Like any other hitting adjustment that exists on the planet. Knowing how to hit left-handed pitchers starts with the approach, mindset & mechanics.
Especially for lefty hitters, because lefty on lefty will serve as a challenge for most hitters on that side of the plate.
Personally, I loved hitting lefties because I was a switch-hitter. Facing lefties as a righty felt like I was cheating in many ways.
It was much easier to see the ball better out of the hand of the pitcher's release point since it was coming from the opposite side of the mound.
However, the lefty pitcher who's deceptive throws hard establishes the fastball early in the count and has a good breaking ball or off-speed that they can locate, is a force to be reckoned with.
Lefties will challenge you, so you better have an answer.
If you want to learn how to hit left-handed pitching, you should start with:
- Knowing what their approach is
- Knowing what their out pitch is
- Understanding what are they throwing for strikes
Knowing What Their Approach Is
The first adjustment to hitting left-handed pitching is knowing what their approach is. Are they a power pitcher with a dominant fastball, or are they pitching to contact while letting the defense do the work?
First, it's important to know that a pitcher's BEST pitch is almost always strike-one. So the mentality starts with being aggressive early in the count.
Next, we take a look at how they're keeping hitters off balance.
What pitches do they throw in various counts?
Are they throwing sliders when the hitter has count leverage?
What are they starting each hitter off with on the first pitch?
Here's a Rule of Thumb. Most effective pitchers will establish the fastball on the inner half of the plate and then go soft away...
...or if they have some velocity, they will try to change heights by throwing the fastball up in the zone and then bury the changeup down in the zone.
For you as a hitter, your job is to post up and load late while using the entire field.
In other words, let the ball travel deeper in the zone, and look for something up in the zone. Period.
Some lefty pitchers will rely on their deception or crafty-ness, but at the end of the day, they have to throw the ball over the plate in order to get out of the inning...
...and when they do, make them pay.
Know what the left-handed pitcher's overall approach is on the mound.
Knowing What Their Out Pitch Is
Most pitchers will have a go-to pitch to finish a hitter or to get out of a jam.
Whether it's the frisbee slider, bugs bunny 12 to 6 curveball or the fastball on the black, their out pitch is the pitch they can either throw for strikes or get the hitter to chase consistently.
For example, the 2-2 curveball pitch to contact is a common "out pitch".
The neck-high fastball in an 0-2 count to get you to chase that's followed up with a breaking ball that gets buried in the dirt for the catcher to block is another one.
How do you figure out their out pitch? You study the pitcher while your buddies are hitting.
The teammate's at-bats will tell you what pitches you should be looking for in the various counts you find yourself in.
Know the left-handed pitcher's out pitch.
What Are They Throwing For Strikes?
Lastly, your approach will be dictated by the situation of the game.
For instance, if a left-handed pitcher is having trouble getting the curveball over for a strike, and you know he hasn't thrown two in a row for a strike the entire game, you think he's going to throw two in a row against you when you're the tieing run, late in the game?
If you know that walking you is not an option, and the fastball is the one pitch he's relied on when he needs a strike, sitting on the fastball isn't just guess hitting, it's educated guess hitting.
Knowing what he's throwing for strikes is like having a cheat-sheet in your helmet telling you what to sit on.
Ever watch a left-handed hitter turn on a 98 mph fastball on the inside part of the plate against a 6'4 lefty that looks like he's throwing from behind the hitter...
...and then the hitter just turns on the fastball like it was sitting on a tee?
You think he was just magically reacted to that fastball? He was sitting on it.
C'mon. Big league hitters are good, but most are not that good.
They have great instincts. Good hitters have great instincts.
Know what the left-handed pitcher is throwing for strikes.
Big League Thoughts On Hitting Left-Handed Pitching
So you've heard me talk about adjustments to hit left-handed pitchers.
With that said, let's hear from two legit hitters who've made a career out of making left-handed pitchers pay when they made mistakes on the mound.
Sean Casey On How To Hit Left-Handed Pitchers
"The biggest thing for lefties is, you're gonna have to face them if you want to be in the lineup.
You can't have a feeling of, Ohhhh, I'm 0-4. I'm not gonna play this game since a lefty is pitching. I'm just gonna start against the next righty. Then all of a sudden now I'm not the same guy. Right? There's too much anxiety, tension. Doubt is creeping in. You don't want that.
So for me, I was primarily looking for fastballs inside and then sliders away.
But bottom line, I wanted to be in the batter's box."
Jim Thome On How To Hit Left-Handed Pitchers
Jim Thome On hitting left-handed pitching...
"Well, I just think...learning how to hit lefties starts with proving it to yourself. Maybe when you were young, the coach sat you against lefties...
...and then all of a sudden you get to college or pro ball and then one day you get to the ballpark and you see your name in the line-up and you guys are facing a tough lefty...and the coach looks at you like "go get em kid" .
And then all of a sudden you get a hit and then you might bump one and then all of a sudden you'd get that confidence you've been searching for to hit lefties effectively.
There's a huge proponent to hitting lefties that's mental.
Here's the thing. Lefties make mistakes on the mound too. But for me, when I got in the box I was looking to make hard contact hit early.
I wanted full plate coverage and to make contact early in the county. I didn't want to just take off-speed and then hope that I was going to get a better pitch later in the count.
How To Hit Left-Handed Pitchers Checklist
If your swing feels good, and you've been stringing together good at-bats but you're still struggling with hitting lefties, keep this "How to hit left-handed pitchers" checklist in mind.
Knowing what their approach is on the mound gives you an idea of what pitches to attack and what pitches to anticipate with two strikes.
Knowing what their out pitches allow you to keep the pressure on the pitches while avoiding throwing away at-bats because you're swinging at balls out of the zone.
Lastly, knowing what they're throwing for strikes will allow you to be aggressive when you know when he's trying to avoid walks which is a rally killer for them, but a rally starter for you.
Get great at hitting lefties.
Stay after it.