Baseball & Softball Hitting: The Finish

tedwilliams2 - CopyThe previous three posts related to hitting dealt with:

  1. Stance or Rest Position
  2. Negative Movement or Launch Position
  3. Contact Position

The fourth installment of this series of posts deals with the end of the swing or “The Finish”.   Basically, I want to describe what a hitter’s body should look like after contact is made. The focus of this description will be related to balance and direction of of bat path. Here are 4 questions to ask your hitters at the end of the swing:

  1. Are you hitting off a firm front side with your front knee still locked?
  2. Are you still balanced with your head centered between both legs so as not to be lunging forward? Could you take a steel rod and insert it through the top of the skull, go down through the spine, and come out the bottom of the femur?
  3. Is your head still and steady? Does the neck look and feel relaxed? Did the head remain at a consistent altitude?
  4. Is the bat completely wrapped around your back? This may vary, based on whether you are a top hand release hitter (ex. Mark MacGwire) or a no release hitter (ex. Mike Schmidt).

IMG_0234 - Copy

The Test- Repeatedly, look to see if  the hitter is in a steady, controlled position upon finishing the swing. If not, continuously look to improve until he/she is in that position. Depending on core strength, age, and amount of built up muscle memory the amount of time to correct improper balance will vary.  For some hitters it may take 1,000 repetitions to get to “comfortable” 🙂

Please feel free to comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably enjoy the following:

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/baseball-softball-hitting-qualities-of-a-great-batting-stance/

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/baseball-softball-hitting-loading-launching-slotting-getting-a-negative-movement/

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/baseball-softball-hitting-the-contact-position/

Tips for Baseball Pitchers: Finding Target Line

Target lineThis one is for baseball pitchers that miss wide of the plate, either right or left.  A common thought on pitching is for the pitcher to get everything they’ve got going towards the catcher. In other terms, we want the pitcher to get all of their weight and momentum going in the correct direction. For example, I like to ask a pitcher how much they weigh. If the say “175 pounds”, then I say, “Well you need to get all of those 175 pounds going in the correct direction.”  We do not want  25-50 of those pounds going in some other direction.  Loss of  effort and force in the direction of our goal (the catcher’s mitt) means lost velocity and control. 

“Target line” is a term that many coaches use with pitchers.  It basically means that there is an invisible line from the center of the rubber that extends through the center of home plate. As pitchers become more advanced, they can adjust target line on their own in order to hit different spots.

The real fight with this one is to get the player to understand how to perform the physical task of staying on target line with their front foot, and placing it into their muscle memory. The earlier that you teach this concept, the easier it will be. I start teaching this concept to players as young as 7.  But a 15 year old that does not stay on target line may have 8-10 years of bad habits built into his muscle memory and it will take longer to correct.

How do we get the pitcher to target line?

  1. Begin from set position or “stretch”. Make sure the front foot (strike point foot) has the ball of  that foot has target line running right through it.
  2. The foot in contact with the rubber (post foot) can either be even with target line or slightly offset (behind). It really is a comfort level thing for the pitcher.
  3. After balance or knee lift, the front foot that started on target line should land slightly open(45°), but back on target line. If the foot lands totally open or pointing at the catcher, the hip will open up too early and a velocity loss will occur. Compare this to how a front foot should land when a player is hitting. A great tool to use to teach this skill is a balance beam or simply a 2×4.  If  don’t have either of those, draw a line in the dirt or use a line on a gym floor.  Have the pitcher go from the stretch to strike point repeatedly. If the pitcher’s front foot lands off target line the beam will give instant feedback.
  4. Encourage pitchers to direct their chin towards the catcher as well.  This will prevent unnecessary force going away from target line.
  5. From the wind up, young pitchers seem to start with their feet directly in the center of the rubber. Well, too often this encourages them to be off target line. I like to start righties on the left half of the rubber and lefties on the right half.  As pitchers get older they can vary this position.  For example, as a pitcher gets older throwing the ball right down the heart of the plate is not always the best thing to do. Adjust target line to meet their efforts to hit corners and also to come inside from the opposite side of the rubber.
  6. Another great drill to reinforce this concept is “step behinds.” It is described in the following post: https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/throwing-progression-for-accuracy-arm-strength-playing-catch-the-right-way/

Here are some cool clips from Don Cooper of the Chicago White Sox. A good friend and I were actually at this clinic. I’m a Cubs fan (and a new D’backs fan….Go Clay!!!) and even I’ll say he was an AWESOME speaker!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjnbLg3UzKQ&feature=PlayList&p=F9D23C1C6B677D76&index=29

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTndWLd0skk&feature=PlayList&p=F9D23C1C6B677D76&index=28

Please check out this poll related to pitch counts. I want your opinion!!!

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/pitchcounts-baseball/

 

Baseball Pitching Drill: “3 Hops”

pitching3hopsdrill

I really like this drill for players ages 12 and up.  This comes with one reservation. If the player can not hold a balanced knee lift for 7-10 seconds, this drill is probably a bit too advanced.  For me, a balanced knee lift is defined as the knee lifted towards the rear armpit so the the upper leg is parallel to the ground or higher with the weight gathered over the back foot.  Meanwhile, the player needs to be able to do this with out tilting his shoulders back in order to maintain balance. If that is the case, then the player should simply work on getting to that position, being able to hold it & repeat. Only then, is the “3 hops” drill is appropriate.

This drill is outstanding for players to develop body control and core strength.  Ultimately, we want the pitcher to be able the control balance throughout  the hops. If the player loses balance at any point prior to the 3rd hop, he should stop and begin again, as opposed to finishing the rep in an incorrect manner. After the last hop, it’s imperative that you pay attention to foot strike as the player throws the ball. It should still be initiated on the in-step ball of foot and with weight 75-80% back, just as it should as if the pitcher were throwing a pitch without the hops.  The foot should land slightly closed, not pointing directly at the target in order to prevent premature hip rotation. One goal of the drill is to be able to maintain good mechanics despite the hops, not create a bad habit, such as, landing heavy on the front foot.  Thus, one variation you may want to try is to have the pitcher freeze at foot strike after the 3rd hop without actually throwing the ball. Then, check for proper foot strike and ball position. Lastly, I suggest starting to teach this drill on flat ground.  Then, move up to the mound. This will increase the player’s chance of success with the drill.

Initially, I like to include verbal cues with this drill. Such as:

  1. “Ready” (starts in stretch position)
  2. “Balance” (make sure they’re here before 1st hop is cued)
  3. “Hop, Hop, Hop” (1/2 second between hops) 
  4. “Go!” (meaning throw)

As the player becomes accustomed to the drill.  The coach should reduce the verbal cues and allow the player to self-coach and pace himself.  Finally at mastery, you should be able to have your more disciplined players do this drill on the side as part of a bullpen session on his own. Lastly, don’t be afraid to bring the player(s) back to basics with the verbal cues from the coach.