Do you have a great swing?
Do you spend most of your time perfecting that great swing?
I’m sure that pitchers across the country are thankful for guys like you!
Why, you ask?
Because you’re spending 99% of your time focusing on something that doesn’t matter if you don’t have rhythm and timing.
I think Bruce Lee would agree 🙂
*Thanks to Karl Nonemaker (Old Dominion University), one of the best young coaches in college baseball, for his collaboration with me on this article!!!!
“The highest technique is to have no technique. My technique is a result of your technique; my movement is a result of your movement.” – Bruce Lee
This is the perfect quote for how hitters should approach the rhythm and timing of the load.
Why, because the load dictates when the swing happens!
Swings break down because most players don’t know when to start the load.
The rhythm and timing of a hitters load should be based off of their approach and the information they have gathered. Here are just a few examples that will dictate the rhythm and timing of the load:
NOTE: The easiest pitchers to “time up” have smooth, consistent tempo in their deliveries with a long, easy arm action. My guess is that some of you pitchers have been taught this type of delivery.
In the last series I discussed ‘knowing your zone’. If you haven’t read this, no worries, I will wait for you.
If I ask 100 hitters the question, “When do you get ready to hit?”, I will probably get several different answers with a common answer being, “ I don’t know.”
This is a problem!
What if I asked the questions:
I think common sense says NO but…..
Let us FIRST expand on the terms “Rhythm and Timing”. (Later we will discuss early and late rhythm.)
RHYTHM – This is not just preload or in your stance, it must be maintained throughout the entire swing process.
Think of rhythm as constant energy that never stops and has a flow.
The following famous quote by Bruce Lee (2 quotes in the same article, think I am a fan?) hits the nail on the head:
One of the greatest things my college coach used to say to me was:
“If you can dance, you can hit. All it takes is a little rhythm.”
So, for all you macho dads out there, listen to mom and get your son into some dance classes!
You can think of the cat and mouse game between pitcher and hitter as the ‘Two Step’.
A hitter must also have an inner rhythm.
Take a look at this video and pay particular attention to the load.
He looks like he’s dancing with the pitcher in a beautiful piece choreographed by George Balanchine (Regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet).
TIMING – Not only must a hitter be able to sequence the parts (timing) within the load, but must match up that movement so that he is able to deliver the barrel on time.
The most critical aspect of hitting is the ability to deliver the barrel on time….
Point of Impact!!
If you are not sure about how important timing is in a swing, ask yourself this question:
How come there are so many hitters who can hammer balls in batting practice but strike out and have non-competitive at-bats in games?
Let’s think of ourselves as a car.
In a car, the timing belt is basically responsible for the opening and closing of the engine’s valves (A hitter sequencing the load and unload of the individual parts).
What happens if the timing belt breaks? Catastrophic engine failure!
Should have replaced the TIMING belt!!
What happens if a hitter doesn’t have timing? He walks back to the dugout with his tail between his legs! Timing is also critical for the expression of power and efficiency!
The best way to start to work on timing is to do what we will call “dry loads.” Dry loads are anytime a hitter practices his load without a swing. It is critical for a hitter to develop awareness of his body.
Let’s look at it this way …. There are two parts to the hitting process.
Most hitters spend tons of time on “swing” drills (ie. top hand, bottom hand, no stride, no shoulders, etc) and they do not spend much time honing their load.
In order to have body awareness and proprioception, a hitter should work on going through their load when they don’t have to then swing the bat.
Continuing with the theme, “What happens before the swing is more important than the swing itself”, if a hitter’s timing is off, a pretty or powerful swing becomes irrelevant.
The #1 killer of rhythm and timing IS: Getting started LATE.
Things to consider:
What is EARLY rhythm and when should I have it?
I have to be earlier and/or quiet down the load if, as a hitter, I am looking or setting myself up for:
In ALL of those scenarios, I must deliver the barrel earlier which means I have less time in the process. I must start my load at an earlier point than I otherwise would. I talked more in depth about what a load is HERE and HERE.
What is LATE rhythm and when should I have it?
This is just the opposite. So if I am looking for:
…then I will start later in the process. I can also allow for more play or movement in the load and/or store energy in my back hip longer.
These are things a hitter should know because……
The biggest at bats of his career will be with runners on base and the pitcher in the stretch.
Seems like a lot to take into consideration huh??
This is why we must have focused, directed, daily practice on more than just mechanics! It also means that, as a hitter, you must be a student of the game.
USE YOUR TIME EFFICIENTLY!
There are multiple ways to incorporate this in your daily regimen:
During batting practice: If there are 4 hitters in your group, are you taking the time while the other 3 are hitting to have a plan and work on timing the pitcher?
We see many hitters who mis-hit the first ball in their bp round. Many times this is because the time in between rounds was not spent working on timing. Do you spend the eight at bats of other hitters in between your abs during the game to gather information?
Do you waste time in the on deck circle?: If you are looking for a good on-deck plan, one thing you should definitely consider doing is going through your load on one or two pitches.
Almost every gym in America has mirrors all over the place: You could do loads in between sets visualizing critical at bats in games. While watching a game on tv, you can load and pretend you are facing the pitcher.
Hitting is like a test.
The more information I can gather, the better I will do. That is assuming you can gather this information, be convicted in your plan, clear your mind, and then
GO EXECUTE IT!!
Speaking of execution, I want you to execute 2 things for me:
Don’t be shy…let me know what you think!