Can you have too much bat speed?

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Question:

My son just went through the worst possible winter of his playing career. He had worked very hard this past off season to develop some serious “pop” in his bat. We measured his bat velocity while doing some heavy duty overload/underload training. His bat speed really increased and I could really see the pop.
The problem is that it is just in batting practice. In games he wasn’t making contact. When he did, it was a rocket. The first thing that I saw was that he was pulling off theball. The next thing was a loop in the swing. After that I saw the early rolling of the hands and then too much weight passing through center onto his front side. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:

It sounds like your son has improved his bat speed and therefore his power. Now, he expects to hit the ball out of the ball park. That may be the problem – he feels he should be hitting the ball out of the park. He is probably over swinging and his effort level is too high.

He must get back to thinking “hard contact” and “line drives”. An excessive effort level leads to many break downs – head movement, front side pulling off, rolling top hand, etc. Get him back to basics so that his goal is consistent hard contact and line drives. Look for good balance, correct head position throughout the swing, and a short hand path to the ball.

See the Ball!

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Question:

My son struggled at the 16 year old JV level this season. The bottom line is he just doesn’t pick up the ball consistently. The zone he has the most problem with is that first zone, leaving the pitcher’s hand to the first 10-12 feet. He fights off a lot of pitches because they get on top of him, sees it too late. He can’t ever attack it out in front of the plate. When he sees it early and likes it, he most of the time jumps at it and gets out on his front foot, either topping the ball or getting under it. I have Harvey’s Vision Training, have used it a bit, he’s into his Legion Ball now for the summer and I want to help him NOW ! That’s where you come in, Dave. It’s not as easy as saying “See it coming out of the pitcher’s hand”. What now !!????

Answer:

The first action that needs to take place is that when his stride foot comes down, the hands have to go back. This will get him into a good position of power and allow him to see the ball. It sounds like he usually starts too late, and gets beat on balls, or he starts too early and all his weight comes forward. I would rather him start too early then too late, if he starts too late he will get beat on balls every time.

However, he can start as early as he wants if he gets into the position of power. Once he is in the position of power, don’t have him thinkn about seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand, have him only think about seeing the ball. If a hitter thinks about seeing the ball out of the hand he might follow the hand instead of the ball. Have him start early, and only think about seeing the ball. Good luck with the season.

Taking Your BP into the Game

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Question:

My 11 year old son hits much better in the more competitive AAU than in LL. In AAU, he really drives the ball. Line drive extra base hits. His mechanics are good. quick hands, uses legs, stays down on the ball. In LL, he doesn’t use his legs, swings at bad pitches, doesn’t drive the ball. I know its a mental thing. He says he is tense. I think its a holdover from last year. His first year in LL majors, he did not hit well then either. (partly because he got hit on the elbow.) He works really hard, takes extra BP. But this is primarily mental. How can I help him overcome this psychological barrier.

Answer:

It’s true when people say that this game is more mental then physical. You talked about him taking extra batting practice, which is very good, however how muck time is he spending creating good mental habits. As much time as he spends in the cage he should spend visualising himself having success. Let him go over mentally all the success he has had in his AAU league. Have him go up to the plate with nothing on his mind except him knowing that he going to have success in that at bat. With this attitude he will always dominate.

The Proper Stance

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As you look around the baseball and softball world, you will see all types of different stances.  From Little League to the Major Leagues the stances will vary.  As a young player it is good to initially experiment with different types of stances. I’ve heard Ted Williams says that he would see a new player come into the league and like something this player was doing with his stance and he would try it.  He always went back to what he was comfortable with buy he wasn’t afraid to try something new.

You shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, but at the same time you should not be changing your stance everyday.  Find a stance that is comfortable and workable and stick with it.  When something is no longer working for you, make and adjustment!

Better Bat Contact

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THE EYES CAN DELIVER!!  This season, a Double A player called for help.  After one telephone consulting session with him,  he increased his batting average from .180 to about .250 in a short time, but had reached a plateau.  According to him, he was missing too many pitches that he felt he should be hitting.  My analysis was that his eyes were not always under control while swinging.   The next game this player went 2-4, with a double, a triple, an r.b.i. and a run scored against a pitcher with a 1.59 e.r.a.  The team had only five total hits.

What did I tell him?  The eyes must be relaxed and focused only on the ball.  If the eyes are not in control, then the body does not know exactly where the bat is supposed to be swung.   The body can do a great job with proper guidance from the eyes.  HEAD GAMES techniques are simple to use and the success stories are astounding.  Choose to maximize your performance!

Hitting with the Right Bat Angle

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Let’s talk about the bat angle.  At what angle should you have the bat?  Should it be up at a 90 degree angle?  Should you tilt it back towards the catcher?  What is most comfortable for you?  The most efficient place to put the bat is at a 45 degree angle behind your back shoulder.  This is the best position to launch the bat from.

It is the most efficient way to get the bat through the zone.  Since this is hard to see you may either use the mirror drill or have a coach help you with this.  The reason why I don’t recommend a 90 degree bat angle is because in order to hi, you must first get the bat into a 45 degree bat angle.  If you start at 90 degrees, you will cause unnecessary movement to get the 45 degree angle that is necessary to swing from.

Driving the Ball to the Opposite Field

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The reason why it is difficult to hit the ball for power on the outside part of the plate is because you have to make contact with this pitch deeper in the contact zone.  This doesn’t give you as much time to reach maximum velocity.  When you do see a hitter that does hit the outside pitch to the pull side for a homerun, it doesn’t mean he got around the ball, it just means he hit the ball out front and stayed on the ball longer.  Most players can’t do this because of their lack of strength.

For young hitters is very important to learn how to handle the pitch on the outside part of the plate.  If you are handling this pitch your mechanics are sound.  Many times a hitter can pull off driving the outside pitch to the opposite field he is staying on the ball with his front side and letting the ball travel, these are two things that are difficult for young hitters because most want to go out and get the ball as oppose to letting the ball come to them.

Switch Hitting Questions and Answers

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Question:

When should a player start switch-hitting? What do you consider a good age to begin? How proficient should the hitter be from his strong side before he begins learning to switch-hit? Do you consider learning to switch-hit to be a big advantage for being recruited by college/pros? Just off the top of my head, it seems that many of the top hitters in the Majors are not switch hitters.

Answer:

My son and I started to work on switch hitting when he was about 10 years old, but he didn’t start switch hitting in games until he was 13. I wanted him to get a real feel for balance through his swing and develop more strength before I put him in a game situation. When he started switch hitting in games, he hit only left handed for the entire year (he’s a natural right handed hitter). This was the year he was going to go to the big field and I thought he might struggle somewhat switch hitting, but most kids struggle when moving up to the regulation size field anyway so I didn’t worry about it. He ended up having some success and has improved to the point to where he is a better hitter from the left side.

If you want your son to switch hit, you should have a reason for having him do so. Does he have some speed? If he has some speed, or potential to have speed, then there are some advantages to hitting from the left side. If he is going to be a power hitter with little speed, than I would say let him stay on one side. Most switch hitters are natural right handed hitters, there is a different advantage for left handed hitters. Most pitchers are right handed, hitting from the left side hitters will not have to deal with the offspeed pitch breaking away from them. Another big advantage to switch hitting is that players won’t be platooned if they are proficient from both sides of the plate.

If my son would have been a natural left handed hitter, I don’t believe I would have taught him to switch hit. But don’t hold me to that because I have a 2 year old and he hits off the tee lefty, I think because he watches his brother hit from the left side so much.

How to Get Into the Position of Power

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Q:

When my 16 year old tried setting her hands in the Position of Power, she feels like it’s harder the pull down with the bottom hand, getting that short path to the ball. She feels “trapped” a bit and has too much top hand, her swinging loops under the ball. How can we get the hands set and still get that pull down angle with the bottom hand?

A:

The Position of Power is a position that every hitter should be in when the stride foot lands. The hands do not need to move very much, as long as the hands are just behind the back foot when the stride foot lands. The hands should not feel “trapped”. This should be a fluid movement that is not segmented.  It sounds like your daughter is not properly staying inside the ball.

The easiest way to correct this problem is to not think of cocking the wrists, just think about taking the hands back. This will allow for a free and easy swing, when she thinks about the wrists, she would probably have a tendency to be stiff.

Learning How to Practice

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Question:

I am coaching 11-12 year olds. Majority of them are struggling to hit the outside pitch. If they do make contact, it’s usually a weak grounder pulled to the shortstop. Any suggestions for teaching them how to hit to right field? I know they have to let the ball get deeper into the strike zone but am unsure how to teach the right field swing correctly. Thanks.

Answer:

The number one thing is practice. They have to do the drills and put in the practice time. Tee work, soft toss are very important. Make sure they are staying inside the ball, letting the ball get deep as you mentioned. Keeping the front side closed as long as possible and keep an eye on the back foot, the back knee & foot should not fully rotate. The back knee and foot should point to where the ball is hit. This will help the hips to stay closed. You do not want the hips fully rotated when hitting the outside pitch. Also, make sure the bat takes the proper angle to the ball, the barrel of the bat should not drop below the hands until contact is made. The proper bat angle will enable the hitter to stay in top of the ball. Lastly, head position is very important, have your hitters keep their head down past contact, this will help them to stay over and on the ball.