How To Stay Closed When Hitting

Free hitting module

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.

Be sure to share this hitting module with a fellow parent or baseball enthusiast.

Our hitting program is designed to help a hitter to stay closed.

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.

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.

Stay through the baseball: Staying through the baseball occurs directly after contact is made. It basically implies that the hitter does not roll over on the baseball just after contact is made and the bat head continues on a path toward the pitcher and not pulled directly to the hitter’s pull side. The following drill is great for teaching a hitter to stay through the baseball.

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

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.

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.

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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