Drill to help fastpitch hitters who drop their hands

A couple of weeks ago I was working with a 12U player named Carly who was having some issues with her hands dropping. The action of dropping her hands created somewhat of a looping swing.

The problem was she couldn’t feel it. So once again I brought out my trusty swim noodle. This time I placed it behind her, in an area I didn’t want the bat head to go. Her objective was to swing the bat without hitting the noodle.

At first, of course, she did hit the noodle. Here’s a slow motion video (taken later in the session) showing a “before” swing. (Notice the guilty grin after she hits the noodle.

After working on it for a bit we tried it again. Here’s the “after” swing, with Carly now taking the head of the bat on a more direct line to the ball instead of looping.

It’s a subtle difference but an important one. With this bat path she is now set up better to hit the ball more effectively.

By the way, back in the day I used to hold a bat behind the hitter, who would use an old bat in order not to damage her good one. But that became a bit intimidating. The noodle works much better, and allows the hitter to use her own bat.

As for Carly, we’re still early in her development as a hitter, but the noodle drill has been effective in helping her get rid of the looping swing. If you know a hitter who is having this dropping the hands issue, give it a try.

So what do you think? What drills or techniques do you use to address dropping the hands?

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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 December 29, 2011, in Hitting. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. This is what I used to see taught to fp hitters. This is the sort of thing Mike Candrea got away from in his Right View materials. I would encourage you to compare everything you believe about how to swing a bat to lots of video of elite hitters. I believe you will see your swing plane beliefs are in error. Could any of these hitters pass your noodle test? http://imageeventcom/siggy/hitting/olympic

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  2. I realize I didn’t answer your last question. First we have to agree on what dropping the hands means but in my definition, I’d suggest putting the ball on a tee armpit high and asking the student to turn into the ball and hit a line drive low enough a middle infielder could catch it. Make sure you practice this first. Once they can do this tilting over at the hips means every ball is armpit high. http://imageeventcom/siggy/hitting/analysis?p=7&n=1&m=20&c=4&l=0&w=4&s=0&z=9

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  3. Actually, Mark, Benyi could pass that test. So could Rivera, Callahan and Bustos. None of them would hit an object placed a foot behind them while swinging at a waist-high pitch, which is where the tee is placed in the video. For me, dropping the hands means letting them down first to try to get the hands/bat on-plane with the ball before going into rotation. You’re a PCR guy. That would be a lack of C (connection), wouldn’t it? Hitters who do that have started committing the bat before they know where the pitch is. I want the hands to remain connected to the back shoulder as rotation begins. That creates a shorter swing, and gives the hitter a little more time to see the pitch before taking the bat head to it. Look at #8, the side view of Rivera. That is what I’m looking for from the hitter. Clip #10, with Benyi gives a good look at it too. Now compare those to the clips in this post, allowing for the difference between a D1 college player and 12U hitter who has had a few lessons. In the “after” video she is taking her bat head forward, to the ball, instead of taking it toward the ground behind her. It’s a much smoother path to the ball, because she’s not going down then up with a sort of trough at the hip if that makes sense. The Candrea swing you refer to was the concept of swinging down on the ball, which is not what I am talking about at all. Look at the after clip above again. She is getting the bat into the hitting zone and delivering it with a slight upswing. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s really easy to point to video of accomplished hitters that you had nothing to do with and say “do it like this.” It’s another thing to work with a young hitter to try to get her there. When I look at video, I see hitters with their front shoulder lower than the back at toe touch. When they begin to rotate their shoulders, the first move for the majority is forward, then they start to tilt and get on-line with the pitch. That makes sense because, again, it gives them more time to see the pitch before committing. Look at video #13 of Bustos. It gives you a good look at it, although I suppose it’s also debatable since it’s a high pitch. Bottom line is you don’t want the hands disconnecting and dropping the bat head too early. The drill I describe above will help prevent it.

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  4. Benyi’s swing plane is tilted slighly back relative to pitch path. Your student’s swing plane is tilted forward relative to pitch path. So too the rest you mention. Radically different result. This is something you need to be able to see. The only one close to your hitter in that swing group would be Mendoza’s swing.I agree with your definition of dropping the hands though that’s only one form of disconnection. That’s not the problem your hitter demonstrates in this clip.You said “I want the hands to remain connected to the back shoulder as rotation begins”. Absolutely. A necessary but insufficient part of a good swing. When you say “shorter swing” can I assume you mean in terms of elapsed time from the start of shoulder rotation to contact?Rivera is an excellent choice as an example. Look at clip five for a feel for what her swing plane is doing. If clip eight was shot from ground level it would be more useful for your comparison.As to the before and after, she has the same glaring problem in both. I agree with avoiding the trough. The swing plane should be one large disc but the disc should be level or slightly tilted back with respect the pitcher. The disc should be tilted toward the plate adjusted for pitch location.Bathead in your clips above looks like it’s moving down at contact/the swing plane is tilted toward the pitcher. IOW, if the plane her bat moved in were a solid disc the pitcher could read the writing on top of it. I AM glad your goal is the bathead leveling out or moving up, relative to the ground, at contact Totally agree with your paragraph beginning “One thing to keep in mind…”. I assume you are posting a clip representative of what you are trying to accomplish. In any case I really don’t care for this approach to the problem because of the result you get in the after clip. Try my high tee suggestion. It’s hard to hit the ball on a line hard on that high a pitch if you drop the lead arm hands at all. When you get the slightly rising line drive result and you like the swing, slowly lower the tee encouraging the same swing always ready to move it back up when they go back to the old habit.Don’t focus on that shoulder lower thing lest your hitter end up counter rotating the chest back toward the catcher…especially in tee work or soft toss.Surely agree with the first sentence of your last paragraph. I’d say there are better approaches to solving the issue such as the high tee work I describe or Steve’s cable work. First I’d like you to see the swing plane problem in the after clip. If I have your email I’d like to send you an animation demonstrating this. I guess I really need to post in somewhere I can link to.

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  5. You should have the animated gif simulation for the swing plane now. Maybe twice if both my email accounts worked.

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  6. Mark, I’m afraid you’re just seeing what you want to see instead of what’s there. If you pause the after clip just before contact you’ll see a blurred image where the swing plane is clearly moving upward. Sorry I can’t do it in a way that you can step through but it’s a limitation of the software I use for the blog. Disagree that the swing plane should be slightly tilted back. I know that’s what Steve preaches but I think there are better ways to accomplish the goal than tilting backwards, even slightly. The goal is to drive forward, always forward. Again, you’re looking for a perfect swing out of a kid who has just started the journey. Every time you comment you always want to compare the entire swing to someone who has been working at hitting for years. While I agree there’s a lot to be learned from those hitters, you have to take comparisons like that in context. If I’m focusing on one aspect, that’s the aspect you ought to be looking at. You can’t fix an entire swing in one lesson. Here’s my challenge to you now. Post some video of a kid you’ve personally been working with. Tell us what the problem was and what you did to correct it. It’s easy to sit back and make pronouncements about the work of others. It’s another thing to get your hands dirty yourself. Show me a kid you’ve worked with four or five times who had a bad swing and can now match up the videos you love to point to. Until that time, you’re just armchair quarterbacking.

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  7. Oops. Totally screwed up when thinking about the “disc.” I think I got confused by the terminology. If by “tilting back toward the catcher” you mean that viewed from the side the bottom would be on an upward trajectory then I agree.

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  8. If you will email me the after clip I’ll see if I can’t convert it to something we can step through frame by frame.Hopefully the animated gif I emailed you can help us understand each other. I’ll try with words again. If the hitter was swinging at a shoulder high pitch, the swing plane could be level to the ground or tilted slightly back toward the catcher and I’m happy either way.As to swing plane and your always forward comment I’m not sure what you mean. Let’s not mix a discussion of posture with a discussion of momentum.No, I’m really not looking for a perfect swing at all. I’m saying your drill encourages a bad swing plane.I understand your point. I’ll email you some clips now of a kid and I’ll ask the parents for permission to post them publically when we start back up in mid January. Having said that, whether or not I can teach is a separate issue from what a good swing consists of and whether your drill encourages a foward tilted swing plane.

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  9. Mark, if the animation you sent me indicates what you think is a good swing plane then I can see why you think this drill promotes a bad one. Unfortunately, I think the animation promotes a bad swing plane. Since we don’t have it here, if you imagine the blade of a circular saw, the blade is tilted at about a 30-45 degree upward angle, with contact being bad at the back hip. I would never teach that swing, nor do I see it in any of the clips you point to. Unless a hitter gets fooled, contact is usually made around the area of the front foot or earlier (depending on pitch location). With the swing plane you seem to be advocating, you won’t get a lot of power. Maybe in baseball, with the pitch coming from above with an overhand throw, but not in fastpitch softball. I stand by the drill. It is designed to keep the hitter from getting the hands/bat head too low too early. If the bat head hits the noodle when the noodle is placed a foot or two behind the hitter the bat is not on an optimum path to hit the ball. Whether or not you can teach has everything to do with this discussion, because it tells whether you have to live with what you’re saying or it’s all theoretical. It’s very easy to say “hitters should do this or that” if there are no consequences to what you’re saying. It’s like all of us saying what an NFL quarterback ought to be doing in a game. It’s different when you’re actually on the field. You showed me a couple of clips of students so that issue is settled. Incidentally, none of them looked like any of the clips you pointed to or the animationa you sent either. 🙂 But it sounds like the girl is doing well so good for her.

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  10. Where do I find the video link?

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