2009
06.30

I have been watching a lot of baseball and going to a lot of games, so here is a (not-so random) thought about baseball:

Back in the 70s, 80s, and even early 90s, many major league hitters subscribed to the hitting philosophies of hitting coaches Walt Hriniak and Charlie Lau. These coaches espoused a more contact driven, line drive approach. Their style was unique, and you could easily point out the hitters who followed it.* Players who subscribed to their theories included two Hall of Famers (George Brett and Wade Boggs), one future Hall of Famer (Frank Thomas), one all-star caliber player (Robin Ventura), and several other solid major leaguers such as former Boston catcher Rich Gedman.

(That was something unique to Lau and Hriniak. There aren’t too many other coaches whose students are easily distinguishable. For example, Rudy Jamarillo of the Texas Rangers is the premier batting coach in today’s game, but how many batters can I identify as Jamarillo followers? None.)

With such a famous line of Lau/Hriniak disciples, you would think their style would carry on past their respective retirements. Yet the line stops there. As far as I know there no longer any subscribers to Hriniak and Lau’s theories currently in the majors. No hitters, no coaches, nothing.

Maybe the hitting philosophies of Lau and Hriniak died with the emergence of the steroid era. Hitting line drives became passe when hitters were more concerned with trying to out-homer their peers. If hitting with an uppercut would equate to millions more in the next contract, who can blame players for shunning a mantra of line drives and contact?

Yet now with the steroid era hopefully behind us, is it possible that we could see a return to the Hriniak/Lau style of hitting? Currently Lau’s son, Charlie Lau Jr., runs a hitting school in Fort Lauderdale. Maybe he is the future of major league hitting.

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  1. Interesting, Jordi. I hadn't really thought about the absence of Hriniak disciples in the modern game. There has to be an answer to the question, I just wonder what it is.

  2. This makes me think of my old Baseball Bunch video, that had Lou Pinella describing "chopping down on the ball for a line drive, to get reverse spin."

    Damn that was a good show.

  3. When Hriniak was with the White Sox (around the time they drafted Thomas), they were so behind him that the whole organization adapted his style.