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Do you hear these coaching cues during games? More than likely when your son or daughter has two strikes these are the things yelled to them. Yes, they are common. But are they correct?
Often times when a hitter gets two strikes they go into pure defensive mode. Changing their stance, choking up on the bat, just trying to get the bat to the ball. We all have to ask ourselves is this really going to give hitters the best chance to hit the ball with two strikes.
From my own personal experience playing ball in college and in the minor leagues for a couple of years, choking up on the bat and widening your stance with two strikes seemed to be the thing to do. I always wondered why this was because we rarely practiced this yet in games we had to do what our coaches asked.
In baseball and softball, your stance and how you hold the bat are two variables that need to remain consistent. Just because there are two strikes doesn't mean you need to change those two things. if you have two strikes and are fighting to get a hit, you need to take your best swing. Choking up moves the sweet spot of the bat around. For kids who already have little to no barrel awareness, this is a terrible idea.
Your best swing comes from what you practice the most and feels the best. Check out the video below to further understand why changing your stance is not worth the hype.
Many of you reading this may think that I am completely against choking up on the bat. If this is what a hitter does consistently and feels the most comfortable then, by all means, go for it. Although, there have been studies shown that when you do choke up on the bat you can get the bat moving faster. But, if this is something that you normally don't do it's going to mess with your timing at the plate. On top of it not only messing with your timing you won't have as much plate coverage, and with two strikes I'm sure you would want all of that! As I have said before, keep it consistent. If you feel comfortable choking up on the bat do it but make sure that what you like and what feels the best for you. But with two strikes your best bet is to go with what you do the most, especially with two strikes.
The best two-strike approach in my book is not letting the count get two strikes in the first place. Pitchers early in at-bats are trying to get ahead by throwing strikes. As more strikes are thrown the batting average of hitters goes down.
What I mean by early and often is that when you step in that box you have to be ready to hit. More times than not the first pitch is usually the best pitch to take a hack at. Check out the chart below to give you a better idea of why it's important to hit early in the counts.
Above is a chart of data on how well hitters performed in all counts across major league baseball. The chart is from beyondtheboxscore.com and was created by Baseball Reference. This chart is perfect for explaining why it is important to hunt for good pitches early, if not the first pitch! Everything highlighted in red is with two strikes and everything highlighted in green is with less than two strikes. Stay aggressive early in the count, hunt the fastball early and do not take strikes.
Don't and start overthinking everything- a lot of times I see hitters body language get bad and they have this look of defeat on their face. If you want to be a good hitter it shouldn't matter what the count is because they are always ready.
Stay fastball ready- I can’t tell you how many times I was thinking off-speed (curveball, change-up, slider, etc.) and then a fastball gets thrown over the plate and I froze. Stay fastball ready and adjust to the off-speed, this is easier said than done but this is what you have to do.
Don't go into defensive mode- Take your best swing on pitches over the plate. Of course, we want to put the ball in the play, but make sure you are doing that with your best swing.
At the end of the day if you want to be successful in baseball or softball you have to be able to hit. Keep your stance consistent and this will give hitters the best chance to get hits. This will give hitters the best chance because their normal stance is what they practice the most. If you are going to make changes with your stance or how much you choke up on the bat make sure you do this in practice first. When its time to play you have to go out and compete with what you have. Second guessing yourself and making pointless changes will on hurt your performance.