There are a million different stances a hitter can adopt all in the name of comfort. Every elite hitter has their own unique style, but the same absolutes. These absolutes are non-negotiable. Unfortunately, many hitters have their styles stripped down, taking away their athleticism and developing improper absolutes. A lot of misconceptions can be disproven by simply having access to high quality video of the best hitters in the game. We broke down seven common hitting myths that may be ruining you or your players swings.
Myth #1 – Swing Down
This myth is perpetuated the most around the game. Your hands start above the strike zone, therefore if you want to hit a pitch in the zone, you must swing down, right? This would be true if you were hitting the ball with your hands, but you’re not. It’s important to distinguish what is going “down” and when.
At launch, the barrel is launched rearward and downward, clearly, as Matt Carpenter demonstrates
However, contact is made while the barrel is traveling upwards into the plane of the pitch.
Below is a picture from Ted Williams book, The Science Of Hitting. One of the greatest hitters of all time was way ahead of his era when it comes to knowledge of what actually happens in the baseball swing.
Related: Is This Ted Williams Quote Correct?
J.D Martinez is an example of a hitter who had breakout success by fixing his bat path. In both pitches below, J.D Martinez hits home runs, but lets dig deeper. Notice the steep angle his barrel takes on the left compared to the swing on the right.
Here’s the deal:
You can hit the ball while attempting to swing down like he is on the left, but you will put a ceiling on your development in the process. On the right, Martinez is creating depth by turning the barrel behind his rear shoulder. This allows him to commit later, create early bat speed, and adjust on the fly to late movement.
Myth #2 – Short Too It
Coupled with the idea of swinging down to the ball, the argument usually goes like this. “The shortest distance between two points is a line, so if you swing on a line straight down to the ball, you”ll make contact more consistently and create backspin.” Proven by the first point, elite hitters make contact with the ball while the barrel is traveling upwards into contact, but that doesn’t explain the path the hands take to the ball or the engine.
I like this view of the path Brian McCann takes to contact in a home run swing. The idea of “short to it”, usually means taking your hands straight to the ball. Draw an imaginary line straight out from the NY on his jersey. As he rotates into the ball, do his hands ever cut across that imaginary line? In a high level swing, the hands turn the barrel directing it the path of the pitch, they stay at or near the armpit region until well after the launch of the swing.
Myth #3 – Front foot down early
Aside from swinging down to the ball, few things are more responsible for high school games ending in a 2-1 score than getting the front foot down early. The simple truth is that it’s impossible to keep your rear hip coiled while focusing on weighting your front foot before swinging.
David Wright is a phenomenal example of the point being made here. He doesn’t have a lot of crazy movement in his load, all he does is lift his heal up and put it back down. Notice the timing of his heel strike. His GO move puts the front foot down, almost as if it’s catching his weight to keep him from falling forward.
Myth #4 – Get Extended At Contact
You may be familiar with the kinetic chain theory, or building energy from the ground up. The issue with the cue, “get extended at contact” is that it will force hitters to use their arms as energy producers in the swing. The role of your arms & hands in a high level swing aside from holding the bat is to align the sweet spot of the barrel with the path of the pitch. Once you start using your arms to produce force, the only way you”ll be able to adjust to change in speeds, location, and movement is by slowing down your swing.
What’s the bottom line?
Extension is a byproduct of proper sequencing before contact and last minute adjustments AFTER launch. Observe below as the force of Xander Boegarts barrel pulls his arms into extensions after contact.
Myth #5 – Keep Your Weight Back
When players are told to keep their weight back, often times they load back over their knees instead of into their hips. Look below as Josh Donaldson, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols load keeping their back knee inside the back foot.
So what is loading into your rear hip? This move is often called hip coil and is a move you”ll see in every high level swing. It’s important to distinguish the difference between hip coil and simply loading over the back leg. Lets bring up that David Wright GIF from above. Watch his back pocket. That action is his upper half (hips, back, arms) stretching against his rear leg, which is trying to turn forward. This action can’t be created by shifting your weight laterally towards the catcher.
Myth #6 – Don’t Dip Your Shoulders
Oh my! Another swing killer. In The GIF below, you”ll see four hitters who drop their back shoulder at go. This term is also called lateral tilt, which is a crucial move to get on plane with the pitch. Most hitters do this naturally, unfortunately its coached out of them.Ichiro now has over 3,000 career hits in America. He proves that even a “slap hitter” adheres to the same principles that the biggest hitters in the game do. Joc Pederson has an average ball exit velocity of 94.53 MPH. Five MPH above the Major League average. Dropping the back shoulder is a reaction to the location of the pitch.
Myth #7 – Stay Balanced At Contact
Forcing yourself to stay balanced at contact will steal any athleticism you have. What you see Below in David Ortiz’s 2013 ALCS Home Run is a “residual fall”. A residual fall is your body’s reaction to the speed at which the barrel is traveling through the zone into and after contact. This natural move gives Ortiz longer to decelerate the barrel after making contact. Cut this move out and you’ll have less time to finish your swing.
No way Big Papi could stay on a balance beam while taking this Gorilla Hack.
There isn’t a coach on the planet who doesn’t want the most success for his or her players. Unfortunately, these hitting myths have been passed on by well meaning coaches who are inadvertently ruining players swings.
Don’t take our word for it, question everyone and everything you see and hear. Do your own analysis of Major League Swings and see if our conclusions are true. Until American athletes are taught to move freely as athletes, they will continue to fall behind in the game of baseball.