Hitting 101- Hitting Stance
For a hitter, the starting position (stance) can be just as important as the swing mechanics itself. So much of hitting is about the hitter’s ability to make adjustments to the pitcher to have success. As a hitter you will have a very tough time making adjustments in the swing if your stance is not consistent each time you step up to the plate. Each hitting coach will have different techniques they may like to teach you as a hitter. The goal for you should be finding the most comfortable, yet effective stance for you to be ready to attack any pitch in the strike zone.
First let’s start with the foundation of the swing and stance, the legs. The most common position for the feet to begin are just outside should width apart. I like to have my hitter’s line up the inside of the shoes with the outside of their shoulders as a starting point. Usually the wider the hitters stance, the more power they can generate from their lower half and core, which is where most of the power of the swing comes from. Be careful not to get too wide, you want to be in a comfortable and athletic position when hitting.
The toes of each foot should be pointed towards the chalk of the batter box. Many hitters develop bad habits of turning their feet in or out which can cause issues when the swing actually starts. Some hitters like to have open stances, some closed and some balanced with their feet directly in line. The most common stance I see used for the incorrect reason in an open stance. What the open stance is intended to do (Open stance is starting with your front foot farther away from the plate then the back foot) is to allow the hitter to have better vision of the pitcher at the beginning of the pitchers delivery. What most young hitters use the open stance for is to have a head start on pulling any pitch on the inside half of the plate. Having an open stance for this reason is a very bad habit and takes away from the hitter’s ability to drive the ball the other way. The proper process of in open stance is to start open and when the pitch is delivered, to come back to the even, balanced position.
A closed stance (front foot closer to the plate then the back foot) if intended for hitters who like to hit the ball to the opposite field. I personally do not like teaching open or closed stances because I feel it generalizes the hitter into one specific type of hitter. I like to teach kids how to become complete hitters, and that is why I teach an even, balanced starting foot position.
The hands should be in a position around the back shoulder about six inches from the body. Be sure as a hitter not to start your hands too far back because that will limit your ability to load later in the swing process. Next is the placement of the back elbow. Some coaches and hitters like elbow up, about level with the shoulder, some prefer a low elbow slot that forms a triangle shape between the elbows and hands. As a hitter, you need to find what feels more comfortable to your swing style. Each of the two positions has benefits over the other. For example, the hitter with and elbow up position will generally create a more power based swing path with more bat speed. While and elbow down hitter will get his elbow into the hitting slot quicker which allows for a shorter swing path and more consistent contact. The goal is to find what is more comfortable to you as a hitter and continue to be consistent with the positioning.
Lastly, the hitters head should be in a position where they can see the pitcher with both eyes. Many hitters have a tendency of partially cutting of the vision of the back eye, which can create unnecessary difficulties while hitting.
There are many styles that can be chosen for your stance, the most important aspect is to stay consistent with your stance once you have found something comfortable and successful.
- Matt Kiley