The following baseball hitting article teaches everything you need to know about flying open (how to stay closed) when swinging. Along with mental advice, mechanics and drills to fix this common hitting mistake.
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.
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.
#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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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:
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.
[+] Is crucial for staying through the baseball as it allows the upper body to be in a good hitting posture
[+] Speeds up the rest of your swing as the back foot will complete its rotation faster
[+] 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
[+] 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.
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.
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.
Everything in the ALL-STAR PLAN plus step 5 of The Complete Hitting System: