HITTING

5 Jul

7/3/2012

Went to the park this morning to do my throwing program and hit off the tee then went to Richie’s for a lift.  It’s funny, I am 32 years old, and I’m just now learning how to hit, hit the right way at least. I know I keep making outrageous claims saying I am a baseball genius and calling myself the King of All Jewish Baseball – both of which are true – but I realize at some point I am going to have to do something to prove it, so allow me, quickly, to explain what I mean when I say I am learning how to hit “the right way”.

My entire generation of players, from what I can tell, has been taught to hit the wrong way.  We were taught a style of hitting that revolves mainly around two points.  First, to get your stride foot down early.  And second, to keep your weight back, or “stay back” as it’s said.  And it just so happens both are points are wrong.  Hitting is not about getting “set early”.  And it’s definitely not about “staying back”.  It’s about timing!  Allow me to explain.

A hitter has three timing mechanisms; load, stride, hands.

1) Load.  When the pitcher spearates his hands to throw the ball, hitters do something called “loading”, meaning they rock back mirroring the rhythym of the pitcher.  Hitters, like boxers, and like pitchers for that matter, are turned sideways in their stance, so they have two sides, a front side and a back side.  If you were to cut the hitters body in half down the middle, two halves serve different functions. His front side is for direction.  And his backside is for power.  So, by loading, or shifting their weight back, hitters are getting their weight to their back side, their power side, before delivering that power to the baseball.  And loading sets the hitter’s timing in motion.

2) Stride.  Anthropologists call walking a “controlled fall” forward, meaning instead of putting “one foot in front of the other” as it’s commonly said, we actually fall forward and stride out catching ourselves.  If at any point we did not stride, we would fall flat on our faces.  Striding in hitting is the same thing, a controlled fall forward, which is maybe why we use the same word to describe both.  And this is where my generation went wrong as hitters.  A hitter should stride roughly as the pitcher is arriving to his release point and get that mass of weight which is the hitters body moving towards the ball.  We were taught, instead of using forward motion to generate power, to keep our weight back.  We will talk more about that in a moment, but let’s get back to this pitch.  So, the ball is in flight towards the hitter, and the the hitter’s foot is off the ground and he is gliding forward towards the baseball.  Now, you cannot swing until that front foot lands.  So what most defines the timing of contact is the timing of that foot landing.  To go back to front side and back side.  Besides direction (what i mean by direction is this.  If the hitters front side is moving towards home plate, that is the direction the barrell pof his bat is going to follow.  If it’s moving out towards third base, that is the direction the barrel will follow.  Their is a directional relationship between a hitter’s front side – his front foot, hip, and shoulder, and his bat), hitters front sides serves another function, it “contains” the swing.  So, again, the hitter’s foot is off the ground, he is gliding forward, as soon as that foot lands, guess what happens? – That’s right.  Front side stops, back side starts, and the actual swing is set in motion.  It’s like this.  Imagine a car crash.  The front of the car hits a wall let’s say.  What happens to anything in the back of the car? It’s projected forward.  And that abrupt stop in front provides a lot of power from the back side.  The reason we were not all taught to hit like this is that is is hard.  You actually have to be good to do it, a good athlete, good “dynamic balance”.  You have to be strong and quick and coordinated.  This is how Major League hitters hit.  The problem is, we’re not all Major League hitters.  So our coaches came up with a style of hitting that would give everyone a chance – the lowest common denominator style of hitting if you will.  Like a said before, hitting is about timing, and this style of hitting in particular is ALL about timing.  If the hitter’s foot touches down early, the barrell arrives early, ground out.  If the hitter’s foot touches down late, barrel is late – it’s called”striding past the ball”.  So coaches, after getting sick of seeing kids either reach for the ball, or swing late, just told us all to step early, stop, keep our weight back, and then just use our hands essentially to punch at the ball.  It is true that if I stride early it will give me a chance of hitting the ball, but it will not give me a chance of hitting the ball hard, which, afterall, is the idea.

3) The last timing mechanism are the hitter’s hands.  No matter how far a hitter strides forward, as long as his hands are back, he can hit the ball.  That period of time when the ball is in flight and the the hitter’s front foot is off the ground is called “hang time”, or “read time”.  It is the fraction of a second where the hitter is identifying ball or strike, fast or slow, inside or outside, swing or no swing.  And all that info has to be processed in the first 20 feet the ball is in flight, or it’s too late.  It all takes roughly half a second – the exact amount of time it takes to separate good hitters from bad ones.  And something else is happening during read time.  That is, a hitter’s front side is moving forward, and his back side is moving back.  If we were to cut the hitter in half again, this time at the waist, he has a lower half and an upper half, and those halves are doing two different things.  His lower half and torso are moving forward, and his upper half and hands are moving back, or staying back at least.  That separation between front and back, lower body and upper body, creates something called torque, and torque provides power.  It’s like stretching a rubber band in opposite directions, then letting it go.  You see big leaguers do it all the time in the on-deck circle and when they step out of the box between pitches.  The stride forward, and keep their hands back to work on that separation.  No matter if a hitter gets a little fooled during read time on an off-speed pitch, if his hands stay back until the ball is in the hitting zone, he’s good.  So hands are the third timing mechanism.

Let’s use a visual aid to better understand what I am talking about.  We will use, for lack of a better model, one of my swings…

stance.

That’s me!  And that’s the Baseball Academy.  Let me first, before we proceed, apologize for my left handed friend in the background.  He is a good man.  Catching a bullpen for his daughter…  Now, back to hitting, nothin special here, just getting set-up and into my stance.  Keep in mind that the keys in the swing we’re looking for will be somewhat less apparent because I am hitting in the cage and not in a game and the cage is just a more relaxed, controlled environment and most hitters are in general less violent in the cage than in games, self included.  But will suffice.  Let’s move on to the timing mechanisms…

load.

My weight has shifted back slightly.

stride.

My foot is off the ground, the ball is in flight.  It’s hang time.  Notice my slight tilt forward.  It indicates that forward motion to the baseball I was talking about before.  It’s roughly the same angle the pitcher arrives at at the top of his leg kick.  I am beginning a glide, or a controlled fall, forwards towards the baseball.

landing point, or “launch” point.

My foot’s landed.  As soon as that front foot lands, my back foot releases and my back side starts to the ball.  You can see my lower half is moving forward, and my upper half, my hands, are back.  My direction is off a little.  I should be landing with my front hip facing the pitcher.  But I am opening up a bit to third base.  This is the battle all hitters always fight.  Staying “closed” in front until you pull the trigger.

contact.

Here I am at contact.  A little upright because the pitch is up in the zone.  And…

finish.

And finished with the sweet USA Fish jersey.

Anyways, until now, I hit the old way- set early, weight back, like Granderson.  But this year when the pitcher goes to throw me the ball, I simply lift my foot up, hang, and get my whole body moving towards the pitcher, like Josh Hamilton.  And it feels great.  I am finally free to stop thinking about staying back, and just hit.  It’s natural.  It’s athletic.  And it’s powerful.  There are A LOT of other things going on if we’re gonna seriously talk about hitting – it’s almost never ending.  But the fundamental adjustment I have made this year is using a leg kick and forward motion to generate power.  When you put it all together…  Another home run for the King of All Jewish Baseball!

3 Responses to “HITTING”

  1. koreaandback July 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Good stuff, worked today with Ricard Jr. on it in the cage… big difference. Amit

  2. Dan July 10, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    Man. I feel like as a pitcher, I should have known this long ago. Also, as a fan of the game this detail is impeccable. I appreciate these nuggets Fish. Please keep them flowing in your brain…

  3. Matt July 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    You know who does that well, is Brill, haha. Congrats Fish. Sounds like thins are going well. I’ll be following the blog.

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