More clues on getting rid of bat drag

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.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on February 19, 2008, in Hitting. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. You seem to be doing all your own research. Have you read what all the instructors with material in the market to buy have to say about curing bat drag?

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  2. I wouldn’t say all. I’ve read many of them, and many have value. The thing I find with bat drag is it’s kind of an elusive target. There doesn’t seem to be one cause or cure. And what works with some doesn’t work with others. Some of what I find tends to come from the teachings — or maybe points of emphasis — of other instructors. They’ll encourage a behavior that helps with one thing, but creates bat drag at the same time. At heart, I think I like doing the research and solving the problem. As you posted in another comment, I’m trying less to rely on other experts and more on myself to figure out the root causes. Still, there are often good clues to be found in the materials out there. I know you’re an Englishbey fan. I haven’t seen his materials but they’re on my list. Just have to find some time — the problem when you have a day job on top of coaching softball 7 days a week!

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  3. The people figuring out how to cure illnesses don’t start off with fire and test tubes and blank paper. They test, question and build on the work of others. Why should curing swing ills be any different besides relative importance?

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  4. Mark, just because I haven’t read everyone doesn’t mean I don’t learn from others. I’m not doing this in a vaccuum. But I think there’s more to learning than comparing what people are doing to what I see on video because that’s still up to the interpretation of the person watching. I want to know why things are happening, and I want to know what other people aren’t thinking or figuring out. It’s just the way I do it. I’m more of a hands-on type of person. And on the blog, when I confirm something, whether it was my idea or someone else’s I like to share it. That’s what I do it for.

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  5. Understood. I see you as a good guy, an active teacher and a guy who has a lot right and sees a lot. You are exactly the kind of guy that could do a LOT of good with the whole picture. That’s why I continue to annoy you.

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  6. And I know you mean well, which is why I continue to approve your comments, even if they annoy me. 🙂 I’m always on the lookout for information that conflicts with my beliefs, just in case it’s better than what I believe. I think I have the comment blocking thing figured out now. I hope so anyway. Your comments should be going up automatically, not delayed. Hopefully I have that figured out.

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  7. This progress video was posted today of a kid who had numerous problems including bat drag. This is the kid’s progress over time. He posted it as a thank you to Steve. The point where he found Steve (EH/Englishbey Hitting) is noted in the video. I found it one of the most heart warming enjoyable videos I’ve watched knowing what the back story of the father child journey must mean to their relationship.

    In this case it’s a boy but it makes no difference.If this posts twice, forgive me. Computer burped.

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  8. I should add I post this as an encouragement to those dealing with bat drag, not as an example of a perfect swing. Improvement is a process without end. This kid is part way through the journey.

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  9. If Steve has ever worked with this kid personally it would have been only for a day. This dad and son accomplished this on their own using Steve’s direction and feedback from posting clips on the website.OK, I think I’m finished with extra thoughts on the one post now.

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