Incredible Science Of Hitting Wisdom From A Great Man
Ted Williams' The Science of Hitting, and Jim Lefebvre's The Making of a Hitter were probably my favorite books growing up about the baseball swing. Ted Williams' book was complete with colorful illustrations bringing him back to life, and Mr. Lefebvre had great action photos of Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh (Japan's all time leader in home runs) in his.
But today, I want to talk about Ted Williams' masterpiece, The Science of Hitting, particularly, what role the hips play in a powerful baseball swing. We'll go over:
The underestimated energy building action of cocking the hips pre-swing,
What a long stride does to your power, and
Proper weight distribution during the launch phase of the swing.
Cocking the Hips (pictured here)
"Cocking hips, so essential to the golf swing but never articulated in baseball, is at the root of batting power. It occurs in unison with the beginning of the stride, the lead knee turning in to facilitate rotation of the hips and shoulders."
This quote hides under the huge color illustration of Ted Williams hitting on unnumbered page 40. This was something both him and Jim Lefebvre were huge on, and with this information my power began to show to the opposite field. The action is very small but pays off BIG in the results (there's that 80/20 rule again);-)
The Science of Hitting does a very good job of showing the action, it's an absorbing into the back hip, almost like you're pointing your front butt cheek at the pitcher, but very subtle like. As Ted Williams instructs, the lead knee turns in slightly, and the hands are loading at this point in the swing.
He also adds on page 45,
"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."
Mr. Williams likens this move to a pendulum action, or metronome: move - counter move. You have to go back before you can go forward, is another way of putting it. You get a kind of separation, if you will, between the hips and hands from the lead stride foot...the hips and hands load back while the stride foot inches forward.
I always thought of hip cocking as feeling the front hip rotating into my back hip flexor, or groin. Baseball players by nature are very inflexible in their hip flexors, so stretching that area will really help with increasing your range of motion. The seated butterfly stretch is good for this.
One point on hip and knee cocking is to NOT do it too soon, doing this in the stance phase of the swing is too premature and will hinder your power, so the timing is crucial.
In The Science of Hitting, Ted Williams says this about over striding,
"Be careful not to over stride, because then you spread your hips and prevent a good pivot, diminishing power. The hip movement is a spinning action, with the head as the axis, and it must not be restricted." (pg. 46)
When you over stride, your axis moves forward, which means your head and eyes drift towards the pitcher making the pitch seem faster than it really is. Your head and eyes (axis) must not move forward one bit, so the stride must be very short if at all. Watch a lot of your Major Leaguers and they pick up the front foot and put it back down where is started.
Also, like Ted Williams says, too much of a stride can spread your feet out too wide and restricts the natural hip movement throughout the swing, so limit that stride.
Here, The Science of Hitting sums everything up thus far, and building on weight distribution,
"You have cocked and made your stride--but you have not moved your head more than that little bit required to keep proper balance. You haven't shifted your weight from one foot to the other, but have maintained balance, the weight evenly distributed, the hands back, the bat cocked." (pg. 47)
VERY IMPORTANT: weight evenly distributed at this point, if you have more weight on the front foot, then you're out in front with diminished power. And, if you have too much weight on the backside, then your swing will be lazy. Your weight must be on the inside of both feet, like the base of a pyramid.
I hope you like this article highlighting Ted Williams' The Science of Hitting, please read the rest of the Power Hitting pieces because the hips are where the action is! And, most definitely pick up the book, it's an easy read and fascinating to get into the mind of one the greatest baseball players of all time.