Get A Good Pitch To Hit
It sounds like the most obvious advise you could offer a kid with a bat, “Get a good pitch to hit,” but it's not as easy as it sounds. The pitcher holds the ball. And with it, he seemingly controls the outcome. He's the one who can summon up all of the guile available to him to throw a pitch with varying degrees of velocity, movement and location. He's the one who may come at you overhand, ¾ or side-arm. They're crafty, cunning and conniving and dedicated to art of deceiving the would-be hitter ... And they call that defense.
But the batter does not have to be defenseless. You have a bat. You can hit back. The key to success is leaning how to make that cagey pitcher throw you what you want, to give you a good pitch to hit. The most successful hitters take this one step further and make the pitcher give them “their” pitch to hit. Some hitters like the ball low and away so that they can extend their arms and drive the ball the other way. Others prefer an inside pitch so that they can turn on it and pull the ball. Any way you like it, you can make the pitcher throw it. You just have to know how.
The first step in your quest to get a good pitch to hit is to eliminate the worst fault a batter can have, 'swinging at bad pitches.' Pitchers snicker in their sleep dreaming pleasant dreams of batters twisting themselves into pretzels swinging at their curve ball in the dirt. They know it can't be hit but, as long as batters keep swinging at it, they'll keep throwing it ... and racking up the Ks.
Step number two is to identify “your” pitch. This is the pitch that your ability, talent, sight, hand-eye coordination and training combine to make the most consistent for you to hit. This is the pitch in your natural “wheelhouse” This is the pitch that you hit hard. Your pitch will be a combination of type-of-pitch and location. Many hitters like to get all over a fastball low and away. Others love the breaking ball – they have more time to wait and uncoil. Once you have identified your pitch, all you have to be is patient.
There are two kinds of contact; reactionary and authoritative. If you are relying on your youthful reflexes to “see the ball – hit the ball”, you may develop into a pretty good hitter. But if you want to be a dangerous hitter, a hitter for average and power, you must take charge of the plate. Yes, see the ball – hit the ball, but hit “your” ball with authority. Step number three is to look for your pitch – hunt it, stalk it, get it. With less than two strikes you sit on your pitch. During the course of a game, you will get it ... And when you do, all of your training, all that analysis of the mechanics of your swing - those hours on the tee, doing soft-toss, hitting in the batting cage - will all explode on your perfect pitch. It almost makes you feel sorry for pitchers.
Now the count. Every hitter has a different philosophy, a different comfort zone. Some pounce on the first pitch, others take the first pitch. There are “pitchers counts” and “hitters counts”. Good pitchers counts are 0-2 and 1-2. Good hitters counts are 3-1, 2-1. Regardless, before there are two strikes on you, you must remain true to your pitch.
Once there are two strikes on you, your plan must change. You will still, as always, be sitting on your pitch, but now you will be prepared to foul off borderline pitches to stay alive and get another pitch to look at.
Does all this pitch count business confuse you? It should. That is why you need to create a plan before you step into the batters box. As Yogi Berra is alleged to have said - “I can't think and hit at the same time.” Neither can you. Do your thinking long before you have a rock hard baseball flying at your head. And, no matter whether your plan is to go after the first pitch or the next, or the next, just make sure that it is YOUR pitch, not the pitcher's pitch.
Now that you know the secret to getting a good pitch to hit, all you have to do is learn how to recognize it when it comes.
Learn to distinguish between pitches in the strike zone and pitches out of the strike zone. If you can improve this skill alone, your batting average will rise accordingly. Ensure that your head is turned enough to see the pitcher with BOTH eyes. Envision where the pitcher releases the ball and concentrate on that spot. Imagine a pipe running from the pitcher's release point to your bat – if the ball is in the pipe, it's a strike – if it's not in the pipe, it's a ball. The sooner you pick up the ball, the longer you will have to recognize it.
Learn to recognize the type of pitch by concentrating on the ball's actions. Different pitches have a different and distinct spin. If the ball is spinning end over end, bottom to top, it is a four-seam fast ball. If you see a dot in the middle of the ball, it is a curve ball. If there is no spin at all, it is a knuckleball – your only hope is to shut your eyes and swing (just kidding).
Vladimir Guerrero played a game in the Dominican Republic where the batter stands at the plate with the bat on lying on the ground – The “pitcher” rolls a ball towards the plate – Once the ball has left the “pitchers” hand the batter must grab up the bat and hit the ball (if he can) before it rolls past him over the plate. No wonder Guerrero can hit pitches in the dirt out of the park.
Vladimir Guerrero is among the few baseball gods. For everyone else – GET A GOOD PITCH TO HIT!