Baseball Magazine

Hitting Behind a Runner at First Base (Part 2)

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
In Part 1, I explained the "why?" when it comes to hitting behind a runner at first base with no outs.  Now we'll focus on the "how."
Left-Handed Batters.
Obviously, for a left handed batter, this strategy is much simpler because all the batter must try to do is pull a ball through the right side.  Although most hitters find it easier to pull balls, left handers still should occasionally practice hitting that hole at first base.  Much of that practice will involve training themselves to take pitches on the outer half of the plate and wait for a pitch on the inner half that would be easier to pull.  When they get one, staying on top of the ball (for ground balls and line-drives) and learning the proper contact point that will cause the ball to be hit to that area both become keys.  Putting a tee at home plate and moving it around until they find the correct contact point is a great starting point.  Hitting off the tee on an actual field, as opposed to a batting cage, works best because you get a chance to see where the ball goes.  Using a tee also allows a player to practice all this by himself.  When a hitter becomes comfortable and successful off a tee, practicing using soft toss, short toss, and eventually live batting practice should follow. 
Right-Handed Batters.
This play is much tougher for a right handed batter.  This is one reason why many managers like having the 2nd batter in the lineup be left handed.  The leadoff guys gets on first, the left-handed 2nd batter hits a ball through the hole which puts runners at 1st and 3rd, and then the big guys come up to drive them in.  Although harder for righties, it's still an expectation.  

Hitting behind a runner at first base (Part 2)

Buster Posey hits to right field.  Notice the bat angle.
To get this angle, let the pitch get deeper.

The same pitch selection principle and hitting drills mentioned above applies to right handers as well.  Much of the battle will depend on the right handed hitter being patient enough to wait for a pitch on the outer half.  Of course, sometimes they won't get one during the at-bat so it's important to practice hitting the hole on pitches that are not on the outer half.  Moving the tee around and focusing on keeping your hands inside the ball will help with that.
Probably the biggest problem I see righties have with hitting behind the runner is that they feel they have to drastically alter their swing in order to do it.  They shouldn't have to.  The only thing that changes is where the swing makes contact with the ball.  Whenever a righty attempts to hit the ball well to right field, he needs to let the ball travel a little more towards the catcher before contact is made.  Letting the pitch "get a little deeper" will put the bat at the proper right-field angle at the point of contact.  Therefore, the basic swing stays the same.  What changes is where in the zone the bat makes contact with the pitch.  The mistake most hitters make is that they try to make contact with the pitch in the same location they would if they were trying to pull the ball or hit it up the middle, which is just in front of their front foot.  When a hitter tries to hit to the opposite field this way,  he will have a very tough time hitting the ball hard.  In order to get the correct bat angle to hit to the right side, the batter would have to move his hands forward too much before contact.  Doing so will lose a lot of power in the swing.
Hitting behind a runner at first with no outs is not easy but if a hitter does it, he'll score a lot of points with his coach.  Of course, to do this will require lots of work on the part of the player.

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