This is a question that has been debated throughout history. As a hitting instructor, I would like to think that great hitting would consistently beat great pitching. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is the case.
The playoff games this year are providing compelling examples of how the best pitchers in the league can dominate hitters, including the best hitters in each league. How about the postseason struggles of Yasiel Puig ? This Cuban sensation hit everything in sight during the regular season, but he looks clueless and overmatched at the plate this postseason. He even “achieved” the “Golden Sombrero” yesterday, by striking out four times.
The best pitchers in the league are on display in this postseason, showing off their fastballs in the upper 90s and their repertoire of breaking pitches. This lethal combination causes even the best hitters to guess before each pitch, which is rarely a productive strategy at the plate. These pitchers are making it look easy, because hitters don’t have the batspeed to catch up to their fastballs, which makes their breaking balls that much more devastating.
The only real defense hitters have against elite pitchers is pitch selection. I tell my baseball players that breaking balls are “sucker pitches”. I instruct them that the best way to hit these pitches is NOT to swing at them, unless they have two strikes. The same holds true for softball hitters. The best strategy against the rise ball or the change-up is NOT to swing! The best hitters in the history of baseball and softball all attribute their success to their ability to hit the fastball. “Look for the fastball and don’t miss it!”
This is where batspeed becomes important, especially for high school and college hitters. Like postseason professional pitchers, the best high school and college pitchers enjoy high velocity and balls that move in all directions. Hitters with the highest batspeeds will have the most success against these top pitchers, becasue they will be able to wait longer before committing to swing. This extra split second to see and react to the ball is often the difference between making solid contact or swinging and missing.
With increased batspeed also comes increased confidence. Increased confidence leads to a mindset that “no pitcher can throw the ball by me”. Hitters with this mindset don’t miss the fastball very often.
If you are new to this blog and are interested how to increase batspeed, go to the Hitting Keys section of this site. Each of the eight hitting keys will help baseball and softball hitters increase batspeed and consistency. Collectively, these hitting keys have proven to improve batspeed over 40% in some hitters.