They’re called the “Five O’Clock Hitter.” That’s the type of player who routinely tears it up in batting practice, only to struggle at the plate when it is game time. As a longtime hitting instructor I’ve heard this so many times…”well his swing looks great and he kills it in the cage, but he’s still struggling in the games.”
So how is it possible for someone who has such a good looking swing and dominates in practice to struggle in a game setting? Usually it has to do with a lack of preparation.
Get prepared, and learn how to be a better hitter in the game by following these five tips:
5 Tips: How to hit better in baseball games
1. Have a solid pregame hitting routine
Routines prepare us mentally and physically to take on a given task. It’s often said that hitting a baseball is the hardest task in all of sports. Yet players at the youth level and even at the high school and collegiate levels often do not have a consistent pregame hitting routine. One common excuse for this is a lack of opportunity to hit before a game because of limited access to cages or on-field time. However, a pregame routine does not always require a batting cage or a whole field. If you know that you will not have access to a cage or on-field BP, bring some wiffle balls or heavy balls with you to the field. Wiffle balls require a very small space. You should certainly be able to find enough space next to the field to do your pregame drills or batting practice with wiffle balls. Remember, every hitter is unique. Find a specific routine, set of drills, or style of batting practice that leaves YOU feeling confident and locked in…and DO IT EVERY DAY!!!
2. Stand in against teammates in bullpen
If your team’s pitcher is going to be warming up before the game in the bullpen or outside of the field, ask him if he minds if you stand in for some of those warm up pitches. There is no better way to prepare to hit against live pitching than actually standing in against, and tracking the pitches of a real live pitcher. You’re not going to be swinging, obviously, but you should be timing the ball and visualizing yourself swinging and making contact with the ball out in front. Gather, load and stride on every pitch to work on your timing. Focus on picking the ball up very early out of the pitcher’s hand. You can even say (in your head or out loud), “yes” or “no” on pitches you would swing or not swing at. This practice also gives your pitcher the benefit of seeing a hitter stand in the batter’s box before he takes the mound in the game. So it is truly a win-win situation.
3. Get your rhythm & timing down on deck, correctly
I make it a point to ask all of my hitters if they get their timing down when they are on deck. Most say yes, but when I ask exactly what they are timing, most answer that they are timing the ball crossing the plate. In a way, this may be helpful, but it does not prepare you for what you will actually be doing in the batter’s box. As a hitter we need to get our timing off of the pitcher’s movements, not the ball. If you’re only timing the ball, odds are you’ll be late, or at the very least, going to be rushed at the plate. In order to have good rhythm and be on time, the hitter needs to sync their movements up with the pitcher’s. In general, most hitters will need to begin their movements around the time the pitcher’s hands break apart. This is a good starting point that you can adjust from. If it’s a slower pitcher or you have a very short load and stride, you may need to start later. If it is a very fast pitcher or you have a big leg kick or stride, you’ll probably need to start a little earlier. The goal is to find the timing that allows your rhythm and tempo to feel the same in the game as it would on a practice swing.
4. Have a pre-pitch routine
Like your pregame routine, the pre-pitch routine is vital to your preparation as a hitter. If you watch Major League or college baseball, after every pitch you’ll see hitters step out and do their routine before they get back into the batter’s box. Most hitters will take a practice swing or two. Some will tap their cleats or adjust their batting gloves. Each hitter’s routine is unique, but there are few things you’ll notice every hitter do.
Things you should do between every pitch:
- Find a spot to look at to break concentration. This spot needs to be away from the pitcher and your 3rd base coach. In order to focus with the intensity that we need during the next pitch, we must first clear mind our mind and our vision. You’ll see hitters pick a spot to look at on their bat or hands, you’ll see some gaze off into the distance, and others look at a spot on the plate. Again, this is up to the individual.
- Take a deep breath. The breath should be so deep that everyone in the ball park can see your shoulders come up when you inhale and go down when you exhale. This will help you clear your mind, relax, as well as send a burst of oxygen into your bloodstream to help you focus on the next pitch.
- Get into the batter’s box the same way every time, and do it with confidence. Most hitters “dig in” or set their back foot first, then get all the way back into the batter’s box. However you do it, make sure you feel confident and portray confidence when you do it. Have a little swag!
5. Have an approach and game plan
Do you have a well defined plan every time you step into the batter’s box? Every hitter should, and they should remind themselves what that plan is between every pitch. Every hitter and situation is unique, so not everyone is going to have the same approach or game plan. Some factors that can help you determine what your approach should be is your strengths or weaknesses as a hitter, the pitcher’s strength and weaknesses, the pitcher’s tendencies, and the game situation (inning, score, runners on base, outs and count). Regardless of what your approach is, you need to know what you are trying to do and how you are going to do it before you step in that batter’s box for the next pitch.
Like these tips? Let us know what you think in the comments below. If you want to learn more ways to improve your hitting, check out our 5 most essential hitting drills here.