“I have observed that baseball is not unlike a war, and when you come right down to it, we batters are the heavy artillery.” – Ty Cobb
1. DON’T GRIP YOUR BAT AT THE VERY END; leave say an inch or two. ALSO, LEAVE AT LEAST AN INCH OR MORE SPACE BETWEEN YOUR HANDS; that gives you balance and control of bat, and also keeps hands from interfering with each other during swing.
Cobb was a contact type of hitter that relied on getting the ball in play and using his speed to leg out many hits. Using this spread type of grip and “choking’ up on the bat gave him better control to capitalize on his hitting approach. Homeruns were not his concern, hitting .400 was! He did this 3 times in his career and once had a stretch of 11 years in which he hit .368 or higher!
2. Take position at plate, especially against right hand pitchers, BACK OF PLATE, and against a man with a real curve, YOU CAN STAY ON BACK LINE OF BATTING BOX. Now try to hit to right-center. I don’t mean you should place the ball in any one spot, but start now practicing to hit your right-handers to the opposite field. An inside ball from a right-hand pitcher you will naturally pull, say, to left-center.
This is the philosophy we adopt at BeABetterHitter. Essentially what Ty Cobb is saying is that you want to identify the third of the plate that the pitch is coming… pull the ball on the inner third…hit the ball to the big part of the field (up the middle and opposite field) on balls on the outer two thirds. Interesting that he liked the very back line of the batter’s box.
3. DON’T SLUG AT FULL SPEED; LEARN TO MEET THEM FIRMLY, and you will be surprised at the results.
Another BeABetterHitter philosophy: Basically he is saying that a full and uncontrolled swing is not the answer! Develop Bat Speed and then use about 75-85% of that speed during the swing. See the article Pure Hitter = Power Hitter under Fundamental Skills.
4. Now, to hit as I ask, to right-center or center. YOU STAND AWAY FROM PLATE the distance you can see with mind’s eye that you can hit the ball that curves on inside corner, to center. This distance away from the plate will allow you to hit the outside ball to right. In other words, you protect the plate both on inside pitches and outside.
Here, he is simply explaining that you must recognize and understand the concept of “plate coverage” with your bat length and stance position in the box. Another hint to hit to the big part of the field!
5. Remember, THE PLATE IS THE PITCHER’S OBJECTIVE AND HE HAS TO COME TO IT. I use ‘back of plate’ expression to mean towards the catcher, away from plate to denote distance from plate towards outside of box. Now, USE A SLIGHTLY CLOSED STANCE, AND KEEP A LITTLE MORE WEIGHT ON YOUR FRONT FOOT THAN BACK. That gives you balance and won’t pull you away from curves. You are always in position to give maximum drive.
This is where hitting has changed a bit… perhaps for the worse. Players today are more interested in knocking the ball out of the park and so this “weight on the front foot” style has lost favor. Even though, if you analyze a golf swing, many of today’s players still utilize this stance setup. Incidentally, the golf ball is stationary!!
6. DON’T PULL A CURVE BALL FROM A RIGHTHANDER. The ball is revolving away from you. Go with the revolution and to right-field.
This is an interesting statement as it describes a RH hitter in the box. Again, I believe the key here is Cobb is intent on hitting the inside part of the ball to the big part of the field. Although, I am certain he would suggest you to hit the “hanger” on the inside third of the plate to left field, or simply out of the ballpark!
7. KEEP YOUR LEFT ELBOW COCKED ON LEVEL WITH YOUR HANDS OR EVEN HIGHER. Never let the elbows down below the hands, and keep your hands always well away from the body – keep pushing them out, even with your body or back.
Visualize the great Ty Cobb in his LH hitting position. He is describing the back elbow here as being at approximately the same height as the hands. What he means about the well away from the body is interesting (Sammy Sosa?). He does emphasize they be back, ready to hit.
8. KEEP YOUR BACK LEG STRAIGHT. Of course, if you put your weight more on the front leg, then the back leg will be straight.
Again, Ty Cobb was a contact hitter. He never hit more than 12 Homeruns in a season his entire career. A player should consider this when deciding if this style fits for him/her.
9. IF HIGH FAST BALLS INSIDE REALLY BOTHER YOU: crouch over from waist and pass them up. Don’t bite, in other words. In crouching, you make the pitcher throw lower, which forces him away from the position that bothers you. But I think with the instructions I have given, you will hit them wherever they pitch.
This is a smart tactic for any player that has a difficult time getting to the high heat. Pete Rose comes to mind in remembering his batting stance. It also falls in line with the BABH philosophy of knowing your hitting zone. Hit your pitch in your zone until two strikes.
10 AGAINST A SPEEDY LEFT-HANDER DON’T PULL. Use same stance I have given you, and when he throws you his curve, knock him down with it or you will naturally pull it, as the ball is breaking in to you. BUT AGAINST A LEFT-HANDER OF FAIR SPEED: Move up in the box, also closer to the plate, and PULL THIS STYLE OF PITCHING.
Ty is describing a RH hitter against a LH Pitcher. Again, hit the inside of the ball and go to the big part of the field if the pitcher can “bring it”, including his curve ball. His hitting approach and position in the box, changes if the pitcher is not a flame thrower. His advice: “pull” a LH pitcher of average speed… in other words: “A crafty lefty”.
An amusing quote from Mr. Cobb, who, many years after retirement was asked, “If you were playing today, how well do you think you would hit?”
“Oh, about 320.”, answered Cobb.
“”Why so low?”.
“Well, you’ve got to remember, I’m 61 years old!”
On #7, Cobb is clearly talking about the front elbow, not the back, as he is writing to a right-handed hitter (left elbow would be front). Elevating the front elbow naturally promotes an inside-out stroke, kind of like the one Cobb is describing here….