Ranking the Strangest Batting Stances in MLB

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2013

Ranking the Strangest Batting Stances in MLB

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    Growing up, we all pretended that we were our favorite baseball player when we stepped up to the plate.

    It could have been in your driveway playing wiffleball, the backyard hitting a tennis ball or at the ball field with your friends, but we all did our best impersonation of our favorite players when the opportunity presented itself.

    For me, it was Don Mattingly. I'd never swing at the first pitch, biding my time until I saw something that I thought I could get a piece of.

    Of course, I was a right-handed hitter—and a pretty terrible one at that—so my best impersonation of Donnie Baseball fell far short of being close to accurate.

    Mattingly's batting stance was pretty mundane, while plenty of other players had much more animated and active stances at the plate.

    Things haven't changed today, with plenty of big league players to choose from when it comes to things that are out of the ordinary in their approach to hitting a baseball.

    So who has the strangest batting stance in the game today?

    Let's see if we can't figure that out.

20. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants

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    It's more of a ritual than his actual stance, but Pablo Sandoval's theatrics before stepping into the batter's box deserve mention here.

    Nobody in baseball is quite as animated as the "Kung Fu Panda" before an at-bat. 

    Whether he's batting from the left or the right side, the switch hitter's ritual is the same.

19. Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

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    One of the greatest hitters that the game has ever seen, Albert Pujols is just about the last player that coaches in little league want their players trying to emulate.

    Only a player with the strength and bat speed that Pujols possesses could succeed with his stance, one that sees his feet placed too far apart and his hands too high on his body.

    It may not be the strangest batting stance in the world, but it's certainly a bit unorthodox, which makes Pujols' exploits on the field even that much more impressive.

18. Alfonso Soriano, LF, Chicago Cubs

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    As he's gotten older, the quirks in Alfonso Soriano's stance at the plate have become far less pronounced, but they are still there for the world to see.

    Soriano used to do a slightly toned-down version of Gary Sheffield's bat wiggle when he stepped into the batter's box, crouching down low before bouncing up and exploding into the baseball.

    Now, the bat still wiggles, but nowhere near as much as it used to, and his crouch is far less than it was earlier in his career.

    Still, his stance is a bit odd, but not odd enough for the seven-time All-Star to rank near the top of our list.

17. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    One of the best young first basemen in the game today, 25-year-old Paul Goldschmidt broke out in a big way for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012, hitting .286 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI. His presence in the middle of the lineup undoubtedly made the team's decision to trade Justin Upton an easier one to make this offseason.

    As he sets himself in the batter's box, Goldschmidt points the head of the bat towards the ground, lifting the bat up into an upright position as the pitcher begins his delivery.

    It's not the strangest stance that you'll ever see, but it's certainly notable and worthy of inclusion on this list.

16. Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Minnesota Twins

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    Only two players were up to the task of keeping pace with Minnesota's Trevor Plouffe last June when it came to hitting home runs—Toronto's Jose Bautista (14) and New York's Robinson Cano (11) joined Plouffe (11) as the only three players to break double-digits in terms of home runs for that month.

    Looking at Plouffe's batting stance, the fact that he's found success at all in the major leagues is a bit of a surprise.

    From the top of the bat to his waist, Plouffe's batting stance looks fairly normal. Below the belt, however, things change. Plouffe's front leg is perfectly straight, while his back leg is bent.

    There isn't another player in baseball whose stance in the batter's box is Plouffe's equal.

15. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers

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    One of the more successful second basemen of his generation, Ian Kinsler's approach at the plate may be strange, but you can't argue with the results.

    Kinsler looks like he's got a really bad itch when hitting, constantly moving and wiggling from head to toe while throwing in a few twists at the hips for good measure.

14. Carlos Quentin, LF, San Diego Padres

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    Carlos Quentin's batting stance has changed over the years, and while he's had plenty of success, sometimes you have to wonder how Quentin hasn't injured himself swinging the bat.

    He holds his arms above his shoulders, with his left arm nearly touching his chin. Should Quentin forget to drop his hands before beginning to swing, he could very easily smack himself in the face.

13. Luis Cruz, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    He's more of a utility player than an everyday starter, but Luis Cruz has made the most of his opportunities when inserted into a game for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Cruz has a fairly open stance, but it is one that sees him raise the bat above his head, peering out towards the pitcher through the circle that his arms create before dropping the bat down just as the pitch is released.

12. Jeff Keppinger, 3B, Chicago White Sox

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    With career highs of nine home runs and 59 RBI, Jeff Keppinger isn't your prototypical, power-hitting third baseman.

    It's fitting then, that his batting stance is equally as unique.

    Keppinger covers as much of the batter's box as anyone in the game, with his front leg cocked all the way back to the edge of the box, bringing it in line with his back leg, and driving forward just as the pitch arrives at the plate.

11. Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

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    It's not quite the infamous "pee pee dance" that children who are too stubborn to go to the bathroom without prompting perform, but Toronto's Brett Lawrie looks as if he may have to go whenever he steps to the plate.

    Between constantly rocking his body and the simulatenous toe-tapping of his front foot, Lawrie seems almost uncomfortable in the batter's box.

10. Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets

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    Ike Davis rotates the bat over his head repeatedly before settling in, dropping the bat and exploding into the ball.

    His natural power and brute strength has Davis poised to be one of the game's most prolific home run hitters, and the 20 long balls that he hit in the second half of the 2012 season tied with Curtis Granderson for the fifth-most in baseball during that time.

9. Norichika Aoki, RF, Milwaukee Brewers

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    You'll have to excuse the lack of video showing Norichika Aoki's batting stance in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform, but nothing has changed since his days with the Yakult Swallows in the Japan Central League.

    Aoki constantly wiggles and wiggles the bat, adding in an exaggerated leg lift for good measure just before he makes contact with the ball.

    His stance may be unorthodox, but you can't argue with the results: a .288 batting average and 51 extra-base hits for the Brewers in his rookie season.

8. Jon Jay, CF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    One of the more underrated players in baseball, St. Louis Cardinals' center fielder and leadoff hitter Jon Jay has been wildly successful with his unorthodox approach at the plate.

    A career .300 hitter, Jay rests the bat on his shoulder until the last possible second, before dropping his arms and tearing into the oncoming pitch.

    As he explains in the video, this is actually a more subdued batting stance than what Jay grew accustomed to in high school and college.

7. Hunter Pence, RF, San Francisco Giants

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    After a fairly successful seven-year major league career, you'd think that Hunter Pence would be comfortable when he steps to the plate.

    But the 30-year-old looks about as uncomfortable in the batter's box as humanly possible, constantly moving his entire body—at some points it looks as if Pence is twitching—and never truly standing still as the pitch is delivered.

    The man known as "Batting Stance Guy" paid a visit to MLB's Fan Cave last season and gave everyone a good laugh with his best Hunter Pence impersonation.

6. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians

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    One of the bright young second basemen in the game, Cleveland's Jason Kipnis has one of the more unique batting stances around.

    Much like Cal Ripken did during his heyday, Kipnis holds the bat horizontally behind him before coming set in the batter's box, something that he explained to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer during his rookie season in 2011:

    I started doing it last year. When I went into a slump, I'd start changing my stance and the way I held my hands. This helps me keep my hands in the same spot. I lay the bat flat behind me and when I pick it up, my hands are in the same place every time. It looks weird and stupid. But I'm not changing it as long as I keep hitting.

    With the success that Kipnis has had thus far, there's no reason to expect this to change anytime soon.

5. Michael Morse, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners

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    Michael Morse may be the only player in baseball who has a nickname for what he does before stepping into the batter's box. As he explains in this video, Morse believes that his "Samurai Cobra Snake" prepares him for what's to come when he faces live pitching.

    Once he steps into the box, it looks as if he's blowing a kiss to his bat as he takes another practice swing.

    I've heard of players loving their bats before, but this may be taking it to another level altogether.

4. Darwin Barney, 2B, Chicago Cubs

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    The 26-year-old is known more for his defensive prowess than his contributions at the plate, but a list of the strangest batting stances in baseball would be woefully incomplete without Darwin Barney.

    Barney's bat is constantly in motion as he rocks it back and forth. At first glance, it appears to be a circular motion, then more of an up-and-down wiggle, but it's not until the ball is on its way to the plate that his bat stops moving and his swing begins.

    It seems like a whole lot of wasted movement to me, and it may explain why Barney has managed to hit only .263 in the big leagues as opposed to .287 in five minor league seasons.

3. Coco Crisp, CF, Oakland Athletics

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    Some have made a connection between Coco Crisp's batting stance and Mango, quite possibly the most non-athletic character to ever appear on Saturday Night Live:

    Coco Crisp's batting stance is reminiscent of Mango from SNL. @battingstanceg #ALDS twitter.com/Toribelle4/sta…

    — Tori (@Toribelle4) October 7, 2012

    I'm not about to take it that far, but Crisp looks almost unsettled when stepping into the batter's box, with the fingers on his left hand constantly adjusting until the last possible second.

2. Ichiro Suzuki, RF, New York Yankees

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    Ichiro Suzuki has changed his batting stance so many times over the course of his career that he's lost count, as he told Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News:

    When I turned pro (in 1992), you obviously gain more knowledge. Especially in 1994 — that was the first year that I started the regular season in the big leagues in Japan and that year I had 210 hits. That’s really when my knowledge of hitting began and started to develop. I can’t count how many times I’ve made changes,” he adds. “I leave that up to the way I feel and my instincts just take over.

    The stance Ichiro has been using for much of the past few years, however, is one of the more bizarre that you'll find in baseball.

    First, Ichiro points the bat at the pitcher with his right hand, seemingly lining the bat up with the pitcher's arm, much like a golfer lines up a putt.

    As he twists his body around, Ichiro transfers all his weight forward, attacking the ball rather than driving it. This is a move that allows him to already be in a position to run as soon as contact is made, taking advantage of his elite speed.

1. Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, New York Yankees

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    Remember how you were taught to keep your feet just about shoulder-width apart to balance yourself when stepping into the batter's box?

    Kevin Youkilis never got that lesson.

    Youkilis stands with his feet close together, the bat well above his shoulder and his right hand much higher on the grip of the bat than usual. As the pitcher releases the ball, Youkilis slides his right hand down until it touches his left hand and begins his swing.

    It may look bizarre and a bit foolish, but you can't argue with the results: three All-Star games, a .284 career batting average and more than 1,000 hits over his 10-year career.