Rotational Hitting 101
Rotational Hitting is the term people use to describe Ted Williams'
thoughts about hitting as laid out in The Science of Hitting.
However, and despite Ted Williams' success, Rotational Hitting is often
dismissed or even disparaged by people in the business of hitting and baseball.
The problem isn't with the concept of Rotation. What word would you
use to describe what Ted Williams does in the clip below?
Rather, the problem is that Mike Epstein's
approach to teaching Rotational Hitting is a
and not a strict implementation, of Ted Williams'
I have found that Rotational Hitting can
work at the
college, minor, and major league levels of baseball and fast
Starting in February 2016, and continuing through the 2017
season, I used the concepts and drills that I discuss in my
Hitting 101 Streaming DVD with the hitters at
Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.
As you can see,
achieved a dramatic improvement in its offensive performance in a short period of time
during the 2016 season and sustained -- and improved on -- that
success during the 2017 season.
What is required to make Rotational Hitting work is go back to the original sources and dig into what Ted Williams wrote and
(really) said. You must also augment his core concept...
...with a number of complementary concepts, including...
...that adapt Ted Williams' ideas to the modern game.
And strike zone.
Rotational Hitting 101
As I live in St. Louis, I came to understand Rotational
Hitting, and the concepts that adapt it to the modern game, by studying the swing of Albert Pujols and putting together
flipbook swing analyses.
Since 2005, I've devoted myself to studying the swings of
other great hitters, including Mickey Mantle and Miguel Cabrera.
In 2008, my writings about Albert
Pujols' swing attracted the attention of a career minor leaguer named Andres
I know about training, but hitting was difficult. And then in
’08, I was working with a lot of guys. There’s a guy
named 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.
If Andres thought Rotation was the key to his turn-around, who am
I to argue with him?
Andres Torres Home Run in 2010 World Series
Andres Torres went on to help the San Francisco Giants win the 2010
Why do I talk about Rotation, given the
baggage associated with the term
Matt Carpenter Rotating Into Contact
Believe me, if I could think of a better word to use to
describe what Matt Carpenter is doing in the clips above and below, I would.
Matt Carpenter Rotating Into Contact
However, I can't think of a better term to characterize Matt
Carpenter's swing than "Rotational." As a result, I've decided to
just live with the term and suggest you do the same.
Ted Williams' Concern
Ted Williams' focus on the Rotation of the hips stood in sharp contrast
to what he felt was the (over) emphasis on...
- Weight Shift
- Extension (at
- Swinging Down for Backspin
...that were the focus of Charley Lau and disciples like Walt Hriniak.
Ted Williams knew the high-level swing combines
Linear and Rotational elements.
The clip below shows Ted Williams employed a stride.
A Linear movement into Rotation.
A balance of Linear and Rotational movements.
What Ted Williams was aware of, and was concerned about, were the
limitations of the overly or solely Linear swings that were being
taught in the 70s and 80s. He knew they were working only due to the
nature of the ballparks of the era; gigantic fields where a thin
layer of Astroturf covered a hard layer of concrete.
The problem is that overly Linear thinking remains a problem.
That is why I lead
with the concept of Rotation, even though the high-level swing is
both Linear and Rotational.
I'm just trying to get hitters back to the balance of Linear
and Rotational elements that Ted Williams employed.
However, if you listen to MLB oaches and analysts, many seem to be fixated on trying to coach
Rotation completely OUT of players' swings, likely because that is
what they were taught and it is what worked in their era. However,
while limiting Rotation can work as a cue for some hitters, it doesn't
reflect reality; it's not what great
hitters like Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle actually did.
MiLBer and Mickey Mantle
Unfortunately, players like the one above are being coached OUT
of Rotation and Mickey Mantle's swing -- by a now-MLB hitting
coach -- and are being coached out of
Which is tragic.
Not to mention a waste of talent.
Balance in all Things
A purely Rotational swing would be just as flawed as
a purely Linear swing.
I learned that lesson the hard way when
trying to use Mike Epstein's, Jack Mankin's, and Paul Nyman's
ideas when working with my older son.
I found the high-level swing must combine Linear and Rotational
But in balance.
In the end, I found I needed to develop my own, more comprehensive approach to
teaching hitting. I have since used and refined my approach with a number of
Rotation is only one of a number of concepts I
Mark Trumbo has credited much of his recent success to my
helping him understand the concept of
Why Rotation & Rotational Hitting?
As I discuss at length in my
Hitting FAQ, I was attracted to the concept of Rotational
Hitting because I
thought Rotation was a good way of describing what I was
seeing in the swing of Albert Pujols in his prime.
In the clip above, which shows Albert Pujols hitting THAT home run off of
Brad Lidge, does he stay closed? Does he keep his front shoulder in?
Maybe early on in his stride and swing, but certainly not into contact.
The self-evident truth of Rotation led me to study both Ted Williams' ideas and Mike Epstein's approach
to teaching them. However, as I discuss at greater length in my
Mike Epstein guru guide, I came to understand that
Mike Epstein at
best ignored what Ted Williams emphasized in
The Science of Hitting.
What Mike Epstein taught was subtley,
but as I was to learn, significantly different than what Albert Pujols did.
I then began an intense, in-depth
of Albert Pujols' swing,
including putting together a number of now-famous
flipbook swing analyses.
As I discuss in
experience with Andres Torres, my
analyses of Albert Pujols' swing were discovered by
Andres Torres in 2008. He contacted me and I helped him rebuild his
swing and approach and he helped the Giants win a world championship in
I continue to think and talk about Rotation, and use the term Rotational
Hitting, because I think it remains an
important and useful concept, especially given the proliferation
of cues like...
- Keep your front shoulder closed.
- Don't fly open.
- Don't pull off the ball.
- Don't spin off the ball.
If you don't understand how a hitter can Rotate while not
pulling/spinning off the ball, then I'd suggest you don't
Adjustability, two concepts that were key to Mark Trumbo's
Barry Bonds Demonstrating Rotational Hitting
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.
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.
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 an
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.