In my post called Cardinal Sins of Baseball: Offense, I mentioned a number of times something that drives me nuts. Called third strikes. I was raised to believe that under no circumstances should a hitter take a called third strike. Period. End of story. No exceptions. Of course, hitting is not easy and sometimes the umpire will just make an incredibly bad call on a third strike. Occasionally a pitcher will buckle a hitter with a nasty breaking pitch as well. However, most of the time it was a case of the hitter not making the necessary adjustments – some physical and some mental - with two strikes. When these adjustments are made, the hitter should be able to dramatically cut down the chances of being rung up on a third strike. Today, we will focus on three physical adjustments every hitter should make with two strikes.
Scott Rolen. One of the only MLB
hitters I have ever seen choke up
with two strikes.(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Choke up For some reason, many hitters refuse to try this approach. I’m not sure if it’s an ego thing, a comfort thing, or a combination of both. Regardless, it’s an adjustment that should be done. Unfortunately, you will almost never see a Major League hitter do this which also adds to the problem. In their minds, especially power hitters, an out is an out. To them, it doesn’t matter if the out is a strike out or a ground out. Either way, it’s still an out. I’m not on board with this thinking. Put the ball in play. You never know what will happen. For me, choking up just means getting your bottom hand off the knob of the bat. It doesn’t have to mean moving the hands up 3 or 4 inches. The reason for getting your hand off the knob is that it allows for better bat control. The bat becomes a little easier to swing which allows the batter to wait a little bit longer before swinging. This makes it less likely that the batter will be fooled by a pitch because waiting a bit longer allows him to see the type of pitch and its location better.
Move a little closer Because a batter moves his hands up the bat a little, he is shortening the hitting portion of the bat. If a player moves his hands up a half an inch on the bat, he should move a half inch closer to the plate. This will allow him to still reach the outside corner. Most young pitchers are afraid to come inside to get hitters out. With two strikes, most will try to stay away from the hitter. This is especially true with off-speed and breaking pitches. A hitter with two strikes needs to cover the outside half of the plate well and even a little beyond the corner in case the umpire expands the zone a bit. The batter is playing the odds here. It is more likely the pitch will be on the outer half so the hitter needs to be ready for one. Should the pitch be on the inner half, the hitter just tries to fight it off the best he can.
Widen your stance This has the effect of anchoring the hitter more in the batter’s box. Widening the stance will cut down on power a little for most hitters because it does limit how much a hitter can rotate his hips. However, power should not be a concern with two strikes. The good part of widening up a little is that it helps prevent a batter from “jumping” or “lunging” at the ball. These mistakes will make it less likely the batter will stay back on an off-speed pitches. Widening the feet slightly in the box tends to keep a batter’s weight back longer which gives him more time to recognize the pitch.
Note: Some coaches will also recommend that hitters move up in the box towards the pitcher with two strikes. Their reasoning is that it is more likely they will see breaking pitches with two strikes. They contend that moving up in the box allows a hitter to get to the ball before it has a chance to break even farther down in the zone. Personally, I never liked moving up or back in the batter’s box. I stayed in one spot and didn’t move. I felt moving up or back tended to mess with my timing too much. If I’m used to seeing a pitch travel around 55 feet (release point to contact point) and then after moving up it travels 54 ½ feet to contact, it threw off my timing because I’m not seeing the ball over the same distance. It’s only half of a foot but 6 inches is significant when fractions of an second are involved. I was ok with moving in towards the plate a little, just not up or back. Some hitters are comfortable doing it so if that is the case, by all means give it a shot. It’s just not something I require of my hitters.
Tomorrow - Part 2: Mental Adjustments with Two Strikes