4 Characteristics of a Great Hitter
What are the most important factors that make up a great hitter? While we could go in depth strictly about the mechanical components of a great hitter (which do play a role) there are also other areas that if missing could be holding you back from reaching your full potential.
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1.) Pitch Selection
“Don’t help the pitcher out!” A phrase, that although doesn’t always feel great to be pointed out, definitely has truth to it. Hitters getting down in the count by either not being aggressive in the zone (waiting for the perfect pitch) or swinging at a pitch 2 balls off the plate only wastes a valuable strike. And ultimately statistics say, getting down in the count decreases your chances of getting a hit.
Every week we get swing analyses from our members trying to figure out how they can improve their swing. Game film and front toss is frequently sent in and often, I see hitters swinging at pitches above their shoulders, or balls bouncing on the plate.
Front toss and machine work should be used as a time to practice strike zone awareness, so you don’t help the pitcher out come game time. Too many kids get in the cage and just swing at every pitch as if they let one go by they don’t get to hit anymore. Practice swinging at strikes and watching every ball when you’re in practice so you can be preparing yourself for the game.
Three Hitting Drills to work on Pitch Selection:
- Use 3 different colored sharpies (green, blue, black for example) and put 2 of the same color circles on a ball or tennis ball. Alternate colors for an entire bucket. Then off front toss, hitters have to call out the colors of the dot before they make contact
- Work the corners of the plate and have the hitter say “in” or “out” before making contact
- Have a hitter watch any middle out, or outside pitch, and only hit the middle or middle in pitches. After they successfully hit 8-10 pitches, take a break and then flip flop. Watch every in or middle in pitch and only swing at middle out or outside pitches. And for every ball they swing at they owe 2 pushups!
If a hitter has great pitch selection, but their timing is off on swinging at those good pitches, they won’t be able to hit consistently for average and power. Great hitters are able to adjust to the timing of each pitcher that steps on the mound. That’s why it’s so important to use the time in the on deck circle to time up the pitcher, rather than talking watching the birds or asking mom for a gatorade. Use that time to practice your load and stride to see the speed of the pitcher.
For many hitters they are not “slow to fast.” Meaning they look like they are rushed and have a very quick load and stride. We want to have a controlled load, and stride to help give our body time to get to a good launch position. Simply working on the “Slow to Fast” drill we have in the Hitting Vault can help a lot of hitters with their timing.
Check out this video from a few years back of Jose Bautista and the adjustment he made!
3.) Hitting Mechanics
Having good mechanics obviously helps a hitter be successful! Having a good controlled load and stride. Then getting to a good launch position where they have hand and hip separation and good torso tilt will set them up to be able to unleash with increased bat speed! From there having the correct kinetic chain is how you maximize your power. The correct kinetic chain for a power baseball or softball swing is in this order:
With that said, no two swings are identical! There are many different starting stances, high leg kicks, small leg kicks, etc. But there are key things especially in launch position, and the kinematic sequence that we see of elite hitters.
4.) Mental Approach to Hitting
As a hitter you can have all of the 3 previous characteristics down to a T, but still be struggling. How? It probably has to do with what’s going on between your ears. Great hitters are able to bounce back from failure by learning from it, making an adjustment, and believing in their preparation that they’ve done.
I hear so many hitters say they’re “in a slump.” It’s not usually that your swing has changed drastically from 2 weeks ago when you were hitting .400. It most likely has to do with you having one or more of these things going on:
- Doubting yourself
- Thinking about previous at bats/failures
- Taking a defensive error you made with you to the plate
- Being passive at the plate, waiting for the “perfect pitch” and not attacking pitches in the zone
- Letting your nerves get to you, heart rate is too high
- Not breathing when you step in the box, very tense
- Saying things like “don’t strike out”
- A bad call by the umpire upset you and got you out of your zone
You must train your mental approach of the game just as much as you train to perfect your swing!
I always tell the hitters I work with to do research on mental toughness. Hitting in baseball and softball is extremely hard, and learning to bounce back from failure is a critical part to being a great hitter.
I recommend checking the books below on mental toughness Reading mental toughness books like, “Mind Gym” by Gary Mack (great for middle schoolers or older), “The Champion’s Mind” by Jim Afremow and “Heads-Up Baseball” by Ken Ravizza will undoubtedly help take a hitter to the next level without setting foot in a cage.
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