Today we are going to discuss an often misunderstood topic, APPROACH.
I want to ask that you do something for me….
Think back to your last week.
How much time did you spend working on hitting?
Now out of those “X” hours, how much time did you spend on things other than mechanics? Why?
“What happens before the swing is more important than the swing itself.” Tweet
Was any work done with the sole intent and purpose of honing YOUR ZONE? Notice I said YOUR zone, NOT the strike zone. Go to any ballpark in America and you will hear the phrase ‘Swing at Strikes!’ Is it good enough to just swing at strikes or should we take it a step further?
Do you even know what ‘YOUR ZONE’ is??
Let’s take a look at one of the most feared hitters in the game and a sample (courtesy of Inside Edge) of nearly 5000 pitches he saw in 2010.
The hitter: Jose Bautista.
What do you notice?
1st – MLB pitchers are not trying to throw the ball in the middle of the plate but they sure do it A LOT. If they do it, it happens even more often at the collegiate, highschool, and little league levels.
2nd – Jose wouldn’t be a very good hitter if he consistently swung at pitches up and in, down and in, or away. Did you know that Jose Bautista does NOT swing at 80% of the offspeed pitches thrown away to him? That tells me that pitchers, even at the MLB level, have trouble throwing their secondary stuff consistently for strikes. When they go away with it, they oftentimes miss out of the zone.
I am asked on regular occasion, “how do I become a better hitter?”
One of the 1st things I always say is, “SWING AT BETTER PITCHES!”
But it’s the truth. One of the biggest, if not THE biggest, things holding hitters back is not knowing their zone. Notice AGAIN I didn’t say the strike zone. While the first step in the equation is to know the difference between a ball and a strike, hitters must go deeper than that (at least as they advance to a level where pitchers have a better idea of what they are doing).
The strike zone is quite large. In fact if I constructed a 3D image of my strike zone, a pitcher could throw the ball to roughly 80 different points and it be called a strike. If that pitcher threw 4 pitches, that means 320 different lanes to cover.
I’m good, but not that good! It is a FAILING plan to look for FB, CB, SL, and change in the strike zone. It is a FAILING plan to look for a fastball and swing just because it is a strike.
I flipped a ball to a hitter the other day off the plate in…. He swung and smashed it. I think the immediate response would typically be, “nice swing!” Instead, I thought, because he had success hitting that pitch in flips, it was a good teaching moment. So I asked him:
ME: Why did you hit that pitch?
HIM: Because I knew I could.
ME: I know you can because you know the speed I am flipping and it is flips. What if it were 92? To hit that pitch 3 inches in at that velocity, you would have to cheat to get it. Then you open yourself up to being easy to pitch to.
HIM: When put that way, I understand what you are getting at with your question.
Not only is it NOT ideal to work on hitting balls out of the zone, it is NOT ideal to work on hitting every strike all the time! I would even argue that this is a losing mentality, even with 2 strikes. (Ding! Light bulb just went off. I guess I just brought up a topic for another post.)
It is also not good enough to talk about approach or knowing your zone.
Knowing YOUR zone is the 1st step in approach and there MUST be daily, deep practice INGRAINING your zone.
Make sure and check out the follow up to this article. Hunter shows you a way to practice your approach and get to know your zone. You can watch it Here
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