In this special blog take over, Coach JK from Baseball Rebellion walks us through what he considers important and vital for a good baseball or softball swing. Interested in having JK analyze one of your swings? Click here!
I’m a huge analogy guy. I really enjoy simplifying movements to their core and getting rid of grey area. For athletes of all ages, but especially younger athletes, analogies do a great job of cleaning things up inside their heads.
The important vs. vital concept is no different than anything else. Like the human body, there are parts of us that are vital to our health. These things are literally measured as “vitals” in the medical world. The four main ones are body temperature, heart rate or pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Anything outside of those four vitals would be listed as important. It is vital that you have a heart rate, it is important that you’re able to swallow.
Important vs. Vital in the Swing
In hitting, vitals are concepts or movements that can not be compensated for. Without them, players can’ “stay alive” or be productive hitters for very long.
Important aspects of the swing are things that are nice to have and can really help, but are not necessities to be great long term.
Now don’t’ get me wrong here. We teach footwork until it’s really good but you can find tons of examples of hitters doing all sorts of things with their feet in games. It’s important to have a solid base of footwork but at the end of the day, if the bat is fast and going up to pitch plane, you’ll do damage. Proper footwork will, however, allow hitters to get the most out of what their hips are trying to do.
Back Foot Movement
As stated above, if you look at a few of your favorite collegiate and professional players you’ll notice a variety of back foot movement. Generally, they all rotate to some degree but the distance forward can really vary, and for some, it may even go behind them. For the hips to fully clear it is important that the back foot is allowed to move, not forced improperly. The bigger you are the less it may need to move. For smaller players, letting the back foot move can really open up your hip turn and speed.
Variation of a Leg Kick
I’m listing this because people often combine the aggressive look of a high leg kick with a player’s power production. It’s important that a hitter find what variation of a leg kick works for them but not everybody has to have their knee in their face. Leg kicks give hitter time to prepare more and therefore give them more power at contact. Plenty of players have hit the ball really well their whole careers with subtle front leg moves.
Perfect Upper Body Mechanics
While perfect upper body mechanics can really be beneficial, we know it can vary. Ken Griffey Jr. played his whole career with an armbar. Every game you can see hitters adjusting their arms and hands to get to certain pitch locations. Again, if the bat is fast and on plane, that’s all that matters and sometimes a hitter must do something in the moment to just stay alive.
The Perfect Stance
I don’t believe there is such a thing. Watch a game and you’ll see a variety of stance players use. Sometimes a player might have multiple stances throughout a season or career. It is important however to have a stance that fits your own personal tempo and ability. Don’t be afraid to try different things and mimic your favorite hitters. Just be athletic and you might stumble across who you were meant to be.
Professional and collegiate players have had thousands of different batting stances, check out this cool article here on “The Batting Stance Guy.”
Nothing new here. If the player does not want to do damage mentally and emotionally at the plate, no mechanical fixes will matter. They MUST shed any fear or doubt before mechanical adjustments can really help them in games. Intent starts at practice and reveals itself in games.
The idea of seeing the ball well is a simple one but is widely not adressed. Hitters must be aware that good vision is a movement. The head must turn inward as the body rotates out. Most hitters lose the ball as it approaches them and therefore power and consistency are negatively affected.
General Body Awareness
Hitters will spend the majority of their time away from their coaches. They have to be able to self adjust quickly at practice and games. It is the coach’s job to help their hitter’s get to a point where they can get themselves out of slumps or stay out of them altogether.
Pick whichever one of these words you like, they all mean the same thing. The body must prepare to fire. If this doesn’t happen, hitting the ball hard won’t happen. Be sure you understand how to prepare properly and that you know what body parts really accelerate the bat.
Getting the body into the proper angle during the load is crucial. This determines the quality of the previously stated vitals. If a hitter can create the proper angle and spacing they will see vision increase, barrel depth, barrel acceleration, barrel path, and time all go up.
The key take away from this is that “vitals” should not be compensated for what might be only “important”. For example, if your back foot is moving so far that it changes your angles/posture then eliminate or minimize your back foot movement. If you like your stance but cannot load your body properly, change your stance and make it easier to prepare. If trying to have “perfect footwork” keeps you from being explosive then stop worrying about being perfect and smash the ball!
Understand what is vital and what is important. Use it to focus your practice.
-JK, Senior Director of Online Instruction at Baseball Rebellion
Want help “seeing” the difference in these vital and important movements? The V1 Baseball app brings high tech video analysis tools to your phone, and connects you with some of the best coaches in baseball and softball for online lessons. Click here to download or search V1 Baseball in your app store!