Baseball players can stand out on the diamond in a variety of ways. They can stand out by showing off a big arm, cat-like fielding reflexes, or sprinter speed running the bases. Pitches shine with blazing fastballs and nasty curve balls that fall off the table.
Batters, in their own right, want to shine with long bombs and a knack for knocking in runs - but for some hitters (including some of the best of all-time), the thing that stands out the most is their unique, strange, and sometimes downright ridiculous batting stances.
The batting stance is the beginning of anything that happens during the exchange between pitcher and batter. The at-bat won't start until the batter is set in his batting stance, and while some may think of it simply as just a way of standing before hitting a ball, a hitter's stance is important on so many levels. How quickly can he uncoil his bat when he sees a pitch he likes? Is the stance comfortable? Does it allow the batter to hit the ball as hard as he possibly can? Does it give him an mental or physical advantage over the pitcher he's facing?
Some batters might actually take all of these into account when figuring out how they want to stand in the batter's box, looking to get an edge in whatever way they possibly can - on the other hand, the hitters on this list may have been using a bit of a different strategy, notably "can I screw with the pitcher by having a ludicrous batting stance?"
That is said in jest, of course, but the batting stances on this list are legendary not only for the statistics the batters put up, but for the quirkiness of the stances these hitters lived and died by throughout their Major League careers.
15 Rickie Weeks
Rickie Weeks had a reputation as a great hitter coming out of college, and part of that package was his dynamic batting stance. I use the word dynamic in the opposite sense of "static," because Weeks has far from static in the batter's box. His front foot would bounce up and down while his bat wiggled around over his back shoulder. Some have called the stance "Gary Sheffield Lite," but Weeks did have his own personal touch to it. Either way, it was probably still a pain for pitchers to deal with.
14 Alex Rios
Alex Rios was once an up-and-coming superstar outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays. Since he never truly panned out, however, he's remembered for less impressive reasons - one of those reasons being his batting stance. Considered one of the "laziest" stances in the league, Rios would hold his bat around his belt buckle and keep it straight up. For all intensive purposes, this stance was not ideal in preparing to strike a baseball, but for Rios it worked (most of the time).
13 Stan Musial
Stan Musial was one of the greatest ball players in the history of the game, and for the most part, the lists he usually ends up on are regarding his hitting prowess and where he ranks among other legends. His batting stance, which helped him win three MVP awards and seven batting titles, was definitely one of the strange ones - there were batters who hit "closed" (front foot ahead of back foot), and then there was Musial, who closed his stance so much it's a wonder how he managed to see the pitcher over his right shoulder.
12 Mickey Tettleton
Mickey Tettleton's swing rivals Alex Rios' as one of the laziest batting stances in the history of the game. Most batters come up to the plate looking tensed up and ready to spring onto a good pitch. Tettleton, like Rios, looked like he was simply out for a stroll and was being inconvenienced by the bat, so he would simply hold it in a way that maximized comfort. Tettleton held the bat almost parallel to the ground while standing straight up - a stance that would get you yelled at by your Little League coach if you tried it today.
11 Tony Batista
Some argue that Tony Batista's stance was one of the strangest in the history of the league. Granted, Batista's "swinging-foot-open-stance" strategy was odd, but as far as we could tell as fans, he was doing it for a reason - it helped him hit the baseball, and it worked. Others have a tendency of just standing in strange positions for comfort or just to be "different." Batista's exaggerated open stance was definitely different, but it was something that made him successful.
10 Phil Plantier
Phil Plantier's stance was a clear play on the old adage that the strike zone for any batter is between his knees and chest. It didn't work out all that well for Plantier, who never was a walk-drawing machine. Known more for his defensive prowess that his offensive punch, the only thing people remember from Plantier's time at the plate was his exaggerated crouch while waiting for the pitch to come in. If it did anything to help his numbers, it wasn't much - it might have done more damage than good.
9 Julio Franco
While some may argue that having an awkward batting stance hinders your ability to make contact with the ball, there are plenty of examples that show that this is not always the case. Take Julio Franco, for example - he won five Silver Slugger awards holding the bat above his head pointing towards the outfield, a stance that no doubt was not the most effective for most batters, but one that worked just fine for Franco. Sometimes it really is just about comfort (or maybe he was just showing off).
8 Aaron Rowand
Aaron Rowand was better known for the work he did with his glove than with his bat, but his batting stance sure was a sight to behold. Based on other strange stances, the bat held high above his shoulder pointing towards the sky can be forgiven - but the fact that he looked like he was sitting on a comfortable couch lands his batting stance on this list. The constant standing still in a squatting position must have done wonders for his legs, but it never translated to much more than an average career as a batter.
7 Jeff Bagwell
Jeff Bagwell had a similar stance to Aaron Rowand, with the only main difference being the way the two held the bat over their shoulders (Bagwell had his about as high but pointed straight back towards the third-base lower bowl). Bagwell also stepped back towards himself when a pitch came in instead of forward, making his swing even more unconventional. It worked, though, as Bagwell was a fearsome hitter - he finished his career with 449 home-runs.
6 Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro Suzuki is perhaps the greatest hitter the game of baseball has ever seen. It's often speculated that had Ichiro had come to North America sooner he would have annihilated Pete Rose's hits record. Not only is Ichiro an amazing hitter, he has a unique batting stance to boot. Ichiro, who already is not a big individual, makes himself even more compact in the box, scrunching himself up into the far corner of the box, knees buckled in and all. Whatever the point of it is, it works.
5 Rod Carew
If you're one of those ballplayers who likes to hold their bat horizontally (and practically parallel to the ground), but get told off by your coaches and parents for it, just point them to a biography of Rod Carew. Carew had one of the most unconventional batting stances the game has ever seen, specifically because of the way he held his bat. It worked though, as he won seven batting titles using that batting stance. The stance was so iconic that his statue in Minnesota is depicting him in his trademark stance.
4 Craig Counsell
Plain and simple, Craig Counsell's batting stance makes absolutely no sense. Someone should do a documentary on how he even came up with the idea for such a crazy batting stance (and routine, for that matter). His arms raised high above his head, the bat even higher, it's a wonder Counsell's bat was never clipped by an airplane. His open stance and elbow-clicking just added to the whole show that was a Craig Counsell at-bat.
3 Moises Alou
Moises Alou was one of the great ballplayers of the 1990's and early 2000's - but his strange batting stance, no matter how successful it made him, will always be considered strange by today's standards (like most things we talk about from the 90's). Alou would hold the bat in a relatively normal fashion, but instead of planting his feet "normally," he would plant them and then invert his knees to the point where they would be grazing each other. This made Alou look quite strange at the plate, but no one was laughing once he made contact with the baseball.
2 Kevin Youkilis
Kevin Youkilis was a fan favorite in Boston, and was one of the most likable ball players of the last decade or so (until he ended up with the Yankees). While he wasn't the focal point of an offense that featured Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, "Youk" could hit - his batting stance, though, is what really set him apart from his Sox teammates. He would choke up his left hand halfway up the bat, almost as if he was going to swing at a pitch while in a "bunting" position. When the pitch came he would slide his hand down the bat, so at the end of the day his stance made no real difference, it was just unique to "Youuuuk."
1 Gary Sheffield
While Gary Sheffield had one of the strangest batting stances of all-time, his was one of the most enjoyable to watch and imitate. It was also pretty cool, as strange as it was. Sheffield's wild swinging of the bat back and forth above his head must have gotten annoying for pitchers, but when he connected with the ball, the whole act was a thing of beauty. When he whiffed, he looked like a fool, but overall it was definitely worth it. Regardless of how you view Sheffield's stance, one thing is for certain - it was incredibly strange.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!