Bonds, Manny, A Rod, and Pujols are all Students of Charlie Lau's Hitting Style??
by Alan kastner
I spoke to Bobby Bonds who now lives in NJ.
Bobby Bonds confirmed that both Bobby and Barry hit exactly like Gwynn describes. Bobby said that his father did as well and his uncle Willie Mays.
Charlie Lau also teaches the bottom hand pulls the knob to the ball and is the dominate power hand. Charlie also teaches that the top hand goes along for the ride and releases.
Further proof is that Arod was taught by Charlie Lau Jr. Read this article that shows that Pujols and Arod have the Charlie Lau swing. Tony La Russa also says that Pujols is a Charlie Lau hitter.
Stroke of Genius
Anyone that has been taught by Charlie Lau or Charlie Lau Jr., knows that they teach you how to use your bottom hand to get the power, the top hand goes along for the ride. This fact is also in Charlie Lau's book.
Most people and coaches that have never been taught how to do this do not believe it works but it does work very well. Other Lau hitters are Wade Boggs, Gwynn, Frank Thomas, Griffey, Arod, Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Carew and many other great hitters. All use the bottom hand as the power hand.
You should try learning the swing from Charlie Lau and then you will know the truth.
Swing Smarter Response:
First Alan, I want to thank you for sharing wisdom of the great Charlie Lau, in which I did do quite a bit of studying back in Junior High and High School.
Before I start to rant on, I want you to know, there's NOT one "right" hitting philosophy...Charlie's style works for some, Epstein's works for others, and Jaime Cevallo's Positional Hitting may work for the rest. I think each have their own weaknesses and aren't the end-all-be-all of hitting philosophies.
If you had two guys research the heck out of each opposing argument for a certain swing philosophy for a 24 hour period, you'd have two very compelling arguments "for" and "against."
When a "hitting guru" takes a stand on a certain way of thinking, they're going to get backlash...evidenced in the above referenced article.
Please note, these detractors aren't a few freedom fries short of a Happy Meal either...
Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg was quoted as saying, "Lau screwed up more hitters than anyone."
But the most damaging hacks came from Williams, the last man to hit .400 and arguably the greatest hitter the game has seen. Williams believed you had to rotate the body to get the head of the bat out in front, a snapping motion to open the hips to keep an inside pitch fair and pull it with power. He famously said Lau's theories set hitting back 25 years.
"Charley liked a lot of head movement where the body moves forward and I know for a fact that the more your head moves the less you see the ball," says Reggie Smith.
Smith believes in the stationary stance and turning around on your back leg, reducing the number of variables that can go wrong. He learned efficiency from Williams as well as the importance of maintaining balance, techniques he says he quantified in the Centinela Biomechanics lab in Inglewood, Calif.
The question at hand, you raised Alan, is the fact the bottom hand is taught to be the power hand in Lau's teaching. You told me to "try learning the swing from Charlie Lau and then you will know the truth."
It might be what Lau taught, I gave Lau's style a whirl for a few months my Freshman year in High School, but I had scrap it because it didn't work for me.
To me, it didn't make sense because our bodies are stronger pushing, than we are pulling...if you didn't have help, would you rather push a heavy piece of furniture across the room or pull it?
On top hand versus bottom hand dominance,
I know I said otherwise in the Tony Gwynn article, but this was written before my revelation into Positional Hitting about 8 weeks ago...the question of which hand is the power hand is irrelevant because the hips are what initiate and drive the arms around our center axis. The elbows hug tight to the body in order to spin efficiently like an ice skater who wants to spin faster by pulling her arms in.
During the Impact Phase of the swing, the top hand will be bent less than 90 degrees and leveraged against the body, while the bottom arm will be extended during Area of Impact, also hugging close to the body, this would be like the hitter clutching a hand towel under the front armpit.
The moment the elbows detach, we lose power, and this should be well after Impact.
This position allows acceleration of the upper body behind the hips, and it leverages a hitter's mass (core and hips) to transfer force through the baseball.
One other thing, the article mentions over and over that because A Rod, Pujols, and Bonds release their top hand after contact this is a "Lau Swing." Lau may teach this but it doesn't mean their whole swing is buttered in his secret sauce (which their swings most certainly are NOT).
Also, I didn't see once where the article pointed out bottom hand dominance by these mammoth hitters, in which you suggest.
Getting back to the original Swing Smarter article...
In the Bonds photo clips, Bonds has "0" weight shift, which is one of "Lau's" Principals. In addition, he has NO head movement and his centerline doesn't move forward...this is all contrary to Lau's teachings.
These guys' (Pujols, A Rod, Bonds, etc.) swings are a mish-mash, NOT the complete Charlie Lau story. The swing is neither linear (Lau) or rotational (Epstein), it's a combination of both.
Heck I like Jim Lefebvre's version of the swing in his book The Making of a Hitter better than both of these hitting gurus.
George Brett says in the article, in order to have a "Lau Swing" you have to:
"have a little rhythm, get extension, take the top hand off and get a good weight shift."
He got 50% of it right, the only Lau component different from any other swing philosophy is the weight shift part, and maybe a "need" to take the top hand off the bat.
The bottom line?
If Lau's style of hitting works for a kid, then fine, but please understand it isn't the end-all-be-all.
I personally like what Jaime Cevallos says about Positional Hitting because, to me, I like the benefits of getting mass (our core and hips) behind the baseball...but I don't agree with everything he says on the subject. As a hitting coach, we have to prepare to offer another solution to a young hitter who may not "get it."
I think you'd agree :)
Thanks for your thoughts on hitting, I truly appreciate it.