Pop And Glide, See The Ball Before You Stride
So, I’m sitting here at beautiful Goodyear Ballpark watching the Reds and Indians and, of course, proudly displaying my Reds Baseball Camp hat and golf shirt. My unapologetic logo display often leads to a conversation and this day was no exception.
A dad and his son wanted my opinion on hitter’s timing…specifically asking when the stride occurs. I am a huge believer that bat accuracy and timing are the most important and the most difficult components of the swing so this was a conversation I welcomed. Truth is, I welcome pretty much any conversation about baseball and softball, but I really like this one.
If you’ve been around coaching for a while you may have heard the expression, “When the pitcher shows you his pocket, you show yours.” That’s a pretty good visual meant to describe the timing of the pitcher lifting his stride leg and the hitter assuming the load-stride phase of the swing. In general, that’s solid advice but I think it’s flawed. Let me explain.
Take a look at this photo of Joey Votto and note that the ball is in flight and Joey’s leg has yet to land.
Pretty clear evidence that the plant foot comes down as the ball is coming at the hitter. Just last night I watched hitter after hitter in the Reds and Rockies game prove my point. If we step too early, the “kinetic chain” is broken and power will be lost…a bad thing. If the stride heel plants a fraction of a second before the swing is launched, there is a maximum transfer of power…a good thing.
So, here’s my problem with the “pocket-showing” strategy. It doesn’t take into account that (a) not every pitcher’s delivery is the same. Some guys are slower to the plate (think about Johnny Cueto) and (b) not every pitch is delivered at the same speed. Clearly, if the first guy you face is throwing 60 and the second guy is throwing 80, using the back pocket as the timing trigger will almost certainly cause a break in that kinetic chain…a bad thing.
It is better to be early than late but our goal should be to get the front side down on time. If anyone questions that just ask any pitcher what he’s trying to do to the hitter. His answer: Mess with the hitter’s timing. If that front foot heel comes down too early or too late, advantage pitcher.
So, what is the hitter’s strategy to stay on time? That’s what the on-deck circle is for. Take a look at pro hitters and see them trying to get their timing down before they step in the box. And make sure that when the heel plants you are balanced. Don’t lean back. Don’t get out over your front side. Remember this photo of Jay Bruce? Look at how balanced he is in this picture.
So, if you were expecting gas (fastball) and got Uncle Charley (off speed) as long as you are balanced with good posture and your hands haven’t leaked forward, you can still drive the ball.
Hitting is about constant adjustment and nothing is more critical and ever changing than proper timing. “Pop and glide, pop and glide. See the ball before you stride” is an old timers’ verse to remind hitters that the foot comes down as the ball is in flight. Still good advice.
Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”