Fix Swinging Under the Ball
Top Ten Fixes for Swinging Under
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Swinging Under the Ball article has been excerpted from our book The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide (click for details about our new drill book).
In priority order, here are the top ten reasons hitters swing under the ball:
Swinging Under #1 – Faster and More Level Pitching
There are two concerns when developing hitters bump up in the level of play and face faster pitching. The first is very apparent. Since pitching speed is faster and the ball arrives sooner, the hitter adjusts timing to compensate. Practice drills in Tool XXV: Universal Timing of Fastball Drills (see this timing drill plus 140 other functional drills with over 500 individual drill steps in The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide).
The second concern is almost always more impactful. The faster pitch arrives at the plate at less of a downward trajectory than the slower. A more level pitch – not late timing – is the primary reason hitters strike out when facing faster pitching. Usually, the entire team is consistently swinging under all pitches arriving at the plate with better than the average velocity.
Let’s look at the problem from the perspective of brain cognition. It is useful to recognize how the brain establishes patterns. To bring the bat into contact with a flying ball, the brain sends thousands of impulses to muscles in a matter of milliseconds.
Automatic patterning is mandatory – thinking is too slow.
Generally, developing hitters are accustomed to the steeper downward angle of the slower pitching speed they face in practice and in typical games. However, when the pitch comes in faster and more level, the brain must establish a new pattern since the old model assumes a more downward trajectory.
The mind must be taught how to bring the barrel into contact with the more level pitch.
Here is an analogy that might help. Imagine the brain as a cornfield. There is only one path through the cornfield for most developing hitters. While this path is vast and well-worn, it is for one speed and trajectory of pitch. There is no path for the more level and faster pitching.
A re-patterning training plan shortcuts the process of training the brain, more quickly creating a new path in the cornfield. The hitter dedicates four practices to pitching speeds at least five mph faster than average game speed. Crucially, there is no need to force a mechanical swing change. And generally, unless the hitter is “dipping” (click here to fix dipping) or “hitching,” there is no need to get hands higher in the stance or at launch. Instead, the hitter “teaches their brain” (click to learn how the brain changes when you practice).
The hitter swings with their baseline swing but AIMS the barrel just above the incoming pitch.
The hitter should focus on the following:
- Aiming their swing slightly over the ball or at the top edge of the ball. Aiming over the ball is challenging to do at first. Aiming over requires mentally overriding the hitter’s habitual swing pattern. The hitter internally controls (click the link for how to use the muscle memory building ability of internal focus) the vertical barrel height, striving to swing slightly over the ball. When they do this successfully, they often contact the middle of the ball!
- Hitting ground balls by aiming higher, NOT by chopping down on the ball.
Re-patterning is complete when the hitter can resume aiming at the middle of the ball, and line drives result. Re-patterning for faster pitching can be a long process if the hitter’s practice routine continues to include repetitious slow tosses, machine, or BP. Creating and maintaining a “new path through the cornfield” requires walking that path regularly.
The hitter creates new pathways (in the cornfield) by frequently “walking that path.”
Swinging Under #2 – “Dipping”
Often, developing hitters drop the rear shoulder below the front shoulder before hitting position is reached. “Dipping” is a consequence of tee ball and slow, dropping pitches in the early years. The hitter’s barrel habitually “dips” too low, then uppercuts. As pitching speeds increase, dipping results in frequently swinging under, especially for waist-high and above pitch locations.
Purposefully practice fixing the hitting habit of dipping under the ball (click the link for drills and tips to avoid dropping the barrel too early).
Swinging Under #3 – High Pitch
Hitters struggle with chasing the high fastball above the zone or swinging under the high strike throughout their playing careers. Through deliberate training, hitters can minimize the times they chase high non-strikes, swing under, or hit the bottom of the ball.
Practice Tool XXVIII: Pitch Location Drills, Drill VI – High Pitch Drill (see The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide).
Swinging Under #4 – Lunging
When the hitter’s head moves more than four inches past the center of their feet, towards their front foot, they create a downward swing plane, often resulting in swinging under the ball.
Practice Hitting Drills to Fix Lunging (click the link for our free drills article).
Swinging Under #5 – “Pulling” Head
A stable spine angle during rotation is critical for vision, balance, and a consistent swing plane. When spine angle decreases, the hitter’s shoulders move away from the plate. As a result, the barrel path typically redirects below the ball slightly. Popups and missing under are more frequent for the hitter who consistently becomes more upright in their posture (pulls head) during swing execution.
Practice Fix Pulling Head Drills (click the link for our free drills article to help the hitter maintain a steady head and eyes).
Swinging Under #6 – Hitching
Another common cause of swinging under is created by hitching hands to a point below the top of the strike zone. The habit of hitching occurs during the stride and separate (load hands) swing phase. Low hands at launch is a serious obstacle to productivity for pitches up in the zone. The hitter cannot get on the plane with the high pitch when their hands begin too low. Frequent misses under and fly balls are symptoms.
Practice Philosopher Lesson IV: Fix Hitching (see our complete lesson “how to fix hitching” in our new drills book The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide).
Swinging Under #7 – “Rusty”
During the new season’s first hitting practice, hitters are often swinging under the ball – a rusty hitter typically swings under the ball. Hand-eye coordination can also become rusty later in the season when:
- Hitting practices are insufficient in frequency and quality.
- The hitter consistently sees a slower speed and more dropping trajectory during practice than during games.
Practice Hand-Eye Coordination Drills (click the link for free drills to improve hand-eye coordination).
Swinging Under #8 – Undeveloped Lower Body Mechanics
Due to undeveloped lower body techniques, the head and shoulders may drop as the swing executes. A lowering head is especially prevalent for developing hitters with more aggressive strides. The big strider must avoid getting too broad with their feet, causing the torso and head to drop substantially—train un-weighting the rear foot and dragging the rear toe forward a few inches before contact. The coach can pin the hitter’s head to a background from the pitcher’s view and help the hitter practice their forward approach (linear move) toward the pitcher. The hitter’s head stays steady as viewed from the front.
Practice Tool XIV: Universal Leg Drills (see our lower body mechanic drills and practice steps in our new drills book The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide).
Swinging Under #9 – Rise Ball (Fastpitch Softball Only)
At about age 14, some fastpitch softball pitchers have gained enough velocity to throw an effective rise ball. The fastpitch hitter must make adjustments to avoid a drop in productivity.
Swinging Under #10 – Adjustments to Attack Angle
When hitters initially make a significant attack angle (swing plane) change (click the link to optimize launch and attack angles), it is common to see timing and barrel precision issues when facing game speed pitches. The best way to work through this initial discomfort is purposeful swings off a tee and front toss conducted between machine and live pitch sessions at game speed. The hitter needs to see game speed so they can practice applying the new positions and movements.
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
Click Building the High-Level Swing Series to learn more about our new two-book hitting series containing a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.
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 powerful and productive hitters.
Enjoy the quest!