This is a post by the founder of ProGrip. After reading countless articles about the baseball swing, I think this is a good summary. The language is a little different, but the points are the same. After reading the post, visit http://ProGripBaseball.com where you can pickup the ProGrip sleeve, a hitting DVD and other tips.
8 Essential Pieces to a Smooth Swing
1. The GRIP: Picking up a bat is the first physical action that takes place before walking up to the plate. Holding the bat is your only actual physical connection to swinging the bat and hitting the ball. If you are not holding the bat properly, you are not allowing yourself to be the best hitter you can be. To hold the bat properly, lay the bat down in your fingers and then pick it up. For most of you, your “door knocking” or “baby knuckles” will be aligned. People with longer fingers will have knuckles slightly off center which is fine as long as the bat is in your fingers. Holding the bat in the fingers provides for more bat speed and extension through the baseball resulting in more power and fluidity in the swing. When holding the bat ANY other way, doing these things properly becomes a physical IMPOSSIBILITY. If this is something you struggle with or have been told to do but it’s uncomfortable, I encourage you to check out ProGrip. ProGrip will re-teach your hands the muscle memory necessary to hold the bat properly.
2. The STANCE: There are many different options when choosing a stance at the plate. Not only are there many different places for the hands, but there are a few options for the feet as well. Many young baseball players try to emulate MLB players and their different stances and I encourage them to STOP!! Getting repeatability and consistency in the swing is extremely important. There are certain positions that every successful hitter gets too including the Load/Launch position and the PoC. The more indirect movement it takes to get to these positions, the more difficult it is to remain consistent. Those unique MLB players are able to remain consistent due to thousands of practice swings and their own unique abilities. As a hitter you want to find YOUR comfort zone not theirs. If you choose a unique stance please do it with the understanding that you will need to work twice as hard as everyone else to remain consistent. I encourage players to keep their stances as simple and comfortable as possible. The feet should be roughly shoulder width apart and in a comfortable athletic position. I tell my players to stand like they would if they were leading off a base with their weight distributed evenly to both sides and on the balls of their feet. An open or a closed stance is ok but both have their disadvantages. I like the feet to be in a straight line facing the pitcher because at the Load/Launch position they are straight, so it is much easier to start that way. Remember every hitter gets to the same Load/Launch position and the more movement it takes you to get into this position, the more difficult it will be to keep your swing consistent. I like the hands positioned not too far away from the body but not to close either, finding a happy medium between the two. Many young hitters put their back elbows up and that’s fine but they should consider a few things first. When the back elbow is up, the first thing a hitter must do before swinging the bat is DROP IT!!! So why have it up in the first place?? Most hitters have a tendency when dropping their back elbow to drop their back shoulder as well and this is the number one cause of pop-ups among young players. When the hitters back elbow and shoulder drop, it causes the bat to drop as well resulting in a loopy uppercut swing. We want a quality bat path to the baseball and this means driving the bat head “Down to the ball”. The reason some Major Leaguers are able to keep their back elbow up and succeed is due to repetition and a quality bat path. Remember swinging a bat is a complex movement so we want to simplify every chance we get and if you start with your elbows down, now all you have to do is drop the bat head on the ball!
3. LOAD/LAUNCH POSITION: Although hitters have many different stances, they ALL get to the almost the EXACT same position before swinging a bat. We call this the load or launch position. Many hitters start with their hands in another spot and move them to this position while other hitters choose to start here. I like a little movement to get to this position because I believe not only does it loosen the hands and arms to allow for more quickness but the cocking action provides for a little more power as well. If you were going to punch a block of wood in front of you, would you punch it with your arm in a still position or would you cock it back slightly??? I encourage my hitters to bring their hands straight back a few inches from where they start. The length of this movement depends solely on the hitter and what they are comfortable with. Movement is necessary to generate a rhythm but remember the more movement there is the more difficult it is to keep it consistent!
4. BAT PATH: Your bat path too and through the baseball begins after you launch your hands towards the ball and continues until the end of the swing. Many young hitters have an extremely poor bat path to the baseball. After our hands are in the launch position when we are ready to swing the bat, we want to take the barrel of the bat to the ball in the most direct way possible. Instead of bringing the bat directly to the ball, many of you drop the bat head and sweep the bat into the ball providing for an extremely long swing. We want to be “Short to it and Long through it” not the other way around. I encourage you to take a look at your swing in slow motion or consult with a professional hitting coach to ask if you are experiencing this problem. Many hitters don’t know they have a long swing and it certainly hurts their chances at success. You will also hear many people discuss whether to swing level, swing down or now people are saying to swing up to the ball. This is all nonsense. The bat is in a starting position above your head and your hands are starting above the strike zone, therefore you MUST swing down to the ball. The trick is to not chop down on it. Also, after the Point of Contact (PoC) you must swing up through the ball to finish over your shoulder. “Down to it and Up through it” is the phrase I like my students to remember because this helps them understand that you must swing down to the baseball connecting with the middle to lower third of the ball to hit line drives and extend up through the baseball to get carry and distance on the ball. If a hitter only thinks about chopping down, they will end up hitting tons of ground balls and if a hitter thinks about swinging up they will end up with a ridiculous amount of pop-ups which is the easiest out in baseball. Being a line drive hitter and a difficult out is what you WANT to be. This will provide you with more success at the plate and a higher batting average.
5. POINT of CONTACT (PoC): Looking closely you will find at the major league level that PoC is the second point in the swing where ALL HITTERS are almost exactly the same. When making contact with the ball we want our swing to be at a certain point and our body to be in a certain position. At the PoC we want our lower half turned into the baseball with our back knee in between our feet driven into the ground. This is a result of using our lower half and core properly. We want a locked out front leg and our weight over the center of our bodies. Our bat should be making contact with the middle to bottom third of the ball and our hands should be “palm up palm down” on the bat. Our back elbow should be flexed allowing for extension after the PoC and our eyes should be on the ball. I encourage all hitters to videotape themselves swinging and take a look at their position at PoC. Getting to a quality position at PoC is extremely important and something every hitter should work on.
6. EXTENSION: This part of the swing is extremely important in getting distance with all of that solid contact you are making. Think about this, if you swung as hard as you could and then stopped your swing at the PoC the ball wouldn’t go too far would it. Extension is the key to getting distance and power into the ball. After making contact I tell my students to think about not hitting one ball but hitting three balls to the field that the pitch dictates so they continue to follow through. At PoC as I previously explained, the back elbow is slightly flexed and now you must push through or extend through the baseball. Extension is often seen as the “snap” through the ball right after PoC. Having proper extension turns those week gapers into stand up doubles and those balls off the wall into homeruns. Many young hitters have poor extension and don’t even allow them to extend through the ball because they were already extended at PoC. Again I encourage you to check out your swing on slow motion to see if you extend through the ball properly. If not, there are a number of drills used to fix this so consult with a local hitting instructor or send us an email.
7. FINISH: The finish is the last part of the swing after extending through the baseball. Some hitters prefer finishing one-handed while others choose to keep both on. As long as both hands are on the bat through extension it is ok to release one afterwards,BUT ONLY if they stay on through extension. You don’t want to become a one handed hitter or get in the habit of releasing too early. As far as the rest of the body is concerned it is ideal to have your back shoelaces, back knee, beltbuckle, chest and outside ear facing towards the pitcher while remaining balanced and continuing to focus on the PoC. That 5 point check will force you to be fully rotated through the ball without over rotating.
8. BALANCE: In my opinion balance is the most important facet of the swing. If you do not remain balanced through the swing, you cannot be a successful hitter. So many players worry about generating more linear power by transferring weight to the front side and stepping into the ball. These players fail to understand two things: 1. When you try to transfer so much weight all the time and step into the ball, you throw your balance off and more often than not will be too far out in front to succesfully hit off speed pitches as well as pitches on the outer half. 2. The pitcher is providing more than enough power to produce consistent and solid line drives. If you ask most coaches what they are looking for in hitters, they will tell you consistent line drives and solid contact. They don’t want guys that try to hit the ball out of the yard and swing out of their shoes because that provides for more strikeouts and pop-ups, resulting in more outs. To become a succesfull line drive hitter you need to work on a fundamentally sound swing and balance at the plate enabling you to hit all pitches in all counts. The greatest advice I ever got from a coach was “stay within yourself and don’t try to do too much.” This philospohy will help you in all situations from putting to much pressure on yourself and trying to force an outcome on the game.
What is a pitchers whole job in life? To disrupt timing and throw off the balance of a hitter. Having said that, if you can remain balanced as a hitter throughout the swing, you are able to react and hit ALL pitches efficiently. The greatest hitters in the Major Leagues are guys that can hit for average and for power and you may be wondering how they accomplish both. The answer is that they have a quality approach at the plate which enables them to look to accomplish different tasks in different situations. Great hitters analyze pitchers and have an understanding of what the pitchers game plan is. They look to put themselves in quality hitters situations. At times they look for certain pitches and certain zones as well as certain pitches IN certain zones. When they are in a quality hitters count they look to drive the ball. When they walk up to the plate in a situation with men on base and they need runs, these hitters look to work themselves into those quality hitters counts so they can look for a ball in the zone to drive. The best two examples of this in Major League Baseball are Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols. Watch them hit and watch their aprroaches at the plate and you will see greatness in action. It’s one thing to know what to do, but it’s another thing to be able to execute and they execute better than anyone in baseball!! Absolutely amazing!!
I encourage everyone reading this article to go to a batting cage and take swings at 100% max effort and then to slow it down and concentrate on the fundamentals of the swing. You’ll be amazed at the solid contact your making and the result of solid contact is line drives and hard hit balls.