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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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38 thoughts on "The Truth About Bat Grip"

  1. Bob says:

    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

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Bob,

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed reading. This grip seems to be even more widespread in softball compared to baseball. Feel free to share the article with your daughter’s teammates and coaches!

      -Gabe Dimock

  2. Ken says:

    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

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Ken,

      Thanks for your comment! Sometimes the easy corrections like bat grip can have an incredible effect. Thanks again!

      -Gabe Dimock

  3. Blane says:

    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

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Blane,

      Great question! I don’t think this type of grip is right or wrong. It comes down to personal preference here. Holding the pinky over the knob essentially lengthens the bat and allows for more whip. Many players love this grip and find it to be more powerful while others feel like they lose control and accuracy with it. My advice would be to try it and see for yourself!

      -Gabe Dimock

  4. sam says:

    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 product Chas !!!!

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Sam,

      Thanks for the comment! I’ll be honest, I have very little experience with an axe so I trust your expertise. You may be correct that “hammer grip” is a better name for the grip I described. I only used the term axe grip because that is the popular term in baseball circles. You are also correct that the bat drag buster makes it almost impossible to line up the door knocking knuckles. Thanks again for the comment and the valuable insight!

      -Gabe Dimock

  5. Carlos Sison says:

    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?

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Hi Carlos,

      Good question. The bat should be held where the palm and the fingers meet (Where the callouses on a weight lifter’s hand would be). This allows for better feel and control compared to holding the bat in the palm. Thanks for the comment!

      -Gabe Dimock

  6. xave says:

    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

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Xave,

      Good questions! The grip should be tight enough to feel like you are in control of the bat but loose enough to allow some rhythm and fluidity. Like most things, you have to find the balance. As far as pressure points go, I’m not sure what you mean. If your asking where in your hands you should hold the bat, I would recommend holding it where the fingers and palm meet.

      In the wrists, we want to keep the same orientation (fused upper body) until it is time to let the barrel out with the top hand wrist. I hope this helps.

      -Gabe Dimock

  7. Steve Black says:

    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 to the finger joints and pull again – you will have much more control – this second position is where the bat can be held.

    Let me know you thoughts,
    steve

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Steve,

      Thanks for reading! I think your suggestions make a lot of sense. You have the right idea in being able to blend the control of the grip without becoming tight and rigid. How have you/your players liked applying the golf grip you mentioned to the baseball swing?

      -Gabe Dimock

  8. Steve Black says:

    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 – once I have the kids do this they seem to get it. That and putting the handle on the right knuckles.

    *when I say biggest I just guess – I have no medical/PT training.

    Take Care,
    steve

    1. Steve Black says:

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

      🙂
      steve

  9. Joe D. says:

    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.

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Joe,

      Thanks for reading! In most cases the proponents of bad techniques simply haven’t been exposed to anything different. Our articles are free because we want the information to spread!

      -Gabe Dimock

  10. Bill says:

    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 I think if you were to take a practice swing but then stop where contact would presumably takes place, I think you would see that the knuckle grip makes more sense. I think good hitter make a subtle change in their grip during the loading phase of their swing. Am I clearly wrong?

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Bill,

      Thanks for your comment. It is certainly possible that the bat moves slightly in the hitter’s hands during their turn. I don’t think the bat moves much during the loading portion of their swing. I don’t mind if the knuckles rotate slightly but they will not reach the knocking knuckle alignment point. Your idea of taking a practice swing and stopping at contact to see where the knuckles are is a good idea if your practice swing is accurate. If it is not, you may do something with your knuckles that shouldn’t happen in a proper swing. I’m not saying that the knuckles have to be in the perfect axe grip alignment all the way through the swing but I don’t think they should ever reach the knocking knuckle alignment. Thanks again for the comment!

      -Gabe Dimock

  11. Bill says:

    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.

  12. Gerty says:

    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 became more pronounced after he made the bigs and started working with mattingly. maybe he has changed his tune regarding this great endeavor of squaring a ball up 🙂

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Gerty,

      That is interesting. I haven’t gotten to watch too many Dodger games yet this year but I have seen clips of Joc smashing the ball. I thought of putting him in this article because he is one of the biggest advocates for the knocking knuckles grip. I hope he has changed his tune but even if he had, I doubt he would say it. Thank you for the comment and keen observation. I’ll keep an eye out for some Mattingly interviews.

      -Gabe Dimock

  13. Ethan says:

    I was wondering what the bat angle should be.

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Ethan,

      Great question! The angle can vary some based on the hitter’s comfort level but in general we want a slight angle where the knob is pointed close to the catcher’s feet and the bat is about 45 degrees as opposed to totally vertical or totally flat. Again, the starting position can change based on a hitter’s comfort level and movements after their stance. Thank you for reading!

      -Gabe Dimock

  14. Gus says:

    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

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      Gus,

      This is my favorite comment on the site…ever…

      Chas–

  15. jason says:

    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 way to swing a bat.

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Jason,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that there is not one grip for everyone but that the knocking knuckles grip promotes a late downward snap which in my opinion is non-existent in the best hitters. I’m happy to be proven wrong on this if you have examples. I would love to show you the benefits of our swing methodology as our hitters have seen dramatic improvements. Here is the link to our online lesson page: http://baseballrebellion.com/hitting-lessons/

      -Gabe

  16. Bill says:

    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 also collapse slightly in on each other because of the biomechanics of the swing, the hips have rotated and bat drag is no longer a threat since the hands are well on their way towards the ball and were not delayed because of that premature collapse of the right elbow. Do you agree?

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Bill,

      This is a well thought out comment and I agree for the most part. I don’t think the elbows should necessarily collapse on one another later in the swing (at least not prior to contact).

      -Gabe

  17. Bill says:

    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 the middle knuckles more closely aligned, the battle I have to fight to keep that back elbow from collapsing at the start of the swing has left more broken bats sticking out of garbage cans than I would ever care to publicly acknowledge. Bat drag is a game killing flaw for an extremely high percentage of young hitters, and the only reason you see it much less frequently in older hitters, in my opinion, is because the younger players who had this flaw, with few exceptions, were all forced to quit the game. Great website, I learn something new every time I come here.

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Bill,

      Thank you for reading and providing well thought out comments!

      -Gabe

  18. Evan Smallwwod says:

    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. I just wish more instructors for kids between 8-14 would teach hitting for average, plate coverage, line drives and hard ground balls. There are other comments made that i feel were off like the back elbow dropping or the drag. These are from other alignments.

    1. Gabe Dimock says:

      Evan,

      While I appreciate your 25 years of experience in hitting, I do not agree with your outlook on hitting. Deciding to use college players instead of pros, inherently limits the ceiling of your hitters. None of our hitters use the door knocking knuckle grip, and they are adjustable on all locations. We have had success with hitters at every level and our kids mash.

      -Gabe

  19. Khalil Bell says:

    Does an Axe bat help with axe grip?

    1. JK Whited says:

      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.

  20. Tjcase says:

    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 any hardware store and pick up an axe, or just an axe handle, in order to experience this for yourself. Most all hammer handles are shaped this way as well, and they too automatically align the knuckles for optimum function when hammering. I would strongly suggest that you rethink the terminology that you use in describing the grip in your video. An axe grip results in the grip alignment that you’re trying to avoid. Your continued use of that word choice is contradictory and confusing to your followers.
    By the way, the initial grip that major leaguers use while in their stance or set up position varies greatly from player to player. As another respondent suggested, the grip shifts as they swing. Once they arrive at contact, virtually all good hitters, at any level, will have their grip aligned so that the hands are in the desired palm up/palm/down position. Almost, but not quite, with the knocking knuckles aligned. This is clearly evidenced by studying photos of major leaguers first in their stance and subsequently at contact. Try this exercise for yourself. Start will misaligned knuckles, and then swing at a ball on a tee. Unless you’re a complete beginner, your grip will shift as you swing to contact. Also, if you haven’t experienced it yet, try the same experiment with an even newer product than Mattingly’s “Axe” bat. I don’t recall the name, but it’s a relatively new bat with a handle that actually rotates as you swing. With this innovation it’s impossible to not arrive at the palm up/palm down position at contact. Innovative and interesting for sure. Whether it will catch on remains to be seen.

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