Swing Kings by Jared Diamond

I was a young boy during the steroid era of baseball, so I was naïve. I was very happy turning on SportsCenter every night and watching McGwire and Sosa hit baseball likes they were swatting golf balls. It was fun. Unfortunately, I grew up, the baseball world got serious, and the curtain was pulled back. Everyone was juiced. Everyone turned a blind eye. Everyone knew it was happening and no one did anything. After Jose Canseco spilled the beans, things changed and baseball cleaned itself up. Everything was right again.

Then the homers started happening again. It seemed like every day some new hitter I have never heard of was hitting homers at an exploding rate. Jose Bautista hit 13 home runs in 2009 and then 54 home runs in 2010. JD Martinez went from a struggling outfielder to a powerhouse seemingly overnight. Even my beloved Dodgers were not immune: Justin Turner, a solid bench player for several years, suddenly became an MVP candidate.

My first thought was very skeptical: they all found a new, untraceable performing-enhancing drug. But in fact, their drug was choice was knowledge (oh yeah, that was cheesy, I own it).

These new home run kings started looking at the data. Well, actually, these independent hitting coaches started to look at the data. They threw away old-school advice and techniques such as “swinging down to the ball” and “squishing the bug.” They watched video on noticed the best hitters in baseball did not practice what they preached; when they hit the ball far they actually swung up to the ball.

Fortunately, a few talented players who were on their last resort looked for something new. Desperation searched for inspiration, and now the game has changed. Balls are flying out of the park constantly. Some people say it’s ruining the game. I understand this critique, but I bet when your team wins the World Series you won’t be complaining.

This is a great book about the home run revolution. It gets a little scattered at times, but it’s still interesting. I highly recommend it for all baseball fans.

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