“Hitting is timing”……”Get ready sooner”……”Get your foot down early”
You’ve heard these, right?
Timing is a critical component to good hitting, so this edition of Mailbag gives a pair of reference points to help gauge your timing.
Here is the question I received:
I have a quick baseball question if you don’t mind helping me. I just got back to school off of summer baseball and I am way in front of all the pitching, I was thinking if I should move up to a 34 inch bat to try and slow my hands down a bit. I have been trying to wait back and go the other way but that leads me to trying to inside out everything and getting jammed on pitches that I should be hitting into the gaps.
Slow the hands down? No way! Most guys wish that their hands are too fast or that they have too much bat speed. Having the ability to unload the swing with power is a great asset to have.
Inside-outing the ball to go the other way? Now that’s just another way of changing the way you unload or swing the bat (in a bad way).
If the issue is consistently being out in front on all types of pitching, that suggests a timing issue that is related to the PRE-swing move (or the load) rather than the actual swing (the unload).
Robbie Grossman is a minor league prospect of the Pittsburgh Pirates that made history this season by becoming the first minor leaguer to walk 100 times and score 100 runs in the same season since 2004. How’d he do it? By using a “professional approach”….something not so common for a young 21-year old.
Check out this video where Grossman himself describes his thoughts on his hitting approach:
Click for video
This past post on plate discipline gives some different insights on developing command of the strike zone, and Grossman says something similar:
When I’ve got a pitch to hit, I’ve been swinging. But if not, I’ve been taking it.
Sounds simple, right? Well, yes, the concept can be very simple, but execution is the key. Especially as you advance each level and the decision making process gets tougher and tougher – or, in other words, the pitchers get better. Hitters who control the strike zone and have an actual plan at the plate really do stand out – they know how to take an at-bat.
While you’re working on perfecting your swing, don’t forget about the strike zone and pitch recognition. In today’s game, plate discipline is becoming valued more and more. Work on it by putting yourself into different counts while taking batting practice and distinguish between looking for pitches to drive early in the count versus putting the ball in play with 2-strikes. Find different ways like this to shift your focus from swing mechanics to the seeing the ball, it’s release point, and where you’re making contact in the strike zone.
Here are a couple of links that explain how Jose Bautista changed seemingly overnight from a baseball journeyman (5 teams in one year!) to today’s best hitter.
In this video, Bautista talks about how he changed his hitting mechanics, and his explanation is fairly simple. He started his swing earlier so he wasn’t late so often.
For a more complete picture, check out this article about Jose Baustista’s transformation. One of the things I found most interesting was the insight into Baustista’s mindset:
In his free time, Bautista reads books on exceptionality. “I’m trying to understand why mediocre people become good at what they do,” he says, “and why good people become the best.” So he mixes other players’ post-career musings on success with real mental protein.
I made a previous post where Don Mattingly explains hitting mechanics and drills for youth league players. Here’s another episode of Coaches Corner where Donnie Baseball talks about an often overlooked aspect of baseball offense – situational hitting:
Most times in youth, high school and even college baseball, hitters are just trying to get hits and put up numbers – it’s important to get noticed, right? But something different happens as you climb the ladder of professional baseball. It’s still important to get noticed, but it’s important to get noticed for being able to contribute to a winning baseball team. Execution in situational hitting is part of winning baseball. Although not always glamorous to the average fan, it does show off a hitter’s ability to handle the bat and display a complete skill set in the batter’s box.
Different Winter X-games commercials are starting to pop up on ESPN again and it reminded me of the video documentaries that were done last year to showcase snowboarder Shaun White’s practice and training efforts. It was a big deal in the snowboarding world because White was attempting different jumps that had never been done before. So his sponsors spent millions to create the perfect practice environment for him.