Linear vs Rotational Hitting, Pros and Cons of each baseball swing

11

This video can help you answer the questions “what is rotational hitting” or “linear vs rotational hitting which is better?” and most importantly, is there a third option?

When choosing for yourself how to swing a baseball bat, it helps to know the pros and cons of each baseball swing style.  This video (below) is the one of the best I’ve seen to show the differences, and why they matter.

When I first met Bobby Tewksbary, he showed me the 3 different types of hitters from this video – (linear vs rotational hitting, and then the “elite” baseball swing). 

I had more of linear swing, and I wasn’t getting the most out of my abilities.  

Understanding what Bobby talks about in this video was the first step in understanding where I was, and how to map a path to where I wanted to be.

This was 2013.  It was my first season with the Minnesota Twins and I was at a crossroads in my playing career.

I was 33 years old (that’s an old man in baseball years) and for much of my previous 10 professional seasons I swung a wet newspaper. 

I simply hit the way I was always taught.

My whole life I was taught to get my foot down, take my hands to the ball and stay inside everything. 

That year in spring training is when I met Bobby Tewksbary, and just through our first interaction I started to look at hitting differently. 

I never would have made it back to the Major Leagues if my thoughts on hitting hadn’t changed. 

In spring training of 2013 I busted out a leg kick for the first time in my career. 

This was and can sometimes still be frowned upon by smaller players.  Even though the sequence of my swing was not “elite” yet, I was becoming more athletic and hitting balls with more authority. 

For the first time in my career, people started to take notice of my offensive production…

…and it was that same year – 5 years after my Major League debut – I finally made it back to the Major Leagues.

So, what made the difference?

Fast forward to today, I have worked with many hitting coaches and Bobby is a special talent. 

He not only has a good eye to see and analyze the swing at real time, but Bobby understands the swing inside and out and is the best I’ve seen at teaching.  He gets that all people learn differently and he is great at saying things different ways so the hitter understands. 

The goal of hitting is to get the body in the best position possible so the swing can be effective, efficient, and adjustable at the same time. 

With so many people online doing video analysis, my concern is that even though there are many well intentioned people, they don’t understand movement patterns of the swing. 

They see small pieces of the swing that are more results from a larger problem and they aren’t fully sure how the entire kinetic chain of the baseball swing actually works.  More or less they are just putting band aids all over the swing instead of just getting to the core of the problem so all other small inefficiencies fix themselves. 

Most “expert” video analysis people’s opinion are solely online and they aren’t able to connect the dots between what they are seeing on video and how to apply it in an actual game because they have never been there or they don’t work with the best of the best. 

Bobby actually works with Major League hitters throughout many different organizations.  (You may have actually seen him throw to Josh Donaldson at the 2015 all-star game home run derby.  Just a little fun fact. )

linear vs rotational hitting, baseball swing, how to hit a baseball

Hitting coach Bobby Tewksbary throws to Josh Donaldson during the 2015 Home Run Derby

I’ve had the opportunity to hit with Tewks a few times and the only regret I had is that I wasn’t able to instill good habits (instead of unravel 25+ years of bad habits) when I was younger.   

In the video above Bobby talks through the 3 types of baseball swings (linear vs rotational hitting vs a 3rd option) by reviewing Jamey Carroll’s swing, Giancarlo Stanton’s swing, and Albert Pujols’s swing. 

Even though these hitters are very different, we can still learn from these guys on what a better movement pattern looks like. 

The goal is not to turn everyone into home run hitters, because that is not realistic. 

He talks about allowing yourself to get the most bat speed and on plane barrel distance through the hitting zone as each individual is capable.  The result should be more hard hit balls, being able to see the ball longer, and being more adjustable in your swing. 

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it.  I’m telling you, he’s legit. 

To get more hitting instruction from Tewks, check out his Elite Swing Mechanics Book + Instructional Videos.  It’s over 2 hours of video instruction and drills, plus his ebook is awesome.

That link is my affiliate link, so a portion of your purchase supports this website.  It’s free for you, and it helps us keep the 100’s of pages of pro instruction on Pro Baseball Insider free for everyone… so thank you!

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 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, he is now a professional scout with the Colorado Rockies. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

Share.

11 Comments

  1. Doug,

    Jamey Carroll was not a good example of a linear hitter. I think of linear hitting as the “back to front” hitting of the Lau/Hriniak system of hitting. Carrol, although he has linear movement with his stride, is just a “hands” hitter. He has no counter-rotational movement pre-stride. He has little spine driven shoulder slant and elbow slotting.

    That’s an older clip of Stanton from his Miami days. Stanton doesn’t slot his elbows properly, particularly his rear elbow. He tended to hit around the ball. Hits differently today with closed stance and minimal stride. Gets away with inefficient mechanics with his 6’6″/ 260 lb. frame.

    Older clip of Pujols from St. Louis days with a no-stride approach. He has more counter-rotation than Stanton with down-and-in movement of his front shoulder and the loading of his rear scap. He has gone back to striding with the Angels and narrowed his stance, though he goes to a no-stride every now and then.

    The swing is linear with the stride to rotational following heel plant to linear with back leg movement foward andcthe skipping of the back foot to rotational with the follow-through.

    • Hey Joe,
      Yeah I understand what you are saying about more traditional linear hitters that follow the Charlie Lau theory such as Robin Ventura. I believe with Jamey Carroll, Tewks is talking more about the hand path and using that in place of “push hitter”. Yeah that is an older video of Stanton but he pretty much does the same thing. Obviously now his lower half is more closed but he lacks adjustability with his hands and his upper half during the swing is not much different. He still is out and around the ball even though he will catch a ball deep at times. His elbow slot isn’t bad, it will get away from his body occasionally but he is pretty flat through the zone and his strength more than makes up for it. Pujols is constantly tinkering with his swing so at times he will be narrower, just use a heel lift, and I’ve even seen him use a leg kick. But Tewks is just talking about his hands being the last thing to go to the ball.

  2. Would you describe the elite baseball swing as an in-between of both Linear and Rotational? Not overdoing rotational and not overdoing Linear? If not what is the definition?

    • Yes, in my opinion, that is a great way to define the elite swing. Taking aspects from both allow for more adjustability in the swing. More adjustability helps with being able to get the barrel to the baseball more often.

  3. Hi Coach Doug,

    Great information (as always)… Please help me to understand why no one throughout your professional career attempted to move you away from your linear mechanics. Do you remember people suggesting such changes and something just didn’t click? Or was the topic never discussed? I don’t understand.

    Thanks.

    TB

    • I played in a very interesting time of baseball. When I first got into pro ball, I was taught to hit ground balls to 2nd base. (Crazy huh). I was taught to use my hands, and because of my size, don’t use a leg kick or swing hard. Just make contact and see what happens. I was taught to not hit the ball in the air. I tried to apply what I was being taught because I saw small statured major league players doing the same thing I was being taught.

      Obviously thoughts on hitting and teaching started to change. In 2013 I tried to make a swing change as video replay got better and teaching started to change. I had difficulty making swing changes at 33 years old after my swing was so grooved to swing one way. I attempted to undo 25 years worth of bad habits in an offseason. My swing got better but was never where it needed to be. At times I was able to see much better improvements in batting practice but my old swing would show up during the game.

      I played through the ground ball and the launch angle era. It’s crazy to see how teaching the game and evaluating the game changed over my 16 year career.

      • Yes, but why did people resort to teach that approach when they had examples of small guys, relative to today, in 1960s hitters like Mays, Mantle, Jimmy Wynn, etc. Besides, just look at Ruth, DiMaggio, and William’s. That’s all they had to do. The biophysics of the swing aren’t different for small guys and big guys.

  4. I have a lot of respect for Tewks and others like him that started to look at the swing via slo-mo video, but what he is saying, or whoever is commenting on the video, doesn’t make sense to me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the concepts of linear, rotational and what people are now calling the elite swing. I am fortunate to be able to talk hitting with some really good minds regarding the swing, but when he talks about Pujols creating bat speed early in the swing and Stanton just basically spinning, that doesn’t add up. Stanton actually does have the elite swing he describes in this video, he just happened to be making an adjustment on the fly to an outside pitch. Pujols has an average bat speed of 86mph and Stanton has a bat speed of somewhere between 91 and 100mph. He ball exit velocity is definitely higher than Pujols which would lead one to believe he is swinging his bat faster and hitting the ball harder. Maybe I am just missing something here…cheers.

    • Hey Richard,
      Thanks for commenting. I understand what you are saying but, there are a few things to consider. First, Stanton is 6’6″ 245 pounds and a complete specimen. When I first played against him I found myself watching everything he did. I couldn’t believe someone that big had a 32 or 33 inch waist. He is a unbelievable athlete and as strong as they come.

      Pujols is 6’3″ and 240 but not near the athlete or as strong as Stanton. Stanton is going to swing harder just because he is a stronger player. Stanton has a great swing, and he has the stats to back it up. But since his bat and hips are moving to the ball at the same time, in my opinion, he is not quite as adjustable as Pujols. We are really splitting hairs here. Some players can get away with things because they have so much more talent and strength than others. I personally believe that Pujols gets more out of his ability than Stanton does. Ok, I know that is a bold statement and especially since he is coming off the MVP last year, but I think he still has more room to get better and a higher ceiling than probably anyone in the game.

      Pujols had 10 straight years of hitting over .300 with between 32 and 49 homers and less than 100 strikeouts every year. I just think Pujols has a bit more adjustability built into his swing and gets to his closer max bat speed that his body is able to produce. Obviously since he is getting older he is not the hitter he was when he was with the Cardinals.

      Stantons numbers are a little more inconsistent. More strikeouts and lower batting average. Now I am not saying I wouldn’t take Stanton and his 59 homers, he is one of the best players in baseball, I just agree with Tewks that he may be able to get a bit more adjustability and maybe even more bat speed if he was able to stretch his “rubber band” a little tighter by having his hips and hands move to the ball independently. Stanton does a great job of getting his bat into the zone and on path with the pitch. His barrel is in the zone for a long time. The hardest thing about facing big league pitching is the velocity is good, but the movement is so late that sometimes by the time you realize you shouldn’t be swinging at a pitch, you are already committed.

      On the flip side, a person that has been hitting like this their entire life may struggle if they tried to make changes. I personally tried to make changes and I worked with some big name players in baseball that tried to make changes. Some of them saw great results in batting practice but weren’t able to make it work in the games.

      Again I think this is splitting hairs by trying to talk about the differences between these two great players. I just think that since his ability is so good and his ceiling is so high that even though he is a MVP, he still might even have room for improvement. That could be scary.

      When you can start the bat speed earlier (behind you) in your swing, you are able to see the ball longer and the point of no return in your swing is a tick later as well, which lets you swing at and hit more pitches that YOU want to swing at and not what the pitcher wants you to swing at.

      I really enjoy talking baseball. That is my take. Let me know your thoughts. Have a good day.
      Doug

    • I would think an outside pitch the hands would separate more, not less. Ideally contact on the outside pitch happens later, and the hands might stay back more. Therefore, in the context of Stanton’s swing, he would trend towards Pujols’ mechanics on an outside pitch, trying to stay back and not roll over the wrists, or leave the palm up/palm down “punch” at contact that is present with solid hits. Yet, in the video, Stanton’s hips and hands are still synched, which supports the theory that his tremendous strength allows the hands and hips to stay synched up and still hit the outside pitch.

      • I like your viewpoint. I believe, since everything is happening so quickly that the hand separation is the same regardless of the pitch. Hitters need to get to a consistent load and separation before they make their move to the ball, where they can attack any velo and any location. Yes, Stanton’s hips and hands are synced and which is really good, and his strength lets him hit baseballs further than most people. As long as he is synced he can handle any pitch. I believe Tewks is talking about his ability to be synced up (or be on time) is not as consistent as some other hitters because his bat path is more rotational. Stanton is crazy strong and it would be fun to be able to square up baseball like him.

Leave A Reply