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Do Not Confuse Bad Swing Path with Bad Timing

It is certainly true that the best swing mechanics in the world are not of much value if contact cannot be made because of bad timing. However, this hypothesis has become a crutch for many coaches due to an inability or unwillingness to examine the true cause of no or poor contact - a bad swing path. To be fair, $300.00 aluminum bats and mediocre competition disguise a lot of lousy swing mechanics, so some coaches may just be satisfied with fortunate results despite the long-term need for improvement in many areas of their hitters.

Hitters who hit for a high batting average against elite pitching get the barrel of the bat on plane early, so it passes through the hitting zone for as long as possible, allowing them to make solid contact no matter if their swing is a little early, perfectly on time or a little late with the pitch. And yet, if you objectively examine frame-by-frame video of a swing that was not on time, you will frequently see a swing that was never on plane with the pitch.

Even those coaches who correctly identify a poor swing path as the cause of poor contact tend to generalize and over-simplify their analysis to a trendy discussion of attack and launch angles. 

Attack and launch angles result from the execution of the process of the good or bad mechanics that precede them. In other words, they are consequences, not solutions.

Almost all faults and fixes in sports begin with a ground-up analysis of posture, balance, footwork, angles (in the body and while moving), rhythm and timing. Notice what is first on the list and what is last. 

If the object of a baseball swing is to get the “sweet spot” of the barrel of the bat on the ball, it does not take much imagination to understand that poor posture will make this extremely difficult for sharp, late-breaking pitches with high velo. Great hitters begin with and maintain athletic posture throughout their swings.

Bad grips are the most overlooked cause of poor contact in baseball swings at every level.

Most baseball players from the high school varsity level up through MLB correctly grip a bat in their fingers, not the palms of their hands. However, very few of them do two crucial additional things – stack their hands and slightly extend the top index finger knuckle. The farther the palms of the hands are separated when gripping the bat, the more difficult it will be to keep the barrel on plane, particularly when the hitter is rotating with maximum force to catch up to high velocity. When gripping a bat, the back of each hand should be at an angle to the wrist of each arm not in a straight line – Christian Yelich and Aaron Judge are two MLB players who grip a bat correctly.

The slight extension of the top index finger (just as in golf) allows the barrel to maintain an optimum angle when hitting to the opposite field. If the top hand and index finger are too tight, the barrel of the bat will be slightly raised, causing the hitter’s swing to roll over instead of drive through a pitch on the outer third of the plate.

The next culprit causing poor contact is the position of the hands and arms at the start of the swing. The hands on the bat must be inside (i.e., closer to the back shoulder) an imaginary line from the pitcher’s release point to the front elbow of the hitter; otherwise, the hands will be “cast” when the bat is swung or, at a minimum, getting them “inside the baseball” will be very difficult against high velocity.

The angle of the front arm should be a “V,” not an “L” and not straight. To accomplish this, when establishing the position of the arms and hands, the elbow of the front arm stops underneath the hitter’s chin as he is looking straight ahead to the opposite batter’s box and the hands are raised so the top hand is even with and a baseball’s width outside the back shoulder. This hands and arms position will keep the hitter’s swing “inside the baseball” on all pitches when the swing is executed correctly. The wrist of the top hand should be cocked and the bottom hand should not be raised so the bat is at a 45-degree angle. The elbow of the back arm is raised to just below the height of the back shoulder and remains relaxed.

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