Hitting a baseball is commonly known as the hardest thing to do in sports. Why then do hitters make it so much more difficult then it has to be? The main reason for the decline in power and batting averages in baseball isn’t poorly taught mechanics. The decline of offense is due to the lack of education and knowledge of pitch sequences. Understanding and conceptualizing pitch sequences is the most important part of being a high level hitter.
Why are pitch sequences so important? The reason is simple. It is a lot easier to hit the baseball when you know what pitch is coming and where it’s going to end up location wise. As hitters, when we know the location and pitch type, hitting becomes as simple as letting our eyes and hips work naturally.
Swings break down for two main reasons: First, they are off balance because they don't know what pitch is coming. Second, the hitter swings at something out of the strike zone because he does not know the location of the pitch. If we can eliminate these two factors, we give ourselves a great chance to be successful in the batters box no matter what our mechanics look like.
Let’s talk offense. In baseball there are six “power” counts. Also known as “hitters counts”, these six situations are the best time to swing the bat. The six hitters counts are 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, and 3-1. In these six counts, the hitter will see a fastball over 90% of the time. The hitter can define the pitch type and isolate his eyes on a fastball, giving him a great chance to hit the ball hard. As for location, because these are the hitters counts, the pitcher does not want to throw a ball. This means that the hitter can expect a fastball to hit in the strike zone. If the pitcher throws a ball in any of the six hitters counts, he virtually has to come back with another fastball because the last thing a pitcher wants is to give out free bases.
When you are in a hitters count, you should look for a fastball to drive. We want to be on the attack in the hitters counts and focus on getting the barrel out in front of the plate. They are called “power counts” for a reason. The pitcher is on his heels. At the amateur level, a big problem is that hitters do not have the mindset of “attacking” in the hitters counts.
The count changes our approach. In the non-hitter counts, you are looking to take the ball to the opposite field because you don’t know the two key factors (location and pitch type). By thinking opposite field as a hitter, naturally you will let the ball travel deeper into the zone. The deeper you let a ball travel the more you allow yourself to determine pitch type and location. By having the mindset to let the baseball travel deep in the zone in the non-hitters counts, you also take away the late movement from a pitchers off-speed. In the hitters counts think “attack", and in every other sequence think opposite field. This sounds like a simple approach to hitting. The best hitters can slow down and simplify the game by understanding pitch sequences.
A professional is someone who leaves as little as possible to chance. What this means is even if you are in little league, you have an opportunity to eliminate chance at your level by understanding the hitters counts. The offensive problem isn’t mechanical, it’s due to a lack of baseball education and knowledge of hitter's counts.