Rotational Vs. Linear
What is the difference?
Lately there has been alot of talk about Rotational hitting and how it compares to Linear hitting. Many coaches feel like they teach alittle of both, and I have heard them say this, but the bottom line is, there is only one or the other when it comes to hitting mechanics.
The process of hitting is a series of linked body movements regardless of which style you use. However, it is these same series of movements that clearly seperates the two, and if you have studied the swing enough, like myself, you can see these differences clear as day.
Let's take a look at the two styles and see what clearly sets them apart.
The stride is the only movement the two styles share. Let me say it again. The stride is the only movement the two styles share. This is the move from back to front with a soft toe touch. After that, the two styles are as distinctly different as a lemon and an apple. I'll let you be the judge as to which one is the lemon!
After the stride and prior to the launch, the rotational hitter drops his/her front heel, locks the front leg, establishes a fixed (tilted) axis and leads with his/her hips, which pulls the upper half around it's axis causing the big muscles to pull the small = TOURQE!!!!!! This is the first movement of many different movements that defines the players hitting mechanics.
With linear mechanics the hitter is taught to take the hands in a downward path towards the ball. Whether they are taught to throw the knob, or punch the fist.... however they are taught, it is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that the hands start the swing before the hips, thus removing any possibility of tourqe to be produced. Sure with many hitters, the hips will turn, but only after the upper body and hands have released. Because the hands are faster than the hips (if not boxers would put boxing gloves on their hips) the hitter will never regain the power and force of the lower body. By leading with the hands, the hitter diminishes a large majority of the lower body, causing a lack of bat speed and power. This is what we call "seperation" and the body becomes unlinked. The lower body is continually trying to play catch-up and in turn never will. Linear hitters are normally labled "upper body hitters" because they seperate and out run their lower body at the start of their swing.
As a hitter using rotational mechanics drops their front heel, locks out the front leg and fires their hips around their axis creating the lower body torque; the tilt and slight dip of the back shoulder allows the front elbow to work cleanly up and around the body. In order for the barrel of the bat to get into the path of the pitch the lead elbow must work up and around the body. Tilting, or allowing the shoulder to dip and moving the lead elbow up and around the body allows the hitter to lay the bat level to the incoming pitch. The barrel of the bat will always be below the hands, ALWAYS! With this said the bat will be in the path longer, they will hit the ball square (not slicing down through) and the follow through and extension will remain on the same plane as the pitch. Short to the ball and long through it. By having a slight bend in the elbows at contact will allow the player to extend the arms through the ball on the same plane as the pitch into the power V and finally the the wrist roll over well after contact. This is how you truely get palm up - palm down hitting. With these mechanics, "Power", "Line Drives" and "Towering shots over the fence" are preached... Not, hit the ball on the ground!
A linear hittier is taught to keep the front elbow down and the shoulders level or square. Their hands make a linear path to the ball and the barrel is preached to be kept above their hands.The amount of time that the bat is in the path of the pitch is only a blink of the eye and then it is out again. Because the hands lead to the ball, the front arm gets completely extended, when this occurs the top hand has no where to go except to roll over the ball. The rolling of the wrist is happening just prior to contact, at contact or immediately after. Either way, the path of the bat is altered from the original path it was on. Linear hitters are taught to hit the top half of the ball to create back spin giving the ball its loft. Line drives and grounders are heavily preached throughout the teaching process.
You be the judge: Is it up through or down through?????
Rotational hitters are taught to hit dead center on the ball (like cutting an apple in 2 equal halves with a sword). With the downward, linear approach, the apple would be cross cut rather than two equal halves. The swing comes level to the incoming pitch, in which the bat moves in a slight upward path. So if the pitch is down then the bat has to drop into the path of the incoming pitch and match the barrel level to the ball. This principle is applied to any pitch anywhere in the zone. So in essence, the pitch at the letters will produce a much flatter swing path than the pitch at the knees. Rotational hitters a trained to hit the ball square andf take it back in the path in which it came. Notice the difference in the shoulder tilt depending on the height of the pitch in the pictures below. Notice that the shoulders and the bat are on the same tilted planes. Rotational hitters in essence, have a thousand different swings for a thousand different pitches, as the linear hitter has only ONE swing for a thousand pitches. That swing is level or down. You make the choice of what swing you would like to have.
A linear hitter is instructed to hit down through the ball and are relying on the back spin to create the loft and flight of the ball. So, let me ask you, as your players gets older and the pitchers are gaining more command and hitting at the knees, where is this ball bound to travel? Thats right, DOWN. Not only that, but down with back spin, in essence causing the ball to check up as it trys to move through the infield. This approach, unfortunatly produces ground balls galore. For the player to hit a more favorable ball, the barrel and the ball must meet exactly the right spot and at the right time. This may produce a line drive or a deep drive in the gap, but your timing is crucial for this to happen consistantly. With this said, we know that timing is everything when it comes to hitting a round ball with a round bat and we also know that the pitchers job is to disrupt that timing. So it only makes sense to me that I want my barrel moving on the same plane as the incoming pitch for the longest time possible and that is not going to happen with a downward path.
OK, lets visit the linear mindset of "backspin for power". First, I must say that I AGREE that backspin causes a ball to carry, if not than I would have not thrown as many balls into center field trying to throw out a runner stealing second. With great velocity and backspin on the ball, the ball does carry, but lets look at what can occur for the hitter if they are using rotational mechanics and matching the swing plane to the pitch plane. For us to do this you must use your visual imagination and also look at the pictures below to check my findings. When a player perfectly matches his swing plane to the picth plane, the ball should travel back in the same trajectory as the incoming picth (i.e. the pitchers release point). Boom, line drive with little spin on the ball. Now, if the player just misses top side of dead center of the ball but still moving in the slight upward path, now you have a ground ball with alot of top spin (shooting through the infield not checking up as with the linear approach). OK, now for the big "Backspin" controversy. When the player just misses underneath center while matching the swing plane to the pitch plane, KABOOM!!!!! ball going up with back sping. Like having a ball with legs, it keeps on going. With this in mind, this is the reason I, through video analysis, find more players hitting pop ups. Not because they are swinging up, but just the opposite, swinging down. Let me explain. Hitters natoriously have a problem with being early on the ball rather than late. If you dont believe me just spend five minutes a any ball park or training facility and you will here the phrase "Wait on it" or "Let the ball get deep". While looking at the pictures below, follow along. Knowing that players more times than not are early, with a downward or level path (linear mechanics), they will find their barrel below the ball producing a pop up! Now if they are late it would put the barrel above the path of the pitch and crossing down at the point of contact producing a ground ball. With this said, you should note and see by the picture below that just the opposite occures with rotational mechanics. .DON'T BE FOOLED ANY LONGER!
Over the last several years, hitting mechanics have been defined, largely due to the work of Mike Epstein and his development of the term and hitting technique, ROTATIONAL MECHANICS. Even though the exact same priciples were written some 30-40 years ago in Ted Williams book The Science of Hitting, these mechanics were put on the back burner, but with the power of slow motion video Mike Epstein brought it back to the fore front in early 2000.
I understand the coaches that teach linear mechanics truly believe in what they are teaching. But, what I dont understand is why these coaches refuse to accept that there may really be a better way of teaching great hitting mechanics. I must say that I have never meet one single coach, dad, or instructor that would teach a player to do something wrong on purpose. But, what drives me crazy is that many of them refuse to let go of their ego and look closer at what great hitters really do and admit it may be different. That part was hard for me also but I knew that if I wanted to become a great instructor I would have to change my way of thinking. Over the course of my collegiate and professional career I was continually taught to hit down, not open the front side and even throw my hands (knob) at the ball. Now looking back, because I was a good student and always strived to please my coaches (they must know what they are talking about), these are some of the big reasons I never reached my ultimate goal of the Major Leagues. Great hitters use different mechanics and I did not figure this out until I was done playing the game.
So, if linear coaches choose to ignore and avoid the fact that pro players are using different mechanics then what they are teaching, that their philosophical approach contradicts the laws of physics, hitting the ball into the ground is a desired result, and having less than optimal power is what they are shooting for, then go ahead and get all of it you want, but keep it in the back of your mind that great hitters do something totally different.
Swing for the fences: In a controlled manner