Probably the most hotly contested topic in hitting is the ideal shape of the swing, some say it’s down, some say it’s up. Like most things, there’s a little bit of truth on both sides of the argument. Let’s get one thing straight, right before contact, the ideal swing plane is slightly up, we see it all time in baseball and softball.
Don’t get wrapped up in 14 degrees as an attack angle in baseball the best hitters swing in a range of launch angles between about +6 degrees and +16 degrees (It was a coincidence that the two swings I used were both 14 degrees).
Credit to Maximum Bat Speed for the youtube videos I used.
In softball, the ideal attack angle is a little lower since the ball’s approach is a little flatter but ideally, the swing is still up, I typically recommend between 4 and 12 degrees. That said, there sadly isn’t a ton of side view softball videos on youtube, because of this, angles are harder to measure. I’ve talked about the difference between the attack angles you should use in softball vs baseball on youtube if you’re interested here is the link (that conversation happens in the second half of the video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIgLAM5HNIc&t=7s .
People often get lost on how we get from launch position to the attack angle we move through right before contact. Launch position is pictured below.
Generally speaking, I’m not one who talks about positions in the swing that often, but the launch position is a frequently talked about part of the swing so I’ll play ball for the purposes of this article. For that reason, I’ll define it. Not all launch positions are the same even though at first glance it looks that way up above. Launch position is essentially the position you’re in when you’re front heel comes in contact with the ground. A “good launch position” has the knob of the bat pointed at the catcher (this isn’t always true in my opinion – for another day) and the back scapula retracted(this is always true).
What’s often argued about, is what happens from launch to contact. The old school baseball and softball community say that hitters should be short/direct to contact from launch position by swinging down from A to C. The new school baseball/softball community say you should swing up at contact, I agree. That said, it could be really easy to look at the two below images and say “the net of the swing to contact is down, not up”, and you would be right.
But those that say the swing is up right before contact are also right as displayed in the GIF below and in almost every hitting video you can find. If you’re on the fence about this I encourage you to do some youtube surfing.
Ok, so if the net of the swing is down, but the desired attack angle (the angle the barrel is moving right before contact) is up, what’s actually happening from launch to contact in a high-level swing?
In both views, you can see the handle of the bat trace down the bicep. Something that “swing up” guys like me don’t touch on enough is, if you want to swing up efficiently you need to first swivel your barrel down and under your hands efficiently. The quick downward movement of the barrel (utilizing gravity) is what allows it to come up fast allowing you to be able to hold your highest exit velocities as launch angle increases.
Think of it this way. If you were going to hit a jump on a snowboard, this part doesn’t just magically happen.
This part has to come first (see below).
The momentum that the barrel gathers from turning down generates power at the right angle when the barrel comes back uphill.
If you’re thinking, “well that would make your swing long” think for a second about what you actually want your swing to be short to. Many have told me that hitters want to be short to the ball. Well, how do we know where the ball is going to be when you make contact? There is a famous Warren Spahn quote that says “hitting is timing and pitching is upsetting timing.“ When pitchers are good they become masterful at untiming hitters. So if we assume that we will be able to predict where contact will be made we’ll just be flat out wrong with that assumption.
Hitting isn’t about perfect timing, hitting is about barreling balls up even when the timing isn’t perfect. So as hitters we don’t want to be short to the ball we want to be short to the path that we expect the ball to travel on and then stay on that path for as long as possible. “People always say, short to long through.” Let’s revise to “get in the way quickly, stay in the way as long as possible.”
Turn the barrel down your bicep and under your hands and your barrel will snap into the path of the pitch. Master that movement and your swing plane will never be wrong.
Like all these mashers.
Thanks for reading,
Kurt Hewes – Director of hitting and Founder of Ignite Baseball
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