Luke Scott on Hula Hoop Swing Paths & Vlad Guerrero

Last month, I asked 10 big-league players if hitting is more of an art or more of a science. I posed the same question to Luke Scott. Not surprisingly, his answer was both thoughtful and interesting. Love him or hate him — the Tampa Bay Rays outfielder is outspoken, charismatic and controversial — Scott understands his craft. He also describes it in way that only Luke Scott can.


Luke Scott on hitting
: “Hitting is more of an art than a science, but they’re not far off. I’d say it’s about a 60-40 split. There is a science to hitting. There’s a way I can look at a swing and scientifically break it down. I can see why a guy is successful, and why a certain guy matches up well against a certain pitcher because of things like swing path. You can try to mimic that. A player can try to have a flatter bat on a ball that’s elevated. Or you need a slight angle drop — as the pitch lowers, your bat angle lowers.

“Think of a hula hoop. If your swing was to come through the hitting zone and then continue on that same path around that axis, which is your body, it would form a circle, or a hula hoop. Well, that hula hoop, based on the position of the pitch — the angle it comes in, or breaks away — you just angle that accordingly. That’s the science of hitting. You’re breaking down the mechanics of bat path. There’s also how your lower half works with the upper half.

“As for the art of hitting, there are those who don’t understand hitting but are great hitters. They’ve mastered the art. I played with Vladimir Guerrero and he’s one of the best examples I’ve seen. Another good example is Nick Markakis. Nick Markakis doesn’t go into slumps. Why? Because he’s mastered the art of hitting for what his swing path is, and what his body is. He can go out there and hit anybody, lefty or righty, and it doesn’t matter what the pitch is. He can put a good swing on it.

“Vladimir Guerrero is the same way. The only weakness… the only cold spot in Vladimir Guerrero’s swing is about [the size of a softball] and it’s right down the middle. Anywhere else, you’re in trouble. If you throw a batting practice fastball, four-seam, and center-cut it nice and easy, he’ll pop it up. If you go up and in, he can shoot it the other way or tomahawk it. If you go up and away, he can blast it that way. Down and away, he can hook it, go the other way, or drive it to center. Down and in, he wears out left field. You wouldn’t believe… I’ve seen him get base hits on pitches that bounced.

“He’s a freak. He’s mastered the art of hitting, yet he doesn’t know anything about hitting. Vladimir could not go in front of a video screen, with a toggle switch, and frame by frame break down the mechanics of a swing. He couldn’t tell you what’s going on, or what you need to do. He couldn’t do it.

“When I played with Vlad, I’d ask him a question, like, ’What are you working on?’ He’d say, ’I just hit the ball.’ I’d ask, ‘How did you angle your bat path to hit that ball the other way?’ He’d say, ‘I just saw the ball and hit it over there.’ He’s mastered the art of doing it the way he does it.

“I study the science of hitting, but sometimes I also just have a feel. When I have that feel, I’m very good. I can manipulate the ball; I can do all these things. I think that’s more important than knowing how to hit. I know how to hit, and I can practice all the drills I want. I know how to break down my swing and do drills to line things up and create a certain alignment with my body. But when I step in the box, it’s all about a feel. The rest of the stuff goes out the window. I could have the best swing in the world, but if I don’t have a feel for it… the feel is the art. The art of hitting is timing and feel. When you have that — when timing and feel come together — the round bat hits the round ball.”

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA

21 Responses to “Luke Scott on Hula Hoop Swing Paths & Vlad Guerrero”

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  1. triple_r says:

    Shoulda asked him about Obama’s birth certificate

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  2. Vladimir Guerrero says:

    Sign me! I’m at least a 3-WAR player and the creaky knees are a thing of the past. Will work for free. Almost. Seriously people, who wouldn’t want a hitter with my credentials? This is clearly a conspiracy. I can still rake but the Long Island Ducks are keeping me on the inactive list, and I am NOT injured. W T F. Luke Scott and the rest of you non-Expos can keep hating on hitters like me, but you’ll never understand what its like to rake everything within 3 feet of the plate. I was BORN outside the zone. Art? I’m a goddam Picasso at the plate.

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  3. Richard says:

    Vlad was always one of my favorite players to watch, even though he spent a good deal of his time torching my Braves**.

    **At least it seemed that way, b-r shows his career numbers against the Braves were mixed, with a couple of stellar years.

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  4. Bitter Beane says:

    I think the possibility exists that Vladimir Guerrero simply didn’t want to talk to Luke Scott, and that possibility is very good.

    +20 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • KDL says:

      Vlad’s loss. If he’d gotten closer to Scott, Luke surely would have brought some fruit to the clubhouse for him.

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    • Jeff Kent says:

      So you’re saying that 1 + 1 = Robert Andino?

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    • RandomDigits says:

      Scott’s locker was next to Vlad’s. Scott also speaks fluent Spanish and was got along very well with the Hispanic players on the O’s.

      Sorry if that disrupts your predetermined narrative.

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      • Navy Beane says:

        It does not, because my narrative presumes that Vladimir Guerrero, foreign born and ethnic Communist, does have something to hide. It was wrong of you to presume that mine was an emotional response, rather than a blue-blooded patriot’s logic. But, I will admit that I took Luke Scott’s characterization as an allusion to le bon sauvage, presenting an unsophisticated hitter, in tune with nature, however unable to fathom the subtleties of the hoola hoop.

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      • KDL says:

        1) It was a joke.
        2) My joke is based on stuff that Scott actually did. I heard about racist stuff that Scott’s actually done and made a joke about him doing the same racist thing in a different context. I really don’t see that as being much of a stretch. I’m not ASSUMING Scott thinks it’s funny to give black teammates bananas based on some “predetermined narrative” about him. Scott actually gave banana chips to a black teammate in the context of calling him a savage. I’m referring to a thing that happened – not basing my joke on any “predetermined narrative”. Unless by “predetermined narrative” you meant “reality based on actual events”.

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        • RandomDigits says:

          So you didn’t assume that Scott would prefer the company of Caucasian players to Hispanic ones?

          I find that hard to believe.

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  5. Hurtlocker says:

    Interesting. It’s kind of like when your a little kid and trying to hit the wiffle ball. Some kids just figure it out and make it look easy, some kids never figure it out.

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  6. DSC says:

    Guerrero did understand how to hit and understood his mechanics, he always talked about adjustments he needed to make and watched video, but never of pitchers. I don’t think Vlad was a student of pitching by any means, but he was clearly aware of how to do it. Also, Scott still plays baseball??

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  7. ettin says:

    “From his nose to his toes!”…. I miss Vlad! He is a great ballplayer and a great human being!

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    • DSC says:

      Agreed. I liked Napoli’s story on Guerrero I read this year, and what Guerrero did when Adenhart was killed. So many cool, generous stories.

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  8. Katarina Witt says:

    Do you recall where you read the story?

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    • DSC says:

      Can’t find the original story, Napoli talking about how Vlad bought him and other new players suits so they’d look good on the road, going to Guerrero’s house to eat with all the Latin players even though he didn’t speak Spanish, and so on. But I can’t find it, maybe it was on a blog that wasn’t archived.

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  9. The David says:

    “Nick Markakis doesn’t go into slumps.”

    Since June 1: 304 PA || .248/.309/.285 || .276 BABIP || 62 wRC+ || -0.75 WPA || -11.9 RE24

    Since August 1: 85 PA || .203/.282/.203 || .214 BABIP || 36 wRC+ || -0.36 WPA || -5.3 RE24

    Zero extra base hits in last 135 PA. Zero.

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