Breaking Down At-Bats

One of the most powerful tools I give to my hitters to help them remain present during their at-bats and to help them avoid the confidence yo-yo that comes along with getting hits or making outs is to have them break their at-bats down into the smallest pieces possible. Typically, hitters already do this in that they break the game down into a collection of at-bats. After a game they’ll tell you that they went 1 for 3 or 0 for 4 or whatever. Unfortunately this doesn’t tell the whole story. Instead of looking at a game as a collection of at-bats (which it is) it’s helpful for hitters to take it a step farther. What I mean is games are a collection of at-bats and at-bats are a collection of individual pitches and so games are nothing more than a collection of pitches.

Often times hitters will produce a negative result during an at-bat and come back to the dugout feeling as though they had a bad at-bat. Quite frequently however the at-bat will swing either positively or negatively based on one pitch. They just miss a pitch or get a bad call from an umpire. So in reality while they may have produced an undesired result they may not have had a bad at-bat at all but rather just a bad pitch. I prefer to have my hitters eliminate the idea of at-bats in their head and focus on each individual pitch and use each pitch as feedback for the adjustments they need to make or for information that will put them in a better position to succeed on the next pitch. If, for example, a hitter has 4 at-bats and sees an average of 5 pitches for that at-bat then that hitter didn’t have 4 at-bats in that game but rather saw 20 pitches.

Knowing that a hitters job at the plate is not to produce a result but rather to put themselves in the best position to succeed which is simply to track the ball into the hitting zone and execute a mechanically sound swing then they had 20 opportunities to do just that. Based on their ability to execute their plan (track the ball into the hitting zone and execute a good swing) will dictate how they performed in that game and not the end result. If on 3/4 of those pitches they were able to execute their plan (by either putting good swings on pitches inside the hitting zone or taking pitches that were outside the hitting zone) then I’d say they had a very successful day regardless of what the box score might say.

Looking at hitting in this way allows the hitter to stay more focused pitch to pitch. Since the majority of at-bats will end up with an undesired result it’s important that hitters avoid basing their success on the result they produced but rather how they approached each pitch. If they were able to execute their plan and stay present by focusing on each individual pitch they will be putting themselves into the best position to succeed long-term.

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