So you want to learn how to lower strike-outs & stop chasing pitches.
Most of your thrown away at-bats are from trying to pull pitches you have no business pulling.
You reach for a pitch out of the zone, or you lunge at a pitch that you're out in front on, so you take a turn back to the dugout because you didn't have the right approach or worse, no approach at all.
Unless you're a hitter with ++ Power, strike-outs are not okay.
Here's why. Championship teams put the ball in play.
It's hard to win ball games when you don't make the pitcher work on the mound while putting pressure on the defense.
Have An Approach
Stepping in the batter's box without an approach is like playing darts without shooting for the bulls-eye.
Without a target to focus on, you're gonna get mixed results.
It boggles my mind how often I see a young hitter shrugs their shoulder when asked what their approach is.
Or worse, they say "my approach is to get a hit".
An approach should be attainable and specific.
EX: Attacking the inner-half of the ball while driving the ball back up the middle or seeing the ball up in the zone while loading late.
This approach is something you can execute regardless of your talent level or ability.
For those that think that having the perfect swing or launch angle is the master key to peak performance at the plate, consider how often you see big leaguers who take controlled aggressive swings and make hard contact even when their swing mechanics are off.
It's more often than you think.
Jose Altuve dives into the plate.
Barry Bonds had a hitch.
Ichiro had a lot of head movement.
Alex Bregman overgrips the bat.
Even at the big league level, swings aren't perfect.
The right approach is how you battle and compete.
Have a B-Swing Based On Your Role
Unless you're a hitter who's expected to do serious damage with ++Power, a two-strike approach should be a non-negotiable.
Strike-outs will happen, but players who swing for "broke" with two strikes does nothing to help the team win.
If you're a line-drive gap-to-gap guy, make the pitcher work and put pressure on the defense.
If you're not a guy who puts the ball in play and who doesn't learn how to battle with two-strikes, you're just a dressed up out.
A B-Swing will be different for different hitters.
Some will spread out, choke-up and shorten the swing. For others, a B-Swing is loading a bit later and going oppo.
What you don't want is the same swing you took when you have count-leverage.
If you're swinging out of your shoes with two, you haven't made an adjustment.
Widen The Zone
When you have two-strikes on you, sometimes you're gonna have to really protect zones beyond the plate.
It's not unheard of to have an umpire who gives the pitcher 5-10 inches off the plate.
Brutal? Sure. But it's part of the game and until umpires are replaced with the robotic camera, you're going to have to adjust.
Paying attention to your teammate's at-bats will give you an idea of how much you need to widen the zone so that you're battling the right way with two strikes.
Shrink The Zone
In some cases, shrinking the zone with two strikes is the right adjustment.
Here's why - if the pitcher is ahead in the count, he's going to try and make you chase.
If you know that the pitcher's out pitch is the breaking ball in the dirt, you need to post up.
In contrast - if it's the fastball away, but the umpire isn't giving the pitcher anything more than an inch off the plate, then you can afford to be more selective on the corners.
Again, watching the pitcher before your at-bat is how you study for the test once you're in the batter's box.
Knowing how to avoid swinging at breaking balls in the dirt while attacking the breaking ball up in the zone will do to things.
- It increases your plate discipline.
- Increases your hard contact percentage.
Think of posting up like putting a table as high as your waist right on the plate.
The breaking ball that starts above the table, will end up as a strike in the zone.
If a breaking ball starts below the table out of the pitcher's hand, it will probably end up in the dirt.
Being a hitter who can recognize the spin, speed, and location of the breaking ball right after the release point will quickly increase their plate discipline and hitter's I.Q while lowering strike-outs and chased pitches.
A pop-up in foul territory, freezing up on the third strike, both not great feelings right? I'd put pulling a weak ground ball that you lunged at on that list.
Hitting is about being on time. Pitching is about upsetting that timing.
Sometimes the pitcher does a great job of pitch selection and you're left with nothing to do but to tip your cap.
It doesn't mean you don't adjust.
If the pitcher is locating the off-speed or breaking ball, and you're chronically out in front, you need to load later.
Push the plate back in your mind.
Let the ball travel.
As a hitter, erring in the opposite direction, sometimes is how you make quick adjustments. As a coach, I'd rather see you get jammed than pull another weak groundball if you're having trouble staying back.
Here's what good hitters tend to do:
- Hit the ball hard the other way
- Line out more often than most
- Hit behind the runners when needed
- Take aggressively-controlled swings especially in count leverage
In batting practice, if you're not training to drive the ball hard the other way, you're shooting yourself in the foot.
There are very few dead-pull hitters at the big league level.
Unless you think you can hit 50+ homers in the MLB while crowding the plate, you better be able to go oppo.
Keep Your Posture
The idea here is simple. Keep your posture, be selectively aggressive in the zone.
Protecting the plate doesn't mean you have to reach.
If you have to leave your posture, it's not a strike.
Quiet The Approach
I can't think of a more simplified explanation of approach and mechanics. then Steve Springer from Quality At-Bats.
"Hitting is slow feet, fast hands, quiet head, taking a controlled-violent swing on a pitch I'm looking for"
If your pitch recognition isn't on point, or the fastball looks too fast, you need to slow the feet and quiet the head.
Slowing the game down starts with keeping your head still.
The quieter your head, the better your eyes can work for you.
Battle, Battle, Battle
A good hitter finds ways to Wins At-Bats regardless of whether they get a hit or not.
The more At-Bats Won, the more pressure you put on the opposing team.
The more pressure the other team feels, the better pitches you get collectively as a team.
Success begets success.
When you battle at the plate you also free yourself up to do more damage when your opponent is on their heels.
When you can execute the small things consistently, you set your teammates up for success. Since success is contagious, you're setting yourself up for it too.
Make Pitch Recognition a Priority
If you have a decent swing and solid approach, but you’re still missing pitches you should be crushing, stop blaming the swing.
Make sure you’re seeing the ball as well as you possibly can.
If your pitch recognition skills are lower than your athletic hitting ability, it doesn’t matter how good your swing is or how much you spent on lessons, it won’t translate. You need to have great pitch recognition to have great results.
When a big leaguer is hot, and he’s getting interviewed about his success, what’s the first thing out of his mouth.?
"I'm seeing the ball well"
How To Lower Strike-Outs & Stop Chasing Pitches Check-List
Keep this "how to lower strike-outs & stop chasing pitches" Check-List in mind as you begin making adjustments over the coming weeks.
This isn't an overnight fix, but mastering even one of these will take your performance at the plate to the next level.
- Have an approach
- Have a good B-Swing
- Widen the zone
- Shrink the zone
- Post up
- Load Late
- Go oppo
- Keep your posture
- Slow your feet, quiet the head
- Battle, battle, battle
- Make pitch recognition a priority