If your hitter struggled to make contact to all fields last season check out our version of the 3 tee drill series & how it can help them develop a consistent bat path
Being on time for a pitch is a very difficult task. Every bit of help a hitter can get to be on time more is extremely valuable. Whether it is a visual cue, mechanical cue, or approach-based cue, every little bit helps. When thinking of timing and being “on time” with a pitch, the first thought is vision, and rightly so.
Vision is the number one contributor to timing. If a hitter goes to the plate blindfolded they have zero chance to be on time. However, as stated above vision isn’t the only contributing factor to timing. Hitter’s approach at the plate plays a major role in their ability to be “on time” to a pitch. Whether it’s hunting pitches or sitting on a location, being smart about what to look for and anticipate at the plate can help improve timing. But, despite the major role these two components have on timing, they aren’t the only factors.
Often overlooked in regards to timing is a hitter's movements/mechanics. Great vision and approach can only make up for so much when it comes to poor movements. And when it comes to movements such as early torso rotation, the best vision in the world can’t overcome that. If a hitter is unable to load and unload correctly, timing suffers.
When talking about loading/unloading many’s first thoughts include the hips or pelvis. However, the load includes the entire backside of a hitters body. While the glute, hamstring, and hip flexor help load or coil the hitter's pelvis, the scapula helps with the upper body loading process. Our body wants to rotate towards the pitch. Throughout the duration of the stride phase, the hitter is resisting rotation. So what can a hitter use to fight against that rotation and instead rotate on time?
By a hitter engaging and pulling their scapula back behind them during the stride, they are loading their upper body and creating connection between their upper body and the bat. This allows the hitter to fight against early torso rotation while still maintaining posture and connection. This increased acceleration ability and connection allow the hitter to support the barrel better throughout contact. All of this can be attributed to the engagement of the scapula.
To understand this and know this is very different than being able to do it. So how can we make this easy to understand and simple to implement for hitters? This simple 4 step progression allows the hitter to not only engage their scapula and have an increased awareness of what the scapula is vs. their trap or shoulder, but also implement it.
It also doesn’t require anything other than a bat and resistance band. Scap loading isn’t a new thought or something that is revolutionary. This is something that can be seen in elite hitters from any era. Check out the hitters below and see just how long their scap’s are pulling back as the pitch approaches.
Why: This phase of the progression allows the hitter to develop an understanding of where and what their scapula is and how to use it. It is important to force the hitter to simplify this phase and solely pull back with their scap. They will want to turn their shoulders in or stride forward. Don’t let them.
Most youth hitters have no idea what their scap is and if the hitter is younger than 10 that’s more than ok. However, for older hitters, it is crucial that they become aware of where their scap is and how to engage it. Force them to stay simple during this phase and simply learn how to pull back with their scap.
Why: Now that the hitter is more comfortable with where their scap is and how to engage it, try adding timing and rhythm to it by including their stride. The pull back of the scap should be synchronized with their forward move. The scap pull should create a stretch against the forward momentum of the stride helping to create separation.
Why: By adding a bat during this phase the hitter begins to associate this move with hitting. The feel of pulling back with the bat can start to help hitters feel the correlation that they will need when they return to hitting. Again stress to the hitter that this phase does not include the stride but simply learning how to load the scap with a bat in hand instead of a band.
Why: With a sound understanding of how and when to load the scap, the hitter will now simulate a full stride once again stretching the scap pull against the forward movement of the stride. Reinforce that the hitter should land in a tense and fully loaded position.
Being “On Time” with a pitch is difficult. This we know. Allow your hitter the best chance to be “on time” more often by equipping them with the proper knowledge and swing capable of doing damage.
Great vision and approach can only make up for so much. I promise you the hitter isn’t trying to be early or “do too much”, they simply don’t have the correct understanding or skill set to have great timing. Give them the resources they need and watch them take off.