The best hitters in the world are fastball hitters. The ability to recognize and swinging at fastball strikes is what separates the good hitters from the great ones. What is the trademark of a great hitter? Great hitters are aggressive and they swing at strikes. They usually don’t swing at bad pitches and seldom get caught out on their front foot. Great hitters have a well developed mental strike zone through thousands of repetitions.
The goal of every at bat is to look for a pitch to drive. The process of getting good pitches to hit comes through an understanding of the fastball counts.
What are fastball counts?
Fastball counts are the counts in an at-bat when the hitter can confidently expect a fastball from the pitcher. Their are six fastball counts.
You can reasonably expect to see a good pitch to hit in these counts because the pitcher is behind.
The 0-0 count is the one that I find amateurs have the most trouble with. Their are a lot of different philosophies when it comes to the 0-0 count. Personally, I believe that no pitcher in the history of baseball has ever wanted to get behind a hitter 1-0. Every pitchers mentality is to get ahead with strike one. This does not mean you are 100% swinging at the first pitch. What I like to tell players is to treat the 0-0 count like a 3-0 count. In both the 0-0 and the 3-0 count, the pitcher is going to try and bring something into the strike zone. I tell my players to be as selective as you would on a 3-0 count, with a green light to swing (look for one pitch). Too often at the amateur level the 0-0 pitch is taken for strike one and it is the best pitch of the at-bat. To instantly raise your Batting Average figure out what the pitcher is getting over for strike one and jump on it.
The 2-0 and 3-1 counts are the best hitters counts. When a pitcher is 2-0 or 3-1 he cannot get back even with the hitter on one pitch. What this means is that the pitcher must throw a strike in the 2-0 and 3-1 counts. Since the pitcher cannot get back even with one pitch, these two counts are the only times when the hitter can afford to take a strike if he does not get the pitch he is looking for. I tell all my players to shrink the strike zone in these counts and look for one pitch only.
In an at-bat a hitter will usually only see one good pitch to hit. If he sees more than one good pitch to hit, he's lucky. How well a hitter handles the one good pitch he sees will determine the outcome of the at-bat. Understand the six fastball counts and you will see a lot of success throughout you career.