Fundamental Baseball Skills

Swing Path and Hip Rotation

Bat Path

Every time I work with a new hitter, I ask “How would you describe your swing to me?” I like to get their thoughts and see if they match the actions of their swings. I can honestly say most kids say, “Swinging down to create backspin.” It’s really frustrating for me to watch hitters start off hitting ground-balls and they think they’re swinging properly because they’ve been instructed that way.  It’s also frustrating that coaches now want hard hit balls on the ground, instead of hard hit balls in the gap.  Since when is a ground out better than a line drive?

Bautista Bat PathA-Rod Bat Path

When we think about bat path, our thought should be to get the bat direction on the same plane of the baseball. Going back to my opening few statements. If hitters swing down to a pitch that is going at a downward angle out of the pitchers hand, the ball has to be struck perfectly to create solid contact.  If a hitter’s bat is flat (or slightly up) through the hitting zone, the bat will be in the zone twice as long, if not more, compared to a downward path. So as our body goes forward to initiate the swing, our hands should still be separating away from your body to get the bat to create a proper path! By creating a proper bat path hitters are working towards elite swinging mechanics. Hitters need to spend more time watching the best hitters in the world and imitate their movements.

Zepp ResultsUsing Zepp labs technology the proper angles, planes, and paths are displayed. This is a sample with a player I worked with compared to David Ortiz. The green indicates proper movements, Yellow indicates acceptable, and red is improper or not within range of the goal. A 23 degree attack angle by Ortiz shows a slight uphill path. The image below of David is his approximate swing for the Zepp analysis. You can see his attack angle slightly positive which creates his bat angle to be negative at impact.

David Ortiz Swinging David Ortiz Swinging at HR Derby

The Lower Half

When hitter’s think about using their legs in hitting usually the thought is to drive hard toward the pitcher & gain ground then rotate the hips. One of the main things you see some of the best hitters doing now is landing with an open bottom half and a closed top half. I started to work this into my own swing a couple years ago and it was created a jump off the ball I never felt. By landing closed, a hitter will not be able to get everything out of their swing. When your front side opens going into the launch position, but your torso remains square it creates a tension in the hips that causes upper body to rotate even quicker without even trying! In a sense the body becomes a rubber band that shoots after you pull it back. Quicker firing hips and quicker upper body rotation will lead to the obvious, more bat speed. By implementing these patterns into your swings and becoming comfortable with them you will create greater room for success.

Albert Pujols Bautista Pedroia

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John Murphy

Selected by the New York Yankees in the sixth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Sacred Heart University. His accolades include all conference, all region, and all American awards. He Was the highest Draft pick in the history of the program. John Led the Pioneers to four Northeast Conference championship games, winning titles in 2011 and 2012. Lastly, he was All-Star selection while playing with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League.


  1. Agree with everything except in first section you made no mention of the initial movement of hands(bat) to ball…which should be on a downward path. However, I agree that the bat has to get in the hitting zone as quickly as possible and stay there for as long as possible. When working with young hitters, I’ve found that the overwhelming majority have never been taught anything about bat path except to have a “level swing,” which usually has them dropping their hands to start instead of firing down at the ball.

  2. ST,
    Correct, but the hands will create a path depending on where the pitch is. It’s hard to teach kids to fire down at the ball because they will immediately think to chop and hit ground balls. That would also create a positive bat angle at contact, which no pros have. Your hands as a hitter should be coming through the zone after the hips have already opened to swing. The deeper the bat path the better!

  3. Hi John,
    Excellent article…and written in a way that explains the mechanics that is easy to understand…My son has had excellent success, batting .475 with power in his freshman year, doing exactly what you have stated in the articles…can you provide some advice to give to my son, who’s swing is very similar to Mike Trout’s ,and plays in a highly rated high school program, unfortunately the varsity hitting coach preaches short step, no leg kick, swing down on the ball mechanics…now, my son is reluctant to go to off season batting practice because this coach is intent on changing his swing and he is feeling pressure…how should my son deal with this coach without being disrespectful or being seen as uncoachable?…thanks in advance!

  4. nice article! I find the initiation of the swing to be an interesting conversation. Initiate the swing with the top hand like Barry Bonds. Hands start low and the first move with the hands is up. It works to get a level swing. Classic. Initiate the swing with the bottom hand like Carlos Stanton. The hands are up and the first move with the hands is slightly back. It works to get a very level swing. That front arm is pretty barred. Ken Griffey Jr. had a similar move.
    2 ways to skin a cat. Mix and match might not work as well.

  5. Tom,
    I like your comment. I also focus on the difference, I call it front side dominant or back side dominant. Front side using bottom hand, etc.
    I wanted to get your thought on my conception that front side dominant swings utilize more belly button down power generation thus being better for fast pitch females.
    Thanks in advance.

  6. I liked your article. I’m a retired coach of 31 years and I like to keep up on hitting techniques. I never told my players to have a slightly uphill swing because they would either drop their back elbow or collapse their back leg. We stressed getting the bat to the contact zone and stressed a high follow through. Without calling it a uphill swing, I believe we accomplished the correct technique. Would you agree? Hope to hear from you.

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