by Matthew de Marte – January 4th, 2018
Oftentimes people over-complicate how to become a great hitter and how to maximize your individual potential. Many people try to reinvent the wheel and make hitting way more difficult than it needs to be. However, sometimes it is better to stick to the basics in order to reach your maximum potential. Getting better is never an overnight accomplishment and improvements generally take place over a long period of time. Below, I have compiled a list of ten things that most hitters neglect. If taken into account on a daily basis, these ten things can result in reaching the next level as a hitter
- Watching Video of the Best Hitters
Studying the swings of the best hitters and trying to emulate their movement patterns can be beneficial. Brent Rooker, the 35th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, is a prime example of how video can change a hitter’s career. As a Junior in 2016, Rooker was drafted in the 38th round out of Mississippi State. He returned for his senior season to slash .387/.495/.810 with 23 home runs, leading the SEC in all four categories. Rooker was quoted saying, “I watch a lot of film of the best hitters in the world and find things that they all have in common. Then I take those principles and try to apply them to my swing.” If it can work for a stud like Brent Rooker, watching and studying video can work for you.
- Stop Hitting Front Toss
Too often when hitters swing on their own, they simply go through the motions of their mechanics while hitting front toss. When breaking the swing down and trying to really feel a new mechanical adjustment, front toss can be useful. However, it is over-utilized and unfortunately the only method hitters use when hitting with friends or coaches. Front toss is not able to replicate the downward plane of a pitch in an actual game. Due to this, I suggest staying away from front toss as much as possible. When training the swing, you must constantly replicate game like scenarios. This is why overhand batting practice and pitching machines are much more effective in replicating in-game timing.
- The Back of the Cage is Not the Goal
We have all heard it before. When hitting in a cage, a coach or a parent will say, “Hit the back of the cage,” or chastise a player for hitting too many “pop-ups” off the top of the cage. Launch angles dictate that a line drive to the back of the cage generally is hit between a 7-11 degree angle. In the following graphic displayed below is a table which breaks down the quantity and percentage of home runs hit based off of launch angles. The data is derived from the 2015, and 2016 regular season, as well as, the first month of the 2017 season.
As you can see, home runs were hit primarily between the 20-35 degree bracket. These are the same balls that would hit the top of the cage and probably anger your coach at the same time. These baseballs hit off the top of the cage when BARRELED, (Launch angle means nothing if not combined with a quality exit velocity) can maximize a player’s output. I am not saying that hitting line drives off the back of the cage is a bad thing. In fact, these are great in-game swings that lead to singles and line drives which results in production! However, while training and fine-tuning the swing, the ideal scenario is to optimize performance which is done through elevation of the ball and not practicing low line drives that barely leave the infield.
- Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Everybody uses social media nowadays, but not everybody knows that you can also use it to make you a better hitter. Tons of coaches put out free content on Twitter and Instagram that can be extremely beneficial in helping you become a better hitter. In addition to social media, the internet in general is an excellent learning tool that has many different resources for you to utilize. The answers to becoming a better hitter are out there, you just have to ask the right questions to get them. Here are some outstanding coaches I suggest you follow that will surely supply you with information that is very useful to your development as a player. All of these accounts are Twitter handles.
@SaberCoach, @PeabodyBasebal, @TweksHitting, @Darenw, @RA_Parker, @HyattCraig, @dustinlind, @drivelinebases, @EricCressey, @Hitting_Video, @SuccessLvsClues, @Jason_cOchart, @BaseballPds, @SteveCarterPP, @EP_hitting, @ChezWhizzz, @clongbaseball, @FiskPT, @Teacherman1986, @CoachDaws, @HittingPrep,@C_Wallenbrock`
The first step in creating a better swing and better approach at the plate is to visualize what it is that you actually want to do. Hitting a 90 MPH fastball requires the subconscious part of your brain to replicate the movement pattern of your swing quite rapidly without much time for thought. Visualization is the first step in allowing you to subconsciously develop a proper and efficient swing pattern. Try visualizing the adjustments in your swing that you would like to make or visualize what you want to feel in your swing. Next, find a bat and a mirror and go to work. You will be surprised how well this actually works. If you still are not convinced, read this fantastic article on Eric Thames’ turnaround for more on the importance of visualization. https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/eric-thames-and-the-transformative-power-of-boredom/
- Be Uncomfortable
Nobody has ever made a change in their career without feeling uncomfortable in their training. Comfort leads to complacency and complacency leads to mediocrity. Do not let yourself become that guy. Get uncomfortable with what you do and challenge yourself as a hitter. Your body has the amazing ability to react to different variables and can practically teach itself. This same phenomenon can help you through your life as a whole. Sujan Patel of Forbes wrote an article titled, “Why Feeling Uncomfortable Is the Key to Success.” A particular quote from Patel that can be directly applied to hitting states that, “Putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, nature’s make-you-happy chemical. Here’s the mind-blower; that unique region of the brain is only activated when you see or experience completely new things.” In other words, your brain will become happy when you are uncomfortable hitting! Improving the brain will improve the subconscious part of your swing and make you a better hitter. Get weird in your training and do not be afraid to try new things. You never know what might work and what might not work. The important thing is variation and being uncomfortable is ultimately going to make you a better hitter.
- Maximize Your “A” Swing
Whether you are playing in a game or training, be sure to maximize the number of “A” swings you take. What I mean by this is while training, instead of taking 15-20 swing rounds with many tired swings with sub-optimal results, shorten your rounds and be consistent in taking your best swing. Your “A” swing is a controlled violent swing that results in you getting off your best possible swing. It requires discipline to attack your pitch in the strike zone so even in batting practice, be sure to work on aggressive takes. Take rounds of five and focus on every swing being your best aggressive gangster hack. As a result, in games, you should start to notice that you are getting your best swing off on a more consistent basis. If you take as many “A” swings as possible in practice, taking that “A” swing in games will become second nature. This will allow you to barrel up more baseballs and you will find yourself raising that ever so important slugging percentage.
- Ask Questions
Be sure to understand what you are doing as a player. If somebody tells you to do something that you are confused by, ask questions. If a coach has a negative outlook to this, it is more of a reflection on their end rather than yours. As a player, you must learn to get better and most of this learning will come from questioning. It is great to ask questions and when you do, it is very likely that the answer you get will help your development.
- Lift Heavy and Get Mobile
Above is a tweet from the founder of Driveline Baseball Kyle Boddy: the godfather of data-driven player development. If you want to maximize your potential, YOU MUST LIFT HEAVY! Take a look at your favorite baseball player. The reality is that he is probably a physical specimen who throws heavy weights around in the weight room. Doing band-work, body weight workouts, and running poles does not get you better. To maximize your potential, there are certain strength thresholds that the body must hit. If you do not know how to get stronger, here are some basic weights you must reach to have a chance at becoming the best that you can be, as outlined by Dr. Josh Heenan’s the “90 MPH Formula.” While this is ideally for pitchers to help them increase velocity on the mound, I have found it useful for hitters as well to help them develop more power.
Squat, deadlift, hammer scap work, and live in the weight room. The first step to hitting home runs is being strong enough to do so. When a lot of people start to lift heavy, they neglect mobility work. However, mobility work might be the most important aspect of your training. Mobility is what allows your body to be able to train hard and what makes your training smart. When combining proper strength training with mobility, work at least four times a week. Not only will you become stronger, but you will become a better and healthier athlete that will be able to move more freely in the swing. If you are unsure of what mobility to do, Eric Cressey puts out a ton of great content on YouTube. Also, take a look at this website that gathers some of the great work that movement expert Ido Portal has done (http://antranik.org/the-floreio-project/). Mobility work will change how your body moves and when combined correctly with strength training, will allow you to make advancements as a player that you never thought were possible.
- Eat Right, Drink Right, Sleep Right
It sounds cliche, but these things really do make a difference. Eating right will have the body feeling right, aid in a more natural recovery process, and allow for cleaner stronger muscle building. You must be sure to fuel your body often. Eat 4-5 protein-filled meals a day to give your body the proper fuel it needs to train the way that is necessary to get better. Also, do not forget to eat while training. Bring snacks such as protein bars, bananas, or grilled chicken to your training sessions to ensure your body has enough energy. Everybody is looking for the best supplement to gain weight, when in reality, the best supplements are always steak, chicken, fish, healthy fats, and vegetables. Drink right, put soda down, and drink water. At least a gallon every day should suffice. Water is the one drink that you really need to have. The truth is, you probably do not drink enough of it. Do you feel the need to take C4 before you work out to hype you up and give you energy? If this is your reality, the underlying issue is that you are probably not getting enough sleep. A proper sleep schedule is essential to allowing the body to recover and repair sore muscles. Sleep is the best natural pre-workout. Getting a minimum of eight hours a night will make you feel fresh and ready to take on the day.
I hope these tips are helpful and if you are sure to follow all ten of them, I would bet that in the long run, you will make huge strides as a hitter and will have a healthier, longer, more successful career.
- Heenan, Josh. “Qualities Needed to Throw 90+MPH.” Dr. Josh Heenan, joshheenan.com/qualities-needed-to-throw-90mph/.
- Patel, Sujan. “Why Feeling Uncomfortable Is The Key To Success.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 9 Mar. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/sujanpatel/2016/03/09/why-feeling-uncomfortable-is-the-key-to-success/#1215e60f1913.
- Perpetua, Andrew. “Misconceptions About Launch Angle.” Rotographs, Fangraphs, 11 May 2017, www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/misconceptions-about-launch-angle/.
4. Sammon, Will. “Subtle Swing Changes Help Brent Rooker’s Monster Season.” The Clarion Ledger, The Clarion-Ledger, 6 Apr. 2017, http://www.clarionledger.com/story/sports/college/mississippi-state/2017/04/06/subtle-swing-changes-help-brent-rookers-monster-season/100113594/.