Yesterday's post dealt with the physical adjustments a batter should make when he is in a two strike situation. Today, I list the mental adjustments all hitters should consider making.
Expand your strike zone. This adjustment goes back to the saying “never allow the umpire to take the bat out of your hands.” A hitter must swing at anything close to the strike zone. Although I’d rather not have a batter swing at a pitch way out of the zone, I’d rather see that than a batter take a close pitch for a called third strike. I probably say the following quote from my father in my sleep because I heard it so much growing up…”if it was close enough to be called a strike, it was close enough to swing.”
Clear your head. With less than two strikes, hitters can “look” for certain pitches in various situations. They don’t have that luxury with two strikes. You cannot assume anything with two strikes. You have to be ready for any pitch in any location. All looking or guessing is out the window with two strikes. The key is to see the pitch and if it’s near the strike zone, try to put the barrel on the ball.
Have a goal of hitting it right back at the
pitchers feet with two strikes.
Hit the pitcher’s feet. With less than two strikes, it is to the batters advantage to have a “gap to gap” mentality. Hitting the ball into a gap requires two things - an aggressive swing and the ability to stay on top of the ball to hit line-drives. With two strikes, the thinking needs to be a bit different. Putting the ball in play instead of driving the ball to a gap becomes the new goal. The goal of hitting the pitcher’s feet with the ball accomplishes a few good things. First, it forces a batter to get on top of the ball in order to hit the ball down towards the pitcher’s feet. This is important because many pitchers will try to get the batter to swing at a high and out-of-the-zone fastball with two strikes. Thinking “stay on top of the ball” will either allow the batter to lay off that high pitch or at least approach it correctly should he swing. Second, it allows for imperfect timing. If the batter is a little early he will just pull the ball a little more. If he is a little late on the pitch he just hits it to the opposite field. A goal of hitting the ball through the middle gives the batter more room for error in their timing. Third, having a goal of hitting the pitcher’s feet with the ball gets the hitter to focus on a short, quick swing instead of a longer, more powerful swing. This approach allows the hitter to stay back longer on the pitch since they are not attempting to drive the ball into a gap.
Positive commands. As I stated in this previous post, it is very important for any athlete to give himself positive commands before and during a performance. To accomplish this, an athlete needs to tell himself what he wants to do instead of what he doesn’t want to do. I used this example before but let’s try it again. As you read this DO NOT think of a purple elephant. You probably thought of a purple elephant. This is because our brains do not recognize negative commands. If a hitter says to himself “don’t strike out” the brain interprets that as “strike out.” If he says “don’t swing at the high pitch” the brain interprets that as “swing at the high pitch.” What a batter should say is “put the bat on the ball,” “swing at strikes,” or “get on top of the ball.” This tells the body what you want it to do making it more likely the body will actually do it.