So you want to learn the best way to hit fast pitching. Ever wonder how big leaguers make it look so easy?
Well, a big part of it is their approach.
First off, if you want to be a good hitter, you have to be great at hitting the fastball, period. If you struggle with the fastball, your approach and mechanics will fall apart the moment pitchers start establishing the fastball on the inner half of the plate while following up with the soft offspeed away.
You only have four-tenths of a second to recognize spin, speed, and location, put yourself in a good position to swing and then fire your hips and hands to make solid contact when the pitch arrives.
If your swing is not short and efficient, or if you're doing anything that takes away your ability to recognize pitch type and location, you're in big trouble.
There are two ways you can approach hitting faster pitching.
You can train by simulating batting practice at game speed with a shortened front toss or batting practice or stand-in on a bullpen with a hard thrower.
Or you can make key adjustments during the game by:
- Calibrating Your Timing In The On Deck Circle
- Keeping Your Finger On The Swing Trigger
- Cutting The Plate In Half
- Getting The Foot Down On Time
- Keeping Bat Head On The Plane (Early & Long)
- Thinking Quick Swing Instead of Hard Swing
- Choking Up & Shortening Up
Let's break each Best Way To Hit Fast Pitching principle down.
Adjust To Fast Pitching By Learning To Win The At-Bat.
In a game laoded with failure, the biggest challenge a hitter faces is being confident and stayingconfident when they're not getting results.
Winning The At-Bat is about commiting to the process of preperation & competing.
Calibrating Your Timing In The On Deck Circle
Hitting is about timing. Pitching is about upsetting the hitter's timing. In other words, as hitters, part of our job is being in rhythm with the pitcher.
It's a dance. You're the girl because the pitcher has the ball.
I'm not gonna give you a cookie-cutter approach to calibrating your timing to hit a fastball. Your load, stride and how you transfer your weight will depend on what type of hitter you are and what you use as your timing mechanism.
For some hitters, it's how they separate their hands. For others, it's having a hitch or a "turn" of their lead shoulder. Regardless, the faster the pitcher throws, the sooner you have to start your load and trigger.
How do you figure out how soon you have to start? You use your time in the on-deck circle to figure out when you need to get your foot down before firing the hips and throwing the hands.
Usually, the foot gets down and you fire the hips just after the release point.
Pitch Recognition plays a huge role in this phase.
Make sure it's a sharp tool in your hitter's toolbox.
Keeping Your Finger On The Swing Trigger
If we're late on the fastball, or worse, when we freeze up on one, it's usually because we're simply not ready to hit.
In other words, the finger is not on the swing trigger.
In order to have a chance at hitting a 90+ mph fastball, you have to assume that the next pitch is going to be a strike.
Every pitch, you're assuming you're going to get a good pitch to hit and you're going to take a controlled violent swing to achieve hard contact and good spin and flight.
If you're thinking, "I'm going to see if it's a strike first before I swing", it's too late. The ball will beat you.
The mentality is always, "Yes, yes, yes, Go!" on a strike...
...and "Yes, yes, yes, No!" on a ball.
You're never taking a pitch off. The switch is always on. The finger is always on the Swing Trigger™.
Not "if" it's a strike. It's going to "be" a strike.
Take the "if" out of your mentality.
Cutting The Plate In Half
Hitting high velocity will cause you to make certain adjustments with your timing, that some hitters like to call "cheating".
In other words, in order to be on time, you have to "cheat" by starting your swing sooner, especially on pitches middle in.
Though this makes you susceptible to off-speed or pitches away, it's an adjustment worth taking especially if the pitcher has established the fastball on the inner half of the plate.
One approach you can take is cutting the plate in half.
Meaning, you only look for pitches on a specific part of the plate.
If you're looking for a pitch middle-in, you're going to have to cheat and start sooner, so that means you'll have to take and not swing at anything on the outer half of the plate if you want to avoid being out front and hitting weak ground balls, pull-side.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a pitch middle-away, you're gonna half to sit back and let the ball travel a tick. This means any pitch middle-in, you're taking unless you want to get jammed.
When it comes to hitting fast pitching, every adjustment you make has a "give and take".
Sitting on off-speed leaves you susceptible to the fastball and vice versa.
The approach you choose will decide on the situation of the game, what pitches the pitcher has been throwing for strikes as well as how the pitcher is pitching your teammates.
How do you make the best choice? You watch the pitcher. This is how you develop your hitter's instinct.
This isn't just guess hitting. It's educated guess hitting and cutting the plate in half we help you make the best adjustment when you're facing a pitcher who's really pumping it on the mound.
Getting The Foot Down On Time
The swing can't start until the front foot lands. The sooner the front foot lands, the sooner you can put yourself in a good position to swing.
If you're chronically late on the fastball, you need to consider getting your front foot down sooner.
Whether it's a post-stride or shorter stride, the feet need to quiet down so you can transition from the load, separation to the firing of the hips and hands.
Making the transition to facing pitchers with an explosive fastball almost always requires hitters to simplify their approach and shorten their swing to avoid any extra movement in the swing.
Getting the foot down earlier is part of simplifying the approach and swing.
Keeping Bat Head On The Plane (Early & Long)
Okay, so our timing is good, and our pitch recognition is where it needs to be, yet we're still missing good pitches to hit. Maybe the ball is fouled straight back to the backstop, or we're hitting the bottom half of the ball, especially when the pitch is up in the zone.
Usually, this is caused because the bat head isn't getting on the plane of the pitch early enough, and it's not staying on the plane long enough.
I explained the three different types of swings in a previous post.
The belt-high fastball and up is what causes lazy flyballs and it's how fly- ball pitchers stay effective.
By effectively changing the zones of pitches, the pitcher can get you to early collapse and swing up at balls higher in the zone.
A good four-seam fastball will make this even harder.
Your adjustment starts with being aware of your hands.
Think, "load the hands above the ball, and then keep them there when you fire your hips".
This will allow you to keep your hands and bat-head on the plane of the pitch, early and often.
Quick Not Hard
I see a lot of hitters who think that the harder the pitcher throws, the harder the swing needs to be.
It's the opposite.
The harder he throws, the quieter you become.
This doesn't mean you're not aggressive, and it certainly doesn't mean you take your finger off the Swing Trigger™.
It just means you have to do an even better job of keep your head still.
The quieter your head is, the less your eyes move. The less your eyes move, the better pitch recognition you will have, period.
Let the pitcher supply the power.
Your job is to be on time and to see the ball as well as you can.
When you try to swing hard, instead of quick, we muscle-up, which isn't good.
A tense muscle is a slow muscle. A loose muscle is a quick twitch.
Stay loose. Be quick twitch. Swing quick instead of hard.
Choke Up Shorten Up
If the pitcher has your number, has count leverage, is deceptive, or your team is down and needs baserunners...
...sometimes, the best adjustment to hitting fast pitching is to choke & poke.
Don't get me wrong! I don't want you swinging to "not miss" or swinging to "just" put the ball in play. We're still taking controlled, violent hacks!
However, we're facing a guy with good velocity and we need runs.
This means you have to battle. Take control of the plate and make the pitcher work. Put pressure on the defense. Give your teammates a chance.
Choking up on the bat a tick. Shortening your stride a bit are two small adjustments that can pay BIG dividends in your performance at the plate against high velocity.
You'd be surprised at what you can do when you shorten up and compete.
Rather, you'd be surprised at how hard you can hit the ball with a choke & poke approach.
How To Hit a Baseball Smarter
So much of learning how to hit the baseball smarter begins with mindset. Hitters can start by being "uncommon". Good bat-speed, strength, and flexibility is common. Good bat-control is common. Loving adversity is uncommon.
Being the same guy whether you’re 0-4 or 4-4 is uncommon. On a field full of common players, choose to be uncommon.
Understand Plate Coverage
It’s really tough facing the pitcher who is locating pitches the corners of the plate. It’s really hard to have 100% plate coverage on all pitches at all times, in my opinion. If hitting is about timing, then pitching is about upsetting that timing.
As hitters - the more on-time we are on the pitch located on the outside corner, black - the more susceptible we will be to the pitch located on the inside corner, black.
This is why we need to have a plan to show up.You can start by cutting the plate in half.
Look middle-away and spit on anything on the inside part of the plate or look middle-in and spit on anything on the outside part of the plate.
With less than two strikes, hunt pitches. Hunt locations. When you get it don’t miss.
Best Way To Hit Fast Pitching Checklist
Every hitter is different, but getting great at preparing how you're going to be on time with the pitch with an aggressive mindset will give you an edge.
Cut the plate in half, get the foot down early, keep the bat-head on the plane of the pitch, swing quickly and choke & poke.
Follow all of this with superior pitch recognition skills, and you will hit a lot of balls hard.
Go make it happen.