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The Myth of Extension in Hitting

So I'm sitting here watching ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball and listening to Terry Francona and Orel Hershiser go on and on about Mike Trout's extension at the Point Of Contact and completely ignoring the fact that Mike Trout shows little to no extension at the Point Of Contact on his best swings.[1]

In fact, one reason why Mike Trout is hitting as well as he is is because he is rarely at extension at the Point Of Contact.

I was introduced to the concept of Extension (at the Point Of Contact) by my dad. He read Charley Lau Sr.'s Book The Art of Hitting .300 and saw the pictures of George Brett demonstrating what Charley Lau Sr. thought was the ideal position at the Point Of Contact.

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

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

Notice the level swing -- the barrel level to the ground at the Point Of Contact -- and the full extension at the Point Of Contact.

Consequently, he taught me that I needed to look like that at the Point Of Contact. While I couldn't make that swing work, I assumed it just meant that I wasn't meant to play baseball at the higher levels.

However, as I coached my sons and their friends and taught them what I had been taught, I gradually realized that what I had been taught didn't seem to work for anybody. As a result, I started looking around to see what the best hitters actually did.

What I found was very little extension at the Point Of Contact -- at least on home run swings -- and lots of swings that I originally assumed showed a hitter being jammed but, over time, learned were the norm for the best swings on balls down the middle of the strike zone.

Albert Pujols Home Run Swing

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols Home Run Swing

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols Home Run Swing

Albert Pujols

You can see the same thing in video clips of Albert Pujols' home runs.

Albert Pujols Home Run Swing

Albert Pujols

Notice how Albert Pujols doesn't reach full extension until after the Point Of Contact. At the Point Of Contact, Albert Pujols' back elbow is still bent.

Albert Pujols Home Run Swing

Albert Pujols

If you Google "home run swing" and look at the results that come up, you will see many swings that look nothing like the picture above of George Brett and that look like the pictures of Albert Pujols.

Allen Craig is a good young hitter who very rarely is at full extension at the Point Of Contact on his home run swings.

Allen Craig Home Run Swing

Allen Craig

You can see the same lack of extension at the Point Of Contact in the swing of Bryce Harper.

Bryce Harper Home Run Swing

Bryce Harper

Speaking of Mike Trout, you can see the same pattern in the swing of Mike Trout.

Mike Trout Home Run Swing

Mike Trout

Mike Trout Home Run Swing

Mike Trout

To bring this full circle, and back to Charley Lau Sr.'s book The Art of Hitting .300, what's interesting is that, with respect to this picture of Al Kaline...

Al Kaline Home Run Swing

Al Kaline

...Charley Lau Sr. has the following to say about it...

For this to be a good swing, Al would have had to hit the ball more out in front of the plate. As it is, I think he may have been fooled a bit on the pitch. When he realized the ball was low and in, he had to go down to get it. And to do that he had to pull his left arm in, making it impossible to get full extension.

Of course, in truth the picture above of Al Kaline shows him hitting a home run.

Given Charley lau Sr.'s prominence and the way he talks about the pictures of George Brett and Al Kaline in his book, it's not surprising that people have spent so many years believing in extension at the Point Of Contact. However, I hope that I have shown you that most of what people say and believe about extension isn't backed up by pictures and video clips of the best hitters.

Just Because You Can Find Pictures of Hitters at Full Extension at the POC...

I have a correspondent who occasionally sends me pictures of hitters at full extension at the Point Of Contact, I assume thinking that, by sending me these pictures, he will persuade me to change my views. Instead, all he does is demonstrate an all too common lack of sophistication in his theory of hitting.

As I have told him multiple times...

Just because you can find some pictures of hitters at full extension of the Point Of Contact, that doesn't mean that it's a good idea to try to hit every ball at full extension.

The problem is that, and as I learned when my dad used Charley Lau Sr's book to (try to) teach me to hit, by telling a hitter to trying to hit every pitch at full extension, you are limiting their ability to adjust to pitches.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols

Of course you can find pictures of good hitters at full extension at the Point Of Contact. Those are pictures of them making an adjustment. However, you simply will not find a good hitter who is at full extension at the Point Of Contact on every pitch.

Mark Reynolds and Extension

Mark Reynolds is a major league ballplayer who has a problem with Bat Drag, which forces him to hit most pitches at or near full extension. I would argue that it's not a coincidence that, while he shows occasional flashes of power, he is also a strike out machine. The problem is that, because he has to hit pitches at full extension, his ability to adjust to pitches is severely compromised.

Extension and Batter's Shoulder

Aside from the problems with adjustability that I discuss above, the other problem with trying to get to full extension at the Point Of Contact, getting full lead arm extension, and letting go of the bat with the top hand is that it can lead to a syndrome called Batter's Shoulder.

Notes

[1] I know they are talking about extension at the Point Of Contact because they showed, and talked for a few moments about, a still frame at the Point Of Contact.

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