Assume you are going to hit every pitch. If you don’t, it is virtually impossible to hit a fastball even at the youth level. I like to teach the YES-YES-NO theory. Think YES when the pitcher starts his motion. Think YES when he is at his release point. Prepare to swing hard unless a NO visual cue pops up. Those cues are a pitch being up, down, in or out.
If you think “maybe” in the batter’s box, you are not being aggressive and won’t be successful.
The key is to hit the ball hard. To do that, you need to put the barrel of the bat on the ball. You have to swing at strikes to drive the baseball.
In a six inning game, the defense must record 18 outs. Make them earn every single one. Run the bases hard. Don’t swing at a pitch outside of your zone with less than two strikes. With two strikes, choke up and put the ball in play. Make the defense worry and hurry.
Preparing for an at-bat does not start when you get in the batter’s box. It does not start on your way to the plate. It starts long before the first pitch of the game is even thrown.
Before the game starts, find out who is pitching. If you have faced them before, visualize their pitches. Watch them in the bullpen if possible to look for movement and release point.
Watch the opposing pitcher while you are in the dugout. Talk to your teammates and discuss each other’s at-bats. Look for patterns and signs that might indicate the pitcher is tipping his pitches.
In the on-deck circle, be aware of the situation and have a plan. Follow your routine, relax and breathe. Find the pitcher’s release point and follow the baseball.
Once you get in the batter’s box, your approach and routine should be automatic. You just need to relax and breathe. This is not the time to work on your swing. You have done that in practice and are prepared. Trust your ability and have confidence.
Many people say that you can fail 70% of the time in baseball and be successful. The thinking behind that statement is that 3 hits in 10 ten at-bats makes you a .300 hitter. That problem is that it only counts getting a base hit as being successful.
Let’s say you are up to bat with one out and a runner on third base. You ground out to the second baseman and the run scores. As a coach, I definitely consider that a quality at-bat and successful trip to the plate.
I set a team goal of 14 quality at-bats per six inning game. What are some ways to achieve a quality at-bat?
- base hit
- hit by pitch
- base on balls
- sacrifice bunt
- sacrifice fly
- suicide squeeze bunt
- reach base on an error
- move a runner to 3rd base with less than 2 outs
- score a runner from 3rd base
- 6 pitch (or more) at-bat
If you are around this game long enough, you will pick up little tricks of the trade. Small modifications that can be made to give you even a slight advantage are part of the game. But have you ever used a magic trick?
What if I told you that I could make home plate grow and/or shrink? A good magician never reveals his secrets, so be thankful that I am not a good magician…and that this really isn’t magic at all.
A post by Baseball Toolshed was making the rounds yesterday addressing players and their body language. I completely agree with the article, stating that poor body language will have a negative impact on your performance and send you spiraling downward. Having a positive attitude and reaction toward failure will allow you to be more confident. That confidence will help translate into production.
Now, let’s take it a step further with Player A vs Player B after striking out looking on a questionable call.
Immediately turns and jogs back to dugout
Sets his bat and helmet down
Gets ready to play defense
Turns to look at the umpire
Shakes his head as he slowly walks to dugout
Throws bat or helmet
Pouts alone on the end of the bench
Umpires are human. They see how players and coaches react to their decisions. When Player A comes up for his next at-bat, the umpire may really bear down because he knows he missed a call last time. Player B will not get the benefit of the doubt. That borderline pitch will definitely be a strike. The pitch two or three inches off the plate will probably be a strike too. Player B’s home plate just widened by about six inches.
How can home plate shrink? Let’s compare Pitcher A vs Pitcher B after a borderline pitch is called ball four.
Receives ball back from the catcher
Focuses on the next batter
Stares down the umpire
Shakes his head or makes a gesture with hands
Pitcher A realizes that the umpire might have made a mistake, but it happens. There is nothing he can do so he focuses on the next batter. Pitcher B won’t get another call if he keeps up that behavior. In fact, his plate will shrink. That fastball two inches off the black that has been a strike might be seen a little differently next time by the umpire.
Umpires are not cheating. Most of the time, these situations aren’t even intentional. An umpire can see home plate in different ways depending on the actions of those around him. It’s human nature. Or is it magic?
There are a lot of clichés in baseball. One that makes me cringe, especially at the youth level, is the coach that tells his hitters to “take a strike”.
When you come to the plate, you have three strikes to work with. If the pitcher paints the inside corner on a pitch that would have jammed you anyway, I have no problem with the hitter taking it with less than two strikes. It is a borderline pitch that the umpire may or not call a strike. The important thing to remember is that this is the hitter’s decision. He should be looking for a pitch to drive. If he wants to use one of the strikes by taking a borderline pitch to start the at-bat, fine. But I am never going to tell one of my hitters to give away one of his three strikes.
I rarely give the take sign on a 3-0 count. I hope that I have taught the players to be smart and disciplined at the plate. Most of them will take the pitch anyway. But again, I want it to be their decision.
The bottom line is that you only get three strikes per at-bat. Why give one away for free?
The batting tee is the most important piece of equipment a hitter can utilize. Some travel ball players think using a tee is just for little kids. This could not be further from the truth. Major League players use tees everyday to maintain their strengths and work on improving parts of their swing.
There are many different types of batting tees. My favorite is the Tanner Tee. I am not affiliated with the company in any way. I just love the product. There are cheaper options but you usually get what you pay for. If you are serious about hitting and working on your swing, get yourself a solid tee. It might cost you some money up front but you will come out ahead in the long run.
Why is a batting tee such a valuable tool?
- You are in complete control. You decide where the ball is placed and when to swing.
- You can isolate parts of your swing and work on specifics.
- You don’t need anyone else to get some tee work in.