On occasion, we get a question from a player asking whether or not young hitters "should copy big league swings?"
The answer really depends on a few very important aspects.
Here's my take.
If you were to analyze and dissect the list of things elite players do at the plate and figure out a way to model them...
...over time and with practice, you can expect similar results.
Now, this doesn't mean by copying Mike Trout's pre-at-bat routine or Josh Donaldson's leg-kick you're going to be a future MLB All-Star.
However, what it does mean, is you're going to experience progress quicker by modeling the approach of other's athletes' path to consistency and success.
When I'm working with young hitters, a good rule of thumb when trying to emulate and model big league swings starts with asking:
- How much strength & balance does the hitter have?
- What part of the year is it?
- How clearly can the hitter explain their approach at the plate?
These four key questions will help you decide if copying big league swings is a good strategy for implementing strengths while eliminating weakness at the plate.
How Much Strength & Balance Does The Hitter Have?
It seems like the funniest hitters to emulate are the ones that incorporate big movements that really get the swing going.
Josh Donaldson's leg kick. Barry Bond's hitch. Cody Bellinger's up-right stance with a sliding stride and of course, Ken Griffey Jr's larger than life follow through.
There's a rhyme to everything most hitter's do and it usually relates to their timing and rhythm.
Mostly, unique attributes of a big-league swing and stance serve as the hitter's trigger to help them start the swing and be on time.
So when working with young hitters, it's important for them to know that what they're really emulating is another hitter's trigger and timing mechanism.
It's a timing mechanics and trigger that's based on what the have achieved in terms of strength, balance, and flexibility.
If a young hitter doesn't have the strength and balance to incorporate a leg-kick for example, they'll end up being late or swing at pitches out of the zone.
Before considering, emulating a big-league swing or approach, take into account the athletic ability of the hitter first.
A great way to develop the type of strength that encourages modeling big-league approaches is playing multiple sports.
What Time Of The Year Is It?
If your team just made it to the playoffs, and you've been struggling at the plate and looking for an adjustment...
...it may not be the best time to completely change your swing.
This isn't to say it's not a good time to make a small adjustment based on a hitter you admire.
However, it does mean that a complete overhaul in your approach, the kind that may change your role from a gap-to-gap hitter to more of a power hitter, for instance...
...may be better placed during the off-season of during summer or fall ball when you're free to experiment as a hitter.
Choose when you make bigger adjustments in your swing and approach wisely.
It's always better to make small adjustments over time as you grow and develop as an athlete.
How Clearly Can You Explain your Approach?
After giving over 1,000 hitting lessons, I've learned one HUGE lesson.
Getting young hitters to go from just "seeing" and "swinging" at pitches as their "approach"...
...to having a real plan while swinging with "intent" is the hardest thing to get hitters to buy into.
The reality is, young hitters, take the approach for granted. They assume that showing up is enough.
So when a younger hitter tries to emulate a big-league swing but has no approach to fall back on, the swing breaks down.
The essence of what they're emulating isn't grasped.
For example, Josh Donaldson's leg kick serves to get his load started and to be on time on the fastball, every time.
Ichiro's turning of his lead shoulder was to make sure he stayed closed for as long as possible before firing the hips and throwing the hands.
As hitters, when we emulate big leaguers, but we don't understand what it is we're trying to do at the plate, we're just playing "copy cat" because it looks cool.
Copying big league swings is great because it keeps the process of developing, fun and interesting...
...but we should avoid doing it at the expense of having a consistent approach and plan at the plate.
An approach that we run through in every game to give us the best shot of winning every at-bat to help our team win.
5 Steps Of a Solid Swing
At the end of the day, if modeling a hitter looks great, but just isn't giving you the result that you want or need, it's time to go back to the drawing board and simplify the process.
Every swing should consist of:
- A short, soft stride.
- Minimal head movement w/ a nice, calm load,
- A clear intention to swing on this next pitch
- A controlled violent swing with the intention to hit it hard while attacking the inner half of the ball
- Competitive mindset to win the at-bat
Whatever stance or swing you emulate MUST involve a consistent execution of these five. steps.