The Truth About Bat Grip

Written By: Gabe Dimock

One constant message we send to our players regarding hitting is “your first mistake is your worst mistake.” A hitter’s first mistake causes the subsequent pieces of the swing to deteriorate. This idea makes a hitter’s setup and grip extremely important! This particular article is going to focus on the grip portion of the setup.

Over the past year, I have noticed an interesting trend when new evaluations come to our facility. Young kids and kids that have had little training tend to grip the bat in a very similar fashion to most major leaguers. While other parts of their swing may need a bit of work, their grip tends to be very good. In contrast, kids who have had prolonged instruction tend to be a little more polished in terms of mechanics but usually use a grip that aligns the door knocking knuckles. This observation leads me to believe that the knocking knuckles alignment commonly taught by coaches at all levels is not innately comfortable or powerful, but is a pattern that overrides the natural intuition of a young hitter. The following video will explain the difference between the grips and the advantages given to a hitter when using the axe grip.

 

 

As I mentioned in the video, the vast majority of Major League hitters utilize a grip much closer to the axe grip than the door knocking knuckles configuration. Here are just a few examples of high-level hitters using the axe grip:

 

Babe Ruth Bat Grip

Babe Ruth

Andrew McCutchen Bat Grip

Andrew McCutchen

David Ortiz Bat Grip

David Ortiz

Mike Trout

Mike Trout

Bryce Harper Bat Grip

Bryce Harper

Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano

Josh Donaldson Bat Grip

Josh Donaldson

Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly

I made sure to use Don Mattingly as an example because he is one of the main advocates for the door knocking knuckles grip. Mattingly is also a proponent of the faulty down and through swing methodology. It is clear in the photograph above that Mattingly holds the bat with an axe-like grip. As a current teacher of hitting, Mattingly fails to properly identify and teach the mechanics that he and fellow Hall of Famers successfully used. He has even designed the v-grip handle to help players line up the knocking knuckles. Here is Mattingly in a video teaching grip:

Changing your grip may be the easiest hitting adjustment you will ever make but it can have a major impact on your swing. Thanks for reading!

 

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Bob Hoffman
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Bob Hoffman

Gabe-
a great article! My daughter plays softball and many teach the ‘door’ knocking grip which I could never understand. I see many of the problems associated with the grip you describe. Bob

Ken Evanson
Member
Ken Evanson

Hey Gabe,

Thanks for the preseason tip. It really is amazing how prevalent bad grips are. Like you said, it is not at the very low levels or at the elite level. You see it where there is a ton of bad coaching. I cringe when I hear coaches say to line up your door knocking knuckles. All it does is promote bat drag. Whereas with the axe grip, it promotes your elbow going to your hip.

Thanks,
Ken

Blane
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Blane

Speaking on grip, do you agree with some players putting their pinky finger over the knob? Are there any advantages or disadvantages that come with that? Thank you

Samuel Ganse
Member
Samuel Ganse

Hey Gabe, I totally agree with you. But if you have ever swung an axe they have a flat handle that gives you no choice but to line up your “door knocking knuckles” . Scince most axe swings are straight down towards the ground it gives you the most power and frees up your wrists. Being a construction worker, who frequently swings a sledge hammer sideways or upward, I find the term ” hammer grip” to be more accurate. Just a redneck observation, Let me know what you think. Sam P.S. The Bat Drag Buster automatically corrects this grip. Great… Read more »

Carlos Sison
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Carlos Sison

Hi Gabe. Does the “axe grip” or “hammer grip” require the hitter to old the bat on the palm of his/her hand?Or is the notion of holding the bat around the area where the fingers curve correct?

xave
Guest
xave

Hi Gabe,

Nice vid.
How tight do you grip the bat, do you use any pressure points in the hands (like golfers do) when you hold the bat?
and
What feel do you want in the wrists (do you lock them, keep them loose or apply pressure to any part of them)?

Thanks

Stephen Black
Member
Stephen Black

Gabe – I wanted to comment when you wrote the article but I didn’t think this suggestion was a big deal – I learned from Golf that (as a rightly) if you squeeze the bottom three fingers of your left hand and the middle two of your right hand you can hold very tight without sacrificing suppleness. I also tell players to hold their pointer finger in their opposite hand – first deep in the palm – squeeze it hard the pull the finger out – You can’t hold it too well – no control – then switch the finger… Read more »

Stephen Black
Member
Stephen Black

Gabe – it’s really not a golf grip – but the pressure points I pulled from my golf game – I think there is physiology behind it – If you try this: Squeeze the bat handle (whatever grip) – but be sure to focus on your forefinger (pointer) and thumb wrapping the grip. That engages the biggest* muscle in the forearms and locks up the suppleness. Now simply change and think of the bottom three fingers of your front hand squeezing and the middle two fingers of the top hand. You can’t squeeze hard enough to lock up the suppleness… Read more »

Stephen Black
Member
Stephen Black

Gabe – sorry for the P.S. but it will help you golf game too…

🙂
steve

Joe D.
Guest
Joe D.

Hi Gabe,
Thanks for a great article. It blows my mind how
people come up with all of these ridiculous techniques thinking
they’re going to work.
The worst thing is how current and former major league players
and coaches promote these techniques!
Thanks for clearing it up.

Bill
Guest
Bill

Is it possible that many good major leaguers change their grips just a little during the time they load their hands? I think that it may be the case that the axe grip is simply more comfortable when a hitter is standing in the batters box before the pitcher starts his delivery, BUT once the pitcher begins his delivery and the hitter’s hands begin to load, I believe many good hitter’s instinctively change their grip from an axe grip to a grip that aligns the middle knuckles a little more by simply squeezing their elbows together ever so slightly. And… Read more »

Bill
Guest
Bill

Thank you for your answer, and I now see that our initial disagreement was very minimal, if not non-existent. Great website, I have learned a lot from it.

Brien Geerdes
Member
Brien Geerdes

So I’ve been watching the Dodger’s mechanical approach at the plate with mattingly as their hitting coach. Something struck me as very odd. I watch Joc Pederson, Crawford, Yasiel, Ethier and several others use an athletic leg with forward movement that generates tons of torque and a beautiful, powerful and productive swing. It’s interesting after seeing several awful videos in which he has been featured teaching kids to swing down and generally be unathletic through the hitting movements. Don Mattingly’s hitters do the opposite of what his book and videos preach… What’s more interesting is that Joc Pederson’s leg lift… Read more »

Ethan
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Ethan

I was wondering what the bat angle should be.

Gus
Guest
Gus

Hello thank you for the article I was very pleased to find this I am a seventh grader who went to a baseball clinic today. My “coach” told me I was gripping my bat wrong and told me to find five MLB players who gripped their bat this way. I have some news for him.

Thanks -Gus

Chas Pippitt
Editor

Gus,

This is my favorite comment on the site…ever…

Chas–

jason
Guest
jason

Thanks for the article. Good info, although i cant say i agree or disagree with your technic. I always preferred a modified grip somewhere in between knocking knuckles and the box grip. It was most comfortable for me and the grip that worked best for me. I also preferred to swing down through the ball (not to say thats right or wrong, just what was most successful for me). There are plenty of major league hitters that swing down through the ball. My point is, every hitter needs to find what works best for them. There is no absolute right… Read more »

Bill
Guest
Bill

This initial grip on the bat is the key to avoiding BAT DRAG, in my opinion, even if later during the forward swing the middle knuckles move a little towards one another. With this grip (for a right handed hitter) there is less bend in the right wrist, and therefore less of a tendency (or no tendency) for the back elbow to prematurely collapse towards the front elbow since the right wrist is already in it’s natural and most comfortable position. And then later during the forward swing when the middle knuckles move slightly towards each other and the elbows… Read more »

Bill
Guest
Bill

Thank you for the response. I think the distance between the elbows may inevitably decreases ever so SLIGHTLY as the bat approaches the ball, but I admit I could be wrong. In any event, my own personal experience is that if I TRY to keep my elbows a constant distance apart throughout the entire swing it is almost impossible to make a bad swing. And I think holding the bat at the BEGINNING of the swing with this so-called ax grip is an excellent way to keep the elbows separated. Whenever i experiment with a more conventional starting grip involving… Read more »

Evan Smallwwod
Guest
Evan Smallwwod

I have taught hitting for over 25 years, I have kept up with the changes and I never use major league players as examples. I use D1 college Teams to help the kids have a visual. I have seen this method but it’s not close to the other grips used. Most if not all the pro are long ball hitters 1st and Avg. 2nd. I have had players use this grip and I did not try to change them but they struggled for certain pitches; especially for the low outside pitch. I use the door knockers or slightly turned in.… Read more »

KhalilBell722
Member
KhalilBell722

Does an Axe bat help with axe grip?

JK Whited

Khalil,

It can. We have a few players that really like the Axe bat for that reason but you can still have an ax-like grip with a normal bat.

Tjcase
Guest
Tjcase

Gabe, l agree that the preferred grip should strive to align the the door knocking knuckles of the bottom hand between the bottom and middle knuckles of the top hand. Positioning the knuckles so that the middle or door knocking knuckles align perfectly is overtaught and should be avoided. However, to call the preferred grip an “axe” grip is only going to confuse the issue. A bat handle is round. An axe handle is oval. Anytime you grip an axe handle your middle knuckles will always automatically line up. This will happen every single time. I’d suggest that you visit… Read more »