Private Baseball Lessons in St. Louis - Rick Strickland Baseball

If you simply looked at the stats in baseball, you’d likely conclude that the hitters were the Davids and the pitchers, the Goliaths. At least based on last season’s .255 league-wide team batting average you would -- a 25.5% success rate is pretty low in the grand scheme of things.

Since hitters are the underdogs in almost every battle, you’d therefore be excused for supporting most of the methods they employ to gain an edge. This would not include things like PEDs and corked bats, but would include things like slathering pine tar, taking practice swings with donuts, and undergoing LASIK to improve their vision.

But even with laser eye surgery and the “better-than-perfect” vision that comes with it, honing in on a major league fastball before it’s too late is nearly impossible. Which is why hitters and their instructors are taking their efforts to better “see” pitches even further.

Predicting Pitches
Another totally legitimate technique that the Davids of the world can employ when trying to level the playing field is “pitch recognition.” This involves seeing the ball right out of the pitcher’s hand -- or even earlier -- in order to know what pitch is coming and make the appropriate adjustments.

It is akin to poker players recognizing each other’s “tells”: those little gestures, movements, and motions that reveal what they’re up to with their hand of cards. The key difference between tell-recognition and pitch-recognition is that hitters in baseball have less than half a second to decide whether or not to act.

A mere .434 seconds is how long it takes for a 90-mph heater to reach home plate, which is basically the blink of an eye. So being able to determine whether the pitch is a fastball, breaking ball, or changeup is an incredibly useful skill for hitters, as it really helps slow the game down.

What to Look For
Pitches can be recognized at various points in a pitcher’s delivery. The first is where they’ve taken their position on the mound, and from there, cues include adjustments in their stance; their hand, glove and arm movements; their windups or motion from the stretch; and finally their release point -- and, for some hitters, it even includes picking up the spin of the ball on its way to the plate.

Many players have something of a sixth sense when it comes to recognizing pitches, resulting in more quality ABs over the course of a long season. But many batters simply don’t have the gift -- or haven’t developed the ability -- and therefore end up hacking or just guessing.

But you can develop the ability to recognize pitches by concentrating on a few things, using modern sports-science technology and good-old traditional on-field practice.

How to Practice
It’s common these days to “teach” sports through the use of computer programs that help with high-speed decision making, focus and concentration, visualization, spatial recognition, and more.

One such software application uses HD videos and implores young hitters to “trainabovetheneck” as they receive coaching on identifying pitch type, estimating velocity, and determining hitting-zone location and, as they progress through the different levels of training, it’s much like they’re playing a video game.

Others employ something called “video occlusion,” whereby only the first few seconds of a pitch are displayed, forcing hitters to quickly determine where to look for cues and then guess the type of pitch and whether it would have been a ball or strike.

And of course there’s no shortage of things you can do on the diamond as well, without the need for hi-tech tools. One popular training method involves hitters standing at a tee, watching a pitcher “throw” an invisible pitch, then calling out what kind it was and visualizing its trajectory before swinging away at the stationary ball.

Another is a variation on the “two-ball flip” practice game. In the pitch-recognition version, batters stand in the box and are flipped two balls from the side, as usual, but are required to hit only the higher ball. That is, unless their instructor calls “change!,” at which point they must hit the lower ball, which is great practice for adjusting to pitches down in the zone.

Improvements at the Plate
Roughly 75% of the time, hitters are humbled by their failure to get on base. But, as the numbers show us, pitchers don’t always win.

And at RSB, we’re all about providing thorough assessments and comprehensive training so young hitters make improvements from day-to-day and AB-to-AB. Our Swing Rehab program will help them set goals, track progress, and evaluate feedback -- including in the area of pitch recognition.

Contact us today to find out more about how you or your favorite young hitter can take the steps that will ensure they lock in on pitchers’ cues and are never standing at the dish hacking or guessing.




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