Hitting Mind Games to Overcome

Hitters battle different mind games that make hitting more difficult. Issues like a lack of confidence, bad hitting mechanics, a lack of knowledge of the strike zone, and pressure all play games on players’ minds. Another aspect of the hitting thought process, although rarely considered, is some common hitting assumptions that batters make that lead to bad at-bats.

I wish I had a buck for every time I assumed things that did not happen, when batting, and I fell for these common hitting mind games. Making assumptions as a baseball batter often leads to outs, and players must be careful of falling for these baseball mind games.

As a hitting coach, and from my experience listening to my hitting coaches, the statements “Don’t think up at the plate,” or “Don’t think so much, when hitting,” are common, but easier said than followed. Those statements refer to the thinking that goes on in players’ heads, as they try to figure out how to hit the ball squarely and consistently, from pitch to pitch. 

Of course, completely clearing the mind is not good between pitches, as players should draw on their hitting experience to help them deduce what pitch is coming and what pitch they should look for. A small amount of thinking is good.  Having an educated guess as to what pitch and pitch location is coming helps batters. Good hitters anticipate pitches; at least before having two strikes on them, and are confident enough to lay off pitches they are not ready for hitting.

Therein lies the problem, though – assuming certain things that are  likely, get hitters in trouble and they must be careful of those assumptions.

Mind Games – Most common hitting assumptions that May be Trouble

  1. Even though there is a good likelihood batters will get a good pitch on 2 balls and no strikes and on 3 balls and 1 strike counts, players should not assume that to the point of swinging no matter where the pitch is located. Not only that, batters often feel that coaches expect them to swing on these counts and they make outs on pitches they could not handle, just because of that thought process.
  2. Often hitters guess correctly with breaking balls, are ready for it, and swing; forgetting to take into account the breaking pitch was not a strike or was a “pitcher’s pitch,” in a tough to hit location. Guessing correctly is a good feeling as a hitter, but making sure the pitch is a good one is crucial.
  3. One of the most difficult assumptions batters must overcome, and the one I had trouble with the most, was assuming the 3 balls and 2 strike pitch would be a strike. This is an especially difficult situation after battling the pitcher to that count and after fouling pitches off on the full count, as batters assume pitchers will continue to throw strikes. This intense hitting battle plays mind games with batters because it is common to think pitchers will continue to challenge them and though that is the pitcher’s intention, throwing strike after strike is difficult, too.
  4. The fear of striking out creates mind games with hitters also, as some players believe they must always swing or must never strike out. The assumption that they have the best chance of being a good hitter by swinging, no matter what the pitch, is faulty. Helping these type players understand that swinging just to swing, chasing bad pitches, and not waiting or never getting their pitch to hit leads to a short baseball career is the coach’s responsibility.

Of course, hitting become more difficult as players move up in levels because pitchers have a wider assortment of speeds and pitches. The solution to these mind games lies with good hitting mechanics so players learn to wait longer and having more confidence, so they are not falling for the above assumptions. Hitters, who are willing to trust what they see and not what they assume, are the best hitters.

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