In my years of playing professional baseball, I have been blessed to play with and pick the brains of some of the best baseball players in the world. During this time, I have observed the 7 points of how to hit a baseball which all great hitters have in common.
Doug Bernier 2011. Image by Ed Wolfstein
The baseball swing is simple and complex at the same time. It is very easy to teach someone to how to hit a baseball, but it takes years to hone your skills and develop a sound, quick and efficient baseball swing.
Because of the different set ups and stances, there are different ways for how to hit a baseball. But once a hitter gets to the contact point that is where all the differences stop and the absolutes and similarities start.
Every hitter that steps into the batters box has their own comfortable style with which they get ready to hit. Some hitters stand close to the plate, some have an open stance, some stand upright, and some crouch down.
Other hitters use a leg kick and some don’t stride at all. It sometimes seems that everyone is completely different and it can be difficult to sift through the parts of the swing that are more customizable to the parts that are absolutes.
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The 7 absolutes are seen at contact. No matter how a hitter gets to the contact point of his swing, all great hitters do the same thing.
If you compare Johnny Damon (who has a very open stance and a leg kick), to Albert Pujols (wide stance and has very little movement), and to David Eckstein (gets in his legs a lot, chokes up and stands very close to the plate) you would find that initially they look completely different but, when you strip away the pre pitch rhythm and the leg kicks and all of the other movement that make them different, you find that they are a lot alike.
I like to talk about the 7 absolutes at contact in a baseball swing. Every good hitter will do them on a perfect swing, sometimes depending on a pitch not all 7 will be attained on every swing. Hitting is a battle and sometimes using your athletic ability to hit a ball will trump all the perfect mechanics we will talk about.
Seven Absolutes at Contact
1. Hitting against a firm front side.
This doesn’t always mean a stiff leg, you can have a slight bend but this leg is keeping the rest of your body and hands behind the baseball. This leg will stop your forward momentum and start the axis of rotation that you will now be hitting on. This is very important, you lose this firm front side you lose a lot of bat speed and your head movement drastically increases.
5 time All Star Andrew Jones
- This is one rule that can be slightly different depending on the type of hitter that you are.
- A hitter that gets off of their back side and gets slightly linear before they get into rotation will get their toe on or off the ground. (A-Rod, Manny Ramirez, Pujols, Frank Thomas)
- The next type of hitter is a back foot hitter, someone that will really ride their back side. This hitter will spin on their back side and won’t fully get on their toe. (Teixeira, Kinsler) These players are so good at letting the ball get deep. They are also more likely pull hitters.
- You have heard the expression squashing the bug, this is not what we are looking for. When you “squash the bug” you get into your rotation too quickly and can pull off the ball. It also forces your bat path to be in and out of the zone and the goal to hitting is to have that bat be in the zone for as long as possible.
- Getting on your toe allows you to take your swing entirely too the ball and not away from it. It will help you use the weight shift and rotation together, which is ideal. This seems like a very small technicality but it can be enough to throw your swing off.
Getting onto your back toe will allow your backside to start the swing rather than using your front side to pull your back side through. This doesn’t look much different but your bat path through the zone greatly suffers if you are pulling your backside through. Being on your toe will start your weight shift by driving your back hip towards the baseball, this should get your back foot in the correct position.
- If you look in slow motion at contact, many hitters will be on their toe or even a little off the ground (this is from a powerful leg drive) and then quickly they will be down on the ball of their foot, looking like they are “squashing the bug”. Remember this is only at contact, once the ball leaves your bat, your foot may do something else. It could look like most hitters don’t get to their back toe, but if you watch in slow motion, most hitters do.
This step can be avoided by some extreme pull hitters. Guys that get close to the plate and look to pull will sometimes just rotate. However, if you want to drive the ball the other way you will need to have perfect timing or be able to get off of your backside. To hit like this is very difficult, and can open up a lot of holes in your swing if you don’t really know what you are doing.
Also their hitters that will sometimes not pivot on their back foot, usually depending on the pitch. This may help them to use their hands, reach a ball well off the plate, or keep their body out of his hands way. But if you notice these hitters really drive their back knee to the ball (unless they are battling and are fooled by a pitch) so it is the same concept they just don’t fully rotate their back side through the ball.
3. The hands are in a palm up, palm down position.
On a right handed hitter if you took the bat away at contact and had him open up his hands his right hand should be facing straight up towards the sky (or receiving the money) and the left hand should be facing the ground. This bat grip is the most powerful position you can be in at contact.
4. Head on the ball.
I.e. Seeing the ball at its contact point. This might be obvious, but it’s not simple. Knowing how to hit a baseball starts with knowing how see the ball. How to be a better baseball hitter – Seeing the Baseball talks more about the importance of this point, as well as some tips to improve your ability to see the baseball.
5. The Your back knee, back hip and head should be in a straight line.
A thought is to stick a pole in the ground through your knee, hip and head and rotate around that pole. That ensures you are not too far forward losing power and not too far bat getting tied up and having an uphill inconsistent swing
6. Your head should be right in the middle of your feet.
Think of it as a triangle draw 3 lines between your head and two feet. A triangle is a very strong structural object used in many applications (roof joists etc.) So being in a strong triangle will be the strongest possible position for your body. Also it allows you to rotate on an axis with minimal head movement.
7. Top arm is bent
Ideally you want your elbow planted firmly against your side. This is where you are most powerful. The closer your elbow is to your body, the more torque you can create as you spin. The farther your elbow gets as you straighten it, the more you are losing power and leverage and making the force of the baseball more powerful against you.
I hope you find this article on the 7 Absolutes of How to Hit a Baseball to be helpful. I welcome hearing your thoughts, comments or questions in the comment section below. – Doug
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