Hitting - Less Than Two Strikes and With Two Strikes [ARTICLE]
|Hitting - Less Than Two Strikes and With Two Strikes|
By: Todd Guilliams
Originally Published in: High-Scoring Baseball
Provided by: Human Kinetics
Although hitters can find themselves in twelve possible counts, we simplify our hitting approach into two distinct categories: counts with less than two strikes and counts with two strikes. With less than two strikes, the expectation is to hit the ball hard every time. I asked Ernie Rousseau his opinion on what percentage of the time a hitter should hit the ball hard with less than two strikes. He said a hard hit should occur 100 percent of the time. Although this expectation might be unrealistic, it can certainly serve as the goal with less than two strikes.
After the hitter has two strikes on him, he needs to widen his strike zone and change his mental approach to be "late and on top" to protect against the off-speed pitch. Among the worst things that a hitter can do in a two-strike count are
1. being early,
2. being under, and
3. striking out looking (especially on a pitch on the outer half of the plate).
Percentages tell us that most strikeouts in college baseball occur on balls outside the strike zone. Presumably, that tendency holds true for high school as well. Hitters make the mistake of forgetting Babe Ruth's sage advice not to swing at "almost strikes." Pitchers are counting on hitters to chase pitches outside the strike zone. While playing for the Colorado Rockies, Andres Galarraga was told by the organization that it did not matter if he struck out as long as he struck out on strikes. Strikeouts happen, but they can be minimized with the correct approach. The "late and on top" approach helps the hitter allow the ball to travel deep into the strike zone and facilitates keeping the bat head above the center of the ball, which promotes a short swing. Albert Pujols does not make physical adjustments with two strikes because his swing is mechanically sound. He does, however, change his approach with two strikes by letting the ball travel as deep into the strike zone as possible. This approach allows him more time to recognize pitches and not chase pitches outside the strike zone.
A hitter is always in one of two count scenarios, with less than two strikes and with two strikes, and each occurs about 50% of the time. From a stand-point of quality at-bats, the hitter needs to be at 63% with less than two strikes and at 37% with two strikes to achieve 50% quality at-bats overall.
The proper mental approach is a critical component for the productive hitter, and that approach can and should change based on the count. Again, the focus is on the two fundamental counts—with less than two strikes and with two strikes. Each scenario brings a set of expectations and a specific approach.
Less Than Two Strikes
Approach: "Sit on what you are going to get up in the strike zone and attack the inside part of the baseball."
Truism #1: "If you're fooled, don't fool with it."
Truism #2: "When ahead never late."
Outcome: The batter should hit the ball hard 100% of the time because he is swinging at pitches that he is looking for and taking pitches that are in his power zone. He is always getting his best swing because he is committed to the pitch.
With Two Strikes
Approach: "Late and on top."
Truism #1: "Never strike out on a ball away."
Truism #2: "When behind never early."
Outcome: By letting the ball travel deeper into the strike zone, the hitter is able to fight off tough pitches and might be able to draw a walk. He is also more apt to record a productive out for his team by moving a runner with a ground ball. One of the tenets of championship baseball is the ability of hitters to put the ball in play consistently.