Baseball Hitting Strategy – 4 pro strategies to win your mental battle with the pitcher

In baseball, your strategic approach to hitting is just as important as your physical hitting approach.  This article provides baseball hitting strategy and tips from professional baseball players.
baseball batting strategy from the pros

Image by Bill Gentry

A good quality mental approach and hitting strategy are what separate the good from the great hitters.  Baseball is a game of failure. Fail 7 out of 10 times and you are a great hitter. There are not many other sports or professions where a 30% success rate is above average.    A quality hitting approach starts with belief in yourself.

4 or 5 times a game you leave the dugout to the on deck circle and eventually walk up to the batters box to go to battle with the pitcher.  By the time you get to the batters box you should have already processed a lot of information and have a plan of attack.

  • Watching from the dugout you can see if the pitcher is right or left handed, what side of the rubber he is throwing from (1st or 3rd base side), does he throw over the top, have a 3/4 arm angle, or is he side arm.
  • What does his fastball look like (firm, average, below average). Does he throw a straight fastball, or does it cut. He may throw a sinker. Does it actually sink, or does it just have a little run? Is he throwing it for strikes? You need to have an idea about what type of fastball you will be seeing so you can have a plan against this particular pitcher.
  • Is the pitcher throwing mostly to one side of the plate.
  • Look at his off speed pitches do they look crisp. What pitches is he throwing. Is he throwing them for strikes? He will usually throw all of his pitches in warm ups, and he will use his glove to tell the catcher what he is throwing (Diagram).
  • Does anyone on your team know him, or does your coach have any charts on him. Does he have any tendencies in certain counts or does he fall in love with one of his pitches. Does he pitch differently with runners on base compared to nobody on base.

After all of that computing it is time to watch him throw against a hitter. When the first guy to face the new pitcher comes back to the dugout ask him what he saw, and what the pitches looked like. What side of the plate was he trying to work. All this information can help.

By the time you get into the on deck circle you should already have your baseball hitting strategy – i.e. plan to attack this pitcher.

1. The first thing to look at is the situation of the game.
  • Are there runners at 1st and 2nd base and the coach gave you the bunt sign, you need to get the bunt down.
  • Is there a runner at 2nd base with no outs and you are trying to move him up to 3rd base.
  • Is there a runner at 3rd base with less than two outs and you need to score him.
  • Or are there no runners on and you are just trying to hit the ball hard and get on base.
2. Next, what is his fastball look like and is he throwing it for strikes.
  • If the pitcher is throwing a lot of sinkers, he will try to work them to his arm side (inside to righties and away from lefties if a right handed pitcher is throwing). However, he will still throw his sinker to his glove side as well. The idea of the sinker is to let the movement of the baseball get the hitter to hit the ball on the ground for his infielders.
  • He will complement that sinker with a slider and use that pitch to command his glove side of home plate. He will be trying to change the plane at which you are seeing the ball, and change the velocity a little.
  • You need to be mentally tough against a sinker ball pitcher, he wants you to put the ball in play and get yourself out, he wants ground balls.  Knowing all of that information you should formulate a hitting strategy for that at bat.
3. A typical hitting strategy against a sinker ball pitcher is to look for the pitch up and over the plate.
  • He wants to pound you inside, and let the sink of the ball come down and in to righties, if you swing at a good sinker on the inside part of the plate, all you can do is hit it off your foot, hit a weak ground ball to the left side or hit it foul.
  • Righties and lefties should look for the ball middle of the plate to the outer part of the plate. This is the type of hitting strategy the pitcher is trying to get you away from.
  • This is where he can get you out of your approach strategy. Its tough because the pitch looks so good, a lot of times it looks like a pitch you can turn on and crush right out of his hand. From experience you know a good sinker is a tough pitch to drive if he throws it well but your ego tells you to try to beat him on his pitch anyway.
  • If you can be patient and get his sinker up it will flatten out and you can drive that ball. A sinker ball can be a tough pitch to command consistently. He is relying on keeping the ball down and letting the action on the ball get you out. When he misses up and over the plate, don’t miss it.
  • Right handed hitters should look to drive the ball back up the middle and stay through the sinker. Fight to not roll the ball over and hit a weak ground ball to the left side of the infield.
  • Left handed hitters should look to stay on the baseball and drive the ball into the left center gap. If you pull off the baseball, you will tend to hit ground balls to the right side and hit balls off the end of your bat. If you look to go the other way, your bat path will be great against a sinker ball.
4. A typical hitting strategy against a left handed pitcher, or a right hander that doesn’t throw a good sinker ball but relys on deception or velocity to beat you.
  • It is common to look outer half of the plate.  Baseball is a game of percentages, and there is a very good chance you will get something on the outer half of the plate.
  • 98% of off speed pitches are meant to be away and over half of the fastballs will be away. In some cases pitchers may throw 90% of their fastballs away. They don’t like throwing inside for the potential of hitting a batter, giving up cheap hits (especially with an aluminum bat), or giving up home runs. So, looking outer half of the plate will put you right where the pitcher wants to be.
  • Just because a pitcher got strike one, on a fastball that painted the inside corner, don’t change your approach. Based on percentages, he will go away from you.  He is hoping you change your approach. Trust your strategy and trust what you see. This is easier said than done, it is easy to think to yourself, ” if he throws that pitch again I am taking him deep.” Then you don’t see another pitch inside, the rest of the at bat.
  • Having this strategic approach will keep you in a good mechanical position. (keeping your front shoulder in and not having it fly towards the third baseman).
  • If you are focused on the ball away, you will be able to react to a pitch inside if you need to. Just bring your hands in and get the barrell to the ball. This is the way you want to hit an inside pitch; let your hands work.
  • Looking in and reacting away will not work because if your front side opens up at all, you will be out of position and you will be too far from the outside part of the plate.

Other baseball hitting stategies

1.  The most common hitting strategy is to look away and adjust to a pitch inside.

Since most pitchers keep the ball away from you, it only makes sense to look to the outer portion of the plate.  It is a lot easier to adjust to a pitch inside, than to look for a pitch inside and adjust to a pitch away.  It is almost impossible.

2. A hitting strategy that is sometimes used is to look right down the middle of the plate.

This approach is simple and very effective.  If all you are thinking about is looking for a pitch down the middle then you have cleared your mind of thoughts that will hinder your performance.

  • If you are looking in the middle of the plate and a pitch happens to be on the outer part of the plate the physical adjustment needed to get to that pitch is very minimal. The furthest you would need to adjust would be about 8 inches.
  • One problem with looking away is if he throws a fastball inside you would need to adjust maybe 15-17 inches from where you were looking. That is quite an adjustment. By looking for a pitch over the middle of the plate, you will be looking for the pitch you can do the most damage with, and the pitch we always work on hitting.
3. Another hitting strategy that is sometimes used is to look for velocity.

Look hard (fastball, sinker, cutter, slider), all these pitches are similar in velocity and if you are locked in on something hard its easier to adjust and lay off something slow.

  • This hitting strategy will also prevent the occasional “being in between on pitches.” This is where 50% of your hitting approach is locked in on fastball and the other half is locked in on off speed. Your body will be too late on the fastball but too quick for the off speed, so you can’t hit any pitch.

No matter what your baseball hitting strategy is, it is very important to stick with it. You can change it at any time but you need to make sure you are 100% committed to your approach when facing the pitcher.  Remember a bad approach is better than no mental approach at all.

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About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins' AAA team in Rochester, NY

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