Baseball Swing Tips, Part 5: Decide and Release

The last and most important part of your baseball swing is part 5, decide and release.  Article 5 in series of free baseball swing tips by AAA Yankee Doug Bernier.
Baseball swing tips, Article 5 in series by AAA Yankee Doug Bernier

SWB Yankee PJ Pilittere at the point of decision and release.  Image by Frank Lauri.

This is the last and most important part of hitting.  It’s where you decide if you are going to swing the bat.  If so, release the barrel of the bat towards the baseball and try to square it up.

How to release the baseball swing:

After we decide to swing the bat, we take our weight shift and turn it into a rotational movement, to get the most bat speed possible. With your lower half out of the way all you have left is throwing your hands at the ball.

1. To start your baseball swing, take your back elbow and drive it into your body. At the same time your bottom hand will drive the knob of the bat toward the baseball. Your bottom hand is the guide hand.

  • Your back elbow is key once it comes into the slot (where it physically touches your body) you reach a point of no return.  This creates a lot of hand speed and once your elbow gets all the way to your body you will not be able to stop your swing.
  • Once your elbow gets into the slot your barrel will almost be in the zone and will start going through the zone.

2. Once your back elbow gets into the body, your top hand will start to take over and dominate the bottom hand. Your top hand is your power hand, guiding the barrel of the bat toward the baseball.

3. The action of releasing your swing happens as everything rotates around your head. Keeping your head still will allow you to see the ball better and make consistently better contact.

4. Finish your swing by following through the baseball.  Hit “through” the ball, not “to” the ball.  In other words, follow through.

The old saying of “Short to and long through” is a simple way of explaining the perfect swing.  Meaning, quick to the ball and long follow-through.

Final thought on releasing your swing

Once you decide to swing and fire your hands at the baseball, swing hard and don’t try to guide the bat to make contact. Sometimes it is better to swing and miss than to guide your swing to make contact and hit a weak ground ball to an infielder.

More baseball swing tips:

  1. Rhythm (The Baseball Swing, Stage 1)
  2. Load (The BaseballSwing, Stage 2)
  3. Types of Pitches
  4. Baseball Hitting Strategy
  5. Bat path
  6. Best Wood Bats

Back to All Hitting Instruction

About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins' AAA team in Rochester, NY

9 Comments

  1. Adjustability: in my observations of MLB video, I see that the best in the world land with a bent front knee and when they get fooled, they ride the bend a little longer, but while they do this, the stay in the torqued position just a split second longer. So, if they are a little out in front, they ride the bent knee and then extend it as they release the torque… Great athletes make adjustments while moving, dynamic balance. So many kids get coached like robots, I used to be that guy, but you never see the best look like a robot.

  2. I really like a lot of your steps bc they actually talk about what the body does in the swing. However, I would contest that the swing of elite MLB players, as evidenced by their slow motion videos:
    1. do not swing down at the ball but up through the path of the pitch
    2. Don’t throw their hands, but have to release the barrel bc of excessive centrifugal force produced by their super fast turns of the shoulders.
    3. Do not show signs of short to and long throug, but quick to and long through the plane of the pitch, putting the barrel in the path of the pitch in the area of their back calf/knee and keeping it through the zone past their front foot. Amateur hitters’ barrels generally don’t enter the path until the hips or even after bc they are coached to swing down, throw their hands and be short to and long through which cuts out a ton of the back end of their potential contact zone.

    With super slow mo videos on YouTube of the best in the world, I don’t listen to what people think about mechanics as much as I trust what I see. Because of these slow mo videos, any mechanics arguments are really over. We need to trust and teach what we see and start coaching and thinking hard on the approach to hitting.

    • Coach Brown,
      Thanks for commenting on our site, I really appreciate it. Let me start by saying that I totally agree with what you wrote. I agree that you don’t want to swing down at the ball, and that your barrel releases because of centrifugal force. I don’t totally understand the difference in “short to and long through” compared to “quick to and long through” but maybe thats just a terminology thing.

      We are actually in the process of changing out some of our hitting posts because of what I have been learning. Growing up and even into pro ball I heard some great hitters say that, “you want to hit down on the baseball to make it go up” (similar to a golf swing). When I first signed with the Rockies in 2002 the video analysis wasn’t nearly what it is now. I knew personally that when I missed fastballs it was usually because I was under the pitch (typical of most hitters). Many hitters I talked to said that to fix this you need to swing down on the ball and hit the top half. I now understand that this is more of a “feel thing” or a mental thought than anything else because now when I look at these same hitters on You Tube I see them level to the plane of the pitch with their barrel in the zone for a long time. It almost looks like they are doing the exact opposite of what they are thinking during their swing.

      Even though I am going to change many hitting posts on our site I also want to be sure that through watching video, talking to hitters, and certain coaches that i know the ends and outs of the swing. Personally I can see hitters doing something that seems easy (ie. leg kick without the head moving, barrel getting flat working behind my head) but have no idea how to do it. It doesn’t come as natural to me as it may for others. That is why understanding mechanics are helpful sometimes. I worked with Bobby Tewksbary about a month ago and the way he was able to instruct in many different ways to help achieve a mechanical movement was incredible. He is a real inspiration to learning the swing because he works with some of the best hitters in the game today. Hitters are always going to have struggles at some time during the season and the hope is that by knowing the swing well, we can help hitters get through their struggles.

      A big thing for me is to learn more about adjustability during the swing. Since most hitters only take their “A” swing about 40% of the time they need to be able to be athletic and make last minute changes to hit the ball.

      I know I am getting a little off topic but I want to thank you for commenting and I plan on putting more hitting fundamentals and mechanics in some posts that are similar to what you outlined.

      Thanks again and good luck,
      Doug Bernier

      • I am a high school coach in south Louisiana and don’t usually have genetically gifted guys in terms of height. However, in the last four years I have been making my players do a drill that encompasses all things correct in mechanics: forward momentum, torque, effortless powerful swing, proper bat path, good extension and all the while having the mindset of hitting the ball over the lights… I got the original drill from Chris oleary. It is called the babe Ruth drill. I then added his George Brett drill. Going even further, I added a prestride torquing of the torso similar to what you would see in Mickey mantle. I was still having problems with guys reaching with their front leg and leaving their body back instead of committing to the front side. So, I had them set up as follows:
        1-front foot heel on back foot toe (modified babe Ruth type stance)
        2-make the chest face the catcher (Mickey mantle)
        3- keep the bat touching the side of the back shoulder (George Brett)

        To start the swing, I tell them to start to lean towards the pitcher. They are not to step until they think it’s too late. When they get to the point of no return, they are to take a long stride onto a bent front knee.

        They are to keep the chest facing the catcher until they land the front foot.

        When the front foot hits the ground they release the torque and try to put a max effort swing on the ball so that the ball has a trajectory to fly over the center field lights.

        It sounds borderline crazy, but it incorporates every action desired in the swing. We started off the tee and the do front toss with it too. The majority of cage time is spent doing this. When they come to the field, they use their normal setup. After about a month of training, I’ve seen the proper mechanics leak into a bunch of spinners. We have guys that were barely use to hitting it to the outfielders now hitting lasers and wall bangin all over the field. I’m at a new school this year and the kids are loving it now… I call it modified babe Ruth drill.

        • Coach Brown,
          I enjoy reading through your thoughts, you have great insight. I really like the modified Babe Ruth drill, I am going to try it for myself. That drill seems to work on trouble points for my own swing. The adjustability part of the swing by landing on a bent front leg and riding out the front leg bend is very important. I see the same thing you were describing. I also like how you talk about a mental two strike approach. Clint Hurdle is a huge believer in a mental adjustment with two strikes. Why take a different swing than you practice, tighten up the thoughts and approach and go to battle with your swing. Thanks again for your insight. I am working on a few new things and, if you would be willing, I would like to email you a new project we are currently working on to get some feedback. I like hearing what is and is not helpful. Thanks again for your comments and have a good day.

          Doug Bernier

        • Any chance you might have a video of what you are describing? It would be helpful to see it broken down with your words. If you have it already maybe you can post the link? Cheers.

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