This is part 3 of our 4 part series on understanding the differences between rotational and linear hitting. In this part of the series we're going to address the common perception that the linear swing produces weak hitters.
While I'm not sure that I agree with that classification, the goal of this series as we outlined in the beginning is to break this down so it's easier to understand, and less like taking a physics course. Additionally, so that we're not coming from a place of all knowing, like the great and powerful Oz we're going to let other fastpitch softball hitting articles do some of the talking for us and simply ask the questions that you may ask.
Let's make something very clear, their isn't a hitting instructor out there that doesn't have the best intentions for your hitter. However, many of these hitting instructors want to tell you their way is the only way and have drawn lines in the sand, be it rotational or linear and are less willing to approach the other side with an open mind regarding the fastpitch softball swing. Is it ego driven? Probably not as much as sales (hitting lesson) driven, but I'm sure ego is embedded in there somewhere.
As many of you are fully aware, as you dig deeper into your wallet, Fastpitch Softball hitting lessons have become a decent business for some. So why has the rotational instruction become all the rave? One word; "POWER." You see, they want to tell you that the linear approach is a much weaker, more of a contact approach and then they'll show you some pictures of Major League Baseball players to justify what they're telling you. We'll do the same, but from a different perspective.
Please understand we're not taking sides at this point, just trying to give you a comparison.
Doing the unthinkable
That being said we're going to offer links to two instructors, Mike Epstein and Chris O'Leary. Mike Epstein in my opinion is the fairest out there, and considered by many to be the author of the rotational swing. Chris O'Leary seems to pop up in most searches as it relates to Rotational Hitting. If you're purely a Basbeall player looking for a debate, stop reading this article now and go read everything Epstein has to say! If you're a baseball player that is teaching girls to hit fastpitch softball keep reading!
Yes, I'm a fan of Epstein as it relates to baseball, however I'm not completely sold on his opinions as it relates to Fastpitch softball, which I'll explain before we wrap up this series. Like Epstein is his era of Baseball, we too in our era of Men's Fastpitch Softball saw the best pitching that the world had to offer, which allows us to speak from the relative experience to the respective game, rather than theorize.
It's About you!
You might be asking; "why would they even consider sending me away from their site?" Because this isn't about us, it's about you! And giving you the complete understanding on improving your game is paramount!
We're confident that by doing this you'll gain a better understanding of why what we're teaching leads to greater success on the softball field for all hitters. Just keep in mind as you go back and forth between our site and theirs that Apples need to be compared with Apples and Oranges need to be compared with Oranges. Baseball Swings and Softball Swings are "swings" just like an Apple and an Orange are "fruit" but they're both just a little different. The two pictures below truly do speak a thousand words in support of this in regards to linear and rotational swing planes. The Picture on the left shows the release points of both the baseball and softball pitcher and the picture on the right is a simple illustration of a strike zone. Notice the dotted line across the middle of the zone, this represents the High Strike in baseball , where level 2 represents the High Strike in fastpitch softball. In part four of this series we'll explain the importance of both these pictures in detail.
Let's continue by looking at the main focal point that the rotational folks say about the linear swing; Linear hitters take a direct hand path to the ball, don't rotate through with their core muscles, hips and shoulders the way a rotational hitter does and consistently will not generate bat head (or barrel) speed, due to it being more of a hand, arm and wrist approach. Additionally linear hitters swing down into the ball hitting more grounders than line drives. They also like to use Major League Baseball players as an example to support their theories for fastpitch softball, so in fairness I will too.
Below you'll find 5 pictures of the lower half's of Major League Players, all destined for the Hall of Fame. All seem to have the lower part of their body involved, torquing or rotating in the swing. Which are the rotational hitters and which are considered the more linear hitters? None of them seem to be squishing a bug with their back foot, all seem to be working against a strong front side, all seem to have generated a forward (yes linear) weight shift, so which 2 are rotational?
You're right! But, are all of your Fastpitch Softball students Home Run Hitters? I'm not buying it!
Somewhere along the way base hits stopped selling hitting lessons, and the promises of your daughter getting a full ride college scholarship because she may hit home runs became the lesson of choice
More Rotational Hitting Instructors
Chris O'Leary summarizes the Linear and Rotational Schools of thought as highlighted in red. Excerpt from Chris O'Leary Rotational Hitting 101, Click on Chris O'Leary for the complete article and teachings.
The Limits of Linear Hitting The problem is that you do not see linear hand paths at the major league level. Even relatively linear hitters like Ichiro Suzuki still employ fairly curved hand paths. The fact that you simply do not see linear hand paths at the major league level also implies that they do not scale; while linear hand paths may work at the lower youth levels, they do not work in High School ball or higher because the defenses are simply too good.
In Summary To sum up, there are really two places where the Linear and Rotational schools of thought diverge. At the end of the day, Linear means...
- Linear hand path. Taking the hands directly to the ball. This is usually described as an A to C (or sometimes A to B) hand path.
- Powering the swing with the wrists.
- Curved hand path.
- Powering the swing with the hips.
This is the school of thought that says girls (or boys when they get to the High School level) aren't strong enough for the linear approach to hitting! Further more they always compare it to Major League Baseball. Once again, if you're a baseball player stop reading this and go back to both of the authors I've highlighted above, this isn't for you! If you're a baseball player who is now a hitting instructor and teaches girls how to hit Fastpitch Softball keep reading.
From the above text:
"while linear hand paths may work at the lower youth levels, they do not work in High School ball or higher because the defenses are simply too good." Or in other words, your swing will not make for solid, forceful contact and an average 2nd baseman can field your ball because you're not strong enough. If you are only using your hands in the swing, this premise would be accurate. But let's look at his example of the Major League Hitter Ichrio Suzuki and see if he only uses his hands/wrists, be it a curved hand path or direct (linear) from back to front hand path.
Purely Linear hitters in Fastpitch Softball use the gap to gap approach, meaning they are working with a swing that focuses more on using the whole field, starting with the middle of the diamond. Their approach is more upright with a swing that enters the hitting zone and swing plane from the top and in Fastpitch Softball where the pitch is delivered from below the waist has merit. If they are only being taught the Linear push approach as I mentioned in the second part of this series, they will be weak and the premise from the above authors of weak grounders could be dead on.
Purely rotational hitters in Fastpitch Softball, while they do maximize their core muscles in the swing, the majority predominantly lack the discipline to maximize the field and therefore become more pull hitters as a result of the strong torque. Additionally their tilt (due to the collapsing of their back hip and shoulder) leaves major holes in their swing as it relates to fastpitch softball. Have you been taking your daughter to a rotational hitting instructor? Have you been noticing she's popping up the ball more? Yes, just like a developing linear hitter will hit weak grounders, a developing rotational hitter will hit weak pop ups. Taking the holes out of both of these approaches/techniques is what we want to show you.
Lastly is it the swing or the equipment that's causing this power surge? In last years Womens College World Series we all saw off balance, off the front foot, check swings that went 230 feet for home runs. I don't see anyone on any website advocating that approach to hitting and nor should they, but let's be real. Today's technology is making this game much more offensive. If you can make solid contact with today's equipment, be it with a linear or rotational swing you'll hit with authority.
Come back for the final part of this series as we show you how to maximize these swings, giving you a swing that stays in the fastpitch softball hitting zone longer and maximizes your individual power. Yes its true! Not all of you are going to be home run hitters and for the record I still can't dunk a basketball!
For our complete series on Rotational vs Linear hitting and building a better fastpitch softball swing follow the articles below.
Bat Eats Ball (Introduction)
Pitcher Hits spot (part1)
Rotational vs Linear Mechanics (part2)