Re: Yesterday's players vs. today's players
Greetings Coach Jackson,
I don't think you're going to get much response to your detailed message even though it was very informative. There was a great deal that I agreed with. You would know this if you read my recent posting: Re: Mickey Mantle (Friday July 27). However, after dealing with the issue of performance enhancing drugs, which I found more interesting than the mechanics of hitting, I concluded that, comparing today's players with players of the past is not a very valid or productive past time. Today players take advantage of homerun conditions to make money and fame. This is what the old time players you referred to did, except they didn't have the conditions that exist today so they strived to hit for high averages. The best way to do that was to swing within themselves and try to avoid strikeouts. Homeruns were secondary, unless a player had the talent to hit them and wasn't afraid to chance a premature ending to his career.
If you read my posting you should conclude that performance enhancing drugs has a great deal do with the inflated statistics of today's players. At the very least you should have mentioned them, if for no other reason than the fact that these drugs are the reason why Bonds is "on the verge of making history" and not because he has, as you contend a "level-cut" swing. (The next time you tape Bonds swinging factor in the tilt of his body, paying attention to his shoulders, and the hinging of the back knee. You will find that his swing is clearly upward except on very high pitches. (Swinging upward to match the level of the pitch doesn't necessarily result in a high exaggerated follow through.)
I have to conclude that your admiration of Lau Sr. and the statement that his book "The Art Of Hitting 300" had supplanted T. Williams book as "The Bible of Batting" means that you somehow think that Lau's theories are superior to those taught by Williams. The fact is that some of Lau's important teachings have not stood up under the test of time. Williams' theories, including matching the level of the pitch with the swing have become very popular through the teachings of Epstein and his disciples. In fact, anyone who stresses rotation hitting is teaching something that Williams firmly believed in and taught.
Check "The Art of Hitting 300" where George Brett is seen demonstrating Lau's style. Just before the point of contact with the ball both of Brett's arms are fully stretched out. Lau believed in an exaggerated forward weight shift that he thought generated power and eliminated what he thought was the worse fault of hitting: "a quick hip". Contrast this with rotational coaches today who often times stress not only a good hip action with torque and a body tilt, but also that the back arm be in an L position as contact is made after the hips have started to rotate. Does this sound like William's admonition to let the hips lead the hands is out of date?
Lau did not emphasize releasing the bat with the top hand unless a player was prematurely rolling his wrists, and consequently hitting ground balls. When coaching players, such as Reggie Jackson, Lau had to adapt to teaching players who successfully held on to the bat with both hands. As great a coach as you might think he was he also had his critics. One of the criticism was that he was a singles hitter coach. Lau addressed this criticism by writing a second book which you are apparently unfamiliar with, "The Winning Hitter". In this book he stressed how to hit homeruns. Unlike his first book where he stated that one of the absolutes of hitting was a good follow through he now advocated a high follow through that was suppose to occasionally hit homeruns. This is something that your source didn't
know. It didn't fit his theory of the level swing. (Lau's son today still emphasizes the high follow through. This is the same Lau Jr. who coached ARod, who we know as a producer of many homeruns and strikeouts.)
I would also like to point out to you that Lau Sr. wasn't sure whether the swing was level or upward. Perhaps he wished to avoid the controversy that you feel comfortable with. (There were other things that Lau hedged on, as I vaguely remember.)
I have a tape of Schmidt hitting. Two things stand out, aside from the fact that he was very strong: he sets up in an extremely closed stance, which we don't see these days, and he hits sharply down producing a lot of backspin (and apparently leveling off his swing at some point, according to him and you).
If it is your contention that Williams advocated hitting up on a pitched ball that was nearly straight you are off base. Williams advocated matching the level of the pitch, whatever that level might be, with the swing.
Here is a question for you: if it took Schmidt at the major league level years to master this sharp downward swing why would you want to teach it to a youngster who,in most instances, is unlikely to play beyond high school?
As an aside, I would like to point out to you one reason why Musial and DiMaggio struck out fewer times than Williams is that Williams tried only to swing at pitches in the umpire's strike zone. This means that he got into a lot of two strike situations. Musial and DiMaggio had bigger strike zones which included pitches outside of the umpire's strike zone. DiMaggio would never have set a hitting record of 56 straight games with Williams' strike zone. Williams is the only player to lead two decades in batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage. He is one of two players to win two triple crowns. He has a life time batting average of 344%, the 4th highest in the 20 century. It should not be surprising that he wrote a book that has stood the test of time. I don't think the same will be true of Schmidt, who incidentally comes from my home city.
Post a followup: