Great situational hitting starts with a team-concept. Every player must be committed to the success of the team. Batting averages have to take a back seat when it comes time to score a runner or move someone into scoring position. Situational hitting is what separates championship caliber teams from mediocre ones.
We are going to take an in depth look at the two basic types of situational hitting. The two basic types of situational hitting plays that come up during the course of almost every game are: scoring a runner from second, and scoring a runner from third. The first situation we are going to look at is the most common. Here’s what to do with a runner on second.
Scoring a Runner from Second Base
A runner on second base is only going to advance if we are able to put the ball on the right side of the field, preferably on the ground. I have heard a lot of different philosophies when it comes to how to move a runner over from second. At CSB, we like to simplify the game for our players telling them the only thing they need to worry about is hitting the ball with authority to the right side.
I encourage all players to be aggressive early in the count with a runner on second. Chances are that early in the count the pitcher will be preoccupied with the runner, giving the hitter an excellent opportunity to see something up in the zone. One key thing to remember about all types of situational hitting is that we are looking for a location, not a pitch type. What I mean by ‘look for a location’ is that the hitter must forget about sitting on a fastball, curve, or change-up and focus more on seeing the ball on the outer half of the plate. Looking for a location instead of a pitch type is a classic example of how we sacrifice our personal success for the team in situational hitting.
Pitches that are away to right handed batters and pitches that are in to left handed batters are ideal locations to look for when moving a runner over from second.
Push-bunts and slashes are two plays that should never be attempted with a runner on second unless you have bat control similar to Ichiro Suzuki. Too many times, a player attempts a push-bunt and ends up getting the lead runner thrown out at third. In situational hitting it is important to always remember our objective. The objective with a runner on second is to move him over or score him. We have no chance of scoring the runner with a push-bunt. The team’s agenda must always come before the individuals.
Scoring a Runner from Third Base
A runner on third base calls for a very different approach. The best hitters are also always the best at scoring a runner from third. The reason for this is the approach they take.
With a runner on third, just making contact goes out the window. A runner on third base presents us with the optimum situation as hitters to look for a pitch middle-in and up. In this situation, I encourage both left and right handed hitters to look to pull the baseball. In no other situation would this approach be applicable.
The reason I like both left handers and right handers to look to pull is simply because of consistency. Everyone on the planet except Derek Jeter is better at pulling the baseball rather than taking it to the opposite field. So, we need to play the numbers as hitter and look to pull a pitch to score the runner. I do not want to give our readers the impression that I am telling you to take a outside pitch and try to pull it. We always hit the baseball where it is pitched but in this situation, a pitch over the outer-half of the plate is not ideal.
Again, we want to be aggressive early in the count. In an 0-0 count, all pitchers are taught to get ahead with strike one. A hitter can usually only expect to see one good pitch per at bat. A ball to the hitter's pull side in the air, or the obvious base hit are the best ways to score a runner from third.
For our more advanced readers you may have realized we left one play out, the suicide squeeze. The reason I do not like to teach the suicide squeeze to my players is the level of danger if not executed correctly. If the batter does not get the sign that a suicide is on and he swings away, the runner is in a lot of trouble. Instead of a suicide squeeze, at Core Savvy Baseball we teach what is called a 'safety squeeze'.
The main difference between a safety squeeze and suicide squeeze is timing. When executing a suicide squeeze, as soon as the pitcher makes a definite movement towards the plate, the runner takes off. With the runner on third stealing home on the pitchers first movement, the batter must be alert that the play is on. The hitter must also make sure he gets the bunt down in fair territory or the runner is out. The suicide squeeze is a very advanced and dangerous play that is usually only seen in MLB.
The amateur version is the safety squeeze. A safety squeeze will put pressure on the defense to make a quick decision. When executing a safety squeeze, the runner on third is now waiting to make sure the hitter gets the bunt down and in fair territory before he takes off for home plate. The ability to wait until the bunt is on the ground and in fair territory is what makes the safety squeeze a much more useful play at the amateur level.
Take this approach back to your team and let us know how it goes!!!
Keep the questions coming!