HERE IS THE ESPN VIDEO, a 2:05 clip in which Michael Morse explains the dynamics of his hitting motion.
I was in a terrible slump in the late 1970's. The harder I tried, the worse I got. Finally I was walking the course one day and a fellow pro, seeing the look on my face, asked me "Johnny, do you LIKE golf?" After that I never had a bad slump again. - Johnny Miller, ancient SI interview, reproduced from memory
BSR linked us up to the ESPN vid ... we ought to embed that puppy in the sidebar. A picture's worth 1,000 words. :: wait :: OK, it's embedded. Go check out the 2-minute video; you'll come back excited for the 2013 season.
Amigos scheduled an 9:45 a.m. appointment for Morse's swing. Dr's R/X: take a two-year contract extension and call him in the morning. All this and brains, too, eh Michael.
Morse's comments in boldface, with our cornball kibitz following on that:
"The perfect swing for me is ..." It's not an offhand phrase that he tosses out there one time. The interview is saturated with Morse's search for better and better swing dynamics.
His enthusiasm, his love for his craft, is contagious. Remember Bruce Lee? "This is not about winning. It's about perfection."
In aikido this is the mu-shin, the "no-mind," where you are not distracted by GREED FOR SUCCESS. Consider that phrase, GREED FOR SUCCESS, for a few minutes today.
With mu-shin, with TRUE focus on the perfect process, you are in flow. You are focused on slightly better and better execution, and you gain a state-of-mind that transcends the enemy and the danger.
Compare a basketball shooter who has the hop in his step, the flick and followthru in his fingertips, who is seeing the swish of the net go cleaner and cleaner, who is enjoying the purity of the basketball's rotation, and whose opponents sort of vanish into transluscence around him.
Schwarzenegger said that, doing dumbbell curls, he became mesmerized by the visual of a ridiculously huge bicep, overpowering the dumbbell, getting larger and larger ... "Every rep, every set, is one step closer to your goal. Even if a bomb went off next to you, you would not notice it."
"It starts with my base ... it's like COILING like a SNAKE." There is a reason that shao lin monks compare kung fu movements to animals'. An animal, obviously, has a very pure and sincere motion as it attacks.
There is a reason that Jesus compared very complex thought processes to very simple analogues - His parables were always grounded in everyday things like the flowers of the meadow, the grape on the vine, the door into a barn, the wind blowing through the field. There is something about the "everyday item" parable that is unsurpassable when it comes to absorbing difficult information.
Morse isn't musing as he describes the snake, isn't grasping for a metaphor. The snake coil is a mantra for him, a dynamic visual that he reproduces, AB after AB, without effort. In fact he rehearses this coil before AB's.
We're not saying that Morse has spiralled off into his own MLB hitting universe. We're saying that he is evidently in the Ted Williams, Ichiro, Wade Boggs category of player, the one who enjoys the beauty and virtuosity of hitting for its own sake.
Morse's obvious joy in the game is a major competitive advantage for him. Happy-happy joy-joy thoughts are helpful because --- > they promote the visualization of home runs, rather than of strikeouts. It's helpful for a batter to not be thinking about striking out during an AB.
"I call it my samurai cobra snake." Watch the video and you will see all of Morse's appendages contract in to one particular place on his body ... the CG. The hara. The one point. His movements are then organized correctly, and derive their power from the right spot.
Notice, for example, that Morse's hands in "the cobra" are near his CG, like where you have them when you're opening a jar of pickles.
"My front leg is real light on the ground, and my hands give me a nice whip feeling." These are wispy, effortless characterizations that carry a HATHA YOGA flavor. Google Jennifer Kostel Yoga and you'll hear her talking like this. It goes to the question of body control, of being better-than-average at moving your own body parts.
"The biggest thing I wanna feel is ... my body ... like a DOOR HINGE. ... I want everything to just ROTATE." Bee-yoo-tee-ful. The thing here is that it captures a very difficult movement --- > in a very decisive and convincing parable.
Words on paper are fine. But some mantras WORK and some don't.
The hinge on a fire door is not flexible about the way it's going to move - it does not move one way in the morning, and another way in the evening. Its direction of movement is a given, and other things are welcome to coexist with the hinge after they have accepted the nature of the hinge.
"My hands are freed up ... :: clears biceps over pecs several times :: ... I feel like I can go inside and get a ball... I can go right over the middle ... if it's outside, I'm right there." - Reminds of Bruce Lee's loose-as-a-goose ready state just before an exchange of blows occurred..
Obviously, other MLB hitters understand swing dynamics, also. However, other MLB power hitters do not have Mike Morse's results:
Morse is considerably better than other ML cleanup hitters, when it comes to strike zone coverage.
"My ENERGY generates from my legs, goes through my core, gets to my upper body" - there's a reason that in aikido, we speak in terms of energy. It promotes the mental "capture" of long, dynamic lines of interplay, captures the idea of acceleration, and gives a 3-D perception of the acction.
A beginner might speak in terms of blocking a punch at the 6-inch mark in front of his face. A black belt might think in terms of a 3-foot-long lightning bolt, with a vector and a launch moment, and it's easier to avoid a long, moving line than it is to avoid a suddenly-appearing dot.
Top hand rotation and "Topspin" swing - look at the positions of Morse's palm in the below screen captures:
Morse has a miniscule 6% infield popup rate for his career. Further, that 6% is with respect to his fly balls -- and his fly ball rate is ITSELF much lower than average. Here's the dreaded Ibanez/Sexson "topspin" hitter, a guy with a high grounder rate and yet a high HR rate.
You want to know why Morse has a sensational .344 BABIP for his career? Part of it is that he pops up like twice a year. :- ) Another part is that he hits the ball a little harder than, say, Brendan Ryan does. Another part of it is that grounders, whizzing through the infield with topspin, "accelerate" with respect to grounders that don't have as much topspin. In the same sense that Stephen Pryor's fastball rises, Mike Morse's grounders accelerate.
Morse is a career .295 hitter, despite 120+ strikeouts a year and an 0.25 EYE. Despite the fact that Morse is one of the strongest players in baseball, you can afford to think of him as a .300 hitter -- he gets on top of the ball, he uses the whole field, and he whistles the ball through the fielders.
Kendrys Morales is similar - a guy who would be a good hitter (HIT tool) even if he didn't have power. Despite their sizes, Morse and Morales are two of the best hitters among power guys in the majors.
Even for the Angels, even last year, when Morales was in the lineup he usually hit #4 for them. In 2009 and 2010, he most often hit #5.
Morse last year split time between the #4 and #5 slots; in 2011 he usually hit #4 for the Nationals. Zduriencik has added two guys who have been hitting cleanup --- > for contenders.
Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales are not superstars, not by a long shot, but they are the first legitimate difference-making bats we've had in Seattle since the guys playing for the 116-win club.* With the exception of Richie Sexson for a year or two, they're the first thumpers in Seattle since the 2001-03 Edgar era.
I sure wish people would reflect on these guys' roles as offense fixers, guys who disrupt enemy pitching, rather than trying to cleverly school-essay them as 2-WAR mediocrities. These two guys can flat out hit, and it's been awhile, gentlemen.