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What if I told you that the two foremost hitting theories have it all wrong when it comes to driving the hips into the baseball? Okay, so they don't have it all wrong, but they don't have it all right. Between players wanting to maximize their power and the constant battle to have a high average, players are constantly scrutinizing their mechanics for maximum performance. Between controversial hitting theories and the variation on the part of the hitting instructors who teach it, it can be very difficult for any player or coach to have a firm understanding of what is best for their swing.
On the outside, the two foremost hitting theories seem fairly straight forward. However, unless your an expert in the mechanics of hitting a baseball or have experienced the theories first hand, you may have a difficult time putting them to practice. As a result, I will cover both theories in detail, and give you a more productive alternative that will help your player maximize his hips in any situation and under any circumstance.
Like many other young kids, when I first started learning to hit in Little League, I was taught rotational hitting. Rotational hitting is one of the oldest forms of hitting and involves a simple rotation of the back leg to create torque in your body and generate bat speed. When performed correctly the back knee will rotate in towards the groin, the laces of the back cleat will be pointed at the pitcher, and the heel will be pointed to the sky. A players weight will be balanced 50/50 or slightly back and players will feel pressure on the ball of the back foot. On the positive, rotational hitting offers a great amount of stability because overall body movement is limited. In theory, this should help players adjust their hands more easily mid swing helping them to stay inside the baseball and hit the ball to all fields. On the negative, the amount of force we are able to generate is solely based on how effectively a player and rotate on his backside.
Linear hitting offers a different approach to rotating the backside. The true linear style involves more of a push of the backside and transferring a large portion of weight into the baseball. You will see some true style linear hitters have their back foot off the round just after or during contacting the baseball. In oder to perform this style correctly, players will need to have a strong frontside to resist against. The plus side to linear hitters is that they usually contact and mis-hit balls at a higher velocity, a.k.a. they have more power which in turn increases exit velocity. They downside, is one you commit to the baseball there is no stopping your swing. True linear style hitters are mores susceptible to being fooled by off speed pitches.
Saying all that, I believe that the ability for a player to maximize his power begins during pitch recognition. Why? Properly identifying pitches will allow a players to drive their hips in alignment with the field they want to hit the ball. Many players will mistakenly try to hit the ball to the wrong field because of poor identification skills and will never allow themselves to fully generate the maximum amount of power their body has to offer. To fully understand why a middle ground between these two theories is a better option, go back a read my piece on the baseball load. It will help bring this concept more into focus.
Now, I personally think that both forms of hitting provide a good base to move forward. Rotational batting can provide a certain sense of stability and balance where as linear batting provides a certain sense of power and bat speed. Therefore, I like to explain my theory by beginning with rotation and ending with linear movement. A player will do this by actively driving his back knee and back hip down towards his front foot. Driving the knee down and forward, instead of around like in rotational batting, will give players a nice full rotation of the back hips and begin to transfer the weight forward before contact. In reality, the players knee may only drive downward 2-4 inches, but the