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Tried and True ways to shorten a hitters' slump

When I was 16 years old, I was at a Georgia Tech hitting camp and I was awarded “best hitting” mechanics in the camp. At the time, I was in the midst of a competitive summer baseball season where I was mired in an 0-20 slump!


I found great irony in the fact that the coaches at the camp who saw me performing in drills and non game situations saw my swing as mechanically correct yet I hadn’t safely hit in 5 days! That was the time in my life that I realized that great mechanics in practice do not necessarily equate to hits in a live game situation.


As I sputtered through the slump I received so much advice from so many people on what I was doing wrong…… all the advice I received related to some mechanical tweak people thought I should be making to end my slump. With every tidbit of advice received, I became more overwhelmed, confused, and lost in my swing…….so what did I do? I decided to try to bunt my way on base!


As a coach, ask yourself, when your hitters struggle, are you making mechanical recommendations they should try to end their slump? Here’s a tried and true piece of advice:


DON’T!


At least don’t at 1st! Chances are, mechanics are NOT your hitters’ problem! As hitting coaches, we have the unique advantage of watching hitters hit in the game in real time, whereas a swing coach who just gives lessons typically doesn’t get to see players hit in a live game environment. As opposed to making mechanical recommendation as swing coaches often do, use the live game performances of the hitter to help you try the following 1st instead:


1. Make sure your hitter has a body tempo (stride and separation) that they can repeat on each swing.

  • a. Body tempo is important and if it is not repeatable, that throws off both kinetics and timing, and makes it difficult to consistently make solid contact.

  • b. IF your hitter has great tempo, be sure that your hitter is using this tempo IN GAME. This is the time to break out your video camera to review tempo in regards to what the pitcher is doing.

2. If the hitters in game tempo is correct, evaluate the hitters timing on live pitches in the game.


a. 95% of all slumps I have witnessed are because a hitter simply is not synchronizing their tempo properly with the pitcher and they are either early or late.


b. Use video to prove the truth, hitters need to see, not hear!


c. SYNCHRONIZATION CANNOT BE LEARNED OFF A TEE AND CANNOT BE LEARNED PROPERLLY WITH FRONT TOSS!

  • 1. TIMING IS A LEARNED SKILL AND CAN BE TAUGHT. As referenced in the post “Great BP pitcher? Give him a raise”, changing speeds in practice and doing live speed BP is essential for building this skill.

  • 2. Begin your live BP by letting hitters know what pitches they will be practicing against. Hitters should use a swing intensity that allows them to swing smoothly and with proper kinetics.

Usually step 2 almost assuredly ends a slump but if not, a hitting coach can proceed to step 3.


3. Check to see if your hitter is using vision properly or worse yet, check to see if your hitter needs corrective lenses.


a. Is the hitter seeing the ball out of the hand

  1. Colored ball drill to test eye-path

b. Is the hitter staring too long at a spot and losing visual clarity and focus – CHECK out the book Mental game of baseball and read the chapter on broad focus vs. fine focus.


c. Does your hitter need corrective lenses?

  1. I coached a hitter who was in denial of having a vision issue his senior year. Upon his freshman physical at the University he attended, it was determined that corrective lenses were needed. This hitter was finally able to perform to his potential and had a great college and MLB career thereafter.

Unfortunately, early in my coaching career my experience was all I knew so I did many of the same things with hitters that were done with me. When my hitters were in slumps, I recommended mechanical changes they should try and quite frankly, I am pretty sure the majority of the recommendations did not work because most of the time the hitter would say “that’s uncomfortable” and then resort back to what he or she previously did and eventually the slump would end. Listen to your hitters! IF their swing is kinetically sound don’t try to change it!


I bunted my way out of my slump because EVERYTHING I TRIED WAS UNCOMFORTABLE. In hindsight, I was trying to take my kinetically and mechanically sound swing and simply force a change for change sake. What I should have been doing is working with my timing. Help your hitter to be comfortable by being on time and you will see the slump end shortly thereafter!



About the author: Coach Turco is a 5 time state champion hitting coach who coaches a nationally recognized high school program in Marietta, Ga. Coach Turco publishes the blog “State Championship Hitting” and posts work samples on twitter @championhitter

statechampionshiphitting@gmail.com

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