This time of year, we shift much of the focus from mechanics to approach. There is a lot to cover when talking about approach at the plate so I will be breaking this post into a few parts. Today, I want to discuss the approach I want hitter's counts.
What is a Hitter's Count?
A Hitter's Count is any count where the hitter has the advantage. These counts include 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 (with green light), 3-1 and 2-1. Basically, any count where the hitter has no strikes or there are more balls than strikes.
Take a look at the chart below of batting averages, ON-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage and OPS from the 2016 MLB season.
Lets take a look at those hitter's counts. The highest batting average, slugging percentages, and OPS are seen in these counts. Aside from a full count (due to the probability of a walk) they also have the highest On-Base Percentage.
Why are these counts so favorable?
The pitcher has to come to the hitter. Baseball, boiled down to it's simplest parts, is the pitcher trying to get the hitter to hit his pitch and the hitter trying to get his favorite pitch. In these hitter's counts, the pitcher has to give in a little more to the batter. He can't try and be too fine and more often than not, will throw the pitch that they have the best control of which is usually a fastball.
What should be our approach as a hitter in these counts?
There are two big components to the approach in a hitter's count, pitch selection and swing.
1. Pitch Selection
Look for one pitch, in one location. Unless you have some advanced scouting where you know a pitcher will throw a certain pitch the majority of the time in these counts, the pitch type and the location should be your favorite pitch, (the pitch you can put your best swing on).
Split the plate into 2 halves. Middle in, and middle away. Choose which area you handle better. Choose a pitch type, (most of the time should be a fastball). I would say for the majority of hitters, this will be a middle in fastball. Sit on that pitch. Most hitter's will simply just look for that pitch and then react to it. I want hitters to take a more aggressive approach. Expect the pitcher to throw that pitch and gear up everything you have for that pitch. If it is there, hammer it, if it is not, out the brakes on and take the pitch.
Aside from the pitcher having to give in a little more to the batter in these counts, the type of swing that hitters take accounts for much of the success. Be Aggressive. Swings in hitter's counts should be the best most aggressive swings that you take. The last thing that I or any other coach wants to see in this situation is a weak defensive swing.
The best hitters in baseball take advantage of hitters counts because they know the pitcher has to come to them. Sit on your favorite pitch in your favorite location. If it is there, be aggressive and put your best swing on it. If it is not a pitch you feel you can drive to the outfield, take the pitch. Remember, we get 3 strikes for a reason, so we don't have to give in to the pitcher in hitter's counts.