Do We Spend Too Much Time Focused on the Swing?

Do We Spend Too Much Time Focused on the Swing?

Do we spend too much time focused on the swing?

That is THE question I have been pondering recently. And to add onto that, that is THE question I have often thought about (for my whole life.)

I am a baseball coach. I grew up playing baseball and when my playing days were over, I began coaching. I have learned far more about baseball from coaching than I ever did playing (but that is a whole-'nuther discussion for later) and that has led me to question some of the things I grew up "knowing" and originally coached to my players.

But what do I mean about spending too much time on the swing? Here is what I asking: Should we spend less time working on and worrying about our swing mechanics and more time just hitting?

I, as a hitting coach, have spent countless hours doing drill-after-drill, to engrain beautiful, repeatable, mechanics into a kids swing, that work for him and how he moves.  (Humble brag warning) I have built some beautiful swings! Their bats have gotten faster, their exit velo has improved, I've worked on (and now moved away from teaching) launch angle, but recently I have been questioning if it has been wasted time. And maybe it wasn't "wasted time," but maybe it was time that could have been better spent in other ways.

Maybe I should have really been teaching more hitting and less swinging. From the beginning of my coaching, I ALWAYS stressed to my hitters that the best looking swing might not hit the ball. "You can have the best swing in history and you still might suck at hitting. But you can have an ugly swing and be successful," I would preach to all my hitters. But then I would follow that up with 45 minutes of swing drills and maybe 15 minutes of batting practice.

I have evolved from that, depending on the hitter and where they are in their development, but I still question, "do we spend too much time on the swing?" If you had an hour with a kid, what should that time look like? 

Obviously, this could vary by what the kid needs, and some kids just need to learn how to swing I guess, but should we be spending 2/3 to 3/4 of the practice time on swing training and development, or should we spend more time hitting? And when I say hitting, I mean really hitting. Live at-bats and trying to hit pitches that are faster or have more break than they might actually see. Not just simple "BP pitches." Spend time making the hitter struggle to hit a ball coming from at them? Make practice harder than the game. I know most good hitting coaches do this to some extent, but should this be the majority of your practice time?

For the last couple years, I have incorporated "challenge at-bats" into most of my hitting lessons. In a challenge at-bat, my goal is to make success as difficult as possible for the hitter. Depending on the level, that might mean I am just throwing it way faster than they will experience and force them to figure out how to hit the ball and win a difficult at bat without much coaching from me. As they get older, I mix it up. Once they find success catching up the velo and begin to win those challenge at-bats, I mix in some change of speed. They get both, faster than they will see and slower than they will see, in the same at bat. Then, again without much coaching, they have to find a way to be on time for the fastball and not get out in-front of the changeup.

Should this be the majority of our hitting lessons?

Drills like the challenge at-bats don't directly increase your "showcase numbers," they won't necessarily increase your bat speed, or exit velo, or how far you can hit a ball. But, they do make you a better hitter and can give you more confidence in high pressure situations...

So, do we spend too much time focused on the swing?

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