Hitting Skill Development - Five Absolutes

As we seek to build offensive skill in our Valor Baseball players, there are many things that we could discuss with our athletes. Our entire goal in building skill will be to simplify – simplify physical understanding, simplify approach, and simplify execution. This document will address all three of those areas – the physical, the approach, and the execution aspects.

We desire Valor Baseball players to be receptive, that they be sponges, to the information presented to them. By teaching the proper physical mechanics, we can enhance confidence in all players and transform their lives. Something happens inside the soul when you hit a baseball, something akin to “feeling God’s glory” when you square up the baseball. We will work so all of our players get to touch that experience.


We do not promote a cookie-cutter or one-swing-fits-all mentality here at Valor. We believe that there are important physical markers to a great swing that will be in common with all hitters while the hitters maintain a personal element of comfort and style. Our articulation will mirror that of professional and college teams, as well as national-level baseball academies such as IMG. The end goal for a rep in practice or an at bat in a scrimmage or game is to hit the ball hard. Players must clear their mind and pursue define success with those four words – hit the ball hard.

The Cincinnati Reds articulate their approach to the physical in this way:

Five Absolutes:

•       See the Ball
•       Separation
•       Stay Square
•       Rhythm and Timing
•       Weight Transfer

•       These absolutes apply to every good or great hitter that has ever played the game. They happen regardless of size or ability. The key to teaching these is to adapt them to the individual and his strengths and abilities as opposed to conforming the individual to the system.

•       Each individual has a different type of learning method, such as audio, visual and/or kinesthetic. Identifying each player’s learning method or combination of learning methods is vital for his improvement and advancement.

•       The overall goal is to implement these absolutes allowing each hitter to maximize his abilities. It is imperative that each coach and or manager be on the “same page” with both philosophy and lingo so as not to confuse the hitter. The purpose is to put the player first and do what is best for his development. Creativity among coaches is encouraged as long as it falls under the five absolutes and any major changes in a swing will be a group decision. Communication about hitters and their plans is a must.

See the Ball

The first element, See the Ball, is the simplest, yet most difficult element to master. Seeing the ball requires consistent concentration throughout the game. The following quote by Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson, and anecdote highlighting Carlos Pena show how seeing the ball is important at all levels of baseball.

“Hitting is concentration. Free your mind of everything. Study the flight of the baseball. Do not think of fine summer nights or fine wine or beautiful women. Think of seeing that white baseball, that spinning sphere, those seams turning over and over again as it gets closer to you. See it from the pitcher’s hand to the contact of the bat. See it, see it, see it.” - Reggie Jackson

I posted Reggie's advice in my locker my senior year of high school and read it on a daily basis. Being focused on such a simple element of hitting, training and trusting my body to react to what I was seeing, helped me to succeed as a high school and small-college hitter. The following ESPN article titled “Pena, Rays keeping it simple” from October of 2008 also illustrates this importance of seeing the ball.

After Carl Crawford got hurt and Evan Longoria suffered a broken hand, Tampa Bay hitting coach Steve Henderson approached Carlos Pena and asked, "You want to help this team out?"

Sure, said Pena.

"OK," said Henderson. "Then see the ball."

The message contained within Henderson's words was clear to Pena. Don't try to do too much; don't put pressure on yourself to make up for what is lost with the absence of Crawford and Longoria. Rather than letting your mind get cluttered by internal pressure, just focus on the most basic element of hitting, which is to see the ball, and this is what Pena has been doing -- what all the Rays have been doing.

They took two of three from the White Sox in Chicago over the weekend, and with just 33 games remaining, Tampa Bay leads Boston by five games in the loss column, and the Yankees by 10 games in the loss column. The Rays' magic number is down to 29, and they've shown no signs of faltering, no signs of being incapable of closing the deal. They have five healthy and productive starting pitchers and a deep bullpen, and the lineup continues to generate enough runs for success.

"We're very confident," Pena said Sunday morning. "We don't look anywhere else and worry about anybody else. We don't see any advantage in looking at the standings. This is a young team, but it impresses me that at such a young age, all of these guys are handling things very maturely."

What manager Joe Maddon has asked his players to do is to maintain this train of thought as they walk through the clubhouse doors every day: What can I do to help the team win today?

"Imagine what you could do if everybody walks through asking the same question -- that could be pretty special," said Pena. "I think that's what we have here now."

Pena knows all about trying to keep everything simple. He believes that the early struggles in his career, as he bounced from Oakland to Detroit to the minors, were rooted in his inability to free his mind of too many thoughts. "As players," he said, "we tend to over-think things."

Pena once asked Manny Ramirez about his approach at the plate, hoping to mine some gold-standard advice. "I see the ball," Ramirez said, and Pena initially walked away thinking that Ramirez was holding back information and not really revealing anything. "I was like, 'C'mon, Manny; don't be like that. Don't be so greedy. Share some of your secrets,'" Pena recalled.

But as he thought about what Ramirez said, Pena came to understand what Ramirez was really saying. "His ability to keep it that simple," said Pena, "is genius. Such a mastery of your emotions, that's incredible."

Pena mashed 46 homers and drove in 121 runs for the Rays last year, and finished ninth in the AL MVP voting. He started slowly this year, however, hitting just five homers from April 13 to June 3 before landing on the disabled list with a .227 batting average.

As he came off the disabled list in late June, Pena decided to re-focus, again, on two elements:

No. 1: See the ball.

No. 2: Trust his mind and hands to react properly to the pitches.

"When you keep it small like that, then good things happen," said Pena.

Since July 4, Pena has 39 RBIs in 44 games, with 15 homers, and a slugging percentage of .608. He's hit five homers in the 10 games since Crawford went down.

On a team filled with young players, Pena's production continues to be pivotal, but he's not thinking about that. He will walk through the clubhouse doors Tuesday, before the Rays resume their schedule against Toronto, and wonder, How can I help my team win today?

As you can see from the examples of Carlos Pena and the Rays as well as Manny Ramirez, seeing the ball is the first, and most important, element to the approach to hitting. To bring the idea of seeing the ball down to an even finer detail, we want our hitters to see the inside of the baseball. The side of the ball is different based on whether the hitter is right-handed or left-handed. The inside of the ball is marked as the side of the ball closest to the hitter’s body as it enters the hitting zone. The inside of the ball is what we want our hitters to see as early as possible in the hitting process. Players will be encouraged to attack the upper inside part of the baseball on every swing.


The separation of the hips and shoulders is vital in any movement requiring rotational power. Very simply, the hips rotate while the shoulders stay closed, allowing the hands to stay behind the lower half. When viewed from the pitcher, you will see both hips and only one shoulder. When viewed from above the hitter, the hips and shoulders create the letter X (hence called, the “X factor” by some instructors). See the photo of Josh Donaldson below:


The hips are initiated by the planting of the heel on the front side. The player must solidify his foundation by having both feet on the ground before beginning rotation. If a player begins his rotation from toe touch instead of heel plant, he’ll lose the ability to swing from the ground up. Having both feet on the ground provides us with rotational power and the ability to separate. Players must seek to keep this kinetic chain intact.

The player’s hips will reach a full hip turn going through contact, not before or after. This allows the player to stay square, which is the next section. Finally, the player should reach extension at his finish. This “straight-line” finish should indicate the player has stayed in the strike zone for a prolonged period of time and hit through the ball. It is important to stay through the ball, and not hit to or around the ball for the sake of consistency. Ultimately, the finish of the swing is just a by-product of the player doing the right things physically throughout the rest of this phase.

 To enhance our players’ ability to separate the hips and the shoulders, we’ve created a Torque Rotational Warm-Up to activate the rotational muscles:

  • On back, Table Top Rotations, knees and shins at 90 degrees, touch ground side to side

  • On back, Ground Cross Twist, foot to hand, touch side to side

  • On stomach, knee to middle of chest, push shoulders to the ground

  • Standing, lunge, opposite hand to opposite back foot, other hand to sky for balance

  • Standing, lunge, praying hands, opposite elbow to outside opposite shin

  • Movement, high-knee carioca

  • Med ball, forward facing rotations

  • Med ball, chest pass rotations, both right and left

  • Med ball, Powerball toss, sequence separation, both right and left

We have also created eight drills to enhance our players’ ability and physical understanding to separate the hips from the shoulders. These separation drills will largely be executed with no stride so the player can learning to initiate the lower half upon the heel plant. This will help our players to not be in a hurry while hitting and stay behind the baseball, making contact inside the body’s rotational axis. Drills such as hitting with the opposite hand enhances the body’s understand of separation while building symmetry in the core muscles which are vital to the power and health of the player.

  1. Area of Impact double tee w/ Powerballs, slow motion to straight-line finish

  2. Running man (counterbalance, load scap – start at straight-line finish, rewind, pitch) – fastballs

  3. Running man (counterbalance, load scap – start at straight-line finish, rewind, pitch) – hanging curveballs

  4. Ride the saddle, on toes, sequence legs – front leg has to run/open first to create separation (Lock & Push)

  5. No stride, inward turn, two strikes – fastballs

  6. No stride, inward turn, two strikes – hanging curveballs

  7. Opposite hand tee w/ Powerballs, running man

  8. Opposite hand, no stride – slow fastballs

Stay Square

Staying square to the baseball speaks to the shoulders staying closed and not flying open. This is an important element, especially when partnered with maintaining separation. In addition, the shoulders will be square to area of the field to which the ball is hit when executed properly.

Staying square begins with the shoulder staying closed and the hands staying behind the lower half until being released at contact. With the hips and shoulders leading the swing, the player must develop the proper hand path. The most consistent slot begins with the bat over the button of the cap and the bottom hand staying inside the bottom elbow at launch. This allows for a clear path for the hands through the ball as the hands stay close to the body. The barrel stays above the hands as the back arm creates a “Power V”, cutting the shoulder with the barrel, until reaching a “Power L” position at contact. This creates the “palm up, palm down” position as the body is square through contact. From that position, the hands push through contact to a straight-line finish, not going around the body until reaching full extension. Below is an example of Kris Bryant from beginning to straight-line finish:


To help our players stay square, we’ve created the following eight drills to enhance their understanding of the concept. Just as we did in the separation phase, we will introduce offspeed/slower pitching to the stay square phase so the players can re-create the swing with different stimuli. To hit the offspeed pitch successfully, players should load late, read the arc, look for it up, and take a fastball Players can add a small stride (no high leg kicks yet) during this phase as they experiment with the concepts.

  1. Inside Track (start at straight-line finish to pull side gap, rewind, pitch) - fastballs

  2. Outside Track (start at straight-line finish to oppo side gap, rewind, pitch) - fastballs

  3. Overweight bat (Head) tee – line drive up middle/Overweight bat (Hand) tee – line drive up middle

  4. 3-Plate Drill – Fastballs

  5. Inside Track (start at straight-line finish to pull side gap, rewind, pitch) - curveballs

  6. Outside Track (start at straight-line finish to oppo side gap, rewind, pitch) - curveballs

  7. Underweight bat tee – line drive up middle

  8. 3-Plate Drill – Curveballs

Rhythm and Timing 

Rhythm and timing is necessary for a hitter to hit the baseball hard consistently. Rhythm and timing, and elements included in this phase such as the leg kick, allow the body to deliver power and force to the baseball. The elements of rhythm and timing do not themselves create power. Separating the hips and shoulders to create torque energy generates power. Rhythm and timing delivers the power.

All hitters create and collect energy with some sort of negative or backwards movement. The hitter should go back, a lot or a little, to go forward. This doesn’t have to be something big and elaborate as too much movement creates inconsistency and a lack of repeatability. We’ll refer to this as the hitter’s “negative move” and it is an important first step to create potential energy in the swing. After the negative move, the hitter will “fall” forward catching himself on the front foot with a toe touch leading to a heel plant to start the swing. The “fall” will look almost as if the front leg is getting a running start at the pitcher.

Another way to explain the “fall” is to tell the hitter to “walk away from the hands.” There is an important distinction to make here as many refer to this as the load phase. While the hitter is loading potential energy, he should not drive his hands backwards, but rather move his body forward while leaving his hands behind. This will prevent the hitter from being too tense in the early phase of the swing. In addition, the fall forward allows the hitter to stay on the centerline of his body’s mass with his nose over his belly button.

The hand position at the fall is very important. The hands must be at or inside the back foot. If the hands are outside the back foot (meaning the hands are too far backwards), the hitter will be operating outside the axis of rotational power he is trying to create for his swing.

We’ve selected eight drills to enhance our player’s ability to work with rhythm and timing in their swing. Again, we’ll present the player with a variety of stimuli in order to allow the player to re-create a great swing in a variety of circumstances.

  1. Tee, Overweight (Head) bat – Step behind, stride into swing, line drive up the middle/oppo gap

  2. Machine batting practice – Fastballs

  3. Tee, Overweight (Hand) bat – Happy Gilmore, stride & shuffle to swing, line drive up the middle/oppo gap

  4. Machine batting practice – Curveballs

  5. Tee, regular bat – Feet together, stride into swing, line drive up the middle/oppo gap

  6. Machine batting practice – Change-Ups

  7. Tee – Karate Kid, Underweight bat, line drive up the middle/oppo gap

  8. Front toss, outside track – Oppo gap focus

Weight Transfer

The weight transfer phase launches the barrel into the baseball. The weight transfer ends at toe touch as the front leg begins to lock or get strong. It is here that the hitter transfers potential energy created in the previous phases into kinetic energy. The power of the swing comes from the lower half of the body sequentially transferring energy through the shoulders, arms, and then the barrel.

Players will hear us talk about “lock and push” and “let the bug live” at this phase. “Lock and push” refers to the front leg locking while the back leg pushes the back hip into the ball. The push is achieved by “letting the bug live” on the back foot. Too many kids have been taught to “squish the bug” erroneously, which prevents proper weight transfer through the ball.

As the player puts all of the elements together, we’ve selected these eight drills to enhance the player’s understanding of weight transfer and all of the pieces of the swing.

  1. Tee, Underweight bat – Step behind, stride into swing, line drive up the middle/oppo gap

  2. Machine batting practice – Fastballs

  3. Outside Track (Overweight-head bat, oppo side gap) - fastballs

  4. Machine batting practice – Curveballs

  5. Inside Track (Overweight-hand bat, pull side gap) - fastballs

  6. Machine batting practice – Change-Ups

  7. 3-Plate Drill – Curveballs

  8. Front toss, outside track – Oppo gap focus

Final Words

One of the most important elements in teaching the physical fundamentals is to never allow the player to fall blindly in love with his mechanics. The end goal is simple – to release the body and barrel of the bat into the baseball together. This allows players to experience success and joy on the field.

Hitting Skill Development - Execution


 Our program’s offensive strategy hinges on the execution of our game goals for each contest:

-       18/20/22 Quality At-Bats (Varsity/J.V./C)
-       Earn 9 “Freebies”
-       Win 4 of 7 innings

 The Quality At Bat concept will transform the joy of any hitter when he submits to the ideas.  Steve Springer, who is now a coach in the Toronto Blue Jay organization, first introduced us to these ideas. Later, Clint Hurdle deepened some of the ideas and teachings during his stints with the Rockies, Rangers, and Pirates. The core principle of the Quality At Bat mindset centers on the idea of giving a player more opportunities to succeed at the plate than just getting a hit. Very simply, a Quality At Bat is achieved when a player hits the ball hard or helps the team win. We must put the focus on batting averages behind us, and open our players up to the freedom the Quality-At-Bat mindset and team-offense focus provides. One of Springer’s catch phrases is, “Bombs, Doubles, RBIs, and want the Fifth At Bat!”

 To explain how this Quality At Bat affects the team’s success, our Varsity program is 51-8 over the last four years when we produce 18 QABs in a game. In those eight losses, we lost by a total of 14 runs. Trying to achieve the Quality At Bat goal of 18 per game while working together as an offense will give the team the greatest opportunity to win every game.

 A Quality At Bat is defined as:

1.     Hit
2.     BB/HBP/Catcher's Interference
3.     Sac Fly
4.     Sac Bunt
5.     Advance Lead Runner Via Out or Error
6.     Squared Line Drive
7.     7-Pitch AB
8.     Putting ball in play with two strikes (JV/C levels only)

Freebies are defined as:

-       BB
-       HBP
-       SB
-       E
-       2-Strike Hit

The last freebie, the 2-strike hit, has proven to be the greatest momentum changer an offense has in its arsenal. With the discussion of batting averages and pitch counts earlier in this chapter, one can see how infrequent the 2-strike hit is at the professional level. Recently, a Division I baseball program studied the College World Series to determine what offensive weapon did the most damage to the opposing team. Their conclusion - the 2-strike hit. Innings in which a 2-strike hit occurred saw an inordinate percentage of runs scored and momentum shifts. Focus on the great things that can happen with you in the batter’s box with two strikes.

Notice how many of the Quality At Bats and Freebies are not defined as getting hits. A great baseball offense is marked by the team’s ability to score runs when you’re not hitting.

Our final offensive game goal involves winning innings and winning the pitch count in those innings. The program’s goal is to win four of the seven innings in which we play that day. Very simply, we want to win over 50% of the innings we play. Winning innings with runs helps the team to control the momentum of the game. Even more powerful, however, is winning the pitch count every inning. Our teams will monitor the pitch count as well as the score in each inning as a way to win the game within the game. The team that wins the pitch count consistently will control the momentum of the game and, ultimately, the scoreboard.

The next element of execution involves situational hitting. Nearly every at bat looks different, and each one takes on a life of its own. The strengths and weaknesses of the hitter, base runner, pitcher, and defense, as well as the game situation (inning, score, and count) all must come into consideration when evaluating a given situation. With the same philosophy of simplifying in mind, here is a series of thoughts to consider based on the runner(s) on base and the number of outs.

With a runner on first base and no one out, the goal is to create a scoring opportunity. The team can give up an out (sacrifice bunt, moving the runner with a groundball, etc.), but the runner must be in scoring position at the conclusion of the at bat. With one out and a runner on first base, the offense must try to gain a base without giving up an out. With two outs and a runner on first base, the base runner must find a way to get into score position to create an opportunity to score in that frame. All of this is generalized and does not take into account the hitter at the plate. For example, with two outs and a runner on first, the base runner should be less risky if the nine-hole hitter is up as the lineup is being turned over for the next inning already.

With a runner on second base and no one out, the team can give up an out but the runner must be at third base at the conclusion of the at bat. With one out and a runner on second base, the base runner should find a way to get to third base without giving up an out. With two outs and a runner on second base, the base runner should focus on a good secondary lead to try to score on a base hit. Again, dependent upon the situation, these are simple and general ideas of what a hitter, base runner, and coach can do to work with a runner on second base.

With a runner on third base and less than two outs, the hitter should seek to stay in the middle of the field to drive in the run. With the infield in, again the approach is the middle of the field or getting a pitch to elevate gap-to-gap in the outfield. With the infield back, the approach is still the middle of the field and trying to keep the ball off of the corners which are quicker outs.

With runners on first and third and less than two outs, especially in our program, the player should anticipate executing some sort of set play. The opportunity in this situation is to drive in a run and advance a runner into scoring position without giving up more than one out. It is imperative to stay out of the double play in this situation to maintain momentum. The variety of specialty plays outlined in the playbook will explain how we seek to ensure positive momentum in these situations. With runners on first and third and two outs, the runner at first should try to find a way to get to second base without giving up an out.

Finally, with runners on second and third with less than two outs, the team must score at least one run, but should be anticipating a big inning.

The final part of approach happens at practice an in the pregame environment. To prepare to execute the proper approach, players must put themselves in game situations mentally in the practice and pregame environments. UCLA’s Bat Calisthenics video is just one option for preparation. Our program uses slow motion swings, slow motion and regular swings with Powerballs (soft, weighted balls), and specific batting practice routines to prepare our hitters for potential game situations. As the season goes on, the routines start to imitate the most frequent situations the team is experiencing in game situations. No matter the method, preparing the team to execute in this situations will allow an offense to succeed more frequently.

There are eight potential situations a hitter will encounter with zero, one, or two outs:

-        Nobody on
-        Runner on 1st
-        Runner on 2nd
-        Runner on 3rd
-        Runner on 1st and 2nd
-        Runner on 1st and 3rd
-        Runner on 2nd and 3rd
-        Bases Loaded

Those eight situations lead us to our Situational Hitting Series – Wave concept. In the book, Baseball as a Road to God, this concept appears:

“When a wave is at its most powerful, it is a solid foundation that can support as many riders as will fit upon it. It can even sweep up more as it runs along. But when the wave passes, nothing but its memory survives…Those moments of sport are like that. When you are in the midst of them, riding the wave, they carry you along and give meaning to life.”

This is like a big offensive inning where the whole team is clicking together. We practice trying to get on the wave together as much as possible in practice, last year practicing this concept daily before batting practice in practice and game days. The momentum of the team working together, helping young players realize that they are playing the game 9 vs. 1 instead of 1 vs. 9 is transformational for a hitter.

Situational Hitter Series/Wave Drill – Coaches will choose a sequence of execution, keeping it fresh daily

Get ‘em on

  • Nobody on, need a hit

Get ‘em over

  • Bunt Series

    • Sacrifice 1B side (Runners on 1B & 2B, obvious bunt, soft bunt, force play to 1B)

    • Bunt & Run 3B side (Runner at 1B/Runners on 1B & 2B, runners break, force 3B to make a choice, must bunt)

    • Safety Squeeze 1B side (Runners on 1B & 3B, bunt to 1B side, even a push bunt, score runner, move runner)

    • Bunt & Run 1B side (Runner at 1B/Runners on 1B & 3B, runner at 1B breaks, bunt to right side, force confusion, must bunt)

    • Note: We will generally practice with multiple runners instead of a single runner on 1B or 2B only to practice the most stressful component, and provide extra base running reps and complexity.

  • Hit & Run Series

    • Hit & Run (Runner at 1B/Runners on 1B & 3B, runner at 1B breaks, thinking right side, see inside track and get through it, must swing, ball in play, stay out of middle to avoid double play which is why runner is moving in first place)

    • Hit & Run (Runner at 2B/Runners on 1B & 2B, runner(s) break, hitter thinks opposite field but is ready to turn and burn on a pitch on the inside track, must swing, again stay out of the middle to avoid the double play which is why the runners are active)

    • Note: We practice with multiple runners instead of a single runner on 1B or 2B only to practice the most stressful component, and provide extra base running reps and complexity.

  • Leadoff 2B

    • Keep a runner in scoring position moving with back-to-back doubles or a ball on the right side that allows the runner to move up easily.

    • “Choice” – Bunt to 3B line, groundball to right side, base hit behind runner, matching double – “change places with him”

Get ‘em in

  • RBI Series

    • Runner at 3B, Infield in (Ball in the air deep enough for sac fly or through the infield, drive the man in)

    • Runner at 3B, Infield back (Ball on the ground, ball in air deep enough for sac fly, or base hit, drive man in)

    • Leadoff 2B (Choice – Bunt to 3B line, groundball to right side, base hit behind runner, matching double – “change places with him”)

    • Runners on 2B and 3B (RBI time, drive at least one runner in, looking for “crooked number” on scoreboard)

To approach their opportunity at the plate appropriately, players must Have a Plan when he comes to the plate. Have a Plan has many elements that all point to the player’s opportunity to contribute to the team’s offensive success. Baseball is interesting in the combination of individual skills being on display in a team environment. This really comes to life as a baseball team comes together forcing the defense to face a lineup in which all nine players are working together for the good of something bigger than the individual. Don Mattingly once said of Manny Ramirez, “Manny would rather die than go to bat without a plan. He likes to say, ‘I’ll give the pitcher this much of the plate, but if he misses here, he’s mine.’” We are hopeful that our players will go to the plate with that level of planning and confidence.

The first part of the Have a Plan element involves “cutting the plate” and our interpretation of baseball count theory. We believe that swinging at certain pitches in certain locations in certain counts contributes to the player’s short and long-term success.

Before addressing the count theory, players must understand how to “cut the plate.” Cutting the plate refers to looking to swing at a pitch over the middle-in part of the plate or the middle-out part of the plate. Middle-in is one approach to cutting the plate, Middle-out is the other. Because higher-level pitchers (High School Varsity, College, and Professional) are more likely to pitch hitters away, our hitters should tune themselves into cutting the plate middle-out more often than cutting the plate middle-in.

With 0 strikes, our players should swing at a fastball and only a fastball. Period. If our hitters are in a 0-0, 1-0, or 2-0 count, they should sit on a fastball they can drive for a double to the gap or over an outfielder’s head. The only caveat here is if the pitcher has shown the consistent ability and desire to spin a breaking ball for a strike when he has no strikes on the batter. We’d rather let him pitch backwards and passive as it shows we have a mental advantage over that pitcher already. In addition to the mental advantage, a high school pitcher spinning a lot of breaking balls will lose velocity off of his fastball sooner as well.

Note here that we did not say we swing at a fastball in a 3-0 count. We believe, especially at the high school level, in forcing the opposing starting pitcher to throw as many pitches as possible. We’re willing to sacrifice a fastball in a 3-0 count to drive up his pitch count. In addition, high school pitchers who throw the first three balls in a row more often than not allow that man to reach base later in the count anyway. We want our hitters to take 3-0 unless the coach has made the determination with that player to swing away at the right pitch in the right situation.

With 1 strike, our players should still seek to drive a fastball but should also add a hanging offspeed pitch to the potential pitches to drive. A hanging offspeed pitch refers to an offspeed pitch that starts up and stays up. Swinging at an offspeed pitch that starts in the middle or low and breaks down is one to avoid. A player’s ability to recognize and drive these pitches hinge on dedication to the “0-1-2” and offspeed pitch drills (bounce, three-plate, etc.) used to help players drive fastballs as well as offspeed pitches.

Finally, with 2 strikes, players should expand the plate from 18 inches to 24 inches - three inches wider than the plate’s actual measurements. Too often high school hitters take pitches on the edge that could be driven or at minimum fouled off. We want our hitters to expand their strike zones, but do not want them to change their swing or mentality. We want to hit strikes, take balls, and hit the ball with maximum force with two strikes as with any other count. We want to “attack” and not “protect” with two strikes.

To gain further understanding around count theory and the importance of counts as a hitter, take a look at this data from Major League Baseball and the Colorado Rockies in 2012 (Left column is the count, center column is MLB data from 2012, right column is Rockies data from 2011): 

0-0          .328  .335
1-0          .341  .344
2-0          .350  .374

0-1          .324  .308
1-1          .327  .329
2-1          .339  .325
3-1          .368  .397

0-2          .166  .141
1-2          .179  .176
2-2          .195  .200
3-2          .233  .205

The most pivotal pitches in baseball are the first pitch of an at bat and the 1-1 count. Start a hitter with a strike and his average is between .308-.324 at the big-league level. Start him with a ball and his average is .341-.344. A significant difference. However, the difference between a strike and a ball at the 1-1 count is monumental. The range of batting averages from 2-1 is .325-.339 while the range for 1-2 is .176-.179. Armed with this information, our hitters should grow in confidence even more as they get ahead in counts, and seek to spoil the pitcher’s day with two-strike hits (the “freebie” section outlines the importance of two-strike hits).

Hitting - Swing Plane

The images below illustrate a core belief about hitting in the Valor Baseball program. Many of us were taught to keep our shoulders level and to swing down on the ball to create backspin like the image on the left. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how to lead players to the most success at the plate. As the illustration shows, this allows one opportunity to hit the baseball - on time and on location.

The illustration on the right shows freedom in the movement of the hips and shoulders. In order to get on proper plane with a baseball pitch, we must create certain angles in our hips, shoulders, and torso. This creates freedom and better results when hitting a baseball. It allows us to control the release of our barrel and hit the ball when we are on or off time, as well as on or off location. Allowing the hands to maintain their proper sequence as the final link in the kinetic chain can be accomplished in the image on the right and not in the image on the left.

See this plane and sequence in action with the Gary Sanchez video as well.

Flat Plane.gif
kinetics of hitting.gif