Category: Hitting
Swinging on 3-0 Counts

Swinging on 3-0 Counts

2

As a hitter, your most advantageous count is three balls and no strikes. But how do you know when you should swing on 3-0 and when you shouldn't? Over the last week, I've seen ...

READ MORE +
Hitting: How To Lose Power in Your Swing

Hitting: How To Lose Power in Your Swing

4

Wait, who wants to LOSE power when they're hitting? Nobody of course, unless you're attempting a sacrifice bunt! But there are common problems among hitters -- even the ...

READ MORE +
Why A-Rod is Suddenly a Postseason Hero

Why A-Rod is Suddenly a Postseason Hero

0

For years, the knock on Alex Rodriguez was that he never performed to his capabilities in the playoffs. In October and November of 2009, he put that to rest. What changed?

READ MORE +
Hitting: Wait and Weight

Hitting: Wait and Weight

0

There is a simple, old school hitting philosophy that continues to make a lot of sense for hitters at every level: wait and weight. This "reminder" has been used by some of the ...

READ MORE +
Learn to Breathe

Learn to Breathe

0

Learn to breathe? Who needs to "learn" how to breathe? Didn't we figure that out about three seconds after emerging from the womb? Well, yeah, but, not really. You learned ...

READ MORE +
Power Hitting: On-deck Prep

Power Hitting: On-deck Prep

0

What do you do when you're in the on-deck circle? Any of the following? Swing a weighted bat Stretch out arms, wrists, back, legs Take practice swings Apply pine tar ...

READ MORE +
Power Hitting: Get Deep to Go Deep

Power Hitting: Get Deep to Go Deep

0

Every hitter I speak to -- regardless of age -- wants to hit the ball farther more consistently. Singles hitters want to hit doubles, doubles hitters want to hit home runs, and ...

READ MORE +
Hitting: Offseason Strength Training

Hitting: Offseason Strength Training

0

Despite the MLB’s influx of muscleheads, the truth is, you don’t need to be musclebound to hit for power. This has been covered here before, so we won’t waste space. While excellent mechanics will do more for your swing than your "max" bench press, there’s no question that strong hands, wrists, and forearms will also help your bat speed and power. Guys like Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken, and Henry Aaron were fairly slender, but had Popeye-like forearms. Combine strong, quick wrists with a good weight shift and hip rotation, and you’re on your way to hitting with gap power and homerun power --- regardless of your overall size. Luckily, expensive equipment is not necessary for building up these "bat speed" muscles. In fact, there are some very beneficial exercises that can cost nothing at all. Further, you don’t need much space; most forearm and wrist exercises can be performed while sitting in a chair --- even in the passenger seat of a small car. Oh, and these are good exercises for pitchers, too. Most of these exercises for the forearms and wrist can be helpful to your curveball, and they also build up the muscles around your elbow, which may help prevent injuries. Another thing, your hand and wrist strength can improve dramatically over a fairly short amount of time. And, because these muscles tend to recover more quickly than larger muscles in your body, you can do these exercises every day --- though 4-5 times per week will probably yield the best results. Newspaper Crumple Sit at a table and lay out a newspaper on a table, opened up to the middle page. Place it just barely within reach of your fingertips with your arm lying down on the table, elbow at edge. Using your fingertips, and keeping your forearm flat on the table surface, pull the newspaper into your palm, crumpling it, until you've pulled in the entire page. Repeat until you finish the entire section, then switch to your other hand. The only bad part about this exercise is that your hands get full of ink; luckily it will wash off easily with soap and water. Wrist Rolls This may be the singlemost effective piece of equipment for building forearm and wrist strength for baseball and softball, as it involves all the muscles you use in your forearms to swing a bat. You can buy the equipment and see examples on Amazonand at this site. Starting with the weight on the ground and rope completely unraveled, hold the dowel / handle end with an overhand grip (knuckles up) in your fingers in front of your chest, arms straight out and parallel to the ground, elbows locked or nearly locked. Slowly ravel the rope by twisting the handle with only your wrists and hands until the weight is lifted to the very top. If you do it right, and the weight is heavy enough, you should feel tension or even a burning in your forearms and wrists. Start with 1-3 lbs. of weight and work your way up in 1-2 lb. increments when you can do three sets of ten easily. Now, if you have access to a drill, you can save yourself quite a bit of money and build one of these gadgets yourself for about five bucks (like we did in the old days). Cut a broomstick in half or buy a dowel at the hardware store and cut it down to about 12-18 inches in length. In the middle of the dowel, drill a hole all the way through, then thread a length of rope (about 3 feet) through it. (You can steal your sister's jump rope or get the guy at Home Depot to cut you a length of "utility rope" --- just make sure it's strong enough to hold a five-pound weight and skinny enough to fit through your hole.) Tie a good knot to secure the rope to the dowel, then on the other end, tie a small weight (you can buy loose plates at most sports stores). Squeezes - rubber / tennis ball or grips Next to the wrist rolls, this is one of the most effective means of building your forearm muscles. I like the Heavy Grips brand, because the handles are welded to the spring (and thus won't start slipping around after using them a while), and they come in varying, measured resistance. If you're in high school or older, and serious about forearm strength, get the whole set of 100 - 350 lbs. and follow the recommended exercise routine from the manufacturer (I have, and experienced good results). If you don't have the money for the Heavy Grips, you can still squeeze your way to success by using one of the pink rubber balls you get at the dollar store (oldtimers called them "spaldeens"), or from squeezing a tennis ball (like Ted Williams did). Fingertip Pushups You may already do push-ups as part of your routine, so it won't be a big deal to mix in a set of "fingertip" pushups. It's exactly what it sounds like --- pushups done with your palms off the ground, holding up your weight with your fingertips. Try them right now, and you'll feel the muscles in your fingers and hand helping out immediately. Pull - Ups (under and overhand) Hanging from a bar is a great way to stretch and loosen your arms and back muscles. Going the next step and pulling yourself up to do a chin-up / pull-up works nearly all of the muscles from the waist up, front and back --- including your forearms. Be sure to do both overhand and underhand pull-ups, so that you work all muscles. If you don't have access to a good bar, there are several types available from Amazon, including some that are installed inside a doorway. Wrist Curls (dumbbell or barbell, under and over) If you have access to a dumbbells or barbell, this is an easy exercise to incorporate into your routine. In a sitting position, rest your forearms on your thighs (or kneel behind a bench, resting your forearms on the bench), parallel to the ground, and hold the barbell or dumbbell in your fingers, palm(s) up. Keeping your forearms flat on your thigh / bench, pull the weight up using only your wrists. After a set of ten, drop the weight a bit and reverse your forearms so that you have an overhand grip. Do another set of ten, again using only your wrists. Dumbbell Curls You probably are already familiar with this exercise --- it's the one that is also known as a "concentration curl" or and it makes biceps bigger. In addition to impressing the girls by flexing "your muscle", these exercises will help build strength in your forearms as well. Reverse Curls If you already do "preacher curls" or simply "curls" with a barbell or curl bar, then make sure you do twice as many sets using an overhand grip -- a.ka. "reverse curls". You'll likely need to take off some weights, as you'll be isolating your forearm muscles and won't get much help at all from your biceps. These don't do much for your "muscle", but will help your batting average. Isometrics When you're just sitting around, doing nothing, and have no access to weights or grips or even a tennis ball, you can still do something: isometrics. With your right arm bent at the elbow (forearm 90-degree angle from your bicep) and palm up, push down on your right palm with your left hand. As your left hand pushes down, push back / resist with the right hand by pushing up. Push and resist for about 10-15 seconds, rest, and repeat in the opposite position (left palm up, right palm down). You can do similar exercises for your wrists by holding your fingers back and pushing against the "hold" using your hand and wrist. Bucket of Rice or Sand If you live near a beach, fill a bucket with sand. Plunge your hand into the bucket and squeeze the sand with your fingers into your palm. You can do the same thing with a big stockpot filled with cooked and cooled rice. Steve Carlton used to squeeze a pot of rice after every start.

READ MORE +
Hitting to the Opposite Field

Hitting to the Opposite Field

1

If you have watched the NLCS between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets, you may have noticed that a few of the Mets hitters — specifically power hitters Carlos Delgado, David Wright, and Shawn Green — often hit the ball the other way. While you may expect to see “spray” hitters such as David Eckstein and Paul LoDuca hitting to all fields, you don’t expect to see the big guys hitting to the opposite field. Historically, sluggers have been dead pull hitters, mainly because redirecting a pitch over a wall 300-325 feet away is an easier task when you’re only aiming for one wall, therefore zoning one area (inside, a foot in front of the plate), and getting full leverage of the bat to the baseball. Interestingly, there’s always been a bit of machismo involved — as it takes some muscle to power a baseball 300+ feet — yet, ironically, it takes more strength to hit the ball over the opposite-field fence (or a 400+ foot centerfield wall, for that matter). Today, however, the sluggers such as Delgado, Wright, Ryan Howard, and Albert Pujols are both stronger and smarter than the Dave Kingmans and Harmon Killebrews of yesteryear. The modern hitter recognizes that the advantages of hitting to the opposite field far outweigh the disadvantages. First and foremost, hitting the other way allows you to see the ball much longer — and thus makes you less susceptible to sliders, change-ups, and similar “trick” pitches that break late. Watch Shawn Green in particular, and you will know exactly when he is considering opposite-field hitting by the pitches he takes — they almost always will be sliders dropping in the dirt off the plate for a ball. Green’s big swing and reaction time has slowed down some as he’s aged, so he needs to guess more often to pull the ball for a home run. Therefore, you’ll sometimes see him swing and miss wildly at a breaking ball — that’s when he’s guessing fastball in and looking to jerk it. More and more, though, he’s been waiting on pitches, getting into good hitter’s counts (1-0, 2-0, 2-1) and dropping outside-half strikes into left field for base hits. On the other hand, Carlos Delgado’s bat hasn’t slowed much, but he’s been hitting to left field his entire career. Remarkably, opposing defenses have often employed the “Boudreau Shift”, lining up three infielders to the right of second base. Perhaps their reasoning is that they’d rather see Delgado punch one to left than look to pull one into the rightfield seats. However, Carlos Delgado has the muscle to hit the ball over any fence, in any direction, so the shift only further motivates him to wait longer and decide whether the baseball is in a good hitting zone. He also has much larger holes to aim for. Youngsters would do well to study the approach and swing of David Wright, who is very similar to Derek Jeter in that he tends to frequently “inside-out” pitches. That is, he pushes his hands forward through the hitting zone, but leaves the barrel head back. While this style might rob you of some power, it enables you to wait a little longer, and still get solid wood on almost any pitch. The only pitch that will be difficult to handle is a very hard sinking fastball running in on your hands — but few pitchers throw such a pitch with good velocity and success. Hitting with an “inside-out” swing, you almost always will be hitting the ball to either center or the opposite field, as a function of the bat angle. While Jeter uses this approach on nearly every swing, Wright most often employs it when he has two strikes against him. This is a good strategy for a power hitter, as the outfield will tend to play him deeper, and the inside-out swing will usually produce less powerfully hit balls that drop in front of the outfielders for hits.

READ MORE +
Book Review: The Science of Hitting

Book Review: The Science of Hitting

2

Ted Williams was the greatest hitter who ever lived … or at least, that’s what he kept telling himself. All kidding aside, the “Splendid Splinter” was probably one of the top five hitters of all-time, if not the best. This book — one of the few of its kind when it was originally published — is packed with all of Teddy Ballgame’s theories and philosophies in batting a baseball. Compared to some of today’s ultra-intensive hitting books — some of which break down batting mechanics to specific timings, angles, and checkpoints — this thin paperback may seem vague and unscientific. At the time it was written, however, it was considered state-of-the-art, and provided the basis for nearly all other hitting theories that followed. One of the main philosophies that Williams brings forth in this book is the strategy of understanding what areas of the strike zone you can handle, and waiting for pitches in those zones. In other words, he found a correlation between the best hitters and their focus on pitch selection. Although many coaches think Williams’ theories cause a batter to be less aggressive, there are just as many who think patience is key to a batter’s success. One needs to look no further than Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s organizational hitting philosophy to see that the preachings of Ted Williams are still followed today. Personally, I’ve read this book from cover to cover dozens of times, and pick up something new every time. It’s not often that one of the greatest athletes — in any sport — gives away all of his secrets, and this book holds back nothing. Though some of the ideas in this book might not apply today, the majority of the teachings are timeless, and presented in an easy-to-understand format. I recommend it fully as a necessity on the shelf of baseball players of all ages. Click on the image and you can get it for about ten bucks — a marginal investment that will provide a return over and over for years to come.

READ MORE +