The more kids that I instruct and the longer I work with hitters, I find myself talking about similar things with a lot of players. One of, it not the most commonly discussed topics that I speak about with hitters is the launch position. While there is a lot that needs to happen to get into a good launch position, the position itself sets us up in a number of different ways to be successful.
What is the launch position?
The launch position is the position of the hitter when the front heel makes contact with the ground after the stride. Every hitter has a unique stance and stride, but look at just about every successful hitter and there will be similarities across the board at this point in the swing.
What make a good launch position?
Balance comes into play in every sport, and baseball is no different. When talking about balance in the launch position, the hitter should not have too much weight back (which is most often taught) or too much weight forward. Look at Dustin Pedroia below.
His weight is almost completely centered between his 2 legs.
Leaving too much weight back can cause a myriad of flaws in a swing. First, this can cause the back side to drop too much leading to an increased uppercut. While we want a slight inclined bat path, too much can be a problem. The second issue is limited or slowed hip rotation from the back hip. With too much weight on the back leg, more force is placed into the ground and can make turning the back side difficult.
Likewise, shifting too much weight forward can lead to other issues. First, with increased weight on the front leg, the path of the bat tends to move downward. This leads to a decreased contact area and a propensity to hit ground balls. The second is that shifting too much weight forward can cause timing issues. With increased forward momentum, it can be difficult to keep the parts of the swing back that a hitter needs to, mainly the hands. If the hands leak forward too soon, the hitter must bet on a fastball and can struggle with hitting the ball the other way and off speed pitches.
When speaking on posture in the launch position, we can discuss the side view and the front view (from the pitcher).
- Knees slightly bent
- Front shoulder down or level with back shoulder
- Hand in vicinity of back shoulder
- Bat Angled with knob facing catcher
From the front view I am looking for a hip hinge pattern. This position is marked by having the hips back and the chest angled over the feet. This position is very similar to a deadlift setup. This makes sense because a deadlift is aiming to fire all of the biggest, strongest muscles in the body, the same ones we want to use to swing a bat.
3. Hand/hip separation
One of the most effective ways to get power out of the swing is to create separation between the upper body and lower body. When looking at the launch position, the lower body should have begin rotating slightly. Meanwhile, the upper body should be counter rotated with the hands back. The distance between the hands and front hip should be greater than in the load phase. With proper timing of the hands moving back as the stride moves forward, the body allows for the stretch shortening cycle, a mechanism that allows for increased power output, to be activated.
If you look at Bryce Harper in this picture, his hips have begun opening while his upper body is rotated back towards the catcher. In addition, the distance between his hands and his front hip is larger than in his stance or load position.
While the swing has countless important moments, perhaps the most important is the launch position. This is the position that a hitter gets into just before the hands begin moving the bat towards the ball. Therefore, this position is vital to a successful swing and can be the downfall of many swings. In order for a swing to be successful, proper balance, posture, hand/ hip separation, and other markers must be achieved in the launch position.