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Swing direction is one of the most vital components of a good swing. The ability to move the bat on line towards the pitcher allows for adjustability when timing isn’t perfect.
Pitchers create problems or issues with timing for the hitter. The ability to throw pitches that look similar, but in actuality are upwards of 10-15mph of difference can be very difficult for a hitter to overcome.
The more solutions a hitter has to those different problems a pitcher may create, the better they are able to put quality contact on the ball.
For years coaches have been instructing hitters about their stride direction. With the general consensus being if the hitter strides open, they will pull off the ball and roll over with no ability to hit the ball the other way.
Vice versa if the hitter stride in towards home plate they will get dominated with fastballs in and not be able to pull the ball. However, turn on any MLB game and you will see more hitters stride in or open than they do perfectly straight.
So how can something so detrimental to amateur hitters be almost irrelevant to the games best? What if your stride direction is almost of no correlation to swing direction? So let’s look at the games best and see if something else may help determine and improve swing direction.
As we look through these hitters you will notice very different styles including stride length, stride direction, path of the back elbow, etc. But, what you will notice is how each hitter lands with their shoulders square to the pitcher and the elbow in a similar position to their back shoulder. Some may have their elbow higher at some point in the gather/load position and we’ll get to that in a second.
While both of the hitters get to similar positions in these still frames I also want to recognize that hitters move differently and while they get to these positions, how hitters get there is also very important.
Often you see hitters start with their hands/back elbow above their shoulders. Guys like Mike Trout, Edgar Martinez come to mind. Both strong/physical athletes who are considered some of the best hitters of all time. Let’s take a look at the path their back elbow takes in the stride.
As you can see, both hitters start with a higher elbow/hands position than the previous group, however, each makes a move to get below their shoulders by the time their stride lands.
Just like any other part of hitting, you can find someone who doesn’t do what you’re saying. Hence the continuous hitting twitter arguments (insert eye roll).
So I am here saying that it is possible to hit in professional baseball with your elbow above your shoulder at landing. In fact, if you can do it, you probably have the ability to swing the bat at a faster rate.
Bo Bichette Jr and Javy Baez are the first two that come to mind. Both are similar athletes. Smaller players who create massive power in large part to this exact part of their swing.
Both guys land with a higher back elbow than any other hitter we’ve looked at so far. It is no coincidence that they both move the bat at a high rate and have the ability to hit for more power than their frames suggest. The elbow being higher at landing give them more space to create leverage and speed as they begin rotating.
Is this move for everyone? Absolutely not. If coordinated, flexible, and strong enough to pull it off, will it help? Yes.
So maybe stride direction just isn’t that important. If your hitter is struggling pulling off the ball and unable to drive it the other way. Check where their back elbow/shoulders are at landing. Play around with it and see which is best for you. Take advantage of your time and make yourself the best possible version of you when baseball comes back.