Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hit the Ball Where It is Pitched

Let’s face it. Everyone that plays baseball want to hit home runs. Nike had a famous commercial in the 1990s that had Atlanta Braves’ pitchers Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine. It showed them training to become hitter after realizing that “chicks dig the long ball.”

And as a coach, it drives me crazy to watch guys only swing for the fence. Trying to hit home runs will mess up a swing. Your swing becomes one dimensional and pitches on the outer half of home plate or off-speed pitches become more difficult to hit. 

Once you have that reputation, you are less likely to see pitches on the inside part of the plate – where hitters can hit balls the farthest. You aren’t as productive and before you know it, you no longer help your team and may even find yourself on the bench. 

Or you can hit the ball where it is pitched, help your team, stay in the lineup and find yourself on base more often. 

Most coaches have the same philosophy, especially at the high school level and below – pitch to the outside part of the plate until a hitter can prove he can hit that pitch. Once a hitter proves he can hit the outside pitch, it is more likely he will see pitches on the inside part of the plate – the part he can hit for more power. 

Taking the approach of hitting where the ball is pitched also leads to more success with off-speed pitches. A hitter that is willing to hit the ball the other way is likely to stay more balanced. A more balanced hitter has a better chance of hitting a curveball or a changeup because he has kept his weight back. 

Hitters that are worried about hitting home runs allow their weight to move forward too soon, trying to time the pitch. But, in doing so, they leave themselves at risk of off-speed pitches. With their weight over their front foot, rather than balanced among both feet, they have no chance of hitting an off-speed pitch with any power.

Be prepared to hit pitches on the outside corner to the opposite field (a righty hitting to right field and a lefty hitting to left field). Stay balanced and hit the pitch where it is thrown. 

Home runs will happen, but only if you try to hit every ball hard, regardless of where it is pitched. Not if you try to hit every pitch over the fence.

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