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How to Grip a Bat. Door Knocking Knuckles, Big Knuckles, or Rings?

  • 11/27/2013 added Players Section, and Ted Williams, howtohitthebaseball, and TheInternetHittingCoach.com sections, plus Pujols, Brett Boone and Felix Millan box grip images
  • 10/29/2013 added a Weird Grip section, and Box Grips - Wade Boggs, Allen Craig, Carlos Delgado, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, and Shane Victorino
  • 8/9/2013 added Brett Boone to Big Knuckle list
  • 4/25/2011 added Mike Epstein position from 2004
  • 5/13/2010 added Alex Rodriguez GMA comments and picture
  • 5/13/2010 added Pujols and Ichiro door knocker pictures (h/t mudvnine)
  • 3/8/2010 added Mattingly and Aaron pictures (h/t Chris O'Leary)

This is another confusing topic in a baseball swing.

Most recommmend lining up the "door knocking knuckles". Some align the "big knuckles" or "punching knuckles". And yet others "line up the rings". We will explore the pros and cons of each version and give you the correct alignment.

Big Knuckles
Big Knuckles
aka Punching Knuckles
Door Knocking Knuckles
Door Knocking Knuckles
aka Middle Knuckles
Line Up the Rings
Line Up the Rings
aka Box Grip
aka Offset Grip

MLB Players Thought They Used Door Knocking Knuckles

Ted Williams may have started the confusion in LIFE magazine's September 1, 1941 issue. Sadly, this picture is still for sale at various poster sellers.
Ted Williams Demonstrating His Grip
Life Magazine 9/1/1941
Ted Williams on the Cover
Life Magazine 9/1/1941

But, as is usually the case, Ted Williams actually used a different grip in games and BP - the Box Grip
Ted Williams' Actual Grip
Ted Williams' Actual Grip
Ted Williams' Actual Grip
Ted Williams' Actual Grip
Ted Williams' Actual Grip in 1941 Season

Door Knocking Knuckles
ARod not using Knocking Knuckles
Here is Alex Rodriguez talking to Good Morning America:
One thing all good hitters should always do is you should always put your knuckles together - all eight of them - should be lined up together that will create better whip and better bat speed. even though he doesn't use this knuckle alignment - see picture

Don Mattingly says:
Door Knocking Knuckles
Mattingly not using
Door Knocking Knuckles
Founded by New York Yankees legend and Los Angeles Dodgers Hitting Coach Don Mattingly in 2005, we feature the patented V-Grip handle baseball bats and softball bats which are statistically proven to increase bat speed by promoting proper grip technique and alignment of the knocking knuckles see actual picture of Mattingly lining up his rings during his playing days. The baseball bats and softball bats, approved for T-Ball, Youth, Little League, Senior League and Adult High School and College play, keep the bat in the fingers and away from the palm for a more tension free swing.

'Experts' Advocating for Using Door Knocking Knuckles

One of the first Google results is some guy named Chris Fay on eHow.com who says:
Line up your "door-knocking knuckles." This may feel uncomfortable at first, however with practice it will become second nature. This allows your wrists to roll properly after making contact with the baseball this grip will promote roll at contact.
Here's another eHow.com contributor, Mickey Hiter from Sandlotter.com who says:
When gripping a baseball bat, we need to make sure that the bat is being held in the fingertips and not back here in the meat or the palm of the hand. The way we can check that is to simply line up our door knocking knuckles and that's the first knuckles that we, or the middle knuckles in the middle of our hand. If those knuckles are lined up, then we're gripping the baseball bat appropriately. To make sure with the little kids, I asked them to stand up their first fingers. If their fingers stand straight up, then they're holding the bat correctly. If their fingers are going in this direction, they are not, they're holding it too much back in their hand. To grip the bat appropriately again we need to have the bat in our fingertips and if we line up our door knocking knuckles and our first fingers can stand straight up, then we're holding the bat correctly.
Another Google top result is HowToHitTheBaseball who gives this advice to young hitters:
Let's start with the grip. By now you have probably been told something about the baseball grip, either right or wrong. This is usually the first thing discussed at hitting clinics and baseball camps. Everyone preaches about aligning the "door knocking" knuckles. Well that is correct, but why? When the knuckles are aligned properly both hands work together. But when a batter has an improper grip the hands work against themselves. This improper grip can cause poor bat control. Unfortunately, when a batter tries the proper grip for the first time it feels uncomfortable. Don't worry, stay with it because it will get more comfortable over time. The benefits will outweigh the initial discomfort.

It's uncomfortable for a reason
Here's a fastpitch expert at Softball Tips.com, Coach Andy Collins with TheInternetHittingCoach.com who gives this advice to young hitters:
Keys to Great Fastpitch Softball Hitting by Andy Collins

Master these 7 steps and you are on your way to achieving your goal of being a hitter that can go as far as your dreams, desires, and hard work can take you.

Door Knocking Knuckles
The best grip to use will line up the knuckles we would use to knock on a door. This allows for a freer and quicker swing.

More of the same
BaseballExcellence.com says:
The knuckles should be slightly ‘misaligned’ with the top hand ‘knocker’ knuckles between the middle and top knuckles of the bottom hand. An easy way to teach this (from Mike Epstein) is to “have the hitter place the bat barrel between his feet and lean it against his body. Have him to pick the bat up by the handle with both hands. This places his hands in the correct grip: the “knocker” knuckles of the top hand will be aligned perfectly between the “knocker” knuckles and the big knuckles on the bottom hand.” notice the contorted top hand
Maybe hitting instructor Mike Epstein has changed his views since this 1/9/2004 article, Rear Elbow: Up? Or Down? says:
Epstein elbow up or down
Left correct - Right not good
The picture (left) shows the correct grip of a hitter. The top hand "knocker-knuckles" line up with the "knocker-knuckles" of the bottom hand. With the hands in this position, it is virtually impossible to elevate the back elbow. Most MLB hitters do not use the grip he describes, and 99% of them elevate their back elbow at toe touch

Ben Graham former HS and college player from eHow.com/Expert Village via a video where he says:
Line up these ["door-knocking knuckles."] This will force you to be in the right position. Otherwise, you're not able to roll over your top hand... like you should rolling your top hand early is a problem to be avoided.
Tony Naile, former MILB from eHow.com/Expert Village via a video where he says:
Line up what we call "door-knocking knuckles" These are knocking knuckles, the ones you knock on the door with. Line those up. It enables you to turn over the bat properly, when you swing.
Chad Holbrook, UNC Asst Coach via a video where he says:
One of the thigs you learned in elementary school we are here to help dispel the myths you learn in T-ball is you want the knuckles that you knock on a door lined up.

QC Baseball says:
In the end you want players hands to align somewhere from the middle knuckles lining up (door knocking knuckles) and the middle knuckles of the lower hand lining up with the top knuckles on the upper hand (rings).
WebBall.com's Richard Todd rounded up some door knocker advocates:
From Doug O'Neil & team (D & D Baseball was a company that produced great videos back in the 90s)
We teach to align the middle finger knuckles (door knocking knuckles). This creates a loose grip which will also gives the range of motion and whip necessary to hit any pitch location without rolling over or locking yourself. The hands and grip will naturally tighten when the pitch is on the way.

From Daryl Ringwald (Hitting Coach, Ontario and B.C.)
Lining up the door-knocking knuckles brings the elbows in. Keeping the elbows in lets you have a quick controlled power swing
Ken Krause, Contributing Editor to Softball Magazine, says in the forum post Does the grip matter?:
So, I was working with our players today on hitting when I noticed something with one of them. As I looked at her hands I could see that she was holding the bat handle deep in her palms, and her knuckles were in the "matched grip" position, i.e. the knocking knuckles on one hand were lined up with the big knuckles of the other.

I stopped her for a moment, double checked what I thought I was seeing, and had her move the bat into her fingers and turn her hands so the knocking knuckles lined up (more or less) with each other. She then continued hitting, but with measurably better results. Instead of hitting weak ground balls and fly balls, she started blasting line drives.

The girl was pretty excited about this discovery. We both commented on the big difference a small change can make. and so begins a lifetime of mediocre hitting
Some guy from T-Ball University via YouTube says (paraphrased):
The way you know your knuckles are lined up properly is... they are lined up here [pointing to door knockers]. If you point your index fingers out and they are both pointed straight up, it's correct.
Some guy from League Athletics says:
Keeping back elbow down when waiting for pitch brings your hands through quicker. If you have your elbow up, you still have to drop it to swing…. This also goes along with your grip. If you have your big knuckles lined up, you elbow stays up, which is more difficult to hit. When your middle knuckles line up, the elbow stays lower, which is what you want….. Quick hands through the strike zone!
HittingAcademy.com in Weaverville, NC says:
number knuckles: A method of teaching young hitters how to properly grip a bat by assigning numerical values to joints in the fingers. The joints made by the finger and the hand is (#1), the middle knuckles (door knocking knuckles) are (#2), and the end joints of the fingers are numbered (#3). Aligning the middle knuckles, #2’s, or thereabouts, puts the bat out in the fingers and gets it out of the palms.

Granted, you see different grips from professional hitters, but this method seems to help hitters who don’t have professional abilities. In spite of the evidence to the contrary...

Advocates Against Using Door Knocking Knuckles

Jack Mankin with BatSpeed.com says:
lining up the middle knuckles (10 to 30 degree wrist angles) encourages a "swing down" or wood chopping type of swing. Attempting to initiate the swing into a more productive plane with this grip will cause a breakdown of the backside and force the back elbow inward toward the bellybutton.
ChrisOleary.com says:
Some telltales of the Linear Hitting approach are the use of (problematic) cues like... Line up your door knocker knuckles.

Not Quite Sure - or Would Not Commit

Suzy Willemssen, fastpitch Gold Travel and HS coach via YouTube instruction says:
We want your grip to either be the "knocking knuckles" lined up, or slightly offset (rings). I prefer the offset grip. Anywhere between the knocking knuckles and the offest grip you should be fine.
BeaBetterHitter.com says:
Prefer Door Knockers
The easiest way to ensure that you are keeping the bat up in the fingers is to rotate your hands so that the second row of knuckles on each hand line up with each other.

or Rings
If you are uncomfortable with aligning your knuckles as described earlier, try rotating the hands until the second and third knuckles line up with each other. This is known as a "box grip" and is used by quite a few Major League players. Either way, it is important to be comfortable. So, pick the one that feels the best for your size and shape of hand and stick with it.

Some Said The Knuckles Don't Matter

WebBall.com's Richard Todd rounded up some who didn't think it mattered:
From Bobby Woods (on the new Hitting Skills video from Marty Schupak and the Youth Sports Club)...
If your arms form a natural V-shape and the bat rests easily in your fingers that's all that matters. Where the knuckles line up doesn't matter - you want to be palm-up/palm-down at contact.

From Chris Sperry (Head Baseball Coach, University of Portland)...
Not concerned with the knuckles at all, more important that the hands come through the zone palm-up, palm down.

Advocates for Aligning the Big Knuckles

We could not find any active MLB players advocating big knuckles in print or in a video. Billy Ripken said on MLB Network that Brett Boone aligned his big knuckles. However, the 2 clear pictures that I found show him using a box grip.

Brett Boone Box Grip
Brett Boone Box Grip

MLB Players Using Door Knocking Knuckles

We spotted a couple of current players using door knocking knuckles in games. Ichiro uses both door knocking or box grip. Pujols has also used door knockers and box grips.

Ichiro Suzuki
Albert Pujols 4/26/2010
Mickey Tettleton approx 1991-1994

See a video of Albert's swing with this grip.

Notice how they must contort one of their hands/wrists in order to make this grip work and to elevate their back elbow.

Players With Just Really Weird Grips

Kevin Youkilis
Julio Franco

Advocates for Aligning the Rings

Most MLB hitters align the rings using a comfortable, natural box grip.

Albert Pujols with Box Grip
David Ortiz
Carlos Lee
Derek Lee
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Mickey Mantle
Notice the Ted Williams index finger
Hank Aaron
Hank Aaron
Don Mattingly
Cal Ripken Jr
Joe Dimaggio
Barry Bonds
Hideki Matsui
A Rod
Allen Craig
Carlos Delgado
Dustin Pedroia
Hanley Ramirez
Matt Adams
Matt Holliday
Matt Kemp
Shane Victorino
Wade Boggs
Even Félix Millán 1966-77
Used a Box Grip

h/t some images from Baseball Fever

What is the Proper Knuckle Alignment for a Baseball or Fastpitch Grip?

Line Up the Rings
Line Up the Rings
aka Box Grip
aka Offset Grip

Line up your rings - aka Box Grip

Like many areas of the baseball swing, despite what most instructors and players teach (door knocking knuckles), almost all current MLB players actually align the rings when they grip their bat (see picture at right).

Since this grip is purely technique and has nothing to do with strength, any age hitter can use this grip - even Tee Ball kids.

Important Note for Box Grip: The top hand must be loose in order for the hands to rotate into the palm up/ palm down position at contact. (We don't want our picture at the right to give the impression you must hold the bat with a death grip)

Door knocking knuckles may be a cause of bat drag in rotational hitters. Door knocking knuckles may be the best solution for linear hitters.

Important Note for Door Knocking Knuckles: Your top hand must use a golf club type grip (bat loosely held in the knuckles, not in the palm) in order for the elbows to properly separate at toe touch.

Big knuckle alignment may contribute to wrist roll at contact.