Rick Ankiel’s swing is a thing of beauty. It has all the right components to deliver power one wouldn’t expect from a somewhat average frame. Here are five key components to The Natural’s swing:
1. The Chamber: Rick’s swing begins in his stance. By holding the bat lower and close to the chest, he accomplishes two things. One, he gets the bat closer to the hitting zone. This appears to be a slight modification from his earlier stance when he held the bat a bit higher. By holding the bat down near the zone, it allows him to hit through the ball rather than down on the ball. Hitting through the ball (you might remember your dad telling you to do this by yelling “Level swing!”), he delivers all the power in his swing in one direction (mostly forward) as well as maximizing the potential contact area. It’s pretty simple. The longer your bat is in the hitting/strike zone, the better your chance is of hitting the ball. A downward swing, on the other hand, slices through a small portion of the zone and requires more precise hitting. This, by the way, is also the way Pujols hits – by swinging through the zone rather than down on it.
2. The Body Swing: The second thing accomplished by holding the bat where he does is the necessity to turn his body (hips) to hit the ball. If he tried to simply swing the bat with his arms alone, he wouldn’t get near the power delivery he does. Instead, Rick turns his body into the swing and brings the bat along with it. This serves two purposes. One, it delivers more power by taking advantage of his full body mass and momentum. Second, it stores all that energy and power for a single point of contact rather than expending it by swinging through the zone with just his arms. His arms become the mechanism for delivering his power, not the source of it.
3. The Explosion: That brings us to the third component of Rick’s swing – power delivery. By turning his body into the swing, Rick stores his power for one large explosion or outburst of power. At just the right moment, Rick’s body momentum causes his arms to naturally extend and all the stored power from his body swing is delivered outward through his bat, striking the ball with the force of a full-body swing rather than a simple arm swing.
4. The Point of Contact: Because Rick stores his power delivery for such a late contact point, he’s able to hit the ball at the front of the strike zone rather than the back or the middle. By doing this, he straightens out the delivery path for his power or energy transfer. It’s all heading in one direction – in direct opposition to the ball/pitch path. If the swing made contact earlier in the hitting zone, the power/energy delivery would be at an odd angle causing him to shed some of his power and hit the ball off to left field or elsewhere.
5. The Follow-Through: Finally, Rick’s follow-through is reminiscent of the older, Hall of Fame hitters such as Lou Gherig, Babe Ruth, and Stan Musial. He keeps both hands on the bat and twists his body with the swing. By doing this, he makes sure he delivers level contact and doesn’t upper cut his swing or shed some of that stored power by cutting it short.
The result of this natural swing is a thing of beauty…a long one into right center field for a Cardinal home run and a home town victory!