By Eugene Bleecker
Complete Hitting is the idea that as a hitter, you are able to accomplish everything that is asked of you at the plate. A complete hitter must be able to not only pull the inside pitch but let balls on the outer half get deep in the zone to drive to the opposite field. A complete hitter must have the ability to hit balls in every zone so there are no holes in the swing. A complete hitter must be able to hit both fastballs as well as off speed pitches by having a balanced approach at the plate.
A complete hitter must be able to hit behind the runner and execute on a hit and run when the situation calls for it. A complete hitter must be able to bunt the ball successfully when called upon and know where the ball should be placed. A complete hitter must be able to drive in runners from scoring position and always know what their job is. Finally, a complete hitter has to understand the mental aspects of hitting and how to use the information the opposing pitcher provides to create a better opportunity for success. Remember, even hall of famers fail 7 out of 10 times they walk up to the plate.
To become a complete hitter you must dedicate yourself to working on aspects of hitting each and every day. It doesn’t matter how good you are now or what level of baseball you are playing, you can always become a better hitter by putting time into the specifics. In baseball natural ability can only take you so far and there are so many things asked of us as hitters, it takes this kind of dedication to truly be good. Becoming a complete hitter is what every player should strive towards and aspire to be!
1. 9 zones 9 swings: When we break down the strike zone into sections, there are nine zones that pitchers work on throwing to and all of these are strikes. The zones are:
Each one of these zones has a specific swing that is slightly different from the others. It is absolutely necessary to work on hitting to all nine zones in practice with Dry Swings, Tee Work and Soft toss to become a complete hitter. If you don’t work on hitting to these zones in practice, you WILL NOT be able to do it come game time.
a. The Inner Third: When making contact with pitches on the inner half the barrel is connecting with the ball out in front of the body angled towards the pull side. The knob of the bat must lead the hands toward the ball and stay in between the hitter’s body and the baseball thus giving us the phrase “hands inside the ball” which I’m sure many of you have heard. After contact the hands must also be extended through the baseball to the pull side, this will provide for the most amount of distance on the ball. When attacking a pitch low and in the swing is more drastically “down to” and “up through” the ball than a pitch up and in. The reason for swinging “down to” the ball and “up through” the ball is because of the angle of the pitch and what we are trying to accomplish as a hitter. We want to generate backspin on the ball so it will carry through the air, but we want to hit solid line drives as well. The pitcher on the mound is throwing on a downward angle towards home plate, so if we swing down to the baseball because our hands and bat are starting above the strike zone, then connect with the middle to bottom third of the baseball and swing up through it, the result is a line drive with backward rotation providing for a longer flight path and carry. On the pitch middle in we are still “down to” and “up through” the ball but not as drastically as the low pitch. On the pitch up in the strike zone the swing is more level but still “down to” and “up through” the baseball. On the high pitch the hitter must still concentrate on hitting the middle to bottom third of the ball as this provides for the best possible flight path.
b. The Middle Third: When attacking a pitch down the middle the hitter must let the ball get slightly deeper in the zone to drive it up the middle. Ideally we want contact with the ball to occur in the region even with our front side to slightly out in front of our body. The same principles of “down to” the ball and “up through” the ball apply here but after contact with the ball on pitches down the middle, the hands must extend through the baseball towards center field.
c. The Outer Third: When attacking a pitch on the outer third of the plate, a hitter must let the ball get deep in the zone in relation to the body and drive the ball off of their back leg to the opposite field. If a hitter makes contact with a ball on the outer third out in front of the body, the hitter loses power because of an inability to extend through the baseball to the opposite field. The end result of making contact with a pitch on the outer third in front of the body is called “rolling over” which causes either a weak fly ball or a slow ground ball to the pull side Again, the same principles of “down to” the ball and “up through” the ball are applied with pitches on the outer third.
Eugene Bleecker is the Founder and Director of Player Development at 108 Performance., and the author of Old School vs New School, The application of data and technology into baseball.