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Here is a list of three very popular hitting myths in baseball and softball. Obviously, these myths are completely subjective as there many hitting myths out there. These three myths have been proven to be completely false either by science or comparative video. If you have been in the baseball/softball world for enough time you have certainly come across one or two of these myths, from either an instructor or coach. Hopefully, this article can help open your eyes to some of the common myths or phrases used in hitting.
Any golfers out there? If so, how many of you would agree that a pitching wedge creates more backspin than a driver? Probably most of you would agree, so why don't we hit wedges off the tee box? The answer is because backspin doesn't exactly equal more distance. Too many coaches talk about creating backspin on the baseball, so much so that the swing centered only around creating it. Here is a classic example.
This video demonstrates one of my favorite players of all time talking about how he THOUGHT about creating power. While this may be how Chipper thought he swung, we can all see through video, it's just not true. I would rather teach hitters what is actually happening than a thought that may lead to the right mechanics. Developing swing mechanics that focus solely on creating backspin will set the player up for a lot of frustration. To be clear, topspin is certainly not what we want either but let's look at the facts. While backspin on the ball is a component of the ball traveling far, force generation (bat speed) and bat path are much more important factors in creating consistent power. Here is an example of an optimal swing path, which if struck correctly will create some backspin but most importantly it will efficiently transfer energy at the correct launch angle.
In the following graph, you can see the visual correlation in backspin and distance.
For more information on backspin, please follow this link to Fangraphs website.
I think in this case most softball enthusiasts would say the swings are different because the game of softball is different. Honestly, I can't really wrap my head around that thought. So many girls are held back because of the fact that they are girls and not guys. The truth of the matter is that any girl who plays competitive softball is fully capable of taking what is considered a "high-level swing". The fact that they are girls is a non-issue, and in many cases, females are more capable of achieving the movements in a high-level swing.
In 2013, fellow Baseball Rebellion instructor JK Whited wrote an article that touched on how girls are taught in today's "softball culture". He spoke on the fact that he believes on average girls seem to be taught much more slappy, tricky, run first, hit second type of swings, especially the undersized girls. This type of teaching grossly limits girls when they are capable of so much more. I often talk with the softball hitters I work with about taking off the "Chains" put on them by coaches who see them as not good enough to perform a high-level swing. Are they unable to perform high-level moves because they aren't good enough? Or, are they not good enough because they don't perform high-level swing mechanics. It is most frustrating working with a 10u softball player that has already been limited in what she can do based on her size at ten years old. Teach what provides the highest ceiling for that player's career because the fact is, no one knows how she will develop. In the end, it is unfair to the girl to limit her development.
Anyway, there are so many great examples out there of how good girls can be. Regardless if you are a boy or girl, generating force and creating an optimal bat path are executed the same way. Here you can see Georgia standout Alex Hugo moves almost exactly the same as superstar Edwin Encarnacion of the Cleveland Indians.
Just like her Major League counterpart, Alex Hugo's can move and operate her body the same way the most powerful baseball players can. Will she hit it as far? Of course not, but she doesn't have to.
Let's not also forget the upward swing plane of a good softball swing. Regardless of what you might think, the softball fastball peaks and drops down to the catcher's mitt. Just like a baseball player, girls should work towards executing a nice upward bat path to match the downward pitch angle. This, of course, will give the softball player a much higher percentage of quality contact as well as deliver a head-on strike of the ball. Here is a great example of an upward swing from a softball player.
(Gabe Dimock actually wrote a great article as well on this myth last year)
The fear of striking out is at the root of almost all young hitter's problems. It is viewed as the single worst thing you can do in baseball in the mind of the young hitter. Too often coaches/parents are so negative towards striking out that when their player ultimately does, the child sees the disappointment in the coaches face. The player will do anything they have to do in order to NOT strikeout, thus creating weak-minded, slow swings that in turn, lead to more strikeouts. If more strikeouts in a random 12u weekend tournament lead to a players success when it actually matters, sign me up for all the strikeouts.
The simple truth is that striking out more does not have to be followed by lower batting averages and poor performances. When a player is offensive minded and takes aggressive swings at the plate, the chances for better success such as doubles, triples, and home runs become a possibility. While the fear-based swing can only be followed by limited success such as a weak single. The up-side to being aggressive is so much higher, while the downside remains the same, just an out. Those who conquer this fear have a substantially higher chance of success.
With pitchers becoming better than ever before, the strikeout rates have hit an all-time high. While strikeouts are up, so are league-wide runs scored, slugging, and OPS. I'm not saying there aren't times where putting the ball in play is absolutely necessary. What I'm saying is when it is time to let the hitter loose, let them loose with no fear of striking out. After all, it is just one out. The risk of striking out more comes with the territory of being more successful and you have to be willing to go there. The reward is well worth the risk!
Eric Tyler - Baseball Rebellion Hitting Instructor