Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Stretch Position

In 1994 Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams, named Steve Ferroli, the number one teacher of his world famous Science of Hitting Theory.  Click Here!

In part two of “The Truth Behind it” I said that Ted Williams respected me not only for knowing what he believed to be true in hitting but also, for expanding on parts of his theory that he had not yet thought about.  I also gave more attention to parts of the theory that needed a boost.  I used my theory on “lighting effect” as an example.  

The truth of the matter is that the theory did have it share of glitches and hiccups and I am proud to have been able to smooth them out.  If I had to pick the biggest glitch it would be what I referred to in 1987 as The Stretch Position.  

I think of various baseball skills as short movies and therefore you can think of those movies as having certain pictures or frames in a specific order. In hitting for just a few frames (at a key point in time) there is a very crucial and somewhat difficult move that couples the lower and upper body.  In 1980 you could barely find a player executing this move properly.  Today both leagues  are swimming all around it which is another reason for this dramatic increase in power.

While Ted executed this move very well as a hitter himself it is not represented at all in the "Science of Hitting".  The Stretch Position is the coupling of the lower and upper body and when not present a hitter will never reach his potential. Without the stretch position the hitter is like an 8 cylinder car engine running on 4 cylinders.         

Here is a page from my book; “Disciple of a Master” (How to Hit a Baseball to Your Potential) explaining the importance of The Stretch Position in 1987.  The first three pictures demonstrate The Stretch Position through a separation and therefore a coupling or link between the hips and shoulders.  The stop watch shows no loss of time between the beginning of hip rotation and the start of the bat 

The second sequence without the stretch shows time on the watch.  This time represents "wasted time" when the hips were moving before the bat started to be pulled forward.  I very rarely use the word hitch.  It is an older hitting expression that means wasted motion in the arms. Hitters with their bodies uncoupled have the worst of hitches!  It is the hall of fame hitch...  


No one to my knowledge, had ever identified, documented or published this move “these key movie frames of hitting" before I did in 1987.  Without an emphasis on these frames Ted's theory was strained.     

So last year, I am watching an ESPN segment on how to hit and they are talking about the separation and the stretch like it is something new!  Not once did they mention my book(s), hard work or my name.  

I was listening to the game the other night and the guys were talking about Mookie Betts and they pondered over his power and changes to his approach.  Mookie executes the Stretch Position very well and ultimately gets access to all his momentum.  Which he then applies with a solid contact point. (I am also getting the idea he is very smart.)  Its not just Mookie, more and more players through out the two leagues are getting the idea, but there is a lot more to hitting then just this.  Again on an average I will give MLB hitters a 5 on a 1-10.  

I had to laugh the other night when Jerry Remy referred to "the modern day hitters home run swing".   I felt like the old professor in the movie "Back to the Future".   The modern day hitters ALL NEW - old Ted Williams based home run swing... It really is funny and sad.   I had trouble finding a good size picture of Mookie at this point of the process.  The separation however is very clear.

Sports Illustrated stated that Ted's theory came back into the game when Chicago Cubs, 3rd baseman, Kris Bryant was taught the theory by his father.  While I am happy for any father and their son that survive youth baseball.  I would have to disagree.  

In 1988 I was a guest of Ted's at the Red Sox spring training camp in Winter Haven, Florida. One night I was out having a beer with Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione and Red Sox pitcher Bob Stanley.  Todd Benzinger, also a player on the Red Sox at the time, was in the club and came over to join usTodd had seen my book and asked me about his swing.  I made some suggestions.  

The next day, Todd Benzinger and his room mate Brady Anderson, covered the Winter Haven field with a very unique dead basketball drill I had designed for properly understanding  the contact point.  (They had cleared the basketball shelf at Kmart....)

My point is that Kris Bryant was born 4 years later - in 1992.  He probably would not receive any instruction until the year 2000 I don't think Ted's theory ever really left the game.  I just think it hung around in pieces.  It was not understood or popular as mentioned in earlier blog segments and it did have some glitches. 

I thought George Brett did a nice job with most of it.  Here he is in the stretch position.  But George would really be is an old timer in this resurgence conversation. 

The first young player I remember doing a real good job with this move out of the "lost in space hitting era" was Brady Anderson.  In 1996 he would hit 50 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles.  If I had to pick a year/stat/player that got people really thinking about change this would be it. 

I feel the Ted Williams' theory started to piece together and take more root with the publication of "Disciple of a Master" and continued to grow with "Hit Your Potential".   These books strengthened and defended the theory in a way that was very difficult to argue with.   For all SI knows, Kris Bryant's dad may have both my books.  Truthfully, I would be surprised if he does not.  

A friend asked me why I was doing this blog and my hope is to work with professional baseball teams or players and donate the money to the Ted Williams League.  Kid's baseball is a @#%@^&% train wreck. I see it as a dying game. The Ted Williams League has all the answers but it needs help. 

I watched a MLB show today talking about the Red Sox and Yankees playing in England next year.  They had the team owners, the players union, the MLB commissioner and all I could think about  was that kid’s baseball should be the priority.  The game of baseball is far more important than the business of baseball. 

I reached out to a couple of teams / agents with players that I know I can help.  We'll see. 

As for ESPN and Sports Illustrated, my intention has always been to help.  I just don't think they realize how much good it would do to bring my story into the open.  Talk some hitting with me?  Have I not earned it?    

In the meantime, I have a great boys baseball camp starting soon!  Click Here. 

I will end with this funny story.  I was asked by a former camper and TWL player, Greg Banks to talk about hitting at Rockland High School (Rockland, Mass).  Greg is now a JV coach there with another former camper of mine Brian Shea.  The varsity coach is Mike Doyle.  Nice program - good kids. 

When it came to my introduction Greg introduced me as a coach that knows a lot about hitting and is involved in the Ted Williams League.  ( I 'm thinking - Greg you just introduced Then I start thinking if Williams is watching this with Cobb and Ruth, Tye just poked Ted and said; He didn't even mention you skinny and the Babe is laughing.)   

Often I'll say to parents (that know my story) that their sons will be 30 before they really understand who I am --  I am officially upping that to 40.  


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Seeing the Truth Behind It (Part Four)

A Learning Moment in Oakland! 

In 1994, Ted Williams would name Steve Ferroli, the number one teacher of his world famous hitting theory.  Click Here to Watch

I am going to put Josh Donaldson's trip to the blackboard on hold and here is why.  Teaching for years and years, I have noticed times during camps, clinics, games or practices where there is an occurrence that creates what I call a learning moment.  That is to say, something happens that very obviously proves a point or raises an important question. 

We just had a learning moment in Oakland California...

I’m watching the Red Sox / A’s pregame and I’m hearing about how all of baseball is watching the Boston Red Sox offense.  They are talking about how this is unprecedented amazing - and so on.  And it has been smoking from the starters right to the bench.   

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Oakland A’s lefty, Sean Manaea, throws a no hitter against them with a 90 mile an hour fastball and an 80 mile an hour slider.  Then the next day Dan Mengden was equally impressive with three different pitches.  The A’s held this unprecedented and amazing lineup to 1 run in 18 innings… 1 run!  The Red Sox had just swept the Angels aside like they were a minor league team.

How is this possible?     

It does not seem possible. I mean, all that hitting, all those home runs, brought to a sudden stop.  They in fact, were damn near stopped completely from scoring.  And it was not 40 degrees in Boston, it was nice baseball weather - 70 degrees.  How can this happen?   

Well we certainly can conclude that there is much more to hitting than launch angle.       

And as I said in part three:
To execute and maintain a slight up swing the hitter will require;
1) A decent full body swing
2) Proper thinking at the plate
3) The timing of his balance
4) An understanding of lighting effect
5) An understanding of strike zone depth 
6) A professional’s level of awareness in regard to the sweet spot of his bat.  

Unfortunately, I only see about half these skills on TV.  (You can’t fool me.)  Again, I’ll give MLB hitters a 5 on a 1-10 in the execution of Ted’s theory. 

While there is more to it than just this, for our purpose here, I would like to specifically focus on number 2 “proper thinking at the plate”.   Ted said; “Hitting a baseball is 50 percent from the neck up”. To Ted this was called proper thinking.

As Ted’s chosen successor, I will tell you that proper thinking can be broken down into three sub categories or skills: 1) Watching the pitcher pitch 2) Reading and seeing and  3) Two strike hitting. 

On an average, if I was grading MLB’s hitting test papers the section on "proper thinking" would say "SEE ME" in red marker beside the big, red X.

It is here, “proper thinking” where the Red Sox failed in Oakland.  As a matter of fact, it is  also where the A’s failed in Oakland...  But where the Red Sox were on fire going into these games the learning moment is more obvious when the focus is on them.  

“Proper thinking at the plate” is the very heart of timing any pitch.  It is the very heart of being on plane or creating the line drive plane. You cannot take consistent well timed full body swings without it - not possible. 

Ever drive a car that needed a tune up?  Pop, bang, shake, sputter - maybe die - same idea.  And this is a good analogy because proper thinking in hitting is complicated.  Proper thinking in hitting has its own spark plugs, wires and distributor.  When these parts are operating as designed your engine (your swing) will purr like a kitten.  When one or more are off… #$%^@&* !     

On an average, Mengden and Manaea don’t really have any better stuff than most other pitchers on any given day.  ( I could make a case for less.) But they sure used the stuff they had in such a way to attack the parts of hitting where most MLB’s hitters are weak and/or don’t understand.  It worked. 

Simply put there is still a lot of work to be done - many things to be learned and understood.  It is not really all that hard.

So if you’re a player, an agent, a team owner, a general manager or a team manager you could grab Ted’s book and my book (you will need both) and start digging and interpreting.  

Or you can help kid’s baseball by hiring me to show you quickly.  There is value in technique - lots of it.  

Earlier in this blog, I stated that while hitting seemed to be lost in space I headed to children’s baseball and started redesigning some obvious flaws at various levels of play.  While all the above is fun to talk about, I really don’t have a lot interest in MLB.  
I am more interested in the game of baseball than the business of baseball.   I do think MLB baseball has its place.  It is still many a kids dream and is copied and looked up to by all the leagues below.  Here is my main interest and concern.            

Unfortunately, in my opinion, kid’s baseball is a dying game.  It is a train wreck of poor design and presentation. And it just continues to pile up.  I can't wait to do a blog on the new kid's bat rule.  I don't have enough Mad Magazine for this one...   

The Ted Williams League a non -profit organization (and the best baseball work of my life) it has every answer to these problems.  It needs help.  It needs MLB help.      

Here is my mini business plan; you hire me as a consultant and all money goes to the Ted Williams League.  I help you. You help kid's baseball. 

Also, interested Ted Williams League sponsors that may happen to this blog please contact me as well.  

Here is the link to my summer camp for contact information. Click here to visit Camp

Josh Donaldson be ready next class...