Swinging a baseball bat is a full body, max power activity, that requires highly coordinated movements and precise timing. A major league swing takes just 150 milliseconds. Within this time frame, there are countless things that can go wrong and impact a swing. Below are the 3 biggest and most common flaws that I have seen from hitters of all ages, from young kids to college players. They are also easily correctable and make the biggest positive impact when fixed.
1. Keeping too much weight back
This is the biggest flaw that I have tried to correct in the swings of hitters I have worked with. Almost every hitter is told at a young age to “keep your weight back”. While we don’t want to shift too much weight forward and lunge at the ball, this piece of advice has left too many hitters with a lack of power, as well as a number of other mechanical flaws. Before the body starts to rotate, the weight should be shifted to a balanced position.
A correct position looks like this:
The weight is balanced and the hitter has his head in the center of his body.
When a hitter strides and keeps most of his weight back, he looks something like this:
This leads to 3 major problems. The first is the angle of the shoulders. When too much weight is left on the back side, the back shoulder drops too soon leading to an altered bat path. The path will be at more of an incline causing the swing to either create more fly balls or cause the hitter to hit the top of the ball creating weak ground balls. The second problem is that the hips become harder to turn with more weight on the back side. This causes a slower hip turn which leads to a slower swing. The final issue with keeping too much weight back is that it causes a drop to power due to not utilizing the some of the most powerful muscles in our body, the Glutes. The glutes are huge muscles that are responsible for extending the hip. When there is no forward weight shift, the power output of the Glutes is minimized.
2. “Squishing the bug”
This next flaw goes hand in hand with # 1. Every hitter at some point has been given the advice to “squish the bug”. While this is good advice for a little leaguer who doesn’t have any hip turn, this shouldn’t apply to a hitter who reaches 90 degrees of hip rotation. Take a look at the picture below. Albert Pujols actually has his back foot off of the ground at contact.
While I would never tell a hitter to try and pick their back foot up at contact (because this would cause a whole host of other issues), it is something that most good hitter achieve without even realizing it. Good hitters who do not lift the rear foot will either drag it or be up on the toe of their back foot.
The problem with “squishing the bug” ties in with problem number 1, in that the solution is shifting more weight forward. When more weight is shifted forward to a balanced position, the back side is freed up, leading to a better, faster hip turn, which will create more power.
At the conclusion of a proper swing, the hitter will shift some weight back to the rear foot. This makes it appear that the hitter has kept most of his foot in contact with the ground and “squished the bug.” However, this is a way of staying balanced at the end of rotation.
3. Swinging down on the ball
While I can understand some of the rationale given to hitters in keeping their weight back and squishing the bug, I have yet to find a reasonable explanation for a hitter being told to swing down on the ball. Every pitch that leaves the pitchers hand comes in on a downward angle. The average major league fastball has a downward angle of about 8-10 degrees. The best way to make contact with this, or any pitch, is to create a very slight uppercut (about 8-10 degrees) with the bat path to meet the plane of the ball. Getting the bat of the same plane as the ball creates a wider area for the hitter to make contact.
Perhaps the greatest hitter ever, Ted Williams wrote about this in his 1971 book The Science of Hitting. He shows in this illustration how a slight upward bat path is more beneficial than a true level swing.
In addition to allowing for more coverage through the hitting zone, this circular path also helps us increase bat speed due to the whipping action of the bat.
1. Adair, Robert. “The Science of the Swing.”
2. Williams, Ted and John Underwood. The Science of Hitting. Simon and Schuster. 1971.
3. Right View Pro