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

Mike Epstein and Ted Williams

"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... 

...Roy Halliday of the Philadelphia Phillies who pitched his second no-hitter of 2010, played for Mike (and with Jake) on a Denver-based championship team in 1987?

...Best First Basemen By Season, 1954-2008:
                                  (Partial list)

   NL   AL
1954  Ted Kluszewski  Mickey Vernon


 Stan Musial  Vic Power
1956   Stan Musial  Bill Skowron
1957   Stan Musial  Bill Skowron (Tie)
 Vic Wertz
1958   Stan Musial
 Gail Harris (Tie)
 Bill Skowron
1959   Frank Robinson  Vic Power
1960   Joe Adcock  Roy Sievers
1961   Dick Stuart  Norm Cash
1962   Bill White  Norm Siebern
1963   Orlando Cepeda  Norm Cash
1964   Orlando Cepeda (Tie)
 Bill White
 Norm Siebern
1965  Willie McCovey  Norm Cash
1966   Willie McCovey   Boog Powell
1967   Orlando Cepeda  Harmon Killebrew
1968   Willie McCovey  Norm Cash
1969   Willie McCovey  Mike Epstein

...from time-to-time I run into something on hitting which I find interesting and/or clueless. You decide:
"Cardinals' Sluggers Eager To Learn From McGwire"
by David Wright
The Denver Post
March 2, 2010
JUPITER, Fla. (Excerpts from the newspaper article)

... "We're good friends. I'm excited to get to spend some time with him and pick his brain. I think he's a great teacher." [Matt Holliday quote.]

"We hit in the cage one day," Holliday said. "... one of his big things [is] hitting down and through the ball. That's pretty much what he's been preaching ever since I met him." (McGwire photo, left)
... And suddenly McGwire, a man with a controversial past, has a future as a hitting coach.

"He's got some good things to offer," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of McGwire....

McGwire is excited to be back in the game after a self-imposed exile that followed his retirement after the 2001 season. He preaches the same thing, over and over. "You have a round ball with a round bat and there's only one way to hit it squarely. You have to go down to it," McGwire said.

Holliday is now a firmly established hitter who will bat cleanup behind three-time MVP Albert Pujols, as he did the final two months last season after the Oakland A's traded him.

Pujols swing"He thinks Albert [Pujols] (photo, left) has the perfect swing and he's trying to hone in on why Albert is so successful," [Skip] Schumaker said. "That's one of the reasons ... he drives down through the ball."

"I used to be a back-legged hitter," McGwire said. "Over the course of doing years and years of tee-work and soft toss, my body just started getting into a different position and the ball started doing this, instead of that."

"I have a picture of Hank Aaron (Aaron, below left) in my house and it's amazing; Hank Aaron pretty much finished [his swing] the way I finished [low]," McGwire said of the second-most prolific home run hitter of all time. "Albert Pujols finishes on his front leg. He uses all the energy that he can possibly use."

And McGwire's energy now goes into transforming the [hitters] of the Cardinals' roster.

Mike's Comments: I guess it's time for someone to speak out: Either McGwire doesn't know, can't see, or is simply trying to protect his job. Do we teach what we really see?

McGwire thinks Pujols has the "perfect swing"--yet he preaches "swing down through the ball." From the many articles written on Pujols, the consensus is that his swing is so good because he keeps the barrel of the bat on the plane of the pitch for approximately 4-5 feet. How in the world can he do that by swinging "down and through the ball" when the pitch is also going down)?
McGwire says he "began driving down and through the ball off his front foot" beginning in 1992. Are you kidding me? Have you ever seen a photo of McGwire hitting off his front foot and swinging down? Neither have I. If he did swing down it was because he was fooled on an off-speed pitch and his weight was forced to come forward.
"Hank Aaron pretty much finished (his swing) the way I finished." Hello...Do they look alike (above)? And did you ever see Hank Aaron finish his swing with one hand like McGwire did? Neither did I. Hank had a two-hand follow through.
Mike's Final Thought: I have nothing against McGwire (except his lying about and using steroids). But his comments in the article are downright contradictory and misleading. "Do We Teach What We Really See?" This is a good example why there is so much confusion and mystery surrounding proper hitting technique. Below, you can read about Eugenio Velez of the SF Giants. His new major league hitting coach was his minor league coach from last year--who told him to "stay on top of the ball."

"He's got some good things to offer," said manager Tony LaRussa. Personally, I don't think these are the ones he had in mind.


But, I'll guarantee you this: the Cardinals' hitters will be swinging on the plane of the pitch this year--despite what they are asked to do--or think they do--and will continue to do well. There's a lot of talent in that lineup and I wish them well. Life goes on...

Interesting or Clueless? You decide. It's YOUR future.

...what many hitters are instructed to do—and what they THINK they do—are often miles apart? Eugenio Velez of the SF Giants has been on a tear since returning to the major leagues. The following excerpt was written by an MLB.com writer about Velez's swing (8/14/09):

Learning to talk hitting

"We corralled him here [after being sent down]," said [an organizational hitting instructor]. "The main thing for him is focus and concentration. That will let his talent prevail."

As is the case with many players sent down to improve a part of their game, ...Velez was challenged "to stop hitting lazy fly balls." So at age 27, Velez did for the first time what most American boys-turned-Little Leaguers do before they're 10. "I never hit on a tee before," he said. "[The instructor] told me, 'If you hit on a tee, that can make you a better hitter.' You're going to control yourself. You're going to control your head. "To hit the ball [well] on the tee, you have to concentrate."

[The instructor] said the [Tee] supplement to traditional BP forced Velez to hit line drives by keeping the barrel of his bat on top of the ball.

I have nothing against any hitting coaches. Many are excellent instructors. The photo of Velez (left) was a towering home run he hit to right field. How can a hitter hit a pitch down in the zone in the air by hitting the top half-of the ball?

Mike's note: I'll also guarantee you that he was instructed to not drop his back shoulder. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that trying to hit a ball at the knees with level shoulders is tantamount to failure?

Mike's note 2: No matter what they're taught, hitters are going to do what they see the best major league hitters do. It's been that way from the very beginning. That's probably why there weren't any hitting coaches in major league baseball until 1975!

...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.

...the increased power surge of home runs and doubles in this year's Women's Softball NCAA Championships has prompted the ESPN color announcers to declare that the fences need to be moved back. They went on to say that the better technology in the composition of the aluminum bats has been the reason why so many softball hitters have more power than ever before. They also mentioned that the pitching hasn't been as good this year. Why is it that no one ever mentions the change in the hitter's technique that has taken place over the past few years? Surely, the advanced technology of video analysis has hastened the changeover. What is it that the softball purists are willing to see? Many of the schools in the NCAA tournament have been teaching our program for years, so the hitting increase comes as no surprise to us. Softball hitting is finally catching up to the pitching dominance that has existed for far too long!
  ...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? Thwhat they are taught) allow them to dominate!ey don't—and that's why FP pitchers pound that area. Why does pitching dominate in FP? Because the hitters (and coaches) 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—today—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.