How a batter holds the bat is one thing that a lot of players overlook when addressing problems with hitting. I think that it is assumed that hitters just know how to do it. Sometimes a minor adjustment in the grip can go a long way to improve contact and overall bat speed. Below are three things to consider or look for if a player's swing needs work.
Line up the knuckles. This tip should not be a surprise since most kids hear of this at an early age. Occasionally though, I will run into a player who still does not come close to lining up his knuckles on the bat. The knuckles that are important are the second set in from the finger tips. When holding the bat, these knuckles on both hands should form somewhat of a straight line from one hand to the next. Knuckles that do not line up exactly are ok up to a point. The farther out of alignment they are usually results in hitting problems. By lining up the knuckles, the batter has a greater ability to keep the bat on the same plane during the swing. Moving the knuckles farther out of alignment tends to create a swing that hops the bat out of the hitting zone. Knuckles aligned makes the swing smoother, quicker, and keeps the bat in the hitting zone longer
Albert Pujols. Index knuckles raised.
Knuckles raised. The next time you see a close-up of a hitter’s hands on a bat, you’ll probably notice that the knuckle on both index fingers are raised slightly higher than the other fingers. This typically happens when the batter is holding the bat correctly. Doing this is a product of holding the bat more in the fingers of your hand instead of jamming the bat back into the palm area. The picture at right shows this proper, more in the fingers grip that golfers use. It’s the same principle in hitting that enables the wrists to be more free in order to create maximum bat speed through the hitting zone. Holding the club/bat back in your hand too much tends to lock up the wrists causing a slower, more restrictive swing.
Ichiro shows the proper 90 degree angle of his bottom arm and the bat.
90 degree angle. Another thing to notice when analyzing photos of hitters is that most keep a 90 degree angle with their bottom arm and bat. Some players (like Ichiro Suzuki in the top photo) may start with an angle greater than 90 degrees in their initial stance but then get it to 90 degrees or less before they actually swing to the ball. Doing this correctly with the bottom arm/wrist and the bat allows the wrists to fire the barrel of the bat to the ball by snapping the bottom wrist just before contact. Think of a hammer hitting a nail. The carpenter lowers the butt (bottom) of the hammer towards the ground and then fires the wrist in order to throw the hammer head at the nail. If the carpenter started with his wrist already fired, he would not develop any head speed to the nail. He would just be tapping the nail without any force. The same principle occurs with hitting. A batter that keeps his arm and bat at an angle greater than 90 degrees prevents the wrists from firing the barrel of the bat to the ball. The result is a much weaker contact with the ball. Be careful though. Having too small of an angle causes the bat to "wrap" around the head too much which increases the distance the barrel has to travel to get to the ball.