Building Rome Series

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

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Should batting be taught the same way for the baseball vs. softball swing? This question is a popular topic among coaches and parents. To root out the facts, we must dive into the details. You may be surprised by some of the myths and truths!

 

Myth #1 – Females Aren’t Able to Hit for Power

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

baseball vs softball swing

The critical power element of the modern baseball vs. softball swing is hip rotation. The circular turning of the hips, utilizing the large muscles of the core, slings the bat around quickly. Core rotation speeds the barrel faster than the arms and hands and can do alone. Women tend to match the strength of men more closely in lower body muscles, than in upper body muscles. Therefore, rotational power between softball vs. baseball hitters is relatively equivalent.

Besides, timing and coordination are also crucial for a slugger in either sport. One interesting point, “Women can be considered to be the supreme sex in sports reliant on rhythmic use of muscular coordination” (https://www.livestrong.com/article/509536-muscular-strength-in-women-compared-to-men/).

Softball coaches, there is increased offensive production at your fingertips! Take a moment to re-evaluate the mental concepts you are conveying to your athletes. More verbal cues, such as “drive the ball hard,” help establish the intentions of fastpitch softball hitters.

YES females can be sluggers!

 

Myth #2 – The Time the Hitter Has for Reacting to the Pitch is Different

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

At comparable levels of play (e.g., college baseball and college fastpitch), reaction times are similar between the baseball vs. softball swing. As an example, a hitter facing a baseball pitcher throwing 91 mph from 60 feet has .45 seconds to react. A hitter facing a fastpitch pitcher throwing 65 mph from 43 feet has the same .45 seconds to react.

 

 

Myth #3 – Softball Hitters Should Swing Down

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

The myth that softball hitters should bring hands down to the ball comes from a variety of misconceptions:

 

Pitched Softball Ball is On Downward Plane

First, there is no mound in softball, and the ball is released from below mid-thigh. Many erroneously believe these facts cause the softball to travel up as it reaches the batter. So, the softball hitter should swing down to match the plane of the upward traveling pitch.

In the case of a well-spun rise ball thrown to the upper part of the zone, we grant that the ball is traveling upward. But for all other pitches, the ball is traveling downward. The slight downward angle of the pitched softball as it crosses the plate is due to the heavier softball, more surface area of the ball, downward spin of the fastball, and slower pitching speed. For high school and up fastpitch pitchers, the downward angle of the ball as it arrives at the plate is typically between 4 and 7 degrees (see image below). For baseball, the downward angle is 7 to 12 degrees.

baseball vs softball swing

 

Photo Credit: http://www.pitchsoftball.com/AllPitchesHaveanArc.html

 

Softball Players Should Hit Groundballs

A second reason softball players are often encouraged to swing down comes from the belief the hitter is more productive if they try to hit ground balls. Since the base paths are shorter in softball, the concept is to get the ball on the ground and beat it out. Make the defense perform two catches and an accurate throw. Put the ball in play on the ground. The logic of this strategy is anything can happen.

baseball vs softball swing

A crucial concept is that swinging down on a pitched ball reduces the consistency of contact. The distance the barrel is in the path of the ball (margin of error) determines contact consistency. Swinging down at the ball leaves a small contact window, an inch or two. The dropping ball and the downward swing path are in two different planes reducing the potential intersection distance.

To most effectively train and prepare the softball vs. baseball swing for High School and College, encourage all hitters to swing just slightly up to match the trajectory of the slightly dropping ball.

A slightly positive attack angle produces the highest percentage of line drives, the best power and distance, and the highest batting average. It is what the best hitters do in both sports.

For further discussion of the why and how of swinging in the plane of the pitch, see Building the High-Level Swing, Volume 3, Increase Batting Average.

 

Truth #1 – A Baseball is Harder to Hit Than a Softball

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

Whether a baseball or softball is harder to hit is a close call.

For sure, a baseball is smaller and traveling faster.

This fact is somewhat offset by the big barrel baseball bats, having more surface area than fastpitch bats, typically swung in amateur baseball.

Also, as softballs are bigger, they have a more significant Magnus effect, causing them to move more.

All things considered, a baseball is harder to hit.

 

Truth #2 – Leverage is More Important in Softball

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

Leverage is gaining a mechanical advantage for how to move an object. Hitters use increased leverage to amplify the effectiveness of the contact between bat and ball. Augmented leverage means there is less dampening effect at bat-ball collision.

Arms and hands tight to the body, in a palm up, palm down position, creates increased leverage during the bat-ball collision. A casting swing or a swing where the hands roll over too early, before full extension, results in more “cushioning” at contact.

In Major League Baseball, with heavy bats swung at very high bat speeds, leverage of arms and hands has relatively little importance. Home runs have been hit with one hand on the bat. “Contact happens so quickly (about 1/1000 of a second) the handle does not have time react.” (The Physics of Baseball, Robert Adair). 

But at youth and amateur levels of fastpitch softball, with heavier balls, lighter bats, and lower bat speed, leverage is a concern. There are slow-motion videos of youth softball bats recoiling six inches or more at contact.

The slower the bat speed, the lighter the bat, the heavier the ball, the faster the pitch, and the less strength in the forearms and wrists, the more critical leverage of arms and hands becomes.

 

Truth #3 – Timing Mechanisms Are Different

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

Different approaches and mechanisms to time pitches are primarily due to the different pitching motions used by baseball and fastpitch softball pitchers.

 

Truth #4 – Baseball Does Not Have a Rise Ball

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

baseball vs softball swing

 

Even with the backspin put on the ball by baseball pitchers, a baseball never rises. The baseball is smaller and leaves the pitcher’s hand at a downward angle.

But a softball can be made to rise if thrown correctly. The larger surface area of the softball creates a higher degree of Magnus Effect. Also, the pitch is released at an upward angle. A well-spun fast pitch rise ball thrown at least at 55 mph lifts as it crosses the plate. The rising trajectory forces the softball hitter to try to hit an incoming pitch having an upward plane rather than a downward plane.

The necessity to adjust the softball swing, when a rise ball is recognized, may be the most significant difference between the baseball vs. softball swing.

Softball coaches and players, see Building the High-Level Swing, Volume 3, Increase Batting Average for detailed guidance on how to beat a rise ball pitcher.

 

Truth #5 – Early Pitch Recognition is Easier in Softball

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

At release, the hitter more easily recognizes the type of pitch in softball than baseball.

Reasons for this include:

  • The mound is closer in softball, so vision is clearer.
  • The axis of the upper body, for many fastpitch pitchers, varies substantially between a rise (backward leaning) or a drop or change (forward leaning).
  • Many softball pitchers stride to different locations when throwing different types of pitches. For example, a curve is often thrown by striding across the power line where a screwball is thrown by striding away from the power line.
  • Pitch follow-thru, seen in peripheral vision, can also identify the pitch. For example, a curve with a follow-through across the hip or a change with a reach toward the plate.
  • Most important to early pitch recognition is the spinning action of the wrist and hand is easier to see in softball. Since the softball is bigger than a baseball, hand movements and wrist angles used to spin the ball are more prominent. Through practice and training, a softball hitter can see the spin put on movement pitches and identify the pitch at release. The hitter is much more productive when they recognize a pitch before it has traveled half-way, and they have committed to swinging.

With deliberate practice, this truth can be used to the softball hitter’s advantage. See Building the High-Level Swing, Volume 3, Increase Batting Average to learn more about how to recognize pitches early.

 

Truth #6 – Both Softball and Baseball Hitters Should Strive to Swing Aggressively in Games

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

As scientists continue to uncover, the mind and body have an amazing ability to adapt and accomplish the desired goal. If the intention is to drive the ball hard, the hitter’s body moves to accomplish that goal.

Shifting a hitter’s primary goal from merely making some contact, or any contact, to hitting the ball hard can result in dramatic changes in the hitter’s movements. Training hitters to move fast, swing with intent, and hit the ball as hard as possible cleans up a lot of different movement patterns and inefficiencies.

To enhance game time success, fastpitch softball and baseball hitters should deliberately practice their mental approach, during lessons, team practices, and games. See Building the High-Level Swing, Volume 3, Increase Batting Average for a comprehensive discussion of how to increase batting average by improving a hitter’s mental approach during game at-bats.

 

Truth #7 – Ace Softball Pitchers Usually on the Mound

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

The movement of the fastpitch delivery is more natural than baseball. A baseball pitcher puts more stress on the arm than a softball pitcher. As a result, a softball team’s ace can pitch many more innings than the best pitcher on a baseball team. Having the ace on the mound is one reason earned run averages (ERA) are lower and strikeouts slightly higher in softball.

 

Truth #8 – Switch Hitting is Less Effective in Softball

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

Vision is improved when batting from the opposite side from the handedness of the pitcher. Improved vision allows movement pitches to be more natural to hit when they are breaking into the hitter, rather than away.

The benefits of switch hitting are less in fastpitch softball than baseball. Benefits are less because fastpitch pitchers can throw a very useful screwball.

Yes, right-handed baseball pitchers can make a ball sink away from the lefty hitter, and a few baseball pitchers can throw a screwball.

But a well-thrown fastpitch screwball is spun rapidly and on a more vertical axis. The ball spinning like a top, along with the larger ball, results in a dramatic break going away from lefties. The fastpitch screwball is a popular and effective weapon against switch hitters.

 

Truth #9 – Slapping is More Effective in Softball

Baseball vs Softball Swing

 

Running bunts and slap hits from the left side of the plate are incredibly productive in softball. From the left side, the slapper is already two steps closer to the plate, has a running start, and 60-foot compared to 90-foot basepath in baseball.

But, if baseball players were to copy the skills of fastpitch slappers, could they be as productive?

 

Baseball vs Softball Swing Conclusion

 

Now for the short answer. Ninety-nine percent of hitting fundamentals taught to softball and baseball players should be the same.

 

Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing

step by step hitting fundamentalsBuilding the High-Level Swing, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 contains a detailed and comprehensive examination of over 100 hitting fundamentals, techniques, and options.

In the Building Rome Series of books, fundamentals are built step by step. Construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.

All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the steps of the Roman Coliseum” to becoming a powerful and productive hitter.

Enjoy the quest!