By Jack Perconte
Many people who have a basic knowledge of baseball can look at an inexperienced hitter and figure out what they are doing wrong. Certain things like stepping out, over-striding, swinging early or late, upper cutting, pulling off the ball and taking their eye off the ball are fairly obvious flaws. The solutions to these problems are not as obvious, and certainly not as simple as just telling the hitter what they are doing wrong. Muscle memory can be very tough to change and it is important for hitters and adults to have patience with players who are trying to make changes to their muscle memory. However, I am getting ahead of myself. The swing cannot be fixed until it has been analyzed correctly. Analyzing a swing when the flaws are not as obvious takes a much more experienced coach.
Following are pointers for coaches who are not as experienced to know what to look for when analyzing a baseball swing:
1. The best angle to watch a hitter is the side angle, as from the on deck circle.
2. The main thing to watch from this angle is the path of the bat barrel.
3. The ideal is when the bat barrel settles above the hitter's rear shoulder with the knob of the bat pointing down just as the front foot lands with the stride. A slight tilt of the bat barrel where it settles anywhere between 11 and 1 o'clock is best.
4. From this settled position, the ideal is to see the hands and barrel begin on a downward path towards the ball, while never traveling too far from the hitters head on the path to the ball. This is known as a compact swing.
5. The swing is begun by a break of the back knee allowing the hips to open, and with a pull of the lead hand.
6. The bat barrel starts on a downward path but will begin to level off quite quickly, especially on the lower pitches. As the back knee rotates towards the ball, the back elbow lowers and remains very close to the body on the initial portion of the swing. This prevents the hands from casting away from the body, another common flaw of young hitters.
7. This leveling off is accomplished by the hands forming a palm-up (top hand) and palm-down (lower hand) position before and after contact. The hands will end at about the same level they began the swing, at shoulder level height.
8. After leveling off, good hitters will keep the bat mostly level for an extended period until well after contact when it will begin an upward path till finishing behind the back.
9. As the bat barrel comes through, the hitter's hips have completely opened with the belly button facing the pitcher.
10. The area between the legs should form a capital A at contact, with the hitters head located above the rear hip.
11. The rear foot has pivoted towards the pitcher as the weight has shifted from the rear leg towards the front foot, and the hitter will finish up on his back toe.
12. All of this is ideally done with the hitters head and eyes tracking the ball all the way till contact.
Often, it takes a great deal of observation of the baseball swing to pick up on these little intricacies of the swing. These actions of the swing happen very quickly. Picturing an airplane landing is a good mind illustration that describes the bat barrel swing path. As mentioned, paying close attention to the path of the bat barrel is the key to analyzing the swing. Watching video of good hitters, especially in slow motion, can be very helpful in learning to analyze the baseball swing. Good swings involve excellent balance, even though there is an explosive opening of the hips and an aggressive "throw" of the hands. In all my years of teaching hitting, I found that if I could correct the hitter's bat path, the rest of their problems began to disappear or were much easier to correct.
After watching a hitter from the side angle, it is beneficial to analyze the swing from the angle of the pitcher or directly behind the hitter. From these angles it is easier to notice the hitter's front side, mainly the stride direction and front shoulder. It is important that the hitters stride is towards the pitcher and that their front shoulder stays pointed at the ball until the swing begins; when the front shoulder will start its rotation open.
Obviously, there is a great deal to the swing, as this just covers the basics. I guess it explains why I needed 200 pages to discuss all the aspects of hitting and "teaching hitting" in my book.
Former major league baseball player, Jack Perconte gives baseball hitting tips and batting practice advice for ballplayers of all ages. His baseball hitting lessons, books and advice can be found at http://www.baseballhittinglessons.com/baseball. Jack is the author of two books, The Making of a Hitter and Raising an Athlete - his parenting blog and books can be found at http://positiveparentinginsports.com.
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