By Eric Johnson
The Situation: The seventh hitter in the lineup, a righty, is leading off the third inning for the offense. So far, none of his teammates have made solid contact. The pitcher is a little lefty who has been mixing it up well with off-speed, and living on the outside half of the plate. The hitter does his normal routine walking up to the plate, digs into the box just in front of the back line, and gets ready to hit.
The Play: The hitter lunges at a first pitch changeup and fouls it off down the third base line. Frustrated, he takes his front foot out of the box. He knows he has to keep his back foot in (because of college rules), so he doesn’t move it. He steps back in and gets set. The pitcher throws another change. The hitter sees it up early, and commits to swinging.
The Outcome: He’s out in front again, and skies a popup to short. The shortstop camps under it and puts it away for the first out of the inning.
What Went Wrong?
The hitter did a few things well here. He recognized that the pitcher was starting hitters with off-speed and committed to seeing a pitch up. He wasn’t afraid to swing at a good pitch to hit early in the count, even if it wasn’t a fastball.
However, making adjustments to hit the pitch you’re looking for is only one part of hitting. You also need to make some approach adjustments at the plate. The first, and biggest mental adjustment against a soft lefty, is to look to take the pitch the other way. That will help prevent lunging and force you to see the ball a little deeper.
But there are physical adjustments that can help as well. By moving up in the box and on the plate, you can make the outside corner seem more like the middle, and the ball will get on you faster so that you don’t have to wait as long. Also, by moving up in the box, you eliminate some of the movement of the pitch by catching it earlier in its break.
The best time to make these adjustments is before the first pitch of an at-bat. If you see a pattern from the pitcher in the AB’s before yours, don’t be afraid to assume that the pitcher will throw to you the same way. But if you don’t make the adjustment at the beginning of your at-bat, it’s not too late to do it at ANY point in the at-bat. You can make adjustments on every pitch, depending on how the pitcher is pitching you, and what pitches you’re seeing well. Never be afraid to make an adjustment mid-at-bat. Understand that the game changes on every pitch. Think the game!