The Why and How of Early Bat Speed
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This article was excerpted from our new book The Ultimate Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy Guide (click the link for book details). Early bat speed generates a large amount of force early, by the optimal inner zone points of contact. Early bat speed is somewhat of a hitting secret to all but the best hitters.
For recommendations on how and when to use various training methods (dry, heavy bag, pylos, tee, toss, live, machine, etc.) and to shop for effective and durable equipment click on the link Hitting Training Methods and Aids.
Inner Zone Hitting Requires Early Bat Speed
Hitters position themselves differently in the batter’s box and utilize various lengths of stride and approach. So, relative to the plate, hitters contact the ball in different places. The contact points (above) are for a batter who sets up in the middle of the box. These points represent the optimal location where the most productive contact occurs based on whether the pitch is inside, outside or middle.
Optimal contact occurs when the hitter lets the ball travel deeper into the hitting zone. Inner zone hitting indicates the rear elbow is slotted at contact; no extension has yet occurred. When the back elbow is slotted, the degree of the hitter’s core and shoulder rotation positions the barrel differently based on pitch location. For the outside pitch, the ball has traveled more into the body, past the front knee. For the middle pitch, past the front foot. For the inside pitch, in front of the front foot.
Striving to hit the ball in the inner zone is crucial for 1) increasing the margin of error, and 2) increasing decision time, and 3) reducing time to contact, and 4) increasing quickness.
Inner sone contact just in front of stride foot – rear elbow slotted.
Inner zone contact just past stride foot – rear elbow slotted.
Inner zone contact just past foot knee – rear elbow slotted.
Benefits of Early Bat Speed
There are many productive benefits to early bat speed:
- Extra decision time.
Increasing early bat speed and inner zone hitting cuts swing time (time to contact) and increases decision time. Those extra milliseconds are perpetuities for a hitter facing advanced pitching; the ability to buy spare time is a significant advantage. The longer the brain has, the more accurate and detailed the choice.
To hit the ball further out front, the hitter commits to the pitch earlier.
- Off-speed contact in the outer zone.
A focus on inner zone hitting creates a “cushion” of time and distance by enabling solid contact with off-speed pitches in the outer zone.
- When pitching speeds increase and the ball travels deeper, there are more frequent base hits due to the improved ball exit speed and distance of all trajectories.
- Allows hitting the outside pitch with authority (see Dome XVI: Outside Pitch with Linear Extension).
Since the most productive outside pitch contact point is deeper, early bat speed is essential for driving the ball with power to the opposite field.
- Increased confidence.
Key Contributors to Early Bat Speed
Early bat speed is the product of the entire body working together. Here is a checklist of significant contributors:
- Front side in (see Foundation XXIX: Front Side In).
- Loading hands on or inside the toe line (see Foundation XXXIV: Separate (Load) Hands).
- Sound lower body mechanics that un-weight the rear foot (see Chapter 5 Legs).
- Full core rotation (see Pillar VII: Core Rotation).
- Staying back with head and shoulders (click on the link for our free article Stay Back With Head Centered Drills).
- Hip and shoulder separation (see Pillar X: Hip and Shoulder Separation).
- Rear shoulder row (see Pillar XIV: Rear Shoulder Row).
- Rear elbow slot (see Pillar XIX: Rear Elbow Slot).
- Shoulder tilt (see Pillar XI: Shoulder Tilt).
- Bat lag (see Pillar XX: Bat Lag).
- Hands connected (see Pillar XXII: Arms and Hands Connected).
- Torque mechanisms (see Pillar XVI: Pre-Launch Torque, Pillar XVII: Top Hand Torque, Pillar XXVI: Rotational with Circular Hand Path).
- Overload and underload training (click the link for our free article describing the benefits of training with weighted/unweighted bats).
For drills to develop early bat speed click on the link for our free article Early Bat Speed Hitting Drills.
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
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In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become a powerful and productive hitter.
Enjoy the quest!