Bat Drag is one of the most common, and problematic, swing flaws that you will see in younger hitters (and some older hitters).

Bat Drag is a problem because, while it can boost a hitter's power, it can also lengthen their swing to the point where they cannot hit well, if at all, as they get older.

I discuss Bat Drag in a couple of pieces on my public site, but Fixing Bat Drag goes into much more detail about why Bat Drag happens and, more importantly, discusses how to fix Bat Drag.

By reading the articles and doing the drills listed below, you will be well on your way to understanding and fixing any problem with Bat Drag.

Sections and articles marked are viewable by everyone. The other pieces are only viewable by Clients who have purchased Fixing Bat Drag or one of my other hitting webbooks.

If you are not a client and would like to purchase Fixing Bat Drag, you can Buy It Now on its own or you can get it for FREE with the purchase of one of my hitting bundles.

Bat Drag 101

As I explain at greater length in my public site article on the subject, Bat Drag is a relatively common flaw that affects roughly 75% of young hitters and a significant proportion of older hitters, including major leaguer Mark Reynolds.

What Bat Drag Looks Like

In a swing affected by Bat Drag...

  • The hitter starts their swing by pulling with their back arm and their top hand.
  • The hitter's back elbow gets ahead of their hands from the start of their swing.
  • The hitter's elbows, rather than maintaining their spacing, slide relatively close together.

...which will put the hitter in the classic stacked elbows position...

Bat Drag

...with the back elbow pretty much directly below, and relatively close to, the front elbow at or around Bat Lag.

Bat Drag

Bat Drag will tend to lengthen the swing, alter the Swing Plane and/or make it hard for the hitter to hit the ball with the proper Slight Uppercut, and make it hard for a hitter to first hit fastballs and then hit any pitch.

Bat Drag

That will often turn a good 5th grade hitter into a 6th grade strike out machine.[1]

Why Bat Drag Happens

The more I worked with my younger son and the other guys on his baseball teams on their Bat Drag, the more I realized that most problems with Bat Drag reflect an attempt to create force from the wrong place; from the arms -- and the back arm in particular -- rather than The Core.[2]

The clip below is the one that really helped me see this.

Bat Drag

Watch his back elbow and notice how he starts his swing by pulling with his back elbow. His hips do rotate, but only after his back elbow and as a result of what his back elbow is doing.

You can see the same pattern in the clip below; notice how he starts his swing by pulling like crazy with his back elbow, causing his back elbow to leak well forward of his back hip. Again, his hips do rotate, but largely as a result of what his back elbow is doing.

Bat Drag

In the High-Level Swing, the arms are responsible for maintaining the positioning of the barrel and making small adjustments; most of the power is generated by the muscles of The Core. In a swing with Bat Drag, what happens is that the back elbow leaks forward as the hitter tries to get their back elbow into a position of leverage so that it can pull the barrel around.[3]

Bat Drag

Only when the back elbow slides forward of the back hip, and stops out in front of the back hip, does the barrel start to turn.

While this works to a degree, it takes too long to unfold. That forces the hitter to start their swing sooner than they should and makes them vulnerable to good fastballs and quality off-speed pitching, among other things.

An Analogy

In general, the most common problems that you see in younger ballplayers -- and some older ballplayers -- result from their trying to do too much with their arms.

When they throw, they throw with their arms, using a motion that is commonly referred to as, "Throwing like a girl." Similarly, when they hit, they power their swing with their arms.

In the case of a hitter with Bat Drag, as they try to swing with their arms -- and because their back arm is usually their dominant arm -- their back arm and top hand overpower their swing, causing their back elbow to slide forward and their swing to unfold well out in front of them.

In contrast, and as I explain in my piece on Elbow Linkage, in a high-level swing the elbows move as if they are linked. That coordinated movement of the elbows indicates that the hitter is powering their swing with their entire body, and their hips in particular, and not by pulling with their back arm.

Bat Drag in Older Hitters

Are you an older hitter who has been told you have a long swing?

The problem may be Bat Drag. 

Bat Drag is a problem that primarily affects younger hitters. However, that is because most hitters simply don't have the vision or the reflexes to make a swing that is infected with Bat Drag work at a higher level, not because older hitters can't have a problem with Bat Drag.

In fact, a number of my college, and one of my pro, hitters had Bat Drag, and I have found some commonalities in what they were taught that contributed to their developing Bat Drag and a long swing as a result.

In general, most of my older hitters with Bat Drag have one of two problems, both of which are very widely taught...

  • Problems with their grip.
  • Being taught the single worst cue.

What Does NOT Work

When my older son started to struggle with Bat Drag, I looked at every video on the Internet, read every article, and tried every solution that I could find.

What I found is that NONE of the proposed solutions for Bat Drag don't work.

I know, because I tried them all.

Heavy Bat

When I realized my older son had a problem with Bat Drag, the first thing I did was but him a heavier, wood bat.

I was assured that would quickly improve in swing. Instead, it made it (much) worse, not better.

What I saw on video was what you see in these two frames of a hitter using the Sledge Bat, which is a type of heavy bat that is targeted at kids.

In the picture above, notice how the hitter's front arm is fully extended and barred out and his back elbow has slid forward of his back hip.

In the picture above, notice how the hitter is in the standard stacked elbow position, with the back elbow just below the front elbow.

At the end of the day, heavy bats don't work because Bat Drag isn't just a problem of strength. Instead, Bat Drag is a problem with where and how the hitter generates force. Until you address that problem, a heavy bat is likely only going to make Bat Drag worse and not better.

In my experience, solutions like the use of a heavy bat to deal with Bat Drag do not work. Instead, they tend to make a problem with Bat Drag worse. In fact, I would argue that the reason why both of my boys had fairly serious problems with Bat Drag wasn't that I didn't have them swing with heavy enough bats.

Instead, the problem was that I gave them heavy bats too soon.

As a result, I am fairly cautious when it comes to heavy bats and slow to adopt them, at least when it comes to kids who aren't yet in 7th or 8th grade. 

Bat on the Side of the Shoulder

The main thing I tried when working on my older son's Bat Drag was having him do a number of drills in which you put the bat on the side of your shoulder and swing from there, much as you see demonstrated in videos like these...

While he showed some slight improvement when doing this, when I looked at his swings on video I saw that his Bat Drag was just being masked, not eliminated.

Bat Drag

Bat on the Side of the Shoulder and Bat Drag

What's worse, and as was the case for the hitter above, merely putting the bat on the side of his back shoulder and dropping his back elbow to his side, in the absence of any other instruction, seemed to increase the temptation for him to start the swing by pulling with his back elbow.

In my (direct) experience, putting the bat on the side of the shoulder only works if you accompany it with a complete set of instruction and cues as I do with the George Brett Drill and, just as importantly, know what "gotcha's" to look for.

Getting the Back Elbow Up

When my son and his teammates were younger, one cue that did seem to work was telling them to get their back elbow up. While I don't have video to prove it, I believe that getting the back elbow up made it less likely that they would be late in starting their swing and more likely to be on time. Basically, it made them more direct to the ball (and direct to the ball is a good thing in most young hitters). However, that cue stopped working in 3rd grade when we moved to kid pitch and hitting wasn't as simple as timing the pitch as it came out of the pitching machine.

Turning the Barrel

Some people swear that teaching hitters to turn the barrel will fix Bat Drag. However, in the case of my older son, his problem was that he already turned the barrel too much with his hands. As a result, telling him to turn the barrel turned a long, slow, sweep-y swing into an even longer, slower, sweep-ier swing. At the core, he wasn't doing the right things with his hands and wrists and and telling him to turn the barrel, as it is commonly taught, made things worse and not better.

There are many videos and articles out there that purport to fix bat drag. However, I tried most of them out when working with my older son and found that they either don't work or they work for reasons that are different than are proposed. It was their minimal to total ineffectiveness that led me to research Bat Drag and to come up with my own solutions to it.

Purchase Fixing Bat Drag

To Purchase Fixing Bat Drag and get access to the drills the I mention in this piece, as well as exclusive client-only content like information on the gotcha's to watch out for, you have two options. First, you can purchase access to Fixing Bat Drag on its own. You can also get free access to Fixing Bat Drag with the purchase of my hitting streaming DVD or one of my hitting bundles

Notes

[1] I speak from experience. Some of the kids on one of my son's 6th grade team just play baseball for fun. Many of them went from being good hitters with power in 5th grade to struggling to get a single hit all year in 6th grade (and a few didn't get any hits all year). Baseball, at least at the higher levels of grade school and in the better leagues, isn't a game where you can not practice and walk onto the field and still be good.

[2] In most cases, the hitter's dominant, stronger arm will be their back arm, so it's not at all surprising that they will try to do too much with their back arm (and top hand). That is why many hitters are successful hitting from the opposite side from which they throw; it puts their dominant arm in a different position relative to their swing and creates a front arm, bottom hand dominant swing rather than a back arm, top hand dominant swing.

[3] The same basic thing happens when you tell a hitter to pull the knob to the ball, which is why that cue can cause so many problems, especially with the back elbow. The hitter first has to get their back elbow into a position that they can pull from. That takes extra time and lengthens the swing.

[4] Switching to a lighter bat isn't going to make things immediately better. The issue is that the hitter has learned to start their swing by pulling with their back elbow, and that now happens regardless of the weight of the bat. What the lighter bat will do is reduce the perceived need to pull with the bat elbow, which will help the hitter move to a different and better movement pattern.

[5] Albert Pujols is one of the few major league hitters who uses something close to a door knocker knuckle grip and, to make it work, he has to flex the wrist of his top hand much more than average in order to keep his elbows from getting too close together.

[6] In some cases this is because they have been taught to pull the knob to the ball, and they find that they can do this easier by pulling with their back arm rather than their front arm.