Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rotational v Linear

Is there a difference?

Why is there such a fuss when it comes to rotational mechanics versus linear? Well, let me tell you…there is a huge difference, and if a coach, parent or player is telling you that they are really one in the same or there is a combination of linear and rotation or anything else creative, they are simply wrong!

The hitting process is a series of linked body movements regardless of style. However, it is these same series of movements that clearly separate the two, and if you know what is actually happening in the swing you can see it as clear as the day is long.

The following is a comparison between the two styles and differences that set them apart!

Shared Movement

The Stride is the only movement that the two styles share. A soft stride to toe touch; the back to front movement that initiates the swing. After that, the two styles are as distinctly different as a lemon and an apple. You can determine which one is the lemon!

Difference #1

This is where you will see the first of several different movements that define the players hitting mechanics. After the stride and prior to launch, the rotational hitter drops the front heel, locks out the front leg, establish a tilted axis and leads with the hips pulling the upper half around the body; the big pulling the small, torque.

The linear hitter is taught to take the hands in a downward path towards the ball. Whether they are taught to throw the knob, or punch with their fist… whatever, that is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that the hands start before the hips, thus negating any type of torque. Granted the hips do rotate, but it is after the hands are released. Once the hands start before the hips, a hitter will never regain that lower body force and diminish a large majority of the lower body, bat speed, and power. This is called “separation” and the body becomes unlinked. The hips are trying to play catch up and it will never happen. Linear hitters are labeled as upper body hitters because they separate from the lower body at the beginning of their swing.

Difference #2

As a rotational hitter drops their front heel, lock out the front leg and fire their hips creating the lower body torque; the tilt and slight dip of the back shoulder allow the front elbow to move cleanly up and around the body. The front elbow has to move up and around the body in order to get the barrel of the bat into the path of the pitch. Tilting, the shoulder dip and moving the front elbow up allows the hitter to lay the bat level to the pitch. The barrel will always be below the hands, always! The bat is in the path longer, they hit the ball square on the nose and the follow through and extension remain on the same plain as the pitch. Short and quick to the ball and long through it. Having a slight bend in the elbow at contact allows the arms to extend through the ball on the same plain as the pitch into the power v and then, finally the wrists roll over, well after contact is made. Power, line drives and shots over the fence are preached…Not, hit it on the ground!

A linear hitter is taught to keep the front elbow down and the shoulders square. Their hands make a path to the ball and the barrel is above the hands. The amount of time that the bat is in the path of the ball is a blink of the eye and then it is out again. Because the hands lead to the ball the front arm gets completely extended, when this happens the top hand has no place to go except over the bottom; the wrist roll into the ball or through it. The rolling of the wrist is happening just prior to contact , at contact or immediately after. Either way, the bat path gets altered to the path that it was originally on. Linear hitters are taught to hit the top half of the ball to create back spin giving the ball its loft. Line drives & grounders is heavily preached.

Difference #3

Rotational hitters are taught to hit the ball dead center. The swing is level to the ball in a slightly upward direction. So, if the pitch is down then the bat head has to drop to the path of the incoming pitch and match the barrel level to the ball. This principle is applied to every pitch, top of the zone to the bottom. A pitch up on the letters will be a much flatter approach then one that is on the knees and everywhere in between. Rotational hitters are trained to hit he ball square on the nose and take it back through the path in which it came. Level at contact, and slightly up.

A linear hitter is taught to hit down through the incoming pitch and are relying on the back spin to create loft and flight of the ball. This approach produces groundballs galore. Hit the ball in exactly the right spot with perfect timing intersecting the path of the incoming pitch and results are more favorable. Line drives and deeper balls. The pitch on the letters and the pitch on the knees has the same downward approach path to the ball. Getting the ball in the air on low pitches relies 100% on slicing the ball and creating backspin.

Last words!

Over the past several years, hitting styles have been re-defined, or should I say defined, largely due to the work of Mike Epstein and his development of the term and hitting technique, rotational mechanics. Even though the exact same principles were written some 37 years ago by Ted Williams, Mike has coined the term and took it a step further with a teachable system. The problem that Epstein fails to recognize in his teaching system is the lack of weight transfer as an iportant element to the process of hitting. Without weigh transfer, players struggle regardless of hitting styles.

I understand that linear coaches truly believe and stand by what they are teaching, I get that. But, what I don’t get is why they refuse to accept there may really be a better way of teaching. As long as I can remember, every clinic I have ever attended over the past 20 plus years were all the same. No one ever showed me, told me or explained what the best players in the game were doing! They would avoid it like the plague and would become defensive and attempt to explain it away. Well…that is no longer the case, we do know and we are teaching it!

So, if linear coaches choose to ignore and avoid the fact that professional players are using different mechanics then what they are teaching, that their philosophical approach contradicts the laws of physics, hitting the ball into the ground is a desired result, and having less than optimal power is what they aspire to teach – then what can I say…have at it.