Seven Absolutes of How to Hit a Baseball

By Doug Bernier

Because of the different set ups and stances, there are different ways for how to hit a baseball. But once a hitter gets to the contact point that is where all the differences stop and the absolutes and similarities start.

If you compare Johnny Damon (who has a very open stance and a leg kick), to Albert Pujols (wide stance and has very little movement), and to David Eckstein (gets in his legs a lot, chokes up and stands very close to the plate) you would find that initially they look completely different.

BUT… when you strip away the pre-pitch rhythm, the leg kicks and all of the other movement that is personal preference, you find that they are a lot alike.

The 7 absolutes are seen at contact. No matter how a hitter gets to the contact point of his swing, all great hitters do the same thing.

Every good hitter will do these 7 things on a perfect swing. Sometimes, depending on a pitch, not all 7 will be attained every time. It’s important to remember that hitting is a battle, and sometimes using your athletic ability to hit a ball will trump all the perfect mechanics we will talk about.

1. Hitting against a firm front side.

This doesn’t always mean a stiff leg, you can have a slight bend but this leg is keeping the rest of your body and hands behind the baseball. This leg will stop your forward momentum and start the axis of rotation that you will now be hitting on. This is very important, you lose this firm front side you lose a lot of bat speed and your head movement drastically increases.

2. Have your back foot on its toe

When you commit your backside and decide to swing, the force you generate going toward the baseball will be abruptly stopped by your firm front side so you can start rotation, what’s left is your back toe on or slightly off the ground.

3. The hands are in a palm up, palm down position.

On a right handed hitter if you took the bat away at contact and had him open up his hands his right hand should be facing straight up towards the sky (or receiving the money) and the left hand should be facing the ground. This bat grip is the most powerful position you can be in at contact.

4. Head on the ball.

I.e. Seeing the ball at its contact point. This might be obvious, but it’s not simple. Knowing how to hit a baseball starts with knowing how see the ball. How to be a better baseball hitter – Seeing the Baseball talks more about the importance of this point, as well as some tips to improve your ability to see the baseball.

5. The Your back knee, back hip and head should be in a straight line.

A thought is to stick a pole in the ground through your knee, hip and head and rotate around that pole. That ensures you are not too far forward losing power and not too far bat getting tied up and having an uphill inconsistent swing

6. Your head should be right in the middle of your feet.

Think of it as a triangle draw 3 lines between your head and two feet. A triangle is a very strong structural object used in many applications (roof joists etc.) So being in a strong triangle will be the strongest possible position for your body. Also it allows you to rotate on an axis with minimal head movement.

7. Top arm is bent

Ideally you want your elbow planted firmly against your side. This is where you are most powerful. The closer your elbow is to your body, the more torque you can create as you spin. The farther your elbow gets as you straighten it, the more you are losing power and leverage and making the force of the baseball more powerful against you.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger’s AAA team the Round Rock Express

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Hitting Process Part 5 – Decide and Release

By Doug Bernier

This is the last and most important part of hitting. It’s where you decide if you are going to swing the bat. If so, release the barrel of the bat towards the baseball and try to square it up.

How to release the baseball swing:

After we decide to swing the bat, we take our weight shift and turn it into a rotational movement, to get the most bat speed possible. With your lower half out of the way all you have left is throwing your hands at the ball.

1. To start your baseball swing, take your back elbow and drive it into your body. At the same time your bottom hand will drive the knob of the bat toward the baseball. Your bottom hand is the guide hand.

Your back elbow is key once it comes into the slot (where it physically touches your body) you reach a point of no return. This creates a lot of hand speed and once your elbow gets all the way to your body you will not be able to stop your swing.
Once your elbow gets into the slot your barrel will almost be in the zone and will start going through the zone.
2. Once your back elbow gets into the body, your top hand will start to take over and dominate the bottom hand. Your top hand is your power hand, guiding the barrel of the bat toward the baseball.

3. The action of releasing your swing happens as everything rotates around your head. Keeping your head still will allow you to see the ball better and make consistently better contact.

4. Finish your swing by following through the baseball. Hit “through” the ball, not “to” the ball. In other words, follow through.

The old saying of “Short to and long through” is a simple way of explaining the perfect swing. Meaning, quick to the ball and long follow-through.

Final thought on releasing your swing

Once you decide to swing and fire your hands at the baseball, swing hard and don’t try to guide the bat to make contact. Sometimes it is better to swing and miss than to guide your swing to make contact and hit a weak ground ball to an infielder.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games.

Load – Stage 2 of the Baseball Swing.

By Doug Bernier

The load is the energy behind an explosive and powerful swing. What is the “load” of a baseball swing?” In baseball batting, the load is where we gather our momentum to our backside to prepare for an explosive swing.

It’s like a snake coiling to strike, or pulling back the string of a bow and arrow.

Why is the load important? Use it as a timing device and a continuation of your rhythm. Getting your weight back helps you wait to explode on the ball.

No matter if you load with a leg kick, a toe tap, normal stride, or no striding and just picking up the heel, you have to make a move back before you can go forward. This small move helps to make your next move (weight shift) rhythmic and not jumpy or fast.

In depth description of the load:

The Starting Point. To start, our legs are distributing our weight almost evenly, between our front and back leg.

Timing. As the pitcher starts his load (leg lift) you want to start your weight shift by moving a portion of your weight on your back foot.

Weight distribution. If you started somewhere between 50/50 and 60/40 weight distribution, after loading you should be at least 60/40 (to your backside). Some hitters will get all of their weight on their back leg, cock their hips, and try to get all they can into the baseball.

Athletic Stance. But, as you shift your weight to your back leg, don’t let your back knee get outside of your back foot. Make sure your knee stays on the inside of your foot. It allows better balance, and is a more athletic position.

Hands. By pushing your weight back in your legs, your hands will also load and move back towards the catcher. This gets them to the strongest position to fire your hands to the baseball. It’s the same idea that the pitcher needs to get momentum going back before he delivers the ball, or someone trying to deliver a serious punch.

The size of this movement depends on who you are as a hitter.

Someone with a little more power may try to get a little extra weight going back before he explodes.
But a batter that hits line drives for average may use a significant smaller load so he has a shorter, more compact swing.
Direction of Movement. As you start your load, keep your body in a straight line towards the pitcher.

If you start to coil and turn your back to the ball, your swing will be more rotational and your bat will be in and out through the strike zone quicker than it should be, thus making it more difficult to consistently square up baseballs.

Next: Separation

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins’ AAA team in Rochester, NY

How Can We Gain More Time?

By Mike Epstein

A large part of being a good two-strike hitter is the ability to “wait” as long as possible to determine what type of pitch it is and where it is going. There are a number of ways a hitter can gain more time when confronted with a two-strike count. Over the years, many have been taught to “choke up” on the bat, move further away from the plate, move deeper (further back) in the batters’ box, and to concentrate on hitting the ball up the middle, or the opposite way. Some have been instructed to “close down” their stance somewhat, which offsets the hitter’s contact points back further, and can gain him some extra time. All these have worked for many players over the years.

Another way, which I have found very effective, is for the player to move CLOSER to the plate, “open up” his stance, and utilize the inside-out swing. By doing so, the player significantly shortens the path of his swing. His stroke is shorter (can get to the ball quicker), he rotates less, and has more “accuracy” because he is more compact. My experience also suggests he will “open up” his hitting areas more effectively this way rather than by closing down his stance. I also recommend this approach to all the “singles/contact” hitters I teach, because their greatest asset is their foot speed; the last thing they should want to do is jeopardize their contact-ability by increasing the length of their stroke.

On the other hand, when a player closes down his stance (placing his lead foot closer to the plate than his rear foot), the angle of his stride clashes violently with his deepened contact area. When a player closes down his stance, and resulting stride, he effectively “closes off” to the pitch “in” and “down and in.” With two-strike hitting, the idea is to “open up” your hitting zones, not close them down. And, by closing down in his stride, he not only runs out of hip rotation, resulting in an upper body swing with loss of bat quickness and bat speed, but also blocks off a significant part of his strike zone: the areas “in” and “down and in.” In the major leagues, giving the pitcher an extra 25% of the plate to work with usually gets you a one-way ticket to a bus league.

The Inside-Out Stroke Is Normally Used For Contact
Staying “inside the ball” is an integral part of hitting success. It makes no difference what “type” hitter you are, this concept works for EVERYONE. My article for the Collegiate Baseball News, “Staying Inside the Ball,” goes into much more comprehensive detail about its merits and why it should be on every player’s “hit list.” I encourage you to (re)read it.

The inside-out stroke enables the hitter to wait longer. Coupled with proper lower body rotation, the player is able to contact the ball deeper in his hitting zones. Harry Heilmann, a line drive/gap hitter and Hall of Fame outfielder for the Detroit Tigers in the ‘20s—who hit over .400 twice in his career—said he went from being a “good” hitter to a “great” hitter when he learned how to inside-out the fastball on the inside corner—when he had two strikes. This is a wonderful piece of information for all hitters.

What he was telling us was that by being able to keep his bat 90º to the oncoming pitch on the inside corner, he was able to hit the ball back through the pitcher’s box. When we look at the illustration, we can see exactly what he was saying. We can ONLY effect this by doing two things: 1) By keeping our hands inside the ball, and 2) By using good lower body, rotational mechanics, whereby the hands have the ability to “wrap around” the rotating body as the arms extend to contact. This produces the correct inside-outswing. When a hitter is able to do this, he picks up more TIME, the elusive and valuable commodity hitters never seem to have enough of. And, with two strikes, he doesn’t have to be as “conscious” of the inside fastball—he can wait longer—which then makes hitting the off speed and breaking pitches much easier. It worked in Heilmann’s day—and it’s still working today with baseball’s current crop of outstanding hitters.

A player who quickly comes to mind when I think of the inside-out stroke is Edgar Martinez (bottom, left) of the Seattle Mariners. He puts on a clinic when he hits. If you get a chance to see him on TV, or are lucky enough to see him perform at the ballpark, watch closely and you’ll see what I mean. But there are too many others to mention here. All we have to know is if they’re getting all the headlines—and making all the money—they’re usually the best examples.

Executing the inside-out stroke correctly will enable the hitter to get to the pitch more quickly. He will not have to shorten his stroke. Again, it is worth noting that ALL styles should become singles/contact hitters with two strikes. The hitter has to “give in” to the pitcher by shortening his stroke and gaining valuable time. I am continually telling hitters that when they have two strikes, they can’t anticipate pitches or “guess” with the pitcher. They can’t afford to make a mistake here. They have to concede to the pitcher and just put the ball in play.

Let’s face it. With two strikes, the fight for time becomes amplified. The hitter is now dealing with his “largest” strike zone and also loses the benefits of “anticipation” as an aid.

Prior to Mike’s teaching years, he was an All-American baseball player and still holds the highest lifetime batting average of .384 at the University of California (Berkeley). He was a member of the first United States Olympic Baseball Team, leading the team in many offensive hitting categories (Japan, 1964). He was named the Sporting News and Topps Minor League Player-of-the-Year in 1966.His website is  http://www.mikeepsteinhitting.com/

Throw Your Hands at the Ball? (Part 2)

By Mike Epstein

(Read Part One of this article here)

Work the hands in front!

The hitter’s hands must work in front of his body for a number of reasons. One of the most important concerns the notion of staying “inside” the ball. However, another important reason is it allows the hitter’s bat to stay as close to 90º to the oncoming pitch as possible. When a hitter does this, he maximizes the exposure of his bat’s “sweet spot” to the pitch. In addition, he has a much greater chance of keeping inside pitches fair, and not hooking them foul.

Downside of being “hands-conscious”

If a hitter “throws his hands at the ball,” none of these advantaged hitting positions come into play. And, if the hitter’s preoccupation is with his HANDS, he will most assuredly “lose” his hips and lower half. Once a player loses his legs, he loses the strongest muscles in his body! This restricts him from taking advantage of the vital separation of the upper and lower torsos (torque) which is the root of all speed and power in the swing!

Perhaps we can get a better picture of this by looking at a pitcher throw. If we isolate a pitcher’s movements into simply throwing—with no lower body movement whatsoever—it is very obvious why no one pitches this way. If the pitcher just stood on the mound and threw the ball solely with his arm and did not use his lower body at all, you’d probably say, “Why would a pitcher do that?” When he throws with his arm only, he loses the most powerful muscles in his body and all the vital torquing, momentum, and rhythmic movements he needs to provide maximum velocity to his pitches.

So it is with a hitter, although it is more “camouflaged” than with the pitching motion. When a hitter has a preoccupation with his hands, he also loses the lower body advantage. When a hitter tells me he thinks “hands to the ball” when he is hitting, I simply ask him if he’d ever consider using a 17” bat? Because that’s what he’s indeed using when he only uses half of his body to hit with.

Before the minus3s, a hitter WAS able to use only his hands and arms because the ultra-light, ultra-resilient aluminum bats made it possible. The bat did all the work. With the heavier, less resilient minus3s, however, this makes little sense. We’ve got to adjust our thinking here. Take a hard look at the players producing all the runs in amateur baseball and you’ll see very few who are not utilizing rotational mechanics. Even though many of their coaches teach “hands to the ball.” Kids are going to do what works; every hitter wants to be successful.

Now, mind you, I’m not saying every hitter must use his lower body and be rotational. Far from it. But after so many years instructing hitters, I am convinced there are many more players capable of really DRIVING the ball to the gaps if they were given a fair shot at mechanics that promote this. After all, can you name one player who wouldn’t want to hit the ball harder (or further) than he is right now? I can’t, either. Yet, we take this ability away from hitters by communicating cues like “throw your hands at the ball” and teaching mechanics which constrain all but the elite hitters from accomplishing this. Go figure.

It’s got to make sense!

But, I think the most salient point of all might be just “plain ol’ common sense.” IF we tell a hitter to “stay inside the ball” because of its importance to productive hitting, how can we also tell him “hands to the ball?” If the pitch is on the outer half of the plate, how can he then stay “inside” the ball—and also let his hands go “to” the ball? It can’t happen, yet we continually instruct hitters to do them at the same time. It is confusing and also frustrating for him.

The American Baseball Coaches Association and other interested groups are at this very moment addressing their concern over the growing number of youngsters who leave baseball early for other sports. Hitting a baseball is a very demanding exercise, requiring a high degree of athleticism, mental toughness, visual acuity, and a strong work ethic. It’s certainly not for everyone. But, far too many youngsters quit for other sports because they don’t hit well. One of the reasons for this shortcoming is the conflicting information coaches dole out without thinking it completely through. Chalk it up to my pet peeve, “conventional wisdom.” We must teach with objective facts rather than subjective opinions.

Hitting isn’t for everyone, but…

Every player can’t be a big leaguer. But, with some common sense teaching from my DVDs, CD-Roms, and books, ANYONE can easily teach the right information and furnish the mechanical blueprint for a player to correctly stay “inside” the ball. A proper hitting technique can give more players an enjoyable and fun experience. In all my years in this game, I’ve never known one player who hit .150 who had “fun.” Having first-rate information is a good start.

When we tell hitters to “stay inside the ball” AND “throw your hands at the ball” in practically the same breath, we defeat our purpose and goal of trying to get the player to hit his potential.

Why make such a tough thing to do—tougher?

Good luck, continued success, and “get a good pitch to hit!”

Mike Epstein is one of America’s top hitting analysts, instructors, speakers, and published writers. His uncanny ability to simplify the complexities of the baseball swing has thrust him to the forefront of America’s hitting coaches. The Collegiate Baseball Newspaper calls Mike “Baseball’s hitting guru.”

Prior to Mike’s teaching years, he was an All-American baseball player and still holds the highest lifetime batting average of .384 at the University of California (Berkeley). He was a member of the first United States Olympic Baseball Team, leading the team in many offensive hitting categories (Japan, 1964). He was named the Sporting News and Topps Minor League Player-of-the-Year in 1966.His website is http://www.mikeepsteinhitting.com/

Overcome Two Very Common Baseball Hitting Problems!

By Larry Cicchiello

Tension Is A Hitter’s Worst Enemy!

I’ve heard this expression dozens of times and could not agree more. No, let’s make that hundreds of times. If you have tension in your swing, it is next to impossible to hit the ball effectively. On the other hand, relaxing is a great asset to have.

An outstanding baseball coach I know has his hitters take a deep breath before every pitch and go into relax mode. Please note that I said outstanding coach and not good or very good. It is often referred to as “the calm before the storm.” Hitting a baseball well on a consistent basis is NOT an easy chore. If you have tension before and during the swing, it makes it an almost impossible chore. A smooth and gracious swing is what you want to strive for and tension will make it very difficult.

Like I’ve mentioned before, sometimes a slight waggle at the plate will help you to relax. Or you can wiggle your fingers on the bat while waiting for the pitch. It’s very difficult to have your body tense up if your body is moving. Learning how to relax at the plate should be very helpful to you!

You Must Be Short To The Ball!

1. You must go from point “A” where you are loaded up, to point “B” where you are making contact, in a straight line. The very beginning of the swing is NOT level at all. It is a DOWNWARD movement when going from A to B and NOT a horizontal movement. Way too many players level out their swing at the start. The reason it is such a common problem is because they have heard the words “level swing” hollered out to them since they were eight years old. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard a coach, parent or teammate holler those two words out. Only at the point of contact should the swing level out and NOT before that. You can not lose a valuable fraction of a second if it takes a fast ball a fraction of a second to get to the catcher’s mitt. Look at it as simple math.

2. Another possibility for your swing to be “long and looping” may be that you are dropping your hands at the beginning of the swing. This can cause you to be “long” to the ball and cause your bat to have a slight drag.

3. You may be pushing your hands out too far away from your body and that will create a longer swing. Remember the expression, “hands back and bat forward.”

4. You must keep your front shoulder closed. If you open the front shoulder too early, it will cause your bat to drag through the hitting zone. This is often referred to as “casting” the bat and not swinging the bat. “Casting” is what you do when you go fishing and not when you swing at a baseball.

Let’s face it. There are hundreds of baseball tips on hitting. Having a tension free swing, being “short to the ball” and keeping the front shoulder closed should be right near the top of your list! They are three things that are absolutely critical for successful baseball hitting.

Larry is the successful author of several very user friendly eBooks and CD’s covering 320 topics on playing or coaching excellent baseball. ANY player, coach or parent who wants to help their child will be fully equipped! Check out some FREE baseball tips on hitting and FREE baseball pitching tips at LarryBaseball.com.