What Point in Swing Should the Front Shoulder Just Fly Open
(East Setauket, New York)
Ryan Braun leading with the hips creating Bat
At what point in swing should the front shoulder just fly open. In other words, at what point does front shoulder delay cease or at what point should you stop from holding front shoulder still with negative resistance. As long as possible? Right before impact? After weight shift and slot?
Swing Smarter Response: Great question Bill, the short answer is shortly after the Slot Position. We have to think of the powerfully consistent swing as using TWO gears...
Gear #1: The hips open and begin to thrust, much like when you skip a rock across the pond...here the hips open, the arm slots close to the body, and much after the hips have cleared the arm and shoulders whip around.
Watch one of my favorite hitter's of all time, Hammerin' Hank Aaron's hips versus when his shoulders come around...
Gear #2: Shortly after the Slot Position, the hips should be working to open square, while the shoulders drag behind the hips thrusting.
We should also see the back knee gaining ground toward the pitcher. This is where you'll see a hitter's back foot come slightly off the ground, and if you measured the back knee versus the belly button at contact, the knee should be slightly in front.
Compare Hank's swing to the next video, Joe Dimaggio's. Joe didn't hit as many home runs in his career as Aaron did (755 v. 361). You can really see the ONE geared swing we've been talking about...watch the back shoulder and hip open together...
The best current YouTube video I came up with is one done of the 2011 All Star Home Run Derby, all in slow motion!
Pay particular attention to Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, and Big Papi...these guys have super hip thrust and their hips are almost completely square to the pitcher at contact, while the upper body drags behind...
The ONE geared swing came into prominence with the advent of the aluminum bat in the 70's, and also when wood bats got super light compared to the times when Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Mickey Mantle swung them.
Dixon on NaturalHitting.com, talks about 60% of body mass being in the torso, 15% in the arms, and 25% in the legs. It doesn't make sense to swing with the 15% of body mass in our arms...the powerfully consistent "Nike Swoosh" sign swing rotates around the spine...
Think about other similar track & field movements dealing with the same spinal rotation to achieve power and distance (some of these events have been around for a very long time): discus, the hammer throw, shot put, and javelin.
According to Mike Epstein, Ted Williams told hitters to study pitchers and how they deliver a ball to the plate...they go through the same priority of movement: after the front foot lands, the hips unwind, then the shoulder, then the whip of the arm.
It's an uncoiling of the torso around the spine that delivers the punch powerful hitters of yester-year and today use. The reason consistency goes up is because these hitters don't move their head or spine in a forward or backward motion at all. The movement happens around the spinal central axis.
What the front shoulder flying open too early means to a swing
It means the hitter is swinging too much with their upper half. With these types of swings, ONE Geared, their eyes/head tends to drift, along with their weight, forward.
Because of this, energy isn't transferred in an efficient way around the spine and ultimately into the baseball.
What kind of drills can we do to keep that front shoulder from flying open too early?
We have to get the shoulders lagging behind the hips, so one of my favorite drills is taking dry swings with a long broom stick handle (On the BESTEST 5 Swing Smarter Drills page).
What are the best hitting aids to use?
My favorite, which has grown on me quite a bit the more and more I learn how to use it from Chas Pippitt, is The Drive Developer.
I've seen a dramatic before-and-after of a Senior in High School on video who was pretty successful with Down & Through totally change his swing into the TWO Geared swing in 30 days using drills prescribed with The Drive Developer.
The Drive Developer comes with a packet of drills and login information for online video drills and exercises.