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:
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:
- The front foot planted quickly and firmly—front leg began straightening.
- 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).
- Back bent knee drove forward and down, as hips turned rapidly
- 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).
There has been no greater practitioner of “perfect-timing” in consistently hitting a baseball than Barry Bonds.
Coming Soon: Part 3