Over the next few weeks, I’m going to make various post related to hitting. Everyone has opinions on hitting mechanics. But before we can discuss hitting mechanics/movements we first have to agree on what a good hit looks like.
I’m not limited this to whether or not a hit ball is technically a “base hit”. From a training/development point of view we need a standard higher than just the result of making contact. I’m talking about a well struck/solidly hit ball produced by a swing that is efficient. An efficient swing is defined as repeatable, adjustable (player knows/feels where the bat is going), and is powerful relatively to the player. Example of 2 youth players:
- Player 1 swings: is a reaching or lunging or “push” swing creating a bat path that strikes the ball with descending blow, ball bounces several times and no infielder gets a glove on it for any number of reasons, ball rolls out to the outfield, hitter running to first base safely, outfielder fields the ground ball and throws the ball towards second base, makes a bad throw, hitter runs to second base and is safe. This result is the classic example of what is known as a “little league double”.
- Player 2 swings: makes a well-balanced, powerful swing, barrel makes solid contact with the ball, the ball hits the sweet spot of the barrel, the batted ball is a line drive into the outfield that happens to be hit right at an outfielder, the outfielder catches it, batter is out.
Which one of the two hits above is better?
It seems obvious to me that swing 2 above is the better hit even though it resulted in the hitter getting out but there are people who teach and argue that swing 1 will produce at the lower levels of baseball. In other words, there are people who teach, train, or will argue for swing 1 above because it takes advantage of youth field/throwing errors. This kind of thinking is not only at the youth level.
Here’s my take. I get the concept of swing 1 above from a trying to win a youth game standpoint. Even at the high school level fielding and throwing errors happen all the time and it’s “easy” to take advantage of these errors. My question is do you want a youth player to get better by being able to hit for damage (hit it harder/better, line drives) or by taking advantage of bad defenses? I promise you, if they want to play the game for as long as possible then it is no question training to do more damage at the plate is the childs ticket to playing the game as far as their talent allows. Defenses get better, more and more ground balls become outs.
This kind of “just put it in play” mindset goes beyond the youth level. Here is a video by the director of hitting for Driveline Baseball. They train players from youth to the professional level. This video is only about 4 mins and mostly about using physical assessment and tech to help players get better but play close attention to the first 60 seconds:
Of course making contact when a player swings is important but why is it sometimes thought of as one extreme or the other? Why can’t a player train/develop to do damage AND train to make better/more solid contact at the same time? The answer is of course they can, but that takes more time and effort. Is it worth it? Well, that depends on what you want out of the sport. Until next time, happy hitting.