Did you know that...
 
...I have spoken repeatedly that "hitting is 50% from the neck up," yet few take the time to understand exactly what this means. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick had this to say about Chipper Jones:

"So why has Chipper Jones endured? In part, it's a matter of Jones' keeping his skills intact long enough for his game and what the pitcher is trying to accomplish in a given at-bat. "I'm definitely smarter now," Jones said. "I'm quicker to pick up on pitchers and teams -- how they're trying to pitch me, knowing pitchers' repertoires and what they're going to try and get you out with in a crucial situation. I'll sit on a pitch and wait the whole at-bat for that pitch. Young hitters don't do that."

My book, "The Mental Side of Hitting: A Guide to Out-Thinking the Pitcher," delves into this vital subject and teaches hitters what pitches to look for in certain situations (with less than two strikes). It is available in our online store
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"Are you kidding me, Mike? What the hell could you have possibly been looking for when the count was 2 & 0?"

— Ted Williams "patiently" explaining to me (in his own inimitable way) how to "think along with the pitcher." (And I really "cleaned" this up, as you might imagine....) 

Did you know that...

...when my son Jake was five and starting Tee Ball, he really scuffled. This really puzzled him because he had terrific eye-hand coordination and could already hit "live" pitching very well.
 
I was out of town for his first Tee Ball game. When I returned, I asked him how he did. He replied he couldn't get the ball out of the infield. Every time he swung he hit a slow grounder to second base. I told him I would be there for his next game and would take a look.
 
His first at-bat the following weekend, he hit a slow roller to second. He returned to the dugout, frustrated. He looked at me and mouthed, "I told you!"
 
I motioned to him to join me behind the bleachers where someone had left a hitting tee. I asked him to take his stance at the tee, as he had been doing. Sure enough, he positioned himself so the tee was directly between his legs. Being a right-hand batter, I asked him to put his left foot where his right foot was, then move his right foot rearward. This put the ball on the hitting tee out in front of his lead knee. I asked him to try this his next at-bat. He said he would.
 
The next swing he took, he hit a ball far over the left fielder's head. In fact it went so far, he didn't even chase it!  His next at-bat, he hit one even further.
 
After the game, his coach (who did not know who I was) came over and asked me what I told Jake that enabled him to hit the ball so far. I brought over the hitting tee and showed him. He looked at me incredulously, and without hesitating, said, "That isn't right!" I asked him why he thought it was "wrong." His response was, "Because nobody does it that way."
 
That, my friends, is the problem with hitting. And it gets worse from there. We are so locked into "conventional wisdom" we fail to change along with the game.
 
The Rest Of The Story: Despite his coach's reluctance, the other team quickly began copying Jake's positioning vis-à-vis the hitting tee. Eventually, so did the other teams. The result was EVERYONE hit better and had a great time. Ultimately, Jake's coach was "forced" by other team parents to make some "adjustments" so their youngsters could compete on a "level playing field."

 

Did you know that...
   

...an American League scout recently said (May, 2008) that, "Chipper Jones has an uncanny knack for keeping his hands back even when his lower half and his hips have begun to commit." So even when Jones starts his stride in anticipation of a fastball, he's still able to inflict damage if the pitcher throws a changeup or a curve."Uncanny knack?" This is simply the "hips leading the hands" (torque) principle that Ted Williams talked about which maximizes a hitter's power and bat speed (which incidentally, my staff and regionally-based Epstein Certified Instructors, routinely teach to players as young as ten years old).Also, notice how he "tilts" his body rearward to swing on the plane of the pitch. Says teammate Mark Texeira: "He rarely swings at bad pitches, and his bat stays in the zone so long." Tilt is vital to a hitter's success. People are beginning to understand this now, but it is more than articulating it to a hitter. In most cases, he must be SHOWN how to do it.

 ...softball pitchers are taught to throw "drops" down-and-in to hitters because softball hitters are taught to to swing "level" and to NOT drop their back shoulder? How does a hitter swing level and hit the pitch at their knees? They don't—and that's why FP pitchers pound that area. Why does pitching dominate in FP? Because the hitters (and what they are taught) allow them to dominate!
...rotational hitting is the only technique that employs the laws of physics? All movements in the proper swing should reflect the "equal and opposite" axiom to optimize physical movement. 
 
We are often asked if a hitter should have the back elbow "up" or "down" in the stance. Unfortunately, there is no absolute answer to this question. ALL hitters have different personal styles (pre-swing movements) which ultimately conform to a universal technique when the swing launches. If the rear elbow doesn't tuck "down and in" when the swing launches, the back arm will pre-extend outward, resulting in a "casting" motion. 
 This is a basic physics principle in action (left). Translating this phenomenon into correct hitting technique, when the rear elbow tucks "down and in," the lead elbow must work "up and away." Rotational hitting adheres to the principles of physics - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - the ONLY technique that does! 

...a baseball bat is the only retail product of significant value we purchase that comes with no directions how to use it?
 ..."resistance to change" and the "fear of embarrassment" are two major reasons why so many promising hitters never reach their potentials?
...that Tiger Woods TOTALLY revamped his swing in 1995 when he was golf's top-rated player? Everyone thought he was crazy! However, since his swing change, he has become even MORE dominant than before. It's interesting to note that Tiger plays for tens of millions of dollars and was willing to make adjustments and changes to get even better, yet baseball and softball parents will not even entertain the idea of change for their youngsters because they are simply "hitting?" Good hitters become great hitters with with the proper swing technique.
...pitchers are taught to stay under the hitter's swing plane? 
...Ted Williams swung a W215 model Louisville Slugger that was 35" long and weighed 33½ oz.?
...the major league average bat speed is 78 mph? 
...you're not learning anything unless you're "uncomfortable"?
...all great ideas seem absurd at first?
...proper hitting incorporates BOTH linear and rotational movements?
...the hotly contested debate on whether to hit with the elbow "up" or "down" is a "style" issue—NOT a mechanics issue?
...the toughest thing about success is that you've got to keep on being a success? 
...it's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere?
...the original concept of "linear" hitting barely resembles what it was 25 years ago?
...standing in the front of the batters' box decreases the closing distance between pitch release and bat-ball contact? The result is making the pitcher appear much faster and giving the batter less time to react.
...you can get there from here, but you should start pretty soon.
...determining how close or far away hitters should stand in relation to the plate is dependent on how well they stay "inside" the ball?
...there is no such thing as the "perfect swing?" The perfect swing is the adjustment the hitter makes to the pitch he gets. As a result, it constantly changes!
...that incorporating "torque" (the "kinetic link") into a hitter's mechanics is the linchpin for improving bat speed? ..."Rome wasn't built in a day?" However, PART of Rome was, and we should approach learning hitting technique the same way. One day at a time.
...there is big difference between bat "speed" and bat "quickness?" Bat speed measures bat velocity; bat quickness measures the time lapse from launch-to-contact. If a hitter has good bat quickness (major league average: .16 seconds), he will have high bat velocity. However, a hitter can have high bat velocity and NOT have good bat quickness. Torquing the body, or winding the "rubber band," is where hitters get high bat quickness.
..."no stride" hitting, when taught and executed correctly, does not decrease bat speed or power?
..."no stride" hitting allows the hitter to focus on the pitch better because of less body/head movement?
..."no stride" hitting gives the hitter considerably more time to gauge a pitch? 
...there are only TWO hitting techniques? A hitter either comes forward past his vertical axis or stays behind it. If he weight-shifts forward (continuously moves his vertical plane forward) as he swings, he is linear. Rotational hitters also weight-shift, but once they reach the balance point in their stride, they rotate around a stationary axis as they swing. Simply, hitters that "stay back" are rotational. A hitter CANNOT stay back and be considered linear. Click here for Mike's "Collegiate Baseball News" article.
...the "rise ball" doesn't "rise?" It is used the same way a high fastball is used in baseball. Its primary purpose is to change a hitter's "eye elevation."
...there is no "proper" batting stance? It's different for each hitter and is a product of the hitter's "style"—not his technique. 
...to get the "same" performance (read: production) from a wood bat that hitters get from aluminum, the wood bat should be two inches longer and two ounces heavier? Click here for Mike's "Collegiate Baseball News" article.