PITTSBURGH – On the surface, Approach Angle is a very simple metric to understand.
It assesses three different types of swings: 1) An ‘upper cut’ swing – which results in a positive approach angle, 2) a ‘chop’ swing – which results in a negative approach angle or 3) a ‘level’ swing – which results in neither a positive or negative approach angle.
As it applies to results, you would likely want a slightly positive approach angle to hit a fly ball. A negative approach angle to hit a ground ball. And to hit a line drive, you would likely want an approach angle near zero.
Let’s take a look at how this happens…
As the illustration below points out, Approach Angle is the “angle between bat speed direction, and the horizontal plane.”
The key is to realize that Approach Angle is relative to the invisible horizontal plane that exists during the swing. Even if there is a positive approach angle at the moment before impact (the point at which Approach Angle is measured by SwingTracker), the means by which the batter arrived there came from a ‘negative approach angle’.
Let’s look at the diagram below.
As we can see from the chart on the bottom of the diagram, the approach angle at the beginning of this swing is -20 and actually dips down below that to around -23 as the swing is initiated! From there, the approach angle of the bat keeps moving upward until the moment right before contact where a -5 angle is detected. As with the majority of swings a positive approach angle occurs after impact.
Now that we understand how Approach Angle is measured, let’s look at it through the prism of SwingTracker.
Below we have a swing from a SwingTracker session with an Approach Angle of -6:
Now, let’s see how that swing looks in 3D:
In contrast, let’s take a look at a swing with a positive Approach Angle, in this case an Approach Angle of +4.
3D imagery of +4 Approach Angle swing:
In comparing the “positive approach angle” 3D images with the “negative approach angle” 3D images, one can clearly see how the above swing resulted in a positive approach angle, while the other swing resulted in a negative approach angle.
Make no mistake, however. Having a positive approach angle doesn’t make a swing ‘better’ than a swing with a negative approach angle. The end result is dependent upon what type of swing (i.e. – ball flight) the batter is ultimately trying to achieve. With that, it is more likely that power hitters will have a positive approach angle, while contact hitters will have a negative approach angle. Therefore, having a positive or negative approach angle doesn’t mean one swing (or batter) is ‘better’ than the other.
Furthermore, as it applies to SwingTracker, it is very, very important to understand how much of a role bat calibration plays into Approach Angle.
After you have gone through the steps to calibrate your bat, it is imperative to start your swing from the exact point at which you calibrated your bat.
While it is necessary to do this in order to get proper calculations for all swing metrics and components, it is very important from the perspective of Approach Angle since the position of your hands at the start of the swing has a huge impact on the path and angle the bat takes in terms of hitting the ball.
Hopefully now, we have a better understanding of Approach Angle as well as the importance of bat calibration.