As a hitter, you have to understand that the averages are stacked against you. You will fail to reach base more times than you will actually succeed. That’s just part of the game. Let’s face it, a 30% success rate is not that great in most aspects of life. But, get 3 hits over the stretch of 10 at-bats and you are considered a pretty good hitter. So, what can you do to increase your chances of putting a solid barrel on the next pitch you see? It’s as simple as understanding the pitch count.
Sit Dead Red
If pitchers know that first pitch strikes are of extreme importance, then hitters need to understand this approach as well for it can help them better guess what type of pitch they will see at a given time during an at-bat. Most pitchers tend to pitch to hitters in certain patterns and typically resort to a particular pitch depending on the count (without any regard to the hitter’s abilities, strengths, or weaknesses). If you run across this type of pitcher, chances are he tends to favor his fastball when he is behind in the count.
0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1, and 3-1 are all considered hitter’s counts because the pitcher needs to throw a strike so as not to fall farther behind to the batter. (Some coaches believe 1-1 and 3-2 are also hitter’s counts.) And when the pitcher is desperate to throw a strike, there is a strong possibility that you are going to see a fastball in a fat part of the strike zone that you can hit hard. We call this sitting dead red and you should be drooling as the pitcher starts his delivery. Load up and drive that pitch into the gap.
Now, not all pitchers will resort to their fastball in these counts. Better pitchers will play the mental game right back at you and try to pitch you backwards – throwing offspeed pitches in typical fastball counts. However, only pitchers who have good command of other pitches will go this route. As the hitter, if you have scouted your opponent or you are paying attention during the game, you can pick up fairly quickly what kind of head the pitcher has on his shoulders and what his tendencies are. Again, these types of pitchers are rare and usually you will only face them as you move up to better levels of the game.
If you do see something other than a fastball come out of the pitcher’s hand, don’t be afraid to lay off of it. You are already ahead in the count, so an offspeed pitch that finds its way into the zone for a strike is no big deal. In this scenario, keep in mind that very few pitchers throw back-to-back offspeed pitches. Now, you can gear up for that fastball again.
Getting ahead in the count is a huge priority for pitchers. That means it should be a priority for hitters as well. If you can understand the pitcher’s mindset when he is behind in the count, then you will have a better chance at succeeding in that situation. Never take a pitch or a play off. There is always something to see, hear, and learn that can make your game better.