Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This Day in History: Ted Williams Bats .406

It was 70 years ago today that Ted Williams went 6 for 8 in a double-header on the final day of the regular season to take his batting average to .406. That's 70 years since anyone has topped .400 in the big leagues.

Despite being widely considered the greatest hitter of all time, I've never used Williams as a reference to teach young hitters. He had a considerable hitch in his swing - cocking his hands down and up during each pitch - not seen in many of today's hitters (Jon Jay of the Cardinals comes to mind, and surely there are others). That's the way many of the great ones have swung the bat, but it takes superior strength and quickness to get away with it. A youth player with a hitch like this is often late in getting his barrel to the ball. Or he doesn't get his hands back up enough and swings under the ball. That's why most coaches teach keeping it simple and taking the hands back when loading.

But with Williams, all the key components of a great rotational swing were there - the torquing of the hips, the braced front leg, the slightly upward swing plane. And the results were incredible. Here is a NY Times article about his 1941 season. There are some amazing stats on page 2 - like the fact that he only struck out 27 times; only three of his hits were of the infield variety; and he would have had an even higher average if sacrifice flies were not counted as at-bats like today. And he didn't even win the MVP.


  1. Brandon,
    I enjoy your blog (found it via the Myers Park Trinity Little League page) -- please keep it up.
    Not directly related to the Splendid Splinter, but while you're on the subject of hitting... I went with my son's team to their first "travel" baseball tournament recently. I was shocked to see 9 and 10 year-old players (from other teams) using big barrel bats. I wondered first about safety for pitchers and infielders. And also about why tournaments that promote themselves as being for "elite" players would want to allow bats that are designed to make hitting easier. What happens to players used to 2 5/8" bats when they try to play with standard 2 1/4" bats? Why would any parent want to have a child who is already fairly proficient at the game get accustomed to using a bat with an artificially large sweet spot? Wondering if you had any thoughts to share. Thanks.
    (P.S., my son's team won the tournament -- using only 2 1/4" bats -- so this isn't sour grapes...)

  2. Not sure why 9-10 yr olds would need to use big barrels, but 2 1/4" barreled youth bats also have an artificially large sweet spot. Anything but wood makes it easier to hit. But a big barrel can scorch a ball and be dangerous at that age, especially if the mound is too close (like LL's 46'). The only thing I can think of (other than they just want their kids to hit it farther) is that using a heavier bat like a big barrel makes you have to pull the bat through the zone and use your hips well in order to get any bat speed and power. That's why I got my kid a wood bat for practice. Not sure how hard it is for those kids to adjust back to a youth bat though. I doubt it would be too hard.... Thanks for reading.