Plate discipline, pitch recognition, strike zone awareness are each different building blocks of a successful hitting approach. Mechanics and strength training might get more attention, but baseball skills that center around controlling the strike zone are becoming more and more valuable. How important is plate discipline? I’ll reference Chicago Cubs president, Theo Epstein, here:
I believe 90 percent of the game revolves around controlling the strike zone
Theo says: Know thy zone
If you don’t want to take Mr. Epstein’s word for it, here are a pair of interviews from minor league prospects who are getting recognized for their approaches at the plate:
418 AB’s – 78 BB/26 K in 2012
David Laurila just did an interview with O’Neill over at FanGraphs (full interview) :
DL: Does a hitter need to take a lot of strikes to have a high on-base percentage?
MO: Not necessarily. I’m not up there looking to walk. I’m looking for a specific pitch and if the pitcher doesn’t give it to me, I’m taking until I get it. I’m not going to swing if it’s out of the zone I’m looking for. That’s kind of what generates walks for me. I’m patient, and once I get my pitch, I’m swinging. I’m attacking the baseball. I’ve just been fortunate to get a lot of walks, especially this year.
And Jay Kolster recently gave a in-depth look at Andreoli’s hitting approach and off-season training (full interview):
412 AB’s – 75 BB/89 K in 2012
Hitters need to take their walks. When they don’t hitters end up miss hitting a lot of pitches and get themselves out. The key here is to know what pitch you want to hit, to put a good swing on it when you get it, and not be afraid to take a pitch.
With all the training out there addressing baseball’s 5 traditional tools, it’s important that we don’t overlook one of hitting’s most fundamental skills – knowing the strike zone. Learn to identify your strengths and weaknesses within the strike zone, pay attention to what the pitcher can and can’t do in the strike zone…now you’re on your way to having a plan at the plate!