Hitting’s False Assumption

Many hitters are put in between a rock and a hard place regularly where they’re asked to perform a high-speed, multi-variable task while considering where parts of their body are moving through space. To create some awareness of what’s being asked of our hitters, let’s consider a few different aspects of how our brain and bodies work in relation to hitting a baseball.

Put yourself in the driver’s seat of a car driving down the highway. The car in front of you stops short, causing you to rear end it, but everyone is okay after the fact. After you’ve talked to the other driver and completed all the necessary steps following an accident, you sit in your damaged car and evaluate what happened. How did I hit this person in front of me? Was it his fault or mine? Could I have paid more attention and avoided the car or was it something I couldn’t have stopped no matter what?

Post collision, a driver will think about all the things that happened in front of them outside their body that led to the accident. He stopped fast, I was going too fast, I was following too close, I was looking at my phone, etc. Never do we start breaking down how we were holding the wheel or the form we took in getting our foot from the brake to the gas. In fact, I doubt most drivers ever think of these things at all because they have found a way to achieve the desired outcome of smoothly and safely driving from one place to another without needing to adjust their form.

Somewhere along the way, many coaches and players in baseball began assuming that in order to succeed at the plate, you have to create a perfect swing and execute it each time you are at bat AND if you get out or fail, it is because you didn’t execute the perfect swing. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The evidence we are making a false assumption about hitting is present every day at almost every practice. Typically, half of most practices are blocked and half are random; meaning in a blocked environment, there are less variables present, allowing players to designate cognitive resources to something other than the raw competition of the game. The random environment includes all or most of the variables present in the game, requiring players to focus on the competition and these variables to be able to adjust to the randomness. This distinction is lost on most players, but more importantly, coaches. 

Hitters need to be two people in a sense, both a growth minded individual concentrated on making changes to his central nervous system to allow his body to work more efficiently in the game, and the more gritty, competitive individual who knows his best chance against a pitcher trying to take his lunch money is to get on time, swing at good pitches, and smash baseballs.

It is common and understandable for many coaches to concentrate on the results of each swing and apply it to what they believe to be an issue with the hitter. This is the root of our problem. We see coaches take action during random practice times or games where a hitter can’t possibly be trying to swing perfectly and compete at the same time successfully. This line of thinking implies causation between the action of the swing and the outcome. If I fix the swing before next at bat, I will succeed. Simply talking movements with a hitter after an at bat teaches them to directly associate the outcomes of the at bats with the outcomes of swing movements, though these very often do not correlate in the game environment. Similarly, a coach’s idea of what a “good” swing is may also be skewed, as there are many forms one good swing may take depending on timing, location and pitch type, and the players’ abilities. 

The differences in the skills required for driving a car and hitting or throwing a baseball are massive, I realize this. Yet, the psychology of the individual is important. A driver doesn’t begin to think internally when presented with a decision and action. He reacts using the information in front of him to solve the problem the best way he can. Hitting can be boiled down the same way and hitters who can get off the perfectionism and on to finding a way to drive the ball with simple, sound, and adjustable movement principles have a better chance at consistent success in the game environment.

Jordan Serena
Hitting Coordinator
Rogue Baseball Performance