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Monday, November 2, 2009

Style Vs Technique

By Todd Thomas

Should the back elbow be up or down?
Should the hands be high or low?
Should the feet start close together or far apart?
Should there be a stride or no stride?
Should a player stand tall or crouch?
Should their weight be forward or back?
Should a player have a high leg kick, low leg kick or no leg kick?
Should he/she be waggling the bat or hips?
Should the stance be open, closed, or square?
Should the bat be laid flat, upright, or pointed back at the pitcher?

The answer to all of these questions is quite simple. It doesn't matter!... UNLESS...(I'll get to the unless in just a moment)

None of those things matter prior to the launch of the swing. All of the above are things of personal STYLE to the individual hitter. They are those things they do or like to do that makes them comfortable in the batters box. It's their "style". Often players pick up style from watching their favorite big league players. The problem with this is...(here comes the "unless") If a player has a style or has adopted a style that prevents them from getting to the swing launch position "on time", then their style must change. For example, if a player wants to waggle their bat over their head like Gary Sheffield, but can't get their swing started on time as a result, then their style is killing them. If it does not effect their swing technique, then I say leave them alone! Often, a player's style is having no affect on their swing but too often it is stylistic instructions that many coaches and parents give in hopes to help a player hit. For instance, how many of us have ever heard this one?. (Perhaps the most "popular" instructional cue used especially at the younger ages)... "Get your back elbow up!".

Technique is what really matters. That is what a player does from launch to contact to finish. The following is a basic breakdown of the "style" of three big league players followed by a breakdown of the technique these players use on their best swings. These are three top Major League hitters with differing styles, but the same technique.

Derrek Lee(Chicago Cubs): Style - High pronounced leg kick and long stride, elbow up high
Cliff Floyd(New York Mets): Style - Medium high leg kick and stride, back elbow down
David Ortiz(Boston Red Sox) very little & low leg kick, little stride, elbow medium high

ALL OF THEM: Technique - After they stride forward to a balanced position, they begin to rotate to launch their swing. Their swing is launched from around the armpit(highest point of the strike zone; why launch from a higher point that's not a strike?); Front elbows are working up; back elbows(no matter where they "were" in their style) tuck in close to the body into a perfect slot position; At this point there is no forward movement while they are rotating around their axis; Their axis was established after their stride to a balance point, landing on their front foot and the front heal dropped; the hips are leading the hands; they are matching their swing plane to that of the pitch; they are staying inside the ball and tilting behind their axis.

Though their styles are different in a number of ways, their technique is the same. It should come as no surprise to anyone, that great hitters ALL DO THE SAME THING (in technique, though their STYLES may be very different) and ALL GET TO THE SAME ADVANTAGEOUS HITTING POSITIONS AFTER THEY HAVE LAUNCHED THEIR SWING.

Even more important than their styles, would it be best to match or copy the technique of the best hitters in the game?

Todd Thomas is a Baseball Coach and Professional Hitting Instructor for Mike Epstein Hitting. Coach Todd's personal hitting website is Coach Todd also enthusiastically endorses as a place where baseball and softball hitters can master the Confidence, Composure, Focus and Consistency of their game so they can reach their full potential.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick