What is a Slapper in Softball? (Purpose Explained)
Depending on your level of experience with softball, you may have heard some terms like “slap hitter” or “slapper” tossed around. The problem is – you probably aren’t exactly sure what a slapper is and what purpose they have.
As you will see in this article – the slapper is a unique hitter that doesn’t exactly do what traditional hitters do. The purpose of slapping is also unique to softball and won’t be found in baseball.
What is a slapper in softball? Slappers are hitters who run while they hit. They are great assets to a batting order because they are versatile, difficult to defend, and speedy runners. They put pressure on the defense because of their speed and unpredictability – slappers can hit for power, they can place the ball in precise locations, and they can bunt.
This versatility and unpredictability make it hard for the defense to determine what might happen. While slapping removes traditional power from the swing, a greater emphasis on hand path gives slappers better contact than hitters. This allows them to direct their hits and bunts away from fielders – something that normal hitters can’t do.
While more technically difficult than hitting, slapping is a great tool for left-handed hitting softball players to learn because it will increase their value and workability. Slappers are also great players for teams to have in their lineup because it gives them an offensive advantage in that they can be used in many different situations.
Do Slappers need a special bat?
In general – no you won’t need a special bat to be a slapper. But there are some bats that work better for slappers than others.
A few years back – Demarini made a bat specifically for slapping called the CF Slapper. Unfortunately that bat is very hard to find now and was ultimately discontinued.
What you want to look for is a bat that is slightly lightweight, but that can provide some pop should you need it at the same time. Here is the model I recommend:
We actually have another page dedicated to the best fastpitch slapper bats where you will find our rankings.
How do you Slap?
So we now know what a slapper is, but how do you “slap”? Hitting is arguably the most difficult motion in sports, but the technical difficulty of slapping is often underestimated.
Slappers’ hands are not only moving toward the ball, but their entire body is too. They need the same hand-eye coordination as hitters, and even better timing to coordinate their entire body with the pitch.
Like any other hitter, slappers need to load. They need to get their hands in the proper position and engage their core. A good load sets up the rest of your mechanics.
Optional – moving the front foot backward
That’s right, backward!
While this depends on the size of the slapper’s stance, moving their front foot towards their back one can make step three a bit easier. I recommend slappers with larger stances to do this.
The Cross-over step
This is the most crucial part of slapping because it sets up the foundation for everything else. The back foot should cross over the front foot, so the feet are crossed.
It’s important that here you don’t lunge at the ball, but stay upright and athletic (this is why slappers engage their core muscles). You’ll naturally get a slight forward lean because of this.
While the size of the step you take depends on your size, slappers don’t want their steps to be too big or too small.
If it’s too small, they do not have a strong enough base and lack balance. If the step is too wide, it’s difficult to control the rest of the swing.
At this step, toes must point in the direction you want the ball to go. If you are trying to pull the ball, the toes can point toward the pitcher or second basemen. If we’re trying to hit to the left side of the field, the toes should be toward the shortstop or third basemen. This foot must land at the correct angle because the feet guide the rest of the body – especially hands and shoulders – as slappers.
Hand and Shoulder positioning
Speaking of hands and shoulders, these two work together in the swing. Ideally you want the shoulders to stay relatively level and avoid a situation where the back shoulder significantly drops because the hands will follow and you will pop up everything. A more forward lean is okay when trying to hit a ground ball, likewise a slight backward lean is okay to hit a pop-up.
Keep your hands tight to your body
Slappers’ shoulders direct the hands to where you want the ball. If your hands stray away from the body, you can’t pull them back in. To make sure your hand path is sound, your hands and deltoid should remain very close to each other nearly until contact. The front shoulder shouldn’t twist away from the ball too soon.
Contact: Throw the wrists
With a balanced and athletic cross-over step, toes pointed in the direction you want, your shoulders square, and hands following the shoulders, we’re ready to make contact.
Your bat knob points towards the ball, and at contact, slappers should “throw the wrists”. This motion is similar to skipping stones, and it ensures the barrel gets to the ball.
At contact, the slapper’s feet should be moving! The “cross-over” step which is your left foot is your foundation and stays put during contact.
The right foot leaves the ground while hitting. This means you are hitting off of one foot at contact. After contact, the right foot hits the ground, and you start sprinting to first.
For more power and gap hitting, have a large follow-through just like hitting. For a weaker hit and more specific placement, stop at contact or extension.
To bunt keep the bat end angled above the hands to avoid pop-ups, and make sure the entire length of the bat is facing the pitcher. This means your entire barrel covers the plate. Finally, do not lunge the bat at the incoming pitch, this makes it very hard to hit.
Putting it altogether for Beginners
For new slappers, start with bunting to get the footwork down, then move to weak ground balls to work on placement. Also, break up the slap into steps, as shown in the sections above. Start with the footwork, then add the hands. To feel hands and feet together, players can practice one part of the slap statically – meaning they’re not moving.
Practice contact with the feet crossed and don’t step forward, or practice only load and the first step back. When mechanics improve, put all the parts together to make one fluid slapping motion (as it should be). When the player gets more comfortable with the slapping techniques, then move to more powerful slaps and gap hitting.
Slapper Pitch Selection
Now that we know how to slap – we need to know what pitches will yield better results. After all – the opposing pitcher is not going to just let you have success. It’s up to you as the hitter to figure out what you should do in certain situations.
Let’s take a look at some of the pitches you could encounter.
The outside pitch
Slappers looking to place a ball in a certain area of the field need to pick the right pitch to hit to get it there. While the goal of a slapper changes depending on the game scenario, the most common slap hit is a ground ball on the left side of the infield, in the 5-6 hole (between the shortstop and third baseman).
This is the most common hit from slappers because this hit gives them the highest chance of getting on base. This hit is difficult for shortstops to make the throw before the slapper reaches first, and if placed perfectly, impossible for infielders to reach this ball.
Outside pitches naturally go to this desired left side of the infield, so this is the #1 pitch slappers look for.
High, low, and inside pitches
There are some instances where slappers aren’t looking for an outside pitch.
If they are trying to hit a pop-up, consider hitting a high pitch. Likewise, low pitches are easier to hit ground balls. If trying to pull the ball to the right side of the infield, hit an inside pitch. This logic works for all types of slap hits.
General pitch selection
Slappers think more strategically than their normal-hitting counterparts because they are hitting with a location in mind. This means they are more intentional with their pitch selection. However, most of the thought process is still the same no matter the type of hitter. Just like hitters, slappers should only swing at strikes, and good pitchers may know how to locate their pitches so slappers and hitters don’t get what they’re looking for.
This makes it important for slappers to recognize what pitch is coming as soon as they can and hit the one that they’re looking for in an at-bat.
Slappers – and any type of hitter for that matter – will be more successful when they can identify the spin on the ball immediately out of the pitcher’s hand, and recognize any tells in the pitcher’s motion that gives away the pitch type.
Avoiding the riseball
One pitch slappers – and all hitters for that matter – want to avoid is the riseball.
Riseballs have high velocity and sharp upward movement. This makes them hard to hit successfully. Furthermore, the upward bullet spin of this pitch and quick hand release makes it very difficult to identify early on.
However, the weakness of the rise ball is that many leave the strike zone. While riseballs are difficult and deceitful for most hitters in general, they can be the number one enemy of slappers.
Slappers have a slight lean forward while hitting, making them more susceptible to swings and misses from this pitch. They are harder for slappers to hit because of their mechanics. Moreover, if contact is made, slappers will likely hit a flyball out. For this reason, it’s recommended that slappers avoid hitting or swinging at riseballs.
How does Slapping help?
Slapping can be a great advantage and can be used in all types of game situations. This does not mean that all hitters should change to slapping, though.
Getting on base
It’s very common to see slappers near the top of a softball lineup.
This is due to their speed and ability to be an offensive spark. Great slaps set the tone for the rest of the team (and game). Whether it’s putting down the perfect bunt, tapping the ball on the ground, or hitting a gap in the outfield, possibly the best application for slapping may be for getting on base and rally-starting.
Once on base, these fast runners are the thorn in the defense’s side, as they steal many bases and have way too much fun on the base paths. Good slappers know their strike zones, have great contact, and can put the ball anywhere. This makes them nearly impossible to get out!
Their sneakiness, high contact rate, and speed make them bunting experts. Some slappers prefer to drag-bunt rather than swing, which can be just as effective. Having a good bunter in your lineup can be very dangerous for opposing teams. It shakes up the other team’s defense.
Bunting is also great for moving runners. Slappers who drag-bunt need to be careful, though, because if they hit a foul ball while bunting with two strikes they are automatically out. Slap-hitting on two strikes is fine.
Moving runners & clearing bases
Slappers aren’t only good for getting on base. They can rack up the RBIs too! However, since they run while they hit and hit off one foot, it’s hard to gain power behind their swing. More advanced slappers can use their core, legs, and hand path to drive the ball to gaps in the outfield to drive in runs.
If you aren’t at this advanced level yet (which is okay) consider a hard ground ball through the infield. Driving in runs can be a weakness for slappers, but with enough training and practice, slappers can drive in runs as well. Slappers who are natural lefties can decide to hit regularly in this scenario and slap when RBIs aren’t the goal.
Does a team need a Slapper?
No, not all teams have slappers. But due to their versatility, speed, and ability to shake up the defense, having an effective slapper (or even a few) can be a huge advantage to a team.
Any Rules for Slappers?
Yes, there are rules made specifically for slappers!
First and foremost, these hitters need to make sure both of their feet stay inside the batter’s box while hitting. Feet can hit the chalk lines, but no part of the foot can cross the line as this is considered out of the box. Watch the crossover step to make sure you aren’t stepping on or near the plate, and also make sure that you aren’t stepping so far forward that you step out of the box toward the pitcher.
A good tool while training is to put a cone or tennis ball around the foot to make sure you step in the correct spot, and not outside the box. Umpires may not catch it all the time, but you can bet they are looking. Slappers will be called out and runners will return to their previous bases if they are caught stepping out of the batter’s box.
It’s also important to remember if anyone – not just a slapper – hits a foul ball while bunting on two strikes they will be called out. Slap-hitting with two strikes and hitting a foul ball is okay. It is the same as hitting.
Can right-handed hitters slap?
Unfortunately – no – right-handed hitters cannot slap.
While there isn’t a rule against it, it’s not advantageous for right-handed hitters to slap. Due to the running motion and direction they need to run to first base, right-handeders would be running out of the batter’s box, which is illegal. Moreover, many left-handed hitters pick up slapping because this batter’s box is closer to first base than the other one. This naturally gives lefties a time advantage when running to first base.
Simply put – slappers capitalize on being in the more advantageous side of the batter’s box. Because righties don’t have this privilege, slapping doesn’t make sense for them.
That being said – right-handed hitters can bunt as some rearrange their feet so they are more prepared to run after bunting. This is called “bunting for a hit” rather than the traditional sacrifice bunt.
Conclusion on Slappers
When I first heard of slapping in softball – I wasn’t really sure what to expect! Do people actually hit each other?
Thankfully after gaining experience I was able to see what they are and how unique and helpful they can be for a softball team. They are almost a “jack of all trades” in the hitting world as they can perform different types of hits depending on the situation.
If you are a left handed hitter and feel that you have a great sense of game play and the ability to read pitches – slapping might be a great role for you to get into!