Ted Williams on pitching...Do you agree or disagree?

Here’s what Ted Williams writes about pitching in his book The Science of Hitting:

[quote]The biggest fault I find with pitchers is they don’t adjust enough. they don’t think with the hitter. they don’t change their deliveries. It’s so important,too. So important. I know Bobo Newsom used to give you that big wind up , his arms flying around, and then whoomhere comes the ball, and half the time you weren’t set for it. he disturbed your concentration.

Johnny Allen used to change his delivery frequently. And Bob Lemon did it. What happened? Instead of a 15-inch square over the shoulder, the ball was coming from anywhere, and maybe the pitcher hesitated,or moved around on the rubber, or gave you another wind up, another motion, a new tempo. Satchel Paige had about 15 different deliveries. he was always changing that tempo.[/quote]

Do you agree or disagree with Williams i.e., “pitchers don’t adjust enough.”


One of the reasons for going into a windup … and even the stretch motion … was to get the batter into a tempo dictated by YOU…. the pitcher. And it (dictating a batter’s tempo) is as skillful of an art, as the pitch’s signature at the plate.

A batter’s timing is all eye – hand coordination… with a bit of timing/tempo sandwiched in the middle. Now I’m not a batting coach… nor do I profess how to explain the timing/tempo thing … but I do know, and have proven it, that a batter who watches a pitcher … who takes a lazy full windup…. can … and will…. have to make an adjustment to any pitch upon release that is usually an abrupt shifting in the action heretofore.

Quick windups and set motions can preempt a batter to “think…quick here it comes.” And basically what your doing is pitching to his/her expectations. On the other hand… shifting gears by observing one thing… that suddenly alters the visual witness, is to say the least … not good for any batter.

I use to instruct this technique by actually teaching the Box Step that’s used when couples dance. Usually, there’s a slow cadence like 1-2-3, 1-2-3,1-2-3. Now if in the process of performing a Box Step … all of sudden just after the second set of 1-2-3… the tempo was speeded up to a 1-2, 1-2, 1-2….any coordination by either party is disrupted so bad that it’s not unusual to see things come to a complete stop. And that’s what we as pitchers MUST do to the batter. In other words… we must use everything at our disposal to disrupt a batter’s coordination, =…timing / tempo.

But don’t take my word for it. The next time your tossing BP… give it a try. Start a nice slow lazy windup… the full thing now mind you…. then explode with a heater, slider, sinker, anything.

Now when talking about off-speeds/change-ups … that’s different. And more often then not, these pitches are deliberately delivered as a setup pitch and they’re usually not expected to get a strike call on. However, if close enough to an OUTSIDE corner… they will be chased. Just don’t miss 4 or 5 inches up or down… left or right.

Great question.

Coach B.

I agree, to an extent though… Good post Coach.

The only problem I have with changing deliveries/tempos, is that it’s truely difficult to command a baseball with one repeatable delivery. When I say command a baseball, I’m not talking about just throwing strikes. I’m talking about putting the baseball where you want to, whether that’s inside the strike zone or not. Ofcourse, hitting is timing, but alot of people don’t realize that pitching and release point is also based off timing as well.

This is a very interesting discussion.

I have also read TW’s Science of Hitting and was aware of his advice to pitchers. A remarkably thoughtful and deeply analytical hitter, I think Williams didn’t necessarily understand all of the issues for pitchers quite as thoroughly as he did hitting.

It is far easier to say that pitchers should show the hitter different types of deliveries than it is for pitchers to do that effectively, as per Hammer’s comments.

On the other hand, I also agree with the spirit of Coach Baker’s insightful comments–as much as a pitcher can do to effectively screw with a hitter’s sense of timing should by all means be done. In the right situations I’ve sometimes advocated switching between the wind-up and the set position for sequential pitches within a single AB to mess with the hitter’s timing (e.g., with no runners on 1st or 2nd, and a pitcher who can actually do this with command). It’s funny, some experienced baseball people actually think that this is forbidden by the OBRs. It’s not, but it is also not as easy as it sounds.

Remember, anything that the pitcher does to mess with the hitter’s timing may also mess with the pitcher’s sense of timing. The pitcher may have the advantage in this situation, but it’s only a theoretical advantage if the pitcher cannot execute.

As far as current MLB pitchers who show clear evidence of being able to use more than one arm-slot in their delivery…I count only 10 or 11 out of 400+ active pitchers at that level. For those few who do use more than one arm-slot, I’ve only been able to find clear evidence of two distinct arm-slots per individual, never more than that. Neyer and James’ book on pitchers gives some evidence from old newspaper articles and such that there may have been pitchers who used more than two arm-slots; however, there doesn’t seem to be any reliable photographic evidence for that. Most of those older stories are a bit too flamboyant, i.e., “good selling copy”, to take very seriously.

I’m with everyone, I would add that the problem (Or another issue) with multiple arm slots/deliveries is in America, it doesn’t fit the mold, which means as you get higher and higher it will tend to be supressed down to the “norm”, Jose Contraris and El Duque and Livan are the most prevalent guys who get away with this because they were able to reach the bigs via latin America (The last 2, cousins from a very mature Cuban program) where this sort of approach hasn’t been completely discarded yet…as American scouts gain more and more contol through the different latin bb acadamies it will also be supressed…It’s why I’m sure that the folks with the MBA mentality (Bean counters) will be the first in front of the wall so to speak when the revolution comes…they demand a product that has “predictable” success and anything outside the norm is quickly supressed…a real daggone shame in my view…it takes away from the art.

The questions on this site are, for all intensive purposes, are as genuine as they are generalizations of an idea, an experience or an observation regardless how abstract or defined.

So are the responses – from anyone. Me included.

In the case of Ted Williams and his opinions, he’s seen a generation of pitchers that have come on the field with a certain time period of talent. Most, but not all, have and were created in the self image of their trainers
and coaches, while others were home schooled.

And his observations were more a broad brush then they were specific to any one pitcher. This is factual as it is relevant to two of the greats during his day… namely Bob Gibson and Koufax. Gibson was power personified… …raw, beautiful power without equal… and a nasty sober disposition to match. I saw his pitch knock more then a few guys down, and it wasn’t pretty. Koufax on the other hand was skill, grace, and a gentle demeanor that did not throw at batters, and went down in the record books as a great among greats… but for the lack of equal parity due to the small minded bigotry of prior years dealing with the Negro Leagues.

So, when responding to posts that expand on an idea or assumption, where pitching is concerned, I learned over the years not to be so focused on the answer … because the dynamics of the human condition in athletic
competition is an ever evolving universe …. especially baseball.

Coach B.

nice post JD… I’m going to send that to my neighbor… a CPA.

Coach Baker,

Do you have a copy of Williams’ 1972 film “The Science of Hitting”? If not, you should…I know from reading your many insightful and delightful posts that you would greatly enjoy it.

It’s available on dvd for a very good price from Rare Sports Films–and it’s actually bundled with several other Ted Williams films dating all the way back to the mid-40’s.

Williams was coaching the Texas Rangers by that point in his life and his film, which was intended to go along with his book, had guest appearances from Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Billy Williams, Frank Robinson, Bobby Murcer, Harmon Killebrew, etc, etc as well as clips of great hitters from the more distant past. Williams narrates most of it himself and also personally demos a number of his points. For anyone interested in hitting a baseball, this little known film is a must-have. Most people don’t even know of its existence, because 1972 was that 'tween-time between expensive, clunky film and cheap, easy videotape. Ironically, although the information in that film is still current and extremely valuable, the medium itself (film) became obsolete almost at the same time as this production was released.

Williams’ joke at the end of the film is hilarious: He looks at one of his Rangers hitters in a dugout and says, “One thing we can all agree on–the pitcher is the dumbest guy on the field”. Then the scene fades to a real game AB in which the hitter is called out on strike 3. Priceless.

No, I don’t have a copy of that… I’ll have to do some digging to get it.

Ted Williams is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Americans that ever graced our game. He put on hold a professional career -twice, to serve our country when we needed the likes of Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Rizzuto, DiMaggio, Greenburg and a lot of others who took to the call of duty.

I served in Korea and Vietnam and his service as a Marine is no secret. And although his attitude didn’t win him any Oscars with many fans and the press, the man is in a League all his own. He is a giant among men, and I have the deepest respect for his contributions to our game and our
way of life.

Thank you very much for the information about his movie… I’m going to make it a point to get It. I have the publication.

Coach B.

Here’s the link to the Williams DVD

I have enjoyed reading the responses in this thread. I wholeheartedly agree with JD in regards to the “not fitting the mold” comment. Today’s kids are camp kids and while there is nothing wrong with that per se; it fosters an environment that lends itself to doing it one way (a topic for another thread).

Is it hard to change deliveries, arm slots, move around on the rubber etc.? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done!

[quote]I served in Korea and Vietnam and his service as a Marine is no secret. And although his attitude didn’t win him any Oscars with many fans and the press, the man is in a League all his own. He is a giant among men, and I have the deepest respect for his contributions to our game and our
way of life. [/quote]

Self-sacrifice is what makes America great. Throw into that mix the likes of folks like Jimmy Stewart…It is why I think Pat Tillman (I always spell it wrong but ya’ll get the idea) is the most important hero of the last 30 years. No one even comes close…what a hero, what a MAN!
And John, I thank you for your service :wink:
If I could have one wish…it would be for all of our kids to understand…it isn’t about what you are owed, it’s all about what you can give…things would straighten out so fast…forget about “me”, work for “us”.