Should Hitters Stand Tall?
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Stand Tall article was excerpted from our new book The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy Guide (click for book details).
For recommendations on how and when to use various training methods (dry, heavy bag, pylos, tee, toss, live, machine, etc.) and to shop for practical and durable equipment, click on the link Hitting Training Methods and Aids.
Building Rome Series (Roman Theme) Introduction
Our dedicated Roman Senators are back in session. Rome’s citizens much appreciate the Senate members due to their ability to keep an open mind and make well-thought-out rulings benefiting all levels of ability. Senators comprise a group of respected players, coaches, and sports scientists elected by the Roman citizens. The purpose of the Roman Senate is to review and debate contending hitting strategies and viewpoints. The Roman Senate seeks to raise knowledge to beget increased success. After each debate, the Senate issues a ruling. The ruling contains recommendations, proclaiming increases in power or productivity.
Next on the docket, Senators examine the validity of another “ancient” Roman edict, “Stand Tall.”
Stand Tall is a Popular Cue
At the next youth baseball or fastpitch softball game you attend, count how many times you hear coaches and parents advising their hitters to ‘stand tall.’ What is meant by this popular cue?
Well, as with many hitting cues, standing tall has many different implications for what is being asked of the hitter. Here a few intentions often conveyed:
- Copy the Pros
Many successful hitters stand tall in their stance (see the image of Mike Trout MLB above). This position is not athletic (upright posture, weight on heels, feet close, slight knee bend) – but before you conclude we critique the best hitter in the universe, read the next section.
- Maintain Level Shoulders (no “dipping” the rear shoulder)
Senators are strident, “Don’t collapse the backside” and “Don’t dip the bat.” Click the link for our free article Fix the Hitting Habit of Dipping Under the Ball.
- Swing Down to the Ball
Many Senators maintain an athletic position that promotes an upward swing path causes too many fly balls.
- Keep a Straight Backside
Many amateur hitters have too much curvature (hunching) in their upper spine when they set up in their stance. Stand tall can be a cue to keep the neck straight with head and eyes level (just like Mike Trout in the image above). The hitter maintains their straight backside into hitting position and through core rotation.
Stand Tall in Stance vs. Athletic Hitting Position
Spine angle is the angle of the hitter’s spine compared to vertical. Vertical (upright) is a zero-degree spine angle. Most experienced hitters are relatively upright, from zero to twenty degrees spine angle in their stance.
But, absolutely, great hitters are athletic by the time they arrive in hitting position. Head and shoulder movement is especially evident in slow-motion video when comparing posture in the stance (top image above) to hitting position (bottom image above). High-Level hitters’ spine angle in hitting position is Universally twenty to thirty degrees. Experienced hitters “sit down and back” as they gather and stride as a way to increase momentum and sync timing to the pitcher’s movements.
Youth Hitters Don’t Stand Tall in Stance
When the developing hitter is already athletic in their stance, little or no spine angle transition is required. The hitter maintains the same spine angle from stance to hitting position. To increase simplicity, build confidence, and improve seeing the ball, we recommend developing hitters utilize a spine angle of twenty degrees in their stance with moderate knee bend (image above).
Drawbacks of Stand Tall with Level Shoulders (During the Swing)
Click the link for a Hitting Rebellion article WARNING!! Down & Through Hitting Mechanics EQUALS Down in the Lineup
The only way the shoulders can rotate at the same height, without the rear shoulder dropping lower than the front shoulder, is if the hitter remains perfectly upright (zero degrees spine angle) as they swing. One or more of these obstacles arise:
- Reduced plate coverage for outside and low pitch locations; shoulders are further from the outside corner.
- Swing path with a negative attack angle. One way to not drop back shoulder is to stand tall and take hands directly (linearly) to the ball (images above). When shoulders are level, the lower the pitch, the more downward and chopping the swing path.
- Swing path on an overly upward attack angle for the low pitch. Rather than dropping the barrel on the ball, other too upright hitters drive barrel directly down to reach the low pitch (as in the golf swing). A “loopy,” inefficient swing pattern occurs – a bat sensor reports a very steep vertical bat angle and unproductive attack angle (too positive creating popups and high flies) if contact occurs more out front.
- Inability to generate maximum potential bat speed; when the hitter is upright they feel less powerful. To maximize leverage and bat speed the swing plane is at a 90-degree angle to the spine (image below).
Optimal Shoulder Level During Phases of the Swing
Observe these shoulder levels in all great hitters. Critically, to avoid “dipping,” note that shoulders are maintained level until swing initiation.
In the stance, we recommend the shoulders are level and the body in an athletic position. Here are three stance problems, which may cause too early dropping of the rear shoulder:
- In the hitter’s stance, a flat or vertical bat angle can cause the rear shoulder, hands, and barrel to drop too early (“dipping”) before stride foot lands. Fix this issue by utilizing a forty-five-degree bat angle in the stance.
- Front elbow pointing up (should be pointing at the plate).
- Rear elbow pointing nearly straight down (should be at least 60-degrees relative to the hitter’s body).
Shoulders are level or slightly forward sloping.
Shoulders are level or slightly sloped forward as the stride foot lands at toe touch.
As front heel drive and rear knee drive initiate core rotation, shoulders tilt rearward while hands stay up. This power-creating move stretches the oblique muscles and establishes a rearward tilting axis (click the link for our free article Stay Back Drills to Swing With Head Centered). All High-Level hitters drop the rear shoulder to get on plane with the ball and create a dominant leveraged position.
Spine angle dictates the level of the rotating shoulders (waist-high pitch image left and low pitch image right). Most successful hitters maintain a 20 to 30-degree spine angle as shoulders rotate. When this occurs, biomechanically, the hitter’s rear shoulder is always lower than the front shoulder at contact.
Senate Ruling for Stand Tall
Hitters do not stand tall as they swing – they transition to an athletic position. Spine angle adjustments are achieved as the hitter moves from stance to hitting position. Then, as the hitter turns, their spine angle remains stable. A decreasing (or increasing) spine angle during core rotation leads to inconsistent contact:
- The head moves with the spine resulting in a reduction of vision.
- The level of the rotating shoulders changes, causing the swing plane to be erratic.
- Balance is lost.
Drills For Posture in Hitting Stance
Click here for an experimental drill to customize posture in hitting stance – balance quality of vision vs improved power for the unique hitter.
Other Hitting Debate Articles You May Find Interesting
Click the links below for further free articles:
The Ultimate Guide to “Squish the Bug”
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
Click on Building the High-Level Swing Series to learn more about our new book series containing a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.
In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become a powerful and productive hitter.
Enjoy the quest!