A hot topic over the years in hitting has been the debate over whether a baseball swing and softball swing are different.
Let me preface my answer to this debate by saying, I’ve been in “the game” almost 40 years now. Have coached for over 17 of them. 13 in baseball and 4 in softball. I’ve worked with several MLB hitters including a starter in the 2015 All-Star Game. I’ve also worked with several Pro Fastpitch Softball players.
Let me be clear: A good swing is a good swing. Baseball. Softball. The Same.
Although most coaches, parents and players already know that… if you are still in doubt or don’t trust my experience and expertise, let me help you in your journey from the dark side to the light.
The Rise Ball
For coaches that believe the swing is different, one of the first things that comes up in their argument is the rise ball in softball. Yes the rise ball goes up. Yes it’s a traveling on a different plane than all of the other pitches. No, baseball hasn’t figured out how to defy gravity just yet.
When it comes to the rise ball, you have two choices:
My least favorite option. In this option, a softball hitter would recognize the rise ball and instead of having a “baseball” style swing, they would mid flight realize it’s a rise ball and then decide to have a different “get on top” downward swing plane. If you follow me on social media or are a member of The Hitting Vault you know that a downward swing plane on any pitch is not a great swing path and not what elite hitters do in either softball or baseball. Not to mention that the reaction time for both softball and baseball at the higher levels is less than .4 seconds. Not enough time to process information and have a different swing.
There is a much better option. Although it is difficult to do at times, the best softball hitters do their best to avoid swinging at rise balls. Period. In my experience and those of many D1 college coaches, less than 5% of rise balls finish in the strike zone. And usually that 5% was a mistake pitch that gets hammered at the top of the zone by the batter. The only exception to this rule is what we call the Low Rise. This pitch has late upward break, which makes it difficult to hit. There are millions of softball pitchers from 8 years old to 38 years old and I can count the number of pitchers who can throw a low rise with one hand.
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Many teachers of a “softball swing” use reaction time as a reason to have a shorter more compact swing in softball than you do in baseball. Which has created a ton of hitters at all softball levels who have very restricted movement and not a lot of power or consistent contact.
ESPN did a video a few years ago regarding the difference in reaction times between baseball and softball. In this video it showed that a 70mph softball pitcher (Jennie Finch) and a 90mph baseball pitcher. In this video it showed that the reaction time in baseball was .395 and in softball .350 showing that you had less reaction time in softball than you do in baseball. This test was extremely flawed and this is why. 70mph is a very rare occurrence in softball. The average D1 pitcher throws 58-62 and tops out at 65mph. So for the sake of argument we’ll use 64mph as a baseline for reaction time. This will give us a reaction time of: .405 seconds. Now lets look at MLB. The average fastball last year was 92.0 MPH and there are many pitchers who hit 100mph including Aroldis Chapman who has hit 105. If we use the average fastball speed of 92mph, the actual reaction time is: 0.400 seconds. Shorter than softball.
All that to say, at almost all levels of baseball and softball the reaction times are very similar and don’t justify having a different swing.
Hitting Coaches Teaching Bad Swings
Now, I will say that in a lot of parts of the country, there are many instructors teaching a different swing to softball hitters because they hold onto the myths of the two reasons I’ve listed above. This swing consists of restricting lower half movements and swinging down on the ball as short/compact as possible.
Elite is Elite
At the end of the day, remember this. An elite swing is an elite swing. Both in baseball and softball. If you’re a member of The Hitting Vault and have watched my drills, you’ll see that the pro softball and baseball players demonstrating the drills have similar swings and body movements and that is why they are both at the highest level of the game getting paid to do what they love!
Hard work works,
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