Learning how to improve pitch selection begins with understanding:
- what the pitcher is trying to do on the mound.
- what your approach is.
- a clear understanding of the strike zone.
The pitcher wants to get ahead early. This means they will throw the pitch they have the most "feel" for early in the count. Most of the time that's the Fastball.
A hitter's job is to take a quality swing on a quality pitch, and when the pitcher throws a good pitch to hit, the hitter makes them pay big time.
Despite the ever-increasing cases of blind umpires, the strike zone hasn't changed for hundreds of years.
Anything above the knees, below the chest, and over the plate, is a strike.
Once you have a feel for these concepts, it's about understanding the inner game of hitting.
For hitters wanting to learn how to refine and sharpen their pitch selection at the plate while increasing their plate discipline - here are a few tips and tricks that will add additional tools to your hitter's toolbox.
1. Learn how to read the pitcher
Elite hitters think like elite pitchers. Good hitters pick up on pitcher's tendencies. Pitchers are creatures of habit. Recognize a pitcher's "out-pitch".
Watch the pitcher when your teammates are battling in the box and then adjust to the "pitcher-type".
Ex: power pitcher, ground ball or pitch to contact, fly ball guy, etc.
Know when a pitcher wants to work fast.
Take your time, and make them wait. Know when the pitcher wants to get ahead.
Be aggressive early in the count. Know when the pitcher is gonna nibble.
Be selectively aggressive with less than two-strikes.
Good hitters think like pitchers.
Pitch selection can be simple.
As hitters, our job is to be on time by hunting and sitting on the right pitch. Hitters don’t have to reinvent the wheel or out-think the pitcher.
Just pay attention.
Most pitchers want to get ahead. So you’ll often see fastballs down and away early in the count. Be aggressive early and keep your finger on the swing trigger.
Most pitchers will double up on the pitch you missed, got beat, or looked foolish on. If you got beat on the fastball or lunged at the curveball, you’ll probably get a steady dose of that pitch until you prove you can adjust.
A 2-2 pitch to contact curveball is common, especially with a ground ball pitcher, a double-play situation.
Pitchers will nibble on the corners with two strikes so make sure you’re not chasing even though you’re expanding the zone.
Ultimately, you have to let the type of swing you take, and the pitches you swing at be dictated by the situation of the game.
The focus is to get a good pitch to hit.
Watch the pitcher. Hunt pitches. Don’t get cheated by the fastball.
2. Understand the hitter's counts
0-0 Pitcher wants to get ahead. Be aggressive early.
I’m not on taking the first strike because the 1st strike might be the best pitch you’ll see all day.
If you’re going to be selective, be selectively aggressive.
Key-hole the FB down the middle. When you get it, don’t miss.
1-0 is a hitter’s count. Good time to take a controlled aggressive swing.
Be ready for the fastball.
2-0 is when you let it fly. The pitcher wants to avoid going 3-0 so will typically come right at you with a FB.
Most importantly - don’t be late on the FB. I’d rather see you roll over a weak grounder than getting jammed in this count.
3-0 take unless you have the green light. If you’re swinging here, you better do damage.
0-1 Now you’re behind in the count. If you were late or early on the previous pitch, the pitcher will follow up with the same pitch to force you to adjust.
Ex: Late on the FB? You’ll probably get another fb. Early on the CB, probably get another CB.
0-2 The pitcher will either change speeds to make you chase or change levels to set up the next pitch.
Know the pitcher’s out-pitch here.
When you’re 0-2, your job is to battle.
Make the pitcher work, put pressure on the defense, and use your B-Swing.
For most of you, a good B-Swing is shortening up a tick, loading late, and posting up.
3. Except that you may only get one pitch.
Sometimes, you might only get one good pitch to hit.
One good pitch to handle that you can put a quality aggressive swing on.
If you miss it, it’s gone.
If you take it, that’s it.
If you’re too late or too early, too bad.
We have to be geared up and ready for that one pitch.
It’s a mentality. It’s an intention.
It starts with your ability to compete.
Assuming the next pitch is going to be a strike.
Swinging not just to make contact but to swing with intent to do damage.
When you get your pitch, make the pitcher pay big time.
4. Look for something UP in the zone.
A breaking ball that starts up, will end up in the strike zone at point of contact.
A breaking ball that starts in the zone or down, will end up in the dirt at the point of contact.
Avoid chasing pitches and the weak roll-over by posting up with a focus on driving the ball ahrd to the opposite field.
Make simple adjustments - If you just got jammed on the fastball, you’re going to get more fastballs until you can prove that you can adjust.If you were fooled on the breaking ball, you’re going to get more breaking balls until you can prove you can adjust.Pitch selection is simple. You’ll get what you haven’t proven you can’t handle.
Keep your posture - If you have to leave your posture, it’s not a strike.
Be aggressive early - Statistically, the deeper you get in the count, the less likely you’ll get on base.The tougher the pitcher is, the more aggressive you need to be.
5. Adjust. Adjust. Adjust.
It’s really tough facing the pitcher who is locating pitches on both 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 on time.
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.
How does baseball improve hand-eye coordination?
Bottom line: reading spin, speed, and location of a 90+ mph fastball or a secondary pitch that breaks, dips, or sinks requires a level of pitch recognition that is arguably the rarest athletic skill-set on the planet. Period.
On average, ballplayers have a visual acuity of 20/12, meaning they can see from 20 ft away howmost people can only see from 12 feet.
Some players have had vision even higher than 20/12, like Dustin Pedroia at 20/10 or Kevin Youkilis at 20/11.
But even great vision doesn't guarantee great visual performance.
Wanna have superior pitch recognition skills?
Have great saccadic eye movements.
The ability to anticipate where the ball will be based on where the ball is so important it's mind-blowing.
When you see a big leaguer who seems recognizes the ball well out of the pitcher's hands, they're using saccadic eye movements.
Can hitters see the ball off the bat?
Can hitters see the ball off the bat?"
The short answer is "no”.
The hitter's optic nerves don't function fast enough to see the ball off the bat.when elite hitters make hard contact while showcasing superior pitch recognition skills they're actually swinging at where they anticipate the ball will end up after recognizing spin, speed, and location after the pitcher’s release point.
This is why for high-level hitters, a 95 mph fastball is just “faster” B.P.
So when you see big leaguers taking "effortless effort" swings on a 98 mph fastball, or a dirty slider, what you're seeing is anticipation, prediction, and reaction at the highest level.
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