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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Overanalyzing the Baseball Swing Can Create Problems

By Steve Rau

Let's take a look at some of the most common swing faults that need to be addressed.

Dipping the back shoulder- This common flaw in young hitters is a killer. When the player strides, the back shoulder drops along with the hands, instead of loading with a short negative movement towards the catcher. This movement causes the hitter's swing path to be offline of the path of the pitch. Weak pop ups and groundballs are likely results.

Losing the barrel- So many little leaguers make their first move with the bat, a lowering of the barrel. This movement takes the hitter out of attack posture and produces a long, slow, looping swing to the point of contact. The result is being slow to the ball; a characteristic of .200 hitters.

No hip turn- If a hitter wants to have a weak swing and hit lazy fly balls all day, then not using the hips will do just that. Good hip action may be the most important mechanical skill hitters must possess if they want to drive the ball. The belly button needs to face the pitcher after contact.

Getting the foot down- The timing of the swing is an important skill that great hitters master and part of that timing comes at the point of toe touch. The swing does not start when the front foot lands, it does start on the hip turn. Young hitters think they need to start the hands in motion towards the ball on the stride and this is wrong. Starting the hands too early means that the hitter is committing to the pitch early; the result is not being able to adjust to the location and speed of the pitch efficiently.

The above mechanical faults are common among young, inexperienced hitters; coaches at the collegiate and professional level are usually not dealing with these issues. If your player is not experiencing gross flaws in the swing, it is likely that they are using the wrong mental approach to each at bat and the swing does not need to be tinkered with.

Before changing swing mechanics sit down and take a look at the approach to each at bat. Is the hitter studying pitcher tendencies? What pitches is he throwing for strikes on that day? Is the hitter chasing bad pitches? Does the hitter think about hitting the ball to the opposite field? Is the hitter chasing pitcher's pitches?

There are a number of questions that need to be answered before screwing with a nice swing. If there is an obvious flaw in the swing, then you should definitely work to rectify the problem, but don't try to fix what's not broken.

Coach Steve Rau is a long time baseball instructor and co-founder of Play Ball Academy. He has been a part of championship baseball programs as both a player and coach for over 20 years. He currently helps hundreds of coaches and young ballplayers improve their baseball knowledge through online and offline instruction.

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