Ultimately, what makes good hitters "great" is the ability to be "good" consistently.
It's not getting three hits every day, it's finding ways to Win The At-Bat, by any means necessary.
It's not leading the league in hitting, it's showing up to the field, prepared with a routine that rehearses success.
Most of all, it's not trying to execute a perfectly mechanical swing on every pitch but rather having a controlled-aggressive swing with the intention to do damage and the belief that you have what it takes to beat the pitcher.
Below, you will find additional concepts that touch on what makes good hitters great.
Most of these are soft-skills that require zero talent to get great at. They won't make you the next Mike Trout or the best player in your league...
...but they will make you the best player-version of YOU.
That's true greatness.
What Makes Good Hitters Great
Good hitters come in all shapes and sizes. Equipped with different skill-sets, abilities, roles, and ways to help a team win ball games.
However, there are common traits that become apparent when you know what you're looking for.
Look close enough and you'll see that all great hitters:
Have A Solid Approach
Hitting without an approach is like playing darts without aiming at the bulls-eye. You might hit a target but since your focus is non-specific so you will your results be.
When your approach is specific like looking for a good pitch to hit while attacking the inner half of the ball with a controlled-aggressive swing that at has an intention to do-damage - you're more likely to execute on what you're trying to do at the plate.
What you focus on expands.
Have Their Finger On The Swing Trigger
The second you step in the box thinking that you're going to swing "IF" it's a strike, you're going to be late on the fastball in the zone.
Having the finger on the Swing Trigger™ means as a hitter, you're in the box ready to hit with the assumption that the next pitch is going to be a strike.
"Yes, yes, yes, NO!" on a ball and "Yes, yes, yes, GO!" on a strike.
Always ready, assuming you're going to swing. It's a strike until it's not.
Make The Pitcher Pay On "Mistake Pitches"
The mentality is simple. As a hitter, we're thinking "if the pitcher leaves a pitch up in the zone, I'm not gonna miss."
Pitchers are taught to keep the ball down for a reason. If they make a mistake, make them pay.
Have Superior Pitch Recognition
Once the pitcher releases the ball, a hitter has four-tenths of a second to recognize spin, speed, location, pitch-type and decide whether to swing or not.
One-tenth of that four-tenth of a second window will be spent on letting the brain process a visual cue and then another 1 and a half tenths of a second to swing. In reality - a hitter has about 125 milliseconds to put a good swing on a pitch by using their pitch recognition skills.
There's a reason why the average MLB vision acuity is 20/12. Vision is crucial in having good quality at-bats.
Without superior pitch recognition skills, it's hard to stay confident while executing the right hitting fundamentals and approach.
The better you're seeing the ball, the better swing you'll take. Period.
Cultivate The Belief That They Can Beat The Pitcher
The moment you step in the batter's, the inner swing-critic shuts off. You're no longer thinking about mechanical adjustments or how your swing looks.
Your focus is on competing and putting controlled-aggressive swings on good pitches to hit.
Let's call this going into "Compete Mode".
The better you get at this, the higher your self-belief gets. Believing you have what it takes to beat the pitcher is everything.
Have a Slow Heartbeat
Tense muscles are SLOW muscles. Relaxed muscles are QUICK muscles.
How do we relax our muscles? We focus on our breathing.
Relaxed muscles come from controlled, rhythmic breathing from the belly.
Tense muscles come from erratic, short breathing in the chest.
Put your hand on your belly. Feel the breath. Slow it down.
Heartbeat between 60-80 bpm
As our buddy, Steve Springer says, "The only time I want your heartbeat above 80 is right after hitting a triple".
Have a Controlled Violent Swing
A controlled violent swing is swinging with the intention to do DAMAGE. It's not swinging to not miss or to just put the ball in play.
Controlled violence is swinging with the intention to make hard solid contact, period.
Do we know we can hit, or are we hoping to hit? Big difference.
Play Both Sides of The Field Well
A great hitter doesn't let a bad at-bat affect their defense. Rather, going 0-2 at the plate with two good plays on defense is 2-4 in their mind when it comes to helping their team win the game.
The best way to keep yourself in the line-up when your struggling at the plate is to play some serious defense.
Make Teammates Better
Great hitters manage their performance anxiety at the plate by shifting the focus on results to helping the team win.
When you make it LESS about you and MORE about helping your team win, the pressure disappears as you find more ways to be successful apart from getting hits.
Have Good Instincts
Baseball instincts are the last thing most players learn but the first thing scouts & recruiters look for.
Why? It's hard to teach but the easiest to project. Players with poor instincts stick out like a sore thumb.
A hitter who understands count-leverage and pitcher-tendencies usually makes the adjustment to slowing the game down when the game speeds up.
Execute Good Separation With Their Hands and Stride
An explanation of what creates bat-speed can get complex. Strenght, load, weight transfer, grip-strength, launch angle, attack angle, what we do with our hip & hands, etc.
A good place to start is with understanding what the hands do in comparison with the rest of the body.
During the pre-swing movement, the hands load into a power position, slightly away from the body, enough for the hips to pull the hands through the zone.
Great hitters have a consistent and effective load-separation sequence.
Get The Bat-Head On The Plane of The Pitch, Early & For a Long Time
There are three different types of swings. A swing on a pitch (1)up in the zone that's at the letters, (2)at the belt, and (3)at the knees.
Each swing requires a different angle to get the bat-head on the plan of the pitch yet all three will have the bat head getting on the plane early and for as long as possible.
Get The Bunt Down
If you're pissed when the coach gives you the bunt sign, you're making it about you.
If you have the bunt sign and you're not chomping at the bits to get the job done, you're making it about you.
Stop making it about you. Get the bunt down.
Hit Behind The Runner
Hitting behind the runner on a hit and run is effective because it puts pressure on the defense, forces an offensive situation and increases the chances of getting the runner on first to third or home plate on contact or a base hit.
Hitting behind the runner on second is effective because it increases your team's chances of manufacturing a run.
Learn to hit behind the runner. Give your team a chance.
Is The Same Player In Each At-Bat
Whether 4-4 with four doubles or 0-4 with four strike-outs, great hitters are great at making sure the same hitter is stepping in the box. This is more than just keeping highs low and lows high. This is more than just having an even-keel.
It's about being on a mission. For nine-innings. For five at-bats.
Want To Be The Hero
Steve Springer says heroes are made in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.
Be the hero. Want the 5th at-bat. Believe it.
Take Fastball Swings On Off-Speed Pitches
It's common to see hitters slow their swing down on a pitch they're out in front of to make contact. I believe this is a mistake with less than two strikes.
Instead - early in the count, swing to make hard contact. Take a fastball swing on an off-speed pitch up in the zone.
Especially for power guys with count-leveraging who are swinging for "broke". I'd rather see you swing and miss over making soft-contact with less than two-strikes.
Arent Afraid To Hit With Two Strikes
With two-strikes on you, do you make an adjustment? Do you have a solid B-swing that still allows you to drive the ball with authority?
A two-strike approach doesn't always mean choke and poke. You can still "grip and rip" but maybe you load later or post up.
If you're not making some type of adjustment with two strikes you're just a "dressed up out" and you're helping no one but your opponents.
Isn't Afraid To Swing At The First Pitch
Statistically, you're more likely to get a base hit earlier in the count.
This doesn't mean you're swinging at the first pitch you see to avoid getting behind in the count. Rather, you're being selectively aggressive. You're looking for "one pitch and one pitch only."
If you get it, you don't miss.
If you're taking pitches you should be driving early in the count and you don't have the take sign, it's because you're not ready to hit.
As previously mentioned, keep your finger on the Swing Trigger™.
Two things guaranteed in baseball.
- You will be confronted with adversity.
- You will be given opportunities to succeed.
The opportunity is hidden with the adversity.
How you respond makes all the difference. Learn to love the adversity.
Have a Short-Term Memory
Most hitters underachieve at the plate because their mind is stuck in the past. The previous "bad" at-bat. The terrible call from the ump. Yesterday's bad game. The critical comment from Johnny Testosterone coach.
It comes in the form of negative mental-chatter.
Your best at-bats will occur when you're completely present w/ positive self-talk. Existing in the moment where flow states happen.
Hitters who slow the game down achieve flow states.
Get rid of the ego. Keep a short term memory.
Baseball is a game. If it's not approached and treated as a game, the life lessons the game will try to teach you inning-by-inning will fall on deaf ears.
For example. A year from now, today's performance at the plate will mean little to you just like the bad at-bat from last year.
Chances are, you will play this game for quite a while. There is plenty of time to improve. You will get another chance to shine.
You will get the most out of the game by setting an intention to enjoy the process. The good and the bad.
Your Feedback On What Makes Good Hitters Great
In closing, what do you think makes good hitters great? Let me know in the comments below.