What is your 1st Pitch hitting Strategy? Ask a college or pro player this question, and you get an immediate, very specific and detailed answer. “Fastball Middle In, or “Breaking ball up”. However, so many young players give the answer in general terms such as “looking for a strike” or “a good pitch to hit”. A hitter can become a more productive hitter with a good 1st pitch strategy. A good 1st pitch strategy could set up the rest of the at bat, or make you a more prepared hitter
The answer may be different for every hitter, but lies in the following variables.
- Your Strengths as a Hitter: This is 80% of the solution. If you are more comfortable hitting the pitch away, lock in on a pitch away, look for it and hit it when you get it (see “Knowing Your Strengths”). It is so valuable to know the pitches you can hit well, and the pitches you do not so that you can develop a strategy based on you strengths and weaknesses.
- Pitcher’s Tendencies: You have to know the pitcher’s tendency on the first pitch. If your swing tells you to look for the pitch middle in, and the pitcher is throwing a lot of first pitch fastballs in, this is great news. If the pitcher is throwing fastballs or off-speed pitches away, you can skew your strategy a bit to hone in on the real mistakes in the middle of the plate (or commit to a 1st pitch Breaking Ball). Also, the pitcher’s 1st pitch strike rate plays a factor in this as well.
- The Situation: Certain situations dictate that we look for a particular pitch or location. With a runner on 2nd and 0 outs, you would look for a pitch to hit to right to move the runner. Generally, this pitch is something on the 1st base side of the strike zone and the approach should be to find the contact position that will drive the ball to right field. If there is a runner on first, and a huge hole between first and second is there, and it fits your swing to hit the ball that way, find the right pitch to hit a hard ground ball to the right side. Dustin Pedroia and many other successful hitters in the big leagues utilize this strategy very successfully.
Simply put, take the time to develop an approach based on your hitting strengths, the pitcher’s tendency, and the situation. You will become a more prepared hitter early in the count, and set up the rest of the at bat rather than just hoping to get a hit. A hitter’s hitting zone is usually about ½ of the strike zone. If you are able to define a strategy to help you anticipate a pitch in that zone, you can become a selectively aggressive hitter, hit more pitches hard, and have more success every at bat.