When speaking about approach, I break counts into 3 categories.
1. Hitters counts: Any count with either no stirkes or more balls than strikes. Read last weeks article on hitters counts here.
2. 2 Strike counts
3. Neutral counts
What is a neutral count?
Simply any count that is not a hitters count or a 2 strike count. While many of them may be slightly in favor of the pitcher or hitter, they are those middle counts (0-1, 1-1, 2-1).
What should be my approach?
There are a few things that hitters need to do in a neutral count.
1. Always look fastball first, adjust to anything off-speed.
With good mechanics, it is possible to hit something slower if you are looking fastball. However, if you are looking for something slow, it is almost impossible to catch up to a fastball.
2. Don't give in to the pitcher
Neutral counts mean that the pitcher generally has more options and freedom to mix pitches and locations than in hitter's counts. However, that does not mean that we need to chase a pitch we can't put a good swing on. We should open up the zone we are looking for compared to a hitter's count, but should not chase anything too far out of it.
3. Drive the ball back at the pitcher
Thinking about hitting the ball up the middle helps us with timing. With pitchers having a little more say in these situations, we need to be ready for both the fastball as well as anything off speed. If we get too pull happy in this situation, we leave ourselves open to being too early. If we think too much about driving the ball the other way, we may miss a pitch on the inner half that we can drive. Taking the approach to hit the ball back up the middle allows for us to adjust to a wider variety of pitch speeds and locations.