Swinging “level”

Just got back from teaching pitching lessons up at Grand Slam USA in Spring Grove. One of the toughest things for me is what I hear around the batting cages while I’m teaching a lesson.

There is just so much misinformation and plain old bad advice offered. I believe most (if not all) is well-intentioned, but we all know what’s paved with good intentions.

Here’s an example. I heard one coach/dad telling his daughter to “swing level.” Based on what I saw when I glimpsed at it, he meant level relative to the ground.

The problem with this advice is that it encourages a swing where the hitter drops her hands and then draws them straight across her body. Not only is this not a very powerful way of swinging, it also limits the hitter’s ability to adjust to the pitch. You have to guess really, really well to even hope to make contact.

If you watch major league baseball or the better hitters in the Women’s College World Series you will never see a hitter swing level to the ground. What you will really see is the back shoulder drive down toward the ball with the bat angled down toward the ground at approximately the same angle as the shoulders. Even on high pitches there will be some downward slant of the shoulders. 

Here’s a screen capture of Paul Konerko from 2005. Note the angle of his shoulders. He was actually fooled on this pitch, but still managed to recover and smack a double on it.

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Here’s another one, this time of Kristie Fox of Arizona. It is at the point of contact on a home run. Note that the ball came across just below waist high. Her back shoulder is down, and she has a slight upswing on the ball to match the plane on which it is traveling. Nothing about this says “level,” at least in the sense most people think about it. Also the head of the bat is lower than the handle.

<IMG src="/images/55650-48775/Fox_HR.png”>

The key thing is make sure what you’re saying matches what great hitters actually do. Otherwise in your desire to help you may be setting players back.

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