Nobody on base, 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th. The 4-hitter is at the plate with the home team down by 1. The hitter knows that he needs to find a ball to drive and to get in scoring position. He works the count to 2-0. He steps out of the box and decides to sit on a fastball middle-in that he can hammer into the gap or over the fence.
The pitcher deals, and the hitter sees the location as starting on the inner half. He starts to swing, attacking the baseball, looking to drive the pitch. But as the pitch gets closer, he recognizes the spin and sees the ball start to break away from him. It’s a slider. Halfway into his swing, he breaks down his swing, slowing the bat down for contact.
The hitter taps a soft grounder to the shortstop. The shortstop charges, fields it easily, and throws the hitter out by a couple of steps to end the inning.
What Went Wrong:
The hitter’s pre-pitch preparation was correct. In an advantage count, especially in a late game situation like this one, every hitter should be looking for a pitch to drive and should have an attack mindset. Use the count to your advantage! You have complete control of the at-bat at that point, so make the most of it.
There are two ways to look at an advantage count. You can either choose to look for the pitch that you love to hit, or the pitch that you think you’re most likely to get. Either way, COMMIT TO THE PLAN! If you choose to look for a fastball on the outer half, you better be determined to spit on the inside pitch. An advantage count means that you are in the driver’s seat and have the leeway to take a strike. Be selective!
In this situation, an off-speed pitch fooled the hitter. That’s not a bad thing! The hitter committed to his plan of looking middle-in, saw a pitch that appeared to be there, and attacked it. But when that pitch started to move, he broke down and changed his plan. Do not give up your at-bat in an advantage count! There’s no reason for any hitter to break down on a 2-0 swing. Even if you take the biggest hack of your life at a slider and miss it by 3 feet because you thought it was a fastball, it’s ok! The count is 2-1, and no harm is done. But by breaking down your swing and trying for contact, you’ve given up your entire at-bat.
You should never slow down your bat speed at the plate to make contact unless there you have 2 strikes and you have to stay alive. Be aggressive at the plate. Attack the baseball. Understand your counts and adjust to the situations. Think the game.