Tim’s Tips: Pop and Glide, See the Ball Before You Stride
Last month, I introduced to you Tim Rappé, Executive Director of our new Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) that will be held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.
Along with signing up for the camps and getting excellent baseball instruction there, every so often, Tim will provide some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well. See below for his insight on the batting stance!
POP AND GLIDE, SEE THE BALL BEFORE YOU STRIDE
In a previous post, I discussed how important it is to have excellent timing and control of the bat if you ever expect to be a good hitter. Now I’m going to discuss a very specific component of timing that is often misunderstood and unfortunately often taught incorrectly.
If you’ve been around coaching for a while you may have heard the expression, “When the pitcher shows you his pocket, you show yours.” That’s a pretty good visual meant to describe the timing of the pitcher lifting his stride leg and the hitter assuming the load-stride phase of the swing. In general, that’s solid advice but I think it’s flawed. Let me explain.
I’ve spent a great deal of time watching video over the years and made it a point at a recent Spring Training game between the Brewers and the Angels to confirm or disprove this critical teaching point. What I saw was exactly as expected. The hitter’s stride foot does not plant until the ball is in flight. If we step too early, the “kinetic chain” is broken and power will be lost…a bad thing. If the stride heel plants a fraction of a second before the swing is launched, there is a maximum transfer of power…a good thing. What makes this especially difficult to achieve is that a 90 mph only takes .44 seconds to reach the hitter. Talk about a small window in which to get “on time.”
So, here’s my problem with the “pocket-showing” strategy. It doesn’t take into account that (a) not every pitcher’s delivery is the same. Some guys are slower to the plate than others and (b) not every pitch is delivered at the same speed. Clearly, if the first guy you face is throwing 60 mph and the second guy is throwing 80 mph, using the back pocket as the timing trigger will almost certainly cause a break in that kinetic chain…a bad thing.
It is better to be early than late but our goal should be to get the front side down on time. If anyone questions that, just ask any pitcher what he’s trying to do to the hitter. His answer: Mess with the hitter’s timing. If that front foot heel comes down too early or too late, advantage pitcher.
So, what is the hitter’s strategy to stay on time? That’s what the on-deck circle is for. Take a look at pro hitters and see them trying to get their timing down before they step in the box. And make sure that when the heel plants you are balanced. Don’t lean back. Don’t get out over your front side. Take another look at Ryan Braun’s picture for a textbook shot of what a hitter should look like prior to the swing. If you were expecting gas (fastball) and got Uncle Charley (off speed) as long as you are balanced with good posture and your hands haven’t leaked forward, you can still drive the ball.
Hitting is about constant adjustment and nothing is more critical and ever changing than proper timing. “Pop and glide, pop and glide. See the ball before you stride” is an old timers’ verse to remind hitters that the foot comes down as the ball is in flight. Still good advice.
Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”