Major League Baseball Hitting Techniques
The one area of hitting in the major leagues that I was most proud of was my two strike hitting. I was in that situation often as I took a lot of pitches because of a lack of confidence with swinging early in the count. Being a singles hitter, I had the ability to battle and make contact when I had a two strike count.
Times have changed in baseball at the Major League level. Strikeouts are now much more acceptable than years ago. The home run is the thing and in the effort to hit them, players do nothing different with two strikes. They swing all out as with no strikes on them in the hope of hitting the ball far. There are some recent signs that may change as the teams that win the most also do not strike out as much but only time will tell. It is somewhat painful to watch games now with all the swing and misses. Granted the pitchers throw harder than ever before, so making contact is still challenging, but having better two-strike approaches, or any at all, will help the “whiff” ball situation.
Of course, the key words in the above are “at the Major League level.” At the youth and even high school levels of baseball, batters who strikeout too much end up quitting the game or find a nice spot on the bench. The first phase to putting balls in play always go back to the fundamentals of hitting, which is a never ending process for hitters of any level. Hitters must follow up good mechanics with having a good eye at the plate, along with the ultimate concentration on the pitched ball. Many young players put their focus on their swing thoughts, rather than on the ball itself and the results are often missed balls or failing to swing at the right pitches. That leads to other aspects of hitting a baseball that are crucial for putting balls in play. Batters should have a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses, so they learn to lay off pitches they cannot handle and swing at the ones they can. I always tell players the best two strike hitting approach is not to get into that situation too often. Continually swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, as well as failing to swing at “hittable” balls, will lead to many strikeouts.
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Nothing earthshaking with saying that contact is necessary to get base hits. Players, who can cut back on their strikeouts by becoming better two strike hitters, can greatly improve their batting average, on-base percentage, and runs batted in, not to mention helping their team win more games. With good coaching and a player’s willingness to make an adjustment or two, hitting with two strikes becomes less nerve racking, with achieving the above mentioned goals more doable.
Learning the following two strike baseball hitting techniques can make the difference between a good and bad season. It is often said that the difference between a great hitter and a below average one is simply one hit every ten at bats. A two hundred batting average will lead to a long season, whereas a three hundred average makes one a star, at least at the major league level. Additionally, little boosts a player’s confidence more than getting a hit with two strikes on them. The ability to battle a pitcher by fouling off a few pitches before hitting one solid is a major boost to a batter’s confidence level and batting average.
Learning the following two strike baseball hitting techniques can make the difference between a good and bad season. Coaches should have batter’s try each of the following baseball hitting techniques for two strikes until they find the one they are most comfortable with using in games. It si never a one way fits all situation as every player is different.
Baseball Hitting Techniques for Two-Strikes
Good two strike hitters have:
- A positive mindset, believing in their ability to make contact
- The ability to focus better on the strike zone
- Good swing fundamentals, including a compact swing and the ability to keep the hands back until the last moment, which helps contact even when fooled on a pitch
- A willingness to put the ball in play without over-swinging, especially important for big power hitters
- A relaxed mind, in which they do not panic and swing at any pitch
- A heightened awareness of the ball speed and location – necessary more with two strikes because hitter’s must cover the entire plate and all ball speeds. With less than a two-strike count, this is not necessary because hitters can zone in on one particular pitch or location, without risking striking out
- An awareness of the umpire’s strike zone, which varies from umpire to umpire and from game to game
Following are ways that coaches help hitters improve. Some of these suggestions are tried and true methods of hitting with two strikes and others are lesser known drills and suggestions that develop better two-strike baseball hitting techniques.
“Tried and True” Two-strike Baseball Hitting Techniques
1. Choking up on the bat an inch or so – highly recommended for hitters who strike out often or when facing a dominant pitcher
2. Widen the stance or hit with no stride – beneficial for hitters who have trouble with off speed pitches and for those who get over anxious; less moving parts allow hitters to maintain balance and make more contact
3. Look for fastballs and adjust to all other pitches – fastballs are the most common pitch and generally, the easiest to throw for a strike, so odds are in hitters’ favor with this thought process
4. Look for outer half pitches with two strikes and adjust to inside pitches – allows hitters to keep their front side closed longer, protects against being fooled by off-speed pitches and from being called out on outer half pitches, which is a more common pitch location than inside pitches. This is especially true in youth baseball where pitchers are more afraid of hitting batters and with the use of aluminum bats, so they learn to keep balls away from hitters.
Game Coaching Tips for Baseball Hitting Techniques
1. Point to their own eyes when the hitters have two strikes when batters look to the coach for the sign – this gives hitters the idea of focusing on the ball more.
2. Squeeze their hands as a gesture to use them more – thinking of using the “hands” makes them less likely of over swinging and missing.
3. Give a positive reinforcement statement like, “Now you are ready,” “You can do it,” “Hang in there,” etc…
Other Coaching Tips for Two Strike Hitting
“Eyes closed drills” help hitters develop heightened awareness – having to swing immediately after their eyes are closed, increases players’ awareness and gives them a sense of urgency. These drills are for batting-tee work, flip drills, or dropped balls, and not with batting practice. Hitters close their eyes until the coach yells “now,” when they open their eyes, find the ball, and swing, if it is a strike. Similarly, the coach moves the location and height of the ball on the tee while the hitter’s eyes are closed; when the coach says now, they open their eyes and swing immediately.
Batting practice should include changing speeds with pitches, so hitters receive more “game like” practice. In addition, “situational” practice – batting practice with different counts (i.e. two-strikes) – helps develop confidence when hitting with different counts, in games.
It is also good coaching to emphasize the importance of knowing the strike zone. This helps hitters to swing at strikes, work the count back in their favor, and take walks, all beneficial for being successful two-strike hitters.
Finally, coaches should teach hitters the value of staying alive by fouling off pitches that are an inch or so outside the strike zone. This baseball hitting technique is better than striking out on a pitch they could hit, but take, and the umpire calls them out on a borderline pitch.