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Archive for the ‘hitting’ Category

BrandonPhillips

After the Reds-Royals game, Brandon Phillips was disciplined by Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker for ignoring a take sign on a 3-0 count. Phillips popped up to end the inning. Baker claimed it’s the first and last time it will ever happen to him as a manager. Phillips claimed he was trying to break his team’s offense out of a slump.

Should you disregard your coach’s signals? NO. Should batters swing on a 3-0 pitch? SOMETIMES. There are situations where it makes sense and others when it’s not worth the risk to give batters the green light. Every coach has their own risk tolerance for 3-0 counts. My observation is that power hitters tend to get the green light more so than other batters in the line-up. Do you agree with this observation? And…should power be such a dominant factor in this decision?

I understand there is a greater upside with a guy that has a higher likelihood of hitting a homerun or a gap double for you. On the flip side of the coin, power hitters could have a stronger likelihood of over-swinging or chasing a bad pitch compared to my singles hitter who has that consistent swing and disciplined approach at the plate.

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Obviously…every player has a unique profile of characteristics and decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis. But… in general…are coaches too quick to dismiss the idea of giving a singles hitter the green light on a 3-0 count?

At the end of the day, your strategy should be formulated in a way that gives you the best chance to score runs. If there are men in scoring position and a single will likely score my team 2 runs…why should I not consider giving the green light to one of my contact hitters?

Coach’s Tip

When thinking about giving a green light on a 3-0 pitch, consider the following factors:

  • Urgency of the at bat
  • Discipline of the batter
  • Pitcher’s track record of control
  • Recent performance of hitter and pitcher
  • On deck batter and other batters due up that inning
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*Guest Blogger* Al Becker talks about his approach at the plate.

albeckerbluefish

Blogger Bio
Al Becker has been playing in local amateur leagues for the last 10 years. He was most recently a member of the Yawkey Baseball League 2008 Champion Bluefish Baseball Club, for which he hit .402 and won the Silver Slugger in right field. Becker finished the 2008 YBL season in the top 10 in almost all offensive categories.




What is your approach at the plate?

While I do focus on hitting up the middle, I think as I’ve gotten older, 37 now, and a veteran of more than 10 seasons in the MABL and YBL, my offensive game has improved with an increase in pulling the ball.

Of course we are all taught to hit the ball back from where it came, which is up the middle — at the pitcher. That theory often worked for me, especially when I’ve got the count to a point where I think a breaking ball might be coming. I’ve never tried to pull the breaking ball. But early in counts, especially last year, when I felt confident and strong, I was looking to pull the fastball….just reacting.

Al Becker

How do you practice your hitting?
I am a big fan of the Iron Mike machine during the season, especially when I have a few days off between games. Even before games it’s helpful. Success to me in the Iron Mike cage is hearing the loud bang when I hit a liner off the machine.

I see guys in the cage taking violent rips and pulling everything into the screen. Instead, in the cage I focus on shortening my swing, waiting as long as I can on every pitch, and going back up the middle. I also like to move my feet around and focus on hitting pitches from the middle out, the opposite way.

What are the keys to hitting the ball up the middle?

  1. Waiting on the ball as long as you can.
  2. Keeping your head (your body follows) on the ball and staying back.
  3. Getting the correct pitch. I can’t hit an inside fastball back at the pitcher, my hands aren’t quick enough to wait and do that. Look middle out.

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Gripping a Baseball Bat

Let’s keep it simple. There are two things you need to remember when it comes to gripping a baseball bat:

1. Line up your middle knuckles

When teaching young kids, a useful teaching strategy is to take a color marker and draw a line over the middle knuckles. When the kids get ready to hit, make them show you the straight line.

handsholdingbat1

2. Don’t strangle the bat

You need to be loose when you’re ready to hit a baseball. Just like when you’re gripping a baseball, hold it like an egg.

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Tee It Up

It’s that time of year in the Northeast when most baseball training takes place indoors. A recent trip to a batting cage made me realize I have been hitting off tees incorrectly for 23 years. Are you?

tee_ball

When you are in the batter’s box, your eyes are directed at the pitcher. Why should things be any different when you are hitting off of a tee? They shouldn’t be. But, I guarantee that most of you place the ball on the tee and hit the ball without your eyes ever directed towards where the pitcher would be.

At one local batting cage, they hang fluorescent hoops at the far end of the batting tunnel. They instruct their players to pick up the hoop (representing where the pitcher would be) with their eyes first, and then bring their line of vision back to the ball and swing. Practice like you play, right?

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How should the leadoff hitter approach the 1st at bat of the game?

The leadoff hitter’s role is to get on base. It helps if he has decent speed, but the most important attribute of a leadoff hitter is his ability to reach base so the strongest hitters in the lineup can drive him home.

Traditional strategy suggests the leadoff hitter take the 1st pitch. I also like this approach. In fact, I like to take at least one strike when leading off the game. Taking pitches gives you some education. You start to learn the speed and trajectory of the pitcher’s stuff. This will be helpful for you in this at bat and later at bats. You set the precedent that the pitcher will need to earn his outs. In the absence of reaching base, a good leadoff hitter will gain information and share it with his teammates.

Switch It Up
Any strategy should be dictated by situation. There are no hard fast rules.

If I’ve faced a pitcher before and know his stuff well, I might pick a spot in the strike zone where I will swing if he puts it there.

If the pitcher is a stud with good control, I might also swing at that first pitch.

What approach do you take as a leadoff hitter of a game (or an inning)?

Book Reference: Ted Williams talks a lot about taking pitches in his book, The Science of Hitting. Williams took a lot of pitches, but of course he was one of the greatest hitters of all time.

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