Found: Ted Williams’ Self-Proclaimed Heat Map



Ted Williams didn’t play during the Heat Map Era. He also didn’t play during the Internet, Grunge, Civil Rights, Designated Hitter, or David Bowie Era. But Mr. Williams still understood the idea behind heat maps. The above (embiggenable) image is of a display at the Hall of Fame museum, in which Williams estimates his batting average based on pitch location.

I have yet to visit the Hall of Fame, but when I do, I will certainly seek this display out. I’ve tried to come up with something humorous or insightful to say about this, but everything I come up with pales in comparison to just how cool this thing is. Just imagining Ted Williams dictating a batting average for 77 different balls — splitting some vertically, some horizontally, because that inch and half matters — delights me. We don’t have Pitch F/X data with which to compare this, and I honestly don’t care. Comparing it to facts would ruin it somehow. This isn’t so much a factual chart as it is a peek inside the head of one of the smartest hitters the game has ever seen.

It’s a glorious thing, and it will be my misshapen computer wallpaper for a while.

(image via the digital mind meld known as Reddit)

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David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.

16 Responses to “Found: Ted Williams’ Self-Proclaimed Heat Map”

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  1. Dave says:

    I guess he got a lot of pitches right down the middle in 1952-53.

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  2. Birdlander says:

    It’s pretty interesting that he decided those 4 balls on the inside below the middle needed to be divided in half.

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  3. Bryan Cole says:

    Of course, the chart also shows up in The Science of Hitting, so you can have a less-misshapen version. Here’s an example:

    I liked that book but man, I hit just as bad before, during, and after reading it. The fault is mine, I’m sure, not Mr. Williams’s.

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    • Choo says:

      That book changed my life. I found it by accident in the high school library during my freshman year. The first thing I noticed upon opening the cover was the list of names of the great high school ballplayers who had checked it out before me. It felt like I had stumbled upon some sacred baseball scroll. I studied that book and memorized every word. I changed my jersey to #9, even for football. My game improved greatly, but not because of Ted’s wisdom. Rather, the depth of love and dedication that Ted had for hitting came through in his book, and made me realize just how hard I had to work.

      I have long forgotten the words, but that beautiful heat map, which I must have stared at for hours, was permanently tattooed on my mind.

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  4. tribefaninnc says:

    I’ve always been fascinated by that display as well. I love how .300 is ice cold for him.

    Didn’t he show this on an episode of the Baseball Bunch too?

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    • smb282 says:

      Yes, yes he did…only it was a mockup with no numbers on the balls, IIRC. God, I loved those tapes. The Ted WIlliams episode was the best, even better than close runner up the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Ozzie Smith).

      Good memory, man.

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  5. Kyle says:

    Incredible and awesome.

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  6. Bronnt says:

    I suspect that one red .400 right down the middle is probably understating things a little. If you left a pitch right there, Williams did what he wanted with it.

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  7. DD says:

    Is this catcher’s view or pitcher’s view?

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    • Blair says:

      I am hoping it is pitchers view because if that we’re catchers view it would make down and in the coldest zone whereas it is commonly referred to a honey hole for left handed hitters instead of a tough spot to hit.

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  8. Bryan says:

    Batting average. Pfft. What would his wOBA be in that light purple zone?

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  9. funketown says:

    So I could have held him to a .250 average on MVP Baseball 2005 with Victor Santos.

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  10. Steve says:

    Scary, but yeah, it looks like he didn’t give himself enough credit for his hot zones.

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