Baseball has seen its fair share of “ugly” swings, even at the highest level. Notable players like Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Mike Piazza, albeit very successful hitters, didn’t have swings that coaches teach to younger players. So what does the perfect swing look like?
To help us answer this question, we’re going to take a look at three of the best swings in baseball history. We’ll break down the commonalities of each of these swings and provide you with the hitting tips you can use towards your own swing.
Baseball’s Best Swings
The eighth wonder of the world – Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing. Griffey had the smoothest, most aesthetically pleasing swing in baseball history. He was blessed with athleticism and confidence and made everything look easy on the diamond. His Hall of Fame career began with a double in his first major league at-bat, and he never looked back. 630 home runs and 10 Gold Gloves later, we are still marveling over the ease with which he played the game.
Looking back on his swing, a few things that stand out. Griffey stood very upright in his pre-load stance and he kept his hands back by his left arm pit. As he loaded, he strided out with his front leg while maintaining back leg integrity. Many hitters (especially younger players) will collapse their back knee and lose their strength and balance as a result.
His hands had minimal horizontal movement giving them the freedom to “go” at any point. He also stayed balanced and tall throughout his swing, allowing the length of his arms to cover all portions of the zone. As a result, he was never lunging after a pitch.
Griffey's swing's final (and most memorable) element was his patented one-arm follow-through. While incredibly smooth and ultra-iconic, Griffey used this to his advantage. By releasing his left hand from the bat after making contact, he was able to finish his swing with his chest facing square to the field. The balance, fluidity, and grace he displayed on every swing is second-to-none. If there’s ever been a more perfect swing in baseball, we’ve never seen it.
He retired as “the greatest hitter in baseball history.” Williams was a left-handed hitter who made a Hall of Fame career squaring up the baseball. He was also the author of “The Science of Hitting,” but what made Williams so special was his natural ability to hit any pitch, in any location, during any situation. The Splendid Splinter doesn’t have near the video proof that a player like Griffey has, but Sean Casey from MLB Network did this breakdown of Williams’ swing. It’s great insight into why Ted Williams had one of the most perfect swings baseball has ever seen.
Nobody in baseball history has ever won more batting titles than the great Tony Gwynn. But he did it in a way different from Griffey or even Williams. There has never been a hitter more trusting and reliant on their hands than Tony Gwynn. He created a strong base and minimized the movement throughout the rest of his body. This allowed him to have complete barrel control on every pitch. He wanted to let the ball travel and hit it where it was pitched. [Editor’s note: If I had a dollar for every time a coach told me that before.]
Looking at the GIF above, watch how calm Gwynn’s body is. His hands provide a little movement to keep him from getting tight, but the rest of his swing is quiet. It’s a little stride into his load, and what really stands out here is that Gwynn never loses balance. He stands in the batter’s box like a linebacker stands in a running lane. It’s beautiful. And against a lefty, nonetheless. A swing like this will play against any pitcher you face.
This second GIF is such an excellent example of Gwynn balanced power. You can see every element of his swing that led to such success. A slight twist in his shoulders, fully synchronized with his stride, and a head that never flinches.
Now pretend you’re pitching to him. Where is the weakness? You can’t throw off speed because of his balance. You can’t beat him inside because of his abbreviated swing, and you can’t beat him away because of how well he lets the ball travel.
While Griffey and Williams might offer visually prettier swings, if there’s one hitter’s swing to try and replicate, it’s Tony Gwynn. The man was a legend.
Honorable Mentions: Ichiro Suzuki, Will Clark, Derek Jeter,
The Keys to the Perfect Baseball Swing
- Controlled Load
- Stiff Front Side
- Consistent Finish
- Eye & Head Control
So in conclusion, the perfect baseball swing will be different for every hitter. Find what works for you and practice. Invest time into studying your swing. Make the proper adjustments and continue to refine your craft. And before you know it, we might just be editing this article to include your swing too!