Hitting the outside pitch is very important at higher levels. It isn’t as extreme as it was in the 2000s when the go to approach of every mlb pitcher was going low and away because as an adaptation to the power hitters with a positive attack angle pitchers are now going more up and also in but still a lot of pitches are thrown outside especially at the college and HS level but even by some mlb teams.
The danger of the outside pitch is rolling over and hitting a weak grounder if you try to pull it. This is especially true for flat vertical barrel angle guys which were more common 15-20 years ago.
Because of this the common wisdom is to hit the outside pitch the other way. In this fangraphs article https://community.fangraphs.com/fine-tuning-the-swing-based-upon-statcast-data/
I showed how this works. It shows that the launch angle goes down if you pull the outside pitch but moreso the low pitch. The high outside pitch can be hit with a good LA to center and in some cases even pulled (see the table in the article for data).
The tough part in hitting the outside pitch is that the rotational momentum goes to the left (for a RHB) but you need a direction to the oppo gap because for optimal force production the swing direction and horizontal spray angle need to match.
What many hitters with a pull swing direction do is just hit the outside pitch just later and with the barrel inside but with the same right to left direction. This creates a flyball to the outfield with a ton of backspin but not a lot of force so it hangs up a long time for the outfielder to catch it unless you are stanton strong and you can slice fly balls into the oppo stands.
Now the question is how you achieve a better force direction despite the rotational nature of the body.
An important function is deceleration of rotation. In a good baseball swing the trunk rotation peaks around 50 ms before contact and the hips peak like 10 ms before that (Forthenbaugh 2011). At contact the rotational velocity slows down to about 50-60% of the max. Eugene Bleeker talks a lot about this in his book old school vs new school. During the acceleration of rotation the hands basically travel in an arc around the spine. You don’t need to force that and trying to be more direct might help some hitters but that arc happens nonetheless. When the shoulders decelerate the direction goes a little straighter.
You want to achieve a direction slightly towards the other batters box, not a lot the other way but a little bit has to happen.
To achieve that you need to decelerate the body a little earlier so the hands can go a little more away from the arc.
A popular way to achieve deceleration is the kick back or scissor like Miggy does.
#SpringTraining2019 Cada swing silencia más las dudas que giran a su alrededor. Todo indica que Miguel Cabrera está listo para la temporada y en el juego entre los Tigres de Detroit ante los Azulejos de Toronto lo demostró nuevamente. pic.twitter.com/LCpj3AhBxO
— Sportsvenezuela.com (@SportsVZLA2) March 24, 2019
However you can also achieve that without such an anchor by tightening up the core enough.
Here is a decel drill I created. You stop that bat when pointing to the oppo gap.
Anti rotation work is big right now but I would also do actual stopping work like this. I wouldn't do that with 9u players who don't finish the swing anyway but with advanced players it can be good. pic.twitter.com/Shx4zDdfS4
— dominikk85 (@dominikkeul) May 9, 2019
One of my favourite drills is the oppo stop swing. You place the tee outside and stop the bat about one foot past contact (kinda like a late check swing). The bat should stay over that tee line (slightly to oppo) and below the hands. The ball should fly slightly to oppo.
Rear view checkpoints:
Tree branch marks pitcher catcher line.
-bat tip stays over that line at finish
-bat below hands and still slightly pointing to oppo field (almost to pitcher but not quite, more to oppo gap as this is a drill for the outside pitch) pic.twitter.com/QJ5ZVqnXKq
— dominikk85 (@dominikkeul) June 19, 2019
Snap/direction drill for low outside. For kids that pull off the outside pitch. Turn the barrel, stop, then swing to extension position with direction to other field. Make sure the barrel still is slightly below the hands and points slightly to other batters box, not roll over. pic.twitter.com/u7FFf6ywML
— dominikk85 (@dominikkeul) May 16, 2018
Another drill that might help is from a controversial hitting camp which has a history of internet fights but I think still can be usefull is the flashlight drill from teacherman (gotta give credit). Basically you imagine the knob has a flashlight and you shine it diagonally from the catchers feet to the outside front edge of the plate as you initiate the swing (you can use an actual flashlight to see the shine traveling over the ground), this can improve the path.
Here I tried to show how to hit the outside pitch. The knob “shines” diagonally outward (only mild outward angle) and bat is turned behind the ball. Body decelerates earlier to allow direction to keep going that way.
Hitting outside pitch. Earlier decel of turn and hands move a little earlier off the turn slightly towards oppo. Make hand path only go outside at a mild angle, no extreme in to out. pic.twitter.com/ifb5L724mA
— dominikk85 (@dominikkeul) July 6, 2019
Another thing that helps with direction is a steeper vertical barrel angle. A flat bat will have more tendency to go across and a steeper bat turn (25 to 45 degrees VBA) allows for a more centered barrel direction and to hit the ball straighter with less spin and thus harder. Dk Willardson explained that in his book quantitative hitting. Also from that book I learned that great hitters don’t hit that much oppo. Coaches teach hitting gap to gap but Willardson states that elite hitters hit the outside pitch like just 10 degrees oppo while they pull the inside pitch 20+ degrees (45 would be down the line).
This means you shouldn’t go foul line to foul line but more oppo gap to pull field which makes the job a little easier to hit balls hard.
Spray patterns explained. Many coaches say gap to gap (grey) which is essentially 2b to SS. Most elite hitters however have this gap to gap but slightly turned to pull side so they pull the inside pitch a little more than they hit away oppo (orange). Pink shows pull hitter. pic.twitter.com/bMoEs2FGCd
— dominikk85 (@dominikkeul) June 11, 2019
In summary try to hit the outside pitch hard with little spin in the air slightly more oppo than the middle and you will be fine. To achieve this you need a good decel pattern and a good barrel turn slightly to the oppo gap. Practice hitting outside pitches and even pitches an inch or two (but not more) off the plate.
A dril to practice this I like is the 4 corner drill where you hit off the tee or flips off all 4 corners. Also like this stop swing 4 corner drill for plate coverage.
Drill for path variability and barrel control. 4 corner stop swing drill. Mark 4 corners on fence and lightly touch each corner with the bat tip. Stand slightly closed to account for contact depth difference and start with hips slightly open and upper body closed (heel plant) pic.twitter.com/MrgUPpAFiq
— dominikk85 (@dominikkeul) June 26, 2019
What can also help is hitting driveline plyo balls outside because that will expose slicing even more.
Also read my other article on the inside pitch
It is important you cover all 4 corners. Practice hitting balls up to an inch off the plate off all corners. In games you want to do the opposite and give the outer two inches of the plate to the pitcher (take strikes there like this ) https://twitter.com/dominikkeul/status/1099932594853027841?s=19
to force him over the middle but practicing that excess plate coverage will transfer to hitting the middle in and middle away pitches while players who only practice down the pipe will even struggle with those hittable pitches. Vary speed and location in practice.