The Asian hitter: Ted Williams would agree/Lee Trevino, too.
Slide vs. Rotation

I've been intrigued by the Korean/Japanese hitters lately, Son and Kim included.

I believe that I commented on their "pause/pose" at the top of their swing.  They wait......which makes all the difference on their weight. 

As I've thought about it (and I have), I've begun to think that the difference is really that of lateral vs. rotational movement.

The "modern" swing is the one we've seen in the Tom Emanski videos (which drive me batty).  This is a rotational move, with bat speed generated by the hips exploding open.  Lookie here, at our own Boomstick Baby:

That move is rotational.  There is little slide forward, almost none.  The hips explode open and the bat follows.  It is an around and up move.   You'll see something like that in the modern power golf swing.  McIlroy and Johnson demonstrate here:

This is a move that generates maximum bat/club speed.  It is a relatively modern (successfully, anyway) golf move:  The golf ball spins/curves less today than  the old ball used to. It is designed that way. The rotational move maximizes power and sacrifices little accuracy, since the ball spins sideways less.  In baseball, the rotational move maximizes swing speed.

In either sport the player gets to the front leg more quickly.  That leg gets straighter earlier.

The "old move" is lateral. There is a clear slide. There is a "flex" that keeps the batter low.  The back leg is much more bent as the batter gets on top of the front leg.  This is a move  "into" the ball.  The bat releases later and I think (in baseball) the batter gets a better view of the ball for a longer period of time.

I've been looking at video a bit and I found this:  Ted Williams:  I can't think of any thing I've seen that better describes what I'm speaking about:

Aaron is lateral ("Gaining ground," as the guy says):  Mays, too:

Here's a quick view os Sadaharo Oh's move:  And Ah-seop Son move "into" the ball, not around his center:

In golf, the best ball strikers in history may be Lee Trevino, Moe Norman and Ben Hogan:  Witness:

Hogan was pretty rotational for his day, but "chases" the ball, "down the line" much more than Johnson or McIlroy do today.

Trevino:  Nobody chased it better than him:

Moe Norman:  He is likely the best ball striker in the history of golf.  His move is down the line and his finish is incredibly reminiscent of the great Asian hitters in baseball:

Ball strikers, as opposed to power hitters, hit the ball squarely and hard, nearly all the time.  I commented on the Sons and Kims, who seem to hit opposite field HR's, often right down the line, yet don't seem to be "going the other way."

They go down the line, in an old time move, delaying the release, yet hitting the ball squarely.  Is it better than  the "modern" (see Cruz) swing?  I don't know...but it fits my eye much more wonderfully.  There is a smoothness, a go slow to go fast, that seems just right.

Go to 1:26 in this video to see the "OriginaL' Boog Powell, a big guy, "slide" into the ball.

I love it.

There is a posed and paused element to the old time swing.  The move into the ball is lateral and controlled.  The batter (or golfer) "meets" the ball much more than he attacks it.  We've lost this swing.  I want to find it again.

The Babe knew:

Go team,

Moe (not Norman)



...the day when Willie Mays was one of the winners of the Medal of Honor...and I was watching a news report that included highlights of his career.  And it reminded me of how much he seemed to be hitting off of his front foot...but only because he moved so much more laterally than anything we see today.

Great analysis.


Here's a pic of Aaron's 755th home run, which was very typical of him.  Not exactly a Back Leg Special :- )

aaron 755
aaron 755


I always just figured the more a baseball swing was like a golf swing, the better -- the Nelson Cruz, Russ Branyan Back Leg Specials.  Also the Wade Boggses and Pete Roses weren't exactly in a hurry to go get the ball.

But until your instructional here, I'd been underestimating the fact that in golf, the ball isn't moving.  Certainly the tee isn't getting higher and lower as you swing.  Perhaps it does change things a bit that in golf, the ball isn't going anywhere.  And even at that you have the ball strikers who slide forward.  Amazing Moe Norman vid.  Jack Nicklaus and his fixed head just ran screaming into the night :- )


Also, fascinating tidbit about the leg getting straighter earlier.


Also, fascinating tidbit about being able to release the bat later, even though the CG is moving forward earlier.


Won't be so simplistic about my rotational mechanics in the future!


If you think of Back Leg Specials as maximizing acceleration of the clubhead/barrel, vs. lateral slide which maximizes ability to react and adapt to the flight of the ball, would that capture it?  Or no?

Reminds me that in aikido (or in trading low punches in boxing) the ability to move your CG is critical.  You "match" your weight to the incoming energy as it moves.


That said, I'm guessing you enjoyed Junior's and Edgar's swings also :- )


diderot:  I wrote quite a while back about Aaron and Mays both being front-leg hitters (which I think is elegant).  There are some great shots of them homering with the back foot off the ground!!  I'm glad you brought it up here.  I should have tied that in.  Thanks for saving my bacon.

Doc:  As I was writing last night (and thinking about it for a day or so), I was thinking about that aikido idea of "meeting" the incoming energy.  You've recently mentioned it in relation to IF's ability to "absorb" in-coming ground balls.  I hope I have it right and I hope it fits where I was going.  Let me know.  

Maybe there is a "meet" vs. "attack" the ball philosophy?  Comment?

Griffey:   There is a "transitional" element to his (beautiful) swing.  It is almost of both the old and new world (which makes sense, doesn't it?).  There is the clear slide of the old move, then the whippet rotation of a Cruz., ending up on the straight front leg.  I see him as more "new world," I suppose.  If he picked up the lead leg more and "posed" on his back leg, he would be very "Ruthian."  

Edgar:  He too is transitional.  But has more of the bend in both knees and even a bit of the back toe lift.  If Griffy is 2/3 of the way to the modern swing, Edgar is just 40% of the way there.  

Your mileage may well vary.

Let me give you an idea of the overall efficiency of the older lateral move:  Chris Taylor, who hasn't shown any MLB pop weighs in at 195.  Aaron was 180 and Mays 170.  Roberto Clemente was 175:  Lookee here.....   Thank you Tony Kubek (Clemente does have a straighter front leg than Aaron, for example).  Mays and Clemente only had 5 and 10 lbs on Ketel Marte, for goodness sake!!

Here is a neat complilation;  Of these guys, David Wright has the most "modern" of the swings (and Harper's 2-strike single).  Hanley Ramirez is old-school, baby.  Fielder has the lateral move but then the huge hip rotation, with his belt buckle finishing WAY to the "pull side" of the pitcher.  PGA'er Dustin Johnson would be proud of that finish!  Cano even shows the same thing.

These guys (most of them) don't avoid "any & all" lateral slide, but I think they are principally setting up the rotational explosion rather than going to meet the ball.  

Maybe that is the difference.


You need a "how to hit" DVD and one of those web-infomercial sites :- )

Spot on in terms of aikido.  They use the term "greet" the incoming energy, both in randori (sparring) and when aiki senseis are talking about energy.  That means "meet" and it adds a friendliness (which adds to the relaxation).  So yeah.

Keep it comin' teach.


Like I sez, my own golfing is probably comparable to your bowling or Monopoly - about that casual of a hobby.  Do love to read Nicklaus though, and ... who was his artist/cartoonist?  What a perfect stylistic match, eh!

Nicklaus (as this hacker reads him) talks over and over again about the most stationary head possible.  Of course given a stock-still base of the neck, the drawings have Nicklaus' knees, front hip, etc. moving forward.  But of course Edgar, Junior, and all baseball players want to move forward as much as possible given a head that does not move forward in the slightest.

or what am I missing here?

RockiesJeff's picture

Doc, the Golden Bear had to learn to keep the head still early or lose some hair. He is incredible at driving with his legs but also keeping that head still...even though most, even Jack, will move forward and up after impact. Jack, like other greats, had the super long hitting area so his misses were not sideways like most of us. His long hitting area with his strength allowed him to stay through a shot where a more normal person might have to drift forward to accomplish the same. Moe, did that make any sense?

Moe "Keith" Norman, I totally agree with the new equipment. Don't you think that the modern swing, while still being forced to follow the general rule of physics, is able to improvise a bit in order to get that maximum clubhead speed due to the new equipment and expectation of length at average modern course? Hit it hard with a pretty straight shot no matter the layout? I asked a pro friend the other day after finally playing with one of those huge new drivers….how do I hit the low screamers into the wind with these huge drivers or these hybrids? (my playing is rare and my irons are 1974 forged Staffs).  He said no one does anymore. Just hit it hard right through everything, including the wind. There is no doubt that the clubs, condition of courses, balls has allowed for certain things that in bygone eras would have been impossible. I don’t play but do coach so try to keep up a little….excuse me if I sounds like I just came out of the dark ages!!!

Baseball is different there. There is clearly much to learn from and model from the old-timers. Contact moving through the zone even if the speed off the bat doesn’t make ESPN!



It was either Jack Grout (Nicklaus' teacher) or Trevino who commented that the secret to Jack's swing was his incredibly powerful thighs (Jack was a terrific 3-sport athlete in HS, before he got large-before he got slim again), which allowed him to generate that massive drive.  Jack moved into the ball and then around.  Here he was the great power player of his day and yet (if you watch) his hip rotation at impact is quite small compared to the modern power swing.  Doc, but you're right about his incredibly still head, especially on the way back.  

Jeff, I'm willing to bet that you tried Jack's slight head cock to the right, to initiate your swing, at some time or another. I did it, mostly to set up a stong left side position.  Used it through all my competitive years.

Jeff, given a modern driver and the 70's-80'-early 90's Titleists that you and I played with, I think the modern guys would balloon the ball or hit bananas, until they adjusted.  15 years ago, as I was just getting out of tournament golf (two darling daughters, you know), I was amazed at how the young guys I was playing against had no qualms about hitting the (newer) ball as hard as they could, right through everything (wind be damned), chasing it down and doing it again.

You and I, back in the day of hickory shafts :) had to hit the ball down into the wind ("quail high," as they say in west Texas), anything that got up was gobbled up, the wind accentuating the balata-driven spin.

Today, the ball off the driver just bores through the wind.  And it generally launces with a higher angle of attack so I don't see a lot of players trying to keep it down WITH the wind, either.

I've wondered to myself if the metal and carbon bats that kids get until they play for money have helped create the "modern" baseball swing, like the impact of modern golf equipment.  Is the "sweet spot" so huge on those bats that you no longer have to go "greet" the ball with the bat, you just open up and fire (ala Dustin Johnson) and let the technology wn the day.

Doc, I've also wondered if the emphasis on pulling the ball in the air (with all the new data analysis) is even greater today than ever before.

RockiesJeff's picture

Totally agree Moe "Norman"! The quail high!! Yes. One time in a college tournament I didn't use a tee for 18 holes. The wind was so strong you had to control it low in every direction. Those days are long gone like the hickory shafts! Actually my first club was a wooden shafted spoon given to me by the pro at the course I grew up on in Seattle. That is much like baseball. I hear clubhead speed in golf. Same in baseball. That is no doubt a factor but not if you can't repeat and control it. And I do think that helps answer the rise in K's consistently through the league. Kids today at a young age are pull-happy and it is pulling teeth to get them to go with a pitch to all fields. Kind of like driving through the entire zone to work the ball to the target.

When I played recently in the wind in KS, I was using newer clubs and kept trying to hit low screamers that I used to play (now I grew up in Seattle so obviously learned to hit it high first and foremost). I was getting frustrated until I was told no one does that any more.

Jack's head cock? LOL! What serious golfer in the 60's didn't do that? I would do it to imitate Jack but since my major eye was not my left, I didn't adopt it. Maybe I should have!!


Have an incredible Thanksgiving everyone!!


1.  Tilt the R knee in so as not unfold it

2.  Move the chin R so as to 'lock' the head

3.  Take the club halfway back so as to not bend the elbow

4.  Swing with lots of might to 'true' out the swing

5.  Go look for the ball OB

Who knows what you could do if you actually saw me.  Maybe start by grabbing a handful o' hair like Jeff sez :- )


James posted this some years ago, that the cleanup hitters bat .600 when they pull the ball in the air, non-popup.  Since then it's been all the rage to get the Back Leg Specials going.

Just so!


Great point, Ice.  This is sooooo cool!  So the guy who I first remember as the real poster-child of a K'ing/hammering slugger was Reggie Jackson, way back when I was a youngster.  That's a decade before he went deep 3 times in Game 6 of the '77 WS.  I remember that tremendous rotational-screwed into the ground cut, of his.

So, I head to youtube to find the perfect clip.....and I find one even more perfect that I had imagined.

Here's an analysis titled "Rotational Analysis and Reggie."  Interestingly, the dude doing it also points out how well Reggie gets onto his front leg (ala Aaron) and off his back leg (lifting the foot) despite his wicked rotation (unlike Aaron/Mays).

So I'm wondering if Reggie was one of those transitional guys, from one style to another, changing the game. I'm sure there were others before Reggie (Mantle), but were there others that were seen so often on national TV, and who responded so dramatically to the moment.  

Hmmmmmm......Thanks Ice.  I remember the early criticism (I was just a whipper-snapper) of Reggie because he K'ed so often (more than 600 times in his 1st 4 years).  Aaron, was never over 97 in his long HAMMERING career, and only got into the 90's once before he turned 31.  In his 1st 4 years he only K'ed 200 times, for example.  In '59, when he hit .355-.411-.636, he K'ed only 54 times in nearly 700 PA's.

Mays finally went over 100 K's in '71, when he was 41 AND had 112 BB's (OBP of .425, if you forget how great he was.  Man he was 41!)  He never got into the 90's until he was 36 years old!  In '55, Mays hit 51 HR's and .319, slugged .659, yet he K'd only 60 times.  In '65 (playing in the SF soup) he had a better year, including 52 HR's and only 71 K's.

Cruz hit 44 HR's last year, with 164!!!!! K's.  Seager, who nobody thinks of as a K'ing machine, was at 98...the lowest of his career.

Essentially, Kyle Seager's best year (in terms of HR's and K's) saw him K'ing more than Mays EVER did (until he was Methuselah).   

Did Mr. October and prime time television have an impact on the evolution of the swing?  Hmmmmm.....??

I'm beginning to think, really, that we're teaching the baseball swing (on this side of the pond) in a fundamentally incorrect manner.

BTW, Maris hit 61 in '61 and K'ed just 67 times in 590 AB's, about 11% of the time.  In '15, Ketel Marte, who we all see as the exemplar of contact/hit it where they ain't/put it in play small ball, K'ed 43 times in 219 AB's, over 19% of the time.

In the era just before me, Dick Kluszewski might be the icon of a smashing-bashing-1B whopper.  From '53-'55, he crashed 136 HR's (never below 40) yet he K'ed only 106 times. Total! Essentially he was a Cruz, yet he K'd 55 times less than Cruz and it took him 3 seasons to do it!  If you add Kluszewski's '52 AND '56 you can add 59 more K's.

In 5 complete seasons, Dick Kluszewski, one of the mashing Popeyes of his time (known for his forearms, btw), K'ed a total of 165 times.  Cruz did that last year.

How times have changed.  

For the better?  I don't know....but I really like the Japanese/Korean ("greet" the ball) philosophy, more and more.


When did we start nagging about this one?  :- )  Maybe 1999-2000?  But at that time, anyway, American resentment of the Japanese paradigms ran deep.  Saw it more as a threat than an addition to the arsenal of wisdom.

Lot of low-hanging fruit to be had here.  Can't get enough of it Moe.  Quite a revelation that even golf -- which has MUCH less imperative to a mobile CG -- reinforces this all.

What a tremendous series of instructional posts you laid down here.


Mathemeticians have felt like the K does not hurt the batter significantly.  So the batter might as well hike up his BIP velocity.

But there is always a Tipping Point to be aware of, and we might be reaching it now at 8, 9K per game.  Not sure.


Doc, do you know the methodology of these studies?

If you look at a player vs. player basis, comparing guys who K vs. those who don't, are you just comparing guys who hit more homers to guys who don't.  In essence, if you K a bunch and don't bash, do you stay around the league for very long?  Such a study wouldn't reveal much about the impact of the reduction of K's.

If you do examine whole teams, then you have to examine teams that have the same lineups and see theri K's go up or down.

It would seem that what we would wish to look at is individual players who see a measurable and significant reduction in K's.  What does that do to their productivity?

Are there any players (or many) who see such a reduction?  Does the data tell us that such a reduction is neutral in terms of overall batting performance?

I would be surprised.


They're saying that *everything else being equal* a strikeout doesn't cost more than about .02 runs.  Supposing you had two players who both batted .250 and hit 18 homers, then the one who fanned 60 times and popped up 20 times didn't gain you anything over the one who fanned 80 times.


Infield pops have a value of (let's just say) -.25 runs to the scoreboard while strikeouts have (let's say) -.26 runs.  Groundball outs have (let's say) -.20 runs after you factor in advancing runners, GIDP's, etc.  It's only in that sense that a strikeout doesn't hurt the batter.


But of course putting the ball in play gives you a 25-35% chance for a hit, so strikeouts often drive batting average down ... unless the hitter is gaining BIP velocity and therefore BABIP gains.

Don't remember the methodology but James said *for a pitcher* a strikeout means gains, while for a hitter it's no loss -- ergo the steady rise in K's.  Probably since a pitcher is gaining no BIP advantage by throwing for contact rather than missed bats.

Don't know if that answered the Q?

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