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The One True Swing

The other day I got an interesting and important question about hitting...

Why would McGwire teach a power, Home run swing to Brendan Ryan? Or anybody really? McGwire was a rare hitter and took a different approach at the plate then I’d want most Cardinals to take. I don’t want him teaching any one swing. Different strokes for different folks. Ryan needs to be taking a different approach then say, Colby. And Colby needs to be taking a different approach then say, Holliday.

While this sounds good at first blush, the fact is that there one mechanically correct high level swing. That swing is dictated by both the laws of physics and the realities of the game; this like the need to hit both a 95mph fastball and off-speed pitching. It doesn’t matter if you look at Mark McGwire, David Eckstein, Albert Pujols, or Andres Torres; you will see the same basic swing and hitting mechanics.

Mark McGwire's Swing

David Eckstein's Swing

Albert Pujols' Swing

Andres Torres' Swing

Points in common include the slight to significant uppercut with the barrel falling below the hands (not a Level Swing), the Power L in the back arm at the POC (not Extension), and how the rotation of the hips pulls the hitter up onto the point of their back toe at the Point Of Contact (not Squishing the Bug).

Is There Such a Thing as
a Home Run Swing?

In order to hit a 95MPH fastball, and not be vulnerable to quality off-speed pitching, your swing has to be 9 to 10 frames from start to finish (at 60FPS). As Pedro Feliz demonstrates, the longer your swing is -- the more frames from the start of the swing to the point of contact -- the sooner you have to start your swing, the less time you have to read the pitch, and the more vulnerable you are to off-speed pitching.

As a result, swinging easy isn’t a viable option; every major league swing is a hard, quick swing.

The biggest difference between a power swing and a singles swing comes down to one less frame (thus 5 to 10 percent higher batspeed), the swing plane and whether you are trying to hit line drives or pound the ball into the ground, the proportion of fast twitch muscle, and the size of the bat. Power hitters tend to be bigger guys because bigger guys can execute The Swing while swinging a bigger bat. That makes the ball go farther because, due to F=MA, the greater the Mass, the greater the Force. Andres Torres can hit the ball harder than David Eckstein because he swings a bigger bat, swings a bit harder (greater batspeed, and likely has a greater proportion of fast twitch muscle.

Style vs. Substance

One thing that is confusing, and that tends to distract people from the commonalities of the swing, is that you see all kinds of stuff when it comes to stances and ways of holding the bat.

Who could forget Craig Counsell's set-up?

However, when it really matters -- between the moment that the front heel plants and the point of contact -- good swings are remarkably consistent. That's the point of the pictures above; to show how similar those different hitters' swings are at the point of contact.

People tend to confuse style and substance because it's much easier to see style with the naked eye. The substance happens too fast for people to be able to see it well. However, that is changing some with the advent of high speed video cameras.

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