Quality at-bats are key to hitting success
Quality at-bats produce a higher batting average. Also, quality at-bats help teams offensive production, even when hits do not result. Of course, solid hitting mechanics and practice enhance the chances of quality at-bats as much as anything. The definition of quality at-bats involves at least one of the following and often two of them are necessary:
- Balanced swings
- Pitch selection that is in the batter’s favor as often as possible
- Putting balls in play that advances the offense
- Making pitchers work harder than ordinary to get outs
- Hard hit balls
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One may question this definition because players could do points one and two, and strike out swinging on three pitches. But, the at bat was quality even though the results were not. The players hitting mechanics may have been off, or the pitcher had dominating stuff that resulted in a strikeout. The batter still accomplished the goal of taking good swings at hit-able pitches. Other things may result in quality without getting hits, too. Players can take off balanced swings and swing at bad pitches with the result of putting the ball in play in a manner that advances a runner. Making pitchers throw a considerable number of pitches can make it a quality one, too.
At the lower youth levels of baseball, at-bats should not need a high amount of analysis. Young hitters should plan on one thing – swinging at strikes, regardless of the count.
A greater amount of mental preparation is necessary for successful hitting in advanced ball. In professional baseball, analysis is extreme as players have charts on pitches and tendencies. For most levels though, players have to do their analysis, with the help from their coaches. Following are things that help batters have as many quality at-bats as possible, the hitting goal.
Quality at bats chances increase with the following observations
- Before going up to bat, players should make note of the following with the goal of having no surprises when in the batter’s box – pitcher’s arm angle, any quirkiness with motion that is unusual and deceptive, rhythm of delivery, speed of fastball, off speed pitches and how often thrown for strikes, any tendencies that pitcher may fall into like throwing the same pitch in the same count
- Walking to home to hit players should take a quick review of the game situation before looking for coach’s signs. The situation may call for hitting the ball in a particular direction or the air or ground. The mental preparation helps perform the desired results, along with following the coaching instructions.
- Entering the batter’s box, players should have visualize doing the task-at-hand. This moving picture in one’s mind usually involves seeing a good swing at a good pitch that results in a hit.
- Once set in the box, players should have a game plan that begins with getting a pitch in a particular zone. This zone should be in the area of the player’s greatest strength. After the first pitch, the batting strategy simplifies. Hitters thinking smaller strike zone when ahead in the count. Batters think a bigger one when behind in the count and with two strikes.
- The final thought before ultimate focus on the pitch is one of confidence. Confidence is believing one’s practice habits and intense focus leads to contact and hits.
Finally, quality at-bats are dependent on acute mental preparation and a plan. The plan forms from observations made before one gets into the box followed by great concentration on the ball.