One of my favorite articles that I have ever read was from a 1986 sports illustrated conversation between Ted Williams, Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly. IF you have never read it here it is. Essentially, it is Boggs and Mattingly (both near or at the prime of their careers) talking hitting with arguably the greatest hitter ever. The conversation goes back and forth between what Boggs and Mattinlgy think they are doing with their swing and Williams continually telling them that what they think they are doing is wrong. The best example is Mattingly and Boggs talk about trying to swing down to which Williams accurately corrects them that they actually swing up. It is a great example of what I want to address today. The concept of feel vs. real.
While many of the hitters of today have come around to Ted Williams teachings, you can also listen to some of the greatest hitters of all time (Mike Trout, Don Mattingly, George Brett, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter) and you will hear that they want to try and stay on top of the ball. Then watch the way they swing in a game. Bat gets under the ball and moves up like every other great hitter of all time. Here is a picture of Albert Pujols talking about what he is trying to do at the plate with another picture of his actual swing.
So how do these great hitters think of things that are obviously wrong and turn in hall of fame careers? TO be honest, I’m not really sure. Could they be even better if they didn’t think about swinging down and staying on top of the ball? Maybe. Ted Williams certainly thought so. However, I don’t think that I need to change the way that Mike Trout thinks about hitting. I want to address younger players following what these great hitters talk about.
Should I follow the thinking of hitters who talk about trying to visualize things that I know are wrong mechanically?
My suggestion is it depends. You have to know your swing inside and out and what helps you to create the best swing possible. Mike Trout and Derek Jeter could think about staying on top of the ball and swinging down because their swings are already pretty good and mechanically sound. If you have trouble swinging down too much, thinking the same way that they do will only exacerbate the problem.
I certainly think that some hitters can think about something completely off the wall and still have success at the plate. However, with all of the information we have today, there are just as many if not more that think about doing things that should actually happen in a swing. My general advice is the practice and think about what actually happens in a swing, much like what Ted Williams was trying so desperately to get across to Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs.