While many hitting instructors teach that hitters must keep
their front foot closed as they swing, as I discuss in detail in my client
Williams, Lau, and the Front Foot, the logic behind keeping
the front foot closed through heel plant is of dubious merit.
A Theory of Lower Body
Injuries in Hitters
I have been "fortunate" enough to see plenty of
weak, powerless swings by hitters like Joe Thurston who have
obviously been taught to keep their front foot closed and
basically sideways to the path of the pitch.
Joe Thurston 2009
However, I am starting to believe that this cue doesn't just cause
performance problems in hitters. Instead, I am starting
to wonder if it may also increase the risk of lower body
injuries in hitters.
A Turn for the Worse?
Before I get into the injury implications to hitters of
trying to keep their front foot closed through the Point Of
Contact, let me first say that I believe that there is
value to paying attention to a hitter's front foot.
Pete Kozma 2013
For instance, you could argue that one of the problems with
Pete Kozma's swing is that he fans his front foot open too
much and too soon, causing his hips to open too soon.
Pete Kozma would likely benefit from trying to keep his
front foot closed longer.
However, I believe that many coaches are taking this good
idea too far and may be increasing their hitters' risk of
experiencing lower body injuries.
The genesis of this piece was this clip of Randal Grichuk, who
starts off with a tremendous lower body, but who never finishes
his Rotation, I would argue because of what his front foot does.
Randal Grichuk 2014
Notice how Randal Grichuk lands with his front foot closed —
with the toe of his front foot pointing at the first base dugout
and pretty perpendicular to the path of the pitch —
and then keeps it closed into the Point Of Contact.
That keeps his hips from opening fully.
Yes, this was a home run. However, I would argue that Randal
Grichuk is leaving power on the table by keeping his front foot
so closed and limiting his rotation as a result, meaning that he is
swinging harder than he has to.
What Else is it Hurting?
In looking at the front feet of hitters, trying to identify
hitters who could be experiencing power problems as a result of
following this cue, I started to notice how much stress they
were putting on the front ankles and legs by keeping their front
feet closed into contact.
In this clip of Albert Pujols hitting his iconic (or
infamous) home run off of Brad Lidge during the 2005 NLCS, watch
Pujols' front foot.
Albert Pujols 2005
Because he lands with his front foot closed, and keeps his
front foot closed into the Point Of Contact, that causes his
left ankle to undergo a significant amount of stress as all of
his weight goes into his ankle while it is mostly closed and sideways to
the pitcher. That in turn puts a significant load on the
muscles, tendond, and ligaments of his left foot.
Albert Pujols 2006
Albert Pujols 2006
I don't know enough about the anatomy of the foot and ankle
to be able to answer the question, but I have to wonder if the load that
Albert Pujols puts on his left foot, ankle, and lower leg — by
shifting all of his weight into it while it's turned almost
sideways — has
contributed to his problems with his feet and legs.
Allen Craig started off extremely strong, but then started to
fade badly as injuries started to take their toll. I have long
Allen Craig's stance and stride aren't doing him any favors,
but I am now starting to wonder if they are creating, or
worsening, his problems with his legs and his overall
The concern is that, not only does Allen Craig's front foot
have to absorb the force of his stride and his swing, but it has
to do so while turned almost sideways and, in some cases,
rolling onto its side.
That's going to put a lot of load on an already compromised
Given how he lands with his front foot quite closed, so much
so that it causes his back foot to jump around in response as
his hips fire, I
will be monitoring the health of Mike Trout's left leg, foot,
and ankle with some interest.
Mike Trout 2014.08
Tying some of Miguel Cabrera's problems with his lower body
to this pattern is admittedly a reach. However, he lands with
his front leg quite closed and his back leg moves very similarly
to Mike Trout's, and for what look
like similar reasons.
It could be that by keeping his front
foot closed as long as he does, Miguel Cabrera could be further
increasing the load on his already troubled legs.
Other hitters that I am going to continue studying, and
monitor for lower leg (and perhaps front hip) problems due to how closed their front
feet are into contact and/or their injury history, include...
- Matt Adams
- Javier Baez
- Jedd Gyorko
- Eric Hosmer
- Matt Kemp
- Evan Longoria
- J.D. Martinez
- Andrew McCutchen
- Brandon Moss
- Jorge Soler
- Mark Trumbo
- Troy Tulowitzki
Is It Even Necessary?
the questionable logic behind the idea of keeping the front foot
closed, other clips I have in my library make me question
the necessity of keeping the front foot closed.
For instance, the clip below shows Matt Carpenter hitting one
of the longest home runs I have ever seen. He hit this ball
completely out — as in over the wall and the tents behind the
wall — of the Braves' spring training facility.
The thing to notice is his front foot. Notice how he
certainly doesn't land with his front foot closed and pointing
at the third base dugout. While his front foot isn't completely
open, you have to wonder why some people teach a front foot
position that is more closed than this, especially if it is
potentially problematic and not even necessary to hitting the