I want to talk about a lower half hitting flaw that is most common among young players. I see this mechanical flaw far too often, as a result of poor coaching. The mechanical flaw I am going to discuss is what we at Core Savvy Baseball™ call hip slide. During my career as a hitting instructor, I have never seen more kids do one specific thing wrong. Hip slide makes hitting the baseball a whole lot harder than it has to be.
To fully understand what hip slide is exactly, you must first know what proper mechanics look like in regard to the hips. So let's explain the correct mechanics of a hitters hips first:
At CSB™, we teach the hitting concepts of going forward under control and foot-striking to prevent a lunge at the baseball. If a hitter understands how to use his lower half correctly, after he foot-strikes there should be no more forward movement of the hips. The exact moment that a hitters front foot hits the ground is when the rotational part of the swing begins. Once the foot strikes the ground and weight transfer is accomplished, the hips start to open up and rotate.
As you can see in the picture above, as soon as McGwire gets his front foot down, the rotation of the hips begins. His hips are not going forward, so his head will stay extremely still as a result. This is a key to vision in hitting, as discussed in earlier articles.
Until Mark gets his foot down, his hips can go forward. As soon as foot strike occurs, his hips must rotate up and out.
What you see above is a great picture of Manny Ramirez using hips correctly. As soon as his front foot hits the ground, the rotation begins. Manny's head is so still you can draw a straight line through his body as if he was swiveling on a pole. This is what the correct use of a hitters hips looks like, and what we teach at Core Savvy Baseball™ to take our clients to the next level of power hitting.
Now that I have explained the correct use of a hitter's hips we can go into hip slide. Hip slide occurs when a hitter transfers his weight forward out of control, (see article on "Going Forward Under Control") and lets his hips continue to go forward after his foot strike happens. This is a flaw that most of the time can only be seen on video because it happens so fast. At Core Savvy Baseball ™, we have developed some very easy visual clues that can help diagnose the problem without costly video analysis.
Here are some visual clues for to diagnose hip slide:
1. The first and most apparent clue to diagnose hip slide is if a hitter is not getting around on inside pitches. For young players, this looks like on inside pitches they either don't swing or get jammed. This is the easiest visual clue that we have developed at CSB™ to diagnose hip slide.
2. The second visual clue is not as easy to pick out. If a hitter is hitting the ball very softly to the opposite field or in opposite foul ground, they most likely have hip slide. This can also look like the baseball has a lot of spin towards the opposite field.
3. The third and final visual clue to diagnose a hitter with hip slide is something we have talked about in earlier articles. When a hitter lunges at the baseball or goes forward out of control, his is essentially fooled on all off-speed pitches. So, the third visual clue is simply a hitter who is transferring weight forward to violently and is fooled on off-speed pitches.
Above is a picture of Ichiro. He is a classic example of a hitter who hip slides. As soon as his foot hits the ground, he should begin to rotate his hips. Instead, Ichiro continues to glide foward, causing a ton of head movement. Ichiro is a freak of nature. He has the ability to hip slide and still keep vision, but most of us cannot. The mechanics used by Ichiro above are exactly what we want to avoid teaching to young players because by sliding his hips Ichiro looses all power. Coaches who teach this or do not understand how to use the hips correctly end up with players who strike out a ton and hit the ball weakly to the opposite field.
Now that we fully understand what hip slide looks like, I want to offer up a much more mechanical explanation for our advanced readers:
Hip slide can be the end of a players baseball career. The reason being that when hip slide occurs, the hips cannot fully rotate. By shifting too much weight forward, we essentially lock our hips from rotation. Not only do we lock our hips when we hip slide, but as a result we also mess up our hand path. When the hips cannot rotate because of too much weight on the front side, the hands cannot be pulled inside to hit with any power on middle and in pitches. This causes the hands to cast out away from the body, creating poor plate coverage and a lot of strikeouts. Most, if not all, of a hitters weight should be on the backside to allow his hands to work naturally, (we'll get into hand path and upper body hitting in the next article).
At Core Savvy Baseball™, we have innovated a variety of drills to fix hip slide. Once hip slide is fixed and a hitter becomes rotational, he will unlock 40% more power and cut down on strikeouts significantly.