Every hitter is always looking for an edge.
Among many rituals hitters use is swinging with a bat doughnut just before they step up to the plate. The logic here is simple: swing something heavy, and then swing something light. In other words: The bat without the doughnut will feel lighter, and hitters can swing a lighter bat quicker.
Pretty easy concept to grasp, hence why it is so popular.
But perhaps the logic is too simplistic. Maybe it is time to leave the batting doughnut in the equipment bag and not bring it to the on-deck circle. East Boston Little League coach John Deutsch said if he could do so, he would shut down the production of batting doughnuts.
“It might have positive mind effects, but everything physical about it is just so bad,” he said. “Sure the bat might ‘feel’ lighter for the kid, but then again, if you were to lift 100 pounds, 50 wouldn’t seem so bad.
But when it comes time to actually swing against a fastball and you tire yourself out with the doughnuts first, you’re not going to get the same kind of bat speed as you normally would.”
A 2009 Cal Fullerton study supports Deutsch’s claim and showed the more weight batters swung during warmups, the slower their swing would be with their regular bat.
For those who are convinced doughnuts are beneficial, Deutsch notes progression is a gradual process. He said he doubts there would be enough time for the doughnut impact to be felt if it were beneficial.
“Before an at-bat, it’s just too late to improve your bat speed,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do last minute to improve it. That’s why we practice on our own time and as team. No reason to mess yourself up and do anything other than what you normally do up there. Practice is the time to tinker with your swing, not 15 seconds before an at-bat.”
When talking about ways to improve bat speed, Deutsch mostly talked about strength training away from the baseball diamond. He also said part of the reason he opposes doughnuts is his opposition to any drill related to a weighted bat.
“Personally, I don’t like the idea of swinging anything heavier to practice,” he said. “Sure, you get the muscles pumping, but it can alter a kid’s swing a bit. It’s not going to be that same fluid motion, and you don’t want a kid getting into the habit of dropping his bat before he swings. That’s never good.”
That said, although he is against using doughnuts, Deutsch said he is unlikely to force one of his players to stop using one.
“Obviously I talk to my team and tell them it’s not a good idea, but I can’t outright ban it,” he said. “If a kid is hitting really well and he’s using the doughnut, I’m not going to rip it off his bat. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, you know? But if someone’s struggling — especially against those higher velocity guys — that’s when you’ve got to pull them aside and pitch it to them.”