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Science of Hitting (Anglais) Broché – 29 avril 1986

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Chapter 1

Hitting a baseball -- I've said it a thousand times -- is the single most difficult thing to do in sport.

I get raised eyebrows and occasional arguments when I say that, but what is there that is harder to do? What is there that requires more natural ability, more physical dexterity, more mental alertness? That requires a greater finesse to go with physical strength, that has as many variables and as few constants, and that carries with it the continuing frustration of knowing that even if you are a .300 hitter -- which is a rare item these days -- you are going to fail at your job seven out of ten times?

If Joe Montana or Dan Marino completed three of every ten passes they attempted, they would be ex-professional quarterbacks. If Larry Bird or Magic Johnson made three of every ten shots they took, their coaches would take the basketball away from them.

Golf? Somebody always mentions golf. You don't have to have good eyesight to play golf. Tommy Armour was a terrific golfer, and he had no sight in one eye. You have to have good eyesight to hit a baseball. Look at the tragedy of Tony Conigliaro of the Red Sox. Six foot three, beautifully developed, strong, aggressive, stylish, and an injured eye ended his career. When I managed the Washington Senators I insisted that Mike Epstein get his eyes checked. He was having difficulties hitting, and I suspected it might be partially due to his vision. He did, and with new contact lenses he had his best season with the Senators. Just a tiny correction.

You don't have to have speed to succeed at golf, or great strength, or exceptional coordination. You don't have to be quick. You don't have to be young. Golfers win major tournaments into their fifties. I hit .316 when I was forty-two years old, and was considered an old, old man in the game.

You never hear a boo in golf. I know that's a factor. You don't have a pitcher throwing curves and sliders and knuckle balls, and if he doesn't like you, maybe a fast ball at your head. There is nothing to hurt you in golf unless lightning strikes or somebody throws a dub. And there's that golf ball, sitting right there for you to hit, and a flat-faced club to hit it with.

Thousands of guys play par golf. Good young golfers swarm into the pros like lemmings. In 1983, the first eleven tournaments on the U.S. tour were won by eleven different players -- the first twenty-three by twenty different players. Wouldn't it be ironic if Mr. Watson didn't win a tournament all season? Or Mr. Nieklaus? The two biggest names in golf? It could happen. But how many .300 hitters are there? A handful.

I compare golf not to detract from it, because it is a fine game, good fun, sociable and a game, unlike baseball, you can play for life. There have always been great athletes in golf. Sam Snead comes immediately to mind. There are points of similarity in the swings of the two games -- hip action, for one, is a key factor, and the advantage of an inside-out stroke. I will elaborate later.

The thing is, hitting a golf ball has been examined from every angle. Libraries of analysis have been written on the subject, and by experts, true experts, like Snead, Armour, Hogan, Nieklaus and Palmer. I've got their books and I know. There are as many theories as there are tee markers, and for the student a great weight of diagnosis.

Hitting a baseball has had no such barrage of scholarly treatment, and probably that is why there are so many people -- even at the big-league level -- teaching it incorrectly, or not teaching it at all. Everybody knows how to hit but very few really do.

The golfer is all ears when it comes to theories. He is receptive to ideas. There is even more to theorize on and to teach in the hitting of a baseball, but there aren't enough qualified guys who do teach it, or enough willingness on the part of the hitters to listen. Then there are the pitching coaches, standing at the batting cage and yelling at the pitchers to "keep it low" or "how's your arm, Lefty? Don't throw too hard, now," and never mind seeing to it that the hitter gets the kind of practice he needs.

Baseball is crying for good hitters. Hitting is the most important part of the game; it is where the big money is, where much of the status is, and the fan interest. The greatest name in American sports history is Babe Ruth, a hitter. I don't know if the story is true or not, but I have to laugh. Ruth was needled one time about the fact that his salary of $80,000 was higher than President Hoover's. Ruth paused a minute and then said, "Well, I had a better year."

Nowadays a .300-plus power hitter like a Mays or a Clemente or an Aaron or a Frank Robinson can make a million dollars or more. Into that category now would be George Brett of the Royals, Eddie Murray of the Orioles, Dale Murphy of the Braves, Don Mattingly of the Yankees and Wade Boggs of the Red Sox. For an outfielder, hitting is 75 per cent of his worth, in most cases more important than fielding and arm and speed combined. Terry Moore was a great fielder. Dom DiMaggio was a great fielder. Nobody played the outfield any better than Jimmy Piersall. But when it comes down to it, the guys people remember are the hitters.

Yet today there does not seem to be a player in baseball who is going to wind up a lifetime .333 hitter, although Rod Carew will be close. Wade Boggs has made a terrific impression in his first four years, but it's a little early to tell with him. Hank Aaron finished his career at .305, Roberto Clemente at .317, Willie Mays at .302, A1 Kaline at .297 and Frank Robinson at .304. Mickey Mantle, as great as he was, was unable to finish above .300.

In the years from 1950 to 1968, Major League batting averages, figured as a whole, dropped 30 points -- from .266 to .236. They have risen again since then, I think mainly because of two expansions (in 1969 and 1977), which invariably waters down the pitching and makes it easier for the hitters for a while. There were fewer home runs hit per game (1.23) in 1968 than there had been in twenty years. Runs scored per game dropped from 9.73 to 6.84, the lowest in sixty years. Batting averages and runs scored began going up again in 1968 and 1970 when four new teams were added to the big leagues. There were pitchers in the big leagues who other years were not good enough to be there, just as happened again when two teams were added in 1977.

A further help to the hitters was the lowering of the mound from 15 inches to 10. Nobody made a big thing about it, but the ball was hopped up a little, too. Unfortunately, so was the thinking. I heard a lot of talk during that period about the "advantage" of the so-called "down swing," which has never been good batting technique. I'll get to that later.

The longer season is blamed for the decline in hitting, and the pitching overall is supposed to be better. Logistics are definitely a factor -- the increase in night games, the size of the new parks (Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles is a pasture compared to cozy old Ebbets Field), the disturbed routine of cross-country travel that forces you to eat different hours, sleep differently. Certainly a week should be cut off both ends of the season for no other reason than to get away from some of that lousy cold weather. It's hard to hit in cold weather. But I wonder. If it were the longer season you would expect the better hitters to average higher -- .360, .370 or better -- for at least 100 games, but only one or two have been able to do so. When the season's only a couple months old neither league will have ten guys hitting .300.

How, too, can the pitching be better when there are fewer pitchers in organized baseball (fewer leagues, fewer everything, actually)? When expansion has made starters out of sixty or more who would otherwise still be in the minor leagues?

After four years of managing the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, the one big impression I got was that the game hadn't changed. Except maybe now because of what the artificial surfaces are doing to it, it's basically the same as it was when I played. I see the same type pitchers, the same type hitters. But after 50 years of watching it I'm more convinced than ever that there aren't as many good hitters in the game, guys who can whack the ball around when it's over the plate, guys like Aaron and Clemente and Frank Robinson. There are plenty of guys with power, guys who hit the ball a long way, but I see so many who lack finesse, who should hit for average but don't.

The answers are not all that hard to figure. They talked for years about the ball being dead. The ball isn't dead, the hitters are, from the neck up. Everybody's trying to pull the ball, to begin with. Almost everybody from the left fielder to the utility shortstop is trying to hit home runs, which is folly, and I will tell you why as we go along -- and how Ted Williams, that notorious pull hitter, learned for himself.

I will probably get carried away and sound like A1 Simmons and Ty Cobb sounded to me when they used to cart their criticism of my hitting into print. I don't mean to criticize individuals here. Not at all. I do criticize these trends.

I think hitting can be improved at almost any level, and my intention is to show how, and what I think it takes to be a good hitter, even a. 400 hitter if the conditions are ever right -- again from the theory to the mechanics to the application.

If I can help somebody, fine. That's the whole idea. I feel in my heart that nobody in this game ever devoted more concentration to the batter's box than Theodore Samuel Williams, a guy who practiced until the blisters bled, and loved doing it, and got more delight out of examining by conversation and observation the art of hitting the ball. If that does not qualify me, nothing will.

I have to admit to a pride in the results we got with the Senators my first year. The fun I had was seeing them improve and realizing they could win, and some of them did make dramatic turnarounds. Eddie Brinkman, who I knew from the beginning was a better hitter than his record indicated, jumped from .187 to .266. Del Unser went from .280 to .286, Hank Allen .219 to .278, Ken McMullen, .248 to .272. Frank Howard hit .296 and Mike Epstein .278, the best years they ever had in the big leagues. That was tremendous satisfaction to me.

If there is such a thing as a science in sport, hitting a baseball is it. As with any science, there are fundamentals, certain tenets of hitting every good batter or batting coach could tell you. But it is not an exact science. Much of it has been poorly defined, or not defined at all, and some things have been told wrong for years.

The consequence is a collection of mistaken ideas that batters parrot around. I know because I'm as guilty as the next guy.

The "level swing," for example, has always been advocated. I used to believe it, and ! used to say the same thing. But the ideal swing is not level, and it's not down, and I'll tell you why as we get to it. I'll also tell you why wrist "snap" is overrated -- and how wrong you are if you think you hit the ball with rolling wrists (as in golf). And I'll also tell you why left-handed pull hitter T. S. Williams does not think a pulled ball is something to strive for, and why he may have been a better left-hand hitter if he had not been a natural right-hander.

Copyright © 1970, 1971, 1986 by Ted Williams and John Underwood

Revue de presse

Wade Boggs American League batting champion A major influence on my basic hitting skills through my formative years and a must for learning and knowing the strike zone.

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HITTING A baseball-I've said it a thousand times-is the single most difficult thing to do in sport. Lire la première page
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Format: Broché
Ce livre, écrit par une des stars de la frappe, Ted Williams, montre au travers de nombreuses anecdotes, comment optimiser ses passages à la batte. Bien loin de faire une présentation ultra technique de ce fondamentaux, Williams, montre par l'exemple que l'un des aspects les plus importants de la batte ne se passe pas d'un point vue méchanique, mais plutôt psychologique. Tout réside dans l'aptitude à attendre un bon lancer de l'adversaire. Un bon livre, qui nécessite une certaine connaissance du vocabulaire du baseball.
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Amazon.com: HASH(0xa08eb15c) étoiles sur 5 189 commentaires
54 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9f4eeb7c) étoiles sur 5 The hitters bible 18 avril 2000
Par Josh Hanford - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This book is perfect for anyone looking to expand their knowledge on how to hit a baseball. Everything from pitch recognition to a smooth swing are discussed and analyzed. Ted Williams also includes some of his stories from when baseball was a lifestyle. This book allows anyone to see the time and hard work that must go into becoming a good hitter. Becoming a good hitter does not mean picking up a bat and taking a few swings. It starts before you ever get to the ballpark. He walks you through ways to pick up pitcher tendencies, and stresses patience at the plate. This book provides helpful diagrams, which show what pitches are good ones to take a swing at. But he doesn't stop there, he goes into great detail about what you should try and do with that pitch that is in the zone. Also included are tips for making your stance comfortable yet effective, grip on the bat, and improving your power for maximum effectiveness in every at bat. Ted Williams also provides insight on knowing the situation, and doing what is best for your team. A must read for players of all skill levels. This book will grow with you as your hitting experiences expand. Ted Williams deserves more stars than I am allowed to give him for this book.
40 internautes sur 44 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9f4eebd0) étoiles sur 5 Superb Reference, Less Practical 18 novembre 2009
Par C. Hester - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
This book is "must-have" reading for any aspiring slugger or student of the game of baseball. Be aware, however, that the book's value does not lie in the specifics of technical hitting instruction. This is much more hitting "theory" as relayed by Ted Williams from his years of experience. There is little, if any, practical detailed instruction on developing mechanics for swinging the bat. On one hand, the book is absolute gospel; I don't think anything in it could be seriously disputed, and to do so is to question the genius of a man whom baseball history shows to be one of the greatest hitters (and philosophers of hitting) that has ever lived. On the other hand, for Ted Williams to offer his personal philosophy and methods for hitting is similar to Tiger Woods trying to teach someone how he hits a golf ball. It might be great information for the rare few that can in some way duplicate Ted's or Tiger's physical abilities, but for a vast majority of players (especially very young players) who lack power, 20/10 eyesight, and one-in-a-million type hand/eye coordination, this book will (at best) offer little to improve their performance and (at worst) may actually lead to swing techniques that make the game more difficult.

For anyone who has spent any time studying the instruction of mechanics for the baseball swing, you already know that the methods of hitting fall into two primary camps. These methods can be differentiated by their beliefs on what is the "proper" swing plane (i.e., what path the bat takes in route to intercepting the pitched ball.) One side is often called "level swing" or "linear", where the swing is more level to the ground, and the other side (where Williams stands) promotes a swing level to the flight of the pitch (where the pitch is following a downward arc from the pitcher due to gravity and the elevation of the pitcher in relationship to the strike zone.) Therefore, the "level" swing that Williams promotes is, in practice, what is commonly known as an "upper-cut" at the ball. This method is commonly adhered to by those who teach "rotational" hitting (as opposed to "linear" hitting.)

Williams himself states several times throughout this book (although the statements are made in passing, and never really expounded upon) that his method for hitting would NOT be recommended for players that don't have the power to hit the ball out of the ballpark. This is where the problem really begins. How many baseball players aspire to be homerun hitters? ALL OF THEM! How many of them truly can be? Very few. An analyst on ESPN recently made the statement, "Just because some guy hits 20 homeruns in a season, people want to label that player a homerun hitter. Not so!" It is a very difficult thing (and quite counter-intuitive to an athlete's competitive nature) to identify and yield to the limitations of your athletic ability. However, Branch Rickey, one of the greatest talent evaluators and baseball minds in history, held the firm belief that it is impossible to teach a player to hit with power. You either have the skill from birth, or you don't. Ted Williams had it. Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, ARod, Chase Utley, Josh Hamilton have it, just to name a few. This isn't just a matter of getting in the weight room and pumping iron. It pertains to the player's natural ability to generate fast, efficient motions of the body that will result in maximum kinetic energy. You are either born knowing how to generate optimal force or you are not. For those that are, then a technique similar to Ted Williams' is probably best for you.

Some of the biggest truths in the book are what make the book both universal and, at the same time, less useful for baseball instruction. Williams makes very general statements about proper mechanics, but then says that the 10 greatest hitters have 10 different styles. The times that he does make a concrete argument (like "upswing is the only way to go") it is placed under the caveat "if you have enough power to make it work." Which, as I have said, very few players truly possess.

Williams also covers his personal strategies for facing pitchers - how he takes more pitches in early at-bats and uses the data he collects for strategies later in the game (i.e., his third, fourth, and fifth at-bats in the game.) Well, if it's not obvious, this advice is nothing more than a fossil of a bygone era. In the modern age of the relief pitchers and situational substitutions, practicing this type of strategy is almost impossible. A professional hitter will be fortunate to get three at-bats against the same pitcher in one game. Hitters at the lower levels of amateur baseball usually play shorter games, and even if one does face a pitcher multiple times, the performance at that level usually lacks the kind of consistency needed to successfully make any sound assumptions.

To summarize this review, I think this book provides an excellent reference point for any student of the game of baseball. Translating the instruction in this book into improved success in the batter's box will require a more thorough understanding of the mechanics of hitting, and a disciplined, discerning athlete to cherry-pick the portions of this book that can actually be applied with his own ability level.
25 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9f4eeeac) étoiles sur 5 Essential to both hitting and understanding baseball 2 février 2001
Par Gary Huckabay - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This book and Robert Adair's _The_Physics_of_Baseball_ are essential to being the best player, executive, or fan possible. This book is timeless, and focuses on the 'real playing field' of baseball -- the strike zone where the hitter and pitcher battle it out. This book covers technique well, but more importantly, it teaches approach, and the earlier in your life you can learn that, the better you will be.
Williams' emphasis on plate discipline and mental approach, combined with his teaching of how to analyze your own swing gives you the basic tools you need to be an excellent offensive player. For pitchers, this book is a must to understand the weapons available to the batter.
For fans, this book will help you understand what's important and what's just filler by the broadcast team. If you're under 14 years old, buy this book, or go get from your local library, and study it on a field with a tee and a bag of balls. Then read it every day before you do your hitting reps.
This book turns bad hitters fair, and good hitters great. You just need to put in the work.
11 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9f4f23f0) étoiles sur 5 Very helpful 8 décembre 1999
Par dsfbg - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Boy, this was a very,very, helpful book for my hitting. Up until I read this book, I was an average hitter. After I read his book and saw his diagram, I could not wait to hit in front of everybody to show off. If you just get one baseball book in your life, GET THIS ONE! Teddy Ballgame was truly the best hitter ever.
10 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9f4f2408) étoiles sur 5 The Science of Hitting 29 décembre 1999
Par L. R. Holt - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Regardless of which hitting philosophy you subscribe to, this book is the best overall technical reference for the mechanics of hitting. I own all of the hitting reference books and have taught hitting to over 200 little leaguers.
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