Rotational Hitting 101
Hitting is the most common term people use to describe Ted Williams'
thoughts about hitting as he lays
out in The Science of Hitting and elsewhere.
Ted Williams' focus on the rotation of the hips stood in sharp contrast to the
emphasis on weight shift, extension, and swinging down for backspin that were the
focus of Charley Lau and his disciples like Walt Hriniak.
my approach to teaching Rotational Hitting work for anyone
besides Ted Williams? I think
experience with Andres Torres, who helped the Giants win a
world championship in 2010,
answers that question.
I know about training, but hitting was difficult. And then in
’08, I was working with a lot of guys. There’s a guy
Chris O’Leary (a St. Louis fan who kept online flip books breaking
down Pujols’ swing). He’s online. He talks about Rotation. He's
got video examples of Pujols and I watched that.
Barry Bonds Demonstrating Rotational Hitting
Mike Epstein & Rotational Hitting
Rotational Hitting is often associated with Mike Epstein, who was influenced by Ted Williams.
In my (direct) experience, Mike Epstein's ideas and approach
were a significant advance over the approach of Charley Lau, Walt
Hriniak, Don Mattingly and others that I was taught. However, and
also in my experience,
Mike Epstein's approach to
teaching Rotational Hitting was far from perfect.
The problem is that Mike Epstein's approach to
teaching Rotational Hitting is incomplete.
It's an interpretation, not a direct
implementation, of Ted Williams' ideas.
As I found when using Mike Epstein's ideas with my older son and
his friends, important parts of Ted Williams' thoughts and swing --
in truth, the core
of Ted Williams' approach to generating power -- aren't discussed by Mike Epstein.
What's worse and as I touch on in my piece
analyzing Dave Hudgens' views on hitting,
in some cases what Mike Epstein teaches runs counter to,
or worse inhibits, what Ted Williams did.
Given that the high-level swing combines both linear
and rotational components, and the term Rotational
Hitting carries with it significant baggage due to Mike Epstein,
why would anyone still focus on Rotation and not something else?
While I use the term the high-level swing
to characterize what I teach, I continue to
talk about the importance of Rotation, and use the term Rotational Hitting, because it...
- Encapsulates the
thing that Ted Williams emphasized; the rotation of the hips ahead
of the hands.
- Contrasts with the conventional wisdom that too often -- and,
in my experience, increasingly -- views
rotation, and being rotational, as a bad thing.
I was reminded of the value of the concept of Rotation during the fall practices
of the college baseball team I work with.
The problem was, when looking at video of their swings, too
many of our hitters were using terms like "Flying open" to
criticize what were, in truth, good swings. Then, in an attempt to
fix something that wasn't broken, they developed an actual problem
with covering the entire plate with power, I believe in part due to their efforts
to not fly open.
Don't get me wrong.
Cues like"Stay closed" and "Keep your front shoulder in" can and do help some
hitters. When they are interpreted advantageously.
However, those cues are just that.
In truth, when it makes things better and not worse, telling a hitter "Don't fly open" works by
DELAYING the start of
rotation, not by PREVENTING
As our head coach so effectively summed up to one of our
hitters, trying to not fly open works by altering the TIMING of
Not by eliminating Rotation.
Josh Donaldson Demonstrating Rotational Hitting
I simply don't know how else to describe what Josh Donaldson
is doing in the picture above other than to say that he's rotating
his hips, hands, and shoulders.
The reality is that the high-level swing is powered
primarily by the rotation of the hips. The hips then pull
the shoulders and the hands around, allowing the hands to focus on
adjusting to the location of the pitch.
The problem is that it's easy to find people who at best talk
down rotation and, in the worst case, try to eliminate it from
their hitters' swings.
Rotational Hitting 2.0
Since 2008, first with my
Rotational Hitting 101 DVD and today
site and supplementary webbooks, eBooks, and flipbooks,
I have been
working to bring Rotational Hitting
closer to what Ted Williams laid out in The Science of Hitting.
Andres Torres, shown below hitting a home run during the 2010 World
Series, was my first client.
Andres Torres used my DVD to help turn around his career and help the San
Francisco Giants win a world championship in 2010.
Since then, I have helped a number of major league
baseball players either get to the major leagues or improve
their performance. That includes...
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
I wasn't taught to do what great hitters (actually) do.
I was taught to
transfer my weight from back to front, to keep my hips closed
into contact, and to hit the ball at full extension and make
the Power V at the point of contact.
Just like George Brett did.
Or so I thought.
As I had kids of my own and coached them and their friends, I
resolved to teach them better than I was taught. In my case, I
started with Jack Mankin and then, following the lead of everyone I knew,
moved on to Mike
However, and following some very good advice, I
eventually realized I needed to drill down to and read
Ted Williams' own words and ideas, not Mike Epstein (and Steve
All the while, I was independently studying what the best baseball players (actually) do,
starting with my
flipbook analysis of Albert Pujols swing.
Mike Epstein Vs. Charley Lau
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,
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'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.
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.
when Dave Hudgens describes the problem with
Rotational Hitting and when people grill me about Rotational
Hitting as they do in my
Hitting FAQ, they are generally reacting to, and
criticizing, how Mike Epstein teaches Rotational Hitting.
However, 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 (direct) experience, what Mike Epstein and his instructors produce is a swing that resembles, but at the core is significantly
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. That meant doing two things...
- Buying a high-speed camera, attending 50 to 75 major
league games per year, and studying what the
best hitters actually do.
- Reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading Ted Williams'
The Science of Hitting and literally everything he wrote
and said about hitting.
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
As part of that process, I have collected large amounts of
high-quality, HD and slow motion video of the best baseball
and fast pitch softball players.
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.
Why & How I Teach Rotational Hitting
There are a number of reasons why I teach what I teach.
Why Focus on Rotation?
In my work with minor league and major league
hitters, I have found that most higher-level hitters' problems
result from a lack of Rotation. That problem tends to get
worse, not better, the higher you go up the instructional ladder.
For instance, Andres Torres' problem when he came to me wasn't
his ability to make contact. Rather, his problem was his inability
to hit the ball hard enough to get it past major league defenses.
The root cause of his problems came down to a problem with Rotation; he
was trying to power his swing with his hands and not his body.
Similarly, I have recently been talking to a minor leaguer
whose swing caught my eye due to its uncanny resemblance to the
swing of Mickey Mantle. However, he hasn't lived up to the
potential that I saw in that picture. Why? The problem is that his
coaches are taking his swing in exactly the wrong direction.
Rather than focusing on Rotation, they are taking it out of his
swing and teaching him to swing with his hands.
Don't Rotational Hitters Pull off the Ball?
The major objection to the concept of Rotation is that it will
lead to pulling off the ball. That may be true if the only thing
you teach is Rotation. However, while Rotation is the first
concept I teach, it is only one of many. First, there's a reason
why I use the term "Curved Hand Path" and not "Circular Hand
Path." Second, concepts like Timing and
Adjustability enable my hitters to hit for both power and average.
What About the Stride?
One, in my opinion valid, criticism of Mike Epstein's hitters
is that many take a small stride or even a negative stride. I
follow Ted Williams' advice and example when it comes to the
You Don't Have to Move a LOT if you Move WELL
In the clip above, which shows Andres Torres hitting a home run
to right field, he takes a stride. Yes, it's a small one, but it's
enough to give him room to Load and create Separation.
Rotational Hitting 101 DVD
2008, I took much of the information that had been blogging about,
organized it, added to it, and put together
Rotational Hitting 101 and
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
Torres, my first professional client.
Andres used the information on my DVD, and in particular my
rebuild his swing and his entire approach to hitting. The result
was a swing that helped the San Francisco Giants win the 2010
Home Run to Right Field
2010 World Series
Major League Experience
isn't the only major league baseball player I have worked
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
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.