Hit A Baseball

Hit a Baseball? Many young baseball players waste precious time waiting for their turn to hit. They stand in the on-deck circle and speak to teammates or take lazy swings. Poor on-deck preparation can significantly reduce their probability of having a successful at bat. To have proper bat preparation the on-deck hitter should include the following in his routine:

On-Deck Preparation to Ready Yourself to Hit a Baseball

  • Put yourself in the on-deck circle or close to it, so that both the pitcher and home plate are in view.
  • Quickly loosen up your muscles by swinging the bat back and forth and over your head. Having your muscles stretched and loosened is vital on the colder days.
  • Take your hitting stance and concentrate on the pitcher. Try to see if there is something he is giving away when he throws a particular pitch. Paying close attention to the pitcher is vital to picking up where he releases the ball.
  • When the pitcher releases the ball, you as the hitter will stride, find the ball, and release that bat speed. You have to swing hard, the same way you do when you are practicing in the cage.
  • To get your hands out in front, the timing of your swing will help get the bat head crossing the plate before the ball does.
  • Make adjustments with your timing on the remaining pitches until it is your turn to bat.
  • Analyzing the game and the different situations and scenarios you may be facing. Will you want to drive the ball to the right side? Sac fly? Bunt? Now is the time to think through the circumstances that may come up for you. You will want to have your game plan in order before stepping into the box. Hitting the baseball is a lot easier when you have a clear head and can use your talents to react to where the ball is pitched.
  • When leading off an inning, do not waste time talking. Go and time your swing with the pitchers delivery.
  • At least after a swing or two, do not use a weighted donut on-deck. The difference in weight will throw off your timing. The donut is for getting loose. For example, you have one minute to be in the on-deck circle before you walk up to the plate for your at-bat. The last 20 to 30 seconds should be swinging without the use of any weighted device.

Focal Point for Hitters

Young players are urged by coaches to try an open up their stance, maybe close their stance a little, keep their hands up, keep their hands down, keep their elbow up, keep their elbow down, keep their head down and eyes focused on the ball, you catch my drift.

In reality, to make a meaningful change in a player’s stance or hitting habits takes a vast amount of time and effort on both the coach and the player’s part. The trouble is most kids have never had anyone take the time and teach them the best way to “see” the ball, to find it out of the pitcher’s hand and what pitches they should be looking for to hit.

Hit a Baseball

Hit a Baseball

The human eye is always looking to focus. A common flaw in well-meaning coaches and parents is to teach the hitter to focus on the release window (the theoretical point where the pitcher’s arm is supposed to be and where he is likely to release the ball).

Sadly, if a hitter is looking for this imaginary window when the ball is not there his eyes are going to wonder and look for something to focus and will automatically focus on the next closest object.

Imaginary Window is Wrong

Unfortunately, that object may be a tree beyond the center field fence, a house or a mountain far, far away. When the pitcher’s hand gets to the imaginary window and releases the ball the batters eye has to refocus back to the release window and then to the baseball which is streaking toward the plate.

The result is missed time focusing and difference in reading the speed of the incoming pitch. The eyes are too busy playing catch up to the baseball they are trying to “track.”

To give yourself a better chance to Hit a Baseball you have to be able to track the pitcher’s hand while holding the ball.

Tracking The Baseball in the Pitchers Hand

What we should be telling the hitter is to focus on something near this window that won’t change during wind-up. The pitcher’s cap is the best for this. Watching his chest will be distracting as the glove and hands pass – and never look into a pitcher’s eyes. In focusing on the cap, the player has established the proper focal point for his eyes.

The initial stages of the tracking process are determining the appropriate distance. As the player winds up and begins to deliver the pitch, the hitter should be focusing on the pitchers throwing hand and ball up to the release point with the correct timing (as the pitchers hand enters the release window) and focus should still be on the baseball. The “tracking” the ball with the eyes results in a significant improvement in pitch recognition and translates to greater consistency in contact.

Some players have the ability to focus on the ball early from the pitcher’s hand and seeing the ball well has a direct correlation to an excellent performance at the plate.

The Hitting Attitude

Be Confident and Aggressive

I feel the most important thing for young hitters is to be aggressive. I promote the idea of attack the pitcher before he attacks you. In developing this mindset, the coach you are playing for should not criticize his hitters when they make an aggressive mistake.

I am a huge believer that the more aggressive you are, the more mistakes the other team will make. Younger players are going to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. Even professional hitters do.

Just remember when you let a fastball strike go by without a swing and looking at strike three its a mistake by the hitter, not the umpire.

The Winning Hitter

Hit a Baseball

Hit a Baseball

To be successful at hitting you must be confident and aggressive in your plate appearance. This attitude needs to be instilled in all hitters. A young hitter has to swing at pitches if he is going to become good.  Taking pitches and looking for walks is what they do at a higher level because the pitching is much better.

If you are a good hitter your approach to taking pitches is to get yourself ahead in the count to give yourself a better chance a higher percentage of getting a fastball a pitch you can drive.

Don’t cheat yourself by swinging at the pitchers’ pitch. Yes, by being aggressive you will be more successful, but develop a way that you can recognize that every pitch is not going to be a good one.

A young hitters approach is if its early in the count, be aggressive. Pitchers are taught, especially at a young age to throw strikes early, and get ahead in the count.

Once a pitcher is ahead in the count over the batter the momentum and confidence will shift in his favor.  If a hitter is finding himself behind in the count on a regular basis, you can bet he is going to see his fair share of off-speed pitches.

Tough Outs

Like I mentioned above, the hitter needs get himself ready in the on-deck circle, and when it’s his turn to get in the batter’s box, he had better be prepared to attack and win the battle. A positive and aggressive attitude is going to make him a challenge to get out. We call hitters like that “Tough Outs.”

Hitting is a battle with the pitcher. A position that every true hitter desires. Statistically, the pitcher has the advantage over the hitter, and if the hitter is timid and does not have the correct approach when stepping into the batter’s box, he will not win many battles.

Every hitter needs to come to understand that a winning at-bat might be advancing the base runners or scoring a run from third base. Not every at-bat is going to result in a home run or triple off the wall.

He must learn to adjust mentally to whatever situations may arise.
He must be consistent in his approach.
The hitter must take a positive approach.

Pressure or Opportunity

Hit a Baseball

Hit a Baseball

The game is on the line. You know, two outs bases loaded your team is losing by one run in the last inning. The other team changes pitchers as you step up to the plate. The “Closer” saunters up to the pitcher’s mound and starts throwing BB’s across the plate. As a batter how would you handle this situation?

The successful player goes to the plate knowing that no one can beat him. He can hit anything they can throw. He probably thinks back to other situations when he did something well. Confidence is a winning attitude and one that will take a player far.

If the pitcher wins this battle, this player will know that he won’t get that lucky next time. A player who is driven by fear of failure, fear of striking out, fear of being hit by the pitch, fear of letting his teammates, coach, and parents down will usually get what he believes.

Mental Approach

So, what is the right mental approach? Positive self-talk is one of the essential ingredients to success in any sport or life itself for that matter. If you have the needed confidence and believe you can achieve your goal, then do it, don’t just say; “I can do this.” Believe you can!

Take a moment and study the pitcher, visualize hitting sharp line drives over the infielders head and into the outfield gaps. Every time he throws a warm-up pitch. Say things like: “I got this!” Picture your teammates and parents jumping up and down with joy. Joyful anticipation is the proper mental approach in these situations.

You “get” to go up to bat and win the game. That is cool. Winners want to be in this position. Winners don’t fear failure they anticipate success! It would be better if you always wanted to be the one that is in control of the situation. I always wanted the opportunity to win the game.

Remember people create their tension. Fear of failure is the number one reason for this pressure. Have that desire to want the game on your back.

Understanding the Count

Swing At Fastball Strikes

What would you say are signs of a good hitter? Are good hitters aggressive, do they swing at strikes? The answer to the questions is YES! Good hitters usually don’t swing at bad pitches and are seldom fooled. Good hitters have developed the aptitude to swing at strikes and were probably taught How to hit a baseball at a young age.

Looking for a pitch, and then getting one the hitter can “drive” is the objective of almost every at-bat, the only time this would not be the objective is if the coach called some special play. The knowledge and process of getting good pitches to hit are understanding the fastball counts, awareness of the location of the hitter’s “best pitch,” and gathered information on the pitcher.

Fastball Counts

What do we mean when we say what the fastball counts are? They are the counts in an at-bat when the hitter can percentage wise expect a fastball from the pitcher. The fastball counts are 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 and 3-1. Six different scenarios when the probabilities are the pitcher will deliver a fastball to the plate.

A unique count is a 0-0 count. Every pitching coach drums into his pitchers, “Get strike one.” So the hitter can expect to see a pitch in the strike zone. He can look for “his pitch.” Especially in High School, most pitchers first time facing the hitting lineup will start the hitter off with a fastball down the middle trying to get ahead in the count.

On the other hand, major league statistics reveal that hitters who swing at first pitches are not often successful. What to do? Let the situation dictate whether or not to swing at the 0-0 pitches. The score, number of outs, the pitcher, the pitcher’s tendencies, the batter’s previous success with that pitcher, base runners and the primary factor – the pitch must be one the hitter can hit hard. 2-0 and 3-1 counts are where the hitter wants to be.

Green Light With a 3 – 0 Count

Hit a Baseball

Hit a Baseball

The coach usually decides if the hitter swings at the 3-0 pitches. 2-0 and 3-1 are the counts where the pitcher cannot get back to even with just one pitch. The pitcher is in a spot when he must throw a strike, almost always a fastball. Bases on balls kill the defense. And for most cases is the difference in the final score.

The 2-0 and 3-1 counts are the time when the hitter can really ‘zone’ in on his pitch. The batter can afford to take a strike that is out of his zone because the pitcher can‘t get back to even in the count with one delivered pitch. The hitter can shrink the strike zone and look for one pitch, the ball location that he always hits well. He has his choice of strikes.

The Elbow up Myth

I often wonder who the coach or instructor that came up with “the elbow up” advice was? With placing the back elbow up in the air more than normal, it changes the hinging of the wrists during the swing, which, changes the swing path of the bat, as well as the ability to gain leverage, which affects the speed of the bat.

The proper advice, which may have gotten lost in translation over the years, is for the batter to make sure his back shoulder is in a slight higher postion then the front shoulder. The forearms should be in reverse “V” and relatively close to the body. This batting stance allows the bat to flow freely to the ball.

Do not force the back elbow up.
Why?
1. Having the elbow up and above the hands will create tension in the shoulder and neck, therefore, slowing down your attack.  This style of swing usually causes your hands to slow down.
2. The high elbow will cause the hitter to unlock the back elbow as they start to swing by pushing out (casting), creating an uppercut and long swing. To swing, the hitter will often straighten out the arm, which reduces bat speed and ends up being a ball being poorly hit.
3. Some hitters do not like the feeling of being strapped down. The high elbow will not allow the hitter to fire the hands and bat at the ball effectively. You won’t have the free feeling of your hands firing smoothly through the zone.

Besides, before the batter swings – if his elbow is up – the first thing he will have to do is lower the elbow. This may create a golf swing.

Rotational Mechanics

Power of the baseball swing comes from how fast you rotate around a stationary axis. Bat speed!  Imagine a metal pole coming through the top of your back and out your bottom going straight into the ground. Rotational Mechanics of the swing are what all the great hitters use to generate bat speed.

Arms do not need to be strong, but it doesn’t hurt, to generate bat speed and to bring the bat to the point of contact. The muscles that are used to create bat speed are the legs, shoulders, and your core muscles. So begin your swing with an inward turn, which adds power, and torque to the swing.

To do this you merely reverse-rotate so that your lead shoulder and hip should be pointing in the direction of the second basemen, but you don’t want to go back too far where it restricts your vision of the pitch. Some experts will say that the pitcher should not be able to see your hands, but I feel that information is a little dated in today’s game.

The swing is started once the front food of the hitter lands. Then the hips and followed by the shoulders. This technique should get the bat moving in a circular hand path, which all the great home run hitters use. Be sure to have bend in both legs, because creating the needed bat speed requires the push of both legs to power your rotation around a stationary axis (Do not jump at the pitch). For middle in pitches, your back arm should be in the power L position forming a 90-degree angle.

How to Hit a Baseball – Situational Hitting

A team that can execute sound, intelligent situational hitting will be a successful team. The team that moves runners into scoring position and then drives them in. To be a good situational hitting team, the coach has to develop the right mindset with his players.

There is no room for “me, me” selfish players. Hitters must be willing to give themselves up for the chance to score a run. Too many players and especially parents are worried about little Billy’s batting average. (I wasn’t intentionally trying to point out any billy’s)

Hit a Baseball

Hit a Baseball

Runner of Second

Let’s look closely at a game situation. The game is close and is being pitched well by both pitchers. Runs are at a premium. Your number three hitter leads off with a double.

You decide not to bunt the four-hole hitter. You would like to try for a big inning and yet you know it is imperative that the runner during this at bat is moved over from second base to third base. This scenario is a good test if your batter knows how to Hit a Baseball in different situations.

If the infield is playing at normal depth, especially the middle infielders, the hitter must think of hitting the ball hard on the ground to the right side of the infield. The key to this approach is for him to look for his pitch early in the count.

He should look for a pitch on the outside third of the plate. Look for location rather than the type of pitch (fastball or curveball). Try to hit the inside portion of the ball, not behind or around it.

Runner on Third

The hitter grounded out to the second baseman and moved the runner over to third. He did his job. Now there is one out, and the runner is on third. The five-hitter is up. What is his job and what is his mental approach? The hitter should be thinking and looking for that one pitch that he can drive into the air that will drive a run in with a Sacrifice fly.

Another approach is to hit the ball into the middle of the diamond with authority where it makes it hard for the middle infielders to field the ball cleanly, set their feet, and make a strong, accurate throw to home.

How to hit a baseball? The hitter must know what kind of pitch he can hit for a fly ball, usually a pitch up in the strike zone, but always a pitch of his preference. If the infielders are playing back, the hitter now has the option of hitting a ground ball in the middle of the infield. The hitter must make sure it is a pitch he can drive.

A third but not necessarily better option with the infielders playing in is to have the runner on third base break for home on bat contact. This tactic should only be used with one out in a tie game or maybe when you are desperate to score.

The Mental Side of Sacrifice Bunting

From Little League to the Major Leagues all championship teams bunt and bunt well. The sacrifice bunt is an excellent weapon in certain situations and when called upon every player should be able to execute the play.

First, the mindset of the sacrifice bunt: the player should understand that he is up there to give himself up and not attempt to bunt for a base hit. It is up to the coach to instill that philosophy in his players.

The pivot technique gives the player more mobility. Have the hitter get in his batting stance but move up in the batter’s box so that his front foot is even or slightly ahead of the plate. This cuts down on balls bunted foul.

As he pivots around, he moves his rear foot somewhat closer to the plate than his front foot. Both feet should be open, and toes are pointing at the pitcher. He should bend his knees slightly and move both hands up the bat. His backside should be under his shoulders. Hold the bat level or bat head marginally higher than the hands (not 45 degrees.)

The batter should “show” bunt early. Showing bunt too late makes it difficult to be successful. A sacrifice bunt is not a secret.

Bunting Good Pitches

Hit a Baseball

Hit a Baseball

Bunt strikes only. If the pitcher walks the hitter, the runner from 1st will still advance. If the runner was on 2nd, then you now have 1st and 2nd and if there’s none out this is another excellent time to bunt.

Picture yourself Hit a Baseball or in this case, bunting a baseball, now concentrate and try to see the ball hit the bat. It would help if you were taught to try and bunt the top half of the ball. That will help prevent pop-ups that could turn into a double play or even worse.

Practice bunting a great deal every day early in the season and then have your hitters bunt the ball 3 or 4 times in every batting practice before they hit. Bunting in batting practice before the players hit not only practices the skill of bunting and it gets the hitters used to tracking the ball.

With a runner on first being sacrificed to 2nd, bunt down the 1st baseline because he can’t charge the ball.

With a runner on second base preparing to be moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt, The batter should put his bunt down the third base baseline because if the third basemen charges, the bag is left unprotected for the runner. If he doesn’t charge the ball, the pitcher is going to have to get it.

The Squeeze Bunt

The squeeze bunt is a tremendous offensive weapon if the players are well instructed and if it is used correctly. The element of surprise makes it a great play if a team is ahead by a run or two. It is as essential for the hitter to acknowledge the sign for the squeeze as it is for the runner on third to see the sign. Remember that the hitter must bunt the ball. He does not have to be too fine with the location as long as he gets the bunt on the ground.

When does the runner sprint for home? The runner sprints for home after he has taken his primary lead and the pitcher’s FRONT FOOT HITS THE GROUND. Not before.
Practice the squeeze bunt and don’t be afraid to use it in games. Remember the hitter does not ‘show’ bunt too early. The key is the pitcher’s front foot. Once that has planted he has committed, and his arm action is at its peak.

Why don’t we show this bunt intention early?

We don’t care if the infielders charge. Our big concern is tipping off the pitcher. If the pitcher sees that the squeeze is on, he will likely throw at the Right Handed batter or on the 3rd base side of home plate in the case of a Left Handed batter. This will put the runner in great jeopardy.

Where to bunt?

The chances are good that the corner infielders are already prepared for the bunt and are ready to charge as soon as the bat head starts moving. The only player that can’t charge the ball is the pitcher. Bunting the ball to the glove side of the pitcher is the safest location to assure a successful bunt.