Since using the K-Vest and having the ability to measure the bio mechanics of all of my hitters, I have been able to track the differences between high level (college and pro) hitters and younger hitters. As you may guess, there are many differences. Today I want to discuss one of those differences: The position of the shoulders at the Launch Position, specifically the front shoulder.
What is the Launch Position?
The position when the heel of the front foot lands.
What should the shoulders look like?
Compare that with what most younger hitters look like
What do we notice? Most younger hitter’s shoulders are slanted the opposite direction with the back shoulder below the front shoulder.
Now, lets take a look at the shoulders from the pitcher’s perspective
3 Takeaways from the Pitcher’s Perspective
Front shoulder lower than back shoulder
Front shoulder turned in so that the torso is angled back towards the catcher
Front shoulder pointed in direction of 2nd Baseman (Shortstop for a lefty)
Why should the front shoulder be lower than then the back?
One of the most important components of generating power is loading the upper body correctly. The best hitters in the world are going to position the upper body in the most stretched position possible to allow the hips to pull the torso around faster. This means that they stretch from the front hip to the back shoulder as much as possible before unloading the upper body.
One component of loading the torso correctly is the keep the upper body turned back slightly towards the catcher at heel plant. However, we can increase the amount of stored energy in the muscles and connective tissues of the upper body by lowering the front shoulder as we turn back towards the catcher. Try it for yourself. Stand up and get into the launch position. First, turn the upper body back towards the catcher. You should feel a slight stretch across the torso. Stay in that position and drop the front shoulder. Notice what happens. The stretch should increase.
Ability to commit later to the pitch
The best hitters in the world are able to commit as late as possible to swinging at a pitch. They are able to keep the upper body and hands back as the hips start to allow them to pick up velocity, spin, and location on a given pitch. This allows them the ability to adjust and gather more information on what they are swinging at.
How much lower should my front shoulder be than the back?
Every hitter is different, so the answer is: it depends. The examples shown above show that some hitters (Betts, Baez, etc.) can get into more extremes than other guys. From a numbers perspective, some hitters can get the front shoulder sloped 15-20 degrees below the back shoulder. Most pro guys will be slightly positive, meaning that the front shoulder is just slightly lower than the back. Even having the shoulders level is acceptable. However, we just don’t want the back shoulder lower than the front at heel plant.
How do I work on the shoulder positioning at my Launch Position?
Active takes- During BP, take pitches and get into the launch position, focusing on getting the front shoulder slightly down and in.
Tee and front toss from Launch Position- Get into the launch position and hit the ball from that starting position. This will allow you to feel the body firing from the new, more loaded position.