Timing Part I: Hitter's Perspective
Timing Part I: Hitter’s Perspective
Timing seems to be one of those concepts that people throw around a lot but have a hard time explaining. I’m sure we’ve all heard the quote from Warren Spahn that “Hitting is timing and pitching is upsetting timing.” It sounds simple but this subject can get extremely complicated if you include pitch types and locations (not to mention concepts like Perry Husband’s effective velocity). To keep things simple, I’m only going to talk about it from a swing perspective. Okay, so what is timing?
If you Google timing, this is what you come up with:
Timing is the choice, judgment, or control of when something should be done.
I’m going to use the key words in this definition to walk through the concept of timing using Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong. For consistency, they are both facing Alfredo Simon.
With our hitters, we like to have them in the mindset that they are always swinging and we just shut down the swing if we don’t like what we see. So if we don’t have to decide if we are swinging, the only choice or decision to make is when do we start.
As hitters we rely on the hundreds and thousands of swings we’ve taken throughout our lives to approximate timing. It depends on everything from the relative speed of the pitcher to the speed of their delivery. It even depends on the type of stride or timing mechanism of each hitter. The amazing thing is most hitters will get to certain key points at the same time.
Take a look at the video below. The first thing to notice is that the pitcher is synced up in both videos. Then look at Wong’s stride on the left. Due to his higher leg lift, he gets started before Carpenter on the right. It’s important to note that both players lift their leg before the ball is released and if you continue to watch you will see their movements start to sync up as each player lands their stride.
Once we start our load we are basically preparing to swing. From the time the pitcher starts their motion to the point where the hitter lands their stride they are gathering information on the pitch type, speed and location. Hopefully we get the information we need by the time our stride lands and we can make a good decision. Ideally we’re on time but if not, there is still room for adjustment (we’ll save that for another post).
Since hitters really have no idea what the pitcher is going to throw, they have to load under control. I don’t mean that hitters have to be cautious. I just mean that the mechanics of the load have to take place in a way that allows the player to control their body so that they are ready to swing (and hopefully on time) when they land their stride. This includes the smallest adjustments in their load (such as stride height, stride speed, etc.) that inevitably take place from pitch to pitch. It’s been found in motion analysis labs that movement patterns are not 100% repeatable. In this case, it’s a good thing. It’s that variability that allows hitters to make minute adjustments based on the information they are getting from the pitcher and eventually the pitch. In the instance of both Wong and Carpenter have different strides and loads but they both exhibit control throughout their movements. Again, we’ll dive into how players load on other posts.
In fact, if you look closely enough above, you’ll see that Matt Carpenter makes a very small timing adjustment as he is landing his stride. Didn’t see it? That’s because these moves are sometimes very small. Compare two of his swings below. The video on the left is a fastball (94 mph) and the video on the right is an off-speed pitch (85 mph). The footage on the right is the same footage used in the earlier section.
Still didn’t see it? Hopefully the next video will help.
Watch how Carpenter’s swing is synced up through the first three pauses but on the fourth pause you can see the swings starting to separate. He’ll be at contact on the 5th pause on the left and after the 5th pause on the right.
So timing is the choice of when do we start, the judgment of the information we receive from the pitcher and the pitch, AND the control of our body to make the smallest of adjustments in order to have the best chance of being on time.
Want to know how pitchers are adjusting their deliveries to make timing even more difficult for hitter? Click here.