Lasting Memorial to Bud Selig

Baseball’s Only True Legacy for Bud Selig

There has never been a better Sports Commissioner than Bud Selig. The collective wealth that has transpired in the Professional Baseball Community, from which everyone associated with Baseball has been beneficiary, is due primarily to the intelligent management of MR. Selig. That, having been said, while not using this format to list all of his accomplishments, I would like to enlist the prospect of his “lame-duck” powers to provide an opportunity for him to fully retire with the greatest honor possible – “Be ye therefore Perfect”.

The only really important issue that has not been resolved during his Tenure, to the satisfaction of Real-Baseball-Purists, is the total elimination of that despicable aspect of primitive Baseball culture known as The “Bean-Ball”  mean baseball face,Intentionally Hitting of the Batter, by the Pitcher. Baseball’s “old-guard” has apparently convinced our rightly esteemed Commissioner that “It” is and should always be “part of the game”.

Once the Designated-Hitter is fully ensconced in both Leagues, the only, and most significant change necessary for all perceptive entities to agree upon, and from which to incorporate a lasting memorial to a truly remarkable “man of authority” is to step up a legitimate process of eliminating the “bean-ball” completely. After watching all that has transpired thus far, it is my prophetic and providential declaration that the only substantive way to stop the insidious  “carnage” that has been wrongly institutionalized within America’s great “Pastime” is to diminish from that Team and its respective representatives (Pitchers and Managers exclusively) their equal opportunity and facility to direct their teams to uncontested victory. The only thing that will stop the revenge-seeking and dispassionate collaborators to a false sense of “team-honor”, -unity, and –dignity is to apply the harshest possible retribution for any batter being hit by a major-league fastball directly on a part of his body that is not protected by significant padding. Fines and suspensions are such superficial penalties to a pitcher who is usually following the commands of his manager. He (pitcher) will probably be recompensed by the team for his financial loss, and a few days of vacation will not usually bother him.

The ONLY solution to this PROBLEM is to allot two bases to any batter hit by a Major-League fast-ball. Such a batter will be allowed to go directly to Second-Base. If a runner is on Second Base, he moves to Third Base. IF runners are on Second and Third bases, then the runner on 3rd scores. I think you can see how this will affect a team whose pitchers are either errant or deliberate with solid contact of their inside fastball upon a batter.

Tony LaRussa’s logical statement on the subject might be paraphrased to read as follows: “It doesn’t matter if it was deliberate or not. Pitchers are going to come inside to certain batters; and those pitchers might not be accurate with their pitches. – Then, they shouldn’t come inside, if they don’t want to be retaliated against.” How can anyone deny that statement’s logic? Since it can’t be denied, then the only alternative is to enact a law or rule that precludes its relevance! Don’t put the blame on anyone! Simply declare that such a batter who is “impacted” by the errant or deliberate pitch be awarded adequate compensation for his being bludgeoned by such a pitch. Most often an innocent “next-batter” is the recipient of a malicious act of retribution. In other cases it is the “poor-innocent-victim” of a pitcher or manager who has decided that said-batter can’t hit the “inside-heater” that subsequently “gets-away” from the “perpetrator” who could care less if he “accidentally” hits the “man-with-bat”.  Take all of that away. From now on, it’s nobody’s fault. But such callousness of a Pitcher most certainly will affect the outcome of that inning, game, and pitcher’s best effort on the mound.

If a Team’s pitching staff is “spot-on” with accurately thrown fast-balls in-tight to certain batters, and never hit a player with a pitch, then there’s nothing to argue about. IF a Pitching staff is not that good with the accuracy of throwing fast-balls inside, and accidentally hit batters, there should be no reason for displaying ill-will. The batter simply advances to second base, while the other base-runners advance accordingly. What would there be to argue about? Justice has been served – no fines, suspensions, or fights!  If this “new rule” works out fine, then most teams and players would be happy. But there will probably be a “Team” or a “player” who is “smart” enough to circumvent the rule in a “mercy-game”, when the out-come seemed too sure, one way or another. Umpires and other League officials might still have the power to impose themselves on those few disorderly “barbarians”, until they are eventually “weeded-out”.

Bud Selig has helped present to the world a more dignified and civilized Baseball Society. It would seem regrettable that he should leave his office with less than a complete sense of fulfilling his destiny. His true legacy awaits him if he can leave office after he submits to his “highest-calling” of finally putting an end to the “bean-ball” controversy.mean baseball face

Sincerely submitted,

John F. Paciorek

P.S. For more understanding, see article submitted August 8, 2014 – “…Eliminating the Bean-Ball”.

Momentum and Efficiency through Perfect Timing – Part 3

 

Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds HRBarry  Bonds 9

There has been no greater practitioner of “perfect-timing” in  consistently hitting a baseball than Barry Bonds. A close “second” and “third” were Ted Williams and Hank Aaron. Barry Bonds HRTed Williams - swinghankaaron 1But, because of their natural, ill-contrived tendencies to “stride” (even in the slightest), all three fell short of the expanded “greatness” they could have achieved. Ted was the last to hit .400, in an era when “power-pitching” was not as profuse as today, and the “bull-pens” markedly deficient. The next player to hit .400 will be a batter who does not stride. But he will also have to be one who has eliminated all or most other “margins for error” as well.Albert Pujols 1Albert Pujols 8Mark Mcgwire 4Kemp Front AnkleAlbert Pujols 15Ossie 2ted_williams_ bat routeBabe Ruth 3

 

Albert Pujols had the right idea when he devised a low-stance, with his hands and bat just below his shoulders, at what would be close to a “high strike”. Albert Pujols 1He attempted not-to-stride, but to simply raise the heel of his front foot, then forcefully press down as he was to commence with his swing. He had become one of Baseball’s more successful hitters. Then for some reason he decided to raise his hands and bat above his shouldersAlbert Pujols 8, and his decline began, but not simply for that reason alone. The high bat and hands merely added another “margin for error” which, combined with others, exacerbated all his legitimate attempts at perfecting his swing. From his “low stance”, and lower hands and bat, he had perfect balance and power-potential. The only thing missing was “how to effect his front-foot-plant” while not striding! Instead of twisting his front heel and then pressing down  forcefully, he simply should have pointed his front foot at a 120 degree angle to the pitcher (as did DiMaggiojoe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plateand Williams Ted Williams (feet in stance)ted_williams_ bat route). Even with his senior-citizen status, this year (2014), he is having his best year with the Angels. His “low-center of gravity” is the basis for any further success he has. The margins for error that he would have to eliminate to become a more formidable batter are these:

Bring his arms, hands, and bat down to his former height Albert Pujols 1.

Point his front foot to 120 angle to the pitcher (like DiMaggio)joe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plate.

Grab the bat with both hands evenly, not having his left hand tucked under his right.

And “choke-up” just a little. At this stage of his “game” he needs as much bat-control as is possible (look at Barry Bonds and Ted Williams )- Ted Williams' gripBarry Bonds Pirates 1992.

Pujols has eliminated (to a degree) the most debilitating aspect of batting deficiency. At least his head is still in his “non-stride”. But the extra movement of the twisting front foot (from a point where the toes are pointed to Home – plate) prevents absolute focus on the “pure” foot-plant. Compare the following two foot-plants: Kemp Front Ankleted_williams_ bat routeTed Williams - swing. Kemp, in the first photo, is subject to strain of ankle and knee, while no strain is imminent in Williams’ swing.

Without a stride the batter can be assured of the best possible visual acuity for tracking the in-coming pitch. And without a stride, the batter can exact a faster time-sequence with which to initiate the action of the swing. The swing cannot begin until the front foot is planted. (Have you ever tried to swing a bat with the front foot off the ground?) Anyone who believes he NEEDS to stride (because, since Baseball’s inception, everyone has always accepted the “need to stride”, especially for the application of maximum power), does not have a clear understanding of how that slight movement  affects the “timing” mechanism  to the “perfect swing”.

The following conditioning sequence will facilitate a habit-forming regimen to accommodate the essential training needed to begin the conquest of stagnant hitting deficiency.

4-STEP HITTING DRILL: (This should be done without a bat first, then with a bat after total DSC_0119DSC_0120DSC_0121DSC_0122DSC_0123coordination has been mastered.)

 

Step 1 – Assume a position of maximum strength and balance. Get as low a stance as to not feel too uncomfortable, with feet spread at the distance of your normal stride. (Remember, a low stance gives you a natural advantage of a smaller strike zone as well as a fundamental posture for stronger and quicker movement. If you understand the value of this “principle,” any physical discomfort you seem to have with a low stance will diminish as your body becomes acclimated through repetition and positive results.) Then begin the repetition of the entire hip-shoulder “weight-transfer,” step by step. Repeat five attempts focusing on the straightening of the front leg, by pushing down hard on the front foot with the feeling of pushing your body backward. If the body does actually fall backwards, off balance, your back foot and bent knee are not doing what are required of them.

Step 2– Focus on the action of the back leg. With a low stance, as you assume that the transfer of weight is imminent, drive the back bent-knee forward with force, rotating from the outside of the big toe of the back foot. Focus on maintaining a bent back leg during the simulation, but be conscious of the other three stages (especially the front leg).

Step 3—Focus on front shoulder action. As front foot is planting, be focused on how forcefully you can shrug and pull the front shoulder up and backward. If the movement feels weak, it’s probably because the hips did not initiate the action.

Step 4—Focus on back shoulder and elbow. When the front shoulder shrugs, the back shoulder (with elbow) automatically lowers. The muscles of the Pectoral (in chest) and Latissimus (in back) areas drive the elbow down and forward ahead of the top hand. The hand is thus in a palm-up position to force a flat bat through the ball. So focus on the backside of the upper body coming through. But be conscious that the front side seems to be initiating the action.

After these four steps have been mastered, use a bat and go through them again, using a batting tee until mastery is attained. After that, go through the same procedure, this time combining step one with step two, and step three with step four, making it a two-step drill. (Then, step two with step four, and step one with step three.)DSC_0125DSC_0126DSC_0128DSC_0129DSC_0130

Remember, you are working to see how fast you can complete the entire action “perfectly”. Only perfect practice will make perfect, so perform the drills at full speed with the expectation of reacting faster as the mechanics of the swing are perfected. Eventually you can move the tee to cover all the areas of the strike zone. Remember also, to assure that the head not move, refrain from taking a stride—you really don’t need it anyway if you perfect the “four step” drill.

Also Remember: When assuming your stance, always have the front foot pointed at a 120 degree angle (or slightly less)to the pitcher, not a 90 degree angle (or less) which many batters assume because they have been told that it will keep their front hip and shoulder from opening too quickly. The front foot, at a 120 degree angle, will allow the weight transfer during the swing to be more accommodating to the front knee, ankle, and foot joints. While, at 90 degrees or less, the tension on the front foot, ankle, and knee can have a dire affect on the ligaments and tendons while the body is twisting and turning on its rotating axes. Harold Baines and Ryan Howard can attribute their knee and ankle problems, as well as their erratic batting proficiency, to the extremely awkward front foot positioning in their stances (and plant)(Can you imagine what would happen to a power-pitcher if his front foot planted at a 95 degree angle to Home-plate, rather than the normal 180 degrees  Kimbrel 5? )Just look at the front foot positioning of outstanding hitters such as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, to validate the proper transfer of weight during the swing.Ted Williams (feet in stance)joe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plate END.

 

Momentum and Efficiency through Perfect Timing – Part 2

 

Ted Williams - swingTedWilliamsShortSwing2Carl_Yastrzemski 2

Yaz-3Yas100934860.JPGhankaaron 1
Bonds -stancebonds - contact 2Barry Bonds HR
I have previously mentioned (in other essays) that there are no “bad-hitters” in Major-League Baseball. But there are those who are considered better than the “others” because of their consistency of making solid contact with the pitched ball. And these are those who have attained the mental and physical facility for producing both a more exact timing-mechanism and the most proper batting technique for hitting a baseball with power and efficiency.
In this new “modern-era” of Major-League batting prowess, it has become more difficult for elite athletes to become proficient hitters because of both the surprising rise of “power-pitching” potential, and the extraordinary ineptness of the “modern-batsman” to eliminate the margins for error that tend to exacerbate the ordinary and natural ability of the common Major-league hitter to attain a consistent approach to the pitched ball. It is a testament to the outstanding athletic ability of all Major-Leaguers that they can ever demonstrate the “precision-timing” to hit a Verlander or Kershaw Curve-ball, or a Tanaka or Holland “splitter” (change-up), or a Chapman, Strassburg, or Rosenthall Fast-ball. And even the best of hitters will not do it consistently!
The batters in the preceding sequence of pictures represent multiple eras of batting prominence. But each was not without his individual flaws. Ted Williams, while being the first and most scientifically oriented batsman, was almost flawless except for his too erect of stance that prevented him from hitting well the low, outside pitch(not to mention his propensity for not hitting the outside pitch to left-field). Carl Yaztremski, while being mentored by Williams, held his bat too high, and his stride was more than could perfectly accommodate a variety of off-speed pitches. Henry Aaron can probably be considered the “Mohammed Ali” of the Baseball world, not for any overtly ostentatious disposition to the game, but rather for his exquisite timing, vision, and patience while addressing the pitched ball. His short swing and minimum follow-through with his body contacted the ball with subtle but efficient power to hit many Home-Runs, but none (or very few) that would afford him early notoriety as a premier “Power-Hitter”. He simply got the job done consistently, striking the ball solidly and providing near-perfect trajectory to reach the minimum distance to leave the field of play. Barry Bonds would have to be considered as the “Mike Tyson” of Baseball’s “Prodigious-Blasters”. After Mark McGwire’s physical decline, Bonds took over as undisputed “King” of “the Long-Ball”, not only for the frequency with which they were hit, but also for the distances his home-runs traveled, plus his regularity of contacting the ball solidly for base-hits.

Much controversy has erupted over the “Steroid Era”, and Bonds’ usurping of Aaron’s previous “Home-Run Crown” has left a tainted image for his legacy. But, aside from the disputations about the authenticity of his Baseball records, it is hard to dispute the physical (and visual) fact that Barry’s swing was the most consistently beautiful, efficient, and proficient and powerful looking in Baseball History:

Barry Bonds 10Barry Bonds 17Barry Bonds 12Barry Bonds Follow throughBabe Ruth 3Ted Williams - swingYas1hankaaron 1yogi berra3Mickey Mantle 2Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astrosmattingly 2Mark McGwire 2 Albert Pujols 15Good Swing 1Matt Kemp 15Hanley Ramirez105yasiel Puig 1josh_hamiltonChris Davis 4Roy Hobbs 2michael-jordan 3Barry  Bonds 92001-10-05-bonds homerun-follow through

What is it that Barry Bonds did consistently right, that most, if not all, other batters do only sporadically? The answer is the following:

He established a strong low center of gravity as the ball was release by the pitcher.

He greatly diminished the movement of his head and eyes (with short, subtle stride).

He waited patiently for the ball to get to him while he quietly lowered his hands to begin an unobtrusive rhythm of his arms.

When the ball got to his hitting zone, 4 things happen simultaneously:

  1. The front foot planted quickly and firmly—front leg began straightening.
  2.  Front shoulder shrugged upwardly, while back shoulder and elbow drove downward (hands, while staying behind back shoulder, presented a flat bat as the body was torquing  and addressing the pitched ball).
  3. Back bent knee drove forward and down, as hips turned rapidly
  4. The shoulders followed the hips in rapid succession with arms extending through the contact of the ball.

From contact, through the straightening of arms, through the follow through, the shoulders were continuously flowing, until they (shoulders) had changed positions (back to front and vice-versa).

Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds HRBarry  Bonds 9

There has been no greater practitioner of “perfect-timing” in  consistently hitting a baseball than Barry Bonds.

Coming Soon: Part 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power and Efficiency from Momentum and Perfect Timing – Part 1

Power and Efficiency from Perfect TIMING

“Perfect-timing” is a matter of combining momentum with vibrational-alignment in space to  “focus” precisely with place and time! In all of Professional sports, especially of the individual variety like tennis, golf, swimming, boxing, bowling, skiing, skate-boarding, etc., the sportsman fine-tunes his craft to such a degree that most casual observers do not recognize the exact mechanism by which “perfect-timing” for each specific movement is accomplished. In this year’s U.S. Open in Tennis (2014), even the most unrefined spectator could notice that Roger Federer’s timing was anything but perfect for his first two sets against France’s Gael Monfils. Even the commentators were implying that Monfils was controlling the Match with almost flawless precision while Federer was mishitting most of his usually masterful strokes, and headed for a dismal defeat. What was it that redefined the match in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th sets to enable Federer to regain his precision-timing, and for the most part Monfils’ to lose control, and lead to Roger’s “thrilling” victory, and Gael’s agonizing defeat?

Perfect-timing begins with the mind of the Elite Athlete. The understanding of what needs to be done, and the determination and intent to allow his body to follow-through with Confidence is almost always the most contributing factor for superlative and “timely” performance.Ali 3

Nothing depicts “perfect-timing” in sports better than a slow-motion sequence of movements by a boxer as he delivers a devastating “knock-out” blow to the chin of his opponent after countering his adversary’s “right or left-hook” and immediately applying a quick and precise “right-cross” of his own. And no one was better at “counter-punching” than Mohammed Ali (formerly Cassius Clay). Not known primarily as a power-puncher, he still managed to knock out most of his opponents with his quick and precise application of focused intent at an instant soon after his attacker tried to apply a strike, or after he himself had delivered a feint jab.

Muhammad-Ali-1MuhammadAli5ALI 8MuhammadAli7

It’s hard for a “normal” person, whose reflexes cannot be compared to the quickness of Ali’s, to recognize the incredible “timing mechanism” that is involved within such a nanosecond of time. Even ring-side announcers often attribute such imposing characteristics of a “rapid-fire” boxer as that of having “fast-hands”. All they seem to be able to see is the glove-in-hand as it strikes the unfortunate face of a recipient of “focused intent”. Most casual observers hardly notice that the speed and power of the punch does not emanate merely from the pounding fists.

Anyone watching a boxer, or even an actor portraying a fighter, shadow-boxing to the lens of a camera, is usually fascinated by the quickness of his movements as he sets forth a series of rapid fire punches from various angles depicting a flurry of potential blows that would strike an opponent. But anyone, with a little training, could replicate that scene and feel the confidence of that surreal experience, just enough to get his “ass-kicked” if he took the temptation too far. Sylvester Stallone’s fictional “Rocky Balboa” looks pretty good as he shadow-boxes atop the steps of a Philadelphia landmark, but his counter-punching prowess will always be limited to the “Silver-screen”. It’s not how quick or fast you seem to be; it’s how quick you are to respond in the proper fashion to a given stimulus, at the correct and precise time.

Power-punching in boxing and “Power-swinging” in Baseball mean nothing if the focus of precise timing is not in alignment with purest intent. As powerful as Sonny Liston was when he encountered Cassius Clay, he couldn’t hit Clay if he cornered him in a telephone booth. Cassius’s quick reflexes and counter-punching ability left Liston waving at the air as he was being pummeled to the canvas by flurries of furious fists, the tidal-wave of which emanated from his fast footwork, and powerful torquing action of hips and torso.

muhammad-ali 12muhammad-ali13muhammad-ali6 muhammad-ali 11

A Professional baseball player with even a cursory understanding of “Batting Technique” can simulate what would be considered “the perfect swing” while he is “shadow-swinging” in the on-deck circle. But when he gets into that “rarefied cubicle of variable distinction” his purpose now transforms from a single-dimensional component to the challenging variables of myriad proportions. For a batter the quintessential question is, “how do I put my perfect swing into play at precisely the “right time” as the pitcher is doing everything he can to off-set my “perfect-timing”? A batter who guesses “fast-ball”, and receives a “fast-ball” has a perfect opportunity to produce his “perfect swing”, and perhaps launch a prodigious blast. But, of course, his figuratively “perfect swing” does not mean that he will make “perfect-contact” with the ball, but at least he was afforded the opportunity for optimal expression of maximum muscular function while simply “fouling” the pitch back. The “timing” was there, but something in the “technique” was lacking.

A boxer who discerns his chance for a “counter-punch” to obliterate his opponent, and then fails to apply that finishing touch because of something lacking in his technique, will certainly regret not taking advantage of his rare opportunity. (Monfils had distinct opportunities in the 4th set to “finish-off” Federer with either of two “match-points”, but failed to facilitate the bodily rhythm and precision timing to coordinate the proficiency to put Roger away – he lacked stamina and will – Focus!)

The Major-League pitcher in the previous scenario will recognize his good fortune, and certainly not repeat a pitch without altering its location or the velocity. To which, the batter will almost certainly fail to replicate his “perfect-timing” and be caught off-balance and perhaps “punched out”.

Within the context of its everyday regimen, Baseball is first a one-on-one confrontation (Batter vs. Pitcher) like Boxing (normally without pugilistic intent and public vilification).

Perfect timing without proper technique may afford a preliminary sense of efficiency by consistently contacting the ball, but without ostensible power. And, proper technique, without an ability to effect the perfect timing, might make a good first- impression to casual onlookers, but without good-timing, that beautiful swing will go for naught.

Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionTed Williams - swingTedWilliamsShortSwing2Carl_Yastrzemski 2Yaz-3Yas100934860.JPGhankaaron 1
Bonds -stancebonds - contact 2Barry Bonds HR

Coming Soon: Part 2

“The Stride” : Totally Impertinent to a Productive Baseball Swing!

The first metaphysical component to the perfect swing of a baseball bat is the ability to inhibit one’s own personal proclivity to attack the oncoming pitched ball with direct linear force. The psychological tendency to meet an attacker head-on, with equal force, in order to counteract an over-powering momentum, most often imposes an obliteration effect that can prove unproductive in either direction.

The batter, when encountering the power of a 90 to 100 mph fastball, does not want to be intimidated by what could be an overwhelming force of speed. So he seems magnetically drawn in the direction from which the ball is coming, to offset somewhat the intent of the oncoming projectile. Figuratively, attacking the ball is attacking the opponent (pitcher) who threw it. The linear movement in the direction from which the ball is coming can give only an illusory sense of contrived confidence and facilitation to deploy a resourceful counterattack. Since the first incidence of an actual counterattack cannot proceed until the front foot plants itself to the ground, the airborne foot only creates a factor of vulnerability to the batter whose visual acuity is already substantially distorted by any movement of the head and eyes that automatically occurs as the body lunges forward.

All Big-League pitchers either consciously or unwittingly ascribe to the famous quote attributed to Hall of Fame Pitcher, Warren Spahn: “It is the objective of every batter to establish an unobtrusive rhythm of momentum in order to ‘time’ and hit the pitched ball with maximum efficiency; while it is the Pitcher’s goal to upset that rhythm so the batter has difficulty in ‘timing’ the pitch and hitting the ball with ‘authority’”.

It is incumbent upon every batter to establish a rhythm in order to gain a sense of momentum to counteract the force of speed and power elicited by the throwing action of the pitcher’s body and arm before he can effectively initiate his swing. The most common prelude to any batter’s swing (professional or non-professional) is the usually-accepted “stride”. This stride can be utilized in a fashion either linear (straight-forward) or eliptical (front knee kick).Mickey Mantle 1Mickey Mantle 2RodriguezAlex 1

In the two photos of Mickey Mantle (above)it can be observed that he sometimes took a stride of about 2 feet, and was quite a notable bats-man who struck out a lot. Within the 50 or so years since Mantle and other former Baseball dignitaries graced the Major-League playing fields, new theories for greater batting prowess have evolved that would try to lessen the margins for error in swinging the bat, to diminish the strike out rate that the “long-stride” seemed to perpetuate.

The “high-leg kick” (like A-Rod, above) was an attempt at stabilizing the “head-from-moving” while still providing enough rythmic momentum to initiate the batter’s timing mechanism. The front foot would not stride out (as Mantle’s did) but simply relocate to the point from which it began. And, from there the action of swing could be initiated while the head and eyes remained relatively stable.

The swing itself cannot begin until the front foot has planted into the ground. And there have been many times when a batter’s foot was still in stride as the ball was in a position to be swung at. Or the foot was urgently planted a lot earlier than appropriate for swinging at the pitch. In either event the batter’s timing was adversely affected by the “stride”, from which he was too early or too late. Also, the stride, whether linear or eliptical, moves the body, which moves the head which contains the eyes which would see the ball (as clearly as possible). The only solution from which to eliminate or diminish substantially the “margin for error” that depreciates a batter’s vision and timing  effectiveness is the “No-Stride”.

If a batter would “not-stride” he would eliminate the most detrimental margin of error in the complicated network of proficient “bats-man-ship”—seeing the ball with optimal acuity. Even if the distance and abruptness of the stride are negligible, keeping the head and eyes perfectly still is virtually impossible while the body is traversing any number of vertical planes. A single degree of movement would negate the level of efficiency to that same extent and nullify perfect acuity. If a batter could entertain the prospect of hitting .400, he would certainly have to reduce the margins of error with regard to all aspects of mental and physical procedures, of which optimal seeing is a top priority.

The problem that all batters face is their own reluctance to understand that the stride is not necessary for applying a forceful front foot plant just prior to the swing itself. It is merely a matter of mental and physical conditioning to attain the proper foot-plant to negotiate the swing. First, mentally recognizing the good prospect of the “non-stride”, then physically practicing the reaction-time sequence of maximum effort and movement ultimately will acclimate the batter to a higher proficiency level.

The “non-stride” entails a number of components that, if not considered equally important to each other, affect the integrity of the batting mechanism. But to understand the legitimacy of the non-stride is the first step in patiently conquering the .400 barrier.

Without a stride the batter can be assured of the best possible visual acuity for tracking the in-coming pitch.

The following conditioning sequence will facilitate a habit-forming regimen to accommodate the essential training needed to begin the conquest of stagnant hitting deficiency.

4-STEP HITTING DRILL: (This should be done without a bat first, then with a bat after total DSC_0119DSC_0120DSC_0121DSC_0122DSC_0123coordination has been mastered.)

 

Step 1 – Assume a position of maximum strength and balance. Get as low a stance as to not feel too uncomfortable, with feet spread at the distance of your normal stride. (Remember, a low stance gives you a natural advantage of a smaller strike zone as well as a fundamental posture for stronger and quicker movement. If you understand the value of this “principle,” any physical discomfort you seem to have with a low stance will diminish as your body becomes acclimated through repetition and positive results.) Then begin the repetition of the entire hip-shoulder “weight-transfer,” step by step. Repeat five attempts focusing on the straightening of the front leg, by pushing down hard on the front foot with the feeling of pushing your body backward. If the body does actually fall backwards, off balance, your back foot and bent knee are not doing what are required of them.

Step 2– Focus on the action of the back leg. With a low stance, as you assume that the transfer of weight is imminent, drive the back bent-knee forward with force, rotating from the outside of the big toe of the back foot. Focus on maintaining a bent back leg during the simulation, but be conscious of the other three stages (especially the front leg).

Step 3—Focus on front shoulder action. As front foot is planting, be focused on how forcefully you can shrug and pull the front shoulder up and backward. If the movement feels weak, it’s probably because the hips did not initiate the action.

Step 4—Focus on back shoulder and elbow. When the front shoulder shrugs, the back shoulder (with elbow) automatically lowers. The muscles of the Pectoral (in chest) and Latissimus (in back) areas drive the elbow down and forward ahead of the top hand. The hand is thus in a palm-up position to force a flat bat through the ball. So focus on the backside of the upper body coming through. But be conscious that the front side seems to be initiating the action.

After these four steps have been mastered, use a bat and go through them again, using a batting tee until mastery is attained. After that, go through the same procedure, this time combining step one with step two, and step three with step four, making it a two-step drill. (Then, step two with step four, and step one with step three.)DSC_0125DSC_0126DSC_0128DSC_0129DSC_0130

Remember, you are working to see how fast you can complete the entire action “perfectly”. Only perfect practice will make perfect, so perform the drills at full speed with the expectation of reacting faster as the mechanics of the swing are perfected. Eventually you can move the tee to cover all the areas of the strike zone. Remember also, to assure that the head not move, refrain from taking a stride—you really don’t need it anyway if you perfect the “four step” drill.

Also Remember: When assuming your stance, always have the front foot pointed at a 120 degree angle (or slightly less)to the pitcher, not a 90 degree angle (or less) which many batters assume because they have been told that it will keep their front hip and shoulder from opening too quickly. The front foot, at a 120 degree angle, will allow the weight transfer during the swing to be more accommodating to the front knee, ankle, and foot joints. While, at 90 degrees or less, the tension on the front foot, ankle, and knee can have a dire affect on the ligaments and tendons while the body is twisting and turning on its rotating axes. Harold Baines and Ryan Howard can attribute their knee and ankle problems, as well as their erratic batting proficiency, to the extremely awkward front foot positioning in their stances (and plant). Just look at the front foot positioning of outstanding hitters such as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, to validate the proper transfer of weight during the swing.Ted Williams (feet in stance)joe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plate

 

Coming Soon: Perfect Timing is Key to Perfect Batting!

 

 

Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay: Why do Two Illustrious Careers have to End Prematurely?

Why did Nolan Ryan’s career last 26 years, a time that allowed him to set countless records while staying  relatively free from injury? And why is it that Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander seemed to have been headed for Baseball immortality but suddenly sidestepped “legendary” expectations?

All 3 of the aforementioned pitchers were outstanding athletes, who sustained their great physical conditions with vigorous and energetic work habits. All of the above applied to their lower bodies what could be said as “proper mechanics” for pitching. But, of the 3, only Nolie took advantage of proper “Upper-body” mechanics to facilitate the most effortless, efficient, and powerful delivery of the pitched ball.

It is only a matter of subtle margins of error that separate the great from the greater or greatest, especially when it comes to longevity and freedom from injury. Two schools of opposing thought would insist that a thrower of a baseball has either, “a limited amount of repetitious competitive throws, and then decline is a certainty”; while the other would say that, “when the margins for error are reduced to the barest minimum with a technique of proper mechanical precision, a thrower could expect to  repeat the throwing action of a 5 ounce baseball to his maximum intensity indefinitely while his body and arm are conditioned to offset the effects of mental and physical fatigue”.

The following photos of Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay are perfect depictions of at least one “margin-of-error” that undoubtedly contributed to their relative declines in pitching prowess over the years.  Attributes to their successes were the unrelenting “work-habits” both espoused, in order to keep their bodies and arms in shape over the relatively long careers at the tops of their game. Unfortunately for both, the mechanical technique, that each had fostered and attributed to his relative success, is the actual “weak-link” in the otherwise masterful display of pitching dominance that finally ended with undue strain to the shoulder.

Roy_Halladay1Roy_Halladay3verlander2Verlander1

To borrow a quote from my Book, The Principle of Baseball…, the “axiom” that fits perfectly for both of these magnificent athlete-pitchers is: “The farther away the ball moves from the body, as the arm is preparing to throw it, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow). As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand it should remain as close as possible to the ‘Body-Proper’, while the arm is ‘whipping’ itself to the forward thrusting position. (Nolan Ryan is the best exponent of this ‘principle’.)

NolanRyan 13Nolan-Ryan 1Nolan-Ryan 3Nolan Ryan 8nolan-ryan 5Nolan Ryan 4nolan-ryan 15

The weight-bearing excess that both Halladay and Verlander have displayed over the years has finally taken its toll, and while it is probably too late for Halladay to make a “come-back”, it is certainly not too late for Verlander to change his delivery and eliminate that one particular “margin-of-error” that would contribute to a severe reduction of his former premier pitching status.

Anyone with a “sense” of mechanical propriety could not but notice the excessive weight-bearing strain on the shoulder of Roy Halladay in the following two photos:

Roy_Halladay2Roy_Halladay5 Verlander’s delivery is identical.

But, look at the less weight-bearing position of the bent-elbow positions of Nolie, Randy Johnson (who, by the way, was tutored by Nolan), and Curt Schilling:

Nolan Ryan 2Randy J 15Randy J. 13C.Schilling 12

 

That’s All I Have to Say ’bout That”

 

 

 

The ONLY Practical Way for M.L.B. to Eliminate the “Bean-Ball”!

mean baseball face

My favorite television station is MLB. It is on almost continuously when I am at home. I enjoy the commentary of all the “main-players”, Greg, Brian, Matt, Tom, Kenny, Harrold, Dan, Al, Joel, Billy, Sean, and of course Heidi and other outstanding female analysts (Where have Mitch and Alana been?). And Bob Costas is certainly appreciated, leading the  discourse in “Round-Table” discussions and private interviews.

It is always interesting to me when the topic of any discussion borders on “unbecoming behavior” that is either justified by the staff’s ex-ball-players and vilified by non-ball-players, or categorically criticized in specific situations by x-ball-players and unquestionably condemned on principle by the “non-jocks”. There is no discussion that comes under higher scrutiny and vigorous discussion than that area of Baseball mystique known as the “bean-ball” – the deliberate intent of a pitcher to administer to a batter the bludgeoning effect of his best “fast-ball” to any part of the batter’s body, without any conscious concern for the well-being of that person’s body nor the possible affect the damage could have on the career of the afflicted player. The “jocks” on the Staff almost always contend that “It’s” just part of the Game, but, under any particular circumstance, will amend their bias with a softened response, for fear they will be thought of as ultra-insensitive to the public outcry that most certainly would not agree with them.

The analysts like Greg, and Brian, Jon, and Matt who empathize with the most typically “cautionary” fans (especially kids) find that any degree of flagrant “un-sportsman-ship” as totally disrespectful, not only to the the Sport of Baseball itself and Its common (but sometimes unwitting)representative(s), but to “man-kind” in general. The “new-wave” Sports Connoiseur of this modern era is becoming more appreciative of the active role that Major-League Baseball has taken to assure that both the fans and players are not denied their inalienable right of unopposed security at ball-games whenever and wherever it is conceivably possible. When fights break out (often because of pitcher/batter altercations)pac_1, M.L.B. administrators are quick to penalize the most blatant of personnel aggressiveness. Those culprits displaying the most offensive of battery attacks are severely reprimanded. “Sucker-punches”  and other blatantly violent actions are particularly frowned upon. But, even this “un-sports-man-like” behavior still persists because the reactions don’t usually have a direct impact on the outcome of the game. So, the Game goes on, and no solution seems to be fast-coming to stop the “bean-ball”. The cavalier attitude that many players and x-players seem to posture is hard to fathom by other more-sympathetic ex-players, and “analysts” who  would never knowingly place themselves in a position of being hit (anywhere on their bodies) by a hard, 5-ounce, round projectile traveling at a speed between 90 to 100 MPH. It’s not easy for “sane” people to understand some aspects of the “hard-nosed” baseball mentality. Are those individuals who think the “bean-ball” should remain as part of the game simply CRAZY, or just plain STUPID? Has it become so ingrained in their collective psyche, that the prospect of being bludgeoned by that blunt instrument so beloved by countless participators of the art of surviving close encounters, that the joy of overcoming the pain and tissue-damage is worth it? Walk into any baseball locker-room as the players are dressing into their uniforms and accessory equipment and you’ll see bumps and bruises, fresh or festering, that are reminiscent of bad-hop grounders or incidental mishaps from grazed pitches innocently gone awry. The most striking, of course, are those deeply darkened bruises that sink into the lower reaches of bodily tissue that stem from being hit deliberately by a 95 mile an hour fastball. The bodily flesh of “Big-Papi” and Andrew McCutchen would certainly bear witness to such atrocities. Bones have been broken or chipped, concussions have occurred, rib-cartilage has been separated, Star athletes have been disabled, and still M.L.B. has not found a platform from which to mount an aggressive curtailing of such fierce and unrelenting indignities to the Sport of Baseball.

Greg, Brian, Matt, Jon, and “others” are constantly implying that the Game has changed and is continually changing for the better. And it appears that their patience and passive resistance to ossified “baseball mentality” will ultimately prevail as the “old-school- dinsaurs” are replaced by the clarity of enlightened and hospitable thinkers. The “Bean-ball” has always been part of the Game; but there is no legitimate reason for it to remain. No one really wants it. The problem is that no one can figure out a reasonable and responsible way to get rid of it. The well-respected and recent Hall-of-Fame inductee, Tony LaRussa recently inflamed the issue by justifying the actions of the Arizona Diamond-Backs’ deliberate attack on Andrew McCutchen because of what accidentally happened to the Diamond-backs Paul Goldsmidth. His main point was that it made no difference as to pure intent, but that both players were side-lined indefinitely. Most people are incensed by what might be construed as to his callous indifference to the “Rightness and the Wrongness” in the individual cases. Not even Tony’s litigious expertise will vindicate his argument to public opinion. But his main point must be considered deeply. Any pitcher, who insists on coming in tight to a batter, may simply accidentally hit a batter (like Goldsmidth). Even the Diamond-back pitchers do this. It is impossible to regulate. So a real practical solution seems impossible!  Right!

Nothing is impossible in Baseball. And the MLB Commissioner’s Office has the ultimate power to  implement rule changes that can improve the quality of play, and every aspect of the Game. It has utilized this power many times already. The ONLY-ONLY-ONLY way  to stop this prevalent and “most-egregious” and  disrespectful act of “Baseball-Vengeance” is to allocate to a batter, who is struck with direct force  by one of a pitcher’s fastest thrown balls (not change-ups, curve balls, Knukle balls), 2 bases and not just 1 base.

The reason that this will stop the “bean-ball”, and even the accidental mishap, is because it will put the actual game in jeopardy, and not merely the bats-man. The pitcher without pin-point control is going to think twice about coming inside. The team who still harbors a sense of retribution is going to have to wait until his team is either winning or losing by 10 runs in late innings in order to feed its archaic sense of satisfaction. If a batter is wearing “batting armor” on his elbow or arm, and it is obvious that he incurred no bodily injury, or if the ball simply grazed any other part of the body, then the umpire would award the batter one base only. It is a simple accommodation to a batter and a team. There is no legitimate reason for not enacting this kind of rule. Also, recently our celebrated analysts have been discussing ways that stimulate the hitters in Major-League Baseball to enhance there batting prowess. This rule would certainly afford batters a little more confidence, and at least marginally improve their productivity. Run production should increase – with bases loaded, a solidly hit batman would drive in two runs. Even with no one on base, a hit bat-man is placed in scoring position. Is any defensive team willing to risk such a scenario. Even the Diamond-backs would find themselves contemplating the consequence. Hopefully their Organization will not pursue a way to circumvent the intent of the “Law”.

Is Chris Davis the Next Barry Bonds (without steroids)? (Or Do We Look for Another?) – Part 3 of 3

2001-10-05-bonds homerun-follow throughBarry Bonds 11Mark McGwire 6Chris Davis 3Chris Davis 4

 

Anyone who was able to observe the physical transformation that took place “within” the bodies of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds (not to mention the countless others presumed to have taken Performance Enhancing Drugs) would have to (at least) admire the “intelligent dedication” that it must have taken to re-form those bodies with such symmetrical precision. Most on-lookers could hardly hold back personal desires to look that good in a baseball uniform. But, of course, now understanding the fraudulent manner in which “exaggerated power” was extracted from those bodies, most people (especially “baseball people”) disengage themselves from remarks or comments validating the natural abilities of those who may have enhanced their prowess by using P.E.Ds.

It’s hard to say whether, or not, Sammy Sosa would have attained “immortal” status in the world of Baseball had he gone the “Natural” route to stardomSammy Sosa2, but it is a good bet that both McGwire and Bonds would have become Baseball “Legends” under the auspices of their own physical and mental accoutrements. McGwire hit 49 Home Runs in the first Major-League season, with a body, while sturdy and powerful, far less muscularly ostentatious than “Ozark IKE” or “Lil’ ABNER”. Mark Mcgwire 4 And Bonds, during the 1990s, and weighing in at 185 lbs,Barry Bonds Pirates 1992 (2) Barry Bonds Pirates 1992Barry Bonds Pirates 1992 (4)was the most prolific hitter in Baseball. And at the times that it is presumed each began taking steroids, they each incurred numerous bouts on the disabled lists while coping with the effects of the somewhat inexact science of artificially enhanced muscle development.

Although most “unscientific-minds” would accredit both McGwire’s and Bond’s successes with the use of P.E.Ds, they would be correct only in the categories as to the distances of their Home Runs and to those few home-runs that barely cleared the fence. For when they made good contact with their bats, the ball was going out, with or without steroids. The main reason for their successes was undoubtedly their consistent practice of proper mechanics, with a scientific approach to hitting a baseball. There is no telling how good they would have been without steroids, but less injuries probably would have occurred without P.E.Ds.

That player who is closest to replicating the prowess of Bonds and McGwire (without steroids) is Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles. The ONLY thing he needs to do is get rid of his Shawn Green Tall and Opened stance – Chris Davis (Stance)Shawn Green 3

When the  pitch is delivered, he glides toward the plate and sets himself in perfect position. Chris Davis 3Unfortunately for him, it is too late to see the ball and follow it with exact precision. Barry and Mark, would have been set as the ball was leaving the pitchers’ hand, heads still, while unobtrusively “gathering” the momentum of the body to explode rapidly as the front foot planted firmly into the ground. (Nothing can  happen until the front foot is planted, so why have it suspended for any uncertain time.)The back bent knee would drive forward as the front shoulder shrugged upward to start the flattening bat to proceed with the “turnstile” rotation of hips and shoulders. The front leg would straighten as the back-side momentum carried the weighted force along the twisting horizontal plane, the arms bringing the bat through the strike-zone with as much precision as the still but penetrating eyes could design.

Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatMark McGwire 3Mark McGwire 6

 

If Chris Davis would start from this position Chris Davis 3, but avoid the stride completely, he would be more ready for any pitch thrown to him. Then he would simply plant his front foot, and let the rest of his swing occur in its otherwise majestic sequence. C.Davis 7Chris Davis 4Chris Davis 2Chris Davis 1 With his natural power ( not needing to be steroid enhanced) Chris is the front-runner to legitimately replicate the Bonds’ mystique and carve out a niche in Baseball’s legendary “Hall of Heroes”. But only if he changes his false-impression of “proper hitting technique”! He must incorporate a new stance, and approach to the ball with thought-processes and actions of the scientific application of the proper batting mechanics practiced most consistently by Barry, and Mark (the vanguard to such scientific-artistry being attributable  to Ted WilliamsTedWilliamsShortSwing2).

Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatbonds - contact 2Barry Bonds 17Barry Bonds 21Mark McGwire 5Mark McGwire 1Chris Davis 4

 

It would be a shame if Chris Davis follows in the foot-steps of Shawn Green and fails to fulfill his Baseball Destiny. Chris, “’tis but a little thing, Dropped in the heart’s deep well; The good, the joy that it may bring, Eternity shall tell”.

Coming Soon: The ONLY practical way for M.L.B. to stop the “Bean-ball”!

Why Shawn Green was not the Next Ted Williams! Part 2 of 3

During his 14 year Major-League career Shawn Green looked as though he could have been destined to become the next Ted Williams. He was a left-handed hitter, tall, slender, with features closely resembling those of Williams, including remarkable strength, quickness of bat, and fluidity of movement that Ted exhibited. williams.bat (1)He may even have had his keen eyesight.

If Shawn had ever thought of himself as a possible replication of the “Immortal” Williams, it was never evident in his own style of bats-man-ship – his approach to the ball. Shawn Green 3TedWilliamsShortSwing2

And that stance and approach to the ball are what prevented him from becoming the  “next Ted Williams”!

Although Shawn displayed every recognizably natural, physical attribute of Mr. Williams, he did not have the willingness (good sense) to  attempt to duplicate the scientifically sound mechanics that Ted practiced with profound consistency, beginning with his stance. Shawn Green was an outstanding ball-player both offensively and defensively. He even hit 4 Home Runs in one game. But the ultimate success that he would have achieved could only have come had he abandoned his “High- Opened” stance, the irony of which he accredited to the minimum success he was able to achieve.Shawn Green 2

As I have elaborated on in previous essays, the 3 most detrimental habits or propensities that a batter can display while trying to hit a baseball are:

1. Standing Tall – This creates greater strike-zone for the pitcher to negotiate, a high center of gravity to diminish the batter’s speed with which to negotiate the subtleties of the pitched ball, and diminished visual acuity for following the ball that is transcending countless horizontal planes into the lower portion of the strike-one.

2. Hands and Bat High – Even in a good crouch position the bat up high establishes a “higher” center of gravity as well as presents the batter with a nebulous sense of how to approach the pitched ball (e.g. Matt Kemp)Kemp Stance 7.  A pitch high and out of the strike zone sometimes looks too enticing to the hands and bat that are at its level. A middle level pitch is easy swing under. And a low pitch (the best prospect to hit well) can sometimes effect a “horse-shoe” swing.Matt Kemp 2

3. The “Stride” – Any stride at all is a deterrent to efficient hitting because the whole body moves. Mickey Mantle 1Mickey Mantle 2And with the body moves the head which houses visual mechanism for seeing the ball, and all its subtle  movements. But of the 3 types of deliberate strides, that one from an “opened stance” is the most egregious of all because the movement of head and eyes is toward home plate. Most batters, who adopt the open-stance, act with the false assumption that they see the ball more clearly because, as they begin their movement toward the plate, their faces and eyes are totally “frontal” to the pitchers’ delivery. Supposedly, if one eye is less dominant from the other, together and parallel they will see more clearly. Whether that is true, or not, as the body turns as to approach the plate and the ball, the eyes are “closed” again, with one in front of the other. So the strategy thus serves no practical purpose.

Batters in an open-stance can be successful for a while, because more pitchers can be under the false-assumption that such a batter is looking for the inside pitch, to pull. So their instincts tell them to keep the ball away. This type of batter’s momentum is generally going with the ball away, and hits it well. He will guess when a pitcher is going to come inside, and be ready. But after a while the good pitchers will understand this batter’s intentions and figure out how handle him properly. If the pitcher starts such a batter with inside “heat”, then works him slightly outside the strike-zone, then back to inside strikes, the batter will usually not be able to adjust to the variance effectively.

Shawn Green 3 As you might be able to surmise, this typical picture of Shawn Green at bat presents multiple “margins for error”. You can notice his large strike-zone in which to try to discern the greatest variance of pitches from top to bottom within the strike-one. Since he stood so  close to the plate, he covered the width of it very well. But, when gliding inward, pitchers started finding him extremely vulnerable to inside “heat”. He was always quick enough to get out in front of the fast-ball, but almost always pulled it foul (if he didn’t get “jammed”). Then, “soft-stuff” away caught him off-balance.

Most batters who stride don’t realize to what extent even the slightest  movement of the head and eyes has on the visual acuity for seeing most clearly a moving object. Plus, when the front foot is in the air, the batter has trouble putting it down at the right time (especially on off-speed pitches). Even catching a moving object while the body is in motion is difficult. Trained outfielders were not always adept at chasing and catching fly-balls. And catching a low throw while standing erect presents the same difficulty as hitting a ball from a high-stance. Imagine yourself with only a catcher’s mitt in hand, and standing erect behind home-plate while attempting to catch an Arnoldus Chapman knee-high fastball(105 MPH). Then imagine yourself Moving while trying to catch it. A catcher in a low, stable, and still position has difficulty catching it. So a batter in a high and moving approach to a pitched ball is always a detriment to his own best intentions. Exacerbated even further is the “high-opened-stance” and stride toward the plate.

Shawn Green, like all otherwise outstanding batters,  did not (and do not)realize that Baseball is more than “a game of inches”, as the traditional cliche implies, but rather “a game of milli-microns”, where the light of understanding is transcended in Science. The scientific logic that his approach was lacking legitimacy went beyond Shawn’s superficial testimony of sense that convinced him that his technique “felt good”. To his credit, Shawn was never a “bad-hitter”, he simply never attained the greatness that he could have experienced – the “next Ted Williams!

Ted Williams was probably the epitome of the “Ideal-Hitter.” He approached “hitting” from a scientific standpoint. T. Williams - Science 3Therefore, it wasn’t so much how he felt at the plate. It was how well he was following his understood principle that determined the outcome of his stroke, in most of his batting situations.si_ted-williams-science-2

To watch Ted at the plate one would become aware of the fact that the act of hitting a baseball efficiently is both an “Art” and a “Science”. Those who demonstrate a high degree of talent in any of the various art forms could easily be described as “artists”. There is adequate evidence to indicate that many or most good artists (of which athletes like Shawn Green are included) have a “natural” propensity toward the artisan-ship in which they are engaged. But their optimal level of proficiency is most often derived from the degree to which they accumulate enhanced understanding by means of scientific examination of all aspects of their chosen profession. Therefore, hitting a baseball most effectively would have to be construed as both an Art and a Science. And that is why it would be easy to remember this “Master of the Bat” for his scientific artistry in hitting a baseball.

Coming Soon: Is Chris Davis the Next Barry Bonds (without Steroids)? Part 3 of 3

 

 

 

There are no “Bad-Hitters” in Major-League Baseball: Part 1 of 3

Chris Davis 2Shawn Green 3Bonds -stanceSporting News MLB Baseball Collection

Every position-player in Big-League Baseball is, or has been, a “good-hitter”. This season (2014), as of July 19th, Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles has established his batting average of .200 as the lowest in Major League Baseball. Does that make him a “bad-hitter”? Just last season, he was vying for the American League M.V.P. Is he doing things at the plate this year that are completely different from last season? Not really! He is the same powerful left-handed hitter with a fluid and beautiful swing and picturesque follow-through that made his debut with the Orioles last season. Chris Davis 1But the pitchers last year, who had not familiarized themselves with his “margins-for-error” (except on rare occasions), let him claim dominion in their one-on-one confrontations.

This year, Davis’ same “margins-of-error” are still present, but someone has informed the other teams’ pitchers how to exploit that deficiency quotient to their advantages. (He still managed to hit 15 or 16 H.R.s, so they haven’t been perfect in their applications.) When Chris actually begins his swing at a pitched ball, he is down low, and his body facilitates the movement of hips, shoulders, hands, bat with majestic beauty and form.

Chris Davis 3Chris Davis 4

Unfortunately, all the preliminary and inessential movement that precedes his swing are what contribute greatly to his current batting deficiency.Chris Davis (Stance)

Since “margins-of-error” include mental as well as physical habits that detract from mechanical efficiency for batting prowess, both the pitchers’ and his mind-sets have been rearranged to favor the pitchers. Last year, his mental inclination to “look away” for both fast and breaking pitches (since his “open-stance” had him moving or leaning toward the plate), and respond quickly to a fast-ball on the inside or over the heart of the plate, proved itself as an effective strategy to compliment his positive physical attributes. This year, as the pitchers have found the “chinks” in his armor, his mental alertness is not as keen to detect the pitchers’ tendencies to “jam” him inside after they’ve induced him to foul both fast and breaking pitches away. His rhythm has been confused to the point of pulling the outside pitch for easy ground-balls to an over-shifted right-side of the infield, and is striking out on balls in the dirt. In his right mental attitude, he waits more patiently on the pitch moving away from him and goes with the pitch to the left side of the field.

Chris Davis could be the next “Barry Bonds” without steroids, C.Davis 7Barry Bonds 11just as Shawn Green Shawn Green 2could have been the next “Ted Williams”. ted_williams_ bat route

Chris has the raw-strength and majestically powerful swing of Bonds, while Shawn displayed, to a degree, the “splendid” finesse and wiry, slender grace and batting elegance of Williams. Unfortunately, at least one is harbinger to that inauspicious epithet of “greatness forlorn”. In Shawn Green’s day, Baseball didn’t have acute access to the Saber-metric approach to evaluating all the subtle accommodations to batting (as well as pitching) proclivities, so Shawn had a somewhat illustrious career until the “Book” came out on his simple deficiencies.

When he finished his career, after the Dodgers, in 2007, at age 34, he was still the same physical (and mental) specimen that he had been for years, strong, wiry, and potentially potent – His lone foible, his unwillingness to  change his approach to the pitched ball. He insisted (until the end) on Standing Tall, in Open-Stance, while gliding toward the plateShawn Green 3, even with all pitchers now jamming him with inside fast-balls, and catching him off-balance on soft pitches away. He could have been the Next Ted Williams!TedWilliamsShortSwing3

 

Coming Soon: Part 2 of 3 – Why Shawn Green wasn’t the next Ted Williams!