Hitting Programme Part 3

Geelong Baseball Association has been pleased to present a three-part “Hitting Program” for the interest of coaches and players at all levels.

From early feedback, the first instalments were very well received (you can access Part Onehere and Part Two here).

The program has been developed and is presented by Phil Allen. Victorian baseball interests will be aware that Phil is also a Victorian Claxton Shield Assistant Coach, Australian scout for the Colorado Rockies organisation and a former General Manager of the Melbourne Monarchs ABL club. Phil has kindly offered to share the Hitting Program with members of the broader baseball community.

“The hitting program has been designed to provide the means for each hitter within the program to realise his full potential and to develop into a productive, knowledgeable hitter as quickly as possible,” said Allen.

“Accelerated development is the central goal and can only be achieved with continuity in instruction,” he said.”Uniformity in teaching principles is essential to the success of the young hitters within the program. Staff and hitters alike should be well versed in all areas of the program.”

The Hitting Program is presented in sixteen sections.

This week, we cover Sections 12 – 16.
Sections 1-5 can be located here. Sections 6-11 can be located here.
XII.        PITCHERS AS HITTERS
One of the ways to win is to create an edge. Pitchers as hitters are one way for baseball teams to create that edge. The ability to help yourself with the bat can keep a pitcher in the game longer.
  • One pitcher each day will participate in batting practice as well as the maintenance program
  • The entire hitting program will be learned one step at a time
  • Emphasis will be placed on bunting and situational hitting
  • The mechanics of hitting will be explained just like it is to the hitters except the pace will be slower
  • Attitude is the largest single factor in a pitcher contributing as a hitter
  • Promote the benefits of hitting to pitchers and what it can add to their total package.
XIII.       TERMINOLOGY
Communication between the staff and hitters is more effective when the same terminology is used. Continuity is maintained, time is saved and development is enhanced. The following words and phrases should be understood and communicated by all staff:
Dynamic balance – Staying balanced from start to finish. Maintaining the head over the centre of gravity throughout the entire swing. This is a primary goal of every hitter.
Centre of gravity – The spot located just below the belly button. Keep it between the feet at all times.
Sequence – Refers to what body parts start the swing and continuing on through the completion of the swing. Feet first, hands last. Swing from the ground up. Swing starts in the feet and ends with the hands.
Axis of rotation – An imaginary pole that runs down through the hitter’s body from the top of the head through the belly button and into the ground directly between the feet.
Torque – Created when the lower half of the body and the upper half are moving in opposite directions.
Linear movement – One of only two movements made by the hitter. It begins when the centre of gravity starts forward and ends when the front heel touches the ground.
Rotational movement – The other movement made by the hitter. It begins when the front heel hits the ground.
Bat quickness – The time it takes the hitter to move the bat from launch to contact.
Bat velocity – How fast the bat is traveling at contact.
Pop it – Refers to the aggressive action of the back foot as it gets into rotation.
Snap it – Refers to the front knee locking out close to contact, allowing rotation to be completed.
Timing – Being in the right place at the right time no matter what type of pitch is thrown.
Be on time – Make front foot contact when the ball is half way from the pitcher.
E.P.R. – Early pitch recognition is accomplished while the body is in motion, a must for good hitting.
The body delivers the bat – The swing begins in the feet and ends with the hands and bat. Feet first, hands last, turn the body prior to swinging the bat.
Stay tall – Refers to upper body posture. There will be a slight tilt to the upper body on the swing. Try to avoid excessive bending at the waist.
Posture – Maintain an upright body position throughout the swing for quicker rotation, especially on the lower pitch. Do not go down to get the ball causing excessive bending at the waist and unnecessary head movement.
Head Movement –  The head will move two times during the swing process. It will move in relationship to the stride length and it will move a minimum amount during the swing.
Stride to balance – The action that puts the hitter in position to swing the bat. The hands are positioned close to the back shoulder, the bat is over the back shoulder, the body is dynamically balanced and the front foot is on the ground on the inside ball of the foot, on a 45 degree angle with the heel slightly elevated.
Launch position – Same as stride to balance.
Hand path – The route the hands take from launch to contact. It is determined by the body rotation with the hands becoming active late in the turn moving above the ball at contact.
Load – The initial phase of timing where the hitter coordinates his movements with the pitcher. Generally this involves the weight moving back in a controlled fashion to then move it forward under control.
Contact – The point where the bat meets the ball. It is in front of the body on all locations. The hands will be above the ball and the bat head will be below, or level to the hands. The back elbow will be bent close to 90 degrees and as close to the body as is workable.
Turn it – Refers to what the hitter does with his body to get into the position to swing.
Extension –The position the arms get into after contact, prior to the hands rolling over.
Let the ball travel – Maintain dynamic balance through the swing. The ball will most always come to the hitter, just wait for it to arrive.
Head/eyes down at contact – Try to follow the ball as far as possible into the contact area. Keep the head on the ball because the body will follow it wherever it goes. Let that be a positive direction along with maintaining posture.
Elevate – Make the pitcher bring the pitch up high. Avoid swinging at the pitch below the knees where the pitcher would like the hitter to work.
Stay back – Maintain dynamic balance.
Go down and get it – Maintain posture when hitting the pitch down, the only thing that goes down to the ball is the bat head.
Hub – Picture the head as the hub of a wheel and the body parts as the spokes and rim. The head remains as still as possible while body parts rotate around underneath.
Effortless power or powerless effort – Refers to the feeling in the body when the lower body starts the swing or the lower body does all the work.
Touchdown – Refers to the position of body when the front foot touches the ground.
XIV       DRILLS
  • Soft Toss / Long tee: Soft toss on the field to work on the sequence of feet first, hands last. Puts emphasis on the aggressiveness of the lower half while leading the upper half to the ball. Gives immediate feedback by the flight of the ball. Can substitute a tee for soft toss.
  • Front hip flip: Flip directly at the front hip to promote the mechanics of the lower half leading the upper half to the ball, putting the body in position to allow the hands to be pulled across in front of the body and ball. Maintain the head over the centre of gravity. Can substitute a tee.
  • Front high flip: The ball is flipped high, in and out of the strike zone with the hitter swinging at all pitches within reason. The objective is to get the hands above the ball at contact. The hitter delivers the hands above the ball on the way to contact and the barrel remains below or level to, the hands. Can substitute a tee.
  • All inclusive drill: Working on all aspects of the swing one thing at a time using tee, flip or short pitch. Hit 4-8 balls in an area and then move to the next. Going through the complete swing:
    Create dynamic balance from the stance to the load to stride separation and finish.
    Load, stride to balance landing on the inside ball of the stride foot at a 45 degree angle with the heel slightly elevated; body is dynamically balanced and the bat is positioned over the back shoulder angled close to a 45 degree angle with the hands close to the shoulder.
    Begin the swing by dropping the front heel, opening the front hip and lifting the back heel while keeping the head as still as possible to rotate around the axis.
    Keep the front shoulder closed and hands back while the lower half is opening to create torque.
    Rotate with level hips.
    Finish high and around the corner.
    Keep the eyes as close to the point of contact as possible through the completion of the swing.
    Snap the front knee close to contact.
    Increase the aggressiveness of the lower half by popping the back heel off the ground, create as much torque as possible and snap the front knee at contact.
    Concentrate on the separation of linear and rotational movement.
    Try to keep the head completely still on the swing. Create bat speed by dropping the top elbow down towards the side of the body on rotation.
  • Beat it / Bash it: The objective of the drill is for the hitter to have the stride foot on the ground and be balanced when the ball is halfway to the plate. The drill can be done in many situations including the bullpen, on deck circle or home plate. The objective of the drill is to increase the aggressiveness of the swing, especially the lower half, thereby increasing bat speed.
  • Mirror: Hitters work in front of the mirror for everything from dry swings to full speed. Work on all aspects of the swing from the stance to the follow through and as many angles as possible. Be able to associate the look and feel of the swing. Use lines for posture rotation.
  • Keep two eyes down towards the point of contact: Seeing the ball early and late has to be a primary goal for hitters. This drill has the hitter trying to track the ball to as close to contact as possible and after contact leaving the eyes where they were without negatively effecting posture. A secondary objective is that the body follows the head in the ideal swing to make it a positive action, maintaining dynamic balance. The drill can be done from the tee to the game.
  • Bullpen tracking: Hitters stand in the bullpen as pitchers do their side work. Early pitch recognition (E.P.R.) and tracking using the correct mechanics of the load should be stressed. Stride to balance and the start of the swing are practiced. Hitters should umpire the pitches while working on pitch recognition and strike zone knowledge. Concentration must be high and a time frame established for maximum effectiveness.
  • One hand drills: Lead arm is loose and relaxed, think “snapping a towel”. Top arm, elbow against side, palm up, on release think “sledgehammer”. Body delivers the bat and backside dives through and rotates to contact.
  • Three man drill: Can be used during pre-game to lock in concentration. The drill consists of a hitter, pitcher and catcher. The pitcher is 35 feet away from hitter with the catcher set up behind the hitter. Catcher signals the pitch which is thrown and hitter strides to balance identifying the pitch and umpiring strike or ball while tracking the ball as far as possible. Generally players switch positions after an at bat or specified time frame.
  • Pitch identification: Hitter stands in the bullpen and vocalizes out loud the type of pitch being thrown as quickly as possible.
  • Say “Ball”: Hitter says “ball” as soon as he sees the ball leave the pitchers hand. Drill can be done in 3-man drill, bullpen, on deck circle or anywhere else where it may be effectively practiced.
  • Say “Ball-Hit”: Progressive drill where the hitter will also say “hit” when contact is made. Good drill for concentration, tracking and the entire vision element.
  • Say “Ready-Hit”: Hitter says “ready” at the start of the load and hit at contact. The objective is to be able to draw the “ready” out very slowly because the load is easy and early. There should be no rushing or sense of urgency.
  • Fingers at release: Two man drill using a pitcher and hitter, pitcher goes through the delivery without a ball and holds up different fingers each time, the hitter is turn says the number of fingers as quickly as possible. The drill works best when the pitcher slows down the arm action.
  • Opposite field pepper: There are four players in the game: hitter, pitcher and two fielders on opposite field side. The hitter hits the ball to the fielders on the opposite side who then give the ball back to the fielder directly in front of the hitter who is acting as the pitcher.
  • High velocity short pitch: Velocity is increased by shortening the distance between the machine, coach or teammate.   Breaking balls can be included. Will help hitters understand when they have to be ready.
  • Forced hand movement: Hitter sets up with the hands closer to the centre line of the body and then makes the hands move back and possibly up to get into the proper position at stride to balance where the bat is thrown over the shoulder close to a 45 degree angle. Hitter may start with the bat vertical.
  • No stride, ¾ release throw to simulate rotational swing: Stride to balance as if taking a swing. Work the lower half of the body from the ground up, rotate and make a sidearm throw 10 feet.
  • Slider flip: Coach gets off to the slider side of the hitter 15 feet away and flips ball to outside part of plate. Hitter lets ball travel deeper than normal into the contact zone and hits the ball up the middle and the other way by rotating the lower half first and keeping hands inside the ball.
XV        RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE HITTING COACH
  • Be responsible for the hitter’s understanding and learning the hitting plan.
  • Work from the hitter’s maintenance plan daily.
  • Know the swing mechanics we are teaching: be able to break the swing down.
  • Be able to identify problems and solve them
  • Be well versed in the hitter’s terminology.
  • Know how and when to make adjustments.
  • Hold hitters accountable for their actions.
  • Communicate with the manager concerning the hitters.
  • Prepare the hitters for each game: both mentally and physically.
  • Help each hitter formulate a mental plan as early in his career as possible.
  • Prepare hitters to succeed at the next level.
  • Communicate constantly with the coordinator regarding all hitters.
  • Supervise BP.
  • Check to see that the hitter is using the proper bat, both in model and length where applicable.
  • Have daily pre-game meetings to discuss opposing pitcher tendencies.
  • Assist Manager with all enforcement of organisational policies.
  • Keep mechanical talk to a minimum during the game.
  • Provide statistical information to the hitter every 2 weeks.
  • Demonstrate the following qualities:
►Patience
►Commitment
►Work ethic
►Confidence
►Optimism
►Passion
►Motivator
►Flexibility
►Focus
►Good listener
This is a summation of all the responsibilities we should have as hitting coaches and by implementing them we can create an edge.
XVI       COUNT KNOWLEDGE
The patiently aggressive hitter has count knowledge ready beginning with the first pitch. The pitcher is trying to get ahead with his best pitch, not trying to be too fine and fall behind. Generally the goal is to get the hitter out within three/four pitches. If the hitter gets deep in the count because the pitcher locates it is good hitting, bit if the hitter gets deep in the count because he took hittable pitches then he is not being patiently aggressive. Pitchers will struggle with control when they do not practice pitching enough; if they go to their 2nd or 3rd pitches it should be to the hitter’s advantage. When the hitter puts the ball in play within three pitches the batting average is .298 and 60% of the runs are driven in. With two strikes the average is .187 and 30% of the runs are driven in. All averages with less than two strikes are over .300.
This is the last of three parts of the Hitting Programme. Clubs and coaches are invited to use any of the program in any way that they see fit, as long as appropriate acknowledgment is made of the source of the material.
We again thank Phil Allen for generously sharing his experience and hitting expertise with the baseball community.