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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

5 Core Mechanics to a Good Baseball and Softball Swing

By Todd Thomas

In hitting there are 5 core principles that as a hitter you hope to execute on every swing. No thanks to pitchers constantly attempting to mess up a hitter's timing and balance, these core movements aren't always present in every swing. These core mechanics are dependent upon each other for a player to really execute their best swing. In order to successfully execute one's best swing, these "parts" need to work together to maximize the hitting process. These five core principles are the "blueprint" of a hitters basic mechanics. They are:

1. Weight Transfer
2. Hips lead the hands
3. Matching the swing plane to the pitch plane or "leveling"*
*(this involves the shoulder dip, tilting, & getting the bat level to the ball)
4. Ideal contact
5. Staying inside the ball

These principles of hitting are the foundation and are present in every good swing but they are not all always present in EVERY swing from the same player. A player cannot, and will not, be consistently successful if they are regularly lacking in any one of these areas in the hitting process. This is why Ted William's said that hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in any sport. Although, I tend to disagree with Ted on this thought. Hitting a baseball(or softball) may be the second most difficult thing. I believe TEACHING someone to hit a baseball/softball may be the most difficult thing to do in sports!

Do great hitters always look great or even good at the plate? The simple obvious answer is NO. If the pitcher is successful as they often are, their pitch will take one of the core elements away from the hitter. When this happens take a look at what happens to their swing. The result are often less than favorable in these cases.

Oftentimes, a player who has excellent core hitting mechanics can be struggling at the plate and even look awkward. If you regularly watch a lot of games and hitters as I do, you will clearly recognize when a hitter gets into advantageous hitting positions and when they obviously did not. In the situations when their swing looked "bad", that doesn't mean that the hitter has poor hitting mechanics. Rather, something in the process was slightly off. One(or more) of the core mechanics was out of whack for whatever reason. A lot of times it's a hitter's rhythm, timing and tempo that are off and they are "chasing" a pitch the pitcher fooled them with. Whatever the pitcher has done, it has worked in that the hitters core mechanics are thrown off. As well all know, this doesn't always mean the hitter doesn't get a hit. We've all seen the crazy off-balance swing where the hitter drops one in for a base hit. As well as, we have all seen the "perfect" swing where the hitter smokes the ball only to have it fielded for an out by the defense.

One thing to add here is two-strike situation. A hitter should be less concerned with staying perfect with their mechanics and should be simply focusing on doing whatever it takes to make contact and put the ball in play. There is typically not much a hitter can do when they have two strikes on them except let the ball travel as deep as possible and simply put the bat in the path of the ball. Any thoughts of putting the perfect swing on a pitch when a hitter has two strikes must be out the window and he/she should focus on making the adjustments necessary to put the ball in play.

What is the perfect swing anyway? It's the adjustments a hitter makes appropriate to the pitch they get. This is the reason why a lot of times no two swings look very similar. It all starts with the core mechanics and then expands from there. Every element is necessary to maximize the swing process to a consistently high level. When a player is taught improper core mechanics or if core mechanics are not firmly established, hitting problems are exacerbated greatly and hitting frustration is escalated. Learning the core mechanics and learning them correctly while continually working on them is crucial to all hitters.

Todd Thomas is a Baseball Coach and Professional Hitting Instructor for Mike Epstein Hitting. Coach Todd's personal hitting website is Coach Todd also enthusiastically endorses as a place where baseball and softball hitters can master the Confidence, Composure, Focus and Consistency of their game so they can reach their full potential.

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