We have talked before about the Initial start of the swing. It is crucial for a hitter to understand how to sequence properly in order to hit the ball harder and farther. Understanding the first initial moves and why you need to get your barrel slotted is crucial for success at the plate.
After reading the article that I tagged in the paragraph above, we know that the swing starts with the hips. After that, the torso, the back knee, and the elbow begin to move as well, creating "the slot". These movements allow hitters to sequence properly in their swing. Getting the bat connected to a hitter's turn is mandatory and if not done properly the hitter will struggle. One of the most important aspects of the swing that is affected by proper sequencing is swing direction. Check out the video below for further information.
As hitters gain a better understanding of how to slot the barrel they can improve their decision making in the box. When hitters get to this "slotted" position they can then worry about just two other things, contact point, and side bend. Contact point and side bend help hitters get to and through the ball much more efficiently. The contact point is dictated by your timing and the location of the pitch. The height of the pitch will determine how much a hitter will have to side bend. High pitches require less side bend. A lower pitch requires the hitter to initiate more side bend. With the proper slot and sequence of the swing, hitters can keep it simple and become more effective.
This is a simple drill to help hitters gain an understanding of how to find the slot in their swing. The move itself is subtle and shouldn't be overdone. The front shoulder shouldn't drastically rotate away from home plate when learning this move. The goal is to get the hips turned then let the knee and elbow move together. The front shoulder should move upward instead of outward.
Here at Softball and Baseball Rebellion, we are big on hitters swinging slightly up to match the pitch plane. We know for a fact that this is the most efficient way to drive balls and maximize power. This also allows hitters to have the greatest chance of making contact. This article will help you decipher if you are attacking contact or attacking the bat path.
Below is a video of myself demonstrating poor bat path and better bat path. The reason I mentioned better is that my swing obviously is not perfect. The goal of this video breakdown is to show you the subtle difference that truly makes all the difference. When I first started working here my swing was very similar to the one you see on the right. My bat path was steep and down not allowing me to use my strength and speed in my swing.
After working here for well over 6 months now, my swing has improved and so have my numbers on the Hit Traxx. Improving your swing is tough if you don’t know what you look for it makes it even harder. This video will give you a good idea of where to look and decipher if you’re attacking the ball or attacking the path.
As I mentioned in the video above, often coaches and players believe you have to "get on top" of the riseball. Although the bat path must alter slightly to match the pitch plane, you still want to avoid chopping or swinging down at the ball, as this will continue to cause mishits and cut infield pop-ups. Even elite pitchers miss with their riseball, and often this pitch actually reaches its apex and starts to come back down before it reaches the catcher. Below are two examples of hitters swinging slightly up through contact on pitches up in the zone. Both are homerun swings.
By now you have a better understanding of what attacking contact and attacking bat path is. You may be wondering if this can be taught to younger kids. I believe that this needs to be taught as soon as possible. Hitter's who have a solid bat path will have success at any age. Given how hard they hit the ball will determine how high they can hit it. Therefore every hitter is different and you should adjust accordingly. Below is an example of one of our 13-year-old softball players who attacks the barrel path pretty well.
Chances are if you are reading this article you know someone who plays softball. Another thing that this shows me is that you are willing to learn the correct mechanics of the swing. If you are seeking additional help you can sign up for online lessons. The sooner you get the mechanics of the swing right the sooner you will start hitting better. Getting better comes from taking ownership of your craft if you don't do that nobody can help you, not even yourself. I hope this article sheds some light and gives you a better understanding of what your bat path should be. If you have any questions don't hesitate to drop a comment below!