really made sense to me. 2. “Torquing” the bat – Evidently something the Epstein people emphasize. Is that what we are talking about here? I understand it to be the slight movement of the bat behind the head just… Read more »

Chas Pippitt
Editor

Charles, I wanted to chime in as well since I work with your son online and in person and am very familiar with his swing… 1: JK Nailed it 2: “torque” in Epstein teaching is more referring to separation between the hips and shoulders…this moves the bat 3: We teach a ‘Hamilton Tip’ instead of a ‘Bautista Tip’ at I.T.S. Baseball and Baseball Rebellion. You can’t teach the logo tip (Bautista) to many LL players as they just can’t handle it. I think it’s SUPER HARD to do…and the Hamilton tip (or Chris Davis) is easier to handle. 4: JK… Read more »

Hank
Guest
Hank

Chas- can you clarify what you mean by ‘Hamilton Tip”?

Chas Pippitt
Editor

Hank,

A “Hamilton Tip” refers to the way he tilts his barrel inward towards the opposite dugout instead of around his head towards the second baseman.

Bautista tips towards the SS (He’s a righty) and rotates the barrel around his hands from there. That is much more difficult in my opinion.

Chas–

Hank
Guest
Hank

So Hamilton keeps a more vertical position on his bat until the turn? Just looking at this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QT2ZUXRsI5Q
Knob is pointing down more whereas Bautista’s knob points more back toward the catcher.

Bautista on the other hand flattens the bat out more using a deeper wrist cock bringing the bat head closer to level?

Just trying to get the distinction between the two correct. This movement is mostly due to the wrist cock angle used correct?

Is the bottom line the plane of the bat angle? Upright vs. flat?

Chas Pippitt
Editor

Hank, you’re trying to hard to find it.

watch the breakdown of Bautista and Hamilton in my timing article about whether or not a hitter should get his front foot down early.

That shows the difference.

Again, Hamilton lowers his barrel towards the 3rd base dugout. Bautista points his barrel at the SS.

Chas–

PS Hamilton does not ‘practice well’ meaning he doesn’t use his game pattern off tees or when he talks about hitting. Watch the game moves of players, learn from that.

Stephen Black
Member
Stephen Black

Hank – Chas is the expert so anything I say refer to him – but I know you don’t want to move the bat with your wrists – review Chas’ back elbow Row (Back Shoulder Row) blog. Even his latest blog shows the move. The tip and rip comes from elbow movement – Elbows are strong and easily repeatable. Move a bat with just your wrists – then try again with just your elbows – Elbows provide much more power and the focus is closer to the body which matches up with the Angular Velocity of Chas’ lastest blog. I… Read more »

Chas Pippitt
Editor

Steve,

You’re correct sir.

Chas–

dalman.caleb13
Member
dalman.caleb13

Jk and chas, if you guys don’t teach to line up the knuckles then what do you teach? Is it just whatever is comfortable for the hitter?

Thanks

Charles Sherrill
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Charles Sherrill

This is just speculation on my part, but I suspect that aligning the door knocking knuckles had its origins in the golf world and is intended to promote “snapping” of the wrists, which I think some linear instructors emphasize.

Isaias
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Isaias

when i land my front foot and prepare to turn, I tried flicking my wrists down so the barrel would accelerate towards the catcher, and than just let my hips get the bat lined up with the ball. i would also make sure to only flick my wrists and not move my hands, elbows, or shoulders. Would you say this flick of the wrists is a correct movement for me to continue to practice?

John
Guest
John

Hey JK and Chas, If you land properly and get into a good launch position and just rotate around your axis with hip thrust and from using your core with shoulder delay and all of that stuff you guys talk about with using the body powerfully and efficiently wont your bat just get into the flaling/lagging position properly (as long as your arm angles dont change until extension)? I know the bat does get into the position your talking about but you talk about getting into that position “deep”. I feel like that would create a long swing. The way… Read more »

rawmail1021
Member
rawmail1021

Hey guys, absolutely love what you’re teaching. If only this was taught to me when I was a youngster. Now I have the opportunity to teach it to my son who is 9, so I’m really pumped! Forgive my ignorance, but how do you define, “flail”? I’ve always associated it with a loose, disconnected, wild swing (as in a really bad golf swing).

-Ryan

Hogan
Guest
Hogan

Hey there, love your guys information and analysis. Three questions, will gaining ground towards the pitcher throw off “the rule of the flail”, Is there such a thing as gaining too much ground, and lastly, what’s the best way to teach “hip set” to a hitter? Thank you

Hector R
Guest
Hector R

This is my first time to leave a comment but I have read several of your articles and have really enjoyed them. I may not always agree with them at first but it gets the wheels turning and with enough trial and error we finally get it. One month ago I was having BP with my boys and came up with the no squeeze drill-meaning try to be the most relaxed as possible and still try to hit the ball hard. You see my son is agressive and always has been and will find himself squeezing the bat and causing… Read more »

Carlos Sison
Guest
Carlos Sison

Hey JK. so basing from the golf flail video, is it right to conclude that a baseball bat should be gripped like a gold club with the pinky resting on the pointer finger and the hand wrapped around the thumb?

Zekai Geier
Member
Zekai Geier

Is there a specific cue or tip that helps “de-emphasize” the hands taking the lead in a swing and serve more like a hinge, that helps with deep barrel acceleration?

Woody
Guest
Woody

Your insights about the flail and setting a hinge near the back shoulder are terrific, but you seem to be talking about acceleration all wrong. The point of creating a hinge is to be set up to accelerate through the ball. If peak bat speed is not reached past the point of contact, the bat will be slowing down through contact, thus greatly reducing the force applied on the ball. Force equals mass times acceleration. I know of no one who has separated the effect of barrel acceleration from barrel speed but acceleration can’t help but be a significant contributor… Read more »

Kade Hunter
Guest
Kade Hunter

I’ve been wanting to hit the ball to the opposite field with more power, and I believe after following your analysis and articles for awhile that oppo power comes from early acceleration. What drills do you suggest to emphasize the “flail” or early acceleration?