Science Destroys Hitting Myths In Baseball

University of Hawaii
First Of A 4-Part Series

HONOLULU, Hawaii — How do we hit a baseball?

Every baseball player and coach has an opinion. Even the greatest hitters and hitting coaches of the past 150 years have opinions on how to swing the bat properly.

It is my intent to provide some scientific insight that may aid teaching one of the most difficult skills in baseball. Who is right? Who has the answer?….It is now science’s turn to bat!

My journey began in the mid-1980s as I began the pursuit of using scientific evidence to help provide answers to the following questions:

(1) Biomechanically, how do the best hitters of all time, past and present, hit a baseball?

(2) How do we train a hitter to become a more successful hitter?

(3) Biomechanically, how do the best pitchers throw a baseball?.

(4) How do we train pitchers to throw harder with less injuries?

My quest for “truth” led me to Tom House, then pitching coach of the Texas Rangers. Together, with additional staff and high-tech equipment, we formed Bio-Kinetics, Inc., a “think-tank” biomechanical research company in Laguna Hills Calif.

In 1987, we began studying professional major league hitters and pitchers during live game performances and collected valuable film and video of Hall of Fame hitters and pitchers.

The analytical process was based on collecting “live” game performance swings and analyzing these swings using high-speed cameras and the Ariel Computerized Biomechanical Motion Analysis System. By using the Ariel System, we were able to measure and analysis the kinematics (time and space factors in the motion) of the hitters’ swings.

The kinematics included were linear and angular displacements (the change in a body’s location in space in a given direction), velocities, and accelerations.

The results helped us to determine the common swing components for all the hitters analyzed.

Over the course of the past 25 years we have been able to categorize hitters into the following sub-categories:

(1) Elite lifetime high average (.300 +) and power (35 home runs) hitters.

(2) high lifetime average hitters (.330 +).

(3) .275 to .300 average lifetime hitters.

(4) sub-.250 lifetime hitters.

As we studied the swings of the players in each sub-category, we were able to identify the common swing components that all successful hitters possess. We came to the realization that all major league hitters are to some degree successful, or they wouldn’t be “big leaguers.”

Scientific Analysis
Coaches and players, it is important that you understand the difference between the technique and style of the baseball swing.

Biomechanically, the technique of the hitter is his entire swing from preparation (stance and set-up) to follow through.

Within the swing technique, a player may use individual modifications such as unique timing or movements (e.g., the high leg kick of Alex Rodriguez and the high bat/hand position of Gary Sheffield).

These individual modifications of technique are defined as the style of the hitter. When we began analyzing major league hitters’ swings at Bio-kinetics, Inc., our purpose was to determine what the best hitters have in common.

The style of each hitter was considered in the analytical process especially if it was determined that the style influenced the hitter’s swing components. For the first time in the history of the game, we can now use scientific evidence to help separate fact from speculation.

Over the past few years, many misconceptions have been purported about the proper mechanics of the swing.

There have been several misnomers of the biomechanics of the swing that are being taught in the hitting communities that are not true.

The remainder of this article we will address three common misconceptions.

The first misconception in hitting numerous coaches believe is that there are two hitting systems — one for the singles/contact hitter and another for the gap/power hitter. All hitters move through a specific movement pattern.

To read more of this in-depth story, purchase the Feb. 11 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. Part 1 of this 4-part series delves into many areas, including what the best hitters do, understanding of torque, how it all works, keeping hands inside the ball and much more.