Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Off-season hitting: Using wood bats

December 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Hitting, Off-Season

This time of year, more players at the high school and college levels use wooden bats as part of their off-season training.  This is a great thing to do for a number of reasons.  A few of them were listed as part of a previous post which dealt with using heavy bats.  Even though that post dealt mainly with using “considerably” heavier bats, the same basic principles apply to any wooden bat that is used.  Below are two other reasons why practicing with a wood bat every now and then can be very helpful no matter what time of year it is.

Classic Jeter with his hands inside the ball.
  • It forces a hitter to have better pitch selection.  Good hitters know what pitches in the strike zone they are better at hitting.  When players have an aluminum bat, they tend to swing at a wider range of pitches because even if they swing at a bad pitch, the bat will not break.  For example, a batter with a metal bat can hack at a pitch low and off the outside part of the plate.  If he hits it off the very end of the bat, it may just end up being a hit.  If he did this with a wood bat, it would shatter.  This instant feedback quickly sends the message that he better be more selective and shrink his hitting zone, at least until he has two strikes
  • It forces a hitter to get the barrel out front.  A hitter with an aluminum bat can get lazy on his swings and not have to feel the consequences.  Lazy swings with wood result in broken bats because more balls will be hit away from the barrel or “sweet spot.”  To keep the bat from breaking, the hitter must get used to getting the barrel out front quicker so that the pitch doesn’t jam him.  As he gets older and faces better pitching, it will also force him to correctly keep his hands inside the ball in order to get the barrel on the pitch more easily.  Fans of Derek Jeter see this type of swing very often.  Jeter is able to get the barrel on the ball even on inside pitches and hit it hard.  Metal bat users do not tend to learn this “hands inside the ball” approach as quickly because getting jammed has much less of a negative consequence.
Wood bats are not cheap especially if you end up breaking a few.  However, they can be a valuable tool to promote better hitting.

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