Ted Williams Swing | The Science of Hitting
Ted Williams dominated his era like no one else. The true measure of a dominant hitter is the ability to hit for power AND average.
Williams was a dead pull hitter, but because of his ability to create bat speed deep in the swing, he was able to adjust to off speed pitches.
The image above illustrates centripital force. Williams was able to use this to his advantage in his swing.
Watch his barrel go from the tipped position to level with the incoming pitch. This movement happens before the shoulders turn. This movement is the swing. Without it, we lack the adjustability needed to hit all pitch speeds and locations.
Elite hitters do not start from a dead stand still.
They create momentum and give their barrel a running start. Young players are taught to hold the bat at a 45 degree angle. From there, they are taught to be short to the ball and "swing down."
How are we supposed to hit the best pitchers on the planet if we have to start from zero? Needless to say, it's very difficult. That won't stop traditional hitting coaches from limiting all movement, creating "short" swings and robbing players of their potential.
The Opposite of Linear Hitting
One school of thought in the baseball community is a set of principals called Linear Hitting.
1. Knob the the ball
2. Push hands forward or throw the hands
3. Get extension through the baseball
4. Shift forward
While the weight does need to shift forward, the hands should stay back and counteract the movement forward until it's time to launch the swing. If you push your hands forward, you will end up on your front foot too soon, limiting your ability to adjust.
When the hands come forward, you lose the power of the kinetic chain. Energy should flow from bottom to top. Once the hands push forward, you are out of sequence. This is inefficient for power and adjustability.
(Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds)
I always back up my analysis with video proof, so here it is, the 4 best hitters of all time all displaying the barrel turn. Notice how the barrel is allowed to get even with the shoulder plane before the hands ever move forward. The barrel turn is done from back behind them. Need more proof? Read my article "The Moneyball of Swing Mechanics."
Great Hitters vs Average Hitters
By holding the bat upright, you have the potential for greater bat speed at contact. I hear players and coaches say that not all hitters can or should swing like Barry Bonds and Ted Williams. "He can't hit home runs" they say. Let me tell you, these players are the best LINE DRIVE hitters of all time. There is no player on the planet that can't benefit from more bat speed. If you are satisfied with your bloop base hits, fine, but please understand that scouts are looking for bat speed. For anyone who wants to play at the next level, we have to be looking to improve our bat speed and our ball exit speed.
Lets say the oncoming pitch is half way to home plate. Both hitters have their bat at a 45 degree angle, but the player on the left has created a running start, his barrel is aleady going 30 mph. Who will have the quicker swing?
Assuming the scenerio above is true, the player on the left will be quite a bit earlier than the player on the right. Meaning contact will be made farther out front.
This dynamic also means that if both players want to arrive at contact at the same point in the swing, the player on the left would have to launch his swing later than the player on the right.
Even though the player on the right has a shorter bat path, the player on the left is able to create more bat speed, meaning he can lauch his swing later and still get the contact at the same time.
This means the player on the left has MORE time to read the pitch and swing accordingly. This means he will have better adjustability to pitch speed and location. More on that in a moment.
Power to the opposite field-
We all know that the bat should make contact deeper in the zone on an outside pitch then on an inside pitch.
Both players have reached contact deep in the zone, but the player on the left has double the bat speed. He started with the bat more upright and created a running start. Now his barrel is up to speed early and he can now carry that momentum into the swing and still generate power even though contact is made deep in the zone.
Adjustability is the most important trait of a great hitter. Adjustability allows a hitter to make square contact CONSISTENTLY.
To be a great hitter we must be able to adjust to pitch height and width. We also need the be able to adjust for speed and movement.
If baseball was a contest of who can hit the furthest, none of this would really matter. But as it stands, consistency is the determining factory between average player and Major League Hall of Fame player.
By using the mechanical advantage depicted above. A hitter is able to get the bat up to speed without moving the hands forward. This means the swing can still go in any direction.
If a hitter launches his swing by pushing the hands forward, he is committing to the swing. This early commitment means he will lack the ability to stop or adjust as needed (Early commitment, late bat speed.) Once you push the hands forward, the bat speed will happen later in the swing process. This results in the majority of bat speed being created too far our front and too late.
By pushing the swing forward, you also limit the ability for the barrel to get on plane with the pitch.
A few symptoms you will see are,
1. Foul tips up and back
2. Butt-out swings on the outer half
3. Trouble with breaking pitches.
Should young players swing like Ted Williams?
One argument I hear from coaches is that this type of swing requires massive amounts of strength to perform.
What requires more strength, a swing the uses momentum or a swing that pushed AGAINST the weight of the barrel?
If you have a better swing than Ted, feel free to share!
In his book "The Science of Hitting" Ted Williams introduced the idea of matching the swing plane to the plane of the pitch. This book was published in 1971. Somehow, even in 2016 there are still coaches out there who teach "swing down."
According to this study, the optimal launch angle for batting average is 12 degrees. The optimal launch angle for home runs is 28 degrees.