Rotational Hitting vs. Linear Hitting
There are two predominant schools of thought when it comes to baseball swing mechanics.
1. Rotational Hitting
2. Linear Hitting
Before we get into these schools of thought, let me preface this by saying a few things. There are only two types of coaches. Either you believe the best hitters ever did things correctly, or you don't.
I believe that, although not quite right, rotational hitting does try to describe the movements of the best hitters of all time.
While many of the concepts of rotational hitting make sense, they fail to describe the action of the barrel in the initiation of the swing.
There are a few absolutes to rotational hitting. They are..
1. Slot the bat
2. Match Plane
3. Connect to rotation
4. Swing around the spine axis
5. Swing plane matches shoulder plane
Slot the bat
Shown by Stanton above, this ensures that the bat is level with the shoulders and the ball. This makes the swing a very simple turn to the baseball. By "slotting" the bat, it is immediately on plane with the pitch this is advantageous for making square contact. The problem with holding the bat with the barrel level to the shoulders is that you must turn your body to turn the bat. The barrel is traveling zero miles per hour. That means there is no running start, no momentum and an overall lack of swing quickness. We will talk more about that in the coming sections.
This principal is one that I do teach.
By matching swing plane to the plane of the pitch, this allows for consistent square contact. Many hitters are taught to swing down, this means the plane of the swing slices across the plane of the pitch. Matching plane is probably the single most important part of the swing. Without it, it is impossible to become a consistent hitter.
Connect to Rotation
As I mentioned earlier, in a rotational swing, the bat moves only when the body rotates. This means, your body has to rotate as fast as possible.
While this CAN be a good source of power, it is ultimately not adjustable enough to hit major league pitching.
By rotating your body, more times than not, the energy is being created towards the pull side. That means, hitting to the opposite field becomes almost impossible.
Once the body rotates, any ability to drive the ball to the opposite field is bypassed in favor of turning to the pull side. 99% of hitters who are taught this technique are unable to swing with good direction.
With that said, this philosophy is very close to being right, the hands should stay back as long as possible, allowing the lower body to lead.
1. Shift weight forward
2. Throw the hands
3. Swing down for back spin
Shift Weight Forward
Just about all hitters have some type of forward move towards the baseball. The idea behind shifting the weight forward is to generate as much energy as possible back towards the pitcher.
While I agree with the thought behind this concept, a weight shift forward without keeping the hands back can be detrimental.
The linear, pushy hand path often leads to the weight falling to the front foot too soon. This makes adjustment to off speed pitches more difficult.
Remember, the overall goal should be to consistently hit EVERY pitch hard.
Throw the Hands
You've probably heard coaches say "short to and long through."
Where this hand path ultimately fails is in power production and adjustabilty.
The body works rotationally to produce force, there is no way to effectively load this swing.
This swing uses mostly the upper body to power the swing. In this type of swing the arms are pushing directly AGAINST the weight of the barrel.
Swing Down for back spin
This bat path limits a players ability to consistently make square contact with the baseball.
I see this bat path regularly, the typical result is a weak pop up or ground ball.
In this example, the barrel never gets behind the baseball.
We can do better.
If this generation of baseball players is to be better than the last, they will need new/better information.
Rotational hitting and linear hitting are no longer a viable way of describe a world class swing.
Here is what they miss.
1. Barrel Turn
2. Match Plane
3. Stretch and Fire
The majority of great hitters load the barrel of their bat forward. This clip shows how the barrel is turned by the hands instead of being pulled around by the shoulders.
Notice how the bat moves independent of the shoulders.
This clip is an excellent example of matching swing plane to the plane of the pitch.
You should also notice that Longoria has tilted his shoulders to turn at a 45 degree angle, this keeps the bat "behind" the ball for as long as possible.
If he were to keep his swing and shoulders level, his energy would turn "off the ball" sooner.
Stretch and Fire
The stretch and fire concept happens when most players throw the baseball. The lower body leads and the upper body stays back until the very last second.
During that process, kinetic energy is built and is then released in one explosive move.
Rotational Hitting vs Linear Hitting
Neither rotational hitting nor linear hitting philosophies fully describe what is happening in a high level swing.