Book Review: The Science of Hitting

Science of HittingTed Williams was the greatest hitter who ever lived … or at least, that’s what he kept telling himself. All kidding aside, the “Splendid Splinter” was probably one of the top five hitters of all-time, if not the best. This book — one of the few of its kind when it was originally published — is packed with all of Teddy Ballgame’s theories and philosophies in batting a baseball.

Compared to some of today’s ultra-intensive hitting books — some of which break down batting mechanics to specific timings, angles, and checkpoints — this thin paperback may seem vague and unscientific. At the time it was written, however, it was considered state-of-the-art, and provided the basis for nearly all other hitting theories that followed.

One of the main philosophies that Williams brings forth in this book is the strategy of understanding what areas of the strike zone you can handle, and waiting for pitches in those zones. In other words, he found a correlation between the best hitters and their focus on pitch selection. Although many coaches think Williams’ theories cause a batter to be less aggressive, there are just as many who think patience is key to a batter’s success. One needs to look no further than Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s organizational hitting philosophy to see that the preachings of Ted Williams are still followed today.

Personally, I’ve read this book from cover to cover dozens of times, and pick up something new every time. It’s not often that one of the greatest athletes — in any sport — gives away all of his secrets, and this book holds back nothing. Though some of the ideas in this book might not apply today, the majority of the teachings are timeless, and presented in an easy-to-understand format. I recommend it fully as a necessity on the shelf of baseball players of all ages. Click on the image and you can get it for about ten bucks — a marginal investment that will provide a return over and over for years to come.

Joe Janish has been coaching baseball for 20+ years, and playing for 30+. He was a D-1 ABCA All-American catcher in 1992, when he finished in the top 15 in the nation in hitting. He also coached at the D-1 level, and currently provides private instruction to serious baseball players in the NY/NJ/PA area.
2 Comments
  1. TheDZA January 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Hey Joe

    Have you ever read (sure you have) that Mike Schmidt hitting book?
    Just wondered where you thought it ranked in terms of theory with the other ‘guides’.

    I have it (could do with re-reading it as it’s been a while), one of the things I seem to remember most was advice to hold the bat more horizontal above the shoulder, so the bat is more level through the zone.

    I understand that comfort for the hitter may dictate where the bat is held – but looking at say Jeter and his high stick makes me question the actual contact. Jeter always seems to me to be really digging the ball out, quite an exaggerated swing, I think Pujols and Bagwell were similar (except they both have an excruciating looking crouch stance).
    Can’t argue with the product of course! They have attained some heights for sure.

    Any thoughts on that level bat advice?

    Reply
  2. joejanish January 26, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I haven’t read the Schmidt book in some time, either. I’ll have to find it and get back to you.

    As for where to hold the bat, I feel strongly that it is something that is up to the individual. Where you hold the bat during the stance has little to do with where it is once you get to the “launch” position. Most coaches teach keeping the bat near that launch position because it simplifies things, but everyone is different — whatever works is what’s best.

    The angle of the bat is similar. Ted Williams liked to hold the bat completely vertical / perpendicular to the ground because the bat feels lighter that way (and it does!). In contrast, Don Mattingly preaches that you should rest the bat on your shoulder for a moment prior to getting to the launch position. Others, like Rod Carew, held the bat almost completely in parallel to the ground. So again, it’s up to the individual — whatever is most comfortable, as long as you get to the launch in time.

    Reply

Leave a reply