There may never be another player who posses both the swing, and the physical ability that Bonds brought to the plate.
If your goal is to maximize your abilities as a hitter, knowing and understanding the basic movements in Barry Bonds' swing is a must.
What made Barry Bonds' swing so good?
Barry was very good at matching plane with the pitch. He was able to do so early which gave him the ability to adjust to pitch speed.
He was also able to consistently create early bat speed which gave him adjustablity to pitch location.
When you're able to create early bat speed and get on plane, the sky is the limit. This swing path allows a hitter optimal efficiency.
You will notice that the great hitters are able to keep their head very still, and the shoulders don't move until the bat is on plane behind them.
Barry had a very simple toe tap, similar to Ted Williams. In fact, their swings are carbon copies of each other. If you ever wondered what it should look like, here it is.
(Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth)
Hitting a baseball should be a flowing, athletic movement. An optimal swing uses the kinetic chain to produce maximum power. Without movement, many (all) hitters will end up practically bench pressing the bat to the baseball. Every truly great hitter that I break down has a tipping movement to their barrel.
Some hitters "hitch" (drop their hands) more than others, but this movement is not necessarily incorrect. Allowing our body to flow creates potential energy that gives us the adjustability and power that we need to hit consistently.
Should you swing like Barry Bonds?
Bonds didn't just hit the ball in the air. He mastered the ability to square the baseball consistantly.
His bat path got behind the path of the baseball early and stayed on that path. In the clip below, Bonds' barrel is on plane with the pitch behind him, continuing into contact and then even through his finish.
For more info on how to develop a perfect baseball swing, I invite you to check out this article.
Bonds himself is a proponent of swinging down to hit the baseball. Although that might be what he THINKS he does, he does not swing down in game.
This is an example of the "swing down" bat path taken literally.
This anomaly is not uncommon. Many very successful hitters think they swing down and then perform something different in the game.
Bryce Harper takes this cue literally.
Here is an example of Alex Rodriguez explaining and demonstrating the chopping motion and then basically doing the exact opposite in game.
Stretch & Fire
I focus on the hands and bat path because many hitters vary in their lower body mechanics. Some use a toe tap, some use a leg kick.
Ultimately, the hands should resist the forward movement of the lower body. Once he decides to launch his swing, the barrel turns rearward, allowing the lower body to finish its forward momentum.
This tug of war can be seen in all of the great hitters. The elbow draws back, stays back, then works underneath. The barrel turn acts as a trigger, allowing the lower body to pull the upper body through the swing.
A similar feel happens when you throw. Most people seem to naturally move more efficiently when they throw, leaving the back elbow back and allowing the lower body to lead. In hitting, many players become so focused on "staying inside" or "throwing the hands" they sacrifice correct sequencing and allow the upper body to lead.
(Barry Bonds Swing)
Here is a decent illustration of how the stretch and fire process should work in the swing. Notice how the bottom rotates but the top of the ruler stays fixed. Once the top half is let go, the energy is unleashed.
The swing should be a release of energy instead of a pushing, slow developing process.
Haven't you ever wondered how some hitters look effortless when they hit? This is how.
The kinetic energy should flow from the ground, up.
Here is an example of the barrel turn.
This mechanic allows Bonds to use momentum and centripetal force. This momentum is carried into the baseball allowing for a very efficient and effortless source of bat speed.
Swing Like the Greats
As shown earlier in this article, Bonds developed a swing very similar to the great power hitters that came before him. Whether that was on purpose, or his body naturally fell into those movements, there is a lot to learn from this correlation.
The overwhelming majority of the truly great home run hitters over the past 100 years have had the swing characteristics described in this article.
They all utilize the barrel turn, matched swing plane and a stretch and fire unload. Some are better at each individual component, but all good hitters do AT LEAST 2 of these very well and the true greats do all 3.
Teaching the Swing
There is more to look at in the swing, like the front foot and front leg.
Coaches have probably come up with thousands of other points of emphasis.
I leave them out on purpose.
A hitter that has one cue to execute can succeed, when we add 20 different points of emphasis, hitting becomes difficult.
Once a player learns the barrel turn, there is no need to over rotate for power or jump at the ball. You will see the hitters body become quiet and smooth. Their upper body will begin to find the plane of the pitch better and earlier. Everything can fall into place now that the body doesn't have to over compensate for a lack of power.
Watch the greats, recognize and DUPLICATE their movements.
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