When I was just a kid falling in the love with the game of baseball, it was the diversity of the batting stance styles and vibes each hitter brought to the batter’s box that kept my eyes glued to the TV screen.
- Jeff Bagwell’s crazy wide stance
- Ken Griffey’s wiggle and backswing
- Gary Sheffield’s trigger and hitch
And now, when I reflect on how hitters reach peak performance at the plate, I think of the following two quotes.
One was from Dave Winfield.
“Sometimes, I was so locked in I felt like I could hit standing on my head.”Dave Winfield
The other is from Steve Springer.
“Mechanics are overrated. The right approach will fix most mechanical issues. Hitting is slow feet, fast hands, quiet head - taking a controlled violent swing on a pitch I’m looking for.”Steve Springer
So what is the perfect batting stance & swing?
Does it even exist?
How can we say "yes", when there are and have always been successful examples of diverse ways to set up in the box?
Both awkward, unorthodox, strategic, and iconic ways.
Maybe the right batting stance is not about the visual components, but the principle.
Not a cookie-cutter formula, but a foundation.
Balanced, with some movement, and rhythm…
A trigger for loading the hands back and a timing mechanism.
There could be a leg kick or no leg kick, but the bat head stays on the plane of the pitch early and often.
There’s minimal head movement during the pre-swing, balanced at point of contact and in the follow-through, and that;'s really it.
From there, it really is about approach and mindset.
- Swinging at good pitches
- Swinging with intent to do damage.
- Using the whole field.
- Competing your tail off and being tough with two strikes.
Once we have the basics, the batting stance is less important compared to the mentality we bring to the plate, which is about being good consistently.
The Enemy of Good
Sometimes perfection is the enemy of good.
We spend hours in the batting cage trying to hone our mechanics, searching for that feeling of a good swing when what we really need to do is increase our level of controlled-aggression.
When the game starts, we have to stop obsessing over our mechanics.
The second we step into the batter’s box, the inner-critic goes quiet. We need to realize we don’t need to be perfect to win the at-bat.
We just need to be good.
Good with our mental chatter. Good with the approach, and a good perspective.
That’s what leads to greatness - being good consistently.
When we’re trying to reach perfection while hitting, perfection becomes the enemy of good.
The Predictor of Success
In my opinion, the greatest predictor of a hitter’s future success is not how many hits they collected in a week, instead, it’s:
- the amount of controlled-aggressive swings while in count-leverage. (1-0, 2-0, 3-1)
- a hard-contact spray chart that is spread out on both sides of the field
Sure a hitter can look “hitterish” in the batter’s box and a seasoned scout can tell whether a kid has potential just by how he holds the bat, but there are dozens of players who wouldn’t pass a "looks-contest" even at the Major League level who dominate in the box despite not having a great stance or ideal physical backup.
It’s the approach that gets you to the next level.
Winning The At-Bat
As soon as you’ve understood the basic fundamentals of hitting, you should be asking yourself the following questions.
- How many at-bats are you going to win this year?
- How many mistakes pitches (hanging breaking balls/chest high fastballs) will you do damage on?
- How aggressive will you be early in the count, ready to attack the next strike with your finger on the swing-trigger?
- How consistently will you stay inside the ball, using the whole field, driving the ball back up the middle?
- How tough will you be with two strikes?
Why? Because this is how you Win The At-Bat.
Swinging at quality pitches, being selectively aggressive, and driving the ball to the gap while putting pressure on the pitcher and defense.
It requires zero talent, getting hits, or the perfect batting stance to win the at-bat.
It’s the mindsets and the approach. This is a decision each time you put a bat in your hands.
The Batting Stance & Timing
As a hitter, your key skillsets at the plate will be:
- being on time.
- having plate coverage.
- staying on the plane of the pitch early and often.
- hitting the ball to all parts of the field.
If you can master those principles, you will achieve success at the plate.
The Batting Stance & Confidence
Ultimately, how we stand in the batter’s box should reflect our mindset and the energy we bring to competing.
How do we do this?
Start by standing in the batter’s box like you have nothing to lose.
All the hits you collect will be just numbers in a stat sheet.
The amount of playing time you earn on the field will pale in comparison to the amount of awareness and character you build off the field.
The only thing that matters is the lessons you learn from failure, struggle, and competing.
The only things you’ll remember are the friendships you'll make and the adversity you'll overcome - and those are impossible to lose because, in a game of failure, they’re guaranteed.
Play as if you have nothing to lose.
Stand in the batter’s box like you have nothing to lose.
Student of The Game
How do you separate yourself from equal talent on the ball field?
Be willing to do what others are not.
Identify your weaknesses in the batter’s box, and then work on them so they are no longer liabilities.
Identify your strengths as an athlete, and then sharpen them so they become weapons.
Be a student of the game.
The Batting Stance Outro
Ultimately, our batting stance should be based on what’s comfortable.
What matters most is that we are competing and having fun.
When we learn to compete, our natural abilities will surface and the game will slow down.
We each have a unique quality that serves as an advantage. Let it show, and let it shine.
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