Too many coaches focus on the wrong aspects of hitting, or subscribe to only one approach instead of tailoring instruction to each individual hitter. Here are the top 10 myths about hitting today:
Myth #10 - Focus on getting backspin.
While backspin is ideal, hitting the ball hard should be any hitter’s main focus. I think hitters today are focused way too much on trying to create backspin that they end up creating a "chopping" swing flaw and lose sight of hitting the ball hard on the barrel. Ideal backspin is NOT created by chopping down to the ball, but by getting the barrel behind the ball (on time and on plane) and contacting the bottom half of the ball. While backspin itself is not necessarily a myth, how it usually gets taught is.
Myth #9 - "Everything oppo" approach.
It is very common in the hitting culture of today to see players get taught to hit everything oppo. Some coaches force all hitters to hit this way and think that if you aren't hitting the ball to the opposite field consistently, you will not hit to your full potential. The problem is that while some hitters benefit from thinking oppo, others don’t. Hitters should have an individual approach defined their own strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on an oppo only approach can exacerbate problems with bat speed, faster pitching, and inside fastballs.
Myth #8 - Hips before hands.
This topic has been around for decades and has become a widely accepted hitting assumption throughout baseball and softball. And while the hips should always start before the hands, coaches shouldn't emphasize teaching hitting this way. The hips-first approach can cause problems with timing by creating a step-by-step thinking process that does prevents swing fluidity. The hitter should always think about using his hips and hands together, never separately. All of the mechanics of a swing should function together. The hips before hands misconception is a slow-motion prank on a hitter's mindset.
Myth #7 - Linear vs. Rotational hitting.
“Linear vs Rotational” is a false dichotomy. In my experience, the actual mechanics of the swing should be rotational and linear. In fact, depending on the individual hitter, the swing should combine elements of both. For example, hitting an inside pitch requires a rotational movement while hitting an outside pitch requires a linear movement. A hitter may combine these two philosophies into one swing, explosively “rotating” the hips to the ball, while taking a “linear” hand path to the ball to keep the bat on the same plane of the ball longer. Call it “rotanear” hitting. Or “linational.” To me, it’s just hitting.
Myth #6 - Front foot down early.
Go to a game, and you may hear a coach tell a hitter to get their front foot down early. A hitter's front foot does not have to get down early. It just has to get down quickly and on time. In fact, getting the foot down early often ruins a hitter's momentum and timing. It can create a robotic swing movement that hinders bat speed and explosiveness. While it may help some hitters, it can hurt others.
Myth #5 - Tee work is crucial.
Tee work may be important to feel certain aspects of the swing and to fix specific swing flaws, but it will never help with the most important aspects of hitting: approach, pitch recognition, pitch selection, vision, adjusting to movement, and mentality. What a coach sees a hitter doing off a tee won’t necessarily help identify weaknesses; live action is much more helpful in identifying issues with mechanics.
Myth #4 - Chop down to the ball.
The quickest way between two points is a straight line, and I agree. For hitting, the straight line is not down, it’s forward. So the hands should drive forward instead of chopping down. While a hitter can create a lot of backspin by chopping down, it’s often empty of the force needed to drive the ball. The main goal of every hitter is to arrive on time and on the same plane as the pitch. This allows room for error and expands the contact point area drastically.
Myth #3 - Hitting the ball deep in the zone.
Whether the pitch is inside or outside, ideal contact is made somewhere close to where the hitter's stride foot lands (a little in front for an inside pitch, and a little behind for an outside pitch). While it can be a useful expression to prevent hitters from lunging for the ball, it’s important to clarify that all pitches should be contacted near the front-side of the body.
Myth #2 - Creating the perfect swing.
I have bad news. There is no such thing as a perfect swing. Searching for the perfect swing shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, teach hitters the importance of adjusting the body to the ball. Great hitters become great because they can adjust their body positions during their swing to match the height, location, and velocity of the pitch. This means hitters must be able to maneuver their body differently to inside pitches vs. outside pitches, higher pitches vs. lower pitches, and pitches that get too deep vs. pitches they get too far out in front on. All great hitters must have several perfect swings!
Myth #1 - Mechanics alone make great hitters.
Proper swing mechanics are vital to the development of good hitters. But just because a hitter has good swing mechanics doesn’t automatically mean he or she can hit. There is much more to hitting than what the swing is "supposed" to look like. Instead, coaches need to tailor their instruction to the strengths and weaknesses of individual hitters. A focus on a uniform swing can distract players from the aspects of hitting they need to be focusing on, such as approach, pitch recognition, and making adjustments. Mechanics don't make great hitters; a good mentality does.
Too many coaches focus on teaching a method rather than identifying a player’s strengths and weaknesses and conveying what he or she needs to be successful. Real hitting isn't about the style or philosophy a hitter should use. Hitting is not a fashion show, it's a battle! Get off the runway and compete!