By Dave Hudgens
Some hitters may be more weight transfer than rotational. They want to get on top of their front foot and transfer their weight through the ball. You’ll see these hitters on top of their front leg more dramatically than others. The hitters who use a greater percentage of weight transfer, generally speaking, hit more singles and doubles. I have racked my brain to try to give you an example of a Major League weight transfer hitter and I can’t think of any. Some might argue that George Brett was a pure weight transfer hitter – this is a misconception. If you can get a hold of old footage of George, he is definitely a combination of the two. While editing this section, Jordan thought Frank Thomas was a good example of a hitter who utilizes more weight transfer then rotation. I agree, however, he is not purely weight transfer. If you were to arbitrarily assign percentages to his swing, he would be more of a 60% weight transfer, 40% rotational – he uses both.
A total rotational hitter will have more power than the weight transfer hitter simply because he uses his hips and legs more and of course you know that is the core part of the body from which power comes. However hitters who are rotationally dominant will generally have a longer swing, pull off the ball more and be more inconsistent – therefore they will have more holes in their swing. They will not be able to use their hands to react to different locations and types of pitches. Dave Kingman, who played in the 1980’s, is a good example of a pure rotational hitter. Dave would hit 40 homeruns a year and hit .200 for average. I can’t think of any Major League hitter who hits purely rotationally, although both Barry Bonds and Greg Vaughn utilize more rotation then weight transfer. Now they would be more in the percentages of 60% rotational, 40% weight transfer. They still use both.
Ted Williams – Charlie Lau
I frequently am asked questions about the all time great hitter, Ted Williams and the late Charlie Lau. Williams is thought of as being a pure rotational hitter, while Lau was a pure weight transfer teacher. Both are misconceptions and misrepresenting the swing. Percentage wise, Ted teaches more rotation but if you look at his old videos and still shots, you clearly see his weight going from back to center which is weight transfer. Lau embraced a pure weight shift philosophy and many of his still shots in his book do show hitters on top of their front leg, however, that isn’t what happened to those same hitters in real game action swings. If any of you have Ted William’s book, The Science of Hitting, turn to the very last page and you will see a perfect swing. However, look closely. Ted has gone to the center position, with his back heel in the air, and his toe – NOT the ball of his foot – on the ground. This clearly shows you the weight has transferred to the center position and therefore, it is not a pure rotational swing. A pure rotational swing would involve no weight transfer and would consist of the weight spinning on the ball of the back foot. It is clear cut – he is definitely not spinning. The swing is definitely a combination of both rotation and weight shift. However, there are varying degrees of this combination. Speaking in mathematical terms, look at it as a matter of the percent used of each. Some hitters will use a greater percentage of rotation, while others will use a greater percentage of weight shift. Ideally the swing should be 50/50. Fifty percent rotational and fifty percent weight transfer. Most great Major League hitters are at 50/50 – A-Rod is a good example.
The effect of having a pure rotational approach is that the hitter will be guaranteed to have a less effective, more inconsistent circular hand path. When taking a circular hand path through the zone, the barrel of the bat stays on the contact plane for a very short time. This leads not only to an improper hand path but also to inconsistent contact. In addition to that, these hitters will have a greater likelihood of rolling over the ball with their top hand which in turn leads to more weak ground balls being hit. Contrast that to a hitter using a strict weight transfer or linear path. Despite the fact that he will stay on the ball longer, he will in fact have more of a chopping type swing. That is why a combination of the two is what leads to the most success. The proper hand path will start out linear or straight to the ball. On the finish or follow through, the swing becomes more circular. In other words, the swing is more linear on the approach to the ball, and more circular on the follow through. Remember to keep it simple because this truly isn’t a difficult concept, people make it much harder then what it is.
Dave Hudgens has been involved with the best of baseball for over 40 years. He was the hitting coach for the New York Mets, Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays. Prior to that he was a longtime hitting coach in the Oakland Athletics’ organization.