Be Late To Be on Time… Understanding Hitting at the Deepest Levels

Hitting and TIming

In this article we really go deep into the understanding of how the brain’s subconscience effects our timing when we hit. It’s important to note before we delve deep into the inner workings of our natural tendencies, a player must possess some ability and a fundamentally sound swing and approach to have any success. In order to take a hitter to the next level of hitting, which is hitting the ball hard consistently, a player must have pretty good to great timing. So in order to understand how to fix our timing issues, we have to understand the “WHY” before we can get to the “How”.

At the earliest stages of a hitters life, timing the pitch and determining when the optimal time to start the swing is a big part of hitting successful. This very fact doesn’t change throughout a hitters life. As soon as we pick up a bat and start swinging, the brain becomes conditioned to do things the wrong way as it concerns timing. This continues throughout a hitters life unless a conscious effort is made to change until it’s fixed. How many times have you as a parent or coach said “Come on Johnny, wait for the ball, your swinging to early”, “if my son could only wait for the ball longer, he would be a great hitter”. As a father, coach, and hitting instructor the number #1 challenge hitters have, is the ability to let the ball travel so they can put an explosive powerful swing on the ball at the last second. Unfortunately our brain from the beginning doesn’t really want this to happen the way it should.

Hitters brains are conditioned to be too early with their swing/timing and nobody really has the answer for that. UNTIL NOW!
Here are the reasons why a hitter is naturally early and has trouble waiting on the ball, from the time he picks up a bat and as he continues up the baseball food chain to High school and College.

1. Hitter don’t want the ball to get by them.
2. All Hitters have a burning desire to make contact.
3. Hitters prefer hitting the ball weakly compared to swinging through a pitch.
4. No hitter wants to get Jammed as it’s embarrassing and it hurts
5. Hitters prefer not to hit the ball to the opposite field, as it’s a sign of
being late, which is a sign of weakness in the hitter’s mind.
6. As soon as the eyes see the ball leave the hand, the natural tendency
is for the hitter to start the swing.

Starting to get the picture? For those who have played the game and those now watching or coaching, these reasons above are the root causes from a hitters inception of a having trouble waiting on the ball. The “FEAR” of being LATE, drives us to be too Early. Ultimately resulting in 80% or more of our outs as hitters being too early, and rarely actually being late on the ball. It’s not really anyones fault, it’s just the natural way our brain is wired, and thus it incorrectly forms the timing mechanisms that causes nearly every hitter to be early on the pitch and get out, far more times than being late on the ball and getting out. This of course get’s compounded when players start to get curveballs and change ups as they get older.

Here are some stats from our 2016 Season at University of Delaware: Atbats: 1907

Hits: 564
Outs Made: 1,343

They Key question is in the number of outs we made and how many of these outs were due to swinging too early.

Outs Made Swinging on Time: 308
Outs Made Swinging Late: 94
Outs Made Swinging Too Early: 941

So at the college Level, 70% of our outs made were due to a hitter being too early with his timing. 23% of our outs were made with our swing being on time. And not surprisingly only 7% of outs were made when the batter was late on the pitch. As you watch your next game at any level, take notice in how many outs are made being Late and Early. You will come to the same conclusions as well. These numbers will change some at the Pro Ball level, and that simply because they are the hitters that are doing better overcoming this. But College and below, it’s really an epidemic in my Mind, and the stats back this up.

Ok, so understanding the Why is an integral part of making the commitment to changing the almost prenatal urges our brain has given us to be too early when we start our swing. Put a different way, the urges at all cost, to “not be late on the ball”. The result of this is of course creating a fundamental error in timing to be early on the ball, and too early is almost an automatic out.
So how do we change this? It’s Not easy, and players have to understand the facts above to truly commit to changing the brains desire to “not be late”.

First of all, a pretty good swing and pretty good timing is all we need. Timing doesn’t have to be perfect to have success, the swing has to be good and the timing just has to fall into a range of timing. The range of timing is broken down into 5 basic points. Also understand the earlier we are the tendency is to slow down the swing to make contact. The later we are the tendency is to speed up to make contact. Of course we all as hitters want to be speeding up rather than slowing down, right?

1. Too Early
2. Early
3. On Time
4. Late
5. Too Late

Results Examples from a RH Hitter Perspective
Too Early-Almost all of the possible outcomes result in outs or non hits

1. Swing Through
2. Weak popup left side
3. Weak Ground ball left side
4. Weak Foulball left side
5. Hard foul ball left side

Early-As the timing gets better, being early isn’t awful, in fact will result in hitting a lot of balls hard to the left side of the field resulting in good outcomes

1. Hard Ground Balls and Line drives left side
2. Weak Ground balls left side
3. Long fly balls to left side
4. Soft fly balls to left side
5. Popups left side
6. Foul balls to left side

On Time- Of course when we are on time, the majority of the time the result is the ball is hit hard.

1. Hard Groundballs and line drives Left center to right center
2. Fly balls
3. Foul straight back
4. Swing throughs

Late- As the swing naturally speeds up when the feeling of late is there, we hit the ball harder to the right side of the field, than we do when we are early hitting the ball to the left side. Less outs are made being late.

1. Hard ground balls and linedrives to right side
2. Fly balls to right side
3. Foul balls to right side
4. Swing throughs
5. Not many popups being late on the ball

Too Late- When we are too late on the ball the result is mostly a swing through or foul ball. Thus being late on the ball unless it’s too strikes doesn’t result in many outs, just strikes.

1. Swing through
2. Foul Balls
3. Line drives and Flyballs to right field

“Coach, You haven’t told me how to fix anything yet.”
Your right, but you won’t fix anything this tangled in your brain until you are absolutely convinced as to the facts, stats, and the Whys of everything. Hopefully all the above information now convinces you, that our brain has been compensating incorrectly for the innate desire to not be late on the ball when swinging.

The fix is retraining the brain to be comfortable with the possibility you may be late on the ball. Accepting that swinging through some balls late is better than softly hitting balls being early. I’m not a mechanic, but if you think about the timing of a car and the engine is running too fast or to slow, the mechanic will adjust to timing to get the car to run in a better and more efficient range. This is what we have to do as hitters.

Adjust our timing so that we can hit in a more efficient range. Using our 5 timing points, generally hitters from above, generally hitters fall into a 3 point range the majority of the time, with of course few exceptions leaking over on both outsides of the range. See below Example

hitting and timeing

Training Timing in order to influence to brains natural desire to be EX A, we must start training are hitters to be in Ex C.

Wow, This is deep. If you had trouble following, I completely understand. For those that really get this, you can start moving forward in helping your hitters reduce the outs, and increase the positive hard hit results and thus working to become the best possible hitter you can become.

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