Success at the plate needs smart baseball hitting strategy.
Now that we have been made aware of the offensive situation we are dealing with and we have formed our attack mentality for the at bat (click to go back and read about attainable goals 1 and 2), it’s time to come up with a plan:
What pitch are you trying to hit and in what part of the strike zone?
Hitting Strategy Part 1 – Choose your velocity
By trying to be ready for both fastball (FB) and off-speed (OS) pitches, a hitter will often find his timing isn’t great for either one. The hitter ends up being somewhere in the middle – too slow for the FB and too early for the OS.
Looking hard velocity or softer velocity can simplify an approach that will still allow you to be able to hit the pitches in that group.
Most of the time you should be looking for the hardest pitch the pitcher throws. It is easier to adjust to a slower velocity than to speed up if you are looking soft. Also, it’s more difficult for pitchers to throw their OS for strikes, so laying off of them early on may work to your advantage and put you into a hitters count.
The only exception is if you see a tendency with certain pitchers. For example, sometimes with runners in scoring position some pitchers will throw a first pitch curve ball (which can be a great pitch to hit, especially if you are looking for it). Sometimes in this situation I will look for a curve ball first pitch and if my at bat extends past that first pitch, I’ll go back to looking to hit his fastball.
So, Attainable Goal #3 is to go into your at-bat already knowing the answer to this question….
Are you looking for a fastball (or it’s variations, such as a cutter or sinker, which are similar in velocity)?
Or are you looking for an off speed pitch? Slider, curve ball, change up, etc. These pitches are usually similar in velocity (except sometimes the slider, which could be placed in the harder velocity group, depending on the type of slider and how hard the pitcher is throwing it).
Hitting Strategy Part 2 – Shrink the zone
Now lets take our plan to the next level.
Home plate is 7 baseballs wide. But if we are looking at the strike zone I would say its closer to 8 baseballs wide and lets say 10 baseballs tall.
If we are looking to hit every strike in that 8 x 10 box we are not going to be very successful.
There are high percentage strikes we should swing at (more likely to get good results) and there are low percentage strikes that if we swing at will usually result in weak contact and/or an out.
We need to shrink up our hitting zone until we get to 2 strikes. I like to think of making my own 3 x 3 box within the strike zone. I place this imaginary zone where I most want to hit the baseball.
I can set this up right down the middle and belt high. Maybe I am trying to drive a ball to the opposite field and I set this 3 x 3 zone on the lower, outer half of the strike zone.
Perhaps my swing is feeling pretty good and I’m looking for pitch on the inner part of the plate and looking to drive the ball to my pull side.
This is all good stuff. It’s better to have a plan and have it not work out then go up to the plate with no plan at all.
Here is an example of a more advanced plan.
Let’s say I am a right handed hitter and I am facing a right handed pitcher who is throwing mostly sinkers (a.k.a. 2-seamers).
His goal as a pitcher is to let the down and in movement work for him so the batter will either pull the ball foul or hit a ground ball to the pull side.
This is a very difficult pitch to drive.
When facing these types of pitchers my plan is to move my 3 x 3 box just to the outside part of the center of home plate. I also raise my sights somewhere between mid thigh and my belt.
Even though the pitcher is not trying to throw to the ball to this location, this helps me to not swing at HIS pitch. If he does elevate the sinker or leave it out over the plate it won’t have the same movement and it will be a much easier pitch to hit.
Pro tips – (#1) Keep the plan to your strength as a hitter, but also (#2) realize that it may need some adjusting depending on the pitcher you are facing at that moment.
Having a plan isn’t guaranteed to give us the results we are looking for every time. However, taking your best swing on the pitch and location you wanted will result in better at-bats and better overall production.
Trust in the process which will clear our mind and that will allow you to take your “A” swing on more pitches in the zone that you want to hit.