The Key Phases and Positions of the Swing
By Phil Plante
This document is a write-up of the basic baseball and softball swing as presented on my web
site, Swing the Bat! (http://www.swingthebat.net).
I’ve divided the swing into three phases, the Stance, the Pre-Swing, and the Swing. Within
each phase, there are one or more key positions that the hitter should pass through in that
phase. I’ve focused on seven key positions, as illustrated in the graphic below. I’ve further
expanded the contact position into three, depending on where in the hitting zone the hitter
contacts the ball. The hitting zone is the region where the bat’s sweet spot levels onto and
travels along the path of the pitch; and the larger your hitting zone, the better your chances of
making solid contact.
Position 1, the stance, is a static position. The other positions are dynamic; that is, the hitter
doesn’t stop and hold these positions, he merely passes through them as he swings. The
swing, then, can be thought of as a movement that, if done correctly, passes through each of
these six positions in sequence.
As a parent or coach, you can look for these positions when evaluating a player’s swing. When
I do a hitter’s video evaluation, we watch the hitter’s swing in slow motion and compare the
hitter’s positions to the above graphic. During lessons, I actually teach the swing using the
above seven positions. The ability to execute these key positions consistently gives you an “A”
swing. Every hitter’s goal as he or she steps to the plate should be to get a good pitch to hit,
and put their A swing on it.
Chapters 2 through 4 (following) provide a detailed description of each phase of the swing and
the positions within each phase. There are also some drills to help teach and master the
2. The Stance Phase
The first position in the swing is the stance. In the major leagues, you will see almost as many
stances as there are players. The truth is, there is room for individual variation in the stance
and even, to some extent, within the pre-swing phase. At the end of the pre-swing, however,
just about every major leaguer is in the same position (the launch position), and there is little
variation in the swing from that point forward. One can argue that as long as the player ends up
in the proper launch position just prior to the swing, nothing that came before (the stance and
step) matters. While I agree there is room for personal preference, kids often adopt stance
positions that make it difficult for them to execute the pre-swing and swing phases correctly.
Hence I prefer a simple "balanced and centered" stance that will allow the player to see the ball,
to react quickly to the pitch, and to get into the proper pre-swing positions. I present two stance
options: one for players who intend to take a step in the pre-swing phase, and one for players
who prefer not to step (the no-step swing).
But first, some words about the grip and where to stand relative to the plate.
The most common grip in use, both by kids and adults, is the choke grip, which lines up the top
set of knuckles on one hand with the middle set of knuckles on the other hand. The choke grip
also forces you to hold the bat more in the palms of the hand than in the fingers. The choke grip
limits the range of motion of the wrists. It’s not that you can’t hit using this grip; it’s just that you
only get so much rotation from the wrists, which limits the speed and quickness of the swing. If
you’re playing slow pitch softball, that’s no big deal. If you’re playing baseball, however, having
a quick swing is a big deal.
Most professional baseball players use what is known as the “standard grip.” In this grip, the
bat is placed where the fingers meet the palms and is held loosely with the fingers, not the
palms, as shown in photo 2 below. Many players line up the middle set of knuckles on their top
hand with the middle knuckles on the bottom hand as shown photo 1. But you don’t have to line
them up exactly – as long you hold the bat loosely, especially with the top hand, they will align
naturally as you swing.
The standard grip also allows you to cock the wrist on your upper hand up, which gives you
more rotation from the wrists and allows you to really drive the bat into the ball with your upper
hand. The two photos to the right below show the wrists uncocked, then cocked, using the
standard grip. You use your wrists to accelerate the barrel of the bat through the hitting zone at
contact, so more wrist rotation = more acceleration = more power.
Kids may complain that the standard grip feels insecure, especially if they’re used to squeezing
the bat to death with the aptly-named choke grip. But the looseness and “play” of the standard
grip is exactly what gives you the greater range of motion and acceleration with the wrists. I
recommend that you teach the standard grip to your players; it really is superior to the choke
DEPTH AND DISTANCE FROM THE PLATE
Young hitters need a good anchor point to make
sure they don’t stand too close to or far from the
plate, and that they stand at a consistent spot from
pitch to pitch. Younger kids, say up to age 10,
don’t have much reach or plate coverage, so I like
for them to get close to the plate. Older kids (11-
up) and adults, since they have a longer reach,
should be 1 1/2 to 2 foot lengths off the plate.
POSITION 1 – THE STANCE
The checkpoints listed below are for a balanced and
centered stance. The checkpoints are the same for the
step and no-step except for the width of the batter’s feet
as discussed in the first checkpoint.
When in your stance, stay relaxed and well balanced.
Tense muscles do not react quickly. To stay loose,
slightly rock back and forth while in your stance waiting
for the pitch. Some rocking is good to keep the muscles
loose; too much, however, is wasted motion.
□ For hitters who take a step, the feet should be a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
□ For a no-step stance, start with the legs wider apart, as if you have already taken a step:
one bat-length or a bit wider apart. The other checkpoints below are identical for the
step and no-step approaches.
□ Front foot slightly open (point toward 1B dugout for righties, 3B dugout for lefties)
□ Weight centered and on balls of feet
□ Knees bent slightly
□ Shoulders slightly closed and level, or back shoulder slightly higher
□ Upper body leaning out toward the plate a bit
□ Head level, both eyes on the pitcher
□ Hands shoulder high over back foot
□ Sweet spot of the bat about over the back ear
□ Be relaxed and balanced
Many hitters like to “back-load” their stance – put weight on the back foot. I’m not crazy
about the back-loaded stance because my back leg gets tired in a long at bat. I prefer a
centered stance where you back load just before striding forward. But many professional
hitters use a back loaded stance, so you can certainly be successful with it. For the no-step,
it’s a bit more important to be centered in the stance; so I recommend not back-loading your
stance if you choose to use the no-step approach.
3. THE PRE-SWING
After the stance (position 1), the next two positions (2 and 3) occur in the pre-swing phase. It’s
called the pre-swing because you are moving and changing positions but nothing is actually
swinging or rotating yet. The pre-swing positions are important for two reasons. First, they put
you in an athletic “ready to hit” position, much like the ready position that a fielder gets in as the
pitcher delivers the pitch. Second, the pre-swing controls the timing of your swing, so it’s
important to get into these positions on-time or slightly early. If you’re late, you won’t be able to
execute the swing positions correctly.
There’s a third reason why these two positions are important – they are the ones you can think
about and control on every swing. Once you get to position 3, the rest of the swing happens too
fast to think about – your body will just react with whatever’s in your muscle memory. If you
start in the proper pre-swing positions, it will make your swing easier and, hopefully, trigger the
muscle memories for the correct swing positions.
The pre-swing is where my thinking has evolved the most. There is a weight shift from back to
front that must take place in the pre-swing. Previously, I taught my students to come to center
in position 2 (the launch position), then shift to the front foot (60-70%) in position 3 – and that
remains a legitimate way to do it. Most kids, however, have trouble getting past center and
many never even make it to center. And without a proper weight shift to the front foot, you can’t
freely open your hips in the swing. So I started teaching kids to come forward onto the front foot
(60%) in position 2, then shift a little more forward (70%) in position 3. This change seemed to
work and my student started getting a more consistent weight shift.
The pre-swing phase has two positions, the Launch Position and the Trigger Position. The
Launch position is presented twice, once for hitter’s using step, and once for hitters using the
POSITION 2: THE LAUNCH POSITION (WITH STEP)
Position 2, the Launch Position, is the position you’re in at the end of your step. It’s important
because it controls the timing of your swing and puts you in an athletic ready-to-hit position.
Many a swing in youth baseball goes bad right here - failing to get into a good launch position or
getting into it late.
From your stance, step forward directly at the pitcher until your
feet are about one bat-length or bit wider apart. To step, of
course, you must first shift weight off your front foot, an action
called loading. The simplest load is the “inward turn” – turn the
front knee toward the back knee to shift the weight back, close
the front shoulder a bit more, and roll the front foot onto the big
toe, heel up slightly. There are many ways to do it, but I
recommend keeping the load simple, and avoiding high or
dramatic leg kicks. I’ve found that you don’t have to teach
hitters to load; they have to do it to step. I only mention it if
their load is excessively dramatic or awkward. Hence I have
not included the load as a key position.
As you step, “fall forward” with the back shoulder slightly
higher than the front and shift 60% of your weight onto the front Position 2. The Launch Position
foot. Slightly open the front foot as you step. When you land,
you should be in the following position:
□ The feet are one-bat length apart, front foot is flat and slightly open (less than 45
□ The front knee is flexed forward, 60% of your weight on the front foot
□ The hips are square or slightly open
□ The front shoulder is closed (turned away from the pitcher), the back shoulder is slightly
higher than the front shoulder
□ The upper body is vertically aligned over your belly button and not tilted
□ The head is level, both eyes are on the pitcher
□ The hands are shoulder high and back. Push the hands back a bit as you step to create
separation between the hands and the body; that is, “Step away from your hands”
□ The bat should be over or behind your back shoulder at a 45 degree angle. Do not wrap
that bat behind your head or drop the barrel below your hands
So, when should you start your step? Nominally, you should start to step forward as the pitcher
is striding toward you to release the pitch – “step toward the pitcher as the pitcher steps toward
you.” Your front foot should land when the ball is no further than 1/3 of the way to the plate. But
timing is personal and depends on the speed of the pitch and your swing. Each hitter has to
work it out for himself. But remember, don’t rush the step. Step calmly and deliberately.
However, it’s imperative that you not be late or you’ll be unable to fire your hips correctly.
Here are some tips for controlling the timing of your swing with your step:
□ Don’t rush your step. Load early, then step calmly and deliberately forward
□ Be sure you get completely into the launch position before you start your swing
□ Timing-wise, step for the fastball; if it’s an off-speed pitch (or you’re just early), wait a
moment in the launch position before initiating the swing. Keep the front knee flexed,
the muscles loose, and the hands back!
□ You don’t want to step too early, because you will sit too long in the launch position and
your muscles will tend to tighten up and slow your reaction time. But it’s better to be
early than late. If you’re late, there’s no hope for your swing
POSITION 2: THE LAUNCH POSITION (WITH NO-STEP)
If you opt for the no-step approach, you still have to move through positions 2 but how you get
there is a bit different. From your no-step stance, shift your weight slightly (60-70%) back using
the “inward turn” method described above; that is, turn the front knee in toward the back knee,
shift weight onto the back foot, roll the front foot onto the big toe, heel up slightly, and close the
front shoulder a bit. From this loaded position, shift your weight forward into the launch position
(position 2) as described above. You want to be in the launch position when the ball is no further
than 1/3 of the way to home plate.
The no-step approach is simpler and a bit quicker to the ball than taking a step, thus making it
easier to control the timing of your swing. However, the hitter has to assume a wider stance,
which many players may not find comfortable, and still must load back then shift the weight
forward to swing. So which approach is best, the step or the no-step? At the youth level of play
(8-12), the step may be simpler for the hitters to remember and execute. At more advanced
levels, the no-step approach is quicker. But while some may be comfortable with a no step
approach, others may not. Go with what the hitter finds most natural and comfortable for
From this point onward, the no-step swing is identical to the normal swing, including the move
into position 3 as described below.
Position 3: The Trigger Position
Position 3 occurs as you make your initial (but not final)
decision to swing and puts you into position to explode open
and get the bat on the plane of the pitch. If your timing is
perfect, you will move immediately from position 2, the
Launch Position, into position 3. If you’re a bit early into
position 2, you can hold it momentarily until you decide to
swing, then transition to position 3. The key checkpoints of
position 3 are:
□ The back elbow drops to the back hip and the back
lower arm moves to a more vertical position
□ The bat barrel drops to a flatter position to get on the Position 3. Trigger Position
plane of the pitch, but stays back pointed behind the hitter’s back
□ Flex the front knee forward a little more, shifting a bit more weight to the front foot (from
60% to 70%) to allow the back hip to turn freely
□ Adjust your upper-body lean toward the plate depending on the height of the pitch: lean
out from the waist more for lower pitches, less for higher ones (you can adjust in later
positions as well)
□ The back knee starts to turn toward the front knee in preparation to firing the hips, and
the back heel starts to come up slightly
You are now ready to swing at the pitch.
The 2-3-Swing Drill
Here’s a drill you can practice with a coach, parent, or friend using a tee to work on your pre-
swing positions and timing. I call it the 2-3-Swing drill
□ Place a ball on the tee
□ Get into your stance (position 1)
□ The coach calls out “2”
□ Step (calmly and deliberately) into position 2, your launch position. If using the no-step
approach, shift back then forward into the launch position
□ The coach then calls out “3”, and the hitter moves into position 3. Call out “3” sometimes
as soon as the hitter’s front foot lands. At other times, delay ½ to 1 second before
saying “3”. The hitter holds position 2 (launch position) – hands back, weight slightly
(60%) forward, front knee flexed, muscles loose - until the coach calls out “3”. If your
timing is perfect, you go from position 2 to position 3 without a pause. If you’re a bit
early or if the pitcher throws an off-speed pitch, however, you may have to wait a
moment in position 2 before going into position 3.
□ Once the hitter is in position 3, the coach calls out “swing” and the hitter completes his
swing (half speed at first)
This drill will get you used to getting into the launch position before swinging, keeping the
hands back, and initiating the swing at different times. Do the drill in stop-motion at first
(stopping in each position to be sure it’s correct), then try it in slow notion without stopping
and speed it up until you can do it at full speed. Don’t worry too much about how well the
hitter executes the swing; the point of the drill is to get the pre-swing right.
4. The Swing
The swing involves the rotation of the hitter’s hips, shoulders, arms, and wrists to put the sweet
spot of the bat on the ball with as much force as possible. There are four key positions (4-7) in
the swing phase as shown below.
In the above sequence, three contact positions are shown at the back (5(a)), middle (5(b)), and
front (5(c)) of the hitting zone. The hitting zone is the region where you want the bat's sweet
spot to travel along the path of the pitch. The hitting zone should run roughly from about the
middle of the plate to about 8 or so inches in front of the plate, about 16-24 inches total. At 90
mph, it takes a pitch only 1/100th of second to pass through the hitting zone, so that’s the
margin for error you have in your timing. You must deliver the sweet spot to and through the
hitting zone in the same 1/100th of second that the ball is passing through the hitting zone. With
only a 1/100th of second margin for error, you can’t be sure where in the hitting zone your bat
will contact the ball. So to give yourself the best chance of making solid contact, you want the
sweet spot to travel up the full length of the hitting zone. Over the course of a season, that will
translate into more hits.
Position 4 – Explode Open, Knob to ball
From position 3 (pre-swing), fire the back hip around toward
the pitcher, rolling the back foot over onto the point, heel high.
The back elbow rides on the back hip as it rotates. Position 3
occurs as the hands get to the side of the hitter and the bat is
pointing directly behind, knob end in front.
The photo at left is interesting because the ball is about 5 feet
in front of home plate, yet the hitter is leading with the knob
end of the bat with the barrel end pointed directly behind. At
90 mph, the ball is about 1/30th of a second from home plate.
The position 4 checkpoints are:
□ Back foot turns over on onto point, heel high
□ Lock front leg straight as you turn the hips
□ Back elbow rides on the back hip
□ Shoulders start to rotate open
□ Knob is in front with the barrel directly behind so the knob end of the bat is pointing toward
□ Keep the wrists cocked - do not rotate them yet
□ Adjust your lean over the plate to the height of the pitch: lower pitches require more lean
and lower back elbow, higher ones less lean and higher back elbow
To roll the back foot up on point, you cannot have weight on the back foot. You should not
“squish-the-bug”; that is, don’t twist your back foot around on the bottom of your toes. In the
pre-swing, we shifted 70% of the weight forward, so there should be no reason to have weight
on the back foot. Nonetheless, many kids have trouble at first with rolling that back foot over
onto the point and it takes practice. If they’re “squishing the bug”, they have too much weight on
the back foot.
Another common mistake is “casting” or rotating the
wrists too early. In the position 4 photo at right, the
bat is pointing to the rear, away from the pitcher, so
it’s clear that the hitter’s wrists have not rotated yet.
By position 5, the bat has rotated 90 degrees. By
position 6, it has rotated a full 180 degrees from
position 4 and is pointing straight ahead toward the
pitcher. It’s mainly the wrists that rotate the bat 180
degrees from back (position 4) through the hitting
zone to front (position 6), so it’s important not to use up your wrist rotation before position 4
As you move into position 4, you make your final decision to swing or not. If you can stop and
keep the barrel of the bat back, the umpire will not (should not) call a swinging strike. But once
you fire the wrists to move to position 5, you are committed.
Position 5 – Contact
Position 5 is where the bat meets the ball. From position 4, lock your front leg straight and
complete your hip rotation, rolling your back foot onto the point, heel-high. Start to rotate your
wrists to bring the sweet spot of the bat to the back end of the hitting zone. At the same time,
start to extend the back arm forward toward the pitcher so the hands travel in a straight line
parallel to the hitting zone, as shown on the photo sequence below. The movement of the back
arm and the hand-path are critical. The extension of the back arm and hands forward toward
the pitcher, rather than rotating them in front of your body, will keep the sweet spot in the hitting
zone. If you don’t extend that back arm, the hands stop moving forward and the wrist rotation
will carry the hands around in front of the hitter and pull the bat prematurely out of the hitting
zone - a mistake known as “coming (or pulling) off the ball.”
Your hands should be in front of the barrel of the bat when it enters the back of the hitting zone
(5a). If you contact the ball here, you will drive it to the opposite field. Continue to extend your
back arm and hands forward as you accelerate the sweet spot through the hitting zone with your
wrists. If you contact the ball in the middle of the hitting zone (5b) your hands should be even
with the sweet spot and you’ll tend to drive the ball up the middle. If you contact the ball at the
front of the hitting zone (5c), the hands will be slightly behind the barrel, and you’ll pull the ball.
Keep the wrists flat (bottom hand palm-down, top hand palm-up) all the way through the hitting
zone – do not roll the wrists over until the back arm is extended.
Position 5. Contact
Here’s the position 5 checklist:
1. Hips rotated to front facing pitcher, back foot up on point, heel high (if you’re on the
bottom of the toes instead the point, you have too much weight on the back foot)
2. Upper body vertically aligned above the back knee (“nose over knee”)
3. Front leg locked straight, angled out front
4. Back elbow still near back hip; will start to break contact as you extend your arms
5. Hands ahead of bat barrel at the back of the hitting zone, even with the barrel at the
center of the hitting zone, and slightly behind the barrel at the front of the hitting zone.
6. Wrists flat through hitting zone: bottom hand palm-down, top hand palm-up.
7. Head down and still
Position 6 – The Power V (or full extension)
From contact (position 5), continue turning the wrists and
extending your back arm until both arms are fully extend in
an inverted V (the Power V) and the bat is pointing directly
at the pitcher. In youth baseball or softball, few hitters get
full extension into the Power V position. Getting into the
Power V helps the hitter keep the bat in the hitting zone and
hit through the ball, maximizing the force applied to the ball.
The contact position (5) can be thought of as whipping the
bat from position 4, with the bat pointing straight behind the
Position 6. The Power V
hitter, through the hitting zone to position 6, with the bat pointing straight ahead, with the hands
moving on a line between those positions.
The key positional checkpoints of the Power V are:
□ The lower body is in the same position as in position 5
□ The arms are fully extended forward into the “Power V”, bat pointing toward the pitcher
□ The hands and arms are moving in front of the body in a circular path again
□ The wrists are just starting to roll over
On inside pitches, you can’t extend your arms into the Power V along the path of the pitch or
you will hit the ball with the handle of the bat. Instead, you must let your elbow ride the hip a bit
further in position 4 to pull your hands more in front of your body to get the barrel of the bat to
the ball, then try to extend into the Power V out toward left-center field (right-center for lefties).
It may be difficult to get full extension on inside pitches, and your hands may tend to follow a
more circular path.
Position 7 – The Follow-Through
After position 6 (the Power V), complete the shoulder rotation until the back shoulder has
rotated completely to the front and the bat is behind your head. Some pro hitters release the
bat with their upper hand after position 6, such as shown in the position 7 photo at the top of the
page. It’s OK to do that as long as you don’t do it before you get full extension into the Power V.
However, I recommend that youth players hold on to the bat with both hands in the follow-
The checkpoints for position 7 are:
□ Back shoulder rotated completely to front
□ Both hands on bat, finish near back ear
□ Lower body in same position as positions
4 and 5
The Hitting Zone Drill
This drill is designed to help the hitter learn the
contact positions and the concept of extending
through the hitting zone. You will need two
batting tees, two rubber bands, and a friend,
parent, or coach to help. I personally use this drill Position 7. The Follow-Through
to teach the swing positions.
□ Place the rubber bands onto the barrel of the bat about 3 inches apart centered on the
sweet spot. The rubber bands will serve as a visual cue to help the hitter keep the sweet
spot in the hitting zone.
□ Set up the two tees. Place one about over the middle of the plate. Place the other
about 8 inches in front of the plate and about two inches higher than the other tee. The
two tees mark the hitting zone. Place a ball on each tee (it can be a regular ball, a
batting machine ball, or a whiffle ball)
□ Set up in your regular stance (position 1)
□ The coach calls out “2” and you move into position 2 and hold it
□ Do the same for positions 3 then 4. Make corrections as needed.
□ When the coach calls out “5a”, move to the contact position with the ball at the back end
of the hitting zone (the tee in the middle of the plate) and hold it. Check your position
against the position 5 checkpoints. Be sure your hands are ahead of the barrel of the
bat and that the sweet spot (as marked by the rubber bands) is on the ball
□ When the coach calls out “5b”, gently knock the ball off the first tee, extend your back
arm and hands forward toward the pitcher while rotating the wrists and keeping the
sweet spot in the hitting zone, and put the sweet spot on the ball at the front of the hitting
zone (you may) and hold it. Again, check your position against the checkpoints. Your
hands should be a bit behind the bat barrel and you should have the sweet spot still on
□ When the coach calls out ”6”, gently hit through the ball on the tee and fully extend in to
the power V position.
□ Finally, on “7” complete your swing to the follow-through position
Speed up the sequence as the hitter becomes more proficient. Then have the hitter execute the
swing in slow motion without stopping, going through all 7 positions and being sure to extend
the arms to put the sweet spot on both balls.
As the hitter improves, try this variant. Place a ball on one of the two tees and have the hitter
get in his stance. When the coach says “Ready”, the hitter moves through positions 2 and 3 at
regular speed (without stopping) and holds position 3. The coach then says “Swing” and hitter
swings through and hits the ball. Vary the ball position from one tee to the other. The hitter
should use the same swing to hit either ball. Try swinging at half-speed at first, then increase to