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Old 12-01-2007, 06:48 PM
kyleb kyleb is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2004
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Default Re: Introduction to Five Tools Analysis: Hitting

You mentioned about great plate discipline (avoiding swinging at pitches in their weak zones early in the count). But what about other things that have to do with pitch recognition. As a pitcher in college and as a hitter in high school and summer leagues, I've noticed that certain hitters simply cannot identify the change-up or slider or curveball or splitter. These hitters have a really hard time against good pitchers that notice these things. Now I suppose everyone in the majors has to be decent at identifying these pitches, but my guess is that some are better than others

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Without adequate pitch recognition, you cannot succeed at any level as a hitter. Most hitters hit off the fastball and adjust to off-speed pitches, which is how I work as well. My sequence of hitting involves a soft focus on the pitcher's cap as he starts the windup with a hard focus in a small box at/around the pitcher's release point to determine what type of pitch it is. Most pitchers at the amateur level throw too many fastballs in obvious counts and don't work backwards, so I'm an aggressive hitter.

When you see people taking hacks at the first pitch, you often say "Christ, develop some plate discipline!" However, most hitting coaches I know say to look for a specific pitch and location - if it's there, you have to swing, because you were anticipating it, and that's a pitcher mistake you can't let get by you. If the pitcher is simply going to throw a middle-in fastball every time for strike one, taking it is foolish - it may be the best pitch you'll see all at-bat.

For curveballs, I look for a noticeably slower delivery by the pitcher, a shorter arm action, and obviously the hump in the ball when thrown. I have no problem adjusting to most curveballs.

For sliders, you look for a red dot on the ball; when it is thrown with the spin it will typically rotate on a stitch so you can tell the difference between a fastball and a slider.

A well-thrown changeup is impossible to detect. Pitchers that use the same arm action, delivery, and seam-orient to their changeup are miles ahead of you. If they throw a four-seam fastball and a four-seam changeup for strikes, you are basically screwed. The advice there is to not miss the fastball. However, many pitchers throw a four-seam fastball and a two-seam changeup, so you can pick out the differences occasionally.

An effective splitter is impossible to hit. An effective two-seam fastball cannot be hit out of the infield.

How important is this to hitting or is it one of those things like catcher's calling a good game that don't have much impact on the outcome?

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In the end, the catcher is not throwing the ball, the pitcher is. When I caught and called a pitch that was hit over the fence, I would feel bad. Ultimately, however, the pitcher decides what he wants to throw, so he is responsible for it. That's not saying a catcher is useless; catchers can often pick up on hitters' tells that are very valuable.

Also, comparing the Bonds and the Mauer videos, Bonds looks perfectly balanced while Mauer looks a bit off balance (his front foot is all over the place). Is this just an unlucky video or does he always look that off balance? Or am I just interpreting the herky jerky motions incorrectly?

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I am pretty sure Mauer is hitter a breaking ball in the video, which is the reason he is a bit disconnected. He (like most other hitters) hit off the fastball and adjust to off-speed pitches. That's what it looks like when you are adjusting (pretty ugly, eh?).
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