How do you see the baseball better? It's one common question that can be answered in multiple ways.
You can start by understanding:
Or by asking an additional set of questions such as:
- What is the umpire's strike zone?
- What's the pitcher's out pitch?
- What did he get me out on last time?
- What did I hit hard last time?
- Is there an open base?
- How's my compete level?
I'm gonna break down each question in this post.
If you're looking for pitch recognition specific tips on seeing the ball better, take a look at this in-depth post on additional ways to enhance your pitch recognition skills.
What is the umpire's strike zone?
Umpires come in all shapes and sizes. The same goes for their strike-zone, am I right? 😉
As a hitter, if you're not aware of how big or small the umpires strike-zone is, your pitch recognition skills won't factor in what you've established as a strike compared to what an umpire considers a strike.
Some umpires will give a pitcher 5-10 inches off the plate.
If you're not half-way aware of this, you'll get frozen on a strike off the plate.
While hitting with two, this means you'll have to expand the zone some to make the pitcher work harder on the mound.
This is why it's important to watch the pitcher while communicating with your team-mates.
What's the pitcher's out-pitch?
Pitchers are creatures of habit and will typically double down on what's working to keep their pitch count low, their defense on their toes and to avoid walks.
This means if they're effective with a certain pitch while ahead in the count, the chances of the pitcher throwing the same pitch that he threw to your teammates is high.
Is the outpitch a breaking ball in the dirt? Your pitch recognition needs to look for something up in the zone.
Maybe it's the fastball in.
Then your adjustment is to really get your hands inside the middle in fast-ball to avoid getting jammed while protecting the inside part of the plate.
Knowing what the pitcher's out-pitch means that you're studying the pitcher.
If hitting is the test, watching the pitcher is reading the cliff-notes.
What did he get me out on last time?
Similar to knowing the pitcher's out-pitch, knowing what the pitcher got you out on last time will give you an idea of what they will try to get you out this time.
For example. If the pitcher got you to chase a breaking ball in the dirt for strike three in your last at-bat, what do you think he's going to do this time?
The same thing, until you can prove that you can make the adjustment.
Just the same, if you're late on the fastball, do you think you're gonna get a change-up to speed up your bat?
Seeing the ball better and understanding pitch selection is easier once you learn how to ask yourself these types of questions.
What did I hit hard last time?
Similar to knowing what you got "out" on in your previous at-bat, knowing what pitches you were successful on in your previous at-bats gives you an idea of what adjustment the pitcher will probably make.
If you smoked his fastball, you think you're gonna get another one? Nope. Chances are, he's going to try to establish the off-speed.
If you stayed back on a curveball, you think you're gonna get a steady dose of those? He's probably gonna try to establish the fastball.
Know what you hit hard last time, and prime your pitch recognition to anticipate a different speed or location.
What's the situation & is there an open base?
Knowing the situation is key in having good hitter's instinct, I.Q. and pitch recognition.
If there's one out with runners on second and third, can the pitcher afford to nibble the corners or throw strikes early in the count?
Nibble the corners. He can afford walking you because the worst-case scenario is a force-out. Sure the bases are loaded but now the infield can turn the double play.
As a hitter, now you know the pitcher is going try to hit the corners. Your job is to make the pitcher throw your pitcher and not his.
How's my compete level?
Lastly, your chances of seeing the ball as well as you can greatly diminish if your compete level goes below your ability level.
Talent can take you only so far. The swing can only be so perfect. You can only spend so much money on hitting lessons.
If you're not digging into batter's box knowing you can hit instead of just hoping to hit or to make contact...
....your pitch recognition will take a hit.
It's hard to see the ball out of the pitcher's hand if you're not ready to hit.
It's hard to pick up spin, speed, and location if you don't want to be in the box or if you're stuck thinking about your past "bad" at-bats.
The better competitor you are, the better you'll see the ball. Period.
Become a great competitor.