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Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Reader Question: “How to get youth hitters to be more aggressive to hit and not look to walk?”

 

There were times when I was playing Fall Ball as a Sophomore in High School, privileged to be playing against Juco competition,

That I found myself falling into an 0-2 hole quite frequently.

I’d say to myself, “WTFudge, why have I been in the hole my last 4 AB’s?”

Then, I’d make a conscious decision to swing at the first pitch,

No matter what the pitch was, or where it was located.

In other words, I decided to make a bold adjustment, going from being too passive at the plate, to being too aggressive…

In hopes that with future at-bats was I would land somewhere in the middle.

In those days it was just a feeling that I got…

Fast forward to a few years ago,

A good friend of mine Bob Hall, whose son Quin (a physical incarnate of Bo Jackson), had just finished performing at an MLB scouting camp in Canada.

Quin was about 15 years old at the time, and Bob shared the advice Quin received from one of the leading scouts at this camp.

And this is what we’re discussing in the above video:

  • The Hunter mindset, versus
  • The Fisherman.

My goal with this video post is to give coaches a practical strategy to use with your hitters (that I use with mine), which will give them a solid game plan at the plate.

PLEASE NOTE: like anything else, you have to work with your hitters on this at practice, if they have any chance at getting better at it.

 

The Hunter Mindset

Vladimir Guerrero Hitting

Vlad Guerrero – “The Hunter”. Photo courtesy: ProSportsBlogging.com

What does a hunter do?

They stalk their prey.

When would we use this mindset against a pitcher?

When they’re around the strike zone.

We SHOULD NEVER default to such hitting rules as, “NEVER swing at the first pitch.”

This is how I dug myself into holes during my career.

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Boxscore article which asks the question, “Does hitting performance change based on the number of pitches a hitter sees during a plate appearance?”

Look at what happens to Batting Average in:

  • 0-2,
  • 1-2,
  • 2-2, and 3-2 pitching counts…

Like a snake, strike fast when a pitcher is around the zone.

Think of some of the greatest Dominican, or Latin America, hitters.  As the saying goes, “You don’t get off ‘the island’ unless you swing the bat.”

 

The Fisherman Mindset

Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants launches his 762nd career home run off of Ubaldo Jimenez

Barry Bonds – “The Fisherman”. Photo credit should read DOUG PENSINGER/AFP/Getty Images (Newscom TagID: gettylive963981) [Photo via Newscom]

What does a fisherman do on the boat all morning?

Sit…AND wait.

When would we use this mindset with a pitcher?

When he or she cannot find the zone.

This approach requires a little more plate discipline not to swing out of the zone, AND

To know the strike zone.

Because when the pitcher throws one over, the hitter MUST be trained to jump on it.

Think about Barry Bonds from 2001 to 2004.  According to Baseball-Reference.com, he walked a total of 755 times.  That’s an average of 188 BB’s per year!

What’s more…

He hit a total of 209 homers, for an average of 52 dingers per year, in the same span.  Last time I checked PED use DOES NOT help with plate discipline.

How about his consistency over that same time period?

Bonds’s Batting Average over those four years, starting with 2001 was: .328, .370, .341, and .362 respectively.

How about how many times he struck out?

We have power hitters like Chris Davis and Ryan Howard routinely striking out 200+ times per season.

How about Bonds…?

  • 2001: 93 K’s
  • 2002: 47 K’s (he struck out one more time than homered)
  • 2003: 58 K’s
  • 2004: 41 K’s (he hit more homers than struck out!!)

By the way, his 162-game average strikeouts are 83.  83!!!  Over 22-years in the Big Leagues!

My point is, when Bonds got his pitch…he GOT IT!

He knew how to be a ‘fisherman’.

But can plate discipline be taught?

Sure it can!

It’s a muscle in the brain, and like any other body muscle, can be focused on and strengthened.

Here are my favorite 4 resources for training vision, tracking, and plate discipline:

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Batting Baseball FAQ on Tracking & Timing

Batting Baseball: Discover 4-Secrets To Tracking & Timing

Bob Gibson photo courtesy: BleacherReport.com

Thank you Dr. Mitchell Fung for your questions during our hitting session this week.  I also had a reader bring this up recently, so I figured the following Batting Baseball FAQ was worth doing (works for softball too):

  • Broad v. Fine Focus,
  • Fast v. Slow “Stuff”,
  • Fisherman OR Hunter? and
  • “Start slow and early”.

 

Broad v. Fine Focus

According to Wikipedia, Coach Bob Bennett retired with a 1,302-759-4 win-loss record. #26 was the first number ever retired by Fresno State. He was once president of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as well. He was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame and College Baseball Hall of Fame (2010).

I was lucky enough to learn batting baseball tips from Coach Bennett as a player for three years, and to have had multiple conversations over lunch, with him since.

When it comes to batting baseball vision and tracking, Coach Bennett talked about having Broad v. Fine Focus.  Broad Focus would be looking at a spot on the pitcher’s chest, overall physique, or delivery.  It’s basically a rest period for the eyes.

You see, the eyes are highly attracted to movement.  They LOVE to dart and “space out”.  And HATE to stop and stare at one object for any length of time.  Broad Focus is good until after the pitcher breaks his or her’s hands.

Then…

A hitter uses Fine Focus by shifting the eyes to the pitcher’s release point window.

 

Fast v. Slow “Stuff”

I tell my lower level batting baseball hitters to look for either fast or “slow stuff”.  95+% of the time, at the Little League level, hitters should be looking for fast stuff.  It’s rare getting a pitcher to throw slow stuff for consistent strikes.

I use the Batting Baseball Random Pitch Drill, where hitters:

  • Are to look for either fast OR slow stuff (they can’t tell me),
  • Have to stick to their “plan” through a 5-swing round (then evaluate after), and
  • Have to hold their “mechanical layers” together (whatever they’re working on).

CLICK HERE to read a Cal Poly baseball study as to why “massed practice” doesn’t develop good game hitters.  The Random Pitch Drill is geared for zero-or-one-strike counts.  Of course, with 2-strikes, the hitter has to cover ALL pitches.

 

Fisherman OR Hunter?

Baseball Batting: Hunter or Fisherman

Are you a fisherman OR a hunter? Photos courtesy: FloridaSportsman.com & Elllo.org

One of my friends and blog readers from Canada, Bob Hall, shared this batting baseball tip with me awhile back.

He took a “beast” of a hitter, his son Quin, to a showcase camp where a scout revealed a simplified hitting strategy.  You’re either a:

  1. Fisherman – throws bait out and waits for fish to bite, OR
  2. Hunter – that stalks their prey…

I tell my hitters, when the pitcher is wild, then be a fisherman.  When they’re throwing a lot of strikes, then become a hunter.  I work this in with my hitters during the Random Pitch Drill…somedays I’m wild OR am trying to bait them in biting on slow stuff (when I know they’re looking for fast), and in these cases, they become a fisherman.

 

“Start Slow & Early”

Batting Baseball: What Changed in Jose Bautista's Swing?

Photo courtesy: YouTube user Logue1022

This was the “magic pill” Jose Bautista swallowed (featured commentary in the video above) before the 2010 season.  It’s a batting baseball glimpse into explaining how he changed his swing.

I explain this to my hitters in this way…imagine an Olympic archer looking to use precision to hit the bullseye of a target.  He or she uses the bow string to load that arrow with potential energy.  They start slow and early.  Once the decision is made to release all that potential energy (the arrow/bow string), BOOM!  The arrow explodes to its target.

The batting baseball hitter needs to think about preparing their swing the same way.  Take it from Joey Bats, one of the smallest big hitters in baseball!