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One of the most popular things I hear coaches and players say is that the upward swing with high intent is going to make hitters struggle hitting the outside pitch (see picture of comment above). If you watch any high level hitter, they do all the things that we teach here at Baseball Rebellion. Because of this, they are still able to DRIVE pitches to the opposite field!
Videos of our hitters we post get negative, uninformed opinions that our hitters can't hit an outside pitch. As you can see in the picture above.
The idea that most hitters who are able to truly drive the ball pull side can't hit the outside pitch is uneducated. As well as being just plain moronic.
I want to use this article to show you players, parents, and coaches out there that you CAN help teach hitters to drive the ball both pull side AND oppo side. We're going to break down what actually happens on swings to both sides of the plate. I will show and detail a few drills that we do at Baseball Rebellion daily to help our hitters drive the ball the other way.
**DISCLAIMER** I am still 100% advocate of being able to pull pitches with intent, sometimes even outside pitches. But my job as a hitting instructor is to make hitters HIT**
As you can see from this overhead view, you have Alex Rodriguez on the left and Evan Longoria on the right. A-Rod is crushing a homer the other way while Longoria is pulling a homer. Take a look at the two swings and ask yourself what they are doing different:
The first thing I saw when watching these two clips was that the pitch locations were not far off. Stopping them at contact the pitch to A-Rod slightly more towards the outside corner with Longoria's being middle-away. Second, you can clearly see A-Rod hitting the ball a little "deeper" or closer towards the plate. Compared to Longoria making contact more out-in-front.
A common misconception I see/hear from other hitting coaches is that you make contact on outside pitches behind home plate. This is from an article I found from "Be a Better Hitter" shows what the most 'traditional' contact point is taught:
As you can see, this is telling the hitter to hit the outside pitch (3) around 6 inches behind home plate. Thank goodness for technology and pitch tracking in baseball these days. Because of the advances we actually KNOW where the most successful places to make contact are instead of just where we THINK.
HitTrax ball tracking system came out with a chart that TELLS us where the best contact zones are:
Yes, this chart does show us that hitting the ball behind the front of home plate CAN produce line drives. And of course, in no way am I saying that line drives are bad. But hitting the ball 6 inches behind the plate (as the picture above shows us to do) then AT BEST we get a low line drive. Even though this is closer to ground ball territory.
For the best results, practice hitting the outside pitch still IN FRONT of home plate! This includes how you set up your tee work outside tee work.
One of the first things I look for when assessing a hitter who is struggling to hit the outside pitch is their body and bat direction. Many hitters are over rotating or coming around and hitting too much on the outside part of the ball (the roll over). Because of this, they are probably not thinking about exactly what their body and bat, should be doing.
I will use a still photo from the GIF of A-Rod and Longoria to show you their direction:
If you still need further proof of this, go back and watch the video above. You can SEE that there are different directions that their bat and body are going. Yes, this is slightly affected by where they are making contact with the ball in relationship to home plate. Which is why I stressed the importance of point of impact above.
Another thing I want to note about the picture is the direction of their stride. You can clearly see that both of them are in the heel-to-heel stride position. We DON'T need to change our stride based on pitch locations. This is one of the worst taught things I see from coaches.
As many of you know, upper body rotation is a specialty of Baseball Rebellion instruction. The Rebel's Rack has helped thousands of hitters learn to achieve their body's maximum rotational distance and power. If you stepped into a lesson at BR you probably will hear the cues, "turn your shoulder's more," or "back shoulder to CF."
These are all correct terms for hitters trying to learn how to properly pull the ball in the air, which is the hardest thing to do in hitting. These terms/cues might not always (if ever) be correct for trying to drive the outside pitch to the opposite field.
Here are two different swing clips from Betts this season. One of them is an outside pitch he crushed to the opposite field, the other is an inside pitch he pulled for a homer. Again, I want you to watch the clips and tell me what you see:
The biggest difference, aside from the direction of his body approaching each pitch, is the total rotation of his shoulders. You can see on the left (outside pitch) his shoulders do not rotate all the way compared to the right (inside pitch).
there's a good chance you or your hitters are over rotating. A common cue I use daily for this is I tell the hitter to "flip the field" with their shoulder rotation. When pulling the ball we need our back shoulder to get to CF, on the outside pitch I want to shift the field to the right (if I am a right-handed hitter). This allows a finish with the back shoulder pointed toward Right-Center or Right field. You'll want to flip flop for left-handed hitters.
This will help ensure the over-rotation of the shoulders does not occur and the outside pitch can be DRIVEN to the opposite field.
If the hitter seems to be doing all of the above things correctly, the final issue could be their vision on the ball. What I mean by that is where they are aiming to make contact on the baseball.
With the outside pitch requiring the hitter to hold off contact for a split-second longer the barrel of the bat has slightly more time to get 'deeper' behind them. Because of this, it can cause hitters to sometimes "miss under" the ball and produce a pop-up.
If the hitter is constantly missing under the simple cue for this is to aim higher on the ball.
Help your hitters achieve their maximum potential and learn how to drive the outside pitch. Here are a couple of my favorite drills to help put their body in the right positions to do so:
If you do not have a launch angle tee, first off get one here. In the mean time, set up the tee about 6 inches in front of home plate and put a bat at the angle of the yellow line. This angle helps give the hitter a visual of their bat/body direction. Placing the bat at this angle for batting practice is a great visual cue as well!
One of the biggest things you can see here is that his stride direction DOES NOT CHANGE. Too many of my hitters tell me that their coach wants them to step in on the outside pitch. All that does is cut off their hip rotation and can force a push swing.
You can also see the hitter's direction of the body and the rack bat working towards the opposite field gap. This is a great way to get the hitter to not only feel but more importantly, see what their body is doing.
Again, you can see the deliberate effort from the hitter on working their back shoulder and the rack bat towards that opposite field gap.
Also, had to leave the audio in there. Too good not to.
Thanks for reading along. Hopefully, the information in this article will help you join me on the journey to help to make the next great group of hitters!