First off, you came to Applied Vision Baseball because you were looking for pitch recognition information, advice, tips and tricks, which is why I wrote The Ultimate Guide To Baseball Pitch Recognition & Vision Training.
There's no doubt in my mind, you've come to the right place.
Here's why. This site was created by a hitter.
A hitter who considers himself a student of the game.
After 20+ years as a player and instructor, here's what I've realized about hitting a baseball...
..if you don't figure out how to combine mental toughness with elite level pitch recognition, you are going to throw away at-bats, while struggling to perform with two strikes on you.
Worst off, you'll lose your confidence as the game speeds up, pitchers throw harder and locate their off-speed and breaking ball pitches more consistently.
If you want a chance at playing at the next level, do not ignore this part of the game.
In this The Ultimate Guide To Baseball Pitch Recognition & Vision Training post, you're going to learn:
- Why Pitch Recognition is So Important
- Common Pitch Recognition Problems
- What You Stand to Gain From Better Pitch Recognition
- How The Applied Vision Pitch Recognition App Will Help you
Why Pitch Recognition Is So Important
Here's the thing, we go to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned and to avoid cavities.
We visit the car shop to get our oil changed and to avoid larger unexpected car expenses...
...and we invest in hitting lessons to refine our swing and confidence, hoping to cure our swing viruses and bad habits.
"Without solid pitch recognition, what you learn in batting practice cannot translate to the plate."
The reality is, hitting lessons and batting practice is checkers.
The game, and real-live at-bats where the pitcher is trying to take your lunch...that's chess.
Hitting is about knowing how to compete.
More specifically, without the ability to compete, a hitter is just a "dressed-up out". A ballplayer holding a $300 bat with a $2 approach & swing.
Without confidence, it's really hard to be consistent.
Just the same, without pitch recognition skills, it's hard to be confident.
You can have the most mechanically sound swing on the planet, if you're not seeing the ball as well as you can, you're hosed.
That $50 you spent on that hitting lesson goes down the drain if you're not seeing the ball well. Without solid pitch recognition, what you learn in batting practice cannot translate to the plate.
Eventually, you're going to face that pitcher who can locate the fastball on both sides of the plate while also locating the breaking ball and off-speed...
...oh and he's throwing 93+ on the bump. How quickly you make the adjustment will dictate how much playing time you earn, period.
Especially at the higher levels, the best players play. No more daddy ball. No more politics. If you can hit, YOU WILL PLAY.
Here's the ultimate benefit of pitch recognition skills.
"Seeing the ball well gives you room for error with your swing."
Meaning, you're going to be more successful with an average swing but elite level pitch recognition than you are with a perfect swing but sub-par pitch recognition skills.
Hitting is about seeing the ball well, and you can get there by having an approach to seeing the release point, picking up trajectory, spin, and shade.
Moreover, this isn't about being the next Mike Trout or Cody Bellinger because pitch recognition skills isn't about talent.
Because it takes ZERO talent to train your pitch recognition.
We've all heard it. "If you can hit, you will play."
We've also heard, "the only way you're going to get better is by playing."
"It's really hard to develop your skills when you're sitting on the bench."
And that's the beauty of the Applied Vision Baseball Pitch Recognition Training App.
It places your hand on the dial of the exact two things you need to get better and earn more playing time.
- Actual live at-bats for you to train your skills as a hitter.
- Repetitions at game speed to simulate realistic plate appearance.
Common Pitch Recognition Problems
You have a decent swing. You have the right approach, but you're struggling with confidence.
Breaking balls, break harder. The fastball seems faster.
Basically, you looked great in practice, but now you're struggling in the game.
If a hitter has a pitch recognition problem, it's usually because:
- They're not recognizing the trajectory, spin & shade efficiently
- The hitter has "swing virus"
- The hitter doesn't have an approach to hitting the changeup or breaking ball
- They haven't incorporated a solid mental hitting approach
- The stride & feet are two fast
- They aren't READY to take an aggressive swing
- Tense Muscles are slowing the swing down & ruining baseball vision
When we're not confident, and we're not executing proper pitch recognition techniques, we also struggle to hit with two strikes because we're either pulling pitches we shouldn't be pulling or we're leaving our posture (lunging & leaking) in order to make contact.
So how do we develop and training better pitch recognition? We get great at the following baseball vision habits.
- Relaxed Muscles & Soft Eyes
- Recognize The Shade Of The Pitch
- Minimize Head Movement
- Soft Focus Vs Hard Focus
- Assuming It's Going To Be a Strike
- Post Up
6 Steps To Optimizing Pitch Recognition
1. Relaxed Muscles & Soft Eyes
Firstly, Relaxed muscles are quick muscles. In order for the muscles around the eye to work as efficiently as possible, as a hitter, you have to be competing with calm focus and a little toughness. You achieve this with relaxed breathing and taking consistent breaks in between pitches.
2. Recognize The Color Of The Pitch - See The Shade
Second, when it comes to recognizing the shade and color of the pitch, most elite hitters will tell you when they're hitting the ball well, it's usually when they're seeing the ball well. Usually, hitter's don't talk about the seams so much as how the shade of the ball is different.
For example, a fastball is darker when the seams are spinning faster. The red seams give the ball a dark brown shade. A changeup has the lightest color since the seams spin slowest and the spin is horizontal. I provided a full break down of the color and shade of each pitch type in a previous baseball vision post.
3. Minimizing Head Movement - The Quiet Head
One of the most common hitting mistakes I see young hitters make is too much head movement. The more the head moves, the more the eyes move.
The Ultimate Guide To Baseball Pitch Recognition & Vision Training
The more the eyes move, the quicker the pitch will seem. If you want to make an 85 mph fastball look like 95 mph, increase your head movement.
"Hitting is about being on time. Pitching is about upsetting the timing."
If your eyes are moving, you're giving the pitcher an advantage.
The majority of the time, too much head movement begins with the stride.
A leg-kick, lunge or leak moves the head forward, and so the hitter struggles to gather important data from the pitch to make the proper adjustment at the plate.
As a hitting instructor, when I'm working with a hitter and they claim they're not seeing the ball well, we almost always start with the feet, stride and head movement.
"If your pitch recognition isn't as good as it can be, simplify the process."
More specifically, shorten the stride, make sure the weight stays back during the load, focus on hitting off of a firm front side and make keeping the "head still" priority #1.
This one adjustment alone can exponentially increase your pitch recognition skills.
4. Soft Focus Vs Hard Focus
Another common pitch recognition mistake hitters make is moving the eyes to the release point to soon or too late.
Think of the release point like a window that hovers just above the shoulder of most pitchers. A little lower for three-quarter or side-arm pitchers.
If your eyes get to the window too soon, you'll be surprised and caught off guard by the release point.
Get their too late, and you won't even pick it up out of the pitcher's hand.
"Like hitting and making solid contact, there is a rhythm and timing to picking up the pitch."
Step one is having a broad "soft focus". You're in the batter's box waiting for the pitcher to start his windup. Your job is to stay relaxed. Your gaze can be either on the entire pitcher or the logo on his hat.
As you shift to a narrower "hard focus" your eyes transition from the pitcher or the logo on his cap, to the release point window.
A great place to practice this is in our pitch recognition app or while standing in on a live bullpen.
One of my favorite sayings that I've heard Steve Springer say about hitting is that "hitting isn't violent, violent, it's not controlled, controlled. It's controlled violence!"
5. Assuming It's Going To Be a Strike
Another missed opportunity when it comes to optimizing your pitch recognition during an at-bat is assuming that the next pitch you're going to get is not only a strike but it will be the best pitch you're gonna see today.
When we're not ready to hit, the ball will beat us.
If we're not implementing a "yes, yes, yes, no" mentality, we're going to freeze on the pitch we should have driven to the gap.
Here's the thing, sometimes, it's not the third strike that we strike out on. Sometimes it's the pitch that we really should have mashed that ended up being strike one or strike two.
You have to be ready to hit. Always competing to "Win The At-Bat".
6. Post Up - Seeing The Ball Up
Lastly, we've all done. Swung at a ball in the dirt for strike three. Then we have to run to first base for the final "walk of shame".
There's no worse feeling in the world than throwing away an at-bat by swinging at a ball in the dirt instead of putting the ball in play to put pressure on the defense and make the pitcher work.
I've never seen you hit and I can almost guarantee you that at least 80% of your swinging strikeouts, especially with runners in scoring position are swinging at a ball in the dirt.
Here's how to keep this from happening.
Post-Up & Zone Up!
Imagine there's a table placed right on top of the plate, waist-high.
Now I want you to imagine what a breaking ball does if it starts below the table out of the pitcher's hand. It will end up in the dirt, right?
Now, imagine the breaking ball starting above the table. It ends up right in your wheelhouse, right? Exactly.
The plate discipline that keeps you from swinging at balls in the dirt happens by zoning up or posting up, and taking a controlled aggressive swing on balls left up in the zone.
I wrote another more in-depth post on the power of posting up at the bottom of this article as well.
In short, when you combine relaxed muscle, soft eyes, recognizing the shade of the pitch while minimizing head movement, having both a soft focus and hard Focus, assuming it's going to be a strike, and posting up...
...you're going to make some serious solid contact while driving the ball hard somewhere.
What You Stand To Gain From Better Pitch Recognition
So what do hitters truly stand to gain from having solid pitch recognition skills? It's an important question with a serious answer.
Here are the main reasons. Pitch recognition gives you:
As mentioned before, it's hard to be confident at the plate if you're not seeing the ball well. Hitting is about confidence, so the question is, how do we create more confidence?
The easiest place to start is to make sure you're seeing the ball as well as you can.
"If you're not hitting with 100% confidence, ask yourself, "are you seeing the ball well?"
If baseball was about talent, then every player drafted in the first round would have a nice long career in the big leagues.
Yet - that's not the case. There are dozens of players who went undrafted out of high school, signed free agent contracts after college and battled their way to the big leagues while relying on their baseball I.Q. and instincts.
Here's one of the most exciting benefits of elite-level pitch recognition. It allows you to anticipate what will happen in the field in various game situations.
In other words, with good baseball vision, you notice little details that most players miss because they haven't trained to pick up on certain cues.
Ever wondered why some players seem to always be in the right place at the right time during certain plays on the field.
They seem to get more "good" hops on defense and "good" pitches to hit at the plate.
They've learned to see and trust their eyes to make adjustments.
You're no different.
Lastly, good pitch recognition skills gives you time to let your bat catch up.
One thing that's guaranteed as a hitter is that you will struggle at the plate. Your swing isn't always going to feel great. Your timing will be off. You're going to face a pitcher that has your number.
The two things you can always rely on is:
- Your "compete" level
- Seeing the ball well.
There's something to be said about the hitter who can get the job done even when they don't have their "A-Game" or "A-Swing".
Digging your heels in, competing with confidence and making something happen, is a trait that requires zero talent. It's a choice.
Making sure your pitch recognition skills are sharp is also a choice.
How The Applied Vision Pitch Recognition App Will Help You
What if I told you, you can get access to the exact thing that will help you develop as an elite hitter without worrying about:
- paying for tournament fees
- baseball politics
- daddy ball
- bad coaching
- crazy baseball parents
- commutes to and from the ballpark
- game delays
- sitting in 100-degree weather during a doubleheader
- bad umpires
- lack of playing time
Sure, these are things you may decide to do anyway and it's partly why you'll have cherished memories to look back on.
But, imagine cutting out all of these occasional inconveniences so you can focus on the #1 thing that will get you better.
Meanwhile, now imagine taking all of the at-bats you're going to have this year and then measure the experience and progress you'll make from those at-bats.
"If you could squeeze in 120 at-bats and the progress you'd make into a single week, would you do it?"
For instance, imagine the progress you'll make by taking a year's worth of experience from facing youth, college or professional level pitchers into a single week or month's worth of at-bats in a single day.
The trick is taking the guesswork out of your development as a hitter.
What gets measured, gets managed. If your pitch recognition skills aren't at the level it needs to be, you can measure it.
No more, paying for just hitting lessons and then hoping that it pays off in the game.
Meanwhile, now you can take what you learned in your hitting lesson, and then you apply what you learn with your approach into this training.
It’s black or white. Either you score well or you don’t. You know what to work on.
With the Applied Vision Baseball Training App, you can simulate live at-bats at any time and anywhere.
For example, you can face actual big-league, pro-level, college player, high school or youth level pitcher and then test and measure your ability to anticipate balls and strikes, pitch types and location.
To learn more about our pitch recognition training app, come take a peek here.
Remember: How great you are at competing with calm focus with solid pitch recognition will dictate how many at-bats you will win.
Win the at-bat.
In conclusion, I hope you enjoyed The Ultimate Guide To Baseball Pitch Recognition & Vision Training. For more Pitch Recognition tips and tricks, sign up to the Applied Vision Baseball newsletter.