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Bat Speed: What It Is And How To Get It

Nov 4, 2007
The term "bat speed" is all the rage these days among players, coaches, instructors and parents alike. Everyone is searching for the "Holy Grail" of hitting...bat speed.

But wait, not so fast. Bat Speed is important, but a VERY generalized term. Let's break it down so you understand it and how to develop it...

When most people say "bat speed" they picture Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield or any MLB with world-class bat speed putting a hurting on a baseball. This is obviously the goal every hitter has. But please understand this is the end result, the culmination of hard work, being a student of the game and yes, of course, great genetics.

It's not like you can take your average high school player, add 5-10 mph on their bat speed and all of a sudden they are Manny Ramirez. It simply doesn't work that way. While you can argue that player would be better, he still would have average mechanics and vision.

Now, I do believe if you increase your bat speed you have a better shot at raking than if you didn't. It certainly gives you a leg up on the competition and allows for a certain amount of error, which as you know will help any hitter.

What I'm worried is bat speed is becoming like the radar gun for pitchers. Now all someone cares about is how fast their bat speed is on the bat radar machine. One question...Who cares?

Swinging as hard as you can in a cage without having to make contact with a ball has absolutely zero carryover to hitting. Sure your "bat speed" may have increase, but your mechanics are now down the toilet. I've seen it happen over and over and over again. And despite my warning the players, coaches, instructors and parents are left shaking their heads why Johnny is barely hitting his weight.

Hard to believe, yes. But, sadly, also true.

I'll make this statement and some self-proclaimed "expert" will argue with me but "You don't need world-class bat speed to be a world-class hitter". It certainly helps, but is not mandatory...

However..."You do need world-class Game Bat Speed to be a world-class hitter"

That's right "game bat-speed". Or how quick you can dial it up when you actually have to see the ball, locate it, decide what pitch it is, figure out if it's in your zone and then pull the trigger. All in the matter of milliseconds. Some call it natural hitting ability. Others call it instinct. It's possible to have average, or even below average "bat speed" and have outstanding game bat speed.

And it's VERY common to see players with great bat speed during practice and batting practice and then be terrible hitters. These players are called 5 o'clock hitters because they mash at 5 o'clock (the time pro teams take BP before a 7pm game) and stink when game time rolls around.

You don't want to be a 5 o'clock hitter do you? Nobody likes that guy...

Here are 3 things you need to work on if you want to develop game bat speed, which is the REAL money-maker in hitting...

1. Baseball-Specific Vision

I don't care how fast your bat is, if you don't pick up the ball early you can forget about becoming a great hitter. Sadly, 99.9% of coaches and instructors get this ALL wrong. You can't get it by sitting in front of a computer screen, hitting different colored baseballs (did I miss something? Does a baseball change color?) or any of the gimmicks sold today.

2. Proper Dynamic Flexibility and Range of Motion

This one is so overlooked its ridiculous. Coaches and instructors spend hours upon hours trying to force hitters to do things their body simply cannot do. You can teach rotational hitting till you're blue in the face, if the hitter who you're teaching does not have proper dynamic range of motion throughout their hips, shoulder and lower body you can all but forget they will EVER pick up the mechanics. It's IMPOSSIBLE! Spend time developing dynamic flexibility and range of motion before you begin to engrain poor mechanics that will be impossible to break.

3. Ability to Generate Force

Here's another one that the greats do naturally and the coaches and instructors miss. If you can't generate force from WITHIN you won't be able to put a hurtin' on the ball. You'll simply be a "soft contact" hitter, unable to generate game bat speed and put the ball into play with authority.

Learn correct strength and conditioning drills to do with your players in order to develop this. Not machines, not stupid "balance" exercises or bodybuilding workouts. Specific methods that will develop world-class force generation.

Get these three aspects in order and you're well on your way to explosive game bat speed and huge triple-crown category numbers!
About the Author
Jon Doyle, MA, CSCS is considered the world's foremost authority of effective baseball training. Make sure to visit his website to discover the most effective baseball drills
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