The 11 Weirdest Batting Stances in Major League Baseball History

Timothy Howell@@tmurrayhowellCorrespondent IINovember 4, 2011

The 11 Weirdest Batting Stances in Major League Baseball History

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    Baseball.

    It's been written about countless times. There have been far more movies produced about it than any other sport—unless, of course, you consider zombie hunting a sport.

    No matter how many times the grand ol' game is written about, it will never be enough. There are just too many story lines and far too much history to quench our appetites.

    One of my favorite aspects of the game is the way it lends itself to idiosyncratic impulses. When it comes to pitching motions, batting stances, even fielding technique, it's all good—as long it's effective.

    Can you imagine if an NFL quarterback tried to release a pass like the Baltimore Orioles' recently acquired Darren O'Day? Actually, come to think of it, I wouldn't mind watching Tony Romo incorporate a crow-hop if it enabled him to magically cut down on his interception rate.

    Regardless, there is no greater freedom than the style in which a batter chooses to stand while he awaits a pitch.

    For the most part, nearly every MLB ballplayer has a similar stance: feet shoulder-width apart, middle of the box, bat on shoulder or slightly north, small leg kick to load up before swinging and then let it rip.

    Others, however, impart a batting stance that is far from "textbook." Here's a look at some of the weirdest batting stances in Major League Baseball history.

    Just a heads-up: This list is by no means comprehensive, and I welcome any comments about some players you think are deserving of inclusion.

    Enjoy.

Carney Lansford

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    In order to properly imitate the "Carney Lansford," just stroll in front of a mirror and put your fists together—low, just above your waist—like you're trying to show off your traps.

    Repeat, this time with a bat in your hand.  

    Turn now to look at an imaginary pitcher. Wiggle the bat to and fro furiously.

    Now take a deep breath and try to figure out how the heck Lansford used this stance to hit .290 over his 15-season career with California, Boston and Oakland.

    Heck, Lansford even won a batting title in 1981 with the Red Sox, as he hit .336. C'mon, Carney, now you're just showing off.

Craig Counsell

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    If you don't measure the bat, Craig Counsell is listed at a generous six feet tall. Throw in the bat on this ridiculous stance, and he's well over nine feet tall.

    Over his career, Counsell has adopted many eye-poppingly bizarre stances, but the one shown in this picture is my personal favorite.

    To be honest, I'm not sure how he didn't strain an oblique muscle every time he had to pry his bat from the heavens to get ready to swing.

    Seriously, if gas prices would drop as much as the head of Counsell's bat had to to generate contact, we'd all be paying about a buck a gallon.

    Counsell has never won any major awards and has never been an All-Star. He's had a solid career, though, and this goofy stance will always be MVP-worthy in my book.

Julio Franco

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    When Julio Franco took the last swing of his MLB career in 2007 while with the Atlanta Braves, he was 26 years older than rookie teammate Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

    I'm pretty sure the main reason they kept him around was just to make then-35-year-old Chipper Jones feel young.

    As Franco crept closer and closer to AARP eligibility, his bat sank slightly lower than in his prime. It was still unorthodox.

    To recreate the Franco stance, you start off with the "Craig Counsell," but from the right side. Once the bat is at its highest apex, twist your hands so that the head of the bat is almost in your line of sight and pointing directly at the pitcher.

    His lower half during his stance is equally perplexing. His feet were slightly closer than shoulder-width, with his toes pointing inwards towards each other, with slightly buckling knees. It's crazy.

    Trust me, just the upper-half part is no easy task. It takes incredibly strong hands to get that bat into a good hitting position. Franco's fast-twitch muscles must have been record-setting to turn that bat head on a 99 MPH fastball.

    Franco did it well, however, as he was a lifetime .298 hitter and won a batting title with the Texas Rangers, batting .341 in 1991.

Ichiro Suzuki

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    Ichiro's batting stance, I'm sure, is duplicated on baseball diamonds the world over.

    The best part about his swing is its adjustable nature. Essentially, he has a swing for every different pitch coming his way.

    As far as a batting stance is concerned, what jumps out to me is the way his knees almost touch in a pigeon-toed position while he pulls up the right sleeve of his uniform to reveal his elbow pad.

    Then he shows the pitcher the bat. It's as if he's saying, "I'm going to use this, my bat, to embarrass you by beating whatever you throw me into the ground for an infield single."

    Funny thing about Ichiro is that his batting practice pop is legendary. Many scouts have noted that if he wanted to, he could easily hit 25-30 home runs per season.

    I guess that just ain't Ichiro's style.

    Ichiro and Albert Pujols, in my opinion, are the only two current major leaguers that could retire today and be in the Hall of Fame on their first ballot.

    In just 11 seasons in MLB, Ichiro has amassed over 2,400 hits and has two batting titles and a career batting average of .326.

Jay Buhner

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    I apologize for the lame picture of Jay Buhner. It's actually a cardboard cutout. I'm amazed that there are no images of Buhner's awe-inspiring stance to be found from the pitcher's point of view.

    They were probably all destroyed, much like Buhner would destroy a pitcher's best fastball.

    Buhner's stance was slightly open, with very little bend in his knees. He kept his hands just above his jersey's letters, in tight and close.

    With his elbows down, he'd wiggle the bat in a circular motion as he awaited the pitcher's offering.

    During his prime, Buhner was quite the power threat at the dish. From 1995 to 1997, he hit 40 or more home runs each season, and he finished his career with 310 long balls.

Jeff Bagwell

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    If Jeff Bagwell were an 11-foot-tall monster, then you could say that his feet were about shoulder-width apart.

    Seriously, don't stare too hard at this photograph, or you might pull something.

    From the waist up, Bagwell's batting stance is very traditional.

    South of the belt, though, it gets quite strange indeed.

    The best way to go about imitating it is to pretend like you're playing Twister. Start with your right foot on the red dot. Then keep it planted as you take your left foot and go for the farthest yellow dot you can possibly manage.

    Or just do the splits with the bat in your hands.

    It took me three years of intense Pilates to master this stance, and two years of therapy to deal with the nasty comments hurled my way at softball diamonds all over the greater DFW area.

    It's funny, though; like Jay Buhner, Bagwell generated an extraordinary amount of pop with this stance. Over his career—that some people feel was Hall of Fame-worthy—he amassed 449 home runs and had 500 in his sights until a banged-up shoulder forced him to retire after the 2005 season.

    "BagPipes" won an MVP award in 1994 as he led the NL in RBI with 116. He was also the ROY winner in 1991.

Mel Ott

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    Hall of Famer Mel Ott, spent all of his 22 seasons with the New York Giants. The pint-sized left-handed-hitting Ott had some big-time power, as he hit 511 home runs over his career.

    He used an exaggerated leg kick to engage his lower half and add some pop. He held the bat with his hands slightly split apart, which is both difficult to implement and quite unusual.

    As the pitch approached him, he'd drop his hands below his belt as his right leg started its kick. Unorthodox, to be certain, but highly effective.

Mickey Tettleton

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    Mickey Tettleton's stance was the predecessor to Buhner's. Who knows if Buhner watched Tettleton's at-bats and tried to mimic it, but the two had some similarities.

    Tettleton stood completely straight, up and down. He cradled the bat in his hands just about waist-high.

    Holding the bat low, the knob would be facing the pitcher as his right hand held the bat parallel to the ground.

    From the pitcher's point of view you could barely see the bat at all, save for the head poking out slightly behind his back, just below his right shoulder blade.

    Tettleton finished his career with 245 home runs and once led the AL in bases on balls with 122 in 1992.

Kevin Youkilis

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    Kevin Youkilis, known as "The Greek God of Walks" in Moneyball, easily possesses the game's strangest stance of the last 20 years.

    Youk's feet are slightly closer than shoulder-width, with his knees bent slightly. For Youkilis, the bizarre happens in how he holds his bat.

    It's similar to Julio Franco in that the bat is above his head. Franco kept both hands firmly attached to his bat, whereas Youkilis keeps only his bottom hand (left) on the bat. His right is free until he engages his swing.

    It looks almost as if Youk is playing some previously unidentified type of wooden instrument. His right hand and fingers caress the barrel of the bat, as if playing a harp, and work their way down to meet his left hand as he starts his swing.

    It's amazing to me that he doesn't lose his bat after every swing.

    Kevin Youkilis' best year thus far was in 2008, when he batted .312 with 29 home runs and 119 RBI.

Phil Plantier

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    Phil Plantier took the crouch to an extreme during his playing career. Imagine if you were inside a medium-sized box with a bat in hand.

    With Plantier, only the bat would be protruding from that box.

    Basically, he was doing his own baseball-friendly version of the "disappearing man" act.

    Plantier had a big year in 1993, as he managed to launch 34 home runs with 100 RBI. Until someone decides to sit down completely during an at-bat, Plantier's bizarre batter's box musings might be the strangest of all time.

Tony Batista

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    The picture of Tony Batista, above, is not while he's in the on-deck circle. No, sir, he's at the dish, awaiting a pitch.

    Now some players tend to open up their stances so that they can see the pitch better. But Batista has taken a front-row seat to the pitcher; he might as well carry a hot dog and cold beer up to the plate with his bat. He's full-on in spectator mode.

    In order to emulate Batista's stance, just fire up your favorite baseball video game, and rather than a controller, substitute a baseball bat. Subtract the television and add a pitcher, and voila! You're now doing the "Tony Batista."

    Amazingly, Batista—with both eyes on the mound—used this stance to hit over 31 home runs on four separate occasions, knocking out a career-high 41 in 2000.