The duel between hitters and pitchers is similar to the battle between two prize fighters in the boxing ring. Instead of punches and counterpunches, it is pitch selection/location for pitchers and hitting adjustments for baseball and softball players. I always get frustrated watching hitters step into the batter’s box and position themselves in the same place before every pitch. Pitchers LOVE when hitters stand in the same place in the batter’s box. This affords them total control of the pitch sequence, which puts hitters at a disadvantage. I encourage hitters to adjust where they stand in the box, depending on the game situation and the count. Pitchers HATE this, because it forces them to re-think the pitch sequence and the desired location. The duel begins!
As I have written before, I believe hitters should always set up with the back foot on the line in the back of the batter’s box. Here is a link to a previous post that reviews the benefits of standing back in the box. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/08/31/stand-back/
So, you are probably wondering what adjustments hitters can make if I always want them to set up with the back foot on the back line of the batter’s box. The answer is hitters can move closer or farther away from the plate as a “counterpunch” to the pitcher’s strategy.
Don’t Be Afraid To Crowd The Plate
If pitchers are consistently throwing pitches on the outside portion of the plate or if the umpire is calling outside strikes, hitters HAVE to make an adjustment. Pitchers will continue to pound that outside corner until hitters begin hitting that pitch hard. The best way to hit outside strikes consistently and powerfully is to move closer to the plate.
When hitters crowd the plate, pitchers now have two options. They can continue to pitch outside, or they will recognize the hitter’s adjustment and then attempt to throw the ball inside, hoping to jam hitters. If pitchers choose to continue pitching on the outside portion of the strike zone, hitters will be in a better position to hit the ball with authority up the middle or to the opposite field. If pitchers decide to pitch inside, smart hitters will take advantage of this adjustment by looking to pull the ball powerfully. Hitters are now controlling the batter’s box!
Crowding the plate is an especially effective strategy with two strikes on hitters. The confidence level of pitchers is the highest with two strikes, so by crowding the plate, hitters are sending a clear message to pitchers. The message is, “I’m going to force you to throw the pitch where you may not want to throw it”. High school and college pitchers prefer to work the outside corner with two strikes to entice hitters to swing and miss or to hit weak ground balls. When pitchers see hitters move closer to the plate, it tempts them to try to win the duel with an inside pitch, instead of an outside pitch. Great hitters are ready for this inside pitch if the temptation gets too great.
Adjust For Critical Game Situations
Important game situations with runners on base often dictate where hitters MUST hit the ball. By moving closer to or farther from the plate, hitters have a better chance of getting the job done. If the situation requires hitting the ball to the right side of the field, left-handed hitters should consider moving away from the plate with a slightly open stance to ensure the lower body has a little more time to rotate fully toward right field to pull the ball. Conversely, right-handed hitters should move closer to the plate with a slightly closed stance, which gives them the best chance to hit the ball the other way, instead of inadvertently pulling the ball.
Hitters are taught to look for the right pitch to hit in critical situations, which is sound advice. When hitters take control of the batter’s box, they increase their chances of a successful at-bat. I would encourage hitters to experiment with alternative positions in the batter’s box to understand how to hit inside and outside pitches more effectively.
Win The Duel BEFORE The Pitch Is Thrown
The battle between the hitter and the pitcher is often more mental than physical. Just because the pitcher has the ball before the duel begins, does not mean he or she is in control. By changing position in the batter’s box, hitters can gain a psychological advantage that could alter the plan of the pitcher. When this happens……ADVANTAGE HITTERS!