The Mental Game of Hitting -
Former Major Leaguer's Baseball Hitting Advice
The great Ted Williams summed up the mental game of hitting
very easily when he said "Get a good pitch to hit." Of course,
there is much more that can be advised about the mental game
of hitting but, ultimately, that is the best advice when a
batter is in the batter's box. All the analysis, preparation
and visualization should end when a batter is facing the pitcher
and getting a good pitch to hit is all that there is left
to focus on.
I often ask my hitting students, "What makes a great hitter
- those that are good two strike hitters or those that are
not?" Most answer, "Those with two strikes." Of course, that
is better than the alternative but I reply, "Not necessarily."
When a hitter has two strikes on them, especially when this
happens often, hitters are in a defensive mode and are at
the mercy of the pitch. I try to convince them that great
hitters are the ones who make good decisions before they get
two strikes on them.
With this in mind, following are things that will help the
mental game of hitting for baseball players:
1. Prepare for and expect the first pitch to be in the middle
of the plate. When the pitch is located there, hitters should
swing at it. A hitter's odds of hitting the ball solidly go
up greatly when balls are in the middle of the plate, regardless
if it is high or low. When it is not in the middle, hitters
should lay off it.
2. When batters are ahead in the count, they should think
of the pitch they hit the very best - inside, outside, high,
low. Whatever it is, that is the pitch they should look for
with a 1 & 0 count. As above, if that pitch comes, they should
swing at it and lay off all other pitches, ball or strike.
3. When the batter falls behind in the count before two strikes,
hitters should know the two-thirds of the plate that they
handle best and only swing if the ball is in that zone. It
is worth risking going to a two strike count when the first
two strikes are in an area that the hitter does not hit well.
4. With two strikes, all hitters are the same. When a pitch
is a strike or very close to a strike, the batter must swing
to avoid being called out on strikes. The pitcher definitely
has the advantage when the hitter has two strikes because
the batter must be prepared to handle every inch of the plate,
from low to high.
To help with this total plate coverage, hitters should learn
to look for pitches on the outer part of the plate and adjust
to pitches that are on the inner half of the plate. This philosophy
better protects the hitter from outside and off-speed pitches
because it will help them from opening up too soon on those
As players get to the higher level of balls and pitchers are
more consistent, they can change this approach some to take
advantage of their strengths and the pitcher's weaknesses.
Also, the best hitters remain confident because they have
a good fundamental swing, have prepared in practice and believe
in that swing to be able to make good contact, no matter the
count. Finally, hitting coaches should help young hitters
to learn about their individual strengths and weaknesses to
help their "mental game of hitting."
Former major league baseball player Jack Perconte
gives baseball hitting tips and batting practice advice for
ballplayers of all ages. His baseball playing lessons, books
and advice can be found at http://www.baseballhittinglessons.com/baseball.
Jack is the author of two books, The Making of a Hitter
and Raising an Athlete - his positive parenting advice
and books can be found at http://positiveparentinginsports.com.
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