Too many kids have been driven away from baseball and softball because of their inability to hit. In the past, blame had been assigned to the player’s lack of hand eye coordination and the fact that hitting is very difficult. In truth, hitting is statistically one of the hardest things to do in sports, but coaches have made it a lot harder by teaching flawed methods for the past 40 plus years.
Coaches have been satisfied with minimal production at the plate because hitting at its roots, is rich in failure. As a result, baseball and softball at all levels has been dominated by pitching and there is a vast disconnect between coaches on what defines good swing fundamentals. Often people become so opinionated over what they FEEL is right, that they refuse to observe and analyze what is actually happening in a slow motion video of a great hitter.
I frequently hear coaches talk about the importance of being short (direct) to the ball.
Below, we have Manny Ramirez who statistically was one of the best hitters of the past 30 years and Jose Batista, one of today’s best hitters. At first glance, we can clearly see that Jose is not short (direct) to the ball by the standard definition. In Manny’s case (and in vast majority of successful major leaguers) the barrel of the bat drops low very early and then travels up matching the path that ball is coming in on. I used Manny Ramirez and Jose Batista for examples, but we see this pattern in all successful major league hitters from Hunter Pence to Derek Jeter.
So if none of baseball’s greats have had a direct swing path why has it been taught for so many years? The idea of being short to the ball was brought about as a way to help hitters more successfully hit fast pitching. The thought was that if the ball is pitched fast then the hitter has no choice but to move his or her bat directly to the point of contact.
Unfortunately, being short to the ball presents two problems that can be stifling to hitters of all ages.
The first problem is that your bat’s path will only intersect the ball at for a short period of time (as shown in the picture to the right). When your swing is direct, (swinging down) your timing has to be near perfect to hit the ball hard. If you swing a little early, you’ll hit the back of the ball in a downward motion resulting in a backwards spinning ping pong like hit that usually doesn’t go further than second base. If you swing late, you’ll hit the top of the ball and drive the ball right into the ground.
The second problem with being short or direct to contact is that the short to the ball pattern results in a bat path that is actually much longer than a swing that is considered “Long.” Meaning that the distance that the bat must travel to where contact can happen in a direct swing is actually much longer than a swing that is considered by many to be long and loopy.
See the video below for an in depth description of the short to the ball conundrum.
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