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Here at Baseball Rebellion, we like to say "The Swing IS The Turn". When we coach our hitters most of what we spend our first few months of our program on is learning to turn faster, with more force, more often. That being said, learning to turn faster comes with a new set of problems. When a hitter first is exposed to the Rebels Rack usually we see a lot of slow turns and hitters just trying to "feel" their way through the movements instead of trying to turn fast. Once that problem is corrected and they learn to really turn fast with the Rebels Rack, now comes learning how to do it with a moving ball and a swing. Then we see another problem, their swing becomes faster, but their timing and when they get their front foot down is the same as when their swings were slower. They repeatedly roll over baseballs or reach forward with their hands to hit causing pop ups. Frustration sets in, and the first question we ask them is "When I throw you the ball, what are you thinking about/trying to do?" Inevitably, 99.9 percent of the answers are "hit the ball."
I feel that so many youth hitters have been coached to just make contact for so long that their fear of failure (which is in this case swinging and missing) is greater than the desire to do damage at the plate. By slowing their body down to just make contact, they rob themselves of any chance of a powerful hit.
Our job is to make a hitter swing faster, but how do we make a hitter WAIT TO SWING instead of slowing down the fast turn we are working so hard to achieve?
I was having a converstation with one of my client and their parents a few days ago about the struggles their son was having waiting on the ball. The hitter was telling me that he was getting his front foot down "on time" but was constantly out front and rolling-over balls.
We talked about when he was starting his front leg lift and when he was making the decision to swing and what 'on time' meant to him (in this case it's when he was wanting his front foot down). His answer to the first question was"when the pitcher starts his delivery" and his answer to the second was "when the pitchers front foot hits the ground". Now, here at Baseball Rebellion we are very big supporters of getting your front foot off the ground early (as you can see here in a article from 2016) but just because you get your foot up early DOES NOT mean that you have to get it down early.
He has been told by his coach that he must get his front foot down to be able to read the pitch and decide to swing.
UP EARLY, OUT SLOW
One of the biggest mistakes I see young hitters make is rushing their pre-swing body movements and getting into positions where they are unable to efficiently read a pitch. One of the best cues I have been using with my hitters is to get their stride foot up early and get their front hip/front foot going out slow. As you probably know, Baseball Rebellion only teaches only what the best and most efficient hitters do in their swing and how we teach the timing of the leg lift is no different.
Here are some examples from the best hitters in baseball and softball:
Kasey Connor, Scrap Yard Dawgs. Kasey has more of a heel-up, heel-down stride but you can see front heel is in the air (red arrow) while the ball is halfway between homeplate and the pitching rubber. Just because her toe is down, does NOT mean that her foot is down.
Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox. I wanted to highlight this particular at bat because I got to watch it live and see exactly what Betts was doing with his stride. Most College (sheesh), High School, and youth coaches talk about a "no-stride" two strike approach. This was the 13th pitch of the at-bat, he had seen every pitch JA Happ has in his arsenal yet even though he had two strikes for eight straight pitches, he still got his foot up early and went out slow to read the pitch. He didn't use the 'typically' tought no-stride approach with two strikes. This was a 400+ foot Grand Slam.
All we want you guys to do when you read Baseball Rebellion articles is THINK about what we have to say versus what others are telling you is right. I see the best players in the world evaluate the moving ball with their front foot in the air all the time. They decide to swing with their front foot off the ground, and then the turn sets the front foot down.
So What Does "Up Early, Out Slow" Look Like?
Derek Dietrich, Miami Marlins. As you can see, Dietrich starts his leg kick when Darvish brings his hands up in his delivery (early) and the front heel does not get down until the ball is halfway. You can see in this video how slow and controlled Dietrich's stride is, which helps him gather up all his momentum and hit this ball really, really far.
Now before anyone starts screaming "WHAT ABOUT PUJOLS, HE'S A NO STRIDE GUY" at the computer screen, I'll acknowledge that yes, there are no-stride hitters or toe-touch guys, but their FOOT isn't down until their HEEL is down.
Hitters toes cannot generate power or help you adjust to pitches, but driving your heel into the ground can. Think about this: You don't squat or deadlift weight from the balls and toes of your feet, you do it from the heels. In the famous words of Baseball Rebellion's CEO and Master Rhymer, Chas Pippitt, "Getting your heel down LATE, forces you to TURN GREAT" and thus helps makes your swing explosive and powerful.
All great hitters trust that their front foot is going to get down. Hitters who constantly think about just getting their foot down don't have the freedom to allow their body to move slowly forward. Starting your stride early and moving your front foot/hip out slower is a great start to producing the most efficient and effective turn possible!
Tyler Zupcic, Hitting Instructor at Baseball Rebellion