If you tried to learn how to bat from watching a major league baseball game, you might get confused. You’d be left wondering if you should almost do the splits like some players or emulate other players who hold their bat like a gladiator’s sword, pointing at the pitcher from over their head. But when you break down hitting, there are some basic fundamentals that almost all hitters share. What are the fundamentals of hitting a baseball?
The fundamentals of hitting a baseball are the batter’s grip, loading the swing, keeping the head still, keeping eyes on the ball, driving hips forward, keeping the back elbow bent on contact with the ball, and the follow-through of the swing.
Although these are the basic fundamentals of hitting that all beginners should be aware of, it’s also helpful for experienced hitters to review the fundamentals of hitting a baseball so they can improve their technique. In this article, we’ll cover those 7 fundamentals in-depth as well as go over the 4 high-level steps of hitting a baseball.
This article is one part of a guide on baseball fundamentals. Read my complete guide on breaking down every baseball fundamental for every position.
7 Fundamentals Of Hitting A Baseball
Hitting a baseball is a transfer of energy. The less energy lost during the swing, the more power that’s fed into the ball.
A player with less muscle can still outhit stronger players if they have excellent mechanics. These players are efficient machines, wasting little energy as they snap their hips, keeping their bodies aligned, and using physics as the core of their power. Let’s go over what each of those fundamentals are for hitting.
1) Gripping the Bat
Palm to palm is the strongest hand position to make contact in a swing. How you align your knuckles at the start when you grip the bat will determine if you have the correct hand positioning at contact.
Players will develop different grips as they gain more experience, but a good starting place is to have your middle knuckles aligned on both hands. With this grip, you should be able to lift both of your pointer fingers and point directly toward the sky.
To assess your grip, take some half swings, stopping where you’d make contact (a tee will provide an easy reference point).
When you are stopped, check your hands and shoulders.
- Are your hands palm up and palm down?
- Right-handed batters should have their right palm facing up and their left palm facing down
- Are your shoulders straight or tilted (do you want some tilt)?
Experiment with your starting grip and see if that impacts your final position at contact. Squeezing too hard can lock the wrists, throwing off alignment. Instead, you want a firm but relaxed grip. Also, some find they need to tweak their knuckle alignment slightly at the start in order to achieve palm to palm at contact. Make tiny adjustments until you find your best positioning.
Some players also prefer to use batting gloves to help with their grip. Not all players like batting gloves, but players who prefer to wear batting gloves like the extra grip and protection they offer.
If you’re in the market for batting gloves, I recommend looking at the high-quality batting gloves made by Bruce Bolt. Learn more about the current price of Bruce Bolt batting gloves at Scheels or learn more about why Bruce Bolt batting gloves are worth the cost.
2) The Loading Phase
The loading phase is why baseball players lift their leg when hitting. There is a transfer of power to a hit that begins by initially moving away from the pitcher. The front of the hitter lifts up slightly as the power is loaded to the back leg. The player should have weight on the ball of the back foot, heel slightly up.
A heel drop or strike from the front leg can help with the timing of the load up, ensuring an explosive movement. Others subscribe to the “hop,” which can be a slight movement, a simple tap from the front foot to transfer the energy to the back leg. However, more dramatic kick-ups from the front can lead to wasted energy and a late swing.
3) Keeping Your Head Still
The head needs to remain balanced between your two feet, even during the transfer. Your head also needs to align with the back knee and hip. If your head falls forward, power is lost.
4) Keep Your Eyes on The Ball
Literally seeing the ball make contact with the bat is near impossible, but the fundamental principle remains as this prevents the head from swinging. The main power of a swing is from the hips and shoulders. Taking your eyes off the ball throws off the rotation and balance of the rest of the body. Thus, you lose power.
A trick that some players use to make better contact with the ball is to look at the inner half of the baseball. Some players find that looking at the inner half of the baseball allows them to hit the ball on the sweet spot of the bat more often.
5) Driving the Hips Forward
The hips are the main drive of a swing. As the back leg feeds energy upwards into the body, it’s the hips’ snap that twists the power into an effective swing. Power is lost if the shoulders lead and bring the hands forward before the hips.
A good way to stop this is to hold a pipe or a pole, touching the ground. Grip the pole where your hands would be if holding a bat. Make sure the bottom of the pole remains planted in the ground and the pole is straight. Now load up, using a heel strike, then drive the hips. If the top of the pole begins to lean in, your hands are moving too soon.
Your aim is to practice the starting snap and keep the pole upright without leaning. The hips’ initial load up and snap should happen with the hands still back. It’s a quick, sharp movement that precedes the rest of the swing. This fraction of delay of the hands, using the hips first, provides power to the swing.
6) Back Elbow is Bent and Close to Body
The back elbow should be bent, but firm, and along the body’s side at the point of contact with the ball. Power and leverage are lost the further the elbow drifts from the side of the body. A bent elbow will have greater torque, collecting the energy from your swing and driving it into the ball.
7) Following Through the Swing
It is tempting not to care about a swing after contact with the ball has been made, but the extension and follow-through at the end of your swing ensure power is not lost. In addition, the follow-through teaches your body balance and how to hold proper form throughout the swing. Lack of extension and follow-through risk losing power just before contact is made.
Hitting is a fast motion, and our brains are slow. So even though the extension is happening after the ball has been hit, the brain is behind. Thus, thinking forwards beyond the contact trains the brain and body to maintain balance and position. This ensures that the power at contact is at its maximum.
4 Steps to Hitting a Baseball
Sometimes it helps to understand hitting at a higher level. What are the 4 steps to hitting a baseball?
In baseball, the four steps to hitting are the stance, stride, toe touch, and the swing. Each batter may have a different variation for how they approach each step, but all batters must go through each of these steps to successfully hit a baseball.
It is within these four steps that the fundamentals of hitting a baseball can be found. And within these four steps, we can break these down into 7 fundamentals of hitting a baseball that are outlined above.
The stance is where people observe a lot of differences, especially when watching Major League players bat. Some players are standing pretty tall whereas others have a wide and low crouch. For most players, the legs will be somewhat aligned with the shoulders, like the player is in the ready position.
There is still some variation you may notice as you see players take their stride, but the variations tighten up. During the stride, the weight transfers like a slingshot getting ready to fire. Some players have dramatic pre-swing approaches which use a lot of energy. Others keep it to a gentle rock back, with a slight turning of the knee.
The Toe Touch
The toe touch is where players truly begin to look similar. This is where the front leg of the batter firms up, like a brace, ready to fire the swing.
The swing is initiated by the hips, shoulders, and hands following, as the back foot on its toe is pivoting, head balanced halfway between both feet, as the eyes stay on the ball.
The fundamentals of hitting a baseball are in the details. But these easily overlooked positions, alignments, and energy transfers come together to bring power. Breaking the movements down and reviewing them will help you fine-tune your swing into a more consistent and powerful connection.