The Secret of Baseball Hitting Mechanics

The Secret of Baseball Hitting Mechanics is to effectively time and coordinate the proper movement of your Back Arm with the proper movement of your Back Leg.

When you throw a baseball:

  • You will “step” toward your target and you will create energy/momentum to be transferred into your throw of the ball.
  • Your back leg will Abduct ( meaning your back knee will move toward your target) at the hip joint and drive your Center-of-mass (body weight) in a straight line toward the target.

Your energy is created by the Back Leg Pushing Sideways against the ground and driving the body towards the target.

Your energy/momentum created by the Back-Leg-Push is blocked and transferred to your hip segment by the Front leg. As your front leg plants, it “catches” your energy/momentum and drives it up the chain through your body.

When your front foot lifted off the ground to LOAD the Back Leg by placing all of the weight/pressure onto your back foot:

  • your long bone in the upper arm, your humerus, should begin to turn in or IN-ternally rotate and lift (sometimes we call this elbow up) or raise your elbow up just as elite level infielders will do when taking the ball out of their glove. The scientific term for this is ABduct. This lifting of your back elbow is proper loading of your back arm in your throwing pattern.

You will use this same universal loading pattern for throwing when hitting a baseball

Fluid and relaxed lifting of the back elbow during the loading phase of hitting a baseball (scientific terms are: Abduction and Internal Rotation of the Humerus):

This is a universal loading pattern used by quarterbacks, catchers, infielders, tennis players and other elite level athletes that may be throwing or hitting a ball. It is absolutely necessary for you to learn to load the back arm properly. Proper loading will give you a good start to an elite level baseball swing and throw.

If you do not load properly, inadequate internal rotation(“turning in” of the long bone in the upper arm or lifting/raising of the elbow) will often cause you to have poor rhythm, fluidity and speed in your throwing arm pattern as a baseball player.

Extending at the back elbow is often a sign that you as an infielder, catcher or hitter have inadequate Internal rotation/”turning in” of the long bone in the upper arm (humerus). There are ways to fix this problem and help you begin your throwing and hitting motion with a high level pattern so that you can begin your hitting and throwing pattern like great baseball players begin their hitting and throwing motion.

The lag position during the attack phase of the back arm when hitting or throwing a baseball

In the attack phase of hitting:

You will want to “slot” your elbow or bring your elbow “down and in” towards the ball – The scientific terms are Humeral ADDuction and External Rotation.

The attack phase of hitting follows the load phase of the back arm during hitting where you lifted or raised your back elbow in an upward direction. This phase has your elbow simply doing the opposite of what your elbow does in the load phase of hitting and throwing.

While the front foot is still in the air, just after the back leg has begun to pushing the direction of the target, the long bone in the upper arm will begin to reverse its direction and Externally rotate the shoulder joint ( aka turn outward). The bone will continue to “turn outward” as the Back Leg finishes its push, as well as during front-foot’s initial interactions with the ground.

This External rotation or turning-out of the long bone in the upper arm is how the ball when throwing, and hands & bat when hitting, truly gets back and stays back at the correct point of the throw/swing.

  • This “turning of the bone” creates your “lag”.

It can also be thought of as your second loading phase of the back arm.

  • The External rotation of the long bone positions the ball during throwing and your hand back during hitting as the last link in the Kinetic Chain, allowing the other body parts to do their work to create and funnel energy to the bat head for hitting and to the ball for throwing.

Many pitching coaches will teach you to reach back and place the arm into a high, extended position as you take the ball out of the glove( you may have heard the term scratching the back wall), believing that this will help you get the ball “back” in the correct position. This is an incorrect attack pattern for you.

Many pitching coaches are unaware that the truly critical “back” position is measured with a flexed elbow (greater than 90 degrees) at the maximum external rotation of the humerus – this is where the ball lays back for you just before your release. This means your arm should stay bent until just before release of the baseball when throwing.

Throw the ball harder with a bent elbow before release

The primary lesson that pitching coaches should teach you with regard to your throwing or pitching arm pattern is to achieve flexion at the elbow of 90 deg or more before the humerus begins to turn – this is when you lay the ball back before extending forward to throw the ball. Obviously there have been many professional pitchers who have been successful by achieving flexion after the bone begins to lay back, however, this sequence makes achieving quality flexion at the elbow much more difficult.

If the angle of your elbow is too wide as the foot plants, your lever arm will be lengthened prematurely and there will be more stress placed on your shoulder and elbow joints. As your front foot plants, your hips reach their maximum speed. Your hips subsequently pull the torso and then your torso pulls your shoulders around. If your elbow angle is wide as your shoulders are being rotated toward the target, the prematurely lengthened lever arm created by the wide elbow will create more stress than a sharper/more flexed elbow would create.

From a performance standpoint, your efficiency and effectiveness is also decreased with a wide elbow angle at Front-leg block. A wide elbow angle of less than 90 deg will reduce the degree to which the long bone in the upper arm can lay the ball back. Speaking biomechanically, a wide elbow angle of greater than 90 deg will reduce humeral external rotation before release.

Use the example of a catapult to understand this phase of the throwing action. Assuming the materials, design, propellant of two catapults are the same, the catapult that is brought back the farthest will result in the greatest speed and distance traveled of the object.

The case is similar for the thrower: Assuming two identical throwers in terms of size, strength, physiological make-up and delivery, the thrower that lays ball back the farthest will result in the greatest speed of the ball.

Again – if all things are equal, you will see players with less external rotation(meaning more elbow bend) before release throw harder than players with more external rotation(less elbow bend). Other factors such as how ligaments and tendons attach to bone and muscle can affect this outcome.

Comparing throwing pattern to Hitting Pattern

It is important and interesting to note that when throwing the baseball the great majority of professional infielders and catchers do not extend/straighten at the elbow as they take the ball from the glove nor do they increase the degree of extension at the elbow until just before release of the baseball as the humerus turns inward to propel the ball toward the target.

It is also important and interesting to note that the professional quarterback throws with a nearly identical pattern as a high level infielder or professional infielder. As the front foot lifts off the ground to load the Back Leg by placing all of the weight/pressure onto the back foot, the long bone in the upper arm, called the humerus, begins to turn in or Internally rotate as well a lift or Abduct.

This IN-ternal rotation and lifting of the long bone in the upper-arm is how the elite player loads up for his throw. While the front foot is still in the air, just after the back leg has begun to push in the direction of the target, the long bone in the upper arm will begin to reverse its direction and Externally rotate @ the shoulder joint ( aka turn outward). The bone will continue to “turn outward” as the Back Leg finishes its push, as well as during front-foot’s initial interactions with the ground.

This External rotation or turning-out of the long bone in the upper arm is how the ball when throwing, and the hands & bat, when hitting truly gets back and stays back at the correct point of the throw and swing.

Compare the elite level batter hitting patterns to the elite level thrower throwing patterns:

    • The elite level batter moves his back arm, which is the Bat-Head-Throwing-Arm, in a nearly identical pattern as the thrower.
  • As the front foot lifts off the ground to load the Back Leg by placing all of the weight/pressure onto the back foot, the long bone in the upper arm, the humerus begins to turn in or INternally rotate as well a lift or Abduct.

(This IN-ternal rotation and lifting of the long bone in the upper-arm is how the elite hitter loads up for his throw of the bat-head behind the ball. The elite hitter has the same pattern as the thrower).

Note: Inadequate Internal rotation/”turning in” of the long bone in the upper arm often reduces rhythm, fluidity and speed in the throwing AND hitting arm pattern of the baseball player and often forces the batter to attempt to load the back-arm inefficiently by extending at the back elbow.

    • While the front foot is still in the air, just after the back leg has begun to push in the direction of the target, the long bone in the upper arm will begin to reverse its direction and Externally rotate @ the shoulder joint ( aka turn outward).
  • The bone will continue to “turn outward” as the Back Leg finishes its push, as well as during front-foot’s initial interactions with the ground.

As the bone is turning, it is also moving down and towards the body or ADDucting.

Most call this movement “slotting the elbow”.

  • The player should “slot” this flexed or bent elbow in the direction of the pitch…. It should not be slammed into the ribcage.

This External rotation or turning-out and ADDucting or moving down and in of the long bone in the upper arm is how the hands & bat truly gets back and stays back at the correct point of the throw/swing.

Do not Extend at your back elbow during the load phase of hitting

When you extend your back elbow during the load phase of hitting, similar to poor throwing mechanics, you are prematurely lengthening your lever. This is a poor start to your baseball swing. This makes your bat “heavy” very early in the kinetic sequence of hitting a baseball.

Your bat is “heavier” to you when hitting when your back elbow extends because:

    • Your barrel moves away from your body and most often your bat barrel is flattened when your barrel moves away from your body. When your barrel is flattened, the center of gravity of your bat is moved out of alignment with your hands creating unwanted torque or force.
  • Your bat should be stacked directly over your hands in the science of a perfect swing and not in a poor position leaning away from your hands.

By “flattening” the barrel of your bat early, you increase the difficulty of throwing your bat head by unnecessarily creating a “heavy” bat early in your hitting sequence.

The elite professional hitters utilize much more efficient usage of the long bone in the upper arm (humerus) to increase rhythm, fluidity and speed.

    • Elite hitters reduce the tendency to extend at the back elbow which greatly assists in delaying the flattening of the barrel. When you delay the flattening of the bat barrel, you will create a mechanical advantage for yourself by having the center-of-mass of your bat closely stacked above the hands to keep your bat “light” by reducing the unwanted torque or unwanted turning force created by taking your barrel too far out of alignment with the hands.
  • The elite professional will load the back arm by lifting and turning the bone in the upper part of the throwing arm. This Abduction or lifting and internal rotation or “turning” is nearly identical to the loading pattern utilized by elite professional infielders. This allows the player to load up by “winding-up” the throwing arm and produces the most efficient throw for the baseball and the bat-head.