Independent Hands when hitting a baseball

Hitting – Independent Hands

Independent Hands when hitting a baseball

I am from a small town in central Indiana. I grew up with a basketball in my hands and learned the triple threat position before I could walk. By the time I was ten years old, it was apparent that a small town farm boy was not going make it big playing hoops. I developed a love for the game of baseball and I was very good at it. My father was a college pitcher that never had the opportunity to play professionally. I wanted to be a catcher and, needless-to-say, he did not know much about hitting and he knew even less about catching. We quickly learned that the information and instruction in Indiana was very limited. As in most northern areas, teaching the game is more regurgitation from a book or a keynote speaker than from knowledge or experience. For a kid who had a limited vocabulary and knowledge about his swing, terminology was confusing and the instructors did not know the concepts well enough to really explain them. It was only after I got to professional baseball that I had the opportunity to really discuss terminology and learn the concepts they were trying to teach.

We have all heard the fun, catchy phrases that illustrate concepts to kids like “squish the bug” or “step on thin ice.” These concepts are very self-explanatory and are difficult to misinterpret. However, the biggest confusion in my career has always been the concept of separating the hands. I have heard too many speakers or instructors talk about this concept and never understood it until after I was in the big leagues. Even most of my instructors did not understand it entirely.

Using Your Hands and Body Independently

I began to understand the concept while playing winter baseball in the Dominican Republic for my first time. But, I still had not grasped the terminology until this year when I worked with Terry Crowley, the hitting coach for the Baltimore Orioles. He was able to discuss the concept because he understood itVladimir Guerrero Hand Separation and was knowledgeable enough to explain it in different ways.

After a hitting session where all we did was talk about my swing, he finally used a phrase that made it click. Instead of “separating” the hands, he only talked about using them “independently” from the body. Where instructors before would tell me to move my hands away from my body or, even, slide my hands back with my load, Crow only discussed my hands working as an independent entity within my swing. My whole life, I was told what my body should be doing and the position it should be in. I had never had anybody talk to me about how to use my hands. Nobody had ever really broken down a proper bat path or the most effective way to take my bat through the zone.

Hands Take a Path to the Ball

The game of baseball is all about being able to repeat an action. Working on the action of the body is very important and your body should take the same swing every time. The only thing that changes from pitch to pitch is where the hands go in relation to the ball. This idea holds true regardless of how the hands approach the ball within the swing. Check Swing of baseball pitchSo, if the swing is uphill, downhill or level, the hands still take the bat to the ball and the body stays in the same position no matter where the pitch is located. I have seen many times in a major league game where a hitter is able to hit the ball with power regardless of his body position. In the same manner, there are times when a hitter’s body will go through the swing but his bat will stay on his shoulder because he recognizes the pitch is not in the strike zone. Most people think this has to do with a hitter’s physical strength, when it is their hand independence that allows them to maintain a strong hitting position. Strength plays a part of it, but because they have learned to separate the two entities of their swing, they are still able to drive the ball using their hands or lay off of a pitch even when their body goes through a normal swing.

Keep it Simple

The body is an aid in the swing and not the swing itself. Treating the hands as the primary component to the swing creates a much more simple approach to hitting. The simpler it is, the better it will be. So, the body is used to generate more power or simply put the hands in a better position to work. If the body does not restrict the hands, they will have a free and easy path to the ball and will allow a hitter to find his contact point more often and, ultimately, find the sweet spot more consistently.

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About The Author

Jake Fox

Jake Fox was drafted as a catcher by the Chicago Cubs in the 3rd round (73rd overall) of the 2003 Major League Baseball draft. After climbing the ranks of the minor leagues, Fox made his major league debut on July 19, 2007 against the San Francisco Giants. In 2009, Fox had a breakout year in AAA, leading the Pacific Coast League in batting average, HR, RBI, SLG, and OPS, and he was again recalled by the Cubs. 2010 was Fox's first full year at the Major League level as he saw time with the Oakland A's and Baltimore Orioles. Fox currently serves as a utility player for the Baltimore Orioles.

  • Samflamont

    I am sorry but I have to disagree with this post. The body is not in the same position no matter where the pitch is located. What you will notice with pitch location up and down with almost every big league hitter is “Tilt”. Tilt is the angle the shoulders take in order for the hands to get to the ball. If the ball is up the shoulders will be more level and if the ball is down the shoulders will have a steeper angle. The hands are passive in the best swings and do not move freely, but rather move when the body tells them to move. The hands have a little freedom in the reward portion of the swing but in almost every successful big league hitter their is no hand freedom during the forward swing. The shoulders, Elbows, and Body rotation move the hands in the forward swing. As the body rotates the hands move with it because they have no choice, a hitter can slide forward and not move their hands, but when the body rotates, more precisely the front shoulder, the hands move with it because they are connected. What I will say is a hitter must learn to separate their lower half and upper half (counter rotation), but the hands are weak and should not control the swing. The rotation of the body powers the swing and the hands hold the bat, this is why you see the elbows in the same relationship to each other once rotation starts. Also, in almost every big league swing when rotation begins the arms and hands no longer move freely until after contact and a hitters hips have stopped rotating but while the body is rotating the hands are just hanging out.
    In the lower picture you have posted on the main post you can see the hands have the same relationship with the torso as they would in the stance portion of the swing, this shows separation of upper and lower, if this hitter rotated his torso back to the beginning his hands would be behind his body, this further proves the hands do not move independently but rather they move with rotation. This hitter simply never really committed to the swing so rotation never reached full speed, instead he was fooled and recognized the pitch late and was able to hold off a little before letting the hips and shoulders clear and launch the hands.

    • Artofbaseball

      I think what Jake meant was that, because of the separation of the upper and lower, the hands become independent.

      As apposed to a purely rotational swing.