Important vs. Vital – Swing Mechanics

Written By: JK Whited

What's Important vs. What is Vital in the Swing

By now you guys know me and have a pretty good handle on how I explain ideas and concepts at Baseball Rebellion Headquarters or here in my articles.

I'm a huge analogy guy.  The reason for this is because I really enjoy simplifying movements to their core and getting rid of the grey area.  For players of all ages but especially younger players, analogies do a great job of cleaning things up inside their heads.

The important vs. vital concept is no different than anything else.  Like the human body, there are parts of us that are vital to our health and therefore living.  These things are measured as "vitals" in the medical world.

The four main ones are body temperature, heart rate or pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.  Anything other than those four vitals would be listed as important.

I'm sure at this point you're wondering how this relates to hitting.  Well, here it goes.

Important vs. Vital

In hitting, vitals are concepts or movements that can not be compensated for. Without them, players can "stay alive" but will ultimately not last.

Important aspects of the swing are things that are nice to have and can really help, but are not necessities to be great long term.

Important

  1. Perfect Footwork

Now don't' get me wrong here.  We teach footwork until it's really good but you can find tons of examples of hitters doing all sorts of things with their feet in games.  It's important to have a solid base of footwork but at the end of the day, if the bat is fast and going up to pitch plane, you'll do damage.  Proper footwork will, however, allow hitters to get the most out of what their hips are trying to do.

Carsyn Gordon Footwork
DiCarlo Footwork
2. Back Foot Movement

As stated above, if you look at a few of your favorite collegiate and professional players you'll notice a variety of back foot movement.  Generally, they all rotate to some degree but the distance forward can really vary, and for some, it may even go behind them.  For the hips to fully clear it is important that the back foot is allowed to move not forced improperly.  The bigger you are the less it may need to move.  For smaller players, letting the back foot move can really open up your hip turn and speed.

Febrey HR (back foot)
Ali Aguilar Footwork
3. Variation of a Leg Kick

I'm listing this because people often combine the aggressive look of a high leg kick with a player's power production.  It's important that a hitter find what variation of a leg kick works for them but not everybody has to have their knee in their face. Leg kicks give hitter time to prepare more and therefore give them more power at contact.  Plenty of players have hit the ball really well their whole careers with subtle front leg moves.

Peyton Glatter (Leg Kick)
Alex Powers Back foot turning away
4. Perfect Upper Body Mechanics

While perfect upper body mechanics can really be beneficial, we know it can vary.  Ken Griffey Jr. played his whole career with an armbar.  Every game you can see hitters adjusting their arms and hands to get to certain pitch locations.  Again, if the bat is fast and on plane, that's all that matters and sometimes a hitter must do something in the moment to just stay alive.

Anna Shellnutt (footwork or upper body)
5. The Perfect Stance

I don't believe there is such a thing.  Watch a game and you'll see a variety of stance players use.  Sometimes a player might have multiple stances throughout a season or career.  It is important however to have a stance that fits your own personal tempo and ability.  Don't be afraid to try different things and mimic your favorite hitters.  Just be athletic and you might stumble across who you were meant to be.

Professional and collegiate players have had thousands of different batting stances, check out this cool article here on "The Batting Stance Guy."

Vital

1. Intent

Nothing new here.  If the player does not want to do damage mentally and emotionally at the plate, no mechanical fixes will matter.  They MUST shed any fear or doubt before mechanical adjustments can really help them in games.  Intent starts at practice and reveals itself in games.

Maddy Unzicker (intent)
Erika Piancastelli HR
2. Vision

The idea of seeing the ball well is a simple one but is widely not worked on.  Hitters must be aware that good vision is a move.  The head must turn inward as the body rotates out.  Most hitters lose the ball as it approaches them and therefore power and consistency are negatively affected.

Amanda Lorenz Vision Final
3. General Body Awareness

Hitters will spend the majority of their time away from their instructors.  They have to be able to self adjust quickly at practice and games.  It is the instructor's job to help their hitter's get to a point where they can get themselves out of slumps or stay out of them altogether.

4. Load/Gather/Coil/Separation

Pick whichever one of these words you like, they all mean the same thing.  The body must prepare to fire in some way(there are better ways than others).  If this never happens, hitting the ball hard can't happen.  Be sure you understand to prepare properly and that you know what body parts really swing the bat.

Sierra Romero Load Coil
Maeve Nelso (gather)
5. Angles

Getting the body and specifically the upper body into the proper angle during the load is crucial.  This determines the quality of the previously stated vitals.  If a hitter can create the proper angle and spacing they will see vision increase, barrel depth, barrel acceleration, barrel path, and time all go up.  So yes, get good at this.  I will write a more detailed article on this very soon. For now, check out my Hitters and Angles article to learn more!

Carsyn Angle
Nelson Angle

Conclusion

The key thing to take away from this is that "vitals" should not be compensated for what might be only "important".  For example, if your back foot is moving so far that it changes your angles/posture then eliminate your back foot move or lessen it.  If you like your stance but cannot load your body properly, change your stance and make it easier to prepare. If trying to have "perfect footwork" keeps you from being explosive then stop worrying about being perfect and smash the ball!

Understand what is vital and what is important and it can really clarify your thoughts when you might be struggling to find answers.

Thanks for reading!

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