How to Hit the Ball
by Liam Hartnett
(Carol Stream, ILL USA)
Ty Cobb Hitting Technique
PROBLEM: Swinging too early, and pulling everything foul.
Have you seen a long homerun go as a foul ball? I always say to the baseball team in the dugout after someone on the other team hits a foul home run, “Watch this. This batter is going to strike out.”
And sure enough, more times then not the batter will eventually strike out after clubbing one a mile only to see it go into foul territory.
“You Got To Keep That Ball Fair”
Hitting the ball foul is basically a strike against you. Even though you hit the ball squarely on the sweet spot of the bat the swing is nothing more than a strike for the pitcher.
There is no real benefit for the batter to pull the ball foul.
Ted Williams would see a young batting prospect pull one foul and immediately used to tell us, “You got to keep that ball fair!” We were all like ‘easy for you to say—you are one of the greatest hitters of all time’.
We knew Ted was right but we did not really know how you do it. How do you direct the ball to stay fair? Can you keep the ball fair when you want to?
Look at Geometry for Answers
The apex at homeplate forms a right angle when you extend the leftfield and rightfield foul lines down the foul poles.
When we match up the angle of the bat when the bat meets the ball we must keep the angle at contact in line with the 90-degree angle of the foul line.
If the bat comes around and ‘hooks’ the ball at too much of an angle the ball will travel foul.
Use our geometry angles to see that if the bat comes around on the far side of ball too much the well hit ball will be outside the lines.
Inside Out Swing
The best way to try to keep the ball fair is to develop an inside out swing.
Basically, the hands and the knob of the bat lead first as if you were going to hit the inside of the ball. The hitting hands and bat knob go as far forward as possible at which time the barrel of bat starts coming forward.
Hence the name of ‘inside out swing’ approach. Your back elbow will almost catch up to your front elbow.
This style of hitting will maximize your bat speed and allow you to hit the ball with authority to all fields. Your plate coverage should be better, too.
Practice Hitting the Opposite Field
To develop an inside out swing you want to practice hitting the ball up the middle and the opposite field.
Take batting practice hitting back through the middle and opposite field. Set the batting tee up so you can hit the ball up the middle.
Another good hitting drill is the ‘fence drill’. Get ready in your batting stance parallel to a fence about a foot away or so. Take your hands, knob and bat along with your back elbow slowly forward without the bat touching the fence.
See, you have to do something to get the right geometry on the bat angle.
You cannot come way around and hook the ball—good hitters have a short, quick approach with their hands and start the swing inside-out. I hope this helps keep some of those really good hits in fair territory.