The Limits of Linear Hitting
Despite what some people say, Linear Hitting isn't just a
marketing term made up by Mike Epstein to sell DVDs.
Instead, it is a widely-taught, but problematic, approach to
teaching hitting. I discuss the key differences between Rotational Hitting
and Linear Hitting in depth in an essay entitled
Rotational Hitting vs. Linear Hitting: What's The Key
Difference? However, let me touch upon those differences
While many people disagree about exactly what Linear Hitting
is, when I think of Linear Hitting, I think of an approach to
hitting that is focused on being short to the ball and getting power from the arms, hands,
and wrists. Some telltales of Linear Hitting are the
use of cues like...
- A straight line is the shortest distance between
- A to C hand path.
- Keep your front elbow down.
- Throw your hands at the ball.
- Take your hands directly to the ball.
- Take the knob to the ball.
- Keep the barrel above the ball.
- Pop your wrists at the Point Of Contact (POC).
The clip below is a good example of what proponents of Linear
Hitting want their students to do. Notice how the batter pushes his hands to the ball in a linear
fashion and then pops his wrists through the POC.
Hands To The Ball
You can see the
same thing in the clip below of Ozzie Smith hitting one of the few
home runs of his career.
Ozzie Smith's Linear Swing
The telltale that Ozzie Smith is a linear hitter is how
extended he is at the POC and how his swing finishes down
around his front hip. That happens because, instead of
swinging on plane and adjusting by tilting over the plate, he instead
drops his hands.
You could also argue that
swing is characteristic of a linear hitter.
Notice, in the clip below, how Derek Jeter first sweeps the bat
head back toward the catcher and then basically just pulls
the knob to the ball.
Derek Jeter's Linear Swing
While this swing may have worked for Derek Jeter in the past, I
would argue that it is related to his recent decline.
have literally never seen another major leaguer swing like this. As a result, I have a hard time advocating
a swing that only one person seems to have ever managed to pull
As you would expect given Derek
Jeter's life-long affiliation with the Yankees, Don Mattingly and many members of the New York Yankees organization
Linear Hitting. For instance,
I have found a video of Don Mattingly
on YouTube where he discusses this same basic swing, hand path, and
position at the POC. If you search the Internet, you will find
numerous pictures of hitters in the position at the POC that he
describes in that video. You can see this same basic hand path demonstrated on the
cover of a new training video by Kevin Long of the Yankees.
Not What a Good Hitter Actually Looks Like at the POC
You see a number of things at the POC in the swings of
people have been taught using this system. First, you see the arms fully extended
at the POC (in what some call
the Power V position). Second, you see the bat level to the
ground. Third, you see what some call a seatbelt hand path, with the hands finishing down around
the front hip. Finally, you see a 90 degree angle between
the barrel and the front forearm. The problem is that this simply isn't what good hitters
like Alex Rodriguez look like at the POC.
What A-Rod Actually Looks Like at the POC
There's no extension at the POC, no bat barrel level to the
ground, no seatbelt hand path and dropping of the hands, and the barrel of the bat
line with the front arm, not at a 90 degree angle.
Among other things, the biggest problem I have with Linear Hitting is that
while Linear Hitting sometimes works at the lower
levels of youth baseball and softball, it
doesn't scale. In general, Linear Hitting only works until maybe 4th
grade or so, at which point infielders can make most routine
plays. Yes, it worked to a degree in the big leagues in the 70s
and 80s when infields were covered with slick Astroturf
surfaces, but it does not work on contemporary grass or dirt
infields, which is why no more than perhaps one or two current major league
baseball players (e.g. Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter) swing in a way that even
resembles what Linear Hitting instructors advocate. I do not believe in teaching kids a swing that they
will have to abandon at some point as they get older, and that is why
I am not a fan of Linear Hitting.
Finally, let me address a point of much confusion.
When I think about Linear Hitting, I think
about the hand path and nothing else. The reason is
that if you study the
swings of good, rotational hitters, then you will usually see a
linear, back to front component to their weight shifts. In other words, just
because a hitter strides and/or shifts their weight from back to front, it
doesn't make them a linear hitter.