Understanding Swing Plane

In his book "The Science of Hitting"  Ted Williams introduced the idea of matching the swing plane to the plane of the pitch.  This book was published in 1971.  Somehow, even in 2016 there is still a lot of uncertainty in the coaching as to how this upward swing plane is created.

According to Statcast data taken from the 2016 season, hitters hit for the highest batting average with launch angles between 10 and 14 degrees with the optimal launch angle for home runs being 30 degrees.

If the ball approaches the plate at a downward plane of 12 degrees, and the optimal launch angle for batting average is 12 degrees.  Doesn't it make a ton of sense to hit the ball with a swing plane of 12 degrees?

Measurement

Using the Swingtracker Sensor from Diamond Kinetics you can now implement measurement of Approach Angle into your evaluation and development plan.  Using this metric you will then be able to identify deficiencies of movement creating inconsistent or negative swing plane through the center of the swing. 

Movement Patterns that Create Plane

Cues that identify swing plane.

  • Loading the slack out of the system
  • Reverse shoulder posture and turning the barrel to contact
  • Stacking the torso
  • Back shoulder extension

Loading the slack out of the system.

As you see in the Trout gif above, and you see with all great hitters they are using their load to create optimal stretch and tension top set their upper half and arms up to A. Match the rotation generated from the hips through the kinetic chain and B. to allow their arms to rotate properly to get their barrel accelerated and on plane as quickly as possible.

Reversing Shoulder Posture to Turn the Barrel

I have seen over 50,000 swings data from Diamond Kinetics, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if you push/pull the barrel with your hands, you will not create a consistent plane to match the downward angle of an incoming pitch. You might occasionally but never with any consistency. When the hands are pushed or pulled forward, you lose the power you have stored in the dominant hip and delivered through the kinetic chain  Once the hands push forward, you are out of sequence.  This is inefficient for power and adjustability.  That being said a lot of players and coaches are "faking" barrel turn to please the aesthetic while overlooking the function.  The most important move in the swing action is correctly reversing the shoulder posture to connect the arms in sequence with the rotation of the core.  See Pujols below.  That is it.  If you can correctly sequence this move you are on your way to becoming an elite level mover.

 

Stacking the Torso

This one is pretty easy to identify.  You cant rotate through the center of your swing with your head in front of your belt.  David Ortiz said he tried to keep his head over his back hip, which also works.  Moral of the story; your head, shoulder, hip, and knee should stack just behind the mid-line of your feet at foot strike.

Oakland Athletics' Josh Donaldson bats during the third inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Saturday, July 6, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Back Shoulder Extension

Extension is a hot topic and a place of great misunderstanding.  I will save arm/hand extension for another post.  To outline the concept of completing the rotation of your shoulders, I call it back shoulder extension.  This just means that your back shoulder moves throughout the swing and doesn't stop.  Players will be defecient in shoulder rotation because they have been told to "push through contact"  this results in the body fighting for balance as the arms are pushed away from the body and as a result, the shoulder stop rotating.  Don't push, just keep turning, centrifugal force takes care of your arms.   See Machado back shoulder turning to finish his arms and barrel.

 

 

Conclusion

The biggest issue I see with coaching and the swing sensor technology is they do not know how to marry the data feedback to swing movement or mechanics.  The concepts of early bat speed and matching plane will live on forever in the game of baseball.  I hope this helps you understand the swing plane feedback you are getting from the sensors so you can help your players be more consistently on plane when it matters most.   Feel free to email me any questions directly at clongworth26@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Greg Wills

    Two things that I’ve tried to teach hitters about swing plane, and I know nothing about nothing. I believe the first is demonstrated in the Pujols video and that is back elbow to belly button. It simplifies things for both me and kids about creating a desirable swing plane. The other is when we look at swing plane on video. I think the Trout video shows this very well, and that is the direct correlation to the angle of Trout’s belt (hips) at contact and the bat position at contact. Thanks and any feedback will be much appreciated. By the way, I really enjoy following you on Twitter.

  2. Mike

    Great article, but how do you get these points across to 8-9 year olds ? What drills do you use

  3. James Rivera

    Hey coach great blog. I agree with you and Ted. My son was coach to swing down and is having a hard time adjusting. What drills do you recommend I have him do to fix his swing plane? I would appreciate all your help.

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