The Absolutes of a good swing
I have heard coaches and players express the view that the best hitters do not always have the best mechanics. They contend that the hitter's athletic abilities allow them to perform at the top of the batting charts with flawed swing mechanics. I have not found this to be true. Most, if not all, players that perform at the Major League level have great athletic abilities. Data from my study led me to conclude that difference in the quality of a player's swing mechanics has a greater bearing on batting performance than differences in their athletic abilities.
Check out the "About" page for an explanation of the reasons for my conclusion. -- <a href="http://www.batspeed.com/about.html">"About"</a --
"When I started the study, I made a sign and hung it over my desk. It read " Have no preconceived theory, report only what you observe." To make sure I correctly identified a players swing mechanics, I charted 15 swings (at good pitches to hit) of each player over a two year period. I then devised a system whereby I could identify players according to the characteristics of their mechanics. I used 39 different mechanical characteristics and developed 12 swing classifications that players fit into. It was truly amazing how close the performance stats were for players with the same classification. There were other very interesting findings I made during the charting phase of the research and I will discuss them with you when those subjects arise."
"To me, one of the most important findings to come from the research was that a player's swing mechanics was far more important in determining batting potential than the player's athletic abilities. Even a 6 foot, 4 inch, 230 pound Mark McGwire performed just as poorly as other players with the same swing classification in 1991 when he hit .201 with 22 homeruns. I discovered that whenever a hitter went into a batting slump, there would be a notable change in his mechanics and he was just performing according to his new swing classification."
Many of the 39 mechanical batting characteristics mentioned above occurs prior to the full initiation of the swing (the stance, stride, and mechanics that setup the launch position). Some of the best hitters took longer strides - some short. Some stride with the hips more open - some closed. Some held their hands high - some low. Some had their lead-arm bent - some straighter, etc., etc. Therefore, differences in these traits did not correlate to predict batting performance and I classified them as "Styles."
As I pointed out in the "Thu Feb 13 16:04:42 2003" post, good hitters (those that can hit for both average and power) may have different styles in how they setup their swings. But once they come to the launch position and initiate the swing, I found that there are mechanical principles common to the swings of all good hitters. Adhering to those batting principles did correlate to a better batting performance and therefore I refer to them as "Absolute Principles."
Here is a list I found to be "Absolutes" to a good swing and higher batting performance. All good hitters will: (1) Hide their hands at the back-shoulder as rotation starts; (2) Shoulder rotation initiates the acceleration of the hands into a circular path; (3) The bat will be in the plane of the lead-arm as the shoulders start to rotate; (4) The lead-elbow will remain at a fixed angle. If the lead-arm straightens, it occurs early in the swing; (5) The bat-head will first accelerate in an arc back toward the catcher; (6) The back-elbow will lower and rotate at the batter's side (in the "slot"); (7) The swing plane will remain smooth (no dips or rising above the plane of the lead-arm; (8) Other than on outside pitches, the lead-shoulder will be pulling back toward the catcher (105 degree position with lead-leg extended) at contact; (9) In the contact zone, the plane of the swing will be on a 10 to 15 degree up-slope to closely match the descending path of the incoming ball.
And last, and probably the most important, if the batter's swing mechanics are efficient: (10) The bat will come to contact as the shoulders finish rotation. ---NOTE : The farther away from contact that bat is as the shoulders stop rotating, the weaker the swing.
A hitter may exhibit a flaw in the Absolutes and still hit the ball hard. But usually not consistently enough to stay high in the charts. When a good hitter goes into in a prolonged slump, I seriously doubt it occurred due to a change in his athletic abilities; rather I almost invariably find he has developed flaws in one or more of the ten Absolutes. Most often in 3, 7 and 10.
Many of the Absolute principles are better viewed from a frontal shot of the batter while others show up better from across the plate.
PS. I wonder if the same is true for golf because I have never heard anyone say that the best golfers do not have the best mechanics....
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