The TRADITIONAL Trend passed down from coaches to players year after year is this; Swing Mechanics fixes Hitting. When I began coaching 22 years ago, and concentrated my corner of the game to HITTING.. I really believed I would be a great coach because #1 I was a good hitter and #2 I understood what I did at home plate. Well – “a funny thing happened on the way to the store” ..meaning, early in my coaching years I was AFRAID of teaching something that no one else was coaching and I had a difficult time in explaining ideas of TIMING because there wasn’t much study inside the realms of the hitter’s timing. It took 15 taxing years of coaching swing mechanics inside out and upside down before I said to myself.. THIS IS ENOUGH ! I had reached the TIPPING POINT and I began to PRAY, Jesus, teach me…
I’ll never forget what happened, I was coaching an elite prospect collegiate game, I was in the 3rd base coaching box when I studied BOTH my team and the opposing team’s hitters that game. The pitching was average to good, but NO ONE was hitting. As I stood in the coaching box praying I remember this reply…”What is the pitching coach telling his pitcher? Just get the batter out, throw it fast, throw it slow, throw it inside, throw it outside..” Right then I knew, that’s what I relied on when I was a hitter.. blending in with the pitcher and TIMING his delivery. Everything found it’s place. The next day, when I committed I was NOT going teach the players the same old swing mechanic ideas, this phrase began to ring inside my head.. “Manage the TIME, Manage the Space, and your Mechanics will fall into PLACE!” Now – I understand, managing the space really means “see the ball early in the flight path”.
So now 8 years later I have an even DEEPER understanding to the layers of hitting and timing. Through the simplicity of visually rewinding the swing, it’s easy to see that the LAST thing the batter needs to execute is SWING MECHANICS. Before he swings, he needs to SEE the ball early in the flight path. Before that, he needs to TIME the pitcher’s delivery. Before that, the hitter needs to set a pattern with his eyes and thoughts while the pitcher the pitcher is taking his sign from the catcher. Do you SEE how much is going on BEFORE swing mechanics ever begin ? Everything that happens BEFORE swing mechanics directly effects the hitter’s SWING MECHANICS. The problem most baseball prospects run into once they get to their TOP level of performance is they run into a slump. Once they are in the slump they stop trusting what they FEEL and dwell on the LAST function of hitting – swing mechanics. Making it worse, when a player is slumping, the FEAR of making a mistake is compounded. He will make extra sure “he gets a gooood, pitch to hit”… sound familiar? When he WAITS too long to see the pitch, the ball is too far along into the flight path. Result, weak ground out, pop up, or worse strike out ! And then the cycle continues. “Let’s look at the video, Let’s work on your swing mechanics.. Let’s do some more one arm, short bat, swing against the fence, no stride, flip short toss – hitting drills”.
Remember – before swing mechanics is see the ball early in the flight path! Sure, it’s EASY to just say it.. BUT.. do you KNOW how to coach it ? I already walked the trail of doing eye exercises… that’s only a paper band-aid. Jose Bautista spoke about it in his interviews but NOT enough player development guys were listening. Jose told the audience, because he’s improved his TIMING …HE CAN PICK UP THE BALL BETTER! Sure, it’s easy to just say TIME it better. But does the roving hitting instructor really understand the complexity between the hitting model of Jose Bautista vs. a Matt Kemp? Has the hitting coordinator ever explain the intricate value of the hitter’s athletic D.N.A as it pertains to his TEMPO at home plate? Slow vs. quick.. is it ever brought up? Has the former player with over 20+ years of experience share with the organization his field research on what happens before the hitter times the pitcher’s delivery? Yes, he may mention to the hitters the generic phrase of soft focus and hard focus. But the player read that in a book 10 years ago, isn’t there anything MORE in depth? YES.. there is.
Imagine if some clinical baseball research report was published and explained the inner details of the hitter’s timing. Furthermore, the report clarified that the information discovered was teachable for a player’s comprehension and for making application. This would revolutionize the player development department’s perspective on training and developing hitters.