ChrisOLeary.com > The Hitting Mechanic > The High-Level Swing

The High-Level Swing

The High-Level Swing is the term I use to describe the swings of the best baseball and fast-pitch softball players. While some people may be surprised to see me lump together baseball and fast-pitch softball, I do so because I have studied both swings and have found that the swings of the best baseball and fast-pitch softball players are far more similar than they are different.

Don't Confuse the Method
And the Swing

Before I get into a description of the High-Level Swing, let me first talk about terminology.

There is a difference between the High-Level Swing itself and the approaches that are used to try to describe and teach the High-Level Swing. For instance, Linear Hitting, Extension Hitting, and Rotational Hitting are different, and competing, approaches to teaching hitting and to describing and developing a High-Level Swing.

Of course, and as I discuss in my piece on The Myth of the A to C Swing and elsewhere in my Rethinking Hitting essays, it is debatable whether Linear Hitting and Extension Hitting describe the actual High-Level Swing; whether what they teach is what the best baseball and fast-pitch softball players actually do. Similarly, and as I discuss in Rotational Hitting 101, there are problems with Mike Epstein's understanding and explanation of the High-Level Swing that create problems with how he teaches Rotational Hitting.

As a result, when people ask me whether I teach Linear Hitting or Rotational hitting, I say, "Neither. I teach the High-Level Swing." That doesn't mean that I won't draw on some concepts and drills that could be classified as Rotational Hitting, but the ultimate goal is always to get the student closer to the High-Level Swing.

The Problem

Most of the limitations of the existing approaches to teaching hitting stem from a lack of a deep understanding of what the High-Level Swing actually looks like and how it actually works. Instead, people are just regurgitating the conventional wisdom.

They are teaching what everybody "knows."

The problem is that most people don't know as much about hitting and the High-Level Swing as they think they do. As I point out in my piece on the various Myths About Hitting, if you spend even the briefest amount of time comparing what people teach to what the best hitters actually do, you will immediately see huge, and glaring, discrepencies.

What a High-Level Swing Looks Like

In an effort to explain what the High-Level Swing looks like, I have spent years accumulating a large number of clips of the best baseball and fast-pitch softball hitters and looking for commonalities.

Albert Pujols' Home Run Swing Video Clip

Albert Pujols' Home Run Swing

Most high-level fast pitch softball players, and in particular hitters who hit for some power, also exhibit the same movement patterns.

Megan Bush Home Run Swing Video Clip

Megan Bush's Home Run Swing

While there are significant physical differences between Albert Pujols and Megan Bush, there are few, if any, significant differences between their swings. That is because a high-level baseball swing and a high-level fast pitch softball swing are the same swing.

Video Clip Comparison of the Swings of Albert Pujols and Megan Bush

Comparison of the Swings of
Albert Pujols and Megan Bush

The thing to notice is how, while they load and get to the front heel plant position differently, once their front heels plant their swings are basically identical through the extension position.

I recently obtained a clip of Evan Logoria hitting a home run to left field that is an even better match with that Megan Bush clip, especially at the Point Of Contact.

Video Clip Comparison of the Swings of Evan Longoria and Megan Bush

Comparison of the Swings of
Albert Pujols and Megan Bush

The baseball swing and the fast pitch softball swing are the same for a very simple reason; while men and women typically have significantly different levels of upper body strength, all able-bodied people, regardless of their sex, have roughly proportional levels of core strength (because it's the key to walking and running). Because the High-Level Swing lets you tap into the large muscles of the core, it is very efficient and as a result tends to be the predominant swing pattern at the highest levels of both baseball and fast pitch softball.

Exceptions to the Rule

A few high level hitters do not always use the High-Level Swing. Ichiro Suzuki tends to try to slap outside pitches into the ground and beat out the throw. Yadier Molina generally looks for an outside pitch that he can just poke into right field. Vladimir Guerrero will swing at any pitch, regardless of its location. However, the vast majority of major league hitters (e.g. 95+ percent) swing in a way that is consistent with the principles of the High-Level Swing.

Key Concepts

In order to understand the High-Level Swing, you have to understand the concepts that serve as its foundation. These concepts, which were first defined by Paul Nyman, include...

Posture

In order to swing with their entire body, and not just their arms, a hitter must start from an athletic position.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols at Setup

It is almost impossible to swing with your entire body, and not just your arms, if you are standing overly erect with your feet too close together and your knees locked.

Connection

While good hitters may talk about, and sometimes even think, they throw or push their hands at the ball and hit the ball with their arms extended, if you look at video clips and still photos of the best hitters, you won't see extension at the Point Of Contact. Instead, what you will see is that, while their arms do extend, they only extend after the POC. At the POC, good hitters are usually anything but extended.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols at the Point Of Contact

Rotation

A good swing is powered by the rotation of the hips and shoulders -- driven by the large muscles of the core -- and not by a linear, pushing movement of the small muscles of the arms, wrists, and hands. While the arms, wrists, and hands are important to the swing, their job is to help funnel, direct, and manage the force that is generated by the body rather than to create much force.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols Demonstrating Rotation

The photo above of Albert Pujols is a great example of what good Rotation looks like. Notice how his hips have stopped moving forward and have rotated 90 degrees, due in part to the stiffening of his front leg and the extension of his front knee. Notice how his back knee is bent 90 degrees, which is an indication of the the rapid Rotation of his hips. Notice how the rapid rotation of his hips has pulled him up onto the outside of his front foot. Finally, notice how, rather than hitting off of his back foot and squishing the bug, the rapid rotation of Albert Pujols' hips have pulled him up onto the point of his back foot. In fact, the rapid rotation of his hips sometimes pulls Albert Pujols' back foot completely up in the air at the Point Of Contact.

Albert Pujols not squishing the bug

Albert Pujols Not Squishing the Bug

Be Sure To Condition Your Core!

If you are going to dive into the High-Level Swing, then it's important that you first make sure that your body is ready for the transition. The High-Level Swing gets power from the muscles of the core (e.g. the Obliques) rather than the arms. If you are going to keep from straining these muscles, you must first make sure that they are properly conditioned with a good core workout.

Do as he Does, not as says

Albert Pujols recently had a conversation with Harold Reynolds about hitting. What's interesting about this conversation is that it's good evidence for the gap between the conscious, thinking mind and the subconscious, doing mind. What Albert Pujols tells you NOT to do is what he actually does in his swing and what he tells you TO do isn't what he actually does. Instead, it's the same older A to C garbage that most major league instructors preach but that no good hitters actually do.

For More Information

To help people understand how Albert Pujols, and other major leaguers, actually swing, I have put together a number of free resources including a Rotational Hitting FAQ, an analysis of a home run swing of Albert Pujols, a discussion of Albert Pujols' stride, a page full of photos of Albert Pujols' swing, and a separate page that contains my favorite examples of swings.

Private Client Site

More free information about the high-level swing is available in my private client site. Register NowAll you have to do is register in order to get access to this information. Once you register, you will also be able to see how much and what other kinds of information is available to people who purchase my Rotational Hitting DVD.

Professional baseball Experience

My highest-level client is Andres Torres of the San Francisco Giants. Using the concepts that I discuss on my Rotational Hitting 101 DVD and on my client-only web site, we worked together to revamp his swing and get him to the point where he could be successful at the major league level.

Andres Torres isn't the only professional baseball player that I have worked with. At last count, I have one other client in the major leagues, three clients at AAA, one client at AA, several more clients in the lower levels of the affiliated minor leagues, and three clients playing for independent minor league teams and trying to get back on the road to the major leagues. I have also worked with a number of D-1 college baseball and fast pitch softball players.

I don't give out the names of these players because I don't want to get them in trouble with their coaches. While they, and I, believe in what I teach, most of the time it contradicts what their coaches are saying, so they have to keep it to themselves and we have to work on the down low. If you are a minor leaguer and are looking for help, e-mail me and we can talk about how you can get access to my client-only web site.

about | contact | copyright | sitemap | liability policy