Defining Your Pitch
"Hit your pitch", constantly yelled at hitters in the box across the game. I've heard that phrase at least once an inning since I have been around the game. But what does that mean? What location? What type of pitch? What count? or what situation? To some coaches there is no "your pitch". It's always "the teams pitch". And that's an approach I enjoy talking about. For every hitter the teams pitch, and your pitch should be the same thing. For every hitter this should be an individual approach. It may not be a different pitch, or count, or location, but to every hitter if we want to give them a plan at the plate they need to know what "your pitch" is.
Why have a "your pitch" approach?
I heard it from Matt Bragga at the High school coaches clinic in Waco. "The better ball I get to hit, The harder I'm going to hit it. The harder I hit it, the more chance I reach base. The more Times I reach base, the more runs I score. The more runs I score, the more games I win". This progression speaks volumes over the detail that is taken into one pitch. If we have this mentality at the plate every pitch, we have achieved a team that is bought into an approach of the more detail I have, the more games WE win. The better ball I get to hit, the more chances we have to win. Taking this approach, and giving kids an idea of what will be most successful for them to hit will in turn translate to more runs. "your pitch" is the teams pitch if we take that approach. Everyone is capable of hitting the ball as hard as they're capable of, and if we produce more mindsets of doing damage with "your pitch" then we will create more runs.
What is "my pitch"
This section is probably my favorite, since when I think of my pitch as an ex baseball player I can tell you I was looking for a fastball middle away, a little low in the zone. I enjoyed hitting low and away pitches. I felt I could easily take those into the oppo gap, and be consistently successful with those. If you asked all of your players what answer would you hear? When I ask incoming hitters the first thing they say is "down the middle". Well if you're gonna have that approach, I then ask, what kind of pitch? fastball, curveball, is this high, low, or middle middle? These are important questions to be able to answer. We want to be as detailed as possible. If we're detailed, and aim small, when we do get that pitch we should absolutely hammer it. When describing pitches I use a 9 zone plate idea. I've seen as many as 27, and as few as 2. I think 9 is a good number for promoting detail, but also not getting too technical for the guys that are "inner half/outer half" kinda people. In our system when looking for "my pitch" we have to be able to label a couple of things. First is pitch type. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider with some bite. We have to be able to describe exactly the action we're seeing on this ball. Second is location. Having players label location will help us better define how we hit our pitch in the last part of this article. I believe that many hitters have the ability to identify and be mature hitters at the plate, we as always have to coach it.
When do I look for "my pitch"
In our system we have 3 different types of counts. I have heard a lot of people mention what they're looking for, and I have a couple different approaches to counts that I will write about, but I have found to increase the maturity of our hitters, and have high expectations I wanted to use these 3 types of approaches. Taking different approaches by hitter will also help your kids learn to define "their pitch" and also prevent getting behind early based off of pitchers that think they can take strike one, with a get me over curveball.
These counts are where the pitcher is either behind, or we are in an "attack" mode. We have 6 positive counts that we look for in an at-bat. I want to make sure that I'm aggressive in these counts and hunting a good pitch over the plate. I get to be somewhat selective over location, but I also want to look for something over the plate and be ready to go to work. (0-0,1-0,2-0,3-0,2-1,3-1).
In a guess count we are in a position where we can still do damage with an at-bat, but we are not as selective over pitch type. I don't want to put myself into a bind by taking a curveball over the middle of the plate and getting to a 2 strike count, but at the same time, I am still looking to put an aggressive swing on the ball. (0-1,1-1)
2 STRIKE APPROACH
The reason the others are labeled counts, and this one is labeled an approach is because this is my time to work. This is the perfect time to look to fight off bad strikes, and look for a mistake over the plate. I must understand the situation dictates my swing, and look to do more damage situationally than individually. We crowd the plate a bit more, in order to not run out of barrel on an outside pitch, and look to fight and go to war with the pitcher. This is where I say mechanics, and technique don't matter. This is about guts, this is about more than baseball, it's him versus you, who's gonna win. A true 1 on 1 in baseball. We look to extend at bats, press the situation, make the defense earn an out, and absolutely hammer mistakes. (0-2,1-2,2-2,3-2)
These 12 counts make up one of the approaches I use with hitters. I believe different types of hitters, and maturity levels of hitters requires multiple approaches. This is the approach I like to use with the "your pitch" type approach. It takes maturity, and discipline, but if you can get your hitters to find their pitch while using the positive count as your pitch count there will be damage done.
How to find "your pitch"
In order for every hitter to identify their pitch it's important for us to keep charts and records of how they've done, and what they do with certain pitches. This is a few different ways for helping hitters identify their pitch. There are plenty of ideas out there, this is just a couple easier ways depending on the type of coach, or resources you have around. Having said that, there must be an objective process of doing this, in order to get hitters to understand what they do best there has to be data in some way used. Hitters like results as much as you do, so just tellling them what they do best without anything to back it up won't help as much as being able to show them exactly what they are capable of on certain pitches.
Post at-Bat Chart
Having players take charts of location and result of pitches thrown in game for your hitters will help them identify their pitch they hit well. Taking a player and giving them a chart whether it's a post at bat chart in which the hitter themselves come in and write out pitch and location of what they saw, or hit will help them develop a sense of responsibility for their at bat, and pitch to pitch adjustments.
In Game Analysis Chart
Players that aren't playing at the time, or even if you want to utilize sub-varsity players it is very easy to have them chart what pitches were thrown, and location of the pitch. These charts will help players see exactly what they hit, and know if they hit it well.
Blast Motion, and Blast Vision
The easier ones to use will be something like blast motion, where depending on the location of the pitch you will be able to see raw data of their swing on certain locations. Just as you would track at bats in game, I suggest tracking batting practice, and using something like a Blast Vision (https://blastmotion.com/products/blastvision/ ) in order to track exit velo, and launch angle. And filling out this chart to keep track of the data. Using these stats you will then see exactly what location the hitters hit best, hardest, and are most consistent at.
Using a rapsodo is a little easier than the Blast Vision, but at the same time it is a little more expensive. Having said that, if you utilize a rapsodo it will again tell you ball flight statistics. Using the strike zone, and the data it provides hitters will objectively see what they are able to hit most successfully. (https://rapsodo.com/baseball/hitting )
For those of you without those other technologies I suggest using a radar gun, and testing exit velocities. By using the progression we spoke of earlier from Matt Bragga using a radar gun and testing out what we hit hardest we can make the correlation that those batted balls are our best pitches to go and attack. Same idea as the Blast sensors, keeping track in this chart will make it easy for anyone to monitor and write down this information.
Using all this information in order to help your hitters be more successful, and more comfortable at the plate will result in better at bats, and more hits, runs, and for your team. More wins. If you consistently preach an offensive system in which athletes are learning about their own swings, and using some form of data (stats, Exit Velo) to promote pitch selection you will gain more hits. The hitters that hit the most are the hitters that hit the most, and if we can promote better pitches to hit, then we will build a program that builds itself. If you enjoyed this article take a look at Using "Launch angle" in your program, and adding Variability in Hitting.
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