If you are not hitting the baseball with the power and consistency that you want, then you are probably experiencing a timing issue, a hitting mechanical issue, and/or a pitch selection issue. For many of us, it is a combination of all three. A timing issue is often created when we start our swing too late. This causes us to “muscle up” on our swing to catch up to the pitch. Unfortunately, when we “muscle up” our swing, it ends up being slower because we tense our muscles. A tense muscle functions less efficiently and with less fluidity than a relaxed one.
There are many schools of thought with respect to hitting mechanics. While they differ in philosophies, approaches, and teachings, they all are trying to improve the efficiency of the swing. When a swing is efficient, it is quick and powerful. Conversely, the more inefficient a swing, the longer it takes to execute and yields less than desired power.
When our swing takes longer to execute due to mechanical inefficiencies and we start our swing late, we leave ourselves very little time for pitch selection. As such, we often swing at pitches out of the strike zone and get ourselves out.
Let me put this into perspective. An 80-mph fastball takes about 460 milliseconds to reach the front edge of the plate once it leaves the pitcher’s hand, which is less than ½ of a second. As a point of reference, a blink of any eye takes between 200 to 400 milliseconds (0.2 – 0.4 seconds). It takes the brain about 100 milliseconds (0.1 second) to recognize that the baseball is traveling towards home plate. An efficient professional baseball player’s swing takes about 150 milliseconds (i.e., from the start of the swing to contact). That leaves 210 milliseconds to decide whether to swing at the pitch or not (about a blink of an eye). When we start our swing late and/or our swing is slow due to inefficiencies, we leave ourselves almost no time for pitch selection.
To help with a timing issue, try this soft toss drill. When the pitcher takes his arm back, start your load. When the pitcher’s arm begins to move forward, start your stride toward the pitcher. This will likely feel weird at first, but when you get it, you will notice how much more time you have to hit the ball.