Drill to Help Achieve Better Bat Angle
One of the enduring myths in hitting, both in fastpitch softball and in baseball, is the concept of a “level swing.” And by level, most people mean making the bat parallel to the ground.
This is a myth I have attempted to dispel many times, dating all the way back to 2006. Yet still it persists.
In case you don’t feel like following the link, I will briefly go into the problems with this instruction before offering a way to address it. The admonition to swing level causes several issues.
One is that it leaves you very little surface with which to contact the ball and achieve a good hit. If you strike it dead-on in the right spot you can get a rising line. But be off by just a smidge either way and you’ll end up with a popup or a ground ball – neither of which is a great outcome.
If you’re really trying to swing level, you’ll only be able to do that until about waist-high, or however low your arms reach. After that, you’ll either have to bend down awkwardly, killing any chance you have of hitting the ball hard, or you’ll have to lower the bat head anyway.
Not to mention attempting to swing level often leads to casting, or stiffly pulling the bat across the strike zone instead of getting a powerful, sequenced swing.
Swinging level also means you don’t have much adjustability in your swing. You kind of set a bat height early and have little range of motion up or down.
There’s more, but you get the idea.
Of course, players who have had the concept of “swing level” beaten into them for so many years often have trouble developing a new, better swing pattern that results in a good bat angle. They can’t feel what they’re supposed to do so they continue to drop their hands and try to cut across.
So here’s a way to help them develop that feel by using their eyes. Take a roll of duct tape and place a few strips on a convenient poll, tree, or other vertical object at the desired angle at contact at several different heights. In the photo above I just did it on one of the poles on a backstop.
Then have the hitter go through the swing motion and try to match the bat angle at various heights. As she works on matching that angle, the hands naturally stay up and the barrel goes down.
Rinse and repeat as-needed until the hitter can achieve the proper angle without thinking about it or putting in any extraordinary effort.
If you’re worried about the hitter losing control of that $500 bat you just bought, substituted a piece of PVC pipe or a broom handle or any other object that simulates a bat but won’t break your heart if it gets smashed into the pole.
This drill works, and it works pretty quickly -if the hitter does it frequently at home. You’re not going to get instant results at a practice or an individual lesson, but if she does it at home on a daily basis for about a week the pattern will set in and she’ll start to go from popups and grounders to more well-hit, rising line drives.
The best part is it’s very cheap and doesn’t require a lot of supervision. Just make the marks using whatever tape or even paint you have lying around and have the hitter have at it.
If you have a hitter who can’t seem to get the ball out of the infield, take a look at her bat at contact. If it’s flat/level, give this drill a whirl. I think you’ll like the results.