We are fast approaching the most exciting time of the year – playoffs! Every game seems to carry more importance than the last. In addition to feeling like every game is a must win, college coaches are also out recruiting. You may be feeling a lot of pressure to deliver for your team and to increase your chances of being recruited. While you may be tempted to worry about your personal stats and achievements, KPB is here to remind you that it is a better idea to forget the stats and focus on “team at-bats.”
You may be wondering what we mean by “team at-bats.” Players have successful team at-bats when the outcome increases the team’s chances to win the game. Of course, every time you come to the plate, your job is to help your team score runs. But, since we know that no one has ever hit 1.000 in his career, a batter’s “job” cannot be to get a hit every time, even though a hit is obviously a successful result in any game situation. That means you should not put pressure on yourself to get a hit every time you step up to the plate. Instead, you should balance your personal strengths with a team-oriented approach and focus on doing the “job” the game-situation calls for. Your “job” will change depending on how many outs there are and if there are runners on the bases. Take a look at the situation-specific hitting table below. Depending on the outs and the runners, the table shows you the bare minimum of what you could do in each situation to have a successful team at-bat.
|0 Outs||1 Out||2 Outs|
|Bases Empty||Get on Base||Get on Base||Get on Base|
|Runner on 1st||Advance Runner||Advance Runner||Extend the Inning*|
|Runners on 1st + 2nd||Advance Both Runners||Advance Both Runners||Extend the Inning|
|Bases Loaded||Score Runner from 3rd||Score Runner from 3rd||Extend the inning|
|Runner on 2nd||Advance the Runner||Score Runner or get on base||Extend the inning|
|Runners on 2nd + 3rd||Score Runner from 3rdor get on base||Score Runner from 3rdor get on base||Extend the inning|
|Runner on 3rd||Score Runner or get on base||Score Runner or get on base||Extend the inning|
* Extending the inning means getting the next hitter up any way possible (hit, walk, hit by pitch, etc.).
** It should also be noted that there are process-oriented things you can do to help your team win, as well. This would include things like seeing a lot of pitches (7+) in one at bat. At KPB, we talk about process a lot, and we will discuss process-oriented team at bats in a different article.
*** Run expectancy charts have made it easier to understand ways to help your team. We understand that moving a runner to second on a ground out with 0 outs doesn’t improve your team’s chances of scoring according to run expectancy, but it does improve the chances of scoring over a completely unproductive out.
As the table shows, there are a lot of ways to have a successful at-bat without getting a hit. It is also important to understand that this chart is looking at outcomes. In some cases, you can even make an out and still have a successful team at-bat. For example, if you have a runner on 3rd with less than two outs, a ground out that scores the run is a huge success. Just think, if you got an RBI every time you had an at bat, you would be a first ballot hall of famer.
Keep in mind that the table shows only the most basic way to have a successful team at-bat. An RBI base hit with a runner on 3rd and less than two outs is clearly better than an RBI groundout, but you already know that. The table serves as a reminder that you can do a lot to help your team even when you don’t get a hit.
When the pressure is on, focus on team at-bats. Focus on doing whatever you can to get the outcome that will help your team. Make sure you congratulate your teammates when they have successful team at-bats even when they don’t get hits. If you and your teammates are able to achieve only the most basic result for each situation, your team will be more successful and you will be surprised how your personal stats will take care of themselves.