I’m sure you’ve noticed how during batting practice a hitter can naturally stay inside and hit more balls from gap to gap and, when the game starts, the direction of where he hits balls may be slightly different.
Granted, facing a pitcher during a live game is much different than batting practice, due to velocity, movement, and location of pitches, but for the sake of this article, we feel justified in comparing them. If you did a comparison scan chart of 100 games, charting where a hitter hit balls during BP and where he hit balls in games, it might be surprising to see a slightly different dispersion pattern between the two.
Here is a possible explanation.
There is something we call a hitter’s natural swing — that is, the way he swings under circumstances when every muscle in his body is relaxed. This is his swing during soft toss and batting practice when nothing is on the line. It represents his most natural swing. It represents a swing that can be repeated almost to the minutest detail over and over again.
If an average or less than average hitter takes 100 swings during BP and we were to compare it to 100 of his swings during a game, you would probably find the game swings are not consistently the same as during BP. You will not find as tight a dispersion pattern among the swings during the game. There will be more different elements during the game swing. Perhaps you will see a slightly different stride, or the hands at a different angle at impact or different degrees of balance at the end of the swing. He may not stay inside as long, or the differences may be so slight that you would need a frame-by-frame slow motion video to see them. But they would be there.
Because the same swing is not being repeated over and over again, we may conclude that this is not his natural swing, but a swing that is happening under duress.
Now, this is where it gets interesting.
If we notice a different ball flight and different direction dispersion pattern during a game versus BP, then we can conclude that a batter does not have his natural swing during a game. If he does not have his natural swing during a game, that means he will not be able to consistently repeat it over and over again. That is, there will always be slight differences in how he swings. It may be a very slight difference, but when he is generating tremendous bat speed, that slight difference may mean all the difference in the world. In other words, he will not be able to repeat simplicity, over and over again.
Now let's take two major league hitters. Let’s fast forward to the end of the season.
One batter is hitting .350 on the year and the other is hitting .250. Let’s say that hypothetically we could look at every swing these two batters took in BP and every swing they took in a live game. And let’s say we could draw a dispersion chart that shows two elements — one would be all the elements of the swing during BP and one would be all the elements of the swing during a live game. And let’s say we could compare these two charts for each hitter that would enable us to identify two things: 1. How much different was the BP swing to the game swing. 2. How wide a range of swings occurred during a live game. In other words, how consistently was the hitter able to reproduce the identical swing during a game?
Which hitter do you think would come out on top? Which hitter do you think would have a similar pattern to his ball flight and direction when comparing BP to a live game? The answer is obvious. What is not so obvious is how to take a natural swing that is effortlessly produced in BP and reproduce that swing in a live game. If we were able to do that, do you think the .250 hitter would be hitting a lot closer to .350 by the end of the season?
That is what we teach.