We’ve heard this coaching tip for years about baseball swing mechanics – that to get a great hit, players should swing down on the ball upon contact. While there is some truth to this, young players totally misinterpret what swing down really means.
When hitters hear the term “swing down,” they will usually swing on a vertical plane. Perhaps coaches teach this method because in their minds, this would be a short stroke. However, while swinging down is shorter, which could be beneficial, this action does not place the bat in alignment for the best contact with the ball.
Swinging down is also popular with coaches because they feel it will hit ground balls in little league and youth baseball, where fielders struggle to make these plays. In other words, the greater the chance of error in fielding, the better the chance at getting the hitter to base. This is a negative way to teach baseball swing mechanics, because it does not maximize hitting ability. As a player grows in the game, there will be other players who will be excellent in fielding and throwing out grounders.
Here is another important point: swinging down hits more pop-ups than ground balls. We identify the action of “swinging-down” that hits a pop-up as a “scrape.” The ball counteracts the downward swing and can actually hit a pop-up each time.
The Super 8 Hitting System Solution:
First, let us understand the direction the ball comes to us. A pitcher launches the ball from a 10-inch mound and because he is elevated, the ball comes to the hitter diagonally down. If you visualize a ball coming to a hitter on a downward plane, and the hitter also swinging on a downward plane, the hitter has only one chance to intersect with the ball on contact.
So where is the adjustment? We do not swing down. But we do go down. By driving to the ball diagonally down, keeping our hands above the ball, and the bat head above the hand as we pivot (drive), this puts us in perfect position to make the best contact. We then invert the bat so that the top hand goes under the stroke, then goes diagonally up.
This perfectly matches the pitch. We go to the ball diagonally down, and our stroke goes diagonally up. NEVER do we want the bat head to point to the ground after contact. If that happens you will usually see a pop-up because the bat will hit the face of the ball rather than the core of the ball.
Coach’s Corner Extra Tip:
Learn more about the Coach Brockoff’s baseball hitting tips and techniques, including his proven methods for improving batting speed by visiting the Super 8 Hitting System —a bestselling baseball training web site and instructional video package, which includes many free youth baseball drills and tips.
I often get the question, why is it that a player seems to have correct hitting mechanics, and practices well—particularly in tee drills and soft toss where form and technique are good—and then loses it during the game.
The Problem: “Performing under pressure.”
During practice, hitting off a tee or soft-toss mode requires only mechanical skill; no judgment or confidence factors are called into play. Games however—particularly high-pressure competitions where every hit counts—require each batter to rely on sound judgment and solid self-confidence, in addition to skilled mechanics. Arguably, a hitter with sound baseball hitting mechanics but no confidence or ability to judge the pitch is less likely to perform to potential.
The Solution: “Build confidence in your players by building tension into practices.”
Let’s understand three important principles when we talk about baseball hitting instruction:
1. Mechanics—focusing on form and technique
2. Principles of judgment—including reading the pitch
3. Self-confidence—combining all skill sets into one great hit
Baseball hitting is a conditioned reflex. At practice, hitters must practice to “groove” the stroke, and then trust it. In other words, no stinkin’ thinkin’ at the plate. It’s see-ball, hit-ball, have fun!
Some baseball coaches use toss and tee drills exclusively during practices, and are doing their players a disservice. Toss and tee hitting only provides practice of mechanics, and the hitter needs much more than that to succeed at the plate. When we practice with soft toss, it is “pitch – hit.” However, when we hit in the game, the sequence is “pitch –trajectory – hit. Successful hitters achieve a level of proficiency that enables them to combine mechanical skills with principles of judgment and self-confidence. And doing so requires the ability to withstand pressure, which should be simulated during practices.
Play like you practice and practice like you play.
Tension forces a player to do things he/she would not do during practice. So how do we make the transition from practice to high-pressure game? Here are some ideas to help accomplish this:
1. During practice, position batters where they get some distance from the pitcher or pitching machine.
2. Incorporate tension into practices by creating performance scores, calling strikes, and holding contests between players.
3. In every batting cage practice session, include a “Power-10”—seven or eight hard hits out of ten—to increase confidence level and a good feeling of performance.
4. Use drills and techniques that simulate game situations and encourage players to feel good about their performance.
Coach Joe Brockhoff
Creator of the Super 8 Hitting System