Guest Post: Developing A Hitter's Approach in the Off-Season

Guest Post: Developing A Hitter's Approach in the Off-Season

This post comes from AHP's Director of Hitting Development, Connor Burns. Enjoy!

Was I on time?

Was that a good pitch to hit?

Far too many hitters get trapped in what we like to call, the "mechanical purgatory." Simply put, after every mishit the athlete thinks it was a fault of the swing.

If you aren't on time, and/or it wasn't a pitch you can do damage with, it doesn't matter how good your swing was.

We are not saying, swing mechanics don't matter. Of course they do. We spend TONS of time on swing design and working on that facet.

However, it's crucial to educate your hitters when to focus on that, and when to clear their mind and compete - and not get too wrapped up in the minutia of their mechanics. We'll say it again:

Was I on time?

Was that a good pitch to hit?

"The secret to hitting is to get a good pitch to hit." - Ted Williams

Let’s say you are a High School hitter who is in the latter part of their off-season and is starting to focus more on preparing to succeed in-game.

You’ve jacked up your bat speed, and you’ve improved your swing mechanics.

Now, you're hitting machine and BP more and the results aren't coming quite as quickly as you would like.

What’s the answer?

We need to develop young hitters who are able to answer this question correctly. They need to stay out of the mechanical purgatory. They need to know how to evaluate themselves properly.

Really, hitting is problem solving. So we are in the business of developing elite problem solvers.

Let's hit you with two examples:

Hitter A keeps rolling over in the machine. They can either self-diagnose that they're flying open, or they're just early. They need to be correct to solve their problem.

Hitter B is struggling during Count Batting Practice. They're not driving the baseball. They can either self-diagnose that they're swing is flawed and not powerful today, or they're just swinging at pitcher's pitches. They need to be correct to solve their problem.

Both of these situations are great learning opportunities so these hitters can adjust quickly and correctly once the season comes around, both in-game and from game to game.

The average high school hitter will get close to 300 AB’s in the season. There are going to ebbs and flows, and highs lows. The key is for the athlete to stay consistent.

Some weekends are going to be easy, some they won’t know what is going on and be struggling. The WORST thing a hitter can do is immediately go “it’s my swing.” They struggle and they immediately want to overhaul their swing rather than

The off-season is the time for major swing overhauls. We need to get worse in order to get better from a movement perspective. In-season, and leading up to the season is certainly not.

The reality is our swing is never going to be perfect. So as coaches, how can we help our hitters to be consistent, resilient, and learn how to deal with stretches of failure?

In-season your swing is your swing. Can you make little tweaks here and there? Yes. But to completely try and change your swing after a couple bad games is ludicrous.

So at a certain point in the off-season, we must shift from overhaul mode to tweak mode to prepare the athlete accordingly.

The problem doesn’t lie with your swing, but your mind!

We have to help the young athlete find an approach that works so that they can lean on it and stick with it come season.

The approach needs to be two things: simple and consistent. An example of one would be “low line drive up the middle.”

Ken Griffey Jr. said his approach was to hit a single up the middle every single at-bat. He just had 600 "good mistakes" over the course of his career.

The approach works to keep your swing at it’s most productive point. It needs to keep the swing flaws at bay. If you have a tough time being late, you probably start thinking about pulling the baseball. If you are too early you should probably have more of an opposite field approach.

Another key to coaching is helping your young hitters develop a deep understanding about who they are as a hitter. Do they have an understanding of what pitches they do damage on and ones they don’t. What's their identity??

During game sim type drills we need to start developing these processes! We need to help them learn how to coach themselves.

We will say it one more time. After every single pitch you need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Was I on time?
  2. Was that a good pitch to hit?

I guarantee that more often than not when a hitter is struggling he/she is answering no to either of these questions.

Hitting is extremely difficult. Everyone knows there's a ton of failure.

A component of mental toughness is being resilient in our approach. Can we stick with it what we know works, or do we immediate start second-guessing at the first sign of adversity?

We have to be simple with our approach and equally simple with our solutions. The moment you start thinking about the swing in-game you can pretty much kiss that at bat good bye.

Start treating your BP and machine work just like a game.

Keep It Simple Stupid.