There are hitting mechanics that cause us to slow the game down while seeing the ball better and there are hitting mechanics flaws that ruin pitch recognition.
These two concepts can be the difference between an 80 mph fastball looking like 90 mph or taking ugly swings at curveballs in the dirt instead of spitting on them while waiting for a better pitch to attack.
The relationship between hitting mechanics and pitch recognition is very similar to the relationship between confidence and success.
Are you confident because you're getting hits or are you getting hits because you're confident?
Similarly, are you seeing the ball well because your mechanics are sharp or are your mechanics sharp because you're seeing the ball well?
Often times, the right approach fixes mechanical issues.
We all know hitting is about timing. Pitching is about upsetting that timing.
When our timing is off, it's usually becuase we have the wrong approach if none at all, or the pitcher did a great job of hitting their location.
Sometimes we're not gretting great looks at pitches because there are a few mechanical ticks that we're doing that's causing us to either not pick up the pitch out of the pitcher's hand or recognize pitch type and location through the zones of the pitch.
Usually, this happens because of these following hitting mechanic flaws that ruin pitch recognition:
- Looking Up Too Soon
- Maybe Mentality
- Too Big of a Stride
1. Looking Up Too Soon
We get it. We all want to see where the ball goes after making contact. Did we hit it hard? Is it a base hit?
The reality is, we should be able to answer this just by the way the ball feels coming off the bat.
The key is to be focused on keeping our head on the ball for as long as possible so that where we look doesn't dictate how our bat-head moves through the zone.
When we keep our eyes on the point of contact and a little after contact is made, we're making sure that we're 100% FULLY engaged.
Pulling your head up even just a millisecond too soon could be the difference between a pop-up or a hard line drive.
Keep your eyes at point of contact until just after contact is made...
...then judge the flight of the ball with how the ball feels off the bat.
2. Maybe Mentality
We've touched on this a few times in previous Applied Vision blog posts but it's worth repeating.
When in the batter's box, unless the "take" sign is given...
...if you're not assuming you're going to swing at the next pitch, you won't be ready.
Often times, a hitters misses the pitch or takes a strike because they're thinking "maybe, maybe, yes or no"...
...instead of "yes, yes, yes, no".
It's a strike until it's not!
If you're waiting to see if it's a strike before you start your swing, your eyes will not pick up the pitch as efficiently, compared to being completely engaged, ready to throw the hands and fire the hips to take a controlled, violent swing.
Assume it's going to be a strike, and you will recognize pitch type and location more efficiently. Believe it.
3. Overturned Shoulders
Another cause for pitch recognition because of mechanical flaws is how our shoulders are angled.
Occasionally there is an "over-turn" of the shoulders. Meaning the front shoulder is closed in too much which lowers of ability to pick up release point with both eyes.
Often times this mechanical flaw gets reinforced during tee work and soft toss. While getting reps in, we tend to focus on the feeder or where the ball is instead of where the ball will actually be coming from while on the mound.
A great way to solve this is to imagine a pitcher is always on the mound even during tee work or soft toss.
The goal here should be to keep both eyes on an imaginary pitcher, shoulders parallel with a slight tilt to keep the hips and front side closed.
This is especially helpful for hitters who's dominant eye is the eye closest to the catcher.
4. Too Big of a Stride
You can have the best hitting mechanics in the world, with the most optimized launch angle, bat-speed, and exit velocity...
...but if you're not seeing the ball as well as you can, you will underachieve and throw away at-bats you would have found success in.
When your stride is too big, your head moves. When your head moves, your eyes move.
If the eyes are moving too much, it will not be able to register the release point, seams, shade, plane, and movement of the pitch.
Having too big of a stride literally speeds the game up, when our goal is to slow everything down.
The leg-kick is in. Everyone wants to hit like Josh Donaldson, which is great.
What better way is there to play in the big leagues than by emulating big-league ballplayers?
The benefits of a leg-kick or larger stride is that it helps the hitter to build momentum while getting the swing going.
This is a great adjustment for hitters who are tentative at the plate.
Here's the thing. If you haven't developed the strength and balance in your lower half to hit with a leg-kick, it will be hard to keep your head still which is priority number one.
You see this often with youth players who are still developing lower half strength.
If you're not seeing the ball well, and you have a large stride or leg-kick, consider shortening up and adjusting to a post-stride, toe-tap or other different types of strides we discuss.
All in all, hitting is about being good consistently. Greatness comes after you've been good over a long period of time.
Hitting Mechanics Flaws That Ruin Pitch Recognition Check List
So here's what we know. The right approach can fix your mechanics.
The right mechanics can help you to see the ball better.
Lastly, solid pitch recognition skills will give you confidence.
With the right approach, solid mechanics and elite level pitch recognition, you're going to square some balls up for sure.
Recognize what your hitting mechanics flaws are that's ruining your pitch recognition...
...make the adjustments in practice, then trust that the training will come through in the game.
- Keep your nose on the ball before and after the point of contact.
- Pick up the imaginary pitcher on the mound in practice and set both eyes on the pitcher in the game
- Have a "Yes, Yes, No Mentality"
- Keep your stride short and minimize head movement.
Keep this "Hitting Mechanics Flaws That Ruin Pitch Recognition" Checklist in mind when you're not seeing the ball as well as you can.