It seems like everywhere I turn I keep hearing the hitting mechanics advice urging hitters to keep their front foot closed during the baseball swing. If you want to destroy your bat speed, obliterate your hip rotation, and generally mess up your ability to hit with any type of force, then yes, keep your front foot closed through your swing. If you want to imitate what all professional hitters do, then it’s time to dig a little deeper into MLB hitting mechanics.
Here is what we’re up against. Browse through the following information. At face value, all of the instructors look credible enough. Most are I’m sure to some extent. However, read and watch what they have to say regarding the positioning of the front foot through the swing.
Below quote taken from: http://baseballteaching.com/baseball-tips-on-hitting-should-be-mostly-about-you/
“When swinging, keep the front shoulder and front hip closed! The baseball hitting is not taking place by your third base coach if you are a right-handed hitter or by your first base coach if you are a left-handed hitter. Not staying “closed” is a recipe for disaster. If you do not keep your front side “closed,” three very negative things will occur that will prevent you from being efficient at baseball hitting:”
“The Batter Uses the Front Leg as Leverage to Generate Maximum Bat Speed. -- What is leverage in the baseball swing? Why is leverage important? How is leverage generated? Leverage in a baseball swing is a resistance point or stationary object that stops forward movement. The front foot acts as the lever and provides leverage to the swing. For this leverage to occur the batter must allow the ball pass front foot. The front foot should be closed with the toes pointed toward the plate to supply maximum leverage to the swing. This leverage is the force against which the batter rotates the hips against.”
Below quote taken from: http://www.corrarobaseball.com/hitting.htm
“Soft Step -- Once you have started your load take a small soft step with your front foot. This should be straight towards the pitcher and only a few inches. Keep your front foot closed. Draw a line or make one with tape and keep your feet on it throughout the swing.”
All of the above promote hitting mechanics that keep your front foot closed through the entire swing. Let me demonstrate why this is so detrimental to your hitting mechanics by explaining how energy and bat speed are created in a baseball swing.
Good hitters at the same time their weight is shifting onto the back leg will choose to take a small step with the front foot towards the pitcher. This stride is a timing mechanism and will help the hitter during the next step in the swing process. (Some hitters choose to leave the stride out, that’s fine too). The stride should be soft and emphasis placed on the front foot landing gently on the ground. Note that the weight of the hitter remains on his back side of his body even after the front foot has landed. At this point, it’s important to land with the front foot pointing towards the plate, or even a little open towards the pitcher. Ted Williams landed slightly open with his stride foot and did just fine. The main focus of your front side hitting mechanics shouldn’t be your foot anyway. The slight rotation inward of the front hip is far more important than the foot. More on this below.
The trigger with the back side hip and leg is the first aggressive movement in a hitter’s swing. All of the energy stored in the back leg from the weight shift begins to be transferred into momentum beginning with the back side. This powerful movement creates much needed energy from the back side of the body and allows the hitter to begin a solid swing. The more energy transferred forward, the more weight the front side has to control. During the rotation the hips begin to open. This important step will help launch the hands and bat through the zone. You will notice in the video clips below that the hips opening precludes the front foot opening. In other words, the front foot opening is the end result of fundamentally correct hitting mechanics. Because of this, the front foot opening or closing during the swing is a no teach. It’s unnecessary to place time and energy working on it. If enough energy is being transferred into the pitch from the hitter, you may see the front foot twist all the way open towards the pitcher. Is this bad? Of course not, it’s good hip rotation.
Many may argue that if a hitter opens the foot it is poor hitting mechanics because he is pulling off the baseball. The end result being that the hitter will have a tough time staying through the hitting zone. This is just poor understanding of hitting mechanics. Spinning off the baseball occurs because inexperienced hitters have a tough time keeping their upper half under control when the hips begin to open. Opening the chest to the pitcher too soon will result in this spinning motion. The hands will stray from the body and the swing will be out of control and inconsistent. Because this hitting mechanics flaw is often tough to see as a coach, the front foot many times takes the fall for being the cause. Resist this diagnosis and rest assured that most hitting mechanics issues can be found in the core area functioning of any hitter. More on this spinning off the ball in another article later.
As you can see from the above pics, there are variations where hitters front foot rotates to during a swing. Some of this rotation is dictated by the location of a pitch. Inside pitches are tougher to get to since hip rotation has to be early in order to arrive in the contact zone in front of the plate. Remember, the more hip rotation, the more the front foot will open.
Now, take a look at the moving clips below and notice how the front foot is forced open by correct and powerful hitting mechanics.
Notice how as Soriano’s hitting mechanics bring energy forward into the pitch (not much weight on back foot on contact) that his hips begin to rotate first and the front foot opens afterwards. But it is clear that with this much energy being used it would be impossible for him to keep his front foot closed through the entire swing.
This clip of Albert Pujols is a great display of baseball hitting mechanics. You see much the same here as in the Soriano clip. Pujols brings some serious momentum into the pitch by how his foot leaves the ground at contact. Because of this force, his front foot will rotate nearly on its outside after contact is made.
This clip is the great Mickey Mantle. You’ll notice something a bit different with his landing compared to the Soriano and Pujols clips. Watch closely how Mantle lands with his front foot. His toe is pointing towards second base. If we went solely based on the information presented in the first part of this article, this is poor hitting mechanics. We now know that it’s just fine. The reason Mantle was able to hit so well is that you’ll notice his hips are still closed when his foot lands. The black of his belt is facing home plate, even though his toe is open.
Here is an example of a heal lift. Jim Edmonds chose to do away with a stride, however as his heal hits, his toe is opened slightly. I had mentioned earlier that inward hip rotation should be emphasized while you are working on your hitting mechanics instead of your front toe. Take a look at his front hip right before his front heal drops. You’ll see that he rotates his hips inward which provides him some added torque and helps bat speed. Then his hips open early which bring his hands through the hitting zone.
This last picture of Aaron Rowand demonstrates a front foot rotation up onto the heal. Again, this is a style issue and the end result of power hitting mechanics performed in sequence. Rowand generates a massive amount of force into the baseball and consequently creates a ton of power. The hip rotation you see here pulls his front foot open. He doesn’t spin off the baseball like many of the closed toe proponents preach. This is because he has kept his hands back while his hips are opening. Can you imagine Rowand keeping his front toe closed with the amount of force he brings into the pitch? Not a chance, nor would he want to.
The introductory information taken from various websites claim that if the front foot opens any power you have will be lost because your body will be in a different spot from where the actual baseball hitting is taking place. This of course doesn’t make any sense based upon the above video clips. The opening of the foot is the end result of the power created in the hip rotation.
Many also claim that low and away pitches will be tough to hit since the hitters body will be pulling away from the plate. Again, the reason a hitter would pull off pitches is NOT because of a front foot that is opened, but because of the upper body that opens too much with the hips. This will pull the hands away from the body and will result in a sweeping motion through the strike zone. This long swing has little to do with a front foot that is not squared to home plate.
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