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Re: Linear Teaching -- Live and kicking

Posted by: john () on Sun Nov 10 13:17:15 2002

Hi All
> I just attended the National Baseball/Softball Coaches Convention in Irvine, CA. After three days of listening to a good number of batting seminars given by both baseball and softball coaches (mostly college coaches). I can assure you that teaching “linear mechanics” is very much alive and kicking. In fact, in the three days I was there, I did not hear one, not ONE, speaker who advocated any rotational principles – at least not any rotation that occurs above the hips.
> Although a couple coaches did think the hips should lead the hands, they also believed the shoulders should open just before contact. All, and I mean All, the coaches I heard and talked to, adhered strictly to linear (weight shift, A to B extension) transfer mechanics. --- I think that the batting principles presented could be fairly well summed up with a post I was planning to bring up a little later. Below is that post.
> ###
> Over the years a number of hitting terms have evolved which were intended to identify what was perceived as flaws in a batters swing mechanics. A few examples would be “spinning,” “looping,” “upper-cutting,” “hitting around the ball” and “casting.” Coaches are frequently advised that if they see a batter exhibit any of these traits they must be corrected regardless of how well the batter performed. To most coaches these terms are akin to “absolute” evils that are not to be questioned. (My way or the highway thinking.) In fact, any batter or coach who had the audacity to have a different take on these terms was to be scorned before they could “contaminate” the rest of the baseball community.
> Do you see the common thread running through all these so-called “evil” terms? --- They all relate to any deviation from the linear (straight line) movements. --- That’s right, any circular or rotational movement in the batter’s mechanics was deemed to ruin the batter’s swing (again regardless of how well the batter performed). To be correct, the batter had to be A to B, shortest distance between two points, or in other words a “linear” hitter. The batter was fundamentally taught to transfer weight upon a firm front-leg and then extend his hands straight out (A to B) while keeping the shoulders closed. This method of instruction went basically unchallenged for decades.
> Today, the theme of some discussion boards now professes that there are no linear hitters. That all professional batters are “rotational” hitters. Though many of the posters (or moderators) were former diehard linearists, they now seemingly argue that there are NO linear teaching or hitters in the game today. They contend that all hitters have the same arc in their hand-path and apply the same forces to the bat. I even read something to the effect that the ‘linear vs rotational’ debate is just “smoke and mirrors.” It was just conjured up by that “snake oil salesman,” (yes me), so he could sell something.
> I find it fascinating to note that after decades of preaching linear mechanics, many coaches (and moderators) now give the impression they were never linear and have always supported rotational principles. From the time I first started posting on discussion boards, about six years ago, we have come from a point where almost all coaches preached linear transfer mechanics, to a point where some of those same coaches NOW deny that linear teaching ever existed in the first place.
> Why, after decades, is there this sudden change in how many coaches now view swing mechanics? I think the answer is rooted in a question asked by Mike Epstein, “Do we teach what we see?”--- For the prior decades, the only source for a coach to learn batting principles was from the published batting authorities (books and video). Back then, almost all sources taught linear principles with Ted Williams’ book being the only notable exception. I don’t think the baseball community ever forgave me him for his dissension.
> Then came the Internet and the availability of VCR’s with their revealing frame-by-frame action. Everyone could study the swing mechanics of the top hitters in frame-by-frame video speed. Hitting discussion could now be more than just rehashing old unchallenged linear batting cues. Coaches could produce a video clip and discuss the swing mechanics they could now clearly see broken down frame-by-frame. Additionally, several discussion boards provided an open forum to discuss what was really occurring during the swing. I believe that the coaches (at least the open-minded ones) began to ask themselves Epstein’s question -- Am I really teaching the mechanics that I see the better hitter’s exhibit? -- Or do I still believe that anything curved has to be bad?
> 1. “Spinning” – I have been told that the batter should never “spin.” That he should “clear-out the front-side to allow the back-side to come through,” or “drive the axis back-to-center.” -- However, in frame-by-frame motion, it looks pretty obviously to me that most of the better hitters rotate around a stationary axis. Isn’t rotating around a stationary axis a form of “Spinning”??
> 2. “No ‘A to B to C’ with the hands” -- I have been told that the hands should go straight to the ball (extend your hands A to B). That any arc in their path would lead to a long slow swing. – However, it looks pretty obviously to me that most of the better hitters have a good deal of arc in their hand-path and they look pretty quick to me. ??
> 3. “Looping” – I have been told that the batter should “ keep the bat-head above the hands” and not let it loop downward. -- However, it looks pretty obviously to me that the better hitters have the bat-head looping back and downward behind them. And the bat-head clearly loops well BELOW their hands before bottoming-out. Then, why would I tell the kids to keep the barrel ABOVE their hands??
> 4. “Hitting around the ball” -- I have been told that the batter should always hit the inside part of the ball. That hitting the outside of the ball is “Hitting around the ball.” – But it appears to me that good hitters hit many of their better balls to the ‘pull’ side of the field. Wouldn’t you need to hit the outside part of the ball to pull it??
> 5. “Upper-cutting” -- I have been told that the batter should “swing down at the ball.” -- However, it looks pretty obviously to me that in the swing of the better hitters, the bat-head first loops back and down behind the batter. Then it bottoms-out and is headed upward at contact. And, it looks to me that a bat-head moving upward toward the ball is more in-line with it’s in-coming path of the ball than a bat angling downward through the ball’s path??
> 6. “Barring the lead-arm” -- I have been told that the batter should never straighten the lead-arm until just before contact. That straightening or barring the lead-arm to early leads to a slow wide casting swing. But it appears to me that many of the best hitters maintain a fairly straight lead-arm from initiation to contact. I can see that keeping the lead-arm straight does produce the dreaded circular-hand-path. But it appears that the path of the hands stays very tight to the body on inside pitches.
> From what I witnessed at the convention, there are a whole lot of coaches who still think that anything with an arc to it must be bad. So I would ask again, do you teach the linear batting cues we all were taught – or do you teach what you can now clearly see for yourself?
> Jack Mankin


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