Hitting approach is something that is often neglected in today’s game. Many coaches attempt to be “swing coaches” or hitting technicians. While the swing itself is instrumental to being successful, approach, is what allows hitters to be consistent and ultimately reach their true potential.
Research has shown that approximately 80% of strikes thrown (professionally and collegiately) in the zone are on the outer third of the plate. With this in mind we should aim to maintain a swing that creates separation and early bat speed. This allows hitters to drive balls to the opposite field rather than reaching - and thus disconnecting - losing bat speed.
Quality approaches begin with a three step analysis. Was I on time for the pitch being thrown? Was I in a good position to hit? Was it a quality pitch that I could do something productive with? If the answer to any of these questions was no, stop right there! Most of the time hitters attempt to make mechanical adjustments when the root of the problem was an issue in one of the three aforementioned questions.
As coaches, it is our job to introduce these concepts to our players and help ingrain them into their individual process. It is said that high school players make adjustments game to game, college players make adjustments at bat to at bat, and professional hitters make adjustments pitch to pitch. Why can’t we all have a professional approach to our process? This all starts with buy in from your players. I would encourage all coaches, young and old, to know their players better. This allows you to communicate effectively with each specific individual and build trust with your team. If players don’t trust you, they will not fully adopt your philosophies.
The fact of the matter is that approach is the key to consistency. Being a consistent hitter requires being on time for the fastball and adjusting with your lower half to buy time for secondary pitches. This is a learned attribute and must be practiced. Habits formed at the youth level oftentimes hold hitters back, but it is our job to teach these young men that maladaptations cause holes in our kinetic link that will be exposed with higher velocities and better secondary pitches.
Individuals do not like to feel exposed and will often times resist techniques that help them fix this missing link. Remember, we are addressing something that causes you to fail. The process of fixing this will cause more failure and that is okay. Each “mindful” failure will bring us closer to “mindful” successes.
Perhaps most importantly, your athletes train their bodies with a purpose, and therefore must train their minds the same way! Visualization, positive affirmations, and a routine are a great place to start. Prepare your mind and body to hit the pitches you are going to get, not just that juicy belt high fastball middle in. Use numbers and tendencies to help guide your approach and you will begin to yield greater results.