The Baseball Zone Blog

Rick Johnston | Apr 2, 2013 7:30:00 AM

Situational Hitting | Moving the Runner Over

Here is the situation. Third inning, the lead off hitter just hit a double, the hitter coming to the plate is right handed, what happens next? Well, in many cases, automatically the employed offensive tactic is a sacrifice bunt. Why? Simple. It is the safest, most conservative method to move the baserunner up 90 feet and put him 90 feet away from scoring. Is that building and educating your players in the intricacies of offensive strategy? Yes, but at what cost? At the expense of trying to score a single run in the first third of the game?! Yes, this would be considered safe and a coach would never be second guessed. But, boy oh boy, are we developing our hitters to be masters of the sacrifice bunt? Surely, no high school or college player has ever been drafted for showing a scout his ability to bunt in the third inning! Let the kid swing...but teach and educate all hitters in the art, strategy and importance of hitting behind the baserunner and play for a big inning rather than a single run inning. If a scout were to see this it would certainly open some eyes. Just then how is it to be fashioned.

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Topics: hitting tips, hitting instruction, hitting, hit & run, situational hitting

Rick Johnston | Nov 26, 2012 7:44:00 AM

7 Important Points For Using Indoor Batting Cages

We have previously written on the Top 5 Reasons To Use Indoor Batting Cages.  In this blog I would like open up discussions on how to use a batting cage to get the most out of it for swing development.  For many, commercial batting cages are used recreationally and not used for the actual development of the swing.  For those that wish to use batting cages for actual swing development, the following is a breakdown on how to functionally use a cage to their advantage.

1. Speed of machine

When selecting the speed of a machine a common problem is the speed or velocity is far too advanced for the player. Often times, I will hear kids say “the speed is too slow” or asking “to speed the machine up”.  Well let’s first look at what the hitter is trying to accomplish...that is, to refine the swing and the necessary movements associated with the swing. Pitching machines that are set to fast DO NOT promote efficient movement patterns in the swing. In fact, they promote poor swing habits, causing players to rush their timing; or failing to get the body into a good solid hitting position; or if their timing is so bad, they get frustrated with all the swings and misses and lose confidence in their swing. The speed is critical and should be set approximately 60-65 percent of the speed at which they will see in a game. Now, one can argue this percentage does not actually duplicate true game like speed, but the argument can also be said for those that truly want to work on swing development...it must be done at a speed substantially slower than what they would face in a game (how fast is the ball travelling on a tee??!!).  Case in point...What do you think the average pitch speed of MLB batting practice is? It is certainly not near the speed of what hitters face day to day, it is approximately 60-65 percent of the actual velocity each hitter will face in a game.  Furthermore, have you ever watched Home Run Derby? Granted, the concept of the Derby is Home Runs, but I would be surprised if the speed in the Derby comes close to 65 percent!  So now why do MLB hitters take batting practice at approximately these types of speeds? Because the primary focus of their cage work is total swing development. It would be very difficult for the MLB player to work on the honing of their swing when facing a machine that is delivering pitches at speeds at or near the actual game like velocities. 

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Topics: hitting tips, hitting instruction, hitting, baseball coaching, baseball practice, batting cages, indoor batting cages, situational hitting

Rick Johnston | Jun 8, 2011 8:00:00 PM

A Simple Yet Effective Two Strike Approach

How do you attack this situation?

I often am amazed how hitters waste their at bats and simply give away outs over the course of a season. This is especially true with two strikes. Each hitter must learn to develop their own plan of attack when they are faced with a two strike count, because after all, we will all be in this position throughout the course of a season on many occasions. So, devising a swift plan of attack or some sort of exit strategy is the key to the two strike approach.

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Topics: hitting tips, hitting instruction, hitting, situational hitting, two strike approach

Rick Johnston | May 13, 2011 6:00:00 AM

The Top 10 "Pros" of Baseball's Hit and Run

As has been indicated in a previous post regarding the Hit and Run, it is a very high risk offensive tactic and as such there are many cons that can have a glaring effect on its outcome. Now let’s look at some of the pro's of the Hit and Run

  1. Helps the offensive team stay out of the double play with a baserunner moving on the pitch. 
  2. It has the potential to move a slower baserunner up one base and into scoring position.
  3. Has the potential to position two baserunners on base, with the lead baserunner only being 90 feet from scoring.
  4. A high payoff and best case scenario, the hitter hits ball to the gap, past the outfielders, the baserunner on first base scores and the hitter ends up on second base.
  5. In some cases, hitters that are not swinging well, or simply are in constant take mode, will now be forced to swing the bat, which could assist them in getting jump started and rejuvenated once again with the bat.
  6. It has the potential to jump start the offense and start a rally.

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Topics: hitting tips, baserunning, baseball strategy, hitting, hit & run, situational hitting

Rick Johnston | May 4, 2011 8:51:00 AM

The Top 10 "Cons" of Baseball's Hit and Run

In my last post I went over some of the elements essential to a successful Hit & Run. But I also warned that it may be a bit overused and not quite as successful as we might think it is or want it to be.

Now, let’s look at the why the hit and run is not always a good offensive tactic.

  1. Obviously, getting the right count is critical. That is, a count that favours the fastball or the count where the pitcher needs to come in with a good strike and a good hitters pitch. Well let's say the count dictates this, say 1-1...and boom, here comes the pitch - it is out of the zone. How often have you seen this happen at any level of baseball, let alone minor baseball? Now the hitter swings out of the zone, foul ball. The count now favours pitcher 1-2. Next pitch, swing and miss, strike three. We just took the bat out of the hitter's hands by having the hitter swing at the bad pitch.
  2. Hitter hits the ball on the screws and scuds a low line drive to an infielder, ball caught, throw back to first base, double play...that is one pitch, two outs!
  3. Defensive team decides to pitch out, the slower baserunner (remember that a hit and run is best done with a slower, yet smart baserunner) is thrown out by five feet. Then the hitter at the plate on the next pitch hits a single, double or whatever. Opportunity lost.

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Topics: baserunning, baseball strategy, hitting, hit & run, situational hitting

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