Written By: Victoria Rogers
Softball is a game of analytics (from positioning players in spots where they are most likely to help the team to knowing when and where to throw) and meticulous practice. A player must be well-versed in the mental aspect of the game along with having great hand-eye coordination and athletic ability. The only way to be successful in this game is to know the smartest and fastest techniques a player will potentially need to perform on the field.
There are three main parts to the game of softball: pitching, fielding, and hitting. While coaches everywhere agree on the first two with very few discrepancies, there has long been a heated debate on the correct batting form. The two most common philosophies are the linear and rotational based stances. A linear motion is the elite batting philosophy because it sets the batter up with the highest potential for attainment of their goals.
A linear ideology means that the hands of the batter follow a straight path parallel to the ball that allows their hands to get inside of the ball during their swing (this is where the batter’s hands travel forward until the last possible second when the batter must release the barrel of the bat) making the strength of the batter’s whip more intense (Plouffe).
A rotational ideology means that the batter swings the bat in a circular motion towards the incoming ball in which most coaches call “taking their hands to the ball” (Plouffe). Both are practiced with the goal of maximizing a batter’s chance of achieving a base hit, but relatively speaking, a linear batting style yields more successful at bats than a rotational style because it allows the batter more time for the bat to come in contact with the ball and lessens the need for the batter to time the pitcher up perfect.
An additional distinction between the two philosophies are how and if the batter has a load in their swing. A batter with a linear motion has a load (which is when the batter moves their hands towards the catcher and steps forward with their front foot) that is supposed to generate power and help the batter time the pitch. This access of power is best explained through Newton’s first law of motion, which states that “an object at rest stays at rest until an outside force acts upon it while an object in motion stays in motion.”
A batter will have an easier time hitting the ball and have more energy behind the ball when their bat is moving a few seconds before the ball crosses the plate (O’Leary). A batter with a rotational motion relies on their weight shifted back and most likely will have no load at all, as they claim it allows for a “quicker” release of the barrel - even though their reasoning is disproven every time they look at Division I softball program’s swing (O’Leary). Again, coaches from both ideologies believe that to load or not to load is critical to a prosperous batting average.
Another difference between the hitting concepts is the muscles the swing activates when the batter is in motion. A linear swing focuses on using the back, leg, and arm muscles (Plouffe). The back and legs are the strongest muscles of the body, and by engaging them it allows the batter to put all their force into their swing. The load in the linear style activates the hamstrings, quadriceps, and hips, which most coaches call “leg drive.”
By keeping the hands inside the ball and staying balanced, the linear hitting style forces the batter to activate important back muscles, while relying on little muscles in their arms that aid in guiding the ball once it leaves the bat. A rotational swing mostly incorporates only core muscles in their swing because of how the player must move their torso (O’Leary). People on both sides of ideologies theorize that their style is the most powerful swing, but based on simple anatomy, it is obvious that only a linear philosophy actually accomplishes this goal.
The hitting approaches are also affected by what pitches the batter can satisfactorily hit. The linear method helps aid the batter with several pitches, whereas the rotational method actually inhibits the batter. Take the riseball, for example. In a linear swing, the adjustment for the batter is simple; they just need to raise their hand path to be on plane with the ball. However, with a rotational swing, the best the batter can get is a pop-up out or completely miss the ball because their hands cannot adjust to the quick change in elevation. Then there is the change-up: a pitch that is ten miles per hour slower that a pitcher’s fastball.
A linear style allows the batter to react and recover from this slow pitch by letting their hands travel farther before they release barrel. By contrast, a batter practicing a rotational style must hope they recognized the pitch as it left the pitcher’s hand because the barrel of the bat is released as soon as they start their swing (Plouffe). The linear technique is the superior philosophy when it comes to defending the pitches the batters must face.
Softball, for better and for worse, boils down to game of which team is the most efficient with the opportunities they are given. Hitting is one of the only guaranteed chances a player has to showcase their skill every game. A team cannot win without a competent offense. Thus, a team’s hitting philosophy impacts how their entire season will go. Practicing a linear swing will provide the batter with the most favorable outcomes because it supersedes a rotational style in every category in which they can be compared.
Sierra Romero's Rotational Swing
Jenna Lilley’s Linear Swing
Plouffe, Sean. “Rotational Hitting vs. Linear Hitting.” Hitterish.
O'Leary, Chris. “Rotational & Linear Hitting What's The Key Difference?” Rotational Hitting & Linear Hitting: The Key Difference.