Stop Striking Out with One Simple Move!

Written By: Chas Pippitt

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.

Approach: See Less Pitches

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:

MLB numbers on each Count
  1. The batting average on the first pitch was .340. Yes, there are higher batting averages in 2-0, 3-0 and 3-1 counts but to get into those 'hitters counts' you are relying on the pitcher to fall behind. Of course, this is going to happen and we must jump on those opportunities to drive the ball when in those counts. The fact of the matter is swinging 0-0 still shows a high success rate for hitters.
  2. If you take the first pitch, like SO MANY coaches require their hitters to do, you really limit your success. Every strike you take your batting average falls tremendously.
  3. The truth is this: if you see less than 3 pitches before you hit the ball fair, you cannot strike out!  Be aggressive and attack fastballs early in the count.  Pitchers want to pitch from ahead in the count. Use that knowledge to your advantage and be ready to swing early and often.

Track the Ball with Your Nose: Neck Moves Not Eye Moves

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:

Kris-Bryant

Neck Movement and Bat Speed

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.

  1. In the first swing, yes, my body is moving forward and my head stays forward.  This movement helps me speed the bat up.
  2. The second swing you can see a less forward move and better head positioning.  This head position and neck moves allow me to speed the bat up earlier in the turn.

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.

Joey Votto

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.

Less Strikeouts, More Agression, Better Accleration

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.

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VincephilEmmet Joseph (Joe)Admin Recent comment authors
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ejgoodb
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ejgoodb

Agree with all above. But I think there is a serious “before” step. I believe many youth baseball players, and even some at a higher level, do not have the correct pre-swing thought process. They decide to begin the swing based on when they see a probable strike. I think this swing thought is absolutely wrong; the eye–brain-body connection cannot possibly react quickly enough. The swing thought needs to be that “every pitch is a strike until it is not”—-and the lower body starts the swing. Then the repetition based eye-brain-body connection can get the bat to the right place,… Read more »

Admin

Joe, Thanks for the comment and we definitely agree with you. There is such a focus from youth coaches on their players just making contact that the pre-swing mindset is overlooked. One phrase that I like to use here during lessons is “The ball tells you to take, not to swing.” Meaning that we want our hitters to always be “yes, yes, swing” or “yes, yes, take” in their mind when the pitch is thrown. Obviously, this happens super fast but can still be trained. This is a topic that we will definitely write an article this month and show… Read more »

ejgoodb
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ejgoodb

I’m really glad and I will look forward to the mindset article. I’ve also used the “YES-YES-NO” technique. One “thought” that I have also used is “DON’T BLINK” “Get rid of your blinks before the pitch.” A blink takes about 100-150 milliseconds and it costs your brain the opportunity to compute for several feet.

phil
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phil

The 0-0 count average should be very high in the MLB. Those guys are often looking for a very specific pitch and/or location on that first pitch, so when they actually get that pitch, they’re ready and produce. An interesting secondary number would be out of those 18,000 plate appearances how many included swings at the first pitch? 5%? I’d love to see one more column in that top graphic that showed that.

Vince
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Vince

Correct me if I’m wrong but in the video above I see two different swings.