WHY IS PULLING OFF THE BASEBALL SO BAD?

Rotational hitting, linear hitting — who cares! Unless a hitter is able to stay closed and keep his head on the baseball, then it doesn’t matter what hitting school, he subscribes to — he will not succeed.

Pulling off the baseball is still the number 1 cause of outs in baseball at all levels of the game…period!

If you ever watch a major league hitter get out, the majority of the time he will be rolling over on a pitch on the outside edge of the plate — this is considered, pulling off the baseball. And it happens all the way from little league to the big leagues!

Now that we have your attention — we hope that the following article will help you understand the concept of staying closed and what tools you can use to prevent a hitter from flying open too early in his swing.

If you take one thing away from this article — then let it be keep hitting simple. Focus on the basics, don’t get caught up in over-complicated hitting theories. Focus on a simple head down/opposite field approach and good things will happen.

The Red Hat Drill is a simple hitting drill for teaching a hitter to stay though the baseball, keep his head down and front side closed.
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THE ROLE OF THE FRONT SHOULDER DURING A BASEBALL SWING

Pay special attention to the head movement within the following sequence of images — you will note that the head remains still throughout the entire swing. This is essential for keeping the front shoulder closed.

Click the circles to view next image

One of the most common flaws with a baseball swing at all levels of the game is “flying open” or “pulling off the baseball”. Flying open or pulling off the baseball occurs when the front shoulder releases too early during the initial stages of the baseball swing. There are many reasons why flying open is detrimental to a baseball swing — and they include:

  • When the front shoulder flies open the head and eyes will follow. One of the most well known phrases in baseball is “you can’t hit what you can’t see”. Flying open is the number 1 cause for strike outs and ground ball outs!
  • Flying open causes the bat head to drop, thus increasing the likelihood of a pop up, foul ball, weak ground ball or a complete swing and miss.
  • When the front shoulder opens up prematurely, it’s virtually impossible to generate any type of power with a pitch on the outside corner of home plate.
  • Flying open leads to an ugly swing. There is nothing worse than watching a baseball swing where the hitter is flying open with the front shoulder and pulling his head off the baseball.

flying-open

TOP REASONS A HITTER PULLS OFF THE BASEBALL

  • Bad hitting approach: If a hitter is over-swinging or attempts to pull every pitch he will have a tendency to fly open with the front side. It is vital a hitter stays relaxed, within himself and focused on hitting the ball to the middle of the baseball field.
  • Not staying through the baseball once contact has been made: If a hitter rolls over on the baseball directly after contact then he will most likely hit a weak ground ball to his pull side. It is vital that a hitter does not roll over at the point of contact and stays through the baseball.
  • Lack of confidence: If a hitter does not have confidence in his swing, he will try to cheat by flying open too early. This is especially true if the hitter believes that he cannot hit the inside fastball or is not seeing the baseball out of the pitcher’s hand.
  • Not seeing the baseball: If a hitter has problems seeing the baseball out of the pitcher’s hand, he will more than likely fly open to try and compensate for not seeing the ball.
  • Hitter’s anxiety: If a hitter is anxious or “jumpy” there will be a tendency to rush the swing, which can cause the front shoulder to fly open.
  • The hitter may step in the bucket. Stepping away from the plate will cause the rest of the body to fly open.
  • Front foot lands open during the stride to the baseball: If the front foot is open when it lands, the rest of the body will follow. Tee drill is great for teaching the correct technique for a soft & short stride.

THE NUMBER ONE BATTING AVERAGE KILLER

 

The following is a quote from our article The Top 10 Batting Average Killers

 

#1- Flying open: Flying open too early with the front shoulder is a guaranteed batting average killer, releasing the front shoulder too early will likely result in a swing and miss, foul ball, weak ground ball or pop up! It is vital that the hitter lets the ball travel deep in the hitting zone before he releases his front shoulder to attack the baseball.

 

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GET OFF THE BACK HEEL

 

The back foot can be a great indicator for a hitter that is pulling off the baseball, dipping or late with his swing. If a hitter is not getting onto the balls of his back foot as the front foot lands then this will cause issues with the rest of the swing.

 

 

[+] Getting off the heel helps the body to get into a balanced athletic position — ready to hit
[+] Getting off the heel of your back foot speeds up the rest of your swing as the back foot will complete its rotation faster
[+] Getting off the heel prevents pulling off the baseball as apposed to hitting off a flat back foot, where the hitter will have a tendency to spin off the baseball
[+] Getting off the heel prevents dipping — if a hitter is flat footed then his weight will be forced onto his back side thus causing too much dipping action

 

It is very difficult to break down this aspect of a baseball swing with isolation drills as it occurs dynamically within the constraints of a real time swing. Just be aware that when a hitter plants his front foot that he should be in a 50/50 athletic position and on the balls of his feet.

Back Foot Rotation Baseball Swing

TIPS TO PREVENT PULLING OFF THE BASEBALL

Have a good hitting approach: The best way to deal with flying open is to practice hitting the baseball to the opposite field. By focusing on the task of hitting the baseball to the non-pull side the hitter will naturally stay closed with his front side. This is the beauty of the opposite field approach, this effective hitting approach should be used in practice and during the game.

Ensure the hitter is getting in the Locked In Position: this is where the front shoulder engages under the chin just as the front foot hits the ground. The Locked In Position comes directly after the load and stride phases of the swing and is where the hitter makes his final decision on whether to 100% commit to his baseball swing.

Self-Analysis. As a hitter becomes more experienced, he can feel when he is pulling off the baseball. Good hitters can make an adjustment during batting practice or even a live at bat in a game. When a hitter is able to recognize that he is flying open, he has the ability to step out of the batter’s box and use internal dialogue to tell himself to stay closed and focus on hitting the baseball up the middle or to the opposite field. As stated before, focusing on hitting the baseball up the middle or to the opposite field is by far the most effective hitting tool for staying closed. For example, if you see a Major League hitter on TV step out of the box and tap his leg, there is a good chance that he his telling himself to stay closed, stay back, relax and see the baseball. Tapping a body part or looking at focal points, such as the label on your baseball bat are common cues that help remind a baseball hitter of an important hitting technique that they should follow.

MORE HITTING DRILLS

  • Tee drills can teach a short/closed stride. A hitter that flies open during tee drill will be exposed, as when he flies open his bat head will drop and he will hit the tee or hit a weak pop up.
  • Bottom hand hitting drills can teach a hitter to keep his front side closed. If a hitter opens up during this drill he will foul the ball off or hit a weak ground ball. This hitting drill can be executed by shortening up on a normal sized bat or by purchasing a small purpose-built baseball bat.
  • Front toss batting drills where the ball is thrown low and away will force a hitter to stay closed and go the other way. The only way a hitter can consistently hit the low and outside pitch is by staying closed and hitting the baseball to the opposite field.
  • Visual hitting drills, where the hitter works on picking up a pitcher’s release point. The release point is where the pitcher lets go of the baseball. The release point can vary from a pitcher’s ear, shoulder, or waist if you are facing a drop down submarine pitcher.
  • Mental training, can also help with flying open. When a hitter is confident in his own ability he is more likely to trust his swing and stay closed. Cognitive techniques can help with a hitter’s confidence. A hitter that is focused & positive will have the best chance of success.
  • Any type of opposite field hitting drill will teach a hitter to stay closed. It is virtually impossible to hit a baseball to the opposite field if the front side has opened up

WHAT THE EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY — RUSTY MCNAMARA

Two things, which is one thing… Hit through the ball and stay in your legs. Young hitters can’t hit THROUGH the ball without an athletic, balanced base (lower half). Anybody can make contact, but to maximize your opportunity for success a hitter must drive the barrel through the ball, not just to the ball but through it. Good leg positioning will allow the barrel to travel through the zone better.

High legged hitters (those that rise up and lock out their knees) have a tendency to really come off the ball and mis-hit balls too often. The swing becomes loopy, they have a hard time keeping their front shoulder in the swing, which directly affects their head, which really flies off and they end up looking into the pull side dugout. Not sure how you are supposed to hit a ball that is coming from the pitcher’s mound when you are looking in another direction. Yet hitters do it all the time. I truly believe that good leg positioning (staying in your legs) can solve many mechanical flaws in a hitter’s swing.

BASEBALL HITTING QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Question: Why do I pop up all the time when I swing at the baseball?

 

Answer: The main reasons for popping up all the time are; hitting the ball too far out in front, flying open too early with the front shoulder, dipping too much with the back shoulder, over-swinging and trying to pull every pitch. To fix this focus tracking the baseball deep in the hitting zone and focus on hitting line drives back up the middle or to the opposite field.

 

Question: How come I am always late when swinging at the fastball?

 

Answer: The main reasons a hitter is late when trying to hit a fastball include; too long of a baseball swing, jumping out at the baseball, not seeing the baseball out of the pitchers hand, not tracking the baseball, not getting the front foot down in time, slow reaction time, too much tension in the arms, swinging an over-sized bat, standing too close to home plate, trying to pull every pitch and flying open. To fix this focus on performing one hand hitting drills to shorten the baseball swing and our Cone Drill Series to ensure the hitter is not jumping out.

 

Question: Why do I keep striking out all the time?

 

Answer: The main reasons a hitter strikes out a lot include: Not seeing the baseball out of the pitchers hand, not keeping the head down throughout the entire swing, not tracking the baseball all the way down the hitting funnel, flying open with the front side, lack of a 2 strike hitting approach, poor hitting mechanics, jumping out a the baseball, nervousness, poor mental approach and bad pitch selection. To fix this work on a 2 strike hitting approach, work on staying relaxed and seeing the baseball out of the pitchers hand, let the baseball travel deep in the hitting zone, understand the opposite field hitting approach, learn how to shorten your baseball swing when needed, develop a positive mental hitting approach and learn how to sit on your pitch early in the hitting count. Understand how to clear your head in the batters box when you are thinking too much.

 

Question: How can I hit more home runs when hitting a baseball?

 

Answer: Trying to hit home runs is a very dangerous hitting approach, especially for young players. As silly as it may sound, the best way to hit more home runs is to try and hit the baseball back up the middle or to the opposite field. When a hitter is focused on hitting the baseball back up the middle and to the opposite field, he will naturally let the ball travel deep into the hitting zone, stay back and put a good swing on the baseball – and guess what? This is the time he is most likely to hit a home run. When a hitter mentally thinks home run, then most likely his entire swing will breakdown as he will pull off the baseball and not let the baseball travel.

 

Question: Should a hitter always swing at the first pitch he sees in an at bat?

 

Answer: For ages there have been arguments for and against a hitter swinging at the first pitch in an at bat. The answer to this question is dependent on a couple of factors; firstly, the game situation – secondly, how comfortable the hitter is batting against the pitcher on the mound.

 

There are certain times in a game where a hitter may think about seeing the first pitch of an at bat and these include, leading off an inning the first time through the line up, if the previous batter was a first pitch out, if the pitcher is wild and the team needs base runners, if the hitter is in a hitting slump and needs to work on tracking the baseball and if the hitter is continually swinging at bad pitches.

 

Situations where a hitter would be encouraged to swing at the first pitch fastball include; runners in scoring position, at bats later in the game where the hitter is comfortable in the box (2nd, 3rd time facing the same pitcher), if the pitcher is continually throwing first pitch fastball for a strike, if a hitter is on fire, if the hitter is talented/experienced enough to sit on a first pitch fastball in his spot and drive the ball for power.

 

Question: How can I develop a good batters eye at the plate when hitting a baseball?

 

Answer: A good eye at the plate is a crucial element to hitting a baseball with success. Being able to take tough pitches in certain hitting counts can help give the hitter to gain a competitive advantage at the plate. For example, if as a hitter I am able to recognize and take a tough slider for a fist pitch ball – then this sets me up for the entire at bat, instead of looking a 1 strike 0 ball count the hitter is now in a good 1 ball 0 strike “hitter’s count” where the pitcher will more than likely give the hitter a good pitch to hit.

 

Keys to developing a good batters eye at the plate include; discipline batting practice where the hitter only swings at strikes, standing in at home plate while a pitcher is throwing in the bull pen – the hitter can think to himself ball or strike on every pitch (work on tracking the baseball all the way out of the pitchers hand and into the catchers glove), learning how to correctly hold up your swing at the last minute, studying and watching a pitcher from the dugout to get an idea of his strike zone (is he consistently up or down in the zone?).

 

In a game the hitter should relax in the box (getting nervous will make a hitter jumpy and effect his vision), see the baseball out of the pitchers hand, track the baseball all the way down the hitting funnel, once it has reached the the bottom third of the funnel the hitter can then decide whether to swing or not. The further the hitter lets the ball travel the better chance he will have of deciphering a ball or a strike. Early in the count a hitter can “sit on his pitch” and take anything that is not in his comfort zone. And obviously the more at bats the player takes in his career the better he will get at picking balls and strikes.

Question: What is the best way to get of a baseball hitting slump?

 

Answer: Hitting slumps are a natural part of hitting, hence the common phrase – “You are either coming out of a hitting slump or getting into one”. The 2 main reasons for hitting slumps revolve around mechanical and mental issues.

 

Mechanical issues need to be picked up by the hitting coach (as the hitter can’t see himself hit in real-time) – if a hitter does not have an experienced hitting coach and is experiencing a hitting slump then the best solution is to keep the mechanics short and simple (reduce margin for error); Spread out and shorten the stride, shorten the load, shorten the swing and so on…When hitting off a tee or other performing hitting drills the hitter should focus on hitting the baseball to the opposite field, this will help to keep him closed, short and soft with the load.

 

However, the best way to get our of the hitting slump results in the hitter focusing on his mental approach, rather than his mechanics; Tracking the baseball out of the hitters hand, letting the baseball travel down the hitting funnel, staying back and closed by focusing on a good hitting approach (hitting the baseball back up the middle or to the opposite field), clearing the mind of any negative thoughts, focus on making good contact (not just getting hits), being patient by seeing more pitches in an at bat (not swinging at first pitch) and understanding that a walk is a good at bat.

 

If you analysed the spray chart of a hitter in a hitting slump the ratio of balls hit the the pull side as compared to the non-pull side would be around 9 (balls hit to pull side) to 1 (balls hit to non-pull side). When a hitter is locked in he is hitting the ball to all fields, in this case the ratio is approximately 5 (balls hit to pull side) to 5 (balls hit to non-pull side). This goes to show the importance of using a good hitting approach when trying to get out of a hitting slump.

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HITTING DRILLS

AROUND THE PLATE DRILL
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THE CONE DRILL SERIES
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THE FENCE DRILL SERIES
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HITTING ARTICLES

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Discover these simple yet effective hitting tools that are vital for teaching a kid to hit. View this article
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The Holy Grail of hitting is Oppo Boppo! Find out the top 7 keys to attacking the opposite filed. View this article
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The most common hitting flaw is pulling off the baseball. Find out how to fix this. View this article

About the author

Clinton Balgera: 15+ years of international baseball experience - MVP Junior College Div II World Series – Back to Back championships Grand Rapids Community College - Awarded full scholarship to the University of Indianapolis - Participated in the World University Games - Competed in Pro leagues in the U.S.A, Italy and Australia - Numerous National Championships and Batting Titles - Helms Award Winner (MVP) and Offensive Champion in the Australian Baseball League 2008 - Former Hitting Instructor for the ABL National Champion Perth Heat.


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