The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams

Ted Williams’s The Science of Hitting has been on my radar for a few years now, though admittedly, since it has been so long since I last played ball, I wasn’t in any real hurry to read it. But now that I have, I’m glad that I did because even though I no longer play, I learned a lot from this book.

First published in 1971, The Science of Hitting serves as a guide on how to improve one’s performance at the plate. Even though it is a very slim volume, only 81 pages long, it is a goldmine on hitting technique and about the game as a whole. Ted Williams, with the help of John Underwood, manages to walk a fine line between elaborating on the technical aspects of hitting while maintaining a very readable style of writing.

Despite the fact that Williams originally wrote this book more than 50 years ago, the observations and advice within are timeless. Some of the advice is commonly heard today, such as being selective at the plate and making the pitcher work until they’ve got two strikes on you. Other bits of advice flies in the face of popular coaching today. For example, the recommendation to maintain a level swing, parallel to the ground, is something I heard throughout my playing days. Williams argues and demonstrates why a slight upward swing is the better approach. The book is full of pictures and diagrams depicting Williams’s teachings in a visual format.

Nevertheless, Williams’s approach to teaching the art of hitting is not strictly proscriptive. He provides numerous examples of variations on hitting styles, naming some of the greatest hitters in the game as examples of these variations. (As new editions of the book have been released, the lists of players named have been updated to include some who played in more recent years.) A hitter’s swing is unique to that hitter, so if what a player is doing is working, stick with it. If it’s not working, or if that hitter is looking to improve, then The Science of Hitting provides a number of things to consider.

This book doesn’t just stop at hitting, either. Williams briefly discusses pitching and touches on his thoughts on the approaches of various pitchers. He talks about what approaches work on the mound, which do not, and the importance of studying the game and being able to make adjustments.

As a whole, Ted Williams emphasizes the importance of practice, practice, practice. Given the number of factors that go into a single swing of the bat, this book is aptly named — hitting is a science. And in order to improve at it, players need to study, think, adjust, and continually practice.

8 thoughts on “The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams

  1. Years ago, I had this little booklet from Sears which featured Ted talking about hitting and which I assume was cribbed from the book. I’m not sure where it is, and I am not going to forgive myself if I lost the damn thing.

  2. Years ago, I happened upon this pamphlet from Sears where Teddy Ballgame was talking about hitting, which I assume was cribbed from the book; I don’t know exactly where it is, and if I lost it, I am not gonna be happy.

  3. Great post Precious, one that will never get old. I recently started a new job and am struggling to adjust so hearing the William’s advice to practice practice and practice some more……well, I’m putting that one to use first thing tomorrow morning and the morning after and so on.

    1. It does apply pretty universally, doesn’t it? Best of luck on the new job. Those are always awkward when first starting out and you have no idea what the hell is going on. It takes time to gain that experience to where things start to seem easy and routine.

  4. Very nice article. Ted Williams was one of the greatest hitters of all time and his ability to teach his craft is extremely helpful for those who love the game. Your article brings to mind a Sport’s Illustrated photo of Williams next to a strike zone showing the expected batting average based on where the pitch is, illustrating Williams’ advice on the importance of pitch selection which is still valid today. In considering Ted’s approach to hitting, I can’t help but wonder why so many of today’s hitters bat with open stances and off their front toe. Not at all in keeping with Williams’ slightly closed stance and balanced weight approach.

    1. There’s a 3D model of that strike zone chart at the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum — a bunch of colored baseballs in essentially a shadowbox. It was very cool to come across. In the book, Williams talks about a bunch of ways that modern hitters squander opportunities to get more practice and thus become better hitters. More of them ought to read his book.

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