The timing mechanism is defined as your ability to know when to initiate the transition from the loading phase into the launching phase so that should you decide to swing, you will have enough time to get the bat around to make good contact with the ball.
Therefore, in this section we will first identify ‘how’ the body transitions from the loading phase into the launching phase, i.e., the mechanism, and then second, we will identify ‘when’ this mechanism should occur, i.e., the timing.
You may recall what I said in the previous section about the cocking of the wrists where it is an action the hands and wrists perform on the bat-handle at the very end of the loading phase and into the first part of the launching phase. This means then that as the wrists are cocking, or still loading, other parts of the body must have started or entered the launching phase, which is the phase that produces the swinging of the bat toward to the contact point with the ball.
So the cocking of the wrists represents an overlapping point of these two phases and is directly involved with the transitioning of the body from the loading phase into the launching phase.
Now, the question therefore is this: what part, or parts, of the body are first to enter the launching phase while the wrists are still cocking in the loading phase? To answer this question, let’s go back and take a look at a sequence of images that we first saw on the cocking of the wrists.
Figure 3-1a shows the beginning of the cocking of the wrists Figure 3-1d shows the end of the cocking of the wrists. Now looking at the images above from left to right, the thing we want to pay attention to is the timing step which involves the player’s left foot. The moment it begins to lower back to the ground will be the signal that the launching phase has begun. And while we don’t have the benefit of slow motion video here in this book to follow every split second movement, we can tell from the still frame images that Figure 3-1c looks to be the first image where the timing step is on it’s way back down.
So Figure 3-1c shows the start of the launching phase and this would mean the hips and legs have just begun their explosive rotation back toward the pitcher. But interestingly enough, it also shows that the bat-head has not yet reached its furthest backswing position which doesn’t occur until Figure 3-3d. This could only mean then that the upper body, including the spine, along with the shoulders and arms, and especially the hands and wrists, are still in the loading phase. Figure 3-2 provides a quick summary of this transition between the two phases taking place.
So to answer our question earlier which was, “what part, or parts, of the body are first to enter the launching phase, while the wrists are still cocking in the loading phase?”, the answer is the leg involved in the timing step, which is our player’s left leg here, as well as both of the hips.
This transition ‘is’ the mechanism. As you start to place your timing step back to the ground the hips start to turn with it, and both of these launching phase movements occur while the wrists are still cocking in the loading phase. This is how the body starts its transition from the loading phase into the launching phase and this transition continues for as long as the wrists are still cocking.
The transition, or mechanism, ends when the wrists are fully cocked but that doesn’t occur until the bat-head reaches its furthest backswing position seen again in Figure 3-3. This figure shows the wrists fully cocked and loaded and signifies not only the end of the loading phase for the entire body, but also the end of the transition, i.e., the mechanism, between the two phases.
Figure 3-3 on the previous page is reproduced in Figure 3-4 with some key points added. First, it again shows the wrists fully cocked and the upper body rotated as far back as possible which we now know signifies the end of the loading phase and thus the end of the mechanism. It also shows the launching phase has advanced further along as we observe the timing step completely returned to the ground. But most importantly, Figure 3-4 represents the point for this particular swing where the body is undergoing maximum stretch, or where the upper body is turned farthest away from the lower body.
Now looking back, there were a lot of muscles that helped contribute to the player getting into this position but the role the cocking of the wrists plays in all of this is as follows: having thrust the bat-head to its furthest backswing position, which is seen above in Figure 3-4, the maximum stretch position is achieved by the momentum of the bat-head pulling the hands, wrists, shoulders and upper body in the opposite direction of the intended path of the swing.
So, the purpose of the mechanism is not just to transition you from one phase to another, but to do so in a way that enables you to develop as much stretch in your muscles as needed. Now this stretching is very important to you as a batter because as we learned in the last chapter, it is one of the keys to developing a faster and more powerful rotational bat swing, and knowing when the right time to create it and use it in your muscles is the subject of our next section.
Okay, now that we know what the mechanism is that we are trying to create which again is the ability to transition from the loading phase into the launching phase while creating as much stretch within the muscles as needed, let’s talk about the timing on ‘when’ you should do this.
If you recall from end of Chapter 2, the stretching in the muscles in the opposite direction of their intended path produced a reflex in them called the myotatic reflex. And this stretch reflex essentially gives the muscle a ‘running start’ in the same direction of its intended path of contraction. This enables the muscle to contract much harder and faster than if it wasn’t first stretched.
But we also learned that while we are somewhat in control of when these reflexes are created, we cannot control the length of time that they will last. So these reflexes, which stay in your muscles for only about a half of a second or less, need to be used within that period of time if you ever expect to swing the bat with any power.
So, the challenge you face as a batter comes down to how much time you can let elapse while waiting on the pitch before you initiate the mechanism that creates the stretch reflexes in your muscles.
If you create them too soon, you will lose them before you have a chance to use them. And if you create them too late, you won’t be able to get the bat around in time to make good contact with the ball.
So, this is the ‘timing’ part of the timing mechanism: the ability to know when to initiate the transition from the loading phase into the launching phase so your stretch reflexes can be created and used within a split second of your decision to swing the bat.
The greatest recipient of this timing mechanism is of course, the bat-head and Figures 3-5a through 3-5d show the effect on it. Starting in Figure 3-5a, the player has knowingly cocked his wrists to push the bat-head to its furthest backswing position. This creates the maximum stretch position in the body and therefore determines the level of intensity of the myotatic reflexes. These reflexes now force the muscles along the spine, upper back, shoulders, arms and wrists to contract back in the direction of the swing which then causes a rapid change of direction with the bat-head as seen in Figures 3-5b and 3-5c. This rapid change of direction helps the player to accelerate the bat harder and faster to the contact point with the ball seen in Figure 3-5d.
The Timing Mechanism: your ability to know when to initiate the transition from the loading phase into the launching phase so that should you decide to swing, you will have enough time to get the bat around to make good contact with the ball.