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Misconception - Swing Down on the Ball to Create Backspin

Over the years I’ve heard a number of baseball experts talk about creating backspin on the ball. Typically this is related to a player being able to hit the ball a long way, and often times the concept correlates with swinging down at the ball. Beware! That is a slippery slope.

I’ve never seen enough evidence that swinging down at the ball consistently creates backspin. So it doesn’t seem worth the trouble. More importantly, do you have any idea how difficult it is to make consistent solid contact with a downward swing? The average hitter would tend to get loopy with such an approach, thus creating the dreaded hole in the swing. Are there some players with the capability to swing this way? Probably so, but it takes incredible precision and timing. 

By the time a baseball reaches home plate, the vast majority of the time the ball has a downward trajectory. So this method calls for an individual to swing down at an object that is on a downward slope. The laws of physics tell us all we need to know - Bad Idea!

Ted Williams had a more logical approach. He believed the best swing path was to match the trajectory of the baseball. For example, if a pitcher hung a slider, Williams would match that sight downward angle with the opposite upward swing path - and drive through the ball. He definitely wasn’t swinging down at the pitch.

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Some players seem to hit the ball with more backspin than others, but that doesn’t always mean they hit the ball with more authority. There have been plenty of “no doubt” home runs over the years that didn’t have backspin - they were simply squared up and crushed into oblivion.

Tony Gwynn, one of the purest hitters of all-time, was a big proponent of tee work. He preferred to hit wiffle balls off the tee, because it was easier to tell if he was making solid contact. According to Gwynn, if he made solid contact the wiffle ball would act like a knuckleball off the tee and he could hear air going through the ball; however, if he didn’t make solid contact it would spin and create a different sound. Gwynn’s objective was to hit the ball squarely. When the ball was spinning he would make adjustments to his swing.

The beauty of the baseball swing is that no two swings are exactly alike. Some are prettier than others but don’t produce, while some look horrendous but are consistently effective. If your swing produces a natural backspin on the ball, more power to you. If it doesn’t, don’t sweat it. There have been countless great hitters who didn’t hit with backspin, including those of the power variety.

The most important thing is to find a comfortable and consistent swing that works for you. If the swing is fundamentally sound, and allows you to consistently square up the ball, then don’t mess with a good thing.

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