Unless a hitter is able to stay closed and keep his head on the baseball, then it doesn’t matter what else he does, — he will not succeed.
Pulling off the baseball is still the number 1 cause of outs in baseball at all levels of the game.
The majority of the time a hitter gets out, it is due to rolling over on a pitch on the outside part of the plate — this is considered “pulling off the baseball”. And it happens all the way from Little League to the Major Leagues.
The Hitting Project has developed The 5 Steps Of Hitting – designed to make you a complete hitter. Step 1: Visual and Step 2: Approach are of significant importance for those that wish to learn how to stop pulling off the baseball.
80% of the time, pulling off the baseball is not a mechanical issue (Step 4: Mechanics). It is generally a problem with not executing Step 1: Visual or Step 2: Approach of our 5 Steps Of Hitting. If a hitter has problems seeing the baseball (Step 1: Visual), he will fly open. If a hitter has a poor hitting approach and is trying to pull every pitch as opposed to hitting the baseball to the opposite field (Step 2: Approach), he will fly open.
Oftentimes, pulling off the baseball/flying open can be a fixed with these simple words, “Close your mind and open your eyes” (Step 1: Visual) – a 100% focus on seeing the baseball from the pitcher’s hand, combined with a clear mind (not thinking to try to pull the baseball) will help prevent a player from pulling off the baseball. This is because when he is focused only on seeing the baseball, he will let the ball travel, triggering his natural/reactive swing to take over – ultimately, this will help the hitter to perfectly time the release of his front shoulder.
The now famous Red Hat Drill was created by The Hitting Project to train a hitter to stay closed and to keep his head on the baseball. A hitter that is able to keep his head down at the point of contact will be less likely to fly open with his front shoulder. Likewise, a hitter that is focusing on hitting the baseball to the opposite field, is less likely to pull off the baseball. The Red Hat Drill trains both to keep the head down and to hit the baseball to the opposite field. This is a simple baseball hitting drill that can be done by kids as young as 6. Remember the number 1 rule of hitting, simple is best. The Red Hat Drill is part of our members only STAYING CLOSED HITTING PROGRAM (see more below).
Our Stay Closed Hitting Program designed to fix the most common hitting mistake – pulling off the baseball. Our simple yet innovative Stay Closed Hitting Program provides simple to follow drills to help a hitter to stay closed and to keep the head of the baseball. The Stay Closed Program uses the same approach as some of the best Major League hitters, delivered in a simple to understand format.
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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.
The back foot and back knee 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. Then once he decides to swing the back foot will complete it’s rotation, driving the back knee toward the ground.
[+] Getting off the back heel will assist the body to get into a balanced athletic position when he completes his stride and the front foot lands. When a hitter is on his back heel he will be less balance and as a result he will be slower to react to the pitch.
[+] It allows the hitter to get his back knee lower to the ground. The lower to the ground your back knee is the more chance you have to getting the barrel of the bat at a flat angle when it meets the baseball. The flatter the barrel angle the more chance you have of hitting for power. When a hitter does not rotate off his back heel then the back knee will be unable to get lower to ground.
[+] 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 reduces the chances of pulling off the baseball. when a hitter is hitting off a flat back foot, there is more chance of spinning off the baseball. When a hitter gets off his back heel, turns and drives his back knee toward the ground his body gets into a position that allows him to stay through the baseball better after the point of contact.
[+] Getting off the heel prevents over-dipping of the back shoulder — if a hitter is flat footed then his weight will be forced onto his back side thus causing too much dipping action. When a hitter over-dips with the back shoulder then he is more likely to pull off the baseball.
It is very difficult to practice this part 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. Find out more about Pillar 2: Approach
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. Find out more about Pillar 4: Mechanics
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. Find out more about Pillar 3: Mental
RECOMMENDED DRILLS TO DEAL WITH FLYING OPEN
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 out 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.