The Path to Success
It is no secret that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in sports. A lot of things have to go right in order to get a hit, and still you face the possibility of not getting that hit. What we try to do as hitters is set up as much room for error as possible to get that hit, even if we are off with our timing. And any great hitter will tell you timing is essential to hitting. A great way to help us do just that is by creating a better bath path so we are longer through the hitting zone as the pitch makes its way to the plate. Even if we are fooled by a pitch, the ability to stay through the zone longer will still give us a chance to drive the baseball and not pull off for a weak roll over. So let’s dive in and find out some facts that will help us start creating a better path to success.
First we start with the pitch that is coming into us. We must realize a pitched baseball is not coming in perfectly flat. The pitcher throws from an elevated position of about 10 inches at most levels (That is the Major League Standard). Then if we look at pitchers with slightly different variations of arm slots then that can increase or decrease but all are going to have some sort of downward angle. So on average, a pitch is coming in at a downward angle of about 6 to 14 degrees. Now that we realize what the pitch is actually doing we can move on to the next objective.
Therefore since the pitch is slightly downward, our best possibility for success is a slight upward swing. This will match the plane of the pitch a lot better, thus creating a better chance for a line drive, which is our ultimate goal as a hitter.
Now let’s look to see what we need to have success to hit the ball square. When we have a round bat and a round ball it is easy to miss hit the pitch. If 2 different objects are on slightly different planes coming at each other, you will never have solid contact. So science tells us by matching the planes of 2 objects coming from different directions we can hit it square. So we need to find a way to build a matching plane to the downward plane of a pitch.
Therefore since the pitch is slightly downward, our best possibility for success is a slight upward swing. This will match the plane of the pitch a lot better, thus creating a better chance for a line drive, which is our ultimate goal as a hitter. It is not a level swing nor it is a downward swing. It is a slight upward swing through the hitting zone. A level or downward swing will give you a very limited window in the hitting zone before the bat comes out of it, leading to a lot of miss hits, roll overs and complete misses. The slight upward swing is the easiest way to stay thru the zone the longest because it is a more natural movement and feel for your body to produce consistently. And why is that you ask? It is from the biomechanics of the body as it moves through a natural athletic position when it swings.
Here is a great example of the slight upward bat path of JD Martinez and what he does right to produce a bat path that is long through the hitting zone. There are lots of great points to check out during this video so lets check out a couple. First, watch how he does not fight his natural athletic movements by trying to keep his shoulders flat, or try to swing down through the hitting zone as he swings. This is one major flaw that hitters do is they fight against their natural athletic movements. Fighting against natural movements slow you down and break up your rhythm and tempo of your swing. These are easy to pick out because the swing looks very chopped up and not very smooth.
Next, check out the spine angle and shoulders. A hitter should have a slight spine angle created from the natural athletic position you are in when you are about to swing (It is around the same angle as when you are addressing a golf ball you are about to hit). When you start to swing you keep that spine angle and let the shoulders naturally turn and tilt as you can see with JD in this video. That tilt puts the bat in a better position to get on plane earlier (Sooner) and also lets the bat travel longer on plane out in front of you compared to when your shoulders are level because of that angle that was created. You can really see his ability to drive thru the baseball with his top hand longer by keeping good shoulder tilt and spine angle. If the shoulders were parallel to the ground or not tilted, the bat path would be very rotational and would not be able to stay in the hitting zone as long. You would be hooking around a lot of balls. So no, your shoulders are not flat or parallel to the ground during the swing, nor should they be. That would take away from the ability to let the bat travel through the hitting zone longer. Watching this video we can see that a lower pitch is easier to do this on but is it different for a pitch that is up in the zone?
Here is Buster Posey on a pitch up in the zone. You can still see there is a slight tilt in the shoulders and a slight upward bat path to the ball. Because of that, he also gets thru the ball very well with his top hand. This bat path enables him to drive this tough pitch and keep it fair or what a lot of people like to say, “Stay Inside the Ball.” So regardless of location, there will be a slight upward bat path and shoulder tilt. Now I know there are some that are going to say that you can’t hit the high fastball with velo if you have the slight uppercut. Well I would agree just about every hitter can’t hit the plus fastball up in the zone. But my answer to this question is quite simple. Don’t swing at it. You should know yourself as a hitter and your your strengths and weaknesses. That is the Mental Side of hitting coming into play. You can’t and should not try to hit every pitch that comes through the strike zone. You should hit the pitches that your swing is built for to have success, not failure anyway. Make sure to purchase The Mental Side of Hitting so you have a better understanding on how to use your swing to give you success.
So regardless of location, there will be a slight upward bat path and shoulder tilt.
As we continue to examine the bat bath from these videos we can see the bat path is being created behind the hitter as well by starting to get on plane early. Both videos you can see the bat path resembles a Nike Swoosh logo. During the Turn phase of the swing, watch how the elbow starts to tuck into the slot first before the hands go. This is what helps get the bat on plane earlier for a hitter and develop a better attack angle to the ball so you are not overly steep to the baseball (Swinging down). This action also lets us build up more energy and create more bat speed and power at contact, much like how you crack a whip.
Lastly, all of this would not be possible if these hitters did not have the right movements or keys in a swing before they got to this position. As we know from the 8 Keys to a Great Swing a swing is a succession of movement patterns which feed off the previous movement. So without accomplishing the proper movements before this move, creating that proper bat path wouldn’t be possible.
If you would like to learn more and get help with your swing contact us today to get started.