Various Hitting Techniques
Over the years, two different hitting techniques have proven to work and there seems to be never ending debates as to which is best. One is the rotational swing method, which relies predominantly on the big muscles of the lower body and the second one is the forward weight shift method that uses more of a upper body attack. I have hit using both techniques when I played in the major leagues and often went back and forth between the two, sometimes even without realizing it. Most of my career I used the weight transfer method, but as mentioned, drifted into the rotational. Both hitting techniques worked at times and failed at times, too.
Determining which of the two main hitting techniques is best for young hitters can be the difference between success or failure. Of course, there is no simple and “one size fits all” answer. Along with having used both hitting techniques, I have taught both methods with my students. My first goal with a student is to analyze the hitter’s strengths and weaknesses to determine which of the hitting techniques is best for them. This determination is usually based on a hitter’s size, running speed and strength. These attributes help determine whether the hitter has potential for real power in the future or not. Of course, every hitter wants power, but it doesn’t make sense to teach players, who lack size and strength but hasvespeed, to hit fly balls that are easily caught, just to add power. However, I often found myself teaching the opposite method than they were using in order to overcome a glaring weakness in a particular hitter’s swing mechanics. There are times when the only way to correct a problem was to go to the opposite hitting technique, even though I was not trying to change the hitting technique that would make them successful in the future..
First, a detailed description of both hitting techniques is in order. For the inexperienced coach, the easiest way to understand each is to watch the hitter’s head and feet. Those, who keep their head from moving forward at all during the stride and swing and appear to spin on their back foot, are rotational hitters. Hitters, who allow their head to move forward with their swing a few inches and transfer more of their weight off the backside, are weight-shift method hitters.
Rotational hitting is lower body based, involving a very short, or no stride. Rotational hitters begin their swing with a hip thrust, which allows their head to remain back throughout the swing. Rotational hitting involves a weight transfer that goes around more as the name suggests, leaving more weight back on the rear leg, which leads to this method referred to as “back legging it.” Another indicator of this hitting technique is the finishing up of the swing with the opening of the hitters’ front foot, leading to the front foot instep coming off the ground. This technique has the hitters head remaining back completely behind the swing and over the rear foot.
Analysis of Hitting Techniques
Advantages of the rotational hitting technique are:
- The ability to let the ball travel deep into the hitting zone
- Less lunging and getting fooled on pitches
- The ability to turn on balls , especially on the inner half of home, creating more power
Disadvantages of the rotational hitting method:
- Outer half pitches because the front shoulder has a tendency to fly open quickly
- Lazy hands with all the reliance on the lower body for rotational speed
- Dipping of the backside hip and/or shoulder causing pop ups, fly balls and misses
The weight transfer hitting technique relies more on the hands and upper body, beginning with a little more pronounced stride, more aggressive hands and front side to the ball and a forward weight shift (towards the pitcher), where the head drifts a couple of inches forward during the swing. Hitters, who employ this hitting technique, finish with their weight centered, with their front foot remaining planted on the ground without complete opening of this front foot.
Advantages of the weight transfer hitting technique:
- Outside pitches are easier to stay on
- Increased contact when fooled – having the ability to keep bat in the hitting zone longer
- Hitters develop and rely on hand and fore-arm strength more
- More contact as the front shoulder stays in, on the ball longer
- Less popups and fly balls as the hips and shoulders remain level.
Disadvantages of weight transfer method
- Lazy lower body turn causing a lack of full body turn
- Staying back on off-speed pitches causing a lunging action
- Inside pitches are tough without early recognition
- Less power at times because of the three previous points
Hitting Techniques That Fit the Player
As you see, both hitting techniques have their strengths and weaknesses. Finding the method that best suits the individual hitter is what makes the hitting technique correct, and not because some hitting coach believes their method or way they did it makes it correct. My advice to parents of young ball players is to avoid coaches who believe that one and only one hitting technique is the only way to do it.
With that in mind, the rotational hitting method is best suited for big powerful hitters who will have success by pulling balls and hitting for power. Rotational hitters must be willing to get close to the plate, risk being hit by pitches more, and risk a few more strikeouts to use the method best. The weight shift method of hitting is best suited for kids without much power who want to make consistent contact and use their speed on balls hit on the ground. Creating a power swing through the rotational technique is of little value with hitters with little power in the first place.
I prefer the weight shift method for most young hitters because, more often than not, the rotational method causes young hitters to pull their front shoulder off the ball, causing an inability to handle the often thrown outer half pitches. Additionally, the increased strikeouts and fly balls that the rotational method creates, causes a great amount of frustration. As kids grow and it is apparent they are going to be power hitters, I move them towards the rotational swing. In the end, a combination of both hitting techniques are often best and later in their career, hitters usually find the method that is best for them.
Finally, it is important to note that some fundamentals are necessary for hitting success, no matter the technique, and those fundamentals have not changed from Babe Ruth to Henry Aaron to Albert Pujols. Studying film of all the great hitters bears this out. The correct fundamentals of hitting position at front foot landing, initial first move of the back leg and hands to the ball, rotation of the hips, hand position at contact and eventual arm extension are all fundamentals that have remained the same over the years and are necessary for hitting success.
Finally, hitters, who can incorporate the best of both techniques, as many great big league hitters do, is the ultimate. These hitters have the ability to stay back, transfer their weight with their swing, handle inside and outside pitches with power, as well as maintain superb balance.