After a big home run, you have probably heard a Major League hitter interviewed and say "I was looking for a fastball and got one." You may have also heard an announcer say after a bad swing/miss or a called third strike,“it appeared the batter was guessing on that pitch.” Good hitters occasionally will "look" for pitches and poor hitters "guess."
What’s the difference between “looking” and “guessing?”
Looking for a pitch means that the hitter usually has done some homework and paid attention to the tendencies of the pitcher. When faced with a particular situation, the batter has a general idea of what to expect from this pitcher in that situation. He may know that the pitcher always stays away from right handed hitters with breaking pitches but comes inside with fast balls. In a fastball situation, the batter can "look" for a fastball on the inner half of the plate. This is different from "guessing" because although the batter is looking inside, he is aware that the pitch may not be in that location or may not even be a fastball. He is just ready for it if comes. Because of this, he has the ability to adjust and possibly hit a different pitch. A batter looking for a fastball can still crush a hanging curve ball if he gets one because he still waits to see what the pitch and location are before swinging.
When a player "guesses" he completely shuts his mind to any other possibility of there being a different pitch and/or location to the next pitch. If he is guessing a fastball on the inner half, as soon as the ball leaves the pitchers hand he is probably going to start flying open early to get the bat around to crush the inside fastball. He is not even waiting to see what the pitch actually is because his mind is already made up. However, it may not be a fastball or may not be inside. Any off-speed pitch will make this hitter look foolish. Even that same hanging curve ball will cause the batter to miss by a foot if he is guessing.
If you are missing badly on certain pitches, swinging at pitches way out of the strike zone, or taking a lot of called third strikes, you are probably guessing. It's ok to "look" for pitches if you've done your homework or you are ahead in the count and have the luxury of taking a pitch that you were not looking for. Guessing, on the other hand, will lead to many bad at-bats.