Joe Boeke's Reviews > The Science of Hitting

The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams
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Jun 01, 11

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Read in August, 2008 — I own a copy, read count: 2

For young and inexperienced players, Ted Williams’ name may no longer hold the magic it did when I was growing up and playing baseball. But most of us "old-timers" will still remember that Williams was the last professional ball player (in the MLB) to hit over .400 for a full season. So when my Little League aged son was struggling a bit at the plate a season ago, I broke out my copy of Williams’ The Science of Hitting to look for some kernel of wisdom that would help my son get out of his slump.

But, the first line in the book is an admonition that today’s best hitters fail more than they succeed “...even if you're a .300 hitter...you are going to fail at your job seven out of ten times." This statement is at once encouraging as well as discouraging. That is hitting in a nutshell (triumphant in success yet unbelievably humbling and potentially discouraging in failure) and any good player will need to remember that success as a ball player is measured a bit differently.

The admonition out of the way, William’s book splits the topic of hitting up into two basic parts--first, the physical mechanics involved in hitting; second, the mental duel taking place between the batter and pitcher.

Much of what is written in the book is the result of Williams’ conversations with great hitters of the past. As a result, much of the advice in the book is shared in the form of readable anecdotes, which make the book easy to read and enjoyable for baseball aficionados as well -- where else are you going to learn about Harry Heillman's philosophy of hitting?

One of the primary keys to Teddy Ballgame’s success was his swing. The best “old-time” hitters (and Williams was certainly one of them) had a nearly a flat swing plane, flat wrist-roll and a low, rather than high finish. Most of today's hitters' display an upper cutting arc and high finish to their swings. Yet, in the “dead ball” the old-timers managed to wrack up nearly as many homeruns but had much higher batting averages and strike-out to hit ratios. This ended up being the clincher for me. I noticed immediately that my son had started trying to uppercut the ball so he could hit more homeruns (after hitting his one in his first at-bat of the season).

We started working on having him hit line drives and sure enough he raised his average from .175 to .403 by the end of the season. Then this season he kept the swing we worked on and ended up hitting .390+, but also leading the league in home runs, finishing with 24 (including 6 in the post-season).

The other thing that Williams writes (which is often misinterpreted) is that he'd never swing at a pitch he hadn't seen before. Often time people will swear (incorrectly) that Williams never swung at a pitcher's first pitch. Williams was, if nothing else, a student of the game. He intently studied pitchers watching them warm up, watching them from the on-deck circle and mentally replaying previous at-bats in his head. When he stepped into the batters box he had a game plan and he had a good understanding of what a pitcher threw and when. My son used this part of Williams' game as well and it was fun to watch him "studying" the opposing pitchers.

Thank you Ted Williams! My son, whose name is Theodore William by the way, earned the nickname "Teddy Ballgame" from his coaches and teammates as well.

Williams text in The Science of Hitting is accompanied by the wonderful pen and ink illustrations of Robert E. Cupp. These drawings and other explanatory photographs to help illustrate the points Williams is trying to make and really enhance the book.

If you are a player, coach or just a parent wanting to help your son or daughter improve their game, this book is a must have!
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