Monday, January 26, 2009

One Perfect Swing

By Todd Thomas

Is there one perfect swing? The simple answer is no. There are many "perfect" swings. Every pitch in every location at every speed requires adjustments. Mike Epstein's definition of a perfect swing is "the adjustments the hitter makes to the pitch s/he gets." If a hitter is only taught one swing, for instance level or down, they will be ill-equipped to make adjustments to different pitch locations if their body has been programmed to only "one" swing? If a hitter is only taught to swing level and taught NOT TO let their rear shoulder drop on the approach, how are they going to hit the pitch at their knees?

Great hitters like say Manny Ramirez ,though they have a core of swing mechanics, on a regular basis clearly show the adjustments good hitters make. When Manny is thrown a ball up in the zone you will see him swinging in such a way where he is upright on his axis, his shoulders are more level, and his swing is level to the incoming pitch. A "perfect" swing. Manny would have little or no success hitting the high pitch if the only swing he was taught was straight down.
If Manny was taught only a level swing, he would be well equipped for pitches up in the zone but would be in trouble on pitches down. Have you ever tried to swing "level" on a pitch at the knees? But we hear instruction to hitters all the time, "Swing level, swing level". Level to what?

Manny however within his core of rotational hitting mechanics has a great deal of success on the low pitch. His rear shoulder comes down and his bat head properly drops below his hands in order to get on plane with a low pitch. This being in a lot of ways a very different swing then he executed on the high pitch, yet another "perfect" swing. Keep in mind: this is the SAME hitter responding to different pitches and making adjustments!

Here's how a swing can be perfect AND ugly. A pitcher gets a hitter to break their vertical plane and come forward through their axis bringing their weight out over the top of the front foot executing a one-arm lunging swing. This could really be considered a "perfect" swing with two strikes when all the hitter is trying to do is get a piece of a tough pitch in order to get a better one to hit next time. Simply making contact is often the goal with two strikes and this could have been the swing necessary to fight off a good pitch. However, if that very same swing were executed by a hitter with the count 2-0, it would be considered "ugly". A hitter's goal often changes with each pitch based on count situation, score, inning, and runners on base. Perfect swings by good hitters though often different are the by-product of their mental and physical adjustments.

Adjustments made by the top hitters in baseball and softball are done to enhance their ability to get on the plane of the pitch and to hit the ball square. Repositioning the body is one of the adjustments necessary for making this happen. Why make a tough thing like hitting, tougher with a one way to swing approach?

Sometimes a hitter can execute a "perfect" swing(or what I call their "A" swing) to match the speed and location of a particular pitch and still one of those 9 other guys on the field makes a play on it and gets the hitter out. Sometimes a hitter will put a less than perfect swing( a "C" or "D" swing) on a particular pitch and somehow ends up with a hit. The goal of every hitter however should be to put as many "A" swings on pitches as they can.

Learning a "core" technique that you see in the best player's "A" swings is important. A good instructor will then show the hitter how to adjust from that blueprint to pitches in different areas of the strike zone. This is an absolute must. There is no "one way" to swing. Adjustments have to be made from a swing that would be "perfect" for an inside pitch to what would put a hitter in the perfect or better hitting position for an outside pitch. The Rotational Hitting technique (or whatever you want to call it, the "the big league" swing, hybrid swing, et. al) gives the hitter the flexibility to make on the fly adjustments much more than the rigid Linear Hitting approach does.

Todd Thomas is a Baseball Coach and Professional Hitting Instructor for Mike Epstein Hitting. Coach Todd's personal hitting website is Coach Todd also enthusiastically endorses as a place where baseball and softball hitters can master the Confidence, Composure, Focus and Consistency of their game so they can reach their full potential.

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