Ken Joyce of the San Francisco Giants, who has served as the organization's Double-A and Triple-A hitting coach, took some time to talk about the fundamentals of hitting with the Bobcats this week. Joyce, owner of four World Series rings, has been working with big-league hitters at the Giants' spring training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz. He also conducted a Champions Hitting Clinic Camp earlier this winter with the Bobcats.
The most common challenge working with professional hitters is getting them into position to take a good swing by being on time and in rhythm. Professional hitters all have the hand/eye coordination to put the baseball in play. How they put the baseball in play is a direct result of being in a balanced position to hit against a firm front side that creates resistance allowing the back hip to take the hands to the right slot. When late getting into position to hit, the hands and upper half take over the swing. By starting in a balanced stance with weight evenly distributed on both legs, the hitter can load to the backside to store energy as the front foot lands to create resistance. The firing of the back hip against resistance creates torque, bat speed and the correct path to the baseball.
2). What is the most common mistake that see among younger hitters in middle school and high school?
The most common mistakes most young hitters in middle and high school experience is poor direction and timing. If you split the body of a hitter in half, the front side gives the hitter direction while the backside provides power. When a hitter is late getting his front foot down to create resistance, the front foot often lands open to overcompensate for early weight shift out over the front side. When this occurs, the hitter will be forced to use the hands and upper half to swing resulting in the bat dragging through the hitting zone.
3). So many coaches preach the art of "staying on top of the ball" yet Ted Williams believed a slight uppercut was needed to stay on plane with the pitch. What are your thoughts on this topic?
I believe Ted Williams is the greatest hitter that has played the game of baseball. By utilizing the lower half in the swing, initiating with the back hip to allow the hands to go into the correct slot, the bat stays through the hitting zone for a long period of time. The bat staying on plane with the ball through the hitting zone creates backspin that will allow the ball to carry. I believe that the path creating backspin is a slight uppercut to attack the ball by staying through it to extension. Staying on top of the ball creates more top spin when the ball is hit and does not allow for the ball to carry.
4). When you worked with Bryce Harper and Mike Trout in the Arizona Fall League, what did you learn about their swings and styles?
I was very fortunate to work with Bryce and Mike in 2011 and enjoyed the experience of seeing two teenagers mature into the players that they have become. I learned that Bryce was inconsistent with balance and use of his lower half but had the hand/eye coordination and strength to hit the ball a long way. He was very receptive in learning more about striding to balance to be in position to take a good swing. Mike also had incredible hand/eye coordination and made consistent contact with the baseball but was not always putting it in play the way he wanted to. This was due to poor timing which caused him to use his hands and upper half more because he was inconsistent in getting his foot down on time to create resistance. Once he understood how to be consistent with his timing he was able to utilize his lower half allowing his hands to go the correct slot and through the hitting zone longer. Both players are special and deserve all the accolades they have received. It was fun to work with them but I also know I have never taken a swing for either gifted player.
5). What does it mean to be "short and quick" to the ball?
Being short and quick to the baseball refers to the correct path the hands should take on every swing. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We want the hands to go from the launching point A (when the front heel plants to create resistance) directly to the ball at contact point B, in the shortest path possible. The best way to achieve the proper path is to initiate the swing with the back hip which will slot the hands correctly for that direct A to B path.
Thank you, Ken, and good luck to the Giants! Thank you for working with Bobcats hitters this winter!