By Mike Epstein
The pitcher's goal is to disrupt a hitter's balance. To accomplish this, they change speeds to upset the hitter's timing. One of the problems that true linear hitters had in the '80's and '90's was once their weight began coming forward, it continued coming forward. While they were good fastball hitters, anything off-speed gave them fits.
Rotational hitters are able to better adjust to off-speed pitches because they stride to their balance-point. If the pitch is perceived to be slower than anticipated, they can sit a little more on their back leg to gain some more time to make contact. Linear hitters were not so fortunate: once they started forward it was almost impossible to stop, putting them in disadvantaged off-speed hitting positions.
Defining the difference between linear and rotational hitting has never been easier.
Something to look for
While learning, the hitter's body begins to anticipate certain movements indigenous to rotational hitting. It will anticipate the proper counter-balancing movements it has come to expect as the hitter was burning in his new muscle memory.
If you see the hitter "falling back over the plate after swinging," there are usually two causative factors:
1. Head tilt
The common cause is his head tilting in too far (toward the plate). All rotational hitters tilt their head in slightly toward the plate as the swing progresses, but when this tilt becomes exaggerated, the body will begin to follow the hitter's head. Understand the importance that the hitter's head has in what the body does. Solution: "Keep your eyes level and chin up." This constant reminder will normally cure this problem.
2. Hands going to the ball
If the hitter throws his hands at the ball (a common hitting cue), he most likely will not be able to stay inside the ball. The problem lies with the hitter's body expecting him to stay connected (and therefore balanced) in the swing approach. The cumulative weight of the hands, arms, and bat going toward the ball then override what the body is expecting to properly happen. After contact, the hitter's body follows this weight and you will see the hitter fall back over the plate in the follow-through.
How hitters can help themselves
A hitter's timing and balance should never be disrupted when he is ahead in the count with less than two strikes. It is in this situation that the hitter is in charge by being able to anticipate a certain pitch. My mentor, Ted Williams, used to tell me that hitters can expect certain pitches in certain situations. The preceding count scenario is assuredly one of them!
Hitters should never lose their balance when they anticipate correctly. If they maintain their balance, they won't be fooled. If they're not fooled, they're balanced—and therefore greatly increase their chance for success. If the hitter cannot make the necessary adjustments to stay balanced in a favorable count situation, the instructor must then find out what the problem is and where it begins. If it is concluded it is a mechanical problem, trace the swing back from contact. The problem should surface there.
If the problem is deemed mental, the instructor should review sound mental concepts with the hitter to get his thinking cap on straight. My book, The Mental Side of Hitting: A Guide to Out-Thinking the Pitcher, provides these time-proven concepts. Every hitter should have access to them.
In the final analysis, rotational hitting is a finely-honed system of pulleys and levers that effectuate the equal-and-opposite principle of maximizing kinetic energy.
Why make a tough thing as hitting—tougher?
Good luck, continued success, and "get a good pitch to hit!"
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/