bat drag in baseball

Bat Drag In Youth Baseball: A Guide To Better Swings

bat drag

As parents and coaches deeply invested in youth baseball, we often find ourselves observing players’ swings, sensing something isn’t quite aligning. That subtle flaw, more often than not, is bat drag. While it’s a challenge that affects hitters of all ages, it’s especially pronounced among our young players. But what exactly is bat drag, and how does it differ from the much-desired bat lag?

In this article, we aim to cover all things bat drag, offering insights, visual cues, and actionable drills to transform that drag into effective lag. Whether you’re a seasoned coach, a dedicated parent, or a player aiming to refine your swing, this guide promises to shed light on one of baseball’s important aspects of swing mechanics.

Key Takeaways

  • Bat drag is a common issue that can affect a hitter’s power and accuracy.
  • Understanding the root cause of bat drag is crucial to correcting the problem.
  • Incorporating proper training and technique, such as hitting drills, can help improve a player’s swing and overall performance.

Recognizing Bat Drag

This baseball season has been a rollercoaster of emotions and learning experiences, especially when it came to my son’s swing. As the games progressed, I noticed a distinct change in his swing mechanics. Eager to help, I found myself offering a ton of instructions, tips, and techniques. In hindsight, I realize that my well-intentioned advice might have overwhelmed him, leading to confusion rather than clarity.

bat drag

It wasn’t until a particularly challenging game, where his hits weren’t connecting as they used to, that I took a step back. After reviewing some of his recent batting videos and consulting with fellow coaches, it dawned on me. The core issue was bat drag. All the signs were there – the trailing bat, the leading elbow, and the lack of consistent power in his hits.

Recognizing bat drag in my son’s swing was both a revelation and a relief. It provided a clear direction on what needed to be addressed. Instead of bombarding him with multiple instructions, we could now focus on this specific aspect, ensuring he gets back on track with a refined and powerful swing.


Difference Between Bat Drag and Bat Lag

In the world of baseball, terms like bat drag and bat lag often get thrown around, sometimes interchangeably. However, understanding the distinction between the two is crucial for anyone looking to refine a player’s swing mechanics.

Bat Drag: Bat drag occurs when the barrel of the bat lags behind during the swing, often caused by the back elbow leading too far ahead and dropping below the level of the hands. The result? A long, slow swing that lacks power.

Bat Lag: Contrary to bat drag, bat lag is what every hitter should strive for. It’s the phase where the bat remains connected and aligned with the body, ready to be unleashed with power onto the ball. Bat lag ensures that the barrel is properly positioned for a powerful hit. The key to achieving bat lag lies in maintaining a tight connection to the rear shoulder with the barrel and ensuring the barrel remains slightly behind the top hand until the point of contact.


Causes of Bat Drag In Youth Baseball

Bat drag, while a common issue among young players, can be hard to pinpoint. It’s not just about identifying it but understanding its root causes to effectively address it.

Here’s a deeper dive into what leads to bat drag:

  1. Push Out with the Top Hand: One of the primary causes I observed, especially in my son’s swing, was the tendency to push out with the top hand during the swing. This movement leads to a loss in the crucial angle between the bicep and forearm. Instead of maintaining a tight, controlled angle, the push out causes the bat to trail, leading to drag.
  2. Dropping of the Bottom Hand: Another common movement that contributes to bat drag is when the bottom hand drops as the swing initiates. This also causes the barrel to move away from the body, making it harder to achieve a compact and powerful swing. The result? The bat drags through the hitting zone, reducing both power and accuracy.
  3. The Dragging Back Elbow: Perhaps the most recognizable cause of bat drag is the dragging back elbow. This happens when the back elbow leads the swing, getting ahead of the top hand. The consequence is a bat that gets stuck behind the player, dragging around the hitting zone. This not only reduces bat speed but also compromises barrel control, which is vital for directing the ball.
  4. Early Barrel Turn: Another cause of bat drag is an early barrel turn, where the hitter’s barrel turns too early in the swing, causing the back elbow to race passed the hitter’s belly button.

Hitting Drills to Fix Bat Drag

While understanding the issue is the first step, implementing the right drills is the key to fixing it. Here are some drills, inspired by expert coaching insights, that can help players overcome bat drag:

1. Dumbbell Swing Drill: Using a dumbbell, this exercise focuses on strengthening the wrists, forearms, and rear arm. Holding the dumbbell as if it were a bat, the goal is to initiate the hip turn first, followed by a connected turn, bringing the top of the dumbbell to the shoulder.

2. Lag Progression Drill: This drill is also about feeling and understanding the body’s movement through the swing. Starting in the launch position, the first step is to achieve a connected position, ensuring the barrel remains slightly behind and above the top hand. From this position, the next step is to turn and open the chest, achieving the desired bat lag. The final step is to release through, simulating a full swing.

3. Replace the Elbow Drill: Holding the bat choked up and across the body, the idea is to replace the front elbow with the knob of the bat. This movement ensures the barrel remains behind the top hand, promoting bat lag over bat drag.

4. Top Hand Isolation Drill: Using a small bat or your regular one, get into the launch position. Place one hand on your chest and perform a slow-motion swing, ensuring the hand stays in front of the elbow. This drill helps maintain the correct hand and elbow relationship throughout the swing.

6. J-Band Resistance Drills: Attach a J-band to a fence or screen for resistance, aiding in recognizing the correct swing path. From the launch position, swing ensuring the hand leads the elbow. The J-band’s resistance offers instant feedback for swing correction.


Incorporating Training Aids

Training aids can be a useful tool for players looking to fix bat drag and improve their hitting mechanics. There are a variety of hitting tools available on the market, including heavy bats, swing trainers, and hitting tees. Incorporating these tools into a player’s practice routine can help them develop proper swing mechanics and increase their bat speed.

One popular training aid for fixing bat drag is the heavy bat. Using a heavy bat during practice can help players develop the muscle memory needed to swing through the ball and avoid dragging the bat. Amazon bestselling book “The Science of Hitting” by Ted Williams recommends using a bat that is 20-30% heavier than the player’s game bat for practice swings.

Another training aid that can be helpful for players with bat drag is a swing trainer. These devices are designed to help players develop proper swing mechanics by providing feedback on their swing path and timing. The Rope Bat is a popular swing trainer that is specifically designed to help players eliminate bat drag and improve their mechanics.

In addition to training aids, players can also benefit from participating in a bat speed program like the All- American program by CamWood. These programs are designed to help players increase their bat speed through a series of drills and exercises. By increasing their bat speed, players can improve their ability to hit the ball with power and avoid dragging the bat.


Learning from the Pros

Many professional baseball players have had to overcome bat drag during their careers. They have developed hitting drills to fix bat drag that can be helpful for players of all levels. Here are some tips from the pros on how to correct bat drag and improve your hitting:

Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson, a former American League MVP, emphasizes the importance of keeping the hands inside the ball and avoiding an overly rotational swing. Consequently, he recommends using a tee to practice staying inside the ball and driving it to the opposite field. This drill effectively helps eliminate bat drag and enhance swing mechanics.

Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista, a six-time All-Star and two-time home run champion suggests focusing on the back elbow during the swing. He emphasizes keeping the elbow up and close to the body to prevent bat drag and increase power. Bautista also recommends using a tee to practice this technique.

Ball Exit Speed and Barrel Time

Improving ball exit speed and barrel time can also help eliminate dragging bats. Players should focus on hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the bat and making solid contact with the ball. This improves the transfer of energy from the bat to the ball and increases the distance the ball travels.

Pitch-Plane and Barrel Path

Paying attention to pitch-plane and barrel path can also help reduce bat drag. Players should aim to swing on the same plane as the pitch and keep the barrel of the bat in the hitting zone for as long as possible. This helps players make solid contact with the ball and improve their timing.

Pitch Depth

Players should also be aware of pitch depth. Hitting coach Perry Husband recommends focusing on hitting the ball out in front of the plate to avoid getting caught out in front of off-speed pitches. This helps improve timing and prevent bat drag.

Hitting Instructor Recommendations

A hitting instructor we’ve worked with, recommends focusing on the “barred out-front arm” and “time to impact” to eliminate bat drag. Players should work on keeping the front arm straight and using the back arm to drive the bat through the zone. This helps players improve their timing and avoid casting the bat.

By following these tips and incorporating hitting drills to fix bat drag into their practice routine, players can improve their swing mechanics and become more consistent hitters.


Final Thoughts On Bat Drag

Navigating the world of youth baseball can be filled with learning curves, both for young players and their parents. In this article, we’ve unpacked the concept of bat drag, its implications, and the difference with bat lag.

Understanding the importance of recognizing and addressing bat drag early on is crucial. Armed with the right knowledge and drills, parents can effectively guide their young players toward a more consistent and powerful swing, paving the way for success on the diamond.


Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is bat drag?

Bat drag happens when the back elbow leads the swing, causing the bat to lag and reducing power and control, hindering effective hits.

How can you address bat drag in young players?

Addressing bat drag involves understanding its mechanics and implementing targeted drills. Regular practice, combined with feedback and the right techniques, can help young players overcome this challenge.

Why does my child swing below the ball?

Swinging under the ball often stems from bat drag or flawed mechanics. Analyzing the swing and using drills can encourage a level or upward swing path.

Why do I consistently hit grounders?

Hitting ground balls frequently can be due to an overly steep swing or hitting the top half of the ball. Adjusting the swing angle and focusing on hitting the ball’s center can help achieve line drives.

How does drag affect a baseball’s trajectory?

In aerodynamics, drag slows a baseball, affecting its velocity, distance, and trajectory, making catches easier for fielders.

How can you determine if a bat is too heavy?

If a child seems off-balance or struggles with swing mechanics, their bat may be too heavy. It’s vital to select a bat suited to the player’s strength and skill.

Is it essential to keep your elbow elevated while hitting?

Some coaches recommend a “high elbow,” but the priority is a comfortable launch position. The elbow should enable a direct, powerful swing for consistency.

How can I prevent dipping during my swing?

Dropping the back shoulder causes inconsistent contact. Prioritize a level shoulder plane and use tee drills to visualize a steady swing path.

What causes a long swing in baseball?

Overstriding, an inefficient bat path, and slow hand speed are primary causes of a long swing.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.
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