In Response to: Baseball: Ready to Launch [6]

I read with interest how members of the current Princeton nine have used “physics” in an attempt to increase their batting averages and run production (Sports, April 11). I realize we’re Princeton and at times compelled to promote our intellectual prowess and complicated approaches to even the simplest of issues. In this case, however, the young men could simply have studied the work of Ted Williams — not a physicist, but one of the all-time great hitters, still studied by major leaguers. 

Williams’ The Science of Hitting was published in 1971, but he was practicing its principles some 30 years prior to that and remains the last player to have hit .400 or better. Williams deduced (without a protractor) that the swing plane of the hitter should match the plane of the pitched ball. As the overhand pitch is coming on a slightly downward path, the proper swing plane should be slightly upward (perhaps an angle of 10 to 20 degrees, as the young men “discovered”?), putting the head of the bat on the same plane with a greater chance of solid impact, even if your timing is slightly off. 

Discussing, or worse, thinking about “launch-angle degrees” among players makes it more difficult than necessary — and will also lead to more pop-ups, whiffs, and topped ground balls. Keep it simple, boys. Hitting is a science, but it’s not rocket science, and the principles of success are not new: Be on time, with a slightly upward swing plane, and sit on the fastball. Go Tigers.