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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:

Baseball Training: 3 Easy Steps To More Barrel Time On Pitch Plane (Dylan’s Case Study)

 

Baseball Training VIDEO: #1 Hitting Mistake To Boosting BABIP [Case Study]

One of my online lessons Dylan from South Florida. Notice the change in front knee bend at landing (swings are synced).

I’ve heard during baseball training a thousand times, “Be short to the ball!”  If I put a nickel away every time I heard that, then I’d have my 3 old son’s first year at Stanford saved up.  A barrel on pitch plane longer means:

  • Higher BABIP (or Batting Average on Balls In Play), AND
  • Cutting down on strikeouts.

In this baseball training video, we’re going to lengthen barrel time on pitch plane by tweaking these THREE things:

  • Importance of landing gear (setting the stage),
  • When does the barrel accelerate? (enter pitch plane early), AND
  • Timing of Power-V (stay on pitch plane)…

Difference in pitch plane between baseball and fastpitch softball?  Yep!  Pitch plane is an imaginary line from the pitcher’s release point to the catcher’s glove.  In baseball, the pitcher’s release point is raised 10 inches (by regulation).  In fast-pitch, a pitcher’s release point is at about the pitcher’s hip, while standing on flat ground.  So there’s not as distinct a downward pitch plane in fast-pitch softball, as there is in baseball.

 

Importance of Landing Gear (setting the stage)

Baseball Training: Vlad Guerrero Fight Position (landing)

Vlad Guerrero (.316 career BABIP) landing with bent front knee. Photo courtesy: Past Time Athletics (YouTube)

Foot work is pretty high on my action item list in sitting down with a new hitter.  Initial baseball training boils down to getting on the plane of the pitch by bending the knees:

  • Fight Position – at landing front knee should be bent and stacked over the ankle.
  • Final Turn – front leg straightens while back leg bends to about 90-105 degrees.

Consider something Homer Kelly said about this in his book The Golfing Machine:

“KNEE ACTION – Knee Action is classified on the basis of (1) combinations of bent and straight conditions and (2) the Reference Points selected at which these combinations occur.  The combination and the Reference Points selected will determine the slanting of the Hips during the Pivot.  The slant is up in the direction of a straightened Knee. The slant of the Hips affects the degree of the Hip Turn.  Actually, the primary function of Knee Action – as with Waist Bend – is to maintain a motionless Head during the Stroke.”

 

When Does the Barrel Accelerate? (enter pitch plane early)

Baseball Training: Victor Martinez getting on pitch plane early

Victor Martinez (.316 career BABIP) quick on the pitch plane…check out how close his barrel is to catcher’s glove! Photo courtesy: ExplosiveBaseballSwing.com

“Be short to the ball!” is one of those cues that gets misinterpreted.  Most baseball training pro instructors, players, and coaches preach being short to the ball.  But what they should be saying is be quick to the pitch plane with the barrel.  Because of the following natural factors…

  1. Gravitational Forces,
  2. Conservation of Angular Momentum,
  3. Centripetal Forces (center-seeking) AND Centrifugal Forces (center-fleeing)…

…A barrel CANNOT efficiently accelerate, being pushed by the hands to a moving ball.  Watch/read these other Hitting Performance Lab posts for WHY:

 

Timing of Power-V (stay on pitch plane)

Baseball Training: Troy Tulowitzki Power-V

Troy Tulowitzki (.320 career BABIP) in the Power-V well passed contact. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

The last baseball training piece to boosting BABIP and reduce strikeouts is to keep the barrel on pitch plane.  “Power-V” is another misinterpreted coaching cue.  Hitters are sometimes told to be at extension with both arms at impact.  This is false.  The Power-V should be achieved 3-9 inches passed impact, depending on pitch location and speed. This ensures maximum inertial force transferred from body to barrel to ball.

The bottom line?

The #1 baseball training MISTAKE to increasing BABIP and cutting down on strikeouts is to “be short to the ball”.  What you want the hitter to do is:

  • Set plane early by landing with a bent front knee,
  • Maintain plane during Final Turn by straightening front knee and bending back one,
  • Be quick with barrel to pitch plane, and
  • Stay on plane by getting to Power-V passed impact.