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How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

Where Does the Swing Plane Come From? 

Point of Impact 

Hit Trax Photo

Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when the downturn ends and the barrel begins to turn up or “on-plane” can dictate the impact a hitter has on the ball. The best hitters in the world hit the ball the hardest when contact is made out in front of the plate. With that being said, are you training to do so yourself? 

Adjustability and bat speed are dramatically improved when an emphasis is placed on hitting the ball out in front of the plate with the barrel path carrying length through the zone. However, this skill isn’t easily attained. It must be practiced and perfected. The fear for most players, coaches, and instructors is that the player will then try to reach and lunge forward creating top spun rollovers. This is why, in my opinion, it’s even more important for hitters to practice and replicate where they will hit the ball in a game that will almost always be even or in front of their stride foot. Putting the tee out in front of the stride foot forces the hitter to move forward with balance. Because of this, creating the proper swing arch to create proper spin on a pitch out in front. 

The Danger in Putting The Tee Too Deep 

Weak Contact 

Putting the tee too deep can create a couple of different issues in the swing pattern. I’ll say this first, I’m not a huge fan of tee work but I also understand that it’s the easiest form of practice and doesn’t require anyone else being there or a ton of room. So I get it, but without the stress of velocity or a moving ball, bad habits can be created. So one thing to keep an eye out for when putting the tee too deep in the hitter striding and creating the contact point of the ball inside of their front foot. 

Bad Tee Positioning

bad tee positioning

Vs.

Good Tee Positioning

good tee positioning

This can create an inside-out pushy swing that forces balls to the opposite field. The hitter doesn’t give themself enough space to create proper bat speed and path to the pitch, in turn, side spinning a ball the other way. Whether cued to let the ball get deep (for fear of rolling over) or to make sure they hit the ball the other way, the hitter can even see this result as a success. I firmly believe a hitter should be able to drive the ball to all fields. The key in that sentence was to drive the ball. For different hitters driving the ball can mean different things. What it never means is a side spun, weakly hit flair into the opposite field. A hitter hitting the ball well inside of their front foot in a game, will likely result in a foul ball. So why practice ever hitting it that deep?

Poor Posture 

Another common flaw when the tee is set up too deep is the hitter swaying back. They do this to give themself enough space to create the proper swing arch for that location. 

Sway Back

This move away from the pitch can be detrimental to timing of a moving pitch. Not only will timing and vision be affected but also proper weight shift into the front side. The ability for a hitter to track the pitch while remaining balanced and controlled in their forward move. Which allows for the most optimal adjustability as well as power output

Forward Move

How to Improve Your Point of Contact In Practice 

Alignment 

By putting the tee farther in front of the plate it forces the hitter to create a balanced forward move and keep their shoulders on line. Putting the tee too deep allows the hitter to turn their shoulders and eyes in. Because of this, it can lead to them pulling their front shoulder out to begin rotation. 

Good Alignment

good alignment

Vs.

Bad Alignment

bad alignment

Forward Move

As mentioned above putting the tee farther in front forces the hitter to make a forward move into a balanced position into the ground. Avoiding a swayback in the stride can lead to better vision and adjustability through rotation. 

Tight Barrel

Putting the emphasis on creating more length with the barrel through the zone can help tighten up the launch of the barrel. The hitter knows the tighter the barrel turns off their shoulder the quicker they can be to contact. With the tee too deep often hitters will lose connection with their barrel in order to get it into the zone deeper. 

Practice the Result You Want 

The ability to hit the ball to all fields is extremely important to a hitter. However, the hardest thing to do in hitting is to hit the ball to the pull side with true spin. Many hitters are forced to roll over or topspin the inside pitch because of how they move and rotate. Practice doing the damage you want to do in games and get used to hitting it where you will to do so. Don’t just hope your flair singles off the tee will translate to game success.

Do you think you run the perfect practice? Think again. How do we as coaches maximize our practice time effectively? The answer is preciseness and efficiency. Lay out what you want to accomplish and spend only the amount of time needed to work on that specific skill. I promise you it’s always less than you think. Spending 20 minutes on rundowns at an 8u practice isn’t efficient. No matter how many times you practice it, they’re going to mess it up. Just look at how often it happens at the big league level.

One article we wrote was JK’s “5 Ways Players Get Worse From Team Practice”. This article explained all the ways a practice can be failed and actually make players worse. Topics included things such as bad front toss, quick pitching the hitter, and even not hitting at all (yes it does happen). Team practice can be extremely beneficial for the development of a player. Even more so for youth players whose development relies upon what they do in a team practice or lesson environment. Today, we flip the script with 5 Ways to Improve From Team Practice.

1) Movement Work

movement wall

At Baseball Rebellion we pride ourselves on teaching each hitter the optimal movements from both a rotational power and adjustability stand point. Notice I didn’t say anything about hitting. This is a quite different approach than most player development facilities. We believe in training similar to how you would in a weight room. Teach the movements, then load the movements appropriately. You would never have an athlete load up a squat and hope they “figure it out” and self organizes to get the weight up. We believe in teaching proven movement patterns then loading that pattern once considered appropriate.

How to Implement

So why in team practice format would you never work and train these movement patterns? I realize that time is a major constraint in team practice, however, I think it’s safe to say we can sacrifice the 1,000th tee swing of the week for a five-minute movement station. It also doesn’t have to be over-the-top fancy. No baseballs are required for a detailed movement station. We have the luxury at BR of a movement wall which includes: taped lines on the floor, mirrors, Rebels Racks, dowel rods, resistance bands, and so on (see picture above). Adjust your station for whatever works for your team practice setting. This station is guaranteed to break up the monotony of hitting off a tee or front toss and is vital in your hitter’s development.

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Pre game Rack City 💙🐻💛 @baseballrebellion

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Pre game Rack City ??? @baseballrebellion A post shared by WVU TECH SOFTBALL (@goldenbearsoftball) on

2) Intentional Batting Practice

In the article mentioned above, JK pointed out not only do some team practices not include Batting Practice at all but often are filled with majority situational hitting. Now I completely understand the need for situational hitting. I even include it in my individual hitting lessons as needed. There comes a time in the game where certain things are needed, whether it’s hitting behind the runner, elevating the ball over a drawn-in infield, or even just putting the ball in pay. As a coach, you want to feel confident in your team’s ability to hit in any situation needed. However, if we look at the sheer percentage of your team’s at-bats, it’s obvious that the majority of at-bats are in more of an open situation setting. The ability to drive the ball needs to be taught and taught more than the ability to hit behind the runner which might happen once a game.

Fear of Failure

How your team takes batting practice impacts the confidence and aggression they hit with. If they are kicked out of their round for not getting the bunt down, how can you expect them to maintain their aggression to get it down when they know if they don’t, they don’t get to hit. If they aren’t allowed to hit with aggression in BP and are forced to push the ball opposite field for fear of rolling over, how can a coach expect them to hit that RBI Double they are ecstatic for in the game? Imagine going to a Golden State Warriors game and Steph Curry doesn’t attempt a single three-pointer in warmups. If you want your players to drive the ball in the game, they have to work on that daily in batting practice.

Great Wall of Ground Ball Prevention

Article Courtesty of fivethirtyeight.com

One great way to motivate your players to drive the ball is to do something similar to what the Tampa Bay Rays did in spring training. The great wall of ground ball prevention, with screens set up across the infield, players were instructed to drive the ball over the screen and into the outfield. This simple tactic can motivate your players to be aggressive and train to drive the ball. This isn’t about home runs or pop-ups, it’s about emploring your hitters to be aggressive and swing with the intent to drive the ball.

3) Short Rounds

Short Rounds from film "Indiana Jones"
Short Rounds from film “Indiana Jones”

One thing I find interesting about hitting and how we train it is there are multiple sides of development. Training can be either training a movement pattern, challenging and loading that pattern, or just preparing for competition. I think all three are vital for development. However, the outcome that we all want is results in a game.

In that game you get on average four at-bats worth of results and in those at-bats you are allowed one fair ball per at-bat. So on average, our results stem from roughly four batted fair balls. However, in training, you often see rounds of ten, fifteen, even twenty. I understand the need for long rounds when training or changing a movement pattern, however, that usually occurs in an off-season. So why in a team practice setting would a player get a round of ten swings to try to groove their swing for results?

Adjustable

A hitter must be able to make adjustments from pitch to pitch not just rely on nine bad swings to finally feel good about the tenth. That tenth may never come in a game. Any decent hitter can hit when they are in a groove or in rhythm. How do we train them to be successful when they don’t have that rhythm of a ten pitch round? Rounds should be no longer than five pitches. Instead of the generic four rounds of eight, make it eight rounds of four. Give the hitter time to take their swings, make immediate adjustments and then have to do it again and again.

The aggression and intent of the swing will go up as well as their ability to make adjustments on the fly. This could be frustrating for hitters who struggle to make adjustments. However, those are the exact hitters who don’t understand why they struggle to make adjustments in a game. Shorten the rounds and take the rhythm out of batting practice. It’s not available in a game.

4] Test Against Velocity

We all know the 5 o’clock hitter and the front toss All-American who can light it up during BP. Yet those hitters tend to struggle when the lights come on and competition stiffens up. How do we as coaches provide a practice environment that trains that? The first step is to challenge your hitters during practice. A practice environment should be full of failure. The goal should be to make at least one station at practice, harder than a game setting. The difficulty level should change with the age group as well as how often a hitter is challenged.

A youth player benefits much more from movement work and aggressive rounds of batting practice than being challenged off a machine. However, it is important for them to feel the anxiety that comes with a challenge. The feeling should be similar to the one they feel when in the batter’s box come game time.

As the age group gets older the challenge should become more frequent and difficult.  A high school hitter has to learn how to be successful against higher velocities or sharper breaking stuff. This is where a pitching machine can come into play.

spinball

We use the Spinball Pitching machine daily. This should provide that feeling of anxiety that overhand BP can’t simulate as it does for younger ages. And the challenge doesn’t have to be provided by a machine. Live at-bats from pitchers who need to get work in, or even simulated batting practice with the pitcher mixing pitches from a shorter distance can provide the same challenge. As long as the movement basics are remaining intact, it is vital to challenge your hitters and have them learn how to deal with the anxiety associated with difficult tasks.

5) Competition

Want to rev up the energy and get the most out of your hitters? Put them in a competition. Head to head or split them up in teams. Any time you can hold a competition you can grab the hitters attention and focus. Break up the normal day of batting practice and push the hitters for the results you want.

Whether it is the least amount of ground balls wins or most balls hit over an outfielder, whatever it is, give the hitters a goal and make them compete to win. This increases the focus of the hitters and can make hitting enjoyable for everyone.

You can even make the competition weekly or monthly. The more focus and intent the hitter swings with, the more they get out of their BP. Live at-bats are my favorite way to get the most out of both hitters, and pitchers during lessons.

Cage Battles

We utilize competition in lessons by having “cage battles” at the end of lessons. This places one-hitter against the other with the goal often being distance battles. Using HitTrax to see who hits it the farthest one swing at a time.

The goal can change as it did with two sixth graders last week. Their goal was a line drive into right field (both right-handed hitters). These hitters struggle pulling off with their front shoulder and needed to learn how to drive the ball the other way. It is surprising how many times a hitter sets a personal distance or exit velocity record in these “battles”. The parents and awaiting hitters often get involved as well as instructors.

The goal of this exercise is to challenge the hitter and put them in a situation that they may not be comfortable in. Hitters have to learn how to hit when they’re not comfortable.

Team practice is vital for both player development as well as team success. How it is structured can either enhance or destroy your team. Use these five simple tips to improve your team’s practice and get the most out of your players.

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What Exactly is the Rebel's Rack?

One of my favorite movies of all time is an old golf movie, “Tin Cup”. In the movie, golf instructor Roy McAvoy is struggling to find his swing days before the biggest tournament of his life. He resorts to a contraption of a golf device to find his once sweet swing. If you have been around Baseball/Softball long enough, you’ve seen many devices very similar to this that guarantee results...

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...And to be honest, that is exactly what I thought of the Rebels Rack before I started working at Baseball Rebellion. But then I learned how valuable it really is...

First Impression

I played with a Baseball Rebellion trained hitter on a collegiate wood bat summer league team. I noticed that every day before batting practice he had this crazy looking red bar that he would spin around on. That’s how I saw it. I thought it was just some gimmick device that didn't help. Yet every night the lineup was posted, who do you think was hitting 3rd?  That limited engagement and youthful ignorance is how I saw the Rebels Rack, until I got the opportunity to see it in action every single day.

The Need For Speed

In my 3 years at BR, I have seen this once crazy red bar, improve the turn speed of every single hitter in our building. And every single hitter is not an exaggeration. Since working here, every first-time client has shown improvement by using the rack. I remember asking, “What else is there to this?” and the answer is nothing.

The rack gives the hitter no choice but to learn to turn their body faster. The faster the hitter is able to rotate their body, the faster the bat moves. The faster the bat moves, the more opportunities they give themselves as a hitter. Rotational speed is a skill that must be learned and continuously trained. We do that using the rack. One question we always get is, “well I can just use a dowel rod or PVC pipe, right?”. These two devices can bring some of the same benefits as far as rotation. However, what they don't offer is the posture training involved with the rack. Because of the shape of the rack and the requirement of the player to pull back on the rack to hold it, they are training to maintain good posture without knowing it.

Move To Duplicate

We all know there's more to hitting than just speed. So how does the Rack help in other aspects of hitting? By using the rack you are able to move and rotate your body into optimal positions without the constraint and worry of hitting well. Whether it is a stride, posture, side-bend, or balance issue, it can be addressed by using the rack.

final stride (rack)
mid turn (Rack)
Finish (rack)

We are able to teach our hitters to get into the same elite positions that the best hitters in the world do through our Rebel's Rack work. The difference is we can do it at a full rotational speed, which translates quicker, and more efficient than walking through the process.  

Can I Hit With It?

Every hitter wants their training to involve hitting. They want to see that what they're doing is improving actually hitting the ball. So how do we adopt the Rack to be more inclusive to this? We have created the Rack Bat. The Rack Bat allows the hitter to feel the speed of their turn while matching their posture and side bend according to pitch location. This creation gives hitters the ability to improve the speed and accuracy of their turn, while performing the task of hitting an object.

Gimmick Tool, Or Key To Unlocking Rotational Speed?

Some of you may read this article and still see the Rebels Rack as a gimmick, and that’s fine. I thought so at first as well. And then I saw it take a college team from 14 home runs in an entire season to 368 the last 3 combined. I’ve seen it work with youth, middle school, high school, college, professional, softball, slow pitch, senior league, golfers, and even cricket players. Rotational speed is a trained skill. Train it or get left behind.

To see more drills with the Rebel's Rack, click here.

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One Simple Drill That Will Improve Your Swing Quality

What Should the Back Foot Do in the Swing?

Watch any given Major League Baseball game and you are likely to find very different looking swings. The same goes if you watch a game with only the back foot of the hitter in mind. What should the back foot do in the swing?

Many hitters move in very different ways, yet some things about those moves are constant. How the back foot moves in hitters swings is extremely important to the result of that swing.

One thing to keep an eye on with your hitter is how their back foot is moving. Is it moving at all or dragging forward? Is it sliding backward? Today we look at a drill that focuses' on a player moving their back foot correctly, in order to provide better direction in the swing.

The Back Foot Box Drill forces hitter to realize when they overrotate their back foot. When a hitter turns their foot too much during the rotation of their swing and allows the heel of their back foot to rotate past their toes before contact. If a hitters heel is closer to home plate than their toes, they have overrotated. This can cause poor direction and lead to hooked groundballs and cut pop-ups.

The direction in hitters swings is their ability to organize their rotation in the direction needed to hit each pitch (depending on location). By overrotating their back foot they are forcing their direction to be towards the pull side leaving them vulnerable to outside or offspeed pitches.

3 Ways The Back Foot Box Drill Improves Swing Quality

1) Provides Immediate Feedback Regarding Overrotation

Overrotation is tough to correct because it is tough for the hitter to feel. This drill provides immediate feedback to the hitter if they moved correctly. If the hitter's heel hits the boards or box, it moved too far and they overrotated.

2) Increased Understanding of Direction in the Swing

By not overrotating the back foot the hitter is able to extend and accelerate the bat towards the pitch path instead of just pull side. The heel getting around the toes causes the bat to accelerate too late and directionally to the pull side.

3) Activates Deceleration

A hitter is only able to rotate as fast as they can stop rotation. For a kinematic sequence to work properly, the hitter must be able to stop or decelerate their rotation to allow the bat to speed up around them. By not rolling over on their back foot, it forces the stopping or deceleration of the hips to allow for proper sequencing.

Still Not Convinced on the Back Foot?

Check out these MLB swings and watch their back foot.

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3 Tee Drill

Get Consistent Hard Contact with the 3 Tee Drill

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

2020 Guide To Offseason Goal Setting

How to Organize The Offseason

As we make our way into November, the offseason is officially upon us. The work we put in from November-March will determine our results from March-October. There is no time in-season for individual skill training. So when is there time? Now. Time is the most precious resource we have and when it comes to a baseball “offseason” there isn’t much of it. We as athletes have to maximize our offseason time in order to improve ourselves and become who we want to be as a player. There needs to be clear goals and intentions set for this time period. These goals should be a combination of improving your struggles from last season and developing into who you want to be in the future.

Schedule

In order to get the most out of your offseason, I suggest creating a plan/schedule for how you will spend your time. The amount of time you spend on certain things should reflect what it is you value the most. Desperately need to get stronger? More time needs to be dedicated to the weight room and eating. 200lbs of muscle but can’t hit? Carve out specific time dedicated to improving as a hitter. Understand who you are and who you want to be and assign the correct amount of time to each discipline that you deem important.

Goal Setting For The Offseason

Apart from setting up an efficient offseason is creating goals to strive for. Getting yourself to do what you need to do 3 months from a season can be tough to do. But, if you give yourself goals both short term and long, you’re more likely to challenge yourself and hold yourself accountable. I suggest creating 3 goals for each offseason (1 skill work such as hitting, fielding, or throwing; 1 speed goal; and 1 strength goal). This allows you to diversify your training and simplify your entire game into 3 goals.

Measurable

Each goal must be measurable. If you want to get faster your goal can’t be “get faster”. How can you prove that? You must be able to assign a number to each goal and measure it at the beginning, middle, and end of your training. The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to design your training around it.

Transferable

Pick a goal that is transferable to your game. Your goal should be something that you want to improve on but also something that helps you be a better player on the field. If you’re a 220lb corner infielder your goal shouldn’t be to be a better bunter. Make sure your goal will directly correlate to you being a better baseball player.

Realistic

Your goals must be realistic. If you weigh 120lbs and want to get stronger, good. But, your goal shouldn’t be to get to 200lbs by the spring. That’s unrealistic and will more than likely lead to you getting pissed for not reaching your goal and giving up one month in. Push yourself, but be true to yourself and what exactly you can accomplish during that time period.

Example Goals

What?- I want to improve my bat speed. 

Why?- As an undersized athlete I have to do more with less to hit the ball as hard as I need to succeed. 

How?- I will keep track of my bat speed through a diamond kinetics bat sensor. 

Current Bat Speed Average- 62mph

Desired Bat Speed Average- 70mph

Making Adjustments to the Program

Evaluate, Plan, Reassess, Adjust

Now that we have a clear goal and have gone through an original assessment and created a plan for accomplishing our goal, we have to evaluate if our program is working. Time is too critical to go through an entire 12-week bat speed program to look up in 12 weeks and find out that we’re actually swinging slower. We must evaluate and reassess during the program to see if we need to alter or adjust anything. 

The Big 4

The offseason can be a time to transform who you are into who you want to be. But, the time has to be put in. For a position player, I would consider making goals and training towards improving 4 different things. Size, speed, arm strength, and one hitting improvement should all have goals. Those 4 things can transform you into the player you want to be. Be smart with your goals and disciplined in following them. Make this the best offseason yet.

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How Far Out Front Should You Hit the Ball_

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball? Where Does the Swing Plane Come From?  Point of Impact  Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when…

create more power

Create More Power By Loading Through the Back Heel

Recently, the heel plan of the back leg and keeping it planted as long as possible has become a hot topic here a baseball rebellion. Eric and I specifically have gone back and forth on the best ways to teach it and get hitters to ‘feel it’. My favorite way and the fastest way we’ve found is the toes off the ground drill.

How To Create An Approach At The Plate

What Is An Approach?

An approach is essentially a gameplan for how you as a hitter are going to be successful during the at-bat. There are many different factors that go into an approach or gameplan at the plate. What the pitcher throws, the velocity they throw with, what you’re good at as a hitter, what you struggle with, and the situation in the game are all factors of an approach. The fact of the matter is, hitting is hard, and the better your approach is at the plate, the simpler it gets. 

I don’t want to go any further with this article without saying that a hitter’s approach is extremely individualized to themselves. What works for one hitter may be detrimental to the next. This article will go into what I believe is the easiest and most effective approach at the amateur level. However, know that this may not work for you. Sorry. I don’t write to individuals, I write to the masses so get over it and keep it moving. An approach is something that combines all of the factors I mentioned above and morphs it into one simple gameplan with the goal of being successful. This takes work. Time. Studying. It’s not easy and it’s not bulletproof. But in an event like hitting, all we’re trying to do is improve our odds. If going to the plate with a good approach helps turn that 2, 7 off suit hand into two face cards the same suit then you’ve done your job. 

Why Is An Approach Important?

An approach is a way to simplify a hitter’s thoughts and make it easier for them to be ON TIME. There is a very simple reason why those two words are capitalized. It’s because those two words are what a hitter's goal should be 99.99% of the time at the plate. So by creating an approach of what pitch to look for and what we as a hitter are trying to do to that pitch (Hard in the air, backside ground ball, move the runner, etc.) we begin hunting a pitch. Every amateur hitter should be able to hit a pitch they know is coming. So, if they sell out to their approach and what pitch they are looking for, it makes that pitch easier to hit when it comes.

How To Create An Approach

What Are You Good At?

Creating your own approach takes time and effort. It starts with understanding yourself as a hitter. What are you good at? What do you struggle with? If you can’t answer those two questions then I suggest getting in the cage and swinging with more awareness instead of taking 200 mindless swings a day. You have to know your capabilities as a hitter. How do you handle inside pitches? Can you adjust to off-speed? Knowing yourself and what you can and can’t do is the first step in creating an approach.

What Is The Pitcher Good At?

After knowing yourself and what you’re good at as a hitter, we then look towards our opponent. What are the pitcher’s capabilities? Is he a hard thrower? Soft tossing lefty? What is his out pitch? Does he pitch backward?  Knowing what the pitcher can and can’t do allows you to eliminate possibilities in your approach. If it’s the 6th inning and the pitcher hasn’t got a breaking ball over for a strike yet, you probably won’t get one early in the count. Again, this takes effort and willingness to pay attention to your teammate’s at-bats and what is going on in the game.

What Is Happening In The Game

What situation are you in? If you’re up with the tying run on third with the infield in, your approach is going to be drastically different than no one on with 2 outs in the 3rd. Are we in a situation with a runner on second with less than 2 outs? What is the pitcher trying to prevent? How will they pitch us to prevent that? Same with 1st and 3rd with one out. That pitcher will do anything in their power to get a ground ball out of you. Our approach and what we’re looking for/trying to do has to change. Understanding the game and how to score runs can help mold your approach.

An Approach That Leads To More On-Time Swings

The video above explains what I believe to be the easiest and simplest approach given a normal situation; such as any at-bat that doesn’t require you to “move the runner” or get a run in. This approach allows you to be on time for more pitches and eliminate the need to adjust every single pitch. By being on time for the pitcher’s best fastball, you eliminate the need to hurry up. If ever late on a fastball, the hitter isn’t as sold out to the approach as needed. But, if they are always on time for the pitcher’s best fastball, they are able to only have to make one adjustment; slow down.

Improving Your Odds

Again, creating a perfect approach doesn’t guarantee success. Even executing your gameplan doesn’t guarantee success. Hitting is hard and defenses are good. But, by establishing a good approach and sticking to it, you as a hitter give yourself the best chance of being successful. Create a plan that works for you and dive into it with full conviction!

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How Far Out Front Should You Hit the Ball_

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball? Where Does the Swing Plane Come From?  Point of Impact  Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when…

create more power

Create More Power By Loading Through the Back Heel

Recently, the heel plan of the back leg and keeping it planted as long as possible has become a hot topic here a baseball rebellion. Eric and I specifically have gone back and forth on the best ways to teach it and get hitters to ‘feel it’. My favorite way and the fastest way we’ve found is the toes off the ground drill.

3 Tips To See The Ball Better When Hitting

How Can Your Stance Affect Your Vision

A great swing with poor vision is essentially useless. Don’t get me wrong, poor swing mechanics with good vision doesn't create a ton of damage. However, vision will always be king. Our eyes tell us what, when, and where to swing. Pitch recognition, barrel accuracy, and timing all come from what we see. All of these can be helped and made easier through swing mechanics, but training your eyes and how you track the pitch is a sure-fire way to become a better hitter. 

So how can we adjust how we see the ball? To begin that conversation we have to know that when we talk about vision in hitting, we are talking about something completely different than the vision you test at the eye doctor. A hitter’s ability to track an object clearly with BOTH eyes is crucial to swing vision. This starts in a hitter's set up or stance. As a hitter, are you setting up to hit or setting up to see the ball? Most pitch recognition is occurring during the batters set up and initial movement into the stride. So let's take a look at how we can improve this phase to see the ball better when hitting.

See The Ball Better: Turn Your Face

How we are aligned at our initial setup determines how well we see the ball at our initial first move. By turning our face to the pitcher we allow both eyes to be squarely on the pitcher, just as we would if catching a ball thrown to us. Often a hitter's eyes will be turned in and the hitter looking out of the corner of their eyes. This creates a need to compensate for that at the beginning of the swing. Eliminate compensations and track the ball better by creating a better alignment and face positioning during your stance.

Good 1
Bad 1

See The Ball Better: Load From The Middle

A hitter will begin to load around the time the pitcher's hands separate and begin moving towards home plate. This typically requires the hitter to counter-rotate their body away from the pitcher in order to load and coil for a rotational motion. However, what body part counter rotates can play a big role in that hitter's vision. By allowing the shoulders to counter-rotate past the hitter's pelvis, the hitter's face is forced to turn in towards the plate and doesn’t allow for their back eye to stay on the pitcher. However, a hitter that loads their pelvis and core inward while keeping their shoulders in line to the pitcher, allows for the optimal load while still tracking the ball well.

Good 2
Bad 2

See The Ball Better: Eliminate Sway Back

Sway back in a hitters load can create a false sense of space between a hitter's eyes and the ball. This can be detrimental to a hitter's alignment and timing awareness during the swing. Create a better sense of timing by loading forward as opposed to swaying or rocking back in the load.

Good 3
Bad 3

See Better To Hit Better

Good vision will always beat good swing mechanics. But who says you can’t have both? Why not train for both. It doesn't have to be one or the other. Hitters that have both are rare. Make sure to prioritize both in your training and give yourself the best chance to be the hitter you want to be.

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How Far Out Front Should You Hit the Ball_

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball? Where Does the Swing Plane Come From?  Point of Impact  Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when…

create more power

Create More Power By Loading Through the Back Heel

Recently, the heel plan of the back leg and keeping it planted as long as possible has become a hot topic here a baseball rebellion. Eric and I specifically have gone back and forth on the best ways to teach it and get hitters to ‘feel it’. My favorite way and the fastest way we’ve found is the toes off the ground drill.

Stop The Front Shoulder From Pulling Out

Oftentimes with youth hitters, a lack of aggression is prevalent. Whether be it from a fear of the ball, fear of mis-hitting and the sting and vibration of the bat hurting their hands, or just a passive personality, aggression is needed in hitting. On the opposite end of that, a hitter’s aggression can be used in the wrong areas and lead to swing flaws. 

Pulling off the ball can be associated with a hitter’s aggression. However, we have to be careful as parents and coaches not to coach the aggression out of them. Instead, focus on where that aggression and speed should be used. The front side isolation drill does just that. 

How to Create Power to All Fields

What is Pulling Off the Ball? 

“Stop Pulling Off!”. Sit at a baseball field long enough and you’ll run out of fingers and toes trying to count how often this is shouted towards a hitter. This cue comes from a good place as every coach or parent wants their players to produce at their highest capacity. What the parents and coaches are seeing and trying to fix is the hitter starting their swing with their front shoulder rotating out. This first move creates a pulling towards the hitters pull-side and forces the backside to drag through and around, in an attempt to catch up to the front side. 

Top-spinning hits to the hitters pull-side can be a common result of this swing flaw. The front side dominant move can cause a hitter to pull their bat above and across the incoming pitch creating end over end spin on the ball as opposed to backspin. 

How to Create the Swing From The Back Side 

The opposite of the front side dominant swing flaw is the hitter creating rotation from their backside. You will often see this as a hitter’s back arm/elbow beginning a move downward before their front shoulder begins rotating out. This squeeze of the back arm allows the shoulders to stay “on-line” or in line with the pitch, while the core is beginning to rotate. This move allows the bat to stay through the hitting zone for the longest amount of time. Because barrel direction is improved, the ability for a hitter to impact the correct part of the ball increases.

What Does This Drill Improve?

Swing Direction

  • As explained above, this drill forces the hitter to create rotation from the backside of their body. This move allows the shoulders to stay directed to the ball and allow the barrel to stay on plane and back through the line of the pitch for longer. Make sure that while doing the drill the hitter forces their front arm to stay against the wall and their front shoulder doesn’t move. 

Posture

  • Because the front side isn’t creating rotation the spine is able to hold its positioning better. Posture has a large impact on how the bat moves and the direction in which it does. While doing the drill have someone look from behind and make sure the hitter’s head isn’t moving up or down during the turn. 

Ball Flight

  • Efficient body movements make it easier to impact the ball correctly and not have to compensate for poor mechanics. Because the hitter is moving more efficiently, they will be able to create the proper backspin and avoid hooking or topspinning the ball. 

Create the Feel, Crush the Ball 

This drill is for creating the feel of starting rotation from the backside. This drill should be done during a hitters prep work or outside of hitting. Create the feel of this move to create a better feel for the barrel.

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How Far Out Front Should You Hit the Ball_

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball? Where Does the Swing Plane Come From?  Point of Impact  Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when…

create more power

Create More Power By Loading Through the Back Heel

Recently, the heel plan of the back leg and keeping it planted as long as possible has become a hot topic here a baseball rebellion. Eric and I specifically have gone back and forth on the best ways to teach it and get hitters to ‘feel it’. My favorite way and the fastest way we’ve found is the toes off the ground drill.

Hit More Line Drives Without Changing Your Swing

Contact point. Where the bat meets the ball. It can be argued that this position is the most vital to any baseball swing. Hitters may get there differently but the majority of the greats share the same positioning at contact. But just as important as how our body is aligned at this point is where the ball is in conjunction with our body at contact. How deep or far in front of us the ball is, can dictate the quality of contact. 

One sport where contact point is emphasized is golf. With a stationary ball, they are able to force a contact point by where they address the ball. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from the golf swing when pertaining to contact points. 

How Far Out In Front Should a Hitter Make Contact?

What Is a Contact Point?

Thousandths of a second. That is how long the ball stays on the bat at contact. Everything we do as a hitter is to set up for those thousandths of a second. How we get to that point is extremely important to the result of contact, just as when we get there. Without the proper sequencing and path, limitations to the swing will always occur. Timing is considered vital to the swing. If you’re not “on time” for the pitch, very little damage can be done. But when we look closer what does timing control? 

What Does Timing Control?

Being “on time” with the pitch to me means creating the proper contact point in relation to the hitter's body. The contact point being too far out in front of their front foot can lead to early timing, with vice versa contact being made too close to the hitter's back foot leads the hitter to be late. A hitter's ability to control where in relation to their body they make contact with the ball is crucial to their timing and ability to consistently hit line drives

How Does This Relate to Golf?

  • Golf is a sport with similar movements in the swing as baseball.
  • The only difference is a different plane caused by the ball being on the ground and the fact that the ball is stationary.
  • The ball being stationary allows them to create the optimal contact point and positioning for each shot.
Here's Where It Gets Interesting
  • In golf, much like baseball, different ball flights are required on different swings.
  • With the ball being stationary, the golfer is able to align themselves to the ball differently depending on how they want to shape their ball flight.
  • The image below shows that the more they want to hit upwards on the ball, the farther the ball is moved in front.
golf positioning

Change Doesn't Always Need to be Mechanical

Hit Trax Point of Impact

-Oftentimes when referencing ball flight and a hitter struggling to hit line drives, mechanics is the first thing looked at.

-In actuality, they might have a good swing and don’t need mechanical adjustments; they just make contact too deep in the zone.

-Hittrax gives you the ability to check the point of contact on each swing.

-However, this gives feedback on the ball relative to home plate, not the hitter.

-So, the next time you have a hitter struggling to hit consistent line drives, first check where they make contact and how that can affect ball flight.

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How Far Out Front Should You Hit the Ball_

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball? Where Does the Swing Plane Come From?  Point of Impact  Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when…

create more power

Create More Power By Loading Through the Back Heel

Recently, the heel plan of the back leg and keeping it planted as long as possible has become a hot topic here a baseball rebellion. Eric and I specifically have gone back and forth on the best ways to teach it and get hitters to ‘feel it’. My favorite way and the fastest way we’ve found is the toes off the ground drill.

How to Use Resistance Bands In Your Swing

What is a Resistance Band?

Every time a hitter makes contact with a moving ball they are dealing with absorbing force. The ball itself creates a certain amount of force that a hitter must deal with at contact. This is dealt with through strength, bat speed, and efficient swing mechanics. When training or working on something new in the swing quality of contact is sometimes overlooked, and rightly so. However, with the struggle being evident when attempting to learn a new skill, how can we as coaches make the struggle as painless as possible? 

Why Do Resistance Bands Help Hitters?

By simply adding a resistance band to the training you simulate the same force needed to attack a pitch, without the fear of mis-hitting and the negative mental thoughts attached to a mis-hit. The added load of resistance can make the rep more gamelike and help improve a hitter's movement quality. 

3 Drills To Help Your Hitter

  1. Stability Turns

Keys to the Drill- 

  1. Slow tempo
  2. Initiate rotation at the core
  3. Maintain balance throughout the rotation

Things to Avoid-

  1. Allowing flawed movement- This is meant to be a tough drill. Be strict about initiating the turn from the core and maintaining a slow tempo.

2. Top Hand Moves

Keys to the Drill- 

  1. Turn top hand palm up towards the sky
  2. Fight against the front shoulder pulling out
  3. Hold posture throughout

The thing to Avoid-

  1. Letting the front shoulder start the rotation

3. Hands High Swing

Keys to the Drill- 

  1. Rotate normally as you would without the band
  2. Rotate quickly with good balance
  3. Fight against the pull of the band

 

The thing to Avoid-

  1. Do not let the band pull your hands down. You may hit more ground balls than usual during this drill. That is ok as you are working on keeping your hands higher through the rotation. 

Find What Works for You 

You may work with a hitter that doesn’t need resistance bands, and that’s great. However, there are hitters out there who need more than just hitting 1,000 balls off the tee every day. Should they do something they don’t enjoy and more importantly, don’t think makes them better? NO. Not every drill on the internet is meant for you.

So if these drills aren’t for you or you think they are stupid and don’t work, sweet, keep it moving. Just because you see the drill on your timeline doesn't mean anyone gives a shit what you think.

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How Far Out Front Should You Hit the Ball_

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball? Where Does the Swing Plane Come From?  Point of Impact  Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when…

create more power

Create More Power By Loading Through the Back Heel

Recently, the heel plan of the back leg and keeping it planted as long as possible has become a hot topic here a baseball rebellion. Eric and I specifically have gone back and forth on the best ways to teach it and get hitters to ‘feel it’. My favorite way and the fastest way we’ve found is the toes off the ground drill.

When Should a Hitter Start Their Stride

What is a Stride?

Rhythm and timing are crucial components of a good swing. The two go hand and hand and can turn a sub-optimal mechanical swing and allow for positive results. The stride phase of the swing is where timing and rhythm are most evident.

So what is the stride? The stride is the first move a hitter makes to begin the swing process. The beginning of the stride is the raising of the hitter's front heel. Some hitters will begin by shifting their weight onto their back leg while turning or coiling their core in towards the catcher.

This puts them in a “loaded” position and allows them to begin the rotation process. As the hitter picks up their front foot and moves it towards the pitcher, this is known as the stride. 

What is Your Stride Tempo?

Every hitter has a different tempo and length of stride. When a hitter should start their stride depends on that individual hitter's stride tempo and the amount of time it takes for them to get their front foot back into the ground. Let's take a look at a couple of different stride tempos and when that hitter starts their stride. 

Types of Stride Tempo’s

Slow Stride Tempo- Cincinnati Reds, Eugenio Suarez

The Red’s Eugenio Suarez is a hitter that can be considered a slow strider. To me, this tempo allows for the easiest timing adjustments. The earlier a hitter begins moving the slower they are able to move, in turn staying “quieter” through the forward move. However, this stride tempo also forces the hitter to have the best balance and control being that their front foot will be in the air the longest.

When looking closer you will notice that Suarez begins moving and loading both the body and the barrel around the point that the pitcher breaks their hands and begins their move down the mound. 

Average Stride Tempo- Cincinnati Reds, Mike Moustakas

I would consider Mike Moustakas to have an average tempo stride. Not too fast, not too slow which allows for the proper adjustments needed without being quite as difficult to control. Moustakas starts moving sooner than Suarez, but because the stride is a little quicker doesn’t raise the entire front foot until after the ball is released.

Fast Stride Tempo- Seattle Mariners, Evan White

With White being the quickest stride of the three (also, please note how slow and controlled a “quick” MLB stride is) he begins moving the latest. With White starting later his tempo is a little quicker making it easier to get back to the ground consistently but could make it difficult to track the ball optimally. 

Consistency Starting Point

  • You may have noticed just how close the starting point was for all 3 hitters, despite the different length and tempo strides.
  • The best hitters in the world begin moving at some point around hand break, however, when their front foot gets off the ground and they begin their forward move are all different.
  • Each hitter gives themself plenty of time to begin the loading process before there is even a ball in flight to track.
  • Having a consistent starting point to begin moving before the ball is in the air is crucial to slow the pitch down and seeing it well. 

Know Who You Are 

  • Just as we split the hitters into 3 different stride types, you yourself as a hitter have a certain tempo in your stride.
  • Knowing which type of strider you are can help you discover your own starting point. Each pitch is going to be a different speed, spin, and angle.
  • The pitch can be considered a variable.
  • For us to be on time more, we need to make our starting point a constant. Find your starting point and improve your timing.

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backfootbox

Improve Swing Quality with the Back Foot Box Drill

Over rotation of the back foot in the baseball swing can cause hitters to be inconsistent with their bat path. Learn how you can help correct it today.

My Post

Get A Better Launch Position With This Drill

The hip hinge is a vital part of having a powerful and consistent swing. Most young kids have a tough time figuring this out because they have yet to step in the weight room. Therefore, as an Instructor I have to get a little creative with how I can get hitters in the positions they need. Every hitter responds differently and this drill below may just help your hitter to get that swing they desire.

How To Get More Out Of Batting Practice

We all know the 5 o’clock hitter. The guy that looks like Barry Bonds in batting practice but Chas Pippitt in a game (sorry Chas). Hitting a baseball is one of the most complex functions in sports. A hitter can do everything right and miss the ball by a quarter of an inch and ruin everything that was good about the swing. So how can we train hitters to perform in games and not just have a pretty swing? 

There is a difference in swinging and hitting and this is one drill to make batting practice more game-like to become a better hitter. 

One Drill to Make Batting Practice More Game-Like 

Swinging vs. Hitting

Tee work, front toss, over-hand batting practice, and maybe a little machine work. I would say that is the core of batting practice with even machine work making a surge as of late. These are all great ways to get more swings in and get better at swinging a bat. Which, to be clear is a very important skill to have as a hitter. 

But, isn’t there more to hitting that being good at swinging? Timing, adjustability, control of the barrel all play a major role in hitting at a high level when the lights come on. Having a good swing allows for the possibility of good results but doesn’t guarantee them. So how we organize batting practice can dictate how prepared hitters are for game at-bats. 

Mixed Toss Batting Practice

By mixing how the coach tosses the ball into the hitter, what they are doing is changing the angle at which the ball gets into the hitting zone. This angle is crucial when it comes to barrel path and making sure a hitter can cover the entire zone.

The adjustments in angle can represent the differences in the angle of a fastball entering the zone compared to an off-speed pitch. Different pitches require different swings. The better a hitter gets at recognizing the angle of the pitch and matching it with the proper swing path, the more adjustable that hitter becomes. 

Adjustability in Batting Practice

A hitter having the ability to adjust their swing to what the pitch is doing is crucial for them when it comes to hitting in a game. No two pitches they face will be the same. Whether different velocity, spin rate, angle, movement, or location, the pitch will always present something different. As a hitter, it is your job to recognize that and adjust accordingly. 

Improved Barrel Control and Vision 

  • This drill forces hitters to adjust in a timely manner, and do to so they must understand where their barrel is and how to move it through space.
  • Not only that but they must understand where the pitch actually is.
  • Too many times do I ask a hitter where they thought the pitch was and they guess nowhere near where it actually was.
  • Puts an emphasis on understanding where the pitch is and how they need to attack it.
  • So instead of focusing solely on their swing and how they’re moving (again there is a time and place for that), their focus shifts to where the pitch is and how they can be successful against that pitch. 

Other Drills That Help Improve Barrel Accuracy 

How Good Can You Be?

There is always a time and place for swing practice. A bad swing with a great approach may create game success. However, it will never be as productive as that hitter can possibly be. It takes both. For a hitter to reach their true ability and maximize their talent they have to put in the time for both a good swing and good approach. This is a great drill to test both and make sure your hitter is ready for game action. 

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How Far Out Front Should You Hit the Ball_

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball?

How Far Out Front Should You Hit The Ball? Where Does the Swing Plane Come From?  Point of Impact  Every hitter swings up, and every hitter swings down. However, when…

create more power

Create More Power By Loading Through the Back Heel

Recently, the heel plan of the back leg and keeping it planted as long as possible has become a hot topic here a baseball rebellion. Eric and I specifically have gone back and forth on the best ways to teach it and get hitters to ‘feel it’. My favorite way and the fastest way we’ve found is the toes off the ground drill.