Lunging at the ball is a phrase that gets thrown around baseball all of the time especially at younger levels. I will preface this article by saying that in all of my years as a hitting instructor, I can probably say that less than 10 have truly had a problem with lunging at the ball. Much more often, I see kids that have the opposite problem, leaving too much weight back. Non the less, lunging can be a big problem in a swing.
What is Lunging?
Lunging at the ball is when a hitter’s momentum continues to move their body forward after they reach their launch position, aka when the heel of the front foot touches the ground after the stride. As soon as they reach the launch position, the body should shift from moving forward to rotating.
Here is a clip of what a hitter should look like after they reach their launch position and begin rotation.
The green line represents the spine. The hitter should be in a balanced position after the stride and then rotate without moving the spine forward. Notice how at contact the head, back shoulder, back hip and back knee are all aligned on the line.
Here is a clip of a young player lunging at the ball:
Notice How the body has moved in front of the green line when he is at contact and his weight is out over his front leg.
So, what is the problem with lunging?
There are 2 main problems with lunging at the ball.
Decreased Power To generate power in the swing, there needs to be a linear component (stride/weight shift) and then a rotational component. In an efficient, powerful swing, energy gets shifted from the back leg to the front leg during the stride. That energy is absorbed and redirected into rotation. Without stopping the forward momentum, energy is leaked and rotation is not as powerful.
2. Impaired bat path
I wrote an article a while back about the relationship between the angle of the spine and the bat path here. Generally, the bat path is close to perpendicular to the angle of the spine. This means that if a hitter leans back with his upper body the bat will move up more through the zone. When a hitter lunges, the angle of their chest tends to be the opposite, facing towards the ground in front of home plate. This causes the path of the bat to move either completely level or down. I have written a bunch of articles on the problems with impaired bat path here and here.
How do we fix lunging?
Like I stated earlier, I rarely see a hitter who truly lunges at the ball. This is often because players are over corrected to keep their weight back. This cue can cause a whole host of other issues including impaired bat path (too inclined) and decreased power (due to a lack of weight shift). For this reason, you will almost never hear me to tell a player to keep their weight back. However, this cue can be used if a player truly has a lunging problem.
There are a number of different drills and cues to use to help fix lunging. One of my favorites is hitting off of a tee set up further back in the hitting zone. Normally, the tee should be set up right over the front foot after the stride. Setting the tee up further back will help keep the hitter from moving too far forward during the swing. Here is a picture of the drill in action. Notice how the player is able to keep the head over the back side.