Tag Archives: Science of Hitting

Ted Williams and The Science of Hitting

Ted Williams’ The Science of Hitting is no secret among the baseball world. It was published in 1971, fully revised in 1985, and has been a go-to for players, coaches, and instructors ever since. Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto often references it and has even memorized entire sections. After reading it myself, and following Votto’s entire career to this point, it’s obvious the 2010 National League MVP lives by most of the book’s philosophy.

What it doesn’t provide is strict technical hitting instruction. This isn’t a book for beginners, but with that being said, I doubt that was Williams’ objective in the first place. It’s rather jam packed with theory and the misconceptions of what makes a great hitter that are still spoken like gospel at all levels of the game today. Williams bounces back and forth through ideas. That’s where the “science” aspect appears. It often reads like a scientist’s notebook. In this case, it’s one of the greatest hitters of all time letting his thoughts spill out on paper. Due to that, there’s not much organization.

I’ve attempted to pick out and highlight specific sections of the book and order them by how a player would approach hitting. From developing and practicing the swing, the mental side of hitting, the dugout and on-deck circle, to the batter’s box, and finally the process of hitting in real time. The idea is to provide a spark notes-type breakdown if you will for a book that is a must-read for any student of the game.


“Most hitting faults come from a lack of knowledge, uncertainty, and fear — and that boils down to knowing yourself.” — Lefty O’Doul

O’Doul’s quote is referenced early in the book and it’s the first words I literally highlighted. It feeds directly into what Williams believes is the correct approach to building a swing.

Hitting is…

50 percent from the neck up
50 percent hitting according to your style

Williams on changing players’ swings:

“…except when something is radically wrong, you won’t find me doing much to alter a player’s style.”

“Show me ten great hitters and I’ll show you ten different styles.”

Williams on experimentation:

“I was forever trying a new stance … and then going back to my old way. I recommend that for kids. Experiment. Try what you see that looks good on somebody else.”

On kids playing too many games:

“With all the regimentation they get, and all the emphasis on playing games instead of practicing, a kid isn’t afforded the time he needs in the batting cage.”

(Keep in mind, Williams said this in the 70s. It might be even worse today.)

“A great hitter isn’t born, he’s made. He’s made out of practice, fault corrections, and confidence.” — Rogers Hornsby

On watching the pitcher warm up:

“You watch a pitcher warm up, and you see everything’s high, or his breaking ball is in the dirt. If he isn’t getting the breaking ball over you can think about waiting for the fastball.”

Rules:

  1. Get a good ball to hit
  2. Proper thinking (Do your homework)
  3. Be quick with the bat

On stance:

“The important thing is to have plate coverage with the bat.”

On bat position:

Held bat “almost perpendicular to the ground. The bat felt lighter that way, more comfortable.”

ted_williams_-bat-route

On first pitch:

“For me as a batter hitting third in the lineup, there was one thing that was 95 percent certain: I was going to take the first pitch.”

“You’ve refreshed your memory of the pitcher’s speed and his delivery.”

“You must learn to make that first time up a key time by striving to find out as much about a pitcher as possible, and you do that by making him pitch.”

“I didn’t want to hit until I had seen a fastball. Why? Because the fastball clears you up for everything.”

On “guessing”:

Known as a hitter who “guessed” a lot. “Guessing was observing.”

“Obviously you don’t want to ‘guess’ curve or ‘guess’ fastball. You work from a frame of reference, you learn what you might expect in certain instances, and you guess from there. Certainly you won’t guess a pitch the pitcher can’t get over; he might have a terrific curve, but if he can’t get it over, forget it.”

On the importance of the hips:

“Cocking hips is at the root of batting power.

“The hips and hands cock as you move your lead foot to stride, the front knee turning in to help the hips rotate back. You are cocking your hips as you stride, and it’s so important to get that right.

“The hips set the swing in motion and lead the way. If they are restricted, if you don’t open them wide enough, the wrists will roll prematurely.”

On the upswing:

“…but if you swing slightly up you have the hips leading and then out of the way, generating speed and power.”

(He has an entire section with illustrations on this, slicing through the notion that a “down swing” or to “hit the ball on the ground” is correct hitting instruction.)

On getting to the low pitch:

“…drop the head down, but do not lunge toward the pitcher.”

“…if you lunge too much, if you come forward too far with your head as you swing, you are diminishing your power. You are escorting the bat instead of swinging it.”

ted-williams-science-of-hitting2

Other notes of importance…

On opposite field approach:

“The tendency to the opposite field is to be late, and when you’re late, you’re swinging under the ball and more likely to pop it up.”

On having a problem with a particular pitch:

“If you’re having a problem with a particular pitch, say a slider, a way to solve it is to always anticipate a slider.”

On pitchers going back to a pitch:

“Most pitchers, of course, will have a high enough regard for their repertoire that if they get you out on a good pitch, they’ll invariably come back with it.”

On the (false) notion to hit an outside pitch, a hitter must step in that direction:

“…you the batter have already made your stride before you know where the ball will be or what it will be.”

On two-strike approach:

“You have to think in terms of making everything quicker. How do you do that? You choke up a little bit. You quit trying to pull.”