There’s a ton of emphasis at the major league level on hitting for power today. Interestingly, we have seen a fair amount of that moving into the high school and youth levels, as well. One college coach that I’m following argues that the “little things” are getting overlooked.
Many high school coaches (including myself) will argue that it’s costing their teams runs and wins.
When you think about it, there aren’t that many 16 year-old players that can consistently hit the ball out of the ballpark!
Paul Petricca is a great collegiate hitting coach in the Midwest and is a good friend of mine. He is an astute observer of all things hitting – both baseball and softball….and you can find out more about him here at his blog-site, Torque-Hitting. He really understands where power comes from and how to convert the power source into bat speed.
His book, Hitting with Torque, would be a great stocking stuffer and you can find it here…
Paul argues that one of the most effective offensive strategies throughout the history of baseball has been all but lost—choking up on the bat!
Greater Bat Control
An excerpt: “Choking up on the bat makes the bat shorter, which enables hitters to control it better. It is also easier for hitters to find the sweet spot of the bat. This improved bat control is especially effective with two strikes or in pressure situations. In 2016, Anthony Rizzo almost always choked up on his bat when he found himself in a two strike count”.
“By choking up, he increased his chances of putting the ball in play, instead of striking out. His sole objective was to force the defense to make a play or to find a hole in-between the fielders.”
As a high school coach, more often than not, all we are looking for is solid contact from our hitter.
Think about this situation that is all-too common in our game at the lower level: less than two outs and a runner on 3rd base. There are essentially two things that won’t allow us to score the run if the infielders are at normal depth – the strike out and the pop-up.
By gaining better bat control and choking-up a bit on the bat, the hitter really does have a better chance to hit that ground ball up the middle that enables the run to score.
Increased Bat Speed and Power
Petricca argues that swinging a shorter and lighter bat increases bat speed, which translates directly into more power. He states that “Barry Bonds was able to hit with consistent power, even though he choked up on the bat, because he was able to generate enough home run bat speed with a shorter bat. I believe if Anthony Rizzo continues his two strike strategy, he will begin to hit more home runs with his hands choked up on the bat.”
Paul is often asked by his hitters whether they should swing a slightly larger or smaller bat. His answer:
“If baseball and softball hitters can swing a larger bat without sacrificing bat speed, then the change would be appropriate”
More importantly, he states that:
“If hitters begin using a slightly smaller bat, then their bat speed should naturally increase to allow them to hit with the same power as using a larger bat. Choking up on the bat to make it smaller and lighter has the same positive effect.”
Defense Against Getting Jammed
In addition to more bat speed and bat control, hitters can choke up on the bat as a way to get a bigger part of the bat on the ball to eliminate getting jammed inside. Instead of hitting the ball near the handle, the hitter can now hit inside pitchers on a bigger part of the bat. Even if you don’t find the “sweet spot” of the bat, that extra inch or two can often be the difference between an infield pop-up and a soft line drive to the outfield.
Petricca finishes his piece by stating “hitters should welcome any technique or strategy to gain more bat control without sacrificing power, especially in pressure situations. It is time for choking up on the bat a few inches to make a comeback in baseball and softball.”
I say “Amen”.