Staying “Inside” the Ball
There are a number of commonly used swing terminologies that coaches used to “instruct” (and I use that term loosely) their hitters. Whether it be a private instructor or team coach you routinely hear them throw to their hitters and tell them to “stay inside”. But do we really understand what that means? I spent the great majority of my career trying to “stay inside” and became very proficient at it. The problem was I didn’t see any increased performance. What I did experience is a lack of power production and a lack of consistent contact. But why you might be wondering?
First of all we should look at what the term “stay inside” elicits to the hitter trying to perform this task. The image that is created in the mind of the hitter or is often drilled into the hitter through ridiculous drills is that the hands are supposed to be taken to the inner half of the ball. Meaning the hitter forces the hands closer to the body in order to both “stay inside” and hit the inside half of the ball. The problem is that the hitter’s intention to force the hands inside actually creates a less than optimal bat path and many times causes the hitter to either block the ball to the opposite field or (if the hitter is slightly out in front) to release the bat head too early, hooking the ball, and of course causing his coach to yell “Stay Inside”.
Now before everyone gets in an uproar thinking that I’m saying that the hands shouldn’t be inside the ball let me clarify one thing. When a hitter executes a proper bat path the hands will indeed be inside the ball. That being said focusing on getting the hands inside creates a lengthened bat path and causes many of the issues that “staying inside” is trying to eliminate. You see, focusing on staying inside is focusing on the product of a proper movement instead of focusing on executing the proper movement itself. If a hitter is focused on executing a proper swing and bat path on every pitch then the hands will be inside the ball naturally. It’s very similar to a hitter focusing on having a proper follow through. The follow through is nothing more than the by-product of everything that has taken place before it. If a hitter executes a mechanically sound swing then the follow through will be right where it’s supposed to be. If the hitter focuses on having a proper follow through without taking care of the steps before it then that hitter will experience more breakdown in an already compromised swing.
I encourage all of my hitters to stop worrying about and working on “staying inside”. Instead I have them focus on the execution of a proper, downhill, bat path and allow the rest to take care of itself. With this approach my hitters experience a more direct and repeatable swing and they generate more power and consistency with far less effort. It’s important that we remember that we’re not trying to take the HANDS to the ball in the shortest distance possible but rather the BARREL to the ball in the shortest distance possible. Anything that inhibits the barrel’s ability to get into the hitting zone should be avoided. Work on optimizing your bat path and you’ll find that “staying inside” takes care of itself.