Hitting Programme Part 1

Geelong Baseball Association is pleased to introduce a three-part “Hitting Programme” for the interest of coaches and players at all levels.

The program has been developed and is presented by Phil Allen. It was first published in its entirety by Baseball Victoria during the 2008/09 domestic season.

Victorian baseball interests will be aware that Phil is also a Victorian Claxton Shield Assistant Coach, Australian scout for the Colorado Rockies organisation and a former General Manager of the Melbourne Monarchs ABL club. Phil has kindly offered to share the Hitting Program with members of the broader baseball community, at all levels.

“The hitting program has been designed to provide the means for each hitter within the program to realise his full potential and to develop into a productive, knowledgeable hitter as quickly as possible,” said Allen.

“Accelerated development is the central goal and can only be achieved with continuity in instruction,” he said.

“Uniformity in teaching principles is essential to the success of the young hitters within the program. Staff and hitters alike should be well versed in all areas of the program.”

The Hitting Program is presented in sixteen sections, as outlined below.

I.           ACCELERATED DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
 
II.          DEVELOPING THE PATIENTLY AGGRESSIVE HITTING APPROACH
 
III.         THE MENTAL GAME
 
IV.        THE VISION PLAN
 
V.         SITUATIONAL HITTING
 
VI.         TWO STRIKE APPROACH
 
VII.        BATTING PRACTICE ROUTINES
 
VIII.       MECHANICS
 
IX.         BUNTING
 
X.         THE MAINTENANCE PROGRAM
 
XI.         HITTERS CHECKLIST
 
XII.        PITCHERS AS HITTERS
 
XIII.       TERMINOLOGY
 
XIV.       DRILLS
 
XV.        RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE HITTING COACH
 
XVI.       COUNT KNOWLEDGE

We are pleased to present PART ONE of the Hitting Programe covering Sections 1 – 5.

Baseball interests are invited to copy and use the contents as they see fit, provided that the appropriate acknowledgement is made.

We thank Phil for his preparedness to share his expertise and wealth of coaching experience with the wider baseball community.

I.          ACCELERATED DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
GOALS
  • Increase the amount of quality repetitions taken by hitters (on field, in cage, or in any area related to hitting)
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses as soon as possible
  • Establish maintenance programs to turn weaknesses into strengths
  • Instruction needs to be consistent at every level
  • Coaches must know at what point the player has reached the saturation point, both physically and mentally
  • Leave ego at the door and realise that success comes in developing the academy’s hitters
  • Strive to help the underachieving hitter; broaden the scope and help him establish a strong work ethic.
IDENTIFY WITH THE PLAYER

Knowing the player and amending his work ethic, behaviour and characteristics takes an extended period of time. The end of the academy is not the end of his work, rather the end of a segment of  his hitting career. An unmatched hitting coach is one with passion for developing the entire hitter and one who can fill the players with enthusiasm.

II.          DEVELOPING THE PATIENTLY AGGRESSIVE HITTING APPROACH
CHARACTERISTICS
  • Ready to hit at all times
  • Knows his pitch and the location of each pitch
  • Knows what his strengths and weaknesses are, what he can and cannot handle.
  • Takes advantage of a pitcher who struggles to throw quality strikes
  • Exerts more effort both physically and mentally; intense focus is crucial
  • Patiently aggressive versus impatiently aggressive is a fine line, and it separates a successful hitter from a mediocre hitter.
METHOD
  • Hitters must be willing to take their concentration and intensity to the next level.
  • Use the bullpen warm-up periods of the pitching staff to work on strike zone knowledge and pitch recognition.
  • Do any drill at any time that will lead to better self-discipline and pitch recognition
  • Learn and understand your use of the strike zone as quickly as possible
  • Use every at bat to your advantage, regardless of game/practice/cage etc
  • Hitters can improve strike zone knowledge by taking and/or swinging at pitches
  • Establish an aggressive attitude as the foundation and then begin to refine the approach to include patience
  • Avoid swinging at trick pitches down, be prepared to protect zone in 2 strike counts
DUGOUT ROUTINE
  • Analyse pitching patterns. Watch opposing pitchers vs teammates, watch other RH or LH hitters, identify situations, identify his out pitch.
  • Examine infield movements, their early movements can tip off pitches.
  • Categorise command. What pitches does he throw for strikes and more importantly what does he not throw for a strike?
  • Recall his approach the last time you faced him. Keep a journal on all pitchers for future reference.
  • Watch catcher’s throwing ability and his problem pitch at the plate. These can factor in on possible pitch selection. For example, poor arm and base stealing threat on first = more fastballs.
  • Pitcher’s pace. Works quickly (slow him down). Works slowly (keep your rhythm-step-out). The hitter is in control.
ON DECK CIRCLE
  • Visualise any and all possible hitting situations that might be challenging. Be prepared and relax!
  • Be familiar with the game situation
  • Be a coach for base runner who is scoring (which way to slide or stand, etc.)
  • Time the pitcher’s delivery by practicing load and launch.
RESULTS
 
QUALITY PLAN + QUALITY MIND SET + QUALITY SWING = PATIENTLY AGGRESSIVE HITTER
 
III.         THE MENTAL GAME
Mental preparation is the key to hitter development. Physical skill is difficult to develop to its fullest extent without the proper mental approach. All successful hitters spend time each day visualising the pitcher they will be facing, what pitches he throws, when he will see those pitches and what he has done with them in the past. He is going into his mind’s library and using recall to prepare for the next battle.
 
CHARACTERISTICS
  • Successful hitters have strong mental skills and know they can succeed because they manufacture positive thoughts and have an optimistic outlook flowing through their minds when at bat
  • Good hitters deal with failure by quickly learning from it and by keeping success in perspective through goal setting, visualization, relaxation, concentration skills, and cognitive restructuring
  • A hitter must realise that he cannot control the outcome, only his preparation and how he reacts to it
  • Control of the personal thought process is the key to hitting development
  • Hitters must develop a mental plan and follow that plan on a daily basis
  • Mentally tough players take responsibility for their thought processes
  • They focus their energy on the areas they can control and their thoughts are positive whether dealing with past or present unsuccessful performance outcomes
  • Learn to play the game one pitch at a time, once a pitch is over the hitter must begin preparation for the next
  • Preparation for the next day should begin shortly after the end of the game
  • Replay the events in the mind, make note of what happened and what can be learned from the experience and then get ready for the next game
  • Visualize as many different scenarios as possible; see successful execution
  • Formulate the plan and work it the next day while getting ready for the game
  • The good news is that all these mental skills can be learned and will be learned if the hitter puts in mental practice time on a daily basis
GOALS
Goals are the basis for success. They are not dreams and they are not wishes. Goals result from a plan and they are unique. Some are short term, while others are intermediate or long term.
  • A goal of every hitter should be to control his mental game. This means that he should control his thoughts and emotions
  • To be successful, hitters need to develop a goal system comprised of 90% of the time dedicated to process goals and 10% to outcome goals. The goal system should guided by short, intermediate and long range goals
  • These goals should be specific, realistic and obtainable
  • Be aware enough to reset goals when accomplished or met with resistance.
IV.        THE VISION PLAN
See the ball; hit the ball is a saying that has been around baseball for years. It is the act of hitting the ball in its purest sense. Successful hitters like to have more information available. Such as the types of pitches the pitcher throws, when he likes to throw them and if he can throw them for strikes. Pitcher knowledge is paramount in hitter’s success. Still when the ball is thrown, early identification is perhaps the biggest single thing in hitting. Hitters do not perform the other skills of hitting equally so it stands to reason that visual skills are not equal. Vision is the guiding sense to human performance. Almost everything you do begins with what you see. They eyes provide you with the critical information your body requires to do almost anything.
  • Vision is the most important sense, bringing in over 90% of what your body senses and observes
  • The average fastball takes .4 of a second to travel from release to contact. This can be an exciting time frame if the hitter has a plan in place to see the ball early
  • Half the time is spent recognizing the pitch, the other half is spent swinging the bat. In recognizing the pitch the hitter must decide whether it is a strike or a ball and whether to swing or take
  • By developing a plan to see the ball earlier the hitter will be able to slow down the action of the ball and make better decisions
  • Be aware of the pitcher’s release point, what you are doing before release point and how you got to release point.
Vision by itself is not the entire answer to better hitting but certainly carries legitimacy in developing consistency in early pitch recognition.
V.         SITUATIONAL HITTING
PHILOSOPHY
Situational hitting is the essence of offensive, “winning” baseball. The whole reason to hit is to score runs. To score runs consistently, hitters must be able to handle the bat and execute a variety of tasks, from sacrifice bunting to extra base hits.
The entire lineup must be able to hit in situations to be a consistent run producing team. The foundation of situational hitting is to score runs intentionally by moving runners around the bases in a systematic fashion. The team that scores the most runs wins. Individual averages mean nothing. It doesn’t matter who moves the runner or who gets the RBI. Baseball is a team game played by a group of individuals performing as one with a single objective: “WIN”.
The intent behind situational hitting is team offense. “Me” and “I” hitters are not team players or winners. Check your ego at the door and play to win.
 
DEVELOPMENTAL STEPS
  • Be aware
  • Attempt to execute
  • Execute
  • Execute without making an out
  • All hitters must be aware of the situations and ultimately be accountable for execution.
ULTIMATE TEAM PLAY
  • The ultimate in team play is the execution of a situation with two strikes after battling the pitcher all through the at bat. Hitters are not taking two shots for the team and the final strike is for them, all three strikes are for us, develop the proper mindset, play winning baseball.

SITUATIONS

The situation may change pitch by pitch in one at bat. Runners may change locations on the bases and infielders may change depths. In a single at bat the hitter may have two or three situations to try to execute, the most common are:
  • Sacrifice Bunt – With Runner on 1B
  • Sacrifice Bunt – With Runner on 1B and 2B or 2B only
  • Hit and Run
  • Runner on 3B less than two outs, infield in
  • Runner on 3B less than two outs, infield back
  • Squeeze bunt.
The winning team player derives personal satisfaction in the successful execution of any of these situations, at any time. This hitter is always ready to find a way to help the team win.
SACRIFICE BUNT
  • Bunt Strikes
  • Non-directional, deaden the bunt
  • Early bounce (down angle), get the ball fair. Don’t try to be too fine.
HIT AND RUN
  • Hit the ball on the ground! It is a great skill to have the ability to hit the ball to the right side in this situation
  • Swing at every pitch unless it bounces CLEARLY in front of home plate
  • This play can be used to create a big inning with a base hit by opening up some holes, staying out of a double play, or getting a runner into scoring position
  • Hitters should think about staying on top of the ball
  • If possible, avoid hitting ground balls to the middle of the infield.
MAN ON 2B – NO OUTS
  • Hitter tries to drive ball to the right side, moving the runner to third base or possibly scoring him. Right-handed hitters must be patient and get a pitch out over the plate that he can handle. Left-handed hitters move up on the plate and look to pull the ball
  • Pitchers will work right-handed hitters hard in and lots of off-speed stuff trying to get them to pull the ball on the ground or pop the ball up. Left handed hitters often times get thrown hard stuff away, making it difficult to pull the ball
  • Being able to push or drag bunt in this situation is a great asset
  • Hitters should all have the ability to move a runner from 2B with a ground ball when the job must get done. Managers have the options of letting the hitter try to drive the ball to the right side or making him hit a ground ball to the right side (Sac. Bunt).
MAN ON 3B – LESS THAN 2 OUTS – INFIELD BACK
  • The other team is giving up the run as long as the ball is not hit to pitcher (unavoidable) or the corners (avoidable). The hitter should try to drive the ball to the big part of the field
  • Look for the ball down and out over the plate. Ground ball in the middle will score the run. A pop-up won’t.
  • With 2 strikes, the hitter should think about hitting a ground ball up the middle
  • A base hit bunt in this situation is also a consideration.
MAN ON 3B – LESS THAN 2 OUTS – INFIELD IN
  • The hitter should look for a ball out over the plate that he can drive to the big part of the field
  • The pitcher is trying to get a ground ball by working down in the strike zone
  • Trying to drive the ball to the opposite gap will result in more sacrifice flies than ground balls and produce more runs in this situation
  • Do not try to manufacture a fly ball by altering your swing. This causes more pop-ups than fly balls
SQUEEZE
  • Hitter attempts to bunt any pitched ball towards the SS or 2B
  • Hitter squares around when front foot of pitcher hits ground
  • Technique can be a shortened version of the sacrifice bunt