Increasing on plane efficiency

A common goal in modern hitting is to stay on plane longer. On plane means that the attack angle is matching with the pitch plane for a long time. We all have seen the famous Ted williams graphic.


However it is a bit more complicated than that. First of all a really consistent AA can only be achieved at the high pitch when you have basically zero vertical barrel angle. Once you add vertical barrel angle, and you should do that depending on the  height of the pitch (too flat barrel causes roll overs on low pitches) the swing plane will become more tangential, i.e. the AA is flatter deeper in the zone and steeper more out front which makes timing harder.

And second there is also a side  to side component of swing plane, which is often called “swing direction”. This means even if the AA matches you are not on plane long when the bat turns to the left too early (for a RHB) which often happens.

But let’s first start with what is needed to achieve the different components of on plane efficiency.

First it helps to get on plane deep in the zone. Too deep isn’t good either as this can make the swing too long when you just lay the bat back but as a rule of thumb the bat should be on plane behind the back hip.

To achieve that the bat gets turned down behind you using the “elbow seesaw” and some supination  of the rear hand.

Here is a drill for the seesaw

Here is a detailed description of the hand movements

This drill with turning over a cup can also help to get this action.

I also use one armed drills like this rear arm ones with a ball clamped in

And front arm one

And this drill to get on plane

For staying on plane in the vertical direction it is important to keep the tangential component as small as possible. Yes the AA will get steeper more out front but good hitters keep  the barrel below the hands as long a possible and thus reducing a rising off the plane.

See JDM here, his AA does increase some out front but his bat doesn’t flip up but stays under the hands as the top hand shoots past the bottom hander under  it and vertical barrel angle is maintained.

A drill to feel that is this board slide drill. In reality path won’t be quite as straight but the feeling should be to stay on the board.

Make sure the front elbow doesn’t roll down too early with this drill

As I said before it is also important to  have a good side to side swing direction.

To achieve that there are some factors that help with that.

One is maintaining the vertical barrel angle. This means keeping the bat pointed angled down and not getting flatter or rolling over as you swing. Also maintaining posture and not rotating late and starting to decelerate before impact helps with achieving a straighter direction.

You can also use a device like this

Or this drill to prevent swinging too much across

A great drill for direction are also stop swings like this one.

A great device to measure this are bat sensors like the blast sensor. Those sensors measure AA, VBA and sometimes even have a compound score for plane efficiency. With those devices you can see where you are at and track improvements.

But as always a good evaluation by a good coach is key, you cannot just throw drills at a player and see what sticks but a very precise evaluation has to come first so you can create solutions for a specific problem.