The difficulty of Keeping the Batting Mechanics
No hitter alive or from the past ever avoided a hitting slump. I have no proof of that, of course, but I BELIEVE IT IS A SAFE STATEMENT TO MAKE. It’s regarded as the most difficult skill in sports for a reason. Perfecting the batting mechanics is impossible for one thing. A review of the sports pages from day to day reveals a star player who just can’t find the groove. For example, the formidable Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper is currently hitting .212. Case closed. Yes, maintaining consistency the season long and year after year is never easy.
Many factors go into hitting slumps. It may be players batting mechanics and that would be the first place to look, especially with young ballplayers. When even one hitting fundamental is off, problems may arise for squaring up a round ball. Then again, it may be a vision thing, when players do not track the ball that well. Of course, timing is a huge factor for batting success with all of the above playing a factor in that. At the higher levels of baseball, teams develop a “book” on players for how to get them out based on their batting mechanics and hitting tendencies, which means players have to continually adjust their hitting approach, too. Finally, players can fall into bad luck, when the defense seems to catch everything a batter puts into play.
The good news is that players can control some of the above things with the help of their coaches. Maintaining the correct batting mechanics allow players to focus on timing and vision. Players who keep a hitting routine before and after games have the best chance at success of limiting the number of slumps and their duration.
Tips to maintain the batting mechanics
- Never neglect the small focus drills like hitting off the tee and hitting short flipped balls. After all, hitting is tee ball with timing, as contact happens in the immediate zone in front of home plate. I often see players slump after about two weeks into the season because of just playing games and getting occasional batting practice.
- Take a few swings at the beginning of batting practice without a stride. A major key to hitting is staying back and not lunging at the pitched ball. This technique helps avoid jumping at the ball and it steadies the head, another key component to good batting mechanics.
- Begin and end batting practice by hitting balls up the middle and to the opposite field. To do that, players let the ball get a little deeper in the zone and it prevents “rolling over” on balls, a common problem when the timing is out front too much. Good coaches know to change speeds in batting practice too, which helps keep good timing.
- Do not expand the strike zone in batting practice. Becoming lazy with that in practice will lead to the same in games. Nothing leads to batting slumps more than chasing bad pitches. Coaches should inform the player when they start chasing out of the zone pitches.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. It is best to learn to practice on one’s weaknesses but play to their strengths in games. Every hitter is the same with two strikes as they protect on anything close. Choosing the right pitches to attack before two strikes are what makes a hitter. Coaches should help players discover the ball locations and pitches they hit best and which ones they struggle with.
- Careful analysis of in-game at-bats helps identify hitting issues. After doing that and when not too tired, players should work on hitting after games, especially when they are upset over game results. Being proactive helps one sleep at night and helps gain confidence for the next day. Maintaining confidence is crucial for hitting consistency.