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The Importance of Timing your Stride

For most hitters the stride is used to initiate the swing. It triggers the rest of the body to move into action and to perform its mechanics. The stride is also vital to a hitter’s timing at the plate. Typically a hitter begins to stride at the moment the pitcher releases the ball. From there a hitter faces the task of staying balanced and reacting to a specific pitch location and type - fastball, curveball, slider, change-up, etc.

One basic fundamental to remember is that a stride should never be late or rushed. It's more opportunistic to be a little early with a stride than to be late. Hitters who stride late will be unable to catch up with the fastball, which makes it almost impossible to be a successful hitter. It’s not ideal for a batter to stride too early, the idea after all is to develop timing in a stride; however, if a player strides early they still have a chance to prevail.

There are thousands of different strides that are unique in their own way, but for the most part, this fundamental can be broken down into three groups - The Leg Kick, the Common Stride (short and soft) and Little to no Stride.

The tricky part for a developing hitter is deciding which stride will suit them best. It is recommended to try a variety of styles, just as a hitter would with their batting stance, until they have discovered the stride that is most comfortable and productive. Once a player “finds their stride,” they should work at it diligently and with consistent mechanics. This will allow muscle memory to set in and the player will no longer have to think about it at the plate.

While in the process of developing the stride don’t sacrifice productivity for style points or even comfort. Make an educated decision that will allow a hitter to stay balanced and have the ability to time a variety of pitches, while sustaining long-term success. Players who fail to plan for the tough competition that lies ahead, will likely be faced with the frustrating process of reconstructing their mechanics down the road.

The Importance of Timing Your Stride feat (clean)The leg kick has been around for quite some time, featured by the legendary Sadaharu Oh for the Yomiuri Giants, who hit 868 home runs in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the Nippon Professional Baseball. A similar approach was used by MLB slugger’s like Darryl Strawberrry in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and the trend has continued to grow in the 21st Century. A number of modern day players use a leg kick including Josh Donaldson, Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Turner.

The common stride is the most typical approach throughout baseball history. It’s a short and soft timing mechanism (some call it a “toe tap”) that initiates the swing. Thousands of players have been successful with this type of stride, as it has been the most frequent technique used by hitting instructors in the past; however, coaches in this day and age are more apt to think outside of the box and encourage alternative stride styles.

Players who incorporate little to no stride in their swing - Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols and Kris Bryant - feature a wider base, pivot their lower body and explode with the hips. This is the most basic stride approach because it requires very little movement, therefore leaving little room for error. However, not all players can hit this way. It takes a lot of strength, particularly in the lower body.

Get to work on a stride that fits your style of hitting, but keep in mind, you want a solid foundation that will lead to good habits and prolonged success. Timing is essential in hitting a moving object and it all starts with the stride.

 

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