Timing: The choice, judgment, or control of when something should be done. We can all agree that timing, being one of the major factors in productive hitters, is important. So how can we relate the above definition to hitting? Choice, judgment, and control are all seen in hitting, whether it be pitch recognition, swing decision, or chase rate.
But, how do we train hitters to improve this? Everyone knows how to improve a hitter's posture or power output through movements. But, how can we take those movements and have success with another human throwing an object at us as hard as they can with the intent of getting us out?
To understand how we can improve timing we have to first understand where it comes from. Choice, judgment, and control are all factors that we can control. However, as a hitter, we are not in control of the object that we are timing. When something should be done. The second part of the definition is considered the most important. How do we as hitters know when something (the swing) needs to be done? What we see is what we can time. Our vision is the most important trait we have as a hitter. So, is there a way to improve a hitter's vision at the plate? I think so.
Swayback in the load can be the #1 killer of timing. That’s a very strong statement, I know. But if what we see determines so much of our timing, wouldn’t the path our eyes take be a major factor? We tell time in the space we see. So as we are tracking the pitch, the path our eyes take dictates the space between the ball and our eyes. For those who aren’t sure what sway back actually is, it occurs during the first move of the loading period of the hitter. Swayback in my eyes is when the hitter makes a move back away from the pitcher in order to load and begin moving forward.
Swayback is easily seen on film as when the weight of the body shifts back to create a load. Another indicator of swayback is when the hitters back hip gets behind their back knee in the loading phase. This forces the hitter to either spin on their backside or pushes forward, in turn losing their posture.
The stability of the back leg while moving forward allows the eyes to stay calm. As soon as the balance is lost, vision is compromised. The body doesn’t know it’s swinging, it just wants to be balanced to survive.
With the relationship between the back hip and knee being so important we must know how to load the hip correctly. I like the chair drill to enforce the hitter to load their glute instead of their quad. Quad dominant strides lead to poor forward moves.
Similar to the last, this drill creates control of the forward movement and allows hitters to create their own rhythm.
This constraint drill forces hitters to move forward while loading as opposed to swaying back. The barrier gives them a constant reminder of the direction of their load.
Swayback and quad-dominant loads often stem from the hitter trying to create speed through aggression. Hitting shouldn’t feel like lifting. The best in the world make bat speed look effortless through efficient movements. Part of the efficient package is the forward motion. Learn to load forward to create maxim efficiency.