A Choke-Up Grip Facilitates Faster Swing and Stride Times without Compromising Bat Velocity and Bat Control

Article excerpt

Introduction

Historically, since major league baseball established its modern day roots in the early 1900's, the best hitters in the game have studied hitting mechanics to improve their performances (Cobb, 1961; DeRenne, 2007; Gwynn, 1998; Lau, Glossbbrenner, & LaRussa; 1980; Williams, 1970). Though the early day great hall of fame hitters didn't have the advantages of present day high-technology and research-generated information, the majority of those hitters and those of present day agree that by studying and applying swing kinematics will create greater bat control during competition (Alston & Weiskopf, 1972; Cobb, 1961; DeRenne, 2007; Gwynn, 1998; Williams, 1970). From the one of games early great hitters TyCobb (1961), to modern era hall of fame hitter Ted Williams (1970), to eight time major league batting champion and hall of fame hitter Tony Gwynn (1998) and finally to major league home run king great Barry Bonds, these great hitters share in the belief that increasing bat control is essential for successful hitting (Cobb, 1961; Gwynn, 1998; Williams, 1970).

As intercollegiate baseball evolved in the 29th Century mainly from major league influences, hall of fame intercollegiate head coaches such as Rod Dedeaux (Division I Coach of the 20th Century), John Scolinos (Division II Coach of the 21st Century), Skip Berkman (Division I NCAA Coach of the 1990 Decade), Ron Polk (1978), Jerry Kindall (2000) and Tony Gwynn (1998); and intercollegiate hitting coaches Dr. Coop DeRenne, (2007), All-American Jerry Kindall (2000), and Tony Gwynn (1998) also recognize the importance of increasing bat control in various offensive situations (e.g., two-strikes on the hitter, hit-and-run play, hit to opposite field) (Delmonico, 1996). Yet, ask any of these great managers or hitters to define bat control, and there would no common answer. Furthmore, when these highly successful intercollegiate hitters and coaches discuss the topic of bat control, the majority agrees that choking up on the bat will increase bat control (Berkow & Kaplan, 1992; Delmonico, 1996; DeRenne, 2007; Gwynn, 1998; Kindall & Winkin, 2000; Polk, 1978; Stallings, J. & Bennett, B. [Eds.], 2003). If in the opinion of these intercollegiate coaches that choking up on the bat is a hitting technique used specifically in various game offensive hitting situations to increase bat control, then it is important for all collegiate hitters, coaches, and hitting coaches to understand what is bat control and how is it improved.

Anecdotal opinions from intercollegiate head coaches and hitting coaches, suggest that increased bat control is a result of choking up on the bat that may or may not aid in increasing bat speed, or bat swing time ("bat quickness ") (Delmonico, 1996; DeRenne, 2007; Gwynn, 1998; Kindall & Winkin, 2000; Polk, 1978; Stallings, J. & Bennett, B. [Eds.], 2003). In addition, intercollegiate hitters believe that as the bat travels through the swing's range of motion with a choke-up grip, the bat feels lighter and more controllable (a potential psychological factor beyond the scope of this study) (Adair, 1990; Bahill & Karnavas, 1989; Delmonico, 1996; DeRenne, 2007; Gwynn, 1998; Kindall & Winkin, 2000) as compared to the normal grip swing with hands held down at the end of the bat.

Limited hitting research studies has been conducted over the past twenty-five years to determine bat control and associated factors (DeRenne, & Blitzbau, 1990; Escamilla, Fleisig, DeRenne, Taylor, Moorman, Imamura, 2009; Fleisig, Zheng, Stodden, & Andrews, 2002; McIntyre, & Pfautsh, 1982; Messier, & Owen, 1985; Messier, & Owen, 1986; Szymanski, D.J., DeRenne. C., & Spaniol, F.J., 2009). Based on limited research on bat control, the primary purposes of this study were to explore the relationship among hitting components (stride time, swing time, bat quickness, bat velocity, and bat-ball accuracy), and bat control during the normal and choke-up grip swings. …