By Mike Epstein
Dynamic balance and good batting technique should artistically coalesce, providing the infrastructure for the successful hitter. We casually talk to hitters about "being balanced" and then simply take for granted that they can do it on their own.
My experience is the singular word "balance" is myopic at best; it's more than just balance: it's dynamic balance. Dynamic balance is what validates a proper hitting technique.
Recently, I was asked by a major league organization to define the term for them:
What is "dynamic balance?"
Most of us correctly identify balance as "an equal distribution of weight." But many of us seem to hiccup when the word "dynamic" is added to it! The definition of dynamic is characterized by "continuous change, activity, or progress."
Dynamic balance is the embodiment of the forces of physics in action. What is hitting, if not physics, and the effect of equal-and-opposite pressures? Physics is the linchpin of rotational hitting and is the only hitting technique based on this irrefutable science.
In essence, dynamic balance constitutes a continuously operating coordination of checks and balances on a hitter's movements to ensure equilibrium.
What is rotational hitting?
Rotational hitting is a biomechanically-correct sequence of events optimized to hit a ball HARD. Its potency relies on the kinetic energy developed through the separation of the upper and lower torsos, producing a "rubber band" effect in its energy release. I describe this vital movement as torque. Torque is two forces working in opposite direction on an object. The scientific definition for torque is the Kinetic Link; the product of torque is Kinetic Energy.
Kinetic energy works upward, and the good baseball swing resonates this movement. It starts in the feet and continues building as the rubber band unwinds. The energy continues up the body's axis, through the shoulders, out the arms, and releases its total accumulated momentum at the end of the bat.
It is the only hitting technique capable of maximizing and delivering high kinetic energy and is the principal reason why it has been used over the years by 95% of baseball's Hall-of-Fame hitters.
How is dynamic balance imparted to the rotational swing?
When video-analyzing hitters, one clearly sees the process of equal-and-opposite in action. Equal-and-opposite means dynamic balance. Anyone can translate their perceived observations from the screen, but the efficacy of these observations relies on the experience and knowledge of the analyst.
Let's break down equal-and-opposite and how this physics phenomenon translates to their respective hitting phases:
A primary goal of the stride is that the hitter regains and maintains his balance-point prior to swing launch. This is imperative because if he doesn't, he will (1) either continue to come forward, and lunge, or (2) will hold an excessive amount of weight on his back side by collapsing his rear leg, and swing up too much. Either puts the hitter in a disadvantaged position of a shortened time staying in the contact zone; being able to match the swing plane to the pitch plane requires a swing launch from a balanced body position.
When we teach here at Mike Epstein Hitting, we have the hitter slightly turn his front shoulder down-and-in just prior to, or simultaneously, as he strides forward. As he does this, we make sure his back leg is firm to prevent his body and head from swaying rearward. Since his back leg is rigid at this point, physics dictates that his front leg be bent to stay balanced. Equal-and-opposite.
Understand that "loading-up" is a stylistic move and a common hitting cue. It is a fact that not everyone can harness the forward movement of this powerful approach. Most sway rearward in the load, putting most or all of their weight over the back leg. When the hitter strides forward he must regain the balance-point. Alternatively, his weight can settle 60% over his front foot. If the hitter stays back over his rear leg and reaches out with his front foot, his back side will collapse and he will swing up too much. (Continue reading Part 2 in next month's issue)
Prior to Mike’s teaching years, he was an All-American baseball player and still holds the highest lifetime batting average of .384 at the University of California (Berkeley). He was a member of the first United States Olympic Baseball Team, leading the team in many offensive hitting categories (Japan, 1964). He was named the Sporting News and Topps Minor League Player-of-the-Year in 1966.His website is http://www.mikeepsteinhitting.com/