The last hitting article covered the four things every great hitter does mechanically. The 3rd hitting absolute, balance, is the subject of today's lesson.
You must maintain balance from start to finish. This is a key concept to teach players at a young age. After the hitter weight transfers (absolute #1) and stride separates (absolute #2), the head must be directly between the feet (absolute #3).
If the head is too far on the backside, the hitter will dip his back shoulder, causing the hands and barrel to drop. If the head is too far on the backside when the hitter is in the foot down hands back position, the result will be a weak popup. The opposite is true if the hitters head drifts forward. When the head is too far forward in the foot down hands back position, the result will be a weak groundball.
Balance is one of the important parts of being a successful hitter. If our head is not in between our feet in the stride separate position, we are compromising a significant amount of power.
Hitting is all about angles. When our center of mass (our head) is off, the bat will mimic the direction it goes. The head should stay down and through even slightly after contact to make sure all the energy from the swing is going towards the field, not away from it. Take a look at the picture at the top of the article and notice A-Rod's head is down even after contact.
Alex Rodriguez has made a comeback this season. His balance is what really stands out. Even when he takes his most violent swing, A-Rod is able to maintain balance. This means all his energy is going towards the direction of the field. He is not 'pulling-off' anything. Rarely will you see A-Rod hook a ball foul. This is a sign of great balance and energy transfer.
Take a look at the two pictures of A-Rod below. Notice on the left how his front foot is pulling off the ball. This will cause A-Rod to be short to short, instead of short to and long through the ball. You can also see how he is not getting maximum extension. His bat is not in the hitting zone a long time. Then take a look at the picture on the right. Immediately, his frontside stands out. He is getting much better extension and staying through the ball. The offensive performance A-Rod is putting on this season is largley due to his balance.
The goal for young hitters in the cage should be to maintain balance from start to finish. Remember, if you can't hold your finish, you are losing power. We want all of our energy going towards the field. Timing comes with a large number of AB's. Balance comes with consistent work off the tee.
CoreSavvy Stride and Separate Drill (foot down, hands back) :
1. Weight transfer and then get to your stride and separate position (foot down hands back position)
2. After you are in the stride separate position, hold it for 2-3 seconds, then have your partner throw a pitch
3. Try to stay balanced and put a good swing on the ball, hold your finish (2-3 sec)
4. I also recommend doing this drill off of the tee before you go into live BP
This is the best drill out there to work on balance and how to handle off-speed pitches. I have seen hitters who are .250 guys go above .330 using this drill.
Remember, power without balance means nothing. Focus on taking balanced hacks in the cage and at practice. Watch how your average starts to creep up.