Baseball Magazine

When Does the Stride Foot Land?

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
I recently got a question from a reader asking about when the stride foot should be landing in order to be ready to hit a hard fastball.  It’s a good question because many young hitters have trouble with this aspect of hitting.  Some just don’t seem to be getting the front foot down in time and end up striding and swinging at the same time or just end up being very late on the swing.  The difficulty is that there really isn’t a definitive answer as to when the foot must be down.  Variables like how hard the pitcher is throwing as well as the batter’s bat speed both play a factor.   If you were to watch a major leaguer hit, you’d notice that their front foot doesn’t land until the ball is about half way to home plate.  The first video clip below shows this with Alex Rodriguez on each swing.  The pitches are more than half way to home plate before he gets his foot completely down and starts the bat forward.  This is astonishing if you think about it because it only gives him a tiny fraction of a second to actually swing the bat in order to be on time and balanced on a 90+ mph fastball.  
Of course, this should give an indication of just how good and fast major leaguers are in terms of their bat speed.  Below are some points to consider with regards to this question:
  • It is always better to get the front foot down too early as opposed to too late.  In the second video clip, Ryan Howard strides much earlier than most hitters at that level.  Notice the delay between the time his front foot lands on the stride to when he swings.
  • At most levels, the front foot should be down anywhere from shortly after the ball is released to the half way point depending on the quickness of the batter’s swing.
  • The hands and therefore the bat should not move forward until the front foot is flat on the ground after the stride (as shown in the video clips).  Having your front foot striding and the bat moving forward at the same time is poor timing and will prevent  a hitter from having success.
  • As shown in the video clips, both hitters stride with their toes hitting the ground first and then their heel.  They do not land flat-footed.  In most cases, a flat-footed landing turns into a lunge. 
  • At any level, it’s perfectly ok to not stride at all.  I’ve seen major leaguers do it so there is no shame in giving it a try.  If that's the case, a hitter would just start with his feet a little farther apart to account for not striding.  The no-stride approach is a good one on pitchers that throw very hard because it allows the hitter to focus on their upper half (getting the barrel to contact) without the distraction of having to focus on their stride (lower half) as well.  Less movement is usually easier, especially for younger kids.  
  • When does the stride foot land?

    The short-toss drill is excellent for
    focusing on the timing of the stride
    on hard throwers.

  • If a team is set to face a hard thrower, the short toss drill (right photo) is terrific because the shorter distance of the toss forces the hitter to get his foot down sooner.
The timing of the stride is something a hitter develops on his own and involves "feel," personal preference, and lots of repetition to master.  Tee work, short toss, soft toss, and live batting practice are all times where hitters should be developing the mechanics and timing of their stride.

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