We’ve heard it for years… Swing Level, Stay Back.
I’ve heard professional hitting instructors use these phrases.
I deeply respect and appreciate all the baseball coaches who have given their valuable time to coaching this great game, at all levels, from little league through college, and especially little league coaches who put in hours of volunteer service.
What I’m about to say is not to disrespect well meaning coaches and parents, but to give aid and help to them in order to avoid the destructive cliches that are passed down from coach to coach and player to player through the years.
This problem was very vividly demonstrated to me when traveling in Missouri on a baseball trip. While we were visiting a commercial batting cage, a coach had all of his players in each of the hitting stalls. I watched him as he walked from stall to stall, telling each hitter, “Get the back elbow up!”
…As we were watching, I calmly asked the coach. “Coach, why do you tell your hitters to get the back elbow up?”
He gave me what I thought was an honest answer. He said, “ I really don’t know the reason. I only know that it is something common that coaches teach their hitters.”
Another incident occurred at my own commercial batting cage as I was watching another coach with his player. He kept instructing his player, “Swing level!”…
…The pitch came in at his player’s knees. And the player was practically on his knees, dropping his hands, trying keep the bat level to hit the ball as instructed. He was missing every pitch. The coach’s solution was, “Get the back elbow up!”
This was in no way a solution to his problem.
Because of my high regard for all the coaches and parents, who strive to teach young players how to hit a baseball, I dedicate this report. Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath which states that they will do no harm. Unfortunately, many baseball coaches have a tendency to use clichés that do just that. So let’s do our own “Hippocratic Oath”, which means to do no harm, and apply it to hitting a baseball.
Any baseball player that wishes to maximize his hitting skills must be aware of these “Misconceptions in Hitting” that could short circuit his becoming the hitter he aspires to be. I was a perfect example of this in professional baseball. As a college player, I was recognized as the outstanding player on my team. However, as a professional player, I was taught to do certain things, and because I respected my instructors, I did what they told me. Some of this information was incorrect, and this absolutely retarded my playing progress. If a player has had instruction incorporating any one of these hitting mistakes by parents or coaches, I emphatically recommend that he adjust out of them as soon as possible, or he will absolutely never become the hitter he wants to be.
Hitting habits usually begin at a very young age...
…So in their formulative years, hitters are pitched to in an environment so that they YOU CAN hit the ball. These are usually parents, friends, and little league coaches who try to make it as easy as possible for them. But as a player enters into higher levels of baseball, he is pitched to competitively so that he “CANNOT” hit the ball.
In other words ….. They want to get him out!
For example, if a young player were learning to do gymnastics, it would be easier for him to carry his skills forward, because there will not be any one out there who is trying to “mess him up.”
This is not so in baseball. As the player get older, the pitching gets better. It is at this time that his previous hitting instruction is of critical importance, with some instruction having done more harm than good.
They will probably be recognized by most players and coaches as something that they have been taught, or are presently teaching! They are clichés that are parroted down from team to team, player to player, coaches to coaches. My warning to coaches that are using these: “You are hurting your players!”
Some of these hitting techniques might help a hitter as long as he is not hitting against good pitching. But here is the catch:
GOOD HITTING………is……. HITTING GOOD PITCHING!
If a hitter avoids these mistakes he will have his best chance to compete at his highest level.
Hitting habits usually begin at a very young age. For this reason, here are two of the top hitting mistakes a player can make.
Stay away from these!
Misconception #1 – Swing Level
“Swing Level” sounds Good. We’ve heard it for years. I’ve heard professional hitting instructors use this phrase.
The fact is that one of the worst mistakes a hitter can make is trying to keep his bat level as he goes to the pitch. Professional hitters make contact with their bat barrel under the their hands 90% of the time. Look at hitting pictures of the pros and hit replay on television. It is obvious that this is true.
What happens to the hitter who attempts to swing level?
Here are three major results:
1. His hands drop to the level of the pitch, creating a “loop” in his stroke and a loss of power. Over 90% of my new students that come to me for instruction have a “loop” in their stroke….and THE CULPRET IS SWING LEVEL!
2. A batter’s top hand has to go around his bottom hand, forcing a longer stroke, and timing and contact more difficult. This also DECREASES BAT SPEED.
3. He exposes more of the top of the bat and the bottom of the bat to the pitched ball. The result: POP-UPS and CHOPS!
4. Transfer of weight is limited. It doesn’t allow the batter to transfer his weight through the ball.
5. The batter has a tendency to sweep the bat, which causes the bat to roll and make poor contact.
6. The batter must begin the bat early, in a circle.
7. The result is less club head accuracy, less club head velocity, and more difficulty in timing.
So, what is really meant when we hear the term “Swing Level”? While, we do not swing level, we do GO LEVEL!
In other words… The waistband is level.
Shoulders are level at the beginning of the stroke. The body is kept level, or stacked. This is level.
THE BAT…… DOES NOT SWING ON A LEVEL PLANE!
So, how do we hit pitches in different parts of the strike zone?
Here it is in a nut shell:
If the pitch is high, the club head is slightly above the hands on contact.
If the pitch is at the waist, the club head is slightly below the hands on contact.
If the pitch is low, the club head is below the hands on contact.
Misconception #2 – Get The Back Elbow Up –
Outside of “Swing Level”, this is the most common misconception. Where it originated from is difficult to say, except that there was a professional baseball player that referred to his back arm as his “chicken wing.” The consequence of “back elbow up” is that it takes the hitter out of the proper grip.
If we had to throw a punch, would we have the elbow up? If so, it would not be an effective punch.
The elbow needs to support the hands.
It cannot do this if it is above them.
If we notice that a professional hitter has his back elbow up, we will also notice that he will drop it as he pivots into what we call a “Power-V”, just before he launches the bat. A “Power-V” gives support to the top hand, allowing for the top hand to perform its hammer like action, when hitting the ball (wrist adduction).
If the back elbow is too close to the body, that would not be good either. It needs to be about half-way in-between.
This position would insure that the “knocking knuckles” are in proper position, which is “up and slightly forward”.
If the back elbow is up, the knocking knuckles will be pointing completely forward, causing the hitter to roll the bat in contact. This creates an improper stroke. It also causes the hitter to lose power.
The objective in hitting is to be quick with a compact stroke, making full use of body action to support the stroke.
Because hitting is a reaction skill, it is important that a batter is quick so that he does not have to hurry. If he has to hurry to hit the fast ball, he cannot adjust to hit the slower speed (curve balls, change-ups, etc.).
These “Deadly Misconceptions in Hitting” cause the hitter to be slower and longer.
Therefore, the hands are then in an improper position on contact.
A great principle for hitting therefore is the following: “Short to the ball—get long”.
This means that we do not swing the bat to hit the ball. We drive the bat to contact, and then the bat swings.
The Super 8 Hitting System is designed to help the hitter to completely understand these principles and to eliminate waste action and to do only those things he must do, those things which encourage good club head accuracy, velocity, and good timing.
The Super 8 Hitting System also enforces absolute proper mechanics and incorporates all aspects of hitting: The physical properties, judgmental properties, confidence in self, all in a hitting agenda which promotes all of these with a strong belief system.
The Super 8 Hitting System teaches a hitter everything he needs to know about hitting, no matter what problems the hitter has developed over his career. These problems can be reversed with good hitting principles.
However, the earlier the hitter begins to use proper hitting mechanics, (before the age of 14), the better is will be for him to establish good habits. If the player is practicing improper hitting technique, of what value is this?
Practice does not make perfect. It makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.