This is a topic that I have wanted to write about for a long time. I have heard many different ideologies when it comes to two-strike hitting. In this article I want to give our readers an idea of the process from beginning to end of hitting with two-strikes. At Core Savvy Baseball™, we have broken down the art of two-strike hitting into a science.
At CSB™ we teach all of our students the mental side of the game. When it comes to two-strike hitting, our mental approach is the first step. When hitting with two-strikes we want to have a fighters mentality. Imagine ourselves with our backs against the wall in an alley, the only way out is to fight. I cannot stress the idea of having a fighters mentality enough because it definitely seems to be something that todays players have forgotten. Willie Mays called baseball "violence under wraps" and "disguised combat". This is first step to being a great two-strike hitter.
The next mental adjustment we teach at CSB™ necessary for becoming a dominant two-strike hitter is the ability to look fastball and adjust. In no other situation would we ever suggest this approach with the exception of two-strikes (we will go over quantitative pitch selection in future CSB™ articles).
As hitters we need to mentally put the idea in our heads that taking a called third strike is unacceptable. I see far too many coaches who do not understand the ramifications of teaching kids that taking a called third strike is ok.
Along with the what I believe to be the more important mental side of two-strike hitting are the CSB™ physical adjustments necessary to be successful.
Core Savvy Baseball teaches all of our players to choke up on the bat as the first physical adjustment. This is for the sole purpose that a shorter bat length equals more bat control. The next step we teach our students is to put your back foot on the inside line of the batter's box. Essentially we want to move closer to the plate with two-strikes for more plate coverage. Also, crowding the plate with two-strikes will often make the pitcher leave a good pitch in the hitting zone because of the visual change he sees from the mound.
The next physical adjustment for hitting with two-strikes is to widen out. The reason we teach our players to widen their stance is to gain balance, which in turn will eliminate head movement, making the baseball a lot easier to gain vision on. Another reason that we want to widen our stance with two-strikes is to get lower to the ground. This will give our eyes a slightly easier time gaining vision on the baseball.
Two-Strike hitting ultimately comes down to using rotational mechanics to stay inside the baseball. If a player is able to conceptualize and understand the CSB™ rotational mechanics, the only thing stopping him from becoming a great two-strike hitter is his mental approach.
From the second the opposing pitcher takes the bump, Core Savvy Baseball™ teaches our students to ask themselves two questions:
1. What pitches is he having trouble getting over?
2. What is his strike-out pitch?
Both of these questions are necessary to ask yourself if you want to be a great two-strike hitter. By understanding the pitches that the guy is having trouble getting over, we can narrow down what he is going to give us to hit with two-strikes. Obviously, knowing the opposing pitchers' "go to" pitch is something that is crucial for hitting with your back against the wall. At Core Savvy Baseball™ we call this doing your pre at-bat homework. I cannot stress the importance of the pre at-bat homework enough because if it is done correctly it will lead to a huge boost of confidence at the plate.
Even in the big leagues, few hitters truly ever feel "comfortable" in the box. I don't like this term and I hear far too many youth coaches teach it. Major league players have never felt comfortable against Randy Johnson, or Pedro Martinez, nor should they. The way MLB players find success against strike-out pitchers is not by feeling comfortable. They have success with two-strikes against these type of pitchers by opening up their hitting zone. I'll tell you now, if you're a player whose coach tells you to have a "dead red" approach with two-strikes, you need to run the other direction. Strike-out, top flight pitchers are not going to give you the "dead red" pitch that you want. We need to understand that being too selective with two-strikes will lead to a ton of backwards K's. Major league players have success with two-strikes against this type of Cy Young caliber pitching by opening up there hitting zone.
In some of our past CSB™ articles we talked about the idea of "letting the baseball get deep". This idea comes up again in regards to two-strike hitting. The greatest two-strike hitters on the planet have the ability to wait longer than other players do before they decide to start there swing. So how do we gain more time as hitters?
One very easy way to gain more time with two-strikes as a hitter is to simply move back in the box. For some reason, I watch countless players strikeout on pitches that if they were in the back of the box would have broken way out of the hitting zone. When we move back in the box, we eliminate part of the late break that sliders, curveballs, and other off-speed pitches have that make them so elusive.
Another way that we teach our students to gain time is with two-strikes is to crowd the plate and open up your stance slightly. This will make the rotational swing shorter to the baseball, which equals getting to the ball quicker. This will also lead to a boost in bat speed.
Never, ever close off your stance with two-strikes. This will lock our hips, making rotation hitting impossible. When we cannot rotate, we start our swing with our arms which will lead to a huge drop in bat speed. Along with the drop in bat speed by closing off our stance, we loose roughly 25% of the plate. The pitches that we lock ourselves out of by closing off our stance are any inside pitches. If we loose 25% of the plate as hitters, our chance of success with two-strikes drops dramatically.
In conclusion, your pre-at bat homework, mental and physical adjustments, and the idea of "letting the baseball get deep" are ways to cut down on strikeouts.
Core Savvy Two-Strike Hitting Motto™:
Reaching you're hitting potential requires first-rate, two-strike execution™.