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Hey batter batter batter batter SWING!
August 4, 2007 8:10 AM   Subscribe

The four greatest home run hitters of all-time: A video analysis of their swings. The top ten swings of 2006 and more from swingtraining.net. More on the mechanics of crushing baseballs from The Batter's Eye. The Physics of Baseball highlights an academic paper studying "optimum baseball bat swing parameters for maximum range trajectories", or more to the point, "How to Hit Home Runs" (warning, last link is PDF).
posted by edverb (42 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
According to Ted Williams, the Greatest Batsman of All Time (not just home runs, mind you), the key is the speed of the swing. At least, that's what they said on the Ken Burns special.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:21 AM on August 4, 2007


Well, sure. A faster swing = more time to recognize the pitch = fewer swings at bad pitches.

What no one has ever explained to my satisfaction is why lefties disproportionately have looping or uppercut swings.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:31 AM on August 4, 2007


Well, sure. A faster swing = more time to recognize the pitch = fewer swings at bad pitches.

The odd exception would be Yogi Berra. The key to his success was his incredibly fast hands which according to his peers, made him the best bad-ball hitter of all time.
posted by jonmc at 8:33 AM on August 4, 2007


What no one has ever explained to my satisfaction is why lefties disproportionately have looping or uppercut swings.

My guess is a lifetime of seeing curveballs from predominantly righthanded pitchers dropping into their wheelhouse.
posted by edverb at 8:42 AM on August 4, 2007


If only these videos would help me do better at Pinch Hitter 2
posted by kowalski at 9:23 AM on August 4, 2007


What no one has ever explained to my satisfaction is why lefties disproportionately have looping or uppercut swings.

And along those lines, I've never understood why a lefty hitter batting against a lefty pitcher is supposed to be harder than righty on righty.
posted by ORthey at 9:28 AM on August 4, 2007


The odd exception would be Yogi Berra. The key to his success was his incredibly fast hands which according to his peers, made him the best bad-ball hitter of all time.

In a sense, that was Hank Aaron's secret as well. He swung with his wrists, which were unusually strong thanks to him spending most of his younger days batting with his hands reversed on the bat. (At least, that's what I've been told.)

Barry Bonds has something like 20/10 vision. OTOH, Edgar Martinez had strabismus, and yet won two batting titles and is top 25 all time in OBP.
posted by dw at 9:31 AM on August 4, 2007


i was watching the M's-Sox game last night - every Ichiro at-bat is like watching a masterclass in how to hit a baseball. so unorthodox and yet so incredibly efficient. sometimes it almost looks like the baseball is irresistibly, magnetically attracted to his bat. it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he managed to hang on long enough in MLB to get 3K hits.
posted by the painkiller at 9:32 AM on August 4, 2007


And along those lines, I've never understood why a lefty hitter batting against a lefty pitcher is supposed to be harder than righty on righty.

Something like 1 in 4 pitchers are lefties, so lefthanded batters will always face fewer lefthanders than righthanders.
posted by dw at 9:32 AM on August 4, 2007


i was watching the M's-Sox game last night - every Ichiro at-bat is like watching a masterclass in how to hit a baseball.

Watching Mariners games the last decade has been a four-part series in how to swing a bat. Junior's swing, Edgar's patience, Ichiro's contact, and ARod's... ARodness.
posted by dw at 9:36 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've still never seen a sweeter swing than that of Will "The Thrill" Clark.
posted by ORthey at 9:41 AM on August 4, 2007


The Science of Hitting, by the aforementioned Ted Williams.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:50 AM on August 4, 2007


And along those lines, I've never understood why a lefty hitter batting against a lefty pitcher is supposed to be harder than righty on righty.

I think the answer is that a left-handed hitter can pick up the ball better off of a right-handed pitcher. Same for right-handed hitter vs. left-handed pitcher.
posted by mach at 9:50 AM on August 4, 2007


And along those lines, I've never understood why a lefty hitter batting against a lefty pitcher is supposed to be harder than righty on righty.


I had always thought that it was easier to pick up a ball coming from the opposite hand. And I was going to cite Hideki Okajima, a terrific lefthanded reliever for the Red Sox, who's been murder on everybody just about equally. I was going to attribute it to his quick, over-the-top pitching motion.

But this article says it's about what the breaking ball does.

So... that's where we are now.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:57 AM on August 4, 2007


The thing that amazes me about Ichiro (well, one of many things, actually) is how he seems to already be two steps down the firstbase line by the time he makes contact (MPEG link). It's as if he's magnetically drawn to first base when he launches his swing. Never seen anything like it.

OK, two steps is an exaggeration maybe, but not by much. Add his masterful bat work to that, plus the fact that his raw speed down the first base line makes him among the fastest in history (or, at least that I've ever seen -- along with Bo Jackson and maybe Juan Pierre) and it's no wonder he owns the single season records for both singles and hits by large margins.

Ichiro is one of those ballplayers I count myself lucky to see in my lifetime.
posted by edverb at 9:58 AM on August 4, 2007


I'm sorry, that's just not cricket.
posted by Abiezer at 10:22 AM on August 4, 2007


Fun links. I miss enjoying baseball.

Oh yeah, foad Pinch Hitter 2. I spent hours hitting to the majors and as of yet DNF.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 10:24 AM on August 4, 2007


I think the answer is that a left-handed hitter can pick up the ball better off of a right-handed pitcher. Same for right-handed hitter vs. left-handed pitcher.

I mean specifically why lefty vs lefty is supposedly harder on the hitter than righty vs righty.
posted by ORthey at 10:45 AM on August 4, 2007


Looks like Rodriguez just hit his five hundo. Not much of a fan of his or anything, but I'll at least be a little glad when he breaks Bonds's All-Time Record (I suspect Bonds will not reach 800). Who knows? Maybe by that time Alex will have grown into elder statesman status.

I mean specifically why lefty vs lefty is supposedly harder on the hitter than righty vs righty.

Mostly because you don't see as many lefty pitchers over the course of your entire (sandlot to majors) career... and even more rarely during the platoon hitting era. That's the conventional thinking at any rate. This is often how the disproportionate success of tennis lefties is explained (Laver, Connors, Vilas, Tanner, McEnroe, Nadal).
posted by psmealey at 11:03 AM on August 4, 2007


I think the answer is that a left-handed hitter can pick up the ball better off of a right-handed pitcher

That's a separate issue from the one asked, but the reason why lefty hitters high righty pitchers (and vice-versa) better is due to the break of the curve and slider (and a few other pitches). You have a better chance of seeing and hitting a ball (or laying off of it) that is breaking toward you, than away from you. The exception is if you have a good screwball, which breaks the opposite from a curve, and explains (lefty) Fernando Valenzuela's career success against right handed hitters.
posted by psmealey at 11:10 AM on August 4, 2007


I mean specifically why lefty vs lefty is supposedly harder on the hitter than righty vs righty.
posted by ORthey


Most left handed pitchers pitch from the first base side. Fast ball, curve ball, slider, doesn't matter, the ball is going away from the hitter.

That's the reason, not that they see them less. Of course, seeing them less doesn't help, but the reason they see them less is because they don't hit them as well so they're often replaced with a right handed hitter.

This also means the ball is constantly coming into right handed hitters. Not good for the pitcher.

Hideki Okajima is an exception as he comes over the top much more than most left handers.

Right handers in general come over the top. There's no throwing from the third base side the way left handers come from the first. So right handers in general don't have as much problem against right handers as left handers do against left handers.
posted by justgary at 12:13 PM on August 4, 2007


justgary, I have always had a great deal of respect for your baseball acumen, but are you saying that the reason is that more left handers throw side arm (or 3/4 to side arm) than right handers do? That sounds very sketchy to me. Is there any data to back that up?

Granted, I checked out of baseball 22 years ago when I washed out of A-ball, but I do have some experience with this kind of thing, and that doesn't sound right to me.

(Let's face it... the whole left on left is more difficult than right on right is probably a bullshit premise to begin with, but still).
posted by psmealey at 12:27 PM on August 4, 2007


but are you saying that the reason is that more left handers throw side arm (or 3/4 to side arm) than right handers do? That sounds very sketchy to me. Is there any data to back that up?

Yes, you're saying what I was trying to say but far clearer. And no, I have no statistics to back it up. I'm guessing a study of arm angles is what it would take.

So I should have said that it's my opinion. I very well could be wrong.

It's really a combination of observations. Example, you see a lot o left handed hitters striking out on big sweeping curve balls from left handed pitchers. That would come from the ball and spin coming more from the side.

You don't see this near as much with right handed pitchers. Generally their curve ball is more over the top, or what as a kid we would call a drop ball. The pitch would have the same spin but from over the top, a different angle.

And if I'm right, I can't explain it, much like the apparent difference between a left handers swing and a right handers swing.

Anyway, I fully admit I could be wrong.
posted by justgary at 1:02 PM on August 4, 2007


I thought the other reason lefty on lefty was tougher is because breaking pitches start out coming at the batter, and then break across the plate (or the inside corner) (versus starting inside, and breaking in). There's always an element of fear, and when the ball starts out coming right at you, it affects the batter, even if just a little.
posted by inigo2 at 1:32 PM on August 4, 2007


One theory that made some sense to me as to why lefty pitchers are harder on lefty batters than righty pitchers are on righty batters is based on the fact that there are a lot more right-handed people than left-handed people.

A righty batter who has a hard time hitting righty pitchers is going to be facing them 75% of the time (give or take), and probably therefore putting up crappy numbers at the plate on the season overall. This is not conducive to progress upwards in the ranks of professional baseball.

However, lefty batters who have trouble hitting lefty pitchers don't face them as often (and in particular seem to be platooned frequently with righty batters to get around this issue). So a lefty batter who can't hit lefty pitchers is more likely to get a pass on this Achilles heel (and thereby progress towards major league ball) since it's a situation that comes up less frequently and can be more easily worked around than a righty batter who can't hit righty pitching. Make any sense?
posted by letourneau at 1:47 PM on August 4, 2007


Looks like Rodriguez just hit his five hundo. Not much of a fan of his or anything

I used to be annoyed by him but I've come to accept him; good for him for getting 500. And I expect he'll eventually surpass Bonds (though You Never Know in This Game), but I will be neither glad nor sorry. I think Bonds has gotten shitty treatment his entire career because he refuses to play the "suck up to the media and they'll treat you right" game; I'm pretty sure he's the greatest hitter I've ever personally seen (though we live in an era of great hitters), and as for the steroid thing, his late bulkup and power surge look suspicious, but I believe in innocent until proven guilty, and I can't stand all the preemptive hate from people who would give another, more "likeable," player the benefit of the doubt. I'm rooting for him just to spite the asshole reporters.

This is a fascinating discussion of righty/lefty; I have nothing to add to it, but I want to say that I have long resented the obsession with fastball pitchers to the exclusion of everything else. I love good knuckleballers, sidearm throwers (anyone remember Terry Leach, who singlehandedly rescued the Mets' 1987 season?), and junkball pitchers. Scouts and managers don't seem to care if a pitcher can win, just whether he can throw 100 mph. Bah.

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 2:43 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Barry Bonds has something like 20/10 vision. OTOH, Edgar Martinez had strabismus, and yet won two batting titles and is top 25 all time in OBP.

I don't even know what a strabismus is, but if Edgar had it, then I want two of them. Also his OBP is doubly impressive considering you could go get a beer and a dog, and be back in your seat by the time he got to first base. An Edgar Martinez double was like watching the natural laws of time and space come undone for a moment or two.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:47 PM on August 4, 2007


Scouts and managers don't seem to care if a pitcher can win, just whether he can throw 100 mph. Bah.

I think that's in the category of the basketball adage that you can't coach someone to be 7 feet tall. It's just easier to look for that raw talent.

For my own part, I agree with you. I'll take someone like Jimmy Key, Tom Glavine or Dennis Boyd (in his prime) any day over a Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens or Dwight Gooden (in his prime). Not that you wouldn't always like to have a hall of fame fireballer on your staff... But, as long-time player (catcher) and some-time coach, I liked the guys that didn't have velocity, but had good movement in their pitches, but moreover had pinpoint control. You could get them to pitch to a zone, and you could arrange the defense behind them for the out. The part almost always nullified the righty vs. lefty advantage, and was one of my favorite parts of playing the game.
posted by psmealey at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2007


Re: Bonds... I don't begrudge players who hate the sports press (there's a LOT to hate there) and I generally support their right to be aloof or uncooperative when a reporter approaches. But the problem with Bonds is that he has just been a surly, whiny prick his whole career. The guy gets paid a mint to do, presumably, the thing he loves. You'd think he could be a little more graceful about it.
posted by psmealey at 2:57 PM on August 4, 2007


languagehat wrote, "Scouts and managers don't seem to care if a pitcher can win, just whether he can throw 100 mph. Bah."

And thus has it ever been. Bill Lee wrote about that in his autobiography, which I highly recommend. He had equivalent or better stats than someone in his rotation at USC, but the other guy threw a million miles an hour. Lee was drafted in like the 20th round or something, while the other guy went really high. One of the two had a successful major league career (you'll have to buy the book to find out which one!). Lee, IIRC, attributed it to the scouts being risk-averse. It's easy enough to recommend a guy if he can throw the ball through a wall.

Not that it's stupid to get a guy who can throw the ball fast-- Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens put together pretty good careers. But sometimes you wind up with a guy like Matt Anderson, a #1 overall pick out of high school who could throw 100 mph, but never learned how to pitch.
posted by ibmcginty at 3:14 PM on August 4, 2007


//Hey batter batter batter batter SWING!//

I remember that from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" - What does it mean / signify?
posted by Dub at 4:12 PM on August 4, 2007


I remember that from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" - What does it mean / signify?

It's a Little League/playground taunt. Brian Regan has a funny take on it (YouTube linked for audio only).

Hey lawyer lawyer lawyer...SUE!
posted by edverb at 4:43 PM on August 4, 2007


I don't even know what a strabismus is, but if Edgar had it, then I want two of them.

It's lazy eye. He couldn't keep both of his eyes tracking on the ball.

An Edgar Martinez double was like watching the natural laws of time and space come undone for a moment or two.

In the later years, sure. I mean, he was working on 1 1/2 hamstrings by his last two years in Seattle. We used to joke that the M's were going to petition Selig to let Edgar have a Segway to run to first.

In the 1990s, though, he was average speed, and he could run as well as any of the other sluggers of the day.

Sad that he'll always be overshadowed by Frank Thomas, the greatest right-handed hitter of the 1990s.

Not that it's stupid to get a guy who can throw the ball fast-- Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens put together pretty good careers. But sometimes you wind up with a guy like Matt Anderson, a #1 overall pick out of high school who could throw 100 mph, but never learned how to pitch.

There was some kid back in the 1970s would could throw 110mph or something like that, only he never became a star because he was really, really wild while throwing that fast.
posted by dw at 4:51 PM on August 4, 2007


There was some kid back in the 1970s would could throw 110mph or something like that, only he never became a star because he was really, really wild while throwing that fast.

You may be thinking about Steve Dalkowski. Not 1970's though, but early 1960s. He came up in spring training with the O's in 1963 and injured himself, and never pitched in a big league game. Dalkoswki purportedly had an IQ of 60, he terrified Ted Williams at the plate, and was known to send fans behind the backstop scrambling for cover. I heard an anecdote from a catcher once that Dalkowski missed his sign for a curveball, threw the fastball and nearly killed an ump as a result. Nuke LaLoosh is loosely based on him.
posted by edverb at 5:09 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


You may be thinking about Steve Dalkowski.

Yeah, that's him. Thanks for pulling all that up.
posted by dw at 8:39 PM on August 4, 2007


it's no wonder he owns the single season records for both singles and hits by large margins

The previous single-season record holder for hits set the record in 1920, and the previous singles leader set the record in 1898. Sweet.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:20 PM on August 4, 2007


755.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:53 PM on August 4, 2007


and as for the steroid thing, his late bulkup and power surge look suspicious, but I believe in innocent until proven guilty
posted by languagehat


That's a huge misrepresentation of the evidence behind bonds and his steroid use. You can completely ignore his body changes and power surge and bury him with a mountain of damning evidence.
posted by justgary at 9:52 PM on August 5, 2007


Oh yeah? So how come he's still playing? How come he hasn't been drummed out of baseball if the "mountain" of evidence is that "damning"?
posted by languagehat at 5:57 AM on August 6, 2007


So how come he's still playing?

Because he hasn't failed a test, obviously. And even if he tested positive tomorrow, he'd only be suspended for X amount of games.

I'm not against barry. I think he's just an example of the entire era. But he's not being investigated because of bulking up and a late power surge.
posted by justgary at 7:29 AM on August 6, 2007


By the way, I could list the evidence, but it would take too long and it's already well documented. Basically, it takes a leap of faith to believe bonds never used steroid.
posted by justgary at 7:32 AM on August 6, 2007


[edverb] Cheers for that
posted by Dub at 5:50 AM on August 18, 2007


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