The Toronto Blue Jays had one of Baseball's best offenses from 2012-2015. One of the main reasons for this has been Edwin Encarnacion. Since 2012, Encarnacion has hit 151 home runs. He hit 117 home runs in the seven seasons prior. This article written by Jack Moore from Sports On Earth credits Encarnacion's success to his change in follow through. Encarnacion mainly utilized a one-handed finish prior to 2012 while keeping two hands on the bat from 2012 onward. In this article, I'll dive deeper into this topic and explain why I believe the change to Encarnacion's swing really helped.
The One-Handed Finish
Parents and coaches often ask us if we prefer the one handed or two handed finish better and why. My answer usually depends on the player's age, coordination, balance, and flexibility. That being said, If I had to choose only one way for every hitter to finish, I would pick the one handed variety. One main reason for this is that the one handed finish allows the hitter to disperse the powerful force they have created more gradually. I think this is less stressful on the body and thus is less likely to cause injury over time. Think about the difference between slamming on the brakes to stop your car at every stop sign or stoplight vs. gradually pressing the brake. The latter obviously puts less stress on your brakes and your body as you come to a stop. For hitters who lack flexibility, the one handed finish can help add fluidity to the swing and help hitters turn a for greater distance and often for greater speed. The hitter knows they won't be stopped suddenly and uncomfortably by the restriction of the back shoulder across the body, so they allow themselves to turn more effectively. If we promote the one handed finish, then why didn't it work for Encarnacion?
The answer is that he let go with his top hand too early. I often tell my players who struggle with this issue that we are looking for a two handed swing with a one handed finish. For Encarnacion, the one handed finish actually made his turn stop prematurely because of how early he took his top hand off. The body simply stops turning to balance the counterweight of the now unsupported bat. This type of one handed finish can also put unnecessary stress on his left shoulder because the arm is going to continue past the body and finish high. If Encarnacion kept his top hand on the bat until his left ear and the left arm and bat continued past the turn, less stress would be placed on the left shoulder due to the ability to finish with the arm and bat traveling towards the ground. Below is a video of Encarnacion from 2011 where he exemplifies the premature release of the top hand.
Encarnacion's letters almost completely stop rotating as soon as his top hand comes off the bat. This is different compared to the Ken Griffey Jr. video that is at the top of this section. Griffey releases his hand from the bat by his back ear allowing him to complete his turn with speed and power while also allowing him to disperse that power with fluidity in his finish. Below are a couple of other players whose one handed finishes I admire:
What do Ken Griffey Jr., Carlos Gomez, and Carlos Gonzalez have in common? All of them use one handed finishes, complete their turns fully, and finish low with their bat. They are great models if you are a player trying to figure out how you want to finish.
The Two-Handed Finish
Edwin Encarnación has clearly benefited from changing to a two-handed finish. He is now allowing himself to finish his turn completely. He is accelerating the bat faster and is sustaining that speed for longer. We can see this by watching how his letters continuously rotate to maximize his rotation. This is something that we did not see in the video where Encarnacion let go of the bat too early. We know that a faster turn can change everything for a hitter. It allows Encarnacion to see the ball for longer before he has to start his swing. As Encarnacion ages, the stress of his two handed finish may become too much for his body to handle. At that point, he could benefit from learning a one handed finish as long as he keeps both hands on the bat until the completion of his turn. If you coach young hitters, they may need to start out using a two handed finish. Young kids tend to prematurely take their hand off the bat which kills their turn. Smaller kids also tend to like a two handed finish because even with the proper release of the top hand, the weight of the bat can cause them to lose their balance when they finish their turn. Below are a few more examples of hitters who utilize a solid two handed finish.
Whether you choose to finish with one or two hands, be sure to finish your turn and maximize your power!