Having a quality approach at the plate is one of the best ways to put yourself in the best position to succeed. Too often however, hitters either don’t take the time to formulate such an approach or if they do they unknowingly end up creating an approach that is far from empowering. Typically, hitters tend to set an approach that is result oriented. One that is focused on achieving a particular result. This could be anything from moving a runner over, to driving a run in, to getting a hit, or even hitting a ball hard. Unfortunately, having a result oriented focus leads to inconsistent performance at the plate.
In order to both maximize your ability at the plate and do so consistently it’s important that your approach puts you in position to repeat quality swings on quality pitches. This simple strategy allows you to place yourself in the best position to produce positive results pitch to pitch. With this in mind it’s important that the approach you set is process oriented, meaning that it allows you to focus on the execution of controllable steps that make success more likely. So the next time you walk up to the plate ask yourself a few questions…
What do you hope to accomplish in this at-bat? What goal do you hope to achieve?
Yes, it is important to have a general understanding of what you hope to achieve so that you can be more specific with your process oriented approach. Is there a runner on 2cnd and nobody out? Is there a runner on third with less than 2 outs? Is there nobody on? If so, What are the pitcher’s tendencies or patterns? Can he command the entire zone or does he tend to throw certain pitches to certain locations? Has he been bouncing his breaking ball? What pitch does he go to when he’s ahead/behind in the count? All of this is important information to help lead you to the next step of approach development.
What pitches in what locations make this outcome more likely?
It’s important to understand how pitch location dictates specific results. If you’re a right-handed hitter and you’re trying to move a runner over and your “goal” is to drive the ball to the opposite field then swinging at off speed pitches or pitches inside isn’t going to allow you to achieve that result. Knowing what locations you’re looking for and committing to only swinging at pitches in those locations until you have 2 strikes allows you to narrow your focus which makes it more likely that you’ll be successful at the pitches you swing at.
What do you need to focus on to consistently execute your best swing?
Hitters have a tendency to go up to the plate and just hope for the best. They think that their ability to execute their swing is based on “muscle memory”. This mentality leads to inconsistent swing execution. In order to achieve the result you desire it’s important to remember that results are the by product of quality execution and quality execution is 100% under your control. What we focus on, what thoughts we hold in our mind, dictate our ability to execute our best swing so take some time in your practice sessions to gain awareness of what thoughts allow for your best execution and then deliberately make that your focus at the plate.
Taking time to formulate your approach prior to each at-bat can greatly impact your level of success. Once of you have a clear picture of what pitches in what locations you’re committed to swinging at you simply need to look for those pitches and then completely focus on quality swing execution once the pitch enters those hitting zones. Trying to create specific results as an approach leads to inconsistent performance due to the uncertainty inherent in any given situation. It’s important to set up your approach in a way that eliminates uncertainty and empowers you to maximize your abilities.