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Bat Drag 101

Bat Drag is a very common problem in hitters up to high school age and sometimes, as in the case of Mark Reynolds, the major leagues.

Based on the large number of young hitters that I have seen or worked with, I would estimate that upwards of 90 percent of young hitters have some degree of Bat Drag in their swings.1

As it turns out, both of my sons struggled with problems with Bat Drag, and Bat Drag was the problem that drove me to study hitting.

What Bat Drag Looks Like

What happens during Bat Drag is that, fairly early on in the swing, the hitter's back elbow gets ahead of their hands.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

As a result, the hitter will exhibit the telltale stacked elbow position with their back elbow under their front elbow and their forearms largely horizontal and level to the ground.

Mark Reynolds' Swing

Bat Drag

In the worst cases of Bat Drag, the hitter's back elbow will slide well forward of their hands and their back hip and out from under their front elbow.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

Regardless, the result is that, at the Point Of Contact, the hitter's back elbow will be well forward of their back hip, their back upper arm will be more horizontal than vertical, and their swing will unfold well out in front of them.

Why Bat Drag Happens

The most common problems that you see in younger ballplayers -- and some older ballplayers -- result from their trying to do too much with their arms and not getting the rest of their body involved.

When they throw, they throw with just their arms, using a motion that is commonly referred to as, "Throwing like a girl." When they hit, instead of powering their swing with their entire body, they power their swing with just their arms.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

In the case of Bat Drag, as they try to swing with their arms -- and because their back arm is usually their dominant arm -- their back arm and top hand overpower their swing, causing their back elbow to slide forward and their swing to unfold well out in front of them.

Why Bat Drag is Problematic

Bat Drag creates a swing that is sometimes very powerful but that is always very long; typically too long to catch up to a good fastball or to adjust between a fastball and a quality off-speed pitch.

Bat Drag also changes where, when, and how the bat head starts to whip. As in the case of Mark Reynolds, that forces the hitter to make contact with the ball farther out front than is optimal, which compromises their ability to adjust to the ball.

Mark Reynolds' Swing

Mark Reynolds

Mark Reynolds' Swing

Mark Reynolds

As players get older -- older than 11 or so -- the result of a swing with Bat Drag is occasionally lots of powerfully hit foul balls and/or hits to the opposite field but typically lots of swinging strikes.

I have seen Bat Drag turn 5th grade, .500-average power hitters into 6th graders who struggle to get one weak hit per game (or season).

Bat Drag vs. Bat Lag

Many people use the terms Bat Drag and Bat Lag interchangeably when, in truth, they are opposites.

As I explain in my piece on Bat Drag vs. Bat Lag, Bat Drag is the sign of a serious, but common, problem with the swing while Bat Lag is a normal and necessary component of a swing and the sign of a powerful swing.

My Older Son's Bat Drag

A while back I was cleaning up my web site and stumbled across the video below of my older son playing Home Run Derby in our side yard in May 2006. This video was taken back before I knew much about hitting. I hadn't had to put much thought or time into his swing because he had hit quite well up until that point.

The thing that is really prominent in this video is significant Bat Drag, which explains why he started to struggle that year.

Bat Drag Video Clip

Bat Drag

Notice how, as he starts his swing, his front arm bars and his back elbow slides forward of his back hip. This lengthens his swing and moves the Point Of Contact forward.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag
Frame 5

Bat Drag

Bat Drag
Frame 6

In Frame 6, notice how his back elbow has slid well forward of his back hip and is under, and is almost touching, his front elbow.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag
Frame 7

The existence of Bat Drag in my older son's swing makes sense, given his difficulties at the time.

Over the years, his batting average declined as the pitchers got better and he started seeing more than just fastballs. He also became increasingly likely to hit the ball hard to right field or just foul down the right field line, both of which are signs of a swing that is being slowed down and lengthened by Bat Drag.

My Younger Son's Bat Drag

My younger son also had a problem with Bat Drag. In the clip below, notice how his back elbow slides forward. That makes the barrel dump and causes him to swing with too steep of an uppercut.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

That frequently caused him to top the ball and pound it into the ground.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

His problem with Bat Drag also caused him to make contact farther forward than good hitters do, which made him vulnerable to any pitch that wasn't thrown at the speed he was used to.

Symptoms of Bat Drag

If you are wondering if one of your children or hitters may have a problem with Bat Drag, here are some of the symptoms.

Wanting the Tee Well Forward in the Stance

In retrospect, one indicator of my younger son's Bat Drag was that he was litterally unable to hit off of a batting tee if the tee was placed closer than the toe of his front foot. He had to push the tee forward, or back up, in order to be able to hit the ball. Of course, that was because his back elbow was leaking forward and was causing his swing to unfold farther out front than was typical.

A Swing That Doesn't Scale

One frequent tip-off that a hitter has a problem with Bat Drag is that their swing doesn't scale.

They usually start out with tons of multi-field power in tee-ball, coach pitch, and even machine pitch. However, as they start to move up through the levels of kid pitch, and especially around 5th or 6th grade, their batting average starts to fall through the floor.

In many cases, what has happened is that the length of their swing has forced them to start their swing earlier. That can then make them vulnerable to even low-quality curveballs, change-ups, and other off-speed pitches.

Lots Of Swinging Strikes

One symptom of a swing that is being affected by Bat Drag is an increasing number of swinging strikes. The problem is that Bat Drag is lengthening their swing and making them late.

Great Hitter During Batting Practice,
Poor Hitter In Games

Another indicator that a hitter may have a problem with Bat Drag is that they absolutely kill the ball in batting practice, and in particular when hitting off of a batting tee or during soft-toss drills, but constantly strike out when going up against good, live pitching. The problem is that Bat Drag isn't an issue, and is often an asset, when the ball is either standing still or moving very slowly. Instead, Bat Drag is only an issue when the pitcher is able to bring it with decent velocity.

Lots Of Pushing The Ball

Hitters with a problem with Bat Drag will often develop a problem with pushing the ball (e.g. hitting the ball to the opposite field). While this sometimes won't cause an obvious problem, and in the case of a right-handed batter may simply result in lots of doubles and triples into the right field corner, at some point the hitter may reach the point where many if not most of their balls land foul down the right field line (left field line in the case of a left-handed batter). The root cause of the problem is that the hitter has developed a bad case of Bat Drag, and telling them to swing earlier is only of limited value.

Pounding the Ball into the Ground

In some cases, a problem with Bat Drag can cause the hitter to pound balls -- and especially balls up in the strike zone -- down into the ground between the plate and the pitcher. That happens because, as the back elbow leaks forward, that causes the barrel to dump down out of the plane of the shoulders.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag

That then causes the hitter to swing with too much of an uppercut and creates topspin that causes the ball to dive down into the ground.

Fixing Bat Drag

While Bat Drag can be a hard problem to fix on your own, it is possible to fix Bat Drag if you understand why Bat Drag happens and how to get hitters out of the bad movement patterns that lead to Bat Drag.

Bat Drag

Before

In the case of my younger son, I developed an approach to fixing Bat Drag that transformed his swing from the one above that was heavily affected by Bat Drag and that rarely led to solid contact to the one below that shows no signs of Bat Drag and that produced consistent, hard-hit line drives.

The High-Level Swing

After

I have spent the past five years developing an approach to, and a number of drills for, fixing Bat Drag. I have used this approach and these drills to fix the swings of my younger son and many of his teammates. That information is available in my Fixing Bat Drag webbook, which costs just $10.95.

Fixing Bat Drag Webbook Cover

You can buy my Fixing Bat Drag webbook on its own or, if you buy my Rotational Hitting 101 DVD, you will get access to my Fixing Bat Drag webbook for free.

For More Information

Register NowAdditional free information about Rotational Hitting and the High-Level Swing is available through my private client site. To access this information, and to see how much, and what kinds, of information is available to my clients, all you have to do is register.

Notes

[1] The reason you don't see much Bat Drag in high school hitters isn't because it doesn't happen in high schoolers. Instead, it is because most hitters with Bat Drag simply can't hit high school pitching (or, usually, middle school pitching).

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