In my Little League days, one of the most common pieces of advice I heard from coaches was to choke up on the bat. This advice was especially common when a player had two strikes on them. Looking back, what I find interesting is that this piece of advice seemed to be reiterated less and less as I progressed through more advanced baseball leagues. So recently I started looking around for an answer to the question “does choking up on the bat help?”
In short, choking up on the bat helps players have better bat control, increases their bat speed, and prevents players from getting jammed. Choking up on the bat is also a strategy many players use to put the ball in play when they have two strikes in the count.
Although choking up on the bat has its benefits, it’s also not for every player.
Choking Up On the Bat Is a Strategy For Getting the Ball Into Play
Although not as common today, choking up on the bat to put the ball in play is still a strategy used by baseball players. In fact, even some Major League baseball players still use this as a strategy. As an example, below is a quick clip where Anthony Rizzo choked up on the bat in order to put the ball in play.
In the instance above, Rizzo had two strikes on him and he noticed a large hole in the defense. In order to hit the ball in that defensive hole, he choked up on the bat to allow himself to have more control.
For some players, using the strategy of choking up on the bat means they are willing to sacrifice power for more control over their bat as well as more control over where they hit the ball.
If you have practiced this batting approach as much as Anthony Rizzo has, then choking up on the bat to put the ball in play is a great way to get on base – especially when you already have two strikes.
Choking Up On the Bat Makes the Bat Lighter
Choking up on the bat an inch or two will make the bat lighter and help increase bat speed. Choking up on the bat more than two inches will still make the bat lighter, but your at-bat will not be as effective as if you only choked up an inch or two.
Choking up too much on the bat will decrease the amount of whip a hitter can get from their bat, which also decreases the amount of power a hitter can get from their swing.
When choking up on the bat, there is a balancing act that players need to work on to make sure they are making the bat lighter, increasing the amount of control they have over their bat, and still being able to generate power from whipping their bat through the strike zone.
In order to get better at hitting while choking up on the bat players will need to practice. As a general rule of thumb for those who are just learning how to choke up on the bat, try not to choke up more than two inches on the bat. This will help get you used to the feel of swinging the bat while choking up.
Eventually, you can experiment with how far up or down you’re choking up on the bat and find a place that’s the most comfortable for you.
Choking Up On the Bat Prevents Players from Getting Jammed
One reason players like to choke up on the bat is to prevent the chances of them getting jammed on an inside pitch. Now, choking up on the bat isn’t a full-proof, 100% guaranteed way to prevent yourself from getting jammed, but it is a great place to start if you find yourself getting jammed a lot.
The reason choking up on the bat helps prevent players from getting jammed is not only because it makes the bat lighter, but it also helps players shorten their swing. When a player’s swing is shortened, there is less of a chance of them getting jammed on a pitch.
This is also one of the reasons that Barry Bonds liked to choke up on the bat – he hated getting jammed.
So if you’re a player who finds himself getting jammed on a regular basis, try choking up on the bat a bit and see if that will help cut down on some of those jammed swings. Getting jammed is never fun so it’s usually good to experiment with different batting strategies to find a way to barrel the ball more frequently.
Barry Bonds Always Choked Up On His Bat
The record-holding home run hitter of all-time, Barry Bonds, always choked up on the bat. Below is an interview he gave on why he always choked up on the bat.
In short, Barry Bonds explains how he has always choked up on the bat. As a little kid, all he had to swing with was the normal-sized baseball bats because there weren’t any smaller bats while he was growing up.
He also explains how he doesn’t like getting jammed and if he was going to get jammed, then choking up allows him to get jammed while the barrel of the bat hits the ball.
So for Barry Bonds, he grew up being used to always choking up on the bat. It was more of a comfort thing for him, but it is something that also allowed him to have more control over the bat, get more power into his swing, and prevent himself from getting jammed.
Does Choking Up Decrease Power?
One of the common questions batters wonder about is if choking up decreases power.
In general, choking up decreases batting power because most hitters use this method of hitting to simply get the ball in play. When held correctly, choking up increases batting power due to more bat speed through the strike zone.
As briefly mentioned above, Barry Bonds is the all-time home run leader and he always choked up on the bat. For him, choking up on the bat allowed him to have more control over his bat while still being able to generate power with his increased bat speed.
So if the all-time home run leader liked to choke up on the bat, then choking up on the bat doesn’t necessarily mean that your batting power will also decrease.
Although, just because this strategy worked for Barry Bonds, it does not mean it also works for everyone else. Each player will need lots of practice to figure out what batting grip is the most comfortable for them in each situation.
Some players like the feel of not choking up on the bat because they feel like they will hit the ball further while some players like to choke up on the bat because they think the bat speed will make them hit the ball further. In either case, the correct answer is to go with the grip you’re the most comfortable with.
Why Do Batters Choke Up With Two Strikes?
Choking up on the bat with two strikes is a strategy that is getting used less and less often as time goes on. Although, some players still prefer to choke up with two strikes.
Batters will choke up with two strikes because they are focusing on putting the ball in play. Choking up on the bat allows batters to have more control over their bat so they can increase their chances of making contact with the pitch and decrease their chances of striking out.
This is a strategy that can work for some players, but on the other hand, there are plenty of players who do not like to have two different types of swings when they are at the plate.
So, choking up on the bat when there are two strikes is really a preference of the batter. If they think it will increase their chances of getting on base, batters will choke up on the bat. If they think it will increase their chances of striking out, then they will opt to use their normal swing.