Daily Archives: February 19, 2008
I know it seems like an obsession, and perhaps it is. But I am bound and determined to rid the fastpitch softball world of the scourge of bat drag. It has been an iterative process but I think we’re getting closer to an answer.
After watching a number of videos in slow and step motion, both with and without bat drag, two items seem to stand out above the others. The first is the shoulders starting rotation before the hips. Standard hitting canon says the hips start before the hands, or the shoulders. But to some hitters that is counter-intuitive. The bat is in the hands, so they think they should start the swing with the part of the body that’s holding the bat.
The problem is they also have been told to keep the hands back at the launch of the swing. There are even expensive hitting devices to help them learn that. So what winds up happening is that the shoulders turn and the elbow pulls down while the hips hesitate, then follow. So the elbow winds up getting in front of the hands and voila! You have bat drag.
Another problem comes with the hands themselves. During the load or negative move phase, the hands get pushed back too far. The symptom you will see is barring out or straightening of the front arm. Many coaches know that barring out is bad, as it can lead to casting the hands out. But it’s also bad even if there’s no casting, because once again that elbow will pull down and start moving forward, even while the hands are moving (or staying) back. Once again the result is bat drag — the elbow leading the hands and the bat coming through the hitting zone late.
The cure for the first condition is obvious, though not always easy to execute. The hitter must learn to start the hips rotating ahead of the hands as well as the shoulders. A lower body, or more accurately center of the body first movement will get things working in the right order. At that point, the hands should stay tied to the back shoulder until it’s time to start making contact.
The cure for the second condition is to cut the negative move way down. A slight push back of the hands is all that is needed to overcome inertia and prepare for the swing. A big windup will simply cause problems. Again, keeping the hands tied to the back shoulder is the key.
Much of this is best learned on a tee. Taking ball movement out of the picture allows the hitter to focus on the mechanics. Once they have the general idea, it’s time to apply movement, either with side toss, machine hitting, or live pitching. That doesn’t mean the tee work is over, though. It takes many good repetitions to overcome old habits, and the tee is the best place for it. The other stuff is merely the level check to see if it’s taking.
One last thought. A lot of this is difficult to see, even if you’re used to looking for it. If you’re not, it gets even harder. Invest in a good video camera and analysis software such as MotionView or V1 Home(or RightView Pro if you have more money than you need) and you’ll make it easier to make corrections for both yourself and your players.