One of baseball and softball hitting coaches' major concerns is hitting the outside pitch. The coach may express this concern by telling the batter: "If you can't hit the out, you won't get the in - if you can't hit the in, you won't get the out." Although the batter's plate coverage must be wide enough to hit both the inside and outside pitch, the coach's primary concern is hitting the outside pitch. This article explains why rotational hitting mechanics gives the batter good coverage for outside pitches.
Many linear hitting coaches are wary of adopting rotational hitting mechanics because they think it limits the batter's ability to hit outside pitches. They contend that to hit both the inside and outside pitch, the bat must be short to and long through the ball. To accomplish this, the batter is instructed to extend the arms linear to straighten out the path of the bat. This is supposed to keep the bat in the contact zone longer.
However, our video analysis of top baseball hitters does not support the linear concept of plate coverage. Neither does it support linear coaches' concerns regarding hitting pitches away with rotational mechanics. In our Instructional Hitting DVD, we teach batters how to develop a sound rotational swing that provides plenty of coverage on the outer part of the plate. The video below shows an overhead view of the bat's path for a rotational hitter. -- You can judge for yourself if the bat's path provided good coverage for the outside pitch.
Adjustments for Inside/Outside Pitches
I think one of the main reasons the better rotational hitters have better performance stats is because they do not need to change their basic swing mechanics to maximize plate coverage. They are able to use the same mechanics regardless of where in the zone the pitcher throws and still generate the bat speed to hit the ball hard to all fields. The only adjustment they need to make is a slight change in how they initiate the swing. As the video below shows, once that change is made - their mechanics for the balance of the swing is basically on autopilot.
The change in the batter's initiation that programs the balance of the swing is controlled mainly by the direction of pull of the top hand. In other words, the direction of pull of the top forearm and hand at initiation sets up trajectories (of the bat, limbs and body) that control the balance of the swing.
As an example, say the pitchers mound is at 6 o'clock and the plate is at 12 o'clock. On an inside pitch the direction of pull of the top hand is in tight, say at 1 o'clock, the back elbow will come almost straight down to the batters side before little rotation of the shoulders can occur. The pulling back of the back-hand keeps the lead-arm across the chest and generates a tight hand-path and thus a low-load resistance to shoulder rotation. The back elbow coming fairly straight down with little body rotation means less top-hand-torque was developed and the batters finish the swing with a lot lead shoulder pull and bottom-hand-torque.
Plate Coverage Mechanics
On a pitch in the middle 2/3's of the plate, the pull of the top hand is more straight-away or at 12 o'clock. With a more straight-away pull, the shoulders rotate a few degrees as the back elbow lowers to the batter's side allowing a greater amount of top-hand-torque to be applied. This direction of pull also causes the lead arm to cast slightly away from the chest and generates a somewhat wider hand-path. A wider hand-path generates greater bat speed and a higher load resistance to rotation. Less shoulder rotation means less bottom-hand-torque. So on the pitch in the mid-part of the plate, what we wind up with is greater bat speed from a wider hand-path and more balance between bottom and top-hand-torque being applied.
When recognizing an outside pitch, the batters pull of the top hand is more away from center - or at 11 o'clock. This direction of pull causes the back elbow to sweep some distance before full body rotation begins and the elbow lowers. This allows top-hand-torque to be applied over a much greater portion of the swing. This direction of pull also causes the lead arm to cast out farther and develops a wide hand-path and thus a heavy resistant load to rotation. The greater load limits shoulder rotation which equates to less bottom-hand-torque being applied. So, on the outside pitch the swing produces a wide hand-path with a lot of top-hand-torque and little bottom-hand-torque. - With less shoulder rotation on outside pitches, the lead leg may not be fully extended while the back-arm becomes more extended.