A common area of focus for hitters at our academy is control over the lead elbow position. While it is important to understand that the arc of the barrel is controlled by the hands, the elbow positioning is what allows for flexibility through the swing. By flexibility, we are referring to the ability to control swing direction and commitment, two extremely important elements to the swing. When we look at the direction and path of a hitters barrel to the baseball, we are looking to create an arc that will provide us with the greatest amount of "room for error" with our swing. What we mean by that is allowing our swing the ability to adjust if we are late or inaccurate with pitch recognition. We want to create a swing that allows us to be on time to hit the pitchers best fastball at its deepest point as well as allowing for a longer period of time in the game.
The lead elbow allows us to to create a point that controls that direction. If you look at the figures to the side, the image to the left (1a.) shows a steep path to which the hitter is working at a plane cutting across the hitting zone with the barrel releasing across the path of the baseball. The figure to the right (1b.) shows a swing with greater length out through the direction of the baseball.
While there are a number of factors at play, we are going to focus on the position of the lead elbow and how that impacts the swing arc. The lead arm and barrel work together in a sense that the barrel of the bat follows the angle of the lead arm. If you look at the lead elbow positioning, we can see the lead elbow in figure 1a remain down as the hitter begins their initial rotation towards the baseball where as the lead elbow in figure 1b works at a slight upward angle. The ability to create this slightly upward angle is what allows for a deep swing path. In order to make this movement happen, we need to be able to feel the hands "stay back" against the body's rotation.
For more insight, check out the video demonstration below.