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Strikeouts! The bane of every coach and player's existence. Since the beginning of baseball and softball, players have and coaches have hated striking out. It may be surprising to read, but this article is not about how strikeouts are okay. Also, it is not about how strikeouts can be good outs, or how they're just part of the game. This article is about limiting strikeouts with one movement change and one approach change.
Interestingly, the more pitches hitters see in an at-bat, the less likely a hitter is to be successful. Most of the 'quality at-bat culture' is just incorrect. Seeing more pitches does have a place in the game, but in individual at-bats, it decreases success rate. Period. Check out the chart below detailing the batting average by count in MLB in 2018:
A common misconception is that you track the baseball with your eyes. I know it sounds funny to say you don't see with your eyes. In hitting, your neck movement helps you track and predict the ball's location. Turning your head is much better than eye muscle movement for ball tracking. Turning your head back into the contact zone will not allow you to 'see' contact. However, it does prepare your body to deliver a faster barrel. Check out Chicago Cubs Kris Bryant and how he uses his neck to help him track the pitch:
Game usable bat speed is key in hitting baseballs and softballs. Check out this video about head position and bat acceleration.
You can hear the sound difference very clearly.
This gives a hitter more time to decide if he should swing. Also, this extra time gives the hitter more information about pitch type, speed, and location. More information leads to fewer swings and misses. Another great benefit of more information is less swinging at balls out of the strike zone. Joey Votto is a great example of this as his plate discipline is out of this world.
You can see that Votto swung at 'clear balls' very rarely in the 2018 season. To put this into perspective, Votto saw over 1,200 pitches last season and had a chase rate of just 13.1%, which led the majors.
Votto also was very successful in 'moving the baseball', meaning putting the ball in play only striking out in 16.2% of his plate appearances.
It is counterintuitive to think that swinging more often early in the count will lead to fewer strikeouts. However, taking advantage of the pitcher wanting to throw strikes is key. Use that to your advantage as a hitter and take the game to them! Practicing turning your head back to the ball will lead to a huge early bat speed advantage. So turn your passive approach into aggression and turn your neck to hit. More bat speed and fewer strikeouts will be your instant reward.