Swing Plane and the myth of the downward swing.
This is usually the thought process of the high school kid who realizes he just spent the last however many years of his life working on his game and just when he became the best player on his high school team he gets to college and finds out his work has only begun.
I saw this happen to people I…
I know I have been behind on the page and I apologize, but coaching college baseball is a busy gig. It is great but really busy, I am having a blast and learning a ton about all aspect of coaching, not just the on field stuff. Again, I know I am behind but I am going to post a lot of content Monday. I am going to do a few videos, so stop by and check them out. We had camp today from 10:00-4:30 and we have youth camp tomorrow from 1:00-4:30. talk to everyone soon, I hope you are having a great weekend.
What is the true purpose of the hit and run and what should the hitter be trying to do? These are questions I always ask every time I watch a hitter take BP and try and chop the ball into the ground or really try to go the opposite way with a pitch when it is inside. I do not understand what is being taught and why when I see this.
Here are my thoughts: The hit and run is a calculated risk which puts my runner in motion and puts my hitter at ease by knowing he must swing (he does not have to think). I want my hitter to keep his same approach, I do not want him thinking about hitting a ground ball or trying to hit the ball the opposite way. Why do I feel this way? First of all you do not know what the pitcher is throwing and even if you did it would be hard to put the ball on the ground every single time. If I could do that, or teach my hitters to do that, why wouldn’t I just teach them to hit line drives every time at the plate. It is impossible, that is why. So I assume you have a hitter who makes contact a majority of the time at the plate or you wouldn’t put a hit and run on. If your hitter is unreliable you would just straight steel, just like if you wanted the hitter to give themselves up you would simply sacrifice bunt. That being said I want my hitter to take his normal swing with the hope that he drives the ball to the gap and scores the runner from first or hits a hard single which moves the runner 1st to 3rd. Again this is a calculated risk I am taking and I am OK with other outcomes. For example, if the hitter hits a routine pop fly and your runner is running the bases properly (meaning he looked in like he should) he will have no problem retreating back to the base. If he hits a line drive at someone and it results in a double play, so be it that may happen and that is why it is a calculated risk. Also, if he does hit a ground ball, which is possible the runner should be able to be the play to second and thus moving the runner at the very least, but that is not my intention. I think the hit and run is a more aggressive play than some give it credit for. I do not think a hit and run means the hitter changes anything about what he is trying to do at the plate.
I have heard the conversation about the two strike approach at every level I have played or coached. I think it is a topic that is very much a gray area and not set in stone.
Example: Nobody on with two outs and my three hitter is up. With two strikes, simply putting the ball in play does nothing for me. In this situation I want my hitter to take the exact same approach he always does when it comes to his swing. I do not want him to cut down or widen out and simply try to put the ball in play and wait for the pitcher to make a mistake. I do want him to expand the zone a little and fight off close pitches, I am a firm believer in the more pitches a pitchers throws in an at bat the more frustrated he gets and he becomes more susceptible to making a mistake, and since we are not going to change our approach you are ready to jump on it.
Example 2: Guy on third less than two outs. In this situation I will ask my hitters to cut down on the ferocity of their swing and focus more on putting a bat on the ball knowing a ball in play has a good chance to score a run. What does this mean? It means I want my hitter to relax, slow down, and think about letting a fast ball get really deep. I tell my hitters that getting jammed in this situation is OK because I do not want them swinging at curve balls or change ups in the dirt. The more I think about it I almost want to tell my hitters to look off speed (in order to slow down and stay back) and just fight off a fast ball.
With my power hitters up I want to let them swing the bat the same as they always do unless it is the situation described in example 2. Any other situation I am OK with them letting it fly. Why? because chances are your power guys are not your speed guys so a little routine grounder or a slow roller they probably won’t beat out anyways. Also, I think there is a negative trade off when it comes to strike outs and balls they could have hit in the gap if they didn’t cut down their swing. What does this mean? It means I think you lose more hits by making them cut down their swing then you gain base runners by asking them to just put the ball in play. Remember, even a bad team will field above .900 so why cut down the swing so much, when you are now relying on an error to get you on base. I will let my power hitters take their hacks because they just may hit a ball hard somewhere. That being said I do like my hitters to put the ball in play, but I hope they are good enough to do so without changing everything they do.
The best two strike approach is to not get to two strikes. This means hitters should be aggressive early in counts especially on fast balls. Do not let a fast ball get by you early in the count. If the pitchers doesn’t throw you a fast ball then so be it, but do not help him out by swinging at pitches out of the zone early. Know the zone, control the zone, and don’t miss your pitch when you get it. By not swinging at pitches out of the zone early in an at bat you will find yourself in favorable counts. The key now is to take advantage of these counts.
School and Summer baseball:
These are times when coaches can come watch a player play in a live game situation with or without the player knowing they are there. Showcases can also provide live games but the player always knows people are watching and may be nervous. During your school season it is tougher for the coach to actually come watch because they are still playing as well. Unless your team goes deep into the playoffs coaches will see you the most in the summer time. What can you do to make sure you are getting in front of the right people? Make sure your summer team goes to the right tournaments. All teams are not created equal, some teams are put together by high school coaches simply to get players more playing time and help them get better and other teams are for the sole purpose of getting players exposure. Teams that are looking to provide exposure will usually do a lot of traveling in and out of state. These teams will go to major tournaments where there is a proven track record of college and pro scouts attending. Do your research, figure out what teams offer, where they go, how much they cost, and what that cost covers. Last but not least, check the roster. Although you want to be on a good team, you also want to make sure you are going to play. If you are a shortstop and the team you are thinking of playing for has a shortstop that is being recruited by numerous D-1 schools you might be better suited playing somewhere else. Do not get me wrong competition is good for players but at this point you want the maximum amount of playing time at the position you would like to play.
School ball is important because college coaches talk to high school coaches about their players and other players they have come across. School ball is a great opportunity to get your name out there with other high school coaches who will share information with each other and college coaches in general conversation. For example, how many times have you heard about a player from another school but you have never actually watched that player in a game. This happens with coaches too, but if a college coach gets their interest peaked they will get your schedule and come see you play. It is just like anything else, if you hear about it enough you have to go find out what it is about. Always be respectful of opposing coaches and always play hard. You never know who they know. During my playing career in high school and college I had numerous coaches tell me they liked my game and if I needed any help, please let them know and they would help in any way they could.
Use your resources:
Ask Coaches and instructors to contact a coach.
A good word from someone the coach knows or trusts can go a long way. Your high school coach, summer coach, and private instructors are good people to ask for help. Talk to them and find out if they would be willing to make a call or send an email on your behalf. Most coaches will do this, the only stipulation they will have is, the school must be one at which they think you are capable of playing at. These people have reputations and they want to keep them, if they get a reputation for trying to send guys places they do not belong college coaches will stop listening. Since you trust these people enough them to ask for a favor you should trust them enough to be honest with you. Also, if you go this route you must follow through and play no matter what happens. You must remember things will not always be perfect and if you quit it will hurt the reputation of the person that vouched for you. On one occasion I have had a player quit after we told a coach he would do anything in the world just to play college baseball. I am now very careful who I put my name on, and if I do vouch for someone I tell the coach the whole story, strengths, weaknesses, grades, and character, I make sure they know what they are getting.
When you are playing catch the name of the game is catch, not chase or pick up, it is catch. So how do you play catch the right way? First you play often and second you work on throwing the ball to a person. The person who does not have the ball should give the person throwing the ball a target, this helps concentration and focus. You should always throw to something, do not just throw it in a general region, look at a target and try to hit that target. In a game when you have to throw someone out you have to throw to a base and more precisely you have to throw to a person who has to stay close to the base so get used to hitting a target when you are playing catch.
Receiving the ball during catch:
When you are playing catch and you do not have the ball your eyes should always be on your target, this is for safety reasons. Also when you receive the ball you should always try to catch the ball with two hands and have the ball in between your shoulders. What does this do? First, two hands is proper form and second catching the ball between your shoulders makes you move your feet like you will have to do in a game on a throw that isn’t on target and it is makes catching the ball easier because it is right in front of your face. Obviously if the ball is too high or too far away you will have to adjust but you will still have to move your feet. Do not play catch with poor form, it creates bad habits. You always want to be creating good habits and playing catch properly will allow you to do so. Step and throw to a target and catch the ball with two hands between your shoulders. Go out and have some fun playing the best game of all time.