21st Century Hitting Model (Part 4)

By Rob Crews

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21st Century Hitting Model (Part 4)

If you missed my previous submissions, you can read them and catch up as those articles have set the stage for this one.

When we take an honest look at hitting, we will see that there are more bad hitters with good swings than there are good hitters with good swings. Therefore, we can safely say that good swings don't always make good hitters. So then, what does make good hitters? There is more than one answer to that. One is giving them the freedom to be as close to their natural swing as possible, without negotiating the integrity of what you believe as a hitting coach. In fact, there are so many good hitters with bad swings, sometimes it makes me wonder how much of what I think is right, is right. It' s all about what works, not really what I think is supposed to work. I am realizing that so many hitters struggle due to poor decision-making and not so much bad swings, that is in the game. Basically, their brains cannot properly process and project time to collision fast enough for the higher levels of play. Faster pitching and later, sharper movement exposes hitters flaws, especially in the cognitive phases. For this reason, good pitching will always shut down good hitting.

Imagine if we could measure the speed of thought, improve it even. It is the speed in which hitters can read, interpret, and then coordinate a perfect decision. We all know that within the hitting process, we are talking about split seconds, fractions of fractions of seconds. Good hitters are able to anticipate. They don't react. Hitters that react are late and hitters who anticipate are on time. So many training and hitting systems allow hitters to re-enforce the separation of the brain from the body. However, what we really need to do in training is re-connect and then maintain that connection of mind and body.

In part two of this 21st Century Hitting Series, we took a look at separation but now, let's talk about the marriage, staying connected or what I like to call commitment. Keeping the body properly connected to the mental (thought) processes of recognition, tracking, and decision-making is something that I am spending more time with in training these days. Mainly because the work-ethic of this generation seems to have evolved to very little or none. Therefore, if the hitters will not put the work in, they at least have to understand the mental concepts and formulas that correspond with each movement sequence. So deeper and more intense practice sessions are necessary to assure better programming of swing movement. Basically, it is a teaching/learning strategy that helps us to get real results in a relatively short amount of time. Maybe the microwave oven of player development. For example, remembering that players don't see what you see, but we need them to at least feel what you see. A hitter should know when it feels right and always strive to achieve that feeling. If you're seeing your hitters constantly doing it wrong, then there is an issue with their focus and body control/awareness. In other words, it shouldn't take months to make mechanical adjustments. It should only take minutes.

Before we talk about the marriage, let's look at the engagement. As in the world of courtship and matrimony, the engagement is not commitment; but the marriage is. I see a pitch, my back knee engages in this pre-commitment phase and then my hands can either marry (commit) to the pitch, or I can change my mind. I'm finding that too many hitters are getting married too soon in the process, only to find out it wasn't the pitch they thought it was. The result is usually bad decisions, such as taking good pitches or swinging at bad ones.

The solution is being in what I like to call YES MODE during the pre-release, and for the first half of the in-flight phase of the swing. It is so much easier to stop your swing than it is to start it. If we can get our hitters to mentally begin with yes and then later decide no, we give them a chance to be fast enough to coordinate a proper hand path that responds to what the eyes/brain is processing. However, most bottom-of-the-order hitters, don't go into yes mode until they have cognitively realized its a hittable pitch. Too late. A good hitting coach can discern the doubt in the swing of a hitter. That small pause or uncertainty is the main cause of the inability to pull the trigger or being just a tad bit late to collision.

The 21st Century Hitting Model is not about our opinions on swing mechanics, but immutable facts about the cognitive process. The process that really affects the timing and swing of a hitter. The only thing that really should matter if you're serious about developing A-Level players. Because after all, is the truth what we all agree on, or what actually works?

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Rob Crews Rob Crews is based in Southern New York, and is one of the most sought after hitting coaches in the country. He is the Author of the book, Complete Game: The Emotional Dynamics of In-Game Focus.Rob provides consultant services for hitting coaches and develops hitting models for professional, olympic, and amateur softball and baseball programs. He served as the hitting coach for USSSA Pride (NPF) in their 2010 championship season, along with Tim Walton (UF), and Beth Torina (LSU).

As a consultant to companies like SKLZ, AXIS Bats, Bratt Sports, and MicroGate USA, Rob is continually developing comprehensive accelerated training systems that involve modern sports psych, neuromechanics, and visual strategies for efficiency in recognition and tracking.

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