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Rotational Hitting 101

As a kid, I loved the game of baseball. However, I was never a great hitter. While some of my problems were admittedly due to my not wanting to wear my glasses, most of my problems were due to poor hitting instruction.

I wasn't taught to do what great hitters actually do.

Instead of powering my swing with my hips, I was taught to transfer my weight from back to front and to keep my hips closed into contact. Instead of staying connected, I was taught to make the Power V and hit the ball with full extension at the point of contact.

Just like George Brett did.

Or so I thought. And was taught.

Moving On

Now that I have kids of my own, and coach them and their friends, I have resolved to teach them better than I was taught. As part of that effort, I have spent years researching the various approaches to teaching hitting.

I put this document together to serve as an introduction to, and overview of, Rotational Hitting, an increasingly popular approach to describing, explaining, and teaching the High-Level Swing.

The Three Approaches to Hitting

In my experience, there are three major, and different, approaches to teaching the swing...

In my experience, Linear Hitting and Extension Hitting are what most people are taught -- Extension Hitting is what I was taught -- but more and more people are being taught, and are talking about, Rotational Hitting.

Linear Hitting

Linear Hitting isn't just a made-up term. Instead, Linear Hitting is a widely-taught, but in my experience problematic, approach to teaching hitting.

I discuss the logical foundation of Linear Hitting in...

...and I discuss Linear Hitting in greater depth in...

...but let me touch upon those ideas and differences briefly.

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 going directly 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
    two points.
  • A to C hand path.
  • Throw your hands at the ball.
  • Pop your wrists at contact.

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 Point of Contact (POC).

Hands To The Ball

Hands To The Ball

The biggest problem with Linear Hitting is that no more than a few current major league baseball players (e.g. Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter) swing in a way that even resembles what Linear Hitting instructors advocate.

Don Mattingly's Swing

Don Mattingly

In fact, and as I explain at length in my piece on The Myth of the A to C Swing, two of the biggest proponents of Linear Hitting -- Don Mattingly and Tony Gwynn -- broke pretty much every rule that they now preach.

Another characteristic of a purely linear approach to hitting is the emphasis on transferring the weight from the front foot to the back foot and keeping the hips closed into contact.

Extension Hitting

The defining cue of the philosophy of Extension Hitting, which is a big favorite of baseball television color commentators, is that you should be at full extensin at the point of contact and making what is known as the Power V. That's what I was taught, and it's what ruined my swing.

Extension Hitting grew out of the words and pictures in Charley Lau Sr.'s book The Art of Hitting .300.

George Brett Demonstrating Extension and Power V at the Point Of Contact

George Brett
Demonstrating Extension and the
Power V at the Point Of Contact

Scattered throughout Charley Lau Sr.'s book are a number of pictures, like the one above, of George Brett demonstrating extension and the Power V at the point of contact. While some people argue that Charley Lau Sr. didn't actually intend for people to look like this at the POC on every swing, the fact is that this is how people tend to interpret his work and teach their students to hit.

There's also the fact that on page 93 of his his book, Lau says...

At the moment of contact, the bat should be straight out in front of you, your arms should be fully extended...

The problem is that this isn't what most major league hitters, including George Brett, actually look like at the Point Of Contact in their best swings.

George Brett's Swing

George Brett

Rotational Hitting

Rotational Hitting is an increasingly popular approach to teaching hitting that is based on the ideas contained in Ted Williams' book The Science of Hitting.

Rotational Hitting involves learning how to power the swing with the entire body -- and in particular the large muscles of The Core -- rather than just the arms, wrists, and hands.

While Rotational Hitting will sometimes result in increased numbers of home runs, the idea is to just try to hit the ball hard. That is because a hard-hit ball -- even if it is hit on the ground -- is hard to make a play on because it's moving fast.

Mike Epstein & Rotational Hitting

Mike Epstein is one person who is closely associated with Rotational Hitting and who popularized the term. As a result, when you talk about Rotational Hitting with people, in many cases what is going to come to mind -- both good and bad -- is how Mike Epstein teaches hitting.

For instance, when Dave Hudgens describes the problem with Rotational Hitting and when people grill me about Rotational Hitting as they do in my Rotational Hitting FAQ, they are generally reacting to, and criticizing, how Mike Epstein teaches Rotational Hitting.

The problem is that, while Mike Epstein's approach to teaching hitting was a vast improvement over Linear Hitting and Extension Hitting, as many people have pointed out there remain a number of differences between...

  • What kids are being taught by Mike Epstein and his instructors.
  • What the best baseball and fast-pitch softball hitters actually do.

In my experience, what Mike Epstein and his instructors produce is a swing that resembles, but at the core is significantly and critically different from, the high-level swing.

Among other things, one of the chief problems with what Mike Epstein teaches is that there is little to no stride. Instead, Mike Epstein's hitters tend to just spin in place. While that works at the lower levels and with hotter bats, as Pete Kozma's Swing demonstrates, the pure rotational approach doesn't work at the highest levels of baseball.

In my opinion, Mike Epstein either didn't completely understand Ted Williams' ideas or, more likely, in an effort to deal with problems like lunging, stripped Ted Williams' approach down too far and took out the thing that is its  true secret.

The result is an approach to teaching hitting that is better than Linear Hitting and Extension Hitting but that doesn't deliver the results that can be achieved by thoroughly understanding and applying Ted Williams' ideas.

Beyond Mike Epstein

As I explain in greater detail in my discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of Mike Epstein's system, when my older son started to struggle with his hitting, everyone I knew told me to get Mike Epstein's books, CDs, and DVDs. I did, and found them to be a significant advance over the Extension Hitting nonsense that I had been taught about hitting.

However, while my older son's swing improved significantly, he continued to struggle with fundamental problems like Bat Drag, which Mike Epstein's materials didn't alert me to or help me with.

As a result, I decided that I had to go beyond Mike Epstein's materials and educate myself on what the best hitters actually do.

The High-Level Swing

Since 2006, I have been studying the swings of the best baseball and fast-pitch softball players and working to understand the high-level swing. As part of that process, I have collected large amounts of high-quality, HD and super slow motion video of the best baseball and fast pitch softball players.

Albert Pujols Home Run Swing Video Clip

Albert Pujols

The goal is to bring Rotational Hitting instruction closer to its roots; to what Ted Williams talked about in The Science of Hitting and, more importantly, to how great hitters actually swing the bat.

Rotational Hitting 101 DVD

Rotational Hitting 101 DVDIn 2008, I took much of the information that had been blogging about, organized it, added to it, and put together Rotational Hitting 101 and my client site. They reflect the lessons that have been learned about the high-level swing over the past ten years. They build on the strengths, but also address what in my experience are the weaknesses, of Mike Epstein's approach to teaching hitting.

Since I first published Rotational Hitting 101, I have shipped more than 2,000 copies of my DVD to people all over the world including Andres Torres, my first professional client.

Andres Torres Home Run Swing Video Clip

Andres Torres
Home Run to Right Field
2010 World Series

Andres used the information on my DVD, and in particular my information on Connection, to rebuild his swing and his entire approach to hitting. The result was a swing that helped the San Francisco Giants win the 2010 World Series and that we continue to work to improve.

Major League Experience

Andres Torres isn't the only major league baseball player I have worked with.

At last count, I have three other clients in the major leagues, two clients at AAA, one client at AA, and two clients playing for independent minor league teams and trying to get back on the road to the major leagues. I have also worked with a number of D-1 college baseball and fast pitch softball players.

I don't give out the names of these players because I don't want to get them in trouble with their coaches. While they, and I, believe in what I teach, most of the time it contradicts what their coaches are saying, so they have to keep it to themselves and we have to work on the down low. If you are a minor leaguer and are looking for help, e-mail me and we can talk about how you can get access to my client-only web site.

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