Why mechanical chatter during games is BAD chatter!


Swing and miss, strike 1. We all know what’s coming. We’ve heard it a thousand times:

“Keep your head down”

“Keep your shoulder in”

Coaches, players, and parents are all guilty of voicing these phrases during games.

But are these mechanical “cues” really benefiting the player at bat?

He’s trying to react to a moving baseball with about 0.4 seconds to decide whether or not to swing. He’s trying to gauge whether or not the pitch is in the strike zone. He’s trying to judge the speed of the pitch. He’s trying to recognize the movement of the pitch.

And oh yea! He needs to think about keeping his shoulder in too! Seems like an awful lot to think about in a short period of time. Thus making an already daunting task even more difficult.

There’s no questioning the challenge hitters have. When you look at some of the numbers, it can be overwhelming.

-On a 90 mph fastball you have about 0.4 seconds to decide whether or not you want to swing.

-The barrel of a baseball bat is 2 5/8 inch- 2 ¾ inches and your trying to hit a 3-inch in diameter baseball. If you make contact too far towards the bottom of the baseball, it will result in a fly ball (out). If you make contact too far towards the top of the baseball, it will result in a weak ground ball (out).

-The length of the barrel is about 4-6 inches (6 inches would be generous). If you make contact with the ball a half-inch outside this sweet spot it will result in weak contact.

In other words, there’s not a lot of room for error!

However, even with the small room for error illustrated in the above criteria, hitting a 90 mph fastball by itself is not difficult for a skilled hitter.

It’s only when you factor in that a pitcher is throwing 4 different speeds, to different locations, and with different movements that it becomes one of the most difficult tasks in all of sports. Even for the best hitters on the planet.

So why are we using cues that take the focus off the most important tool for hitting success?

Your most important hitting tool:

A hitter can get away with a number of different physical flaws. But there’s one tool you can’t live without as a hitter:


Your eyes are your most important hitting tool. Without them, you can’t be a good hitter.

There has been a number of successful blind people in our history. But there’s a reason Hellen Keller and Ray Charles did not express their talents on a baseball field. They were lacking the most important tool.

As coaches and players, we often take for granted the importance of our eyes. Especially at the plate as a hitter.

We think that every swing and miss is a result of flawed mechanics, as oppose to lack of visual recognition of the pitch or timing.

Game situations, and especially the middle of an at-bat is NOT the time to focus on mechanical flaws.

It takes the focus off seeing the baseball, and letting our most important tool be the driver of our brain.

Okay, but how do I use this information to my advantage?

What do I say to coach my players during games?

How do I avoid mechanical thoughts during my at-bats?

Simplify Approach:

Even with the entirety of our focus on seeing the baseball and trying to put the barrel on the ball, the task is still difficult. Adding mechanical cues to think about only adds to the difficulty of our task.

As coaches, players, and parents, our coaching during at-bats need to be geared towards visual recognition.

We need to use phrases that will help the hitter simplify his approach and let his eyes tell the brain what to do.

As a coach, there are a few phrases that I constantly repeat over the course of the game and during at-bats.

NONE of them have anything to do with mechanics.

ALL of them have something to do with timing, visual recognition, or trust.

Here’s a short list of phrases that I use during games to help my hitters simplify their approach and focus on the task at hand.

Less than 2-strikes:

“Be on time for a good pitch to hit”

“Aggressive on your pitch”

“Be on time for the fastball”


“Trust your eyes”

“Let your eyes take over”

“See the ball well”

Bad Chatter List:

“Keep your shoulder in”

“Keep your head down”

“Get your foot down early”

“Don’t dip your back shoulder”

“Don’t swing at a bad pitch”

“Don’t strike out”


Our brain can only focus on so many things in such a short period of time. Trying to react to a moving baseball while simultaneously thinking about your swing mechanics is setting you up for failure. Even something as simple as “keeping your shoulder in” is a mechanical cue that can take your focus off the ball.

Although mechanics are clearly important in the game of baseball, games are not an appropriate situation to teach them. Even if the mechanical cues somehow don’t affect the focus of a hitter, they still aren’t beneficial. Mechanics are only ingrained through countless hours of repetition. The ideal situation is to work on mechanical movements in practice so that they translate to game situations.

The fact is, the swing you show up with come game time is the swing that has been practiced the most. It’s too late to change it at that point. Focus all your energy on the baseball, and worry about mechanical movements in a practice/training environment.

Coaches and parents, do your players a favor and use chatter that helps them focus on the most important thing:


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About Brian Hamm

My name is Brian Hamm and I am all about "Baseball Development". Through my journey as a high school and college player, I always felt that a competitive advantage eluded me. I constantly researched and discovered new resources, ideas, and theories that have shaped how I coach today. It’s my goal to work relentlessly in order to give my players, clients, and coaches the biggest competitive advantage that will allow them to reach their full potential. My mission is to spread my knowledge to baseball players around the world and help change the developmental process forever.

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