The following article discusses the dangers of teaching home run mechanics and highlights the value developing a disciplined approach. A home run swing develops over time; you first need to learn how to hit line drives, “crawling before walking.”
A HARD DOSE OF REALITY
Don’t believe the hype! There are many “theorists” out there who claim anyone can be a home run hitter. We “hate to break the bad news,” but 90% of hitters will never develop into a consistent home run hitters. Therefore, why waste valuable practice time trying to be something you’ll most likely never be?
If you are part of the 90%, then you have two choices.
- Try and defy mother nature and turn yourself into the 10% who hit home runs on a consistent basis.
- Or, you can face up to reality and work on your real strengths.
A home run swing needs to develop over time; first, you need to learn the value of hitting line drives “up the middle” and to the “outfield gaps” before trying to hit home runs. As your body develops, “doubles in the gap” turn into home runs.
THE HOME RUN CONUNDRUM
“Strikeouts are a part of the game.” Yeah right! Try explaining that to an 11-year-old player, who is “zero for his last twenty” at-bats, and struck out four times in one game. It is irresponsible to coach a young player to hit home runs, and any hitting coach doing so; needs to have a serious think about what he is doing to longer-term player development.
Home run hitters tend to strikeout, due to the nature of “home run swing mechanics.” Strikeouts are mentally draining, even for the most experienced hitters. Ultimately, increased strikeouts are detrimental to a young hitter’s mental development in the game of baseball. Teaching the value of line drives at a young age helps to nurture your swing.
Praise youth players for, “doubles in the gap;” and let them know, doubles eventually turn into home runs. In this case, there’s no need to make any mechanical adjustments, be patient.
Additionally, by not focusing on home runs; is the time you’re most likely to hit one, “the home run conundrum.”
Home Run Derby Versus Disciplined BP
Take disciplined batting practice. Note the 80/20 rule, aim to hit 80% line drives and 20% “home run swing;” if any at all. Take note of the way the ball travels off the bat; you can learn much about your swing this way. If it tails to the left or right; is a cue to balance the power of your top or bottom hand in your swing.
Hit to All Fields
Focus on hitting line drives up the middle and to the outfield alleys. Once again the 80/20 rule. 80% of balls up the middle or opposite field, and 20% of into the “pull-side alley.” Discover what mechanics work best through repetitions & trial and error, every hitter is different, and there is no “one size fits all” approach to hitting. Whatever mechanics you decide to use, a “disciplined approach” is the common denominator for success at the plate.
SET REALISTIC GOALS
There is no use trying to hit home runs if you only have warning track power, if you continually hit fly ball outs you’ll find yourself on the bench in a hurry! Therefore, it is critical to define realistic, short and long-term goals. Write them down and record your progress over the baseball season.
SAMPLE HITTING GOALS
- Hit three line drives per game.
- Hit 80% of balls up the middle or to the opposite field during batting practice.
- Cut down to one strikeout per game.
- Get one walk per game.
- Get one RBI per game.
- Consistently take the pitcher deep into the batting count, increasing his “pitch count.”
THE EVOLVING GAME
Let’s not kid ourselves, scouts like power, but they also like players with a disciplined hitting approach, demonstrating experience and poise. Respected scouts understand the correlation between approach and success at the MLB level, and they project doubles, into future home runs, as the player grows into their body, improving muscle strength.
MLB teams who make necessary hitting adjustments, tend to win the World Series, where player’s face dominant pitchers, who do not make mistakes; in this environment, “one-dimensional home run hitters” get exposed.
“You watch Miguel Cabrera in BP. He can hit the ball as far as anyone. But in batting practice, he’s all about hitting to right-center field, right-center field, right-center field. He might have one round where he goes in there and tries to feel his extension, but not with the intention of hitting the ball in the seats. He’s trying to square the ball up.”
“More evidence this is the correct approach: Trout and Robinson Cano also said they focus on hitting the ball to the opposite field.”
“I’m just hitting the ball to right-center,” Trout said. “Maybe I’ll pull the ball a bit to left-center sometimes, but pretty much, I stay hands inside the ball.”
“I always try left field only,” the left-handed-hitting Cano said. “After that, I try to hit line drives.”