By Nate Barnett
Because there are so many intricate moving parts within the baseball swing, it's tough to keep everything moving well, all of the time. Add the fact that the pitcher is trying to mess up everything you've learned in all your hours of baseball instruction and you've got some serious challenges.
One of the most common questions I get as a hitting instructor is solving the problem of grounding out repetitively to the pull side (left side of the field as a righty, right side of the field as a lefty). There are multiple causes of this problem, but chances are that it's one of the below issues I'll cover.
1. The most common hitting mistake that leads to frequent ground outs is too much weight transferring forward onto the front leg. Good hitting stems from energy that is stored onto the back leg. Therefore, when preparing for the job of hitting a baseball, the hitter must shift some weight onto his back leg before the baseball swing begins. If the hitter doesn't shift the weight to his back leg, or doesn't keep the weight there as he swings, he will begin to transfer weight to his front foot and become off balance. This balance problem (too much weight on the front foot) will cause a lot of baseballs that are hit in a downward angle.
2. A second cause of hitting ground balls to the pull side is the opening of the front hip too soon. As mentioned above, the back side of a hitter's body creates power and energy. The front side of the body (front foot, knee, and hip) are then responsible for controlling some of that energy and channeling it into the correct direction, back to the pitcher. If the front hip begins to rotate at the same moment the back knee and hip begin to turn, energy will be moving away from the contact zone. Because of this, many times the bat will enter the hitting zone and come into contact with the ball as it's moving away from the plate causing a ground ball or top spin line drive (bad spin) to the pull side.
3. One last cause is an improper hand path into the hitting zone. Some of the problem can stem from poor front hip control, but sometimes it's just the hands that are the issue. In general, and without being too technical on this part of the baseball swing, the hands should stay near the body as they enter the hitting zone. Hands that stray away from the body will cause a bat that is sweeping through the zone. A bat that sweeps will not be moving towards the pitch on contact with the ball. Instead, the bat will be moving away and to the pull side. This is improper extension and will be the cause of multiple issues ranging from a slow bat to getting jammed on a lot of inside pitches.
Finally, my suggestion would be do a search on the internet for some pictures or videos of major league hitters and look for the parts of the swing mentioned in this article. It's only with a visual that you will begin to learn and understand the intricate details of a good baseball swing. Once you learn some of the techniques, implementing some exercises into your youth baseball drills will make all the difference in correcting this problem.
Nate Barnett is owner of BMI Baseball http://bmibaseball.com and is based out of Washington State. His expertise is in the area of hitting, pitching, and mental training. Coach Barnett's passion is working with youth in helping expand their vision for their baseball future. After finishing a professional career in the Seattle Mariners Organization, Nate pursued his coaching and motivational training career. His instructional blog is located at http://bmibaseball.com/blog
His new FREE ebook, Toxic Baseball: Are you polluting your game? can be found on the main BMI Baseball website.
Hitting Mechanics 101, an ebook on complete hitting mechanics will be released in June, 2008. Features include numerous illustrations, video clips, and a special offer to discuss your hitting questions over live on the phone strategy sessions.
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