#1 of the Super 7 – Bat Angle
If you have not read the brief post that clearly defines what we mean when we say “launch position” make sure to read that before jumping into the post.
You can read that post here: Launch Position Overview
What is the “Correct Slot?”
This is part of a bigger overall series that will deconstruct one of the more important positions or portions of a baseball swing.
In this particular post we are simply going to examine the bat angle for this one moment in time. Right before the hands fire forward or when the front toe touches the ground.
The consistency among elite level hitters with their bat angle at front toe touch gives us a good sense of what the correct slot really is.
All of these hitters typically start with a great deal of variation in their bat angle during the stance portion of the swing. Yet, when they hit front toe touch the bat angle is very similar. It isn’t just modern day guys either. In studying these angles you will see that this is pretty consistent over a long span of time.
General rule of thumb = point the knob of the bat at the catchers feet.
Below you can see 4 left handed hitters. Just as with all of the examples above, it easy to see that they are pointing the knob of their bat to about the catchers feet or the ground in front of the catchers feet.
This tends to be a very good measurable and actionable cue for hitters. It is super simple and provide clear direction as to what the process goal is.
The reason all these elite level hitters end up with such a similar angle is due to the relationship between power and average and how efficient we can get into the hitting zone. The more laid off the bat is the more likely I am as a hitter to make contact with the baseball, there is a shorter distance the tip of the bat needs to travel in order to hit the ball giving me a less time to make an error. The more wrapped the bat is the more likely I am to hit the ball farther, the tip of the bat is able to accelerate for a longer period of time (Velocity = Acceleration * Time) however, the more likely I am to be off with my timing or make an error somewhere in the swing.
That being the case, you will indeed see a range of slightly different bat angles at the moment the front toe hits the ground. We will refer to this as an upper and lower threshold. The goal is to be within the acceptable range.
More laid off generally = more average, less power
Below you see 4 major league hitters that have the tip up a little taller. This will create less distance for the tip of the bat to travel, which means the barrel can get into the zone quicker. However, we may not be able to generate quite as much bat speed. You will notice Polanco is much more laid off than most with his bat angle. That would be close to the threshold for how laid off we can be. Also, bare in mind that Polanco is a bit of an outlier, and our goal is to really studies a massive sample size and determine what the “composite major league mechanic” would be.
More Wrapped generally = more power
Below we have 4 players that are much more wrapped. The angles here would represent the other end of the threshold. A couple of them are pointing the knob to the catchers face mask. That is about as far wrapped as you will see an elite level hitter.
From the Back View
This all important bat angle is also a compound angle. It is not just the measurement of how wrapped versus how laid off the bat is.
It also has to do with how flat versus how steep the bat is. To get a clear view of this it is best to look from directly behind or in front of the hitter (backstop view or centerfield view).
This particular element of the bat angle will relate much more to how we set up for swinging on plane. Just as you constantly hear people talk about a launch position but seldom define exactly what that launch position is…you also hear all sorts of people preaching swinging on plane, or “matching the plane of the pitch” yet most people do not fully understand how the body moves to actually swing on plane. In fact, most people do not comprehend what swinging on plane is.
That is an entirely different topic, as it relates to bat angle it is key that hitters set up in the right spot to allow them the ability to swing on plane with different pitch locations as efficiently as possible.
Too Flat = Setting up for high pitches
If players hit front toe touch with their bat too flat, they have set themselves up to handle the higher pitches. Depending on how flat the bat actually is, very often player are set up for pitches that are not even in the strike zone.
When they are in this position at front toe touch it will make it much more difficult for them to handle pitches in the bottom of the zone.
This “too flat” flaw at launch position is one of the most common things we see when working with young players. Part of this has to do with the fact that the strike zone is much higher when kids are younger, and it gets lower and lower with every level that a player moves up. If players do not make the correction and get the bat taller they will eventually get weeded out.
This would be an example of being too flat:
This is what it should look like. Notice how the verbal cue of pointing the knob to the ground in front of the catchers feet takes care of this portion of the compound angle also.
Too Steep = More Bat Speed, Less Efficient
Players that are too steep do have the potential of creating a little more basted because the tip will again travel a longer distance, just as we talked about above with wrapping the bat and acceleration.
There are a lot of guys that tip the bat forward, but at the moment their front toe hits the ground they are usually right back in the slot where the knob is pointed at the catchers feet.
If the bat is still tipped forward at the moment the front toe hits, it makes it very difficult for players to be on time.
Also, in this “too steep” position, hitters are set up for a swing plane that is not in the strike zone. In this case they would be setup for a pitch that is out of the zone because it is too far down and in.
This is what too steep would look like:
Again, this is what it should look like, this time lets look at a couple lefties just to mix it up. Pictured below is Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez at toe touch:
If you can help players find the correct bat angle at launch position it will go a long way to setting them up for success longer term (when they get to that next level and the strike zone does get lower for example). It is tough to completely change deeply ingrained muscle habit patterns, and the longer they are allowed to persist, the more difficult it is to make the correction.
This is a great place to start with young hitters. Continue to preach to them that they need to get that tip tall at front to touch.
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