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Rotational Hitting 101

Rotational Hitting is a term that is used by Mike Epstein and his followers to describe his interpretation and implementation of Ted Williams' ideas about hitting.

In my (direct) experience, while Mike Epstein's approach to teaching hitting is a significant advance over the teachings of Charley Lau and his followers -- primarily Walk Hriniak -- it remains lacking. That is in large part because critical parts of Ted Williams' ideas and swing aren't addressed by Mike Epstein. What's more, in a few cases what Mike Epstein teaches runs counter to or inhibits what Ted Williams advocated and (actually) did.

Andres Torres Home RunMy Rotational Hitting 101 DVD was my first attempt to address this problem; to more accurately discuss and spread Ted Williams' ideas about hitting and inform people about how he moved and why. I have since built a client site where I discuss my up-to-the-minute findings and how they apply to and are exhibited by the best active players.

Major league ballplayers who have used my Rotational Hitting 101 DVD to help advance their careers include Andres Torres, shown above hitting a home run during the 2010 World Series.

My Story

As a kid, I loved the game of baseball. However, I was never a great hitter. While some of my problems were admittedly due to my not wanting to wear my glasses, most of my problems were due to poor hitting instruction.

I wasn't taught to do what great hitters (actually) do.

Instead of powering my swing with my hips, I was taught to transfer my weight from back to front, to keep my hips closed into contact, and to make the Power V and hit the ball with full extension at the point of contact.

Just like George Brett did.

Or so I thought.

Now that I have kids of my own and coach them and their friends, I have resolved to teach them better than I was taught. In my case, that meant studying what I was taught, studying what Mike Epstein teaches, and studying what the best baseball players (actually) do.

Why Rotational Hitting?

To understand why the term "Rotational Hitting" made -- and still makes -- sense, you have to understand what Charley Lau and his disciples like Walt Hriniak were teaching during Mike Epstein's day and, in many cases, still teach.

Greg Luzinski

Greg Luzinski

In sum, the Lau approach, at least when it comes to the lower body, is that all the power comes from the stride. As you can see in the clip above of Greg Luzinski, which was taken from Charley Lau's DVD, the hips stay closed into the Point Of Contact. There is no separation or torque. The hips, shoulders, and hands move together because it is believed that any rotation of the hips will cause the front shoulder to fly open.

Joe Thurston

Joe Thurston

Joe Thurston's swing was the closest I've ever seen to a textbook Lau swing in a (more) recent player, and he barely made it work in the major leagues.

There's no question that these are both hideously ugly swings and bear no resemblance to the swings of greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Joe DiMaggio. The problem is that, in my opinion, Mike Epstein over-corrected. His implementation of the concept of Rotational Hitting went too far; in trying to solve the problem of lunging, he removed pretty much every trace of a linear component from the swing and made it pretty much exclusively linear. As a result, Mike Epstein trained or inspired hitters tend to move differently than most major-league hitters and usually have problems hitting at the higher levels as a result.

Mike Epstein & Rotational Hitting

When you talk about Rotational Hitting with people, in many cases what is going to come to mind -- both good and bad -- is how Mike Epstein teaches hitting.

For instance, when Dave Hudgens describes the problem with Rotational Hitting and when people grill me about Rotational Hitting as they do in my Rotational Hitting FAQ, they are generally reacting to, and criticizing, how Mike Epstein teaches Rotational Hitting.

The problem is that, while Mike Epstein's approach to teaching hitting was a vast improvement over Charley Lau's, as many people have pointed out there remain a number of differences between...

  • What kids are being taught by Mike Epstein and his instructors.
  • What the best baseball and fast-pitch softball hitters actually do.

In my experience, what Mike Epstein and his instructors produce is a swing that resembles, but at the core is significantly and critically different from, the high-level swing.

Among other things, one of the chief problems with what Mike Epstein teaches is that there is little to no stride. Instead, Mike Epstein's hitters tend to just spin in place. While that works at the lower levels and with hotter bats, as Pete Kozma's Swing demonstrates, the pure rotational approach doesn't work at the highest levels of baseball.

In my opinion, Mike Epstein either didn't completely understand Ted Williams' ideas or, more likely, in an effort to deal with problems like lunging, stripped Ted Williams' approach down too far and took out the thing that is its  true secret.

The result is an approach to teaching hitting that is better than Linear Hitting and Extension Hitting but that doesn't deliver the results that can be achieved by thoroughly understanding and applying Ted Williams' ideas.

Beyond Mike Epstein

As I explain in greater detail in my discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of Mike Epstein's system, when my older son started to struggle with his hitting, everyone I knew told me to get Mike Epstein's books, CDs, and DVDs. I did, and found them to be a significant advance over the nonsense I had been taught about hitting.

However, while my older son's swing improved significantly, he continued to struggle with fundamental problems like Bat Drag, which Mike Epstein's materials didn't alert me to or help me with.

As a result, I decided that I had to go beyond Mike Epstein's materials and educate myself on what the best hitters actually do.

The High-Level Swing

Since 2006, I have been studying the swings of the best baseball and fast-pitch softball players and working to understand the high-level swing. As part of that process, I have collected large amounts of high-quality, HD and super slow motion video of the best baseball and fast pitch softball players.

Albert Pujols Home Run Swing Video Clip

Albert Pujols

The goal is to bring Rotational Hitting instruction closer to its roots; to what Ted Williams talked about in The Science of Hitting and, more importantly, to how great hitters actually swing the bat.

Rotational Hitting 101 DVD

Rotational Hitting 101 DVDIn 2008, I took much of the information that had been blogging about, organized it, added to it, and put together Rotational Hitting 101 and my client site. They reflect the lessons that have been learned about the high-level swing over the past ten years. They build on the strengths, but also address what in my experience are the weaknesses, of Mike Epstein's approach to teaching hitting.

Since I first published Rotational Hitting 101, I have shipped more than 2,000 copies of my DVD to people all over the world including Andres Torres, my first professional client.

Andres Torres Home Run Swing Video Clip

Andres Torres
Home Run to Right Field
2010 World Series

Andres used the information on my DVD, and in particular my information on Connection, to rebuild his swing and his entire approach to hitting. The result was a swing that helped the San Francisco Giants win the 2010 World Series and that we continue to work to improve.

Major League Experience

Andres Torres isn't the only major league baseball player I have worked with.

At last count, I have three other clients in the major leagues, two clients at AAA, one client at AA, and two clients playing for independent minor league teams and trying to get back on the road to the major leagues. I have also worked with a number of D-1 college baseball and fast pitch softball players.

I don't give out the names of these players because I don't want to get them in trouble with their coaches. While they, and I, believe in what I teach, most of the time it contradicts what their coaches are saying, so they have to keep it to themselves and we have to work on the down low. If you are a minor leaguer and are looking for help, e-mail me and we can talk about how you can get access to my client-only web site.

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