Your spring batting practice is now probably in high gear and since the board has been down for awhile, I would like to discuss with you the key difference I find between a great hitters' swing mechanics and the mechanics exhibited by the average hitters. Having good lower-body mechanics to provide rotational energy for the swing is highly important. However, as you practice, it is equally (if not more) important that you develop upper-body mechanics that efficiently transfers that body rotation into bat-head rotation (around the entire swing plane).
I have often pointed out in my writings that what allows the very best hitters to generate their exceptional power and bat speed is their transfer mechanics that first accelerates the bat-head rearward to, and through, the lag position (bat sweeping past the catcher). This means they have already generated considerable bat speed in the rearward portion of the swing plane before they direct their energy toward the ball. However, using upper-body mechanics that first generates rearward acceleration runs counter to the average hitter's normal tendency to take his hands (and bat-head) toward the ball.
In fact, applying upper-body mechanics that first accelerates the bat-head rearward instead of forward runs so counter to what batters are being taught that only a few are able to successfully make the transition. Most will attempt to incorporate a rearward acceleration with their present extension mechanics and find little success. Added to this, they will receive little positive reinforcement from their coaches and fellow players. This alone can lead most hitters to revert back to traditional instruction.
For you players and coaches who attempt to keep an open mind, I would ask that you spend the time to study this clip (frame-by-frame). The clip shows that many of the best hitter’s mechanics accelerate the bat-head rearward before hip or body rotation is initiated.
PLT & THT – Rearward Bat Acceleration
First, note how very similar their swing mechanics are (all the Absolutes are there). -- Second, concentrate on the rearward acceleration of the bat-head they attain from their pre-launch position back to, and through, the lag position (bat sweeping past the catcher). - Third, ask yourself, would the top-hand pushing forward with the palm cause the rearward acceleration of the bat-head we see? Or, would common sense tell you that for the bat-head to move rearward, the top-hand must also be pulling rearward (with the fingers)? --- Note that much of the rearward acceleration takes place before the shoulders begin to rotate. Therefore, it is not body rotation that generates most of this rearward acceleration.
The clip basically illustrates the conventional upper-body swing mechanics being taught. This drill restrict the early development of bat speed. They encourage keeping the bat-head static well into the swing. There is no way these mechanics can generate the bat speed of a Strawberry or Sosa.
First, note that this batter also has lower-body mechanics that rotate his body about a stationary axis. The key mechanical difference between his mechanics and Strawbeery or Sosa is with the upper-body transfer mechanics they use to accelerate the bat. - Second, note that driving the top-hand forward during initiation causes the bat-head to just slide over and trail behind the hands well into the swing. Having a more static bat at the lag position means their maximum bat speed is not attained until well after passing through the optimum contact zone. This provides little power to the opposite field and most of their well-hit balls are pulled foul.
Mike Epstein once asked a very important question; "Do we actually teach what we see?" I think most coaches probably do teach a form of what you see in the last two clips. But how many teach their batters the mechanics that attain the rearward acceleration we see in the Williams and Bonds clips? -- These mechanics can help you maximize your potential at the plate? But, can you learn to become proficient in applying them? Maybe with enough patience, a positive attitude and hard work you just might. The best ones did.