Batting In Baseball: How To Be Prepared At The Plate
I believe that how you prepare for at-bats is more important than your overall bat speed, launch angle, type of bat you're using, and ultimately, how talented of a hitter you are.
This is why knowing how to be prepared at the plate, can be a deciding factor in how productive your at-bats are.
Preparing To Win The At-Bat
You can have the most mechanically sound swing on the planet, all the confidence in the universe, but none of it will matter if you don't have the belief that you can beat the pitcher.
Winning the at-bat begins with having an approach to that allows you the be athletic, and ontime while taking a quality swing on a quality pitch.
At the end of the day, as hitters, we're ONLY as good as the pitches we swing at.
When you get great at winning the at-bat, everything else you work on in practice becomes easier to implement into the game.
Baseball Batting Tips: How To Be Prepared At The Plate
Assuming that you're not the first two hitters in the inning, and you're watching the pitcher instead of goofing off in the dugout, hitting starts the moment you're in the hole...
...when you're two hitters away from your next plate appearance.
In this Baseball Batting Tips: How To Be Prepared At The Plate post, I'm going to walk you through a step-by-step checklist of hitting principles you should be familiar with to be the most prepared hitter in the line-up.
As a hitter, this is your first chance to be consistent with a pre-at-bat routine that's execution is 100% within your control.
If baseball is about being consistent, which it is, and the mental side of hitting is about focusing on what you can control, this is your chance to build some serious confidence before locking in.
You grab your helmet, batting gloves, and bat. You take a seat on the bench.
Deep breath. Now you're accessing the inning.
What's the score, count, and situation?
Is a bunt situation coming up? Maybe a hit-and-run? What's the pitcher throwing for strikes? What's the umpire's strike zone?
Your focus here is on getting a general feel for what the rhythm and tempo of the game is
Lastly, this is your chance to rehearse success.
Take a moment to visualize the result you want. Visualize a hard line drive up the middle. See yourself taking a controlled, aggressive swing on a pitch up in the zone.
The On-Deck Circle
As we transition from the Hole to the on-deck circle, we begin honing in on our pre-at-bat process.
We spent plenty of time watching the pitcher's tendencies while in the dug-out so we have a general sense of what types of pitches he has, and what he's throwing for strikes.
We know how many outs there are, how many runners, and the score.
All of these aspects will help us in anticipating what situation we'll be in once we're at the plate.
In the on-deck circle, we're getting our load, separation, and stride timing down with the pitcher's delivery.
In other words, we're loading and getting in sync with the hitter at the plate.
As the hitter delivers, we load, stride, get the front foot down, shift and fire the hip on balls or strikes.
Once we've done this, we're locked in.
One of my favorite Steve Springer lines is this...
"90% of hitting is how you feel when walking up to the plate."
As we walk up to the plate, we do it with intent.
We breathe from the belly.
We look at the coach to get the signs, and then we dig in the batter's box with a goal to hit the ball hard by putting a controlled violent swing on a good pitch to hit.
This is also a chance to be your own coach. Positive self-talk and a reminder of what the approach is can be an effective way to prime the mind for the task at hand.
Now - we're digging in the batter's box. Clearing the mind. This is where the "swing critic" shuts off.
We're not worried about our stance. We know that this isn't a "looks contest".
We're here to compete by generating that feeling which says "I can beat the pitcher".
Deep breath. Let go and trust.
Baseball Batting Tips: How To Be Prepared At The Plate - The Delivery
After our pre-at-bat and pre-swing routines are done, we let our training take over.
This frees us up to focus our energy towards seeing the ball as well as possible while competing our tail off.
Our finger is on the Swing Trigger™. In other words, our mentality is that the next pitch is going to be a great pitch to hit and we're going to swing.
We've completely taken the "if" out of our swing. It's going to be a strike until it's not. "Yes, yes, No!" on a ball. "Yes, yes, Go!" on a strike.
Lastly, we're aggressive on pitches up in the zone with less than two strikes.
We're attacking the inner half of the ball, driving the ball up the middle while using the whole field.
Wash, rinse repeat.
The idea here is simple. Your goal is to win the at-bat. Any way you can.
A hard-hit ball. Being a tough out. Setting your teammates up for success.
This is what makes baseball fun.
That moment when you stop making it about you and you start making it about helping your teammates get the "W" is how your natural abilities start shining through.
The better a teammate you become, the better competitor you grow into.
The better competitor you become, the longer you'll play.
Talent can take you on so far. Period.
Baseball Batting Tips: How To Be Prepared At The Plate Checklist
If you implement this Baseball Batting Tips: How To Be Prepared At The Plate Checklist you're gonna win some at-bats.
The beautiful thing about it is this...
...it requires ZERO talent and how good you get at this routine will depend on how bad you want to be great.
- Rehearse success & consistency ad you get locked in.
- Get loose and then recalibrate your timing.
- Summon confidence.
- Clear the mind & let your training take over.
- See the ball as well as you can
- Keep your finger on the Swing Trigger & Post Up in the zone
- Compete your tail off.
When you realize that most of your growth as a ballplayer will happen while working on your own, by yourself with nothing but a bat, a bucket of balls, and a tee…
…you are free to take your gifts as far as you want to.
It’s true, not all players are created equal. Each player has a ceiling.
Chances are, you’re not going to be the next Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado,
but you can be the best YOU, because the ceiling potential tends to rise as our executions rise, and most players fall short of their true potential because they're not willing to pay the price.
If you’re reading this, I believe your potential is much larger than you think or have been told.
Gather the right knowledge & inspiration.
Create a plan, then execute that plan with sweat equity.
Effortless Effort & Flow
Good players make tough plays look easy.
Great players make the routine play look effortless. Good players make the field seem small.
Elite players play with Flow.
The transfer of energy in a swing, throw, and the catch is the easiest tell for players who’ve achieved a certain level of flow.
It’s called efficient athletic ability. A good coach or scout will see it from a mile away.
Let’s call it freedom and flow or effortless effort. The steps to achieve this level of flow will come from two things.
Quality reps at high quantities.Strength and range of motion.
Make your movements efficient.
Get to work.
Stop Chasing Stats
Lastly, the day you stop chasing stats…and start focusing on the things you can control……you will finally achieve some freedom at the plate.
Ever hit a ball so right on the screws that you didn’t feel the ball come off the bat?
I call that true freedom, and you can manufacture that by
- staying committed to the process
- keeping a short-term memory
- keeping a long-term perspective
- having an approach & plan to win the at-bat
- building up your teammates
- remembering to have fun
The beautiful thing about this is it requires zero talent.
It’s a choice you make every time you step on the field.
When you stop chasing stats, the stats chase you.
How To Slow Down The Ball
Loose muscles are quick muscles.
The muscles around the eyes are no different. When there’s strain around the eyes, your pitch recognition suffers.
When there is too much head movement, your pitch recognition suffers. Keep the eye-gaze soft.
Minimize head movement.
You achieve this by controlling your breathing & slowing down your feet. (shorter strides/foot down early.)
You can train how to recognize spin, speed & location with the Applied Vision Baseball App. Simulate live at-bats on your phone or on your TV in your living room.
Batting in baseball is a time-honored duel. The hitter’s job is to be on time. The pitcher’s job is to upset that timing.
Our job as a batter is to be on time on every, single, pitch.
This is baseball. This is hitting.
It’s not about having the perfect batting stance, or mechanics. Rather, it’s about learning how to compete, while developing the belief that you have what it takes to beat the pitcher.
It’s about looking in the opposing dugout and saying to yourself “I have what it takes to beat every, single one of you.”
Not arrogant. Just self-belief.
Batting in baseball is about being confident and staying confident when you’re not getting results.
It’s also about:
- starting on time to be on time
- never getting cheated by the fastball.
- being calm, cool, and collected, ready to attack any pitch in the strike zone.
- focused, present, and on time, adjusting to the situation of the game.
The Batting Mechanics VS Batting Approach In Baseball
Ultimately, batting in baseball is about finding out what makes you a unique athlete when stepping into the batter’s box.
It’s about finding your unique swing because not all hitters are created equally.
This is why I believe mechanics, are overrated.
Important, but overrated.
If every hitter was taught to hit the same, we’d never have the hitters who broke the mode and hit based on feel and instinct.
Barry Bonds had a hitch.
Mike Trout fails to get to the instep of his back leg.
King Griffey Barred his arm.
And who knows what Kevin Youkilis or Craig Counsel was doing in the box, but it worked for them!
Can you imagine if a hitting instructor coached those aspects out of their swing?
That would be a tragedy.
On the other hand, these features in their swing wouldn’t be something a great hitting coach would incorporate in their swing, instead they’d recognize it as an aspect of the swing and work around it.
In my opinion, the mechanics in hitting is the most over-coached aspect in baseball.
The reality is, every hitter is different, and the task of each hitter is to work on their strengths so they become weapons, and work on their weaknesses so they don’t become liabilities.
Socrates said it best when he said…”Know thy self.”
As a hitter, we must know what type of hitter we are and should be to make the greatest impact in the lineup, and it almost always starts with the approach because, again, mechanics are important, but the approach is king.
Know Your Role & The Type of Hitter You Are
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given as a hitter was “know your role, strengths, and weaknesses”.
If you’re 5’8 150 pounds, you’re probably not gonna be hitting 40+ homers a year with 100+ RBIs. You have to be tough with two strikes, spraying the field with hard-line drives, while putting the ball in play.
On the flip side, if you’re built like a brick house and swing like a donkey, you’re doing a disservice to your team if you’re swinging just to make contact without driving the ball with true authority, putting yourself in scoring position with one swing.
Not all hitters are created equally, and not all hitters are designed to have the same role in the lineup.
In this video, we’re going to go over the different types of hitters, the typical strengths, weaknesses, and roles they have in the lineup, as well as what type of approach the batter will tend to have given their place in the batting order.
Below, we’re going to share every type of baseball batter or style of hitting that exists.
The Line Drive Batter - Gap To Gap
Tasked with making consistent hard contact, hitting hard line drives in the gap. Think Derek Jeter and Wade Boggs.
Line drive hitters will typically sacrifice a bit of power to make solid contact, get on base and get in scoring position.
Contact Hitter - Specialty hitter
All the characteristics of the line-drive hitter, with just a bit more emphasis on contact. Usually, a speedy runner handles the bat well in a hit-and-run situation, gets the bunt down, makes the pitcher work, hits deep in the count, and puts pressure on the defense.
The Power Hitter
The power guy is tasked with slugging. They catch a single, they’re throwing it back. The job title says, bombs, doubles, and RBIs.
Homers, extra-base hits, and RBIs are why they get paid the big bucks.
The Elite of The Elite Hitter
The Elite-Of-The-Elite type batter is a blend of contact, power, and speed. The ones that can do it well and for a majority of their career, we would call a once-in-a-generation type of hitter.
Trout, Ohtani, Soriano, and Guerro, were hitters gifted with the ability to do it all among others.
Baseball Batter Spectrum
Ultimately, hitters exist on a spectrum and will often have some characteristics of various blends of batter types.
And sometimes they will transition from say a contact hitter to more of a power or line drive type later in their career as their body fills out, and they become more seasoned.
Let’s talk about how these types exist in the lineup.
The Leadoff Hitter
The lead-off guy is usually a contact hitter, line drive hitter, or a blend of both. Their job is to make the pitcher work hard on the mound early in the ball game, helping their teammates see what the pitcher is leading hitters off with, what their out pitch is, what they throw with runners in scoring position, as well as what the strike zone of the ump looks and feels like.
The lead-off guy needs to feel comfortable hitting deep in the count, and being tough with two strikes.
Think Ichiro, Henderson, and Craig Biggio
The 2-Hole Batter
The 2-hold batter has a good feel for the bat. They will be called on to drive the ball to the right side of the field and hit behind the runner, sac bunt, or bunt for a base hit.
Derek Jeter is probably the best example of a great 2-hole hitter.
The 3-Hole Batter
Usually the best hitter in the lineup. A mixture of power, contact, and speed. Can drive the ball to the big part of the field, hit the ball over the fence, but most importantly, make consistent hard contact somewhere.
The Cleanup Hitter
The four-hole hitter's task is to drive runners in, drive themselves in, or put themselves in scoring position so that the next hitter can drive them in, with just one swing.
Slugging % is the total bases divided by # of at-bats, and their job is to Slug without slugging the base paths.
The 5-Hole Batter
The same role as the clean-up batter, just lower in the lineup, with fewer at-bats per 9 innings on average over the course of a season
The 6, 7 & 8 Hole Batter
These batters will typically vary in roles, and batter types, some will hit for power, and others will be more line drive types. Since they’re lower in the lineup, they also will have fewer at-bats per 9 innings on average over the course of a season. The better they perform, the higher the likelihood of hitting higher in the batting order.
The 9-Hole Batter
The 9-hole hitter is usually the second lead-off batter.
Usually speedy, good feel for the bat, puts the ball in play, and has some speed.
The Designated Hitter
The DH is usually a 3 or 4-hole hitter who isn't playing defense. The challenge of a DH is staying loose and ready between at-bats. Since the majority of the game, there’s downtime since they’re not on the field playing defense, they have to find novel ways of staying locked in as they prepare for their next at-bat.
The Pinch Hitter - Lefty & Righty
The pinch hitter is the batter who didn’t start in the game but is put in to face a certain pitcher later in the game.
A pinch-hitting lefty will usually come in to face a right-handed thrower, and a pinch-hitting righty will come in to face a lefty.
One of the advantages of facing the opposite-handed pitcher is the breaking ball. When the breaking ball is breaking toward the hitter instead of away, it’s much easier to make an adjustment.
The Switch Hitter
The switch hitter is the batter who can hit from both sides of the plate.
They can be line-drive hitters like Pete Rose.
Power hitters like Chipper Jones.
Speedy like Rafael Furcal.
Or a blend of everything like Mickey Mantle.
The advantage of being a switch hitter is that all breaking balls will break toward the hitter.
The Ultimate Guide To Batting In Baseball Outro
All in all, regardless of the type of batter, and where they hit in the lineup, what they all must have in common is the ability to:
- Be on time on the fastball
- Execute plate coverage
- Have the bat head stay on the play of the pitch
- The ability to drive the ball to the opposite side of the field.
Where do you hit in the lineup, what are some of your hitting characteristics?
What are some things you've been working on to improve your overall knowledge of batting in baseball?
Let me know in the comments below.
As always, be and stay, a student of the game.
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