Have a Plan
Having a plan when you’re up at bat greatly affects the likelihood that you will hit a ball hard off of the ‘sweet-spot’ of your bat.
During soft-toss drills, I have asked many of you, "Where is your pitch?" Some of you quickly reached out with your bottom hand and pointed to a spot in the strike zone. Others just raised your shoulders in a universal "I don’t know" gesture.
‘Your pitch’ is a pitch in a specific location that you can really drive.
Ted Williams was once asked by a young ballplayer for some hitting advice. The last MLB player to bat .400 for a season (.406, actually) told the kid that the most important part of hitting is to "get a good pitch to hit".
YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR PITCH (the Splendid Splinter’s favorite was belt-high, middle of the plate — a popular choice). This is the first part of having a plan, or an approach, at the plate.
Next you need to know the count. You adjust your approach according to the count. Adjusting your approach means redefining your ‘hitting zone’ — where a pitch must be for you to swing — prior to each pitch.
When you step into the box with a fresh count (0-0), you should be looking to swing only at a pitch in the appropriate ‘hitting zone’ for a no-strike count: something smaller than the entire strike zone with a center in the location of ‘your pitch’. If you take a strike outside your ‘hitting zone’ with a no-strike count, that’s "a good take". If the pitch comes where you were looking for it, crush it.
If the count is 1-0, your approach stays pretty much the same as 0-0; looking for a pitch in your no-strikes ‘hitting zone’. Again, taking a strike outside your ‘hitting zone’ with a no-strike count is "a good take". And, again, if the pitch comes where you were looking for it, crush it.
At 2-0 or 3-1, your approach should have you ‘shrinking’ your ‘hitting zone’ even more toward ‘your pitch’. If it’s not there where you love it, ‘spit on it’. But be ready to rip, because you know the pitcher is probably trying to groove one (he doesn’t want to go 3-0 or walk you). If he lays it in there where you were looking for it, crush it.
If you ever get a ‘green-light’ to swing 3-0, you must ‘shrink’ your ‘hitting zone’ to only ‘your pitch’. If it comes in exactly where you’re looking for it, crush it.
If the count is 0-1 or 1-1 or 2-1, your approach becomes one of looking to swing at a pitch in the normal strike zone (within the full width of the plate (17") and between your letters and your knees). If it’s a strike, take your rip.
With a two-strike count (0-2, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2), your approach moves the other direction: you’ll need to ‘expand’ your ‘hitting zone’. Think in terms of adding 2 inches to each side of the normal strike zone. If the pitch is two inches inside or two inches outside or two inches below your knees or two inches above your letters, you need to be be swinging to ‘protect’ from getting ‘punched out’.
Having a plan at the plate will help you "get a good pitch to hit" and maybe you’ll be the next Ted Williams. :-)
P.S. I’ve added an album to the ‘Photos’ section called ‘Hitting Zones’ with pictures that show some of these concepts.