By Todd Thomas
Line Drives. Statistics are clear on the fact that line drive hits go for base hits more than any other type of hit. So if you want a high batting average, hit more line drives. Sounds simple enough doesn't it? Sure, if you are a machine. But we (hitters) are not machines. We are human and prone to errors in judgment. Case in point... Even when the best hitters get the exact pitch they are looking for in the location they are looking and at the velocity they were expecting will miss hit that particular pitch, won't they? When all of those things line up for a hitter on a pitch, you don't want to miss (or "miss hit") it. But you have, haven't you? If a hitter is honest with themselves, the answer to that question if of course I have. But why?
It's as simple as understanding that players are not machines. A player will pop up a pitch they should have driven hard and many will react with a "you dipped your back shoulder!" Really? No kidding? He dipped his back shoulder? Of course he did. The pitch was thigh high and any good hitter trying to hit line drives WILL dip their back shoulder in an adjustment effort to get on plane with the pitch and hit a line drive. But he likely dipped his back shoulder too far as if the pitch were just above the knees. Ah, an error in judgment. That happens to us humans. But if he hadn't dipped enough (kept his shoulders too level on that low of a pitch), then he probably would have hit a dribbler or simple ground ball. By the way, statistics show that ground balls go for base hits the least amount of times than other type of hits. Too many ground balls equals a low batting average and the game not being very fun at all.
Should a player with those results go "back to the drawing board" on their mechanics? Most likely not, but maybe if it's a chronic problem. If the player is sound mechanically and is a normally a very good hitter, he should just try to be right on with his adjustment to the pitch next time as best he can. Knowing the difficulty in adjusting "perfectly" to any given pitch, should keep players, parents, and coaches from overreacting to a few not so good swings. But it doesn't. Overreaction is rampant. It's one of the things that keeps me in business, but I STILL discourage it. :-)
Ultimately, the BEST hitters will be the BEST at adjusting to pitches in different locations and speed changes and they often hit pitches with less than their best swing because they are gifted. Even though they may mis-adjust and miss-hit good pitches, they more times than not put their best swing on the best pitches to hit. It is my belief that the ability to adjust to different pitches is what separates hitters. It's the reason why Albert Pujols is a better hitter than some of his teammates even though they have the same core mechanics.
So how are players best prepared to put their best swing on the best pitches when they see them?
I ask players and parents all the time if they know how often the best players in the world (Major leaguers) take batting practice. More often than not they get the answer correct when they say "every day". So if the best players in the world take BP every day, how often should developing players take BP. Okay, maybe every day isn't practical for young players but frequent batting practice is essential for any player who wants to be their best. Does it always have to be live hitting? I say no. I believe in dry swing practice big time. Taking dry swings allows a player to practice their most important swing and that is their "A" (best) swing. I don't think players practice their A swing enough and taking dry swings is the best way to do it. Having that best swing ingrained when they get a good pitch to hit will help a lot of players simply hit better. Young hitters who have their best swing ingrained will normally do very well because there are a lot of mistake pitches being thrown. All of this said to say that BP (or dry swings) should be taken frequently (daily if possible and those with the most desire figure out how to make that happen). It's the best way to give oneself the ability to hit like a machine...or a close you can being a human. :-)
Todd Thomas is a Baseball Coach and Professional Hitting Instructor for Mike Epstein Hitting. Coach Todd's personal hitting website is http://www.HitItHere.net. Coach Todd also enthusiastically endorses http://PlayMyBestBaseball.com as a place where baseball and softball hitters can master the Confidence, Composure, Focus and Consistency of their game so they can reach their full potential.
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