This is an excerpt from Coaching Baseball Technical and Tactical Skills by American Sport Education Program.
Situational hitting is the ability to assess changing game situations and hit accordingly. As you know, game situations vary enormously, so each time a batter comes to the plate, he must take into account the game conditions before he decides what he should try to do with the bat. Your hitters should never come up to the plate and just swing at whatever is thrown. Good hitters, even in high school, take into account the number of outs, the score, where the fielders are positioned, which bases are occupied and other subtle clues before they ever step into the batter’s box.
Acquiring the Appropriate Knowledge
To become good situational hitters, your athletes must know about the following:
Your athletes need to know several main rules when they are hitting in various situations:
- Rules that pertain to the strike zone
- Rules about interference as a hitter
- Rules about check swings
Physical Playing Conditions
The physical playing conditions significantly affect the game. Thus, you and your players must pay attention to the following physical conditions when trying to determine the best way to hit the ball:
- The condition of the infield. For example, long grass is better for bunting, whereas a hard field can lead to many high bounces on ground balls, which may become hits.
- The surface quality between the bases.
- The slope of the surface on the foul line. For example, if the surface near the foul line slopes toward foul territory, laying down a successful bunt may be harder.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Opponents
You and your players must account for your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses to know how your batter should hit the ball. Teach your players to consider the following about your opponents:
- How quickly do the infielders react when a hitter shows bunt?
- Do fielders shift according to the pitch count, such as shifting to the batter’s pull side in anticipation that he will pull the ball?
- Does the catcher notice subtle shifts in the batter’s stance or position in regard to the plate? An alert catcher will especially af-fect your ability to use the bunt successfully.
- Has the catcher fallen into a pattern with his pitch calling—fastball, curve, fastball, curve and so on?
- Is the pitcher particularly strong? Against a good pitcher, your team may try to take more pitches to wear him out. The sooner you get to the number 2 pitcher, the better.
In addition to being aware of your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, you and your players need to have knowledge about your own team’s ability. When trying to determine the best place to hit in various situations, teach your players to be aware of the following:
- How good is the hitter’s bat control? You may want to have a disciplined hitter with good bat control in the middle of your lineup.
- How good is the hitter at laying down a bunt?
- Does the hitter have good knowledge of the strike zone?
- Does the hitter understand the best position to place the ball in various situations, and does he have the capability to do this?
When trying to determine how to hit the ball in various situations, you and your players should be sure to consider the previous information. Also consider the following guidelines:
- Have hitters look only for their favorite pitch to hit, for example, and not swing at anything else when the count is in their favor, at 1-0 or 2-0.
- Make sure that hitters know to swing at a curveball only if they have a two-strike count.
- Use the drag bunt more often if the infield corners are playing back.
- Make sure that your batters look for a pitch that they can drive to the right-field side of the diamond when you have a runner at second.
- Make sure that batters look for a pitch up in the strike zone that they can hit to right field, or hit hard, when your team has a runner on third. A ground ball to the right side is as good as a deep fly ball in this situation.
- Have hitters swing from the heels when they get a 2-0 pitch in the strike zone.
- Have your batters hit to the right side when your team has a runner on second with no outs.
- Have your batters take a strike when you are behind late in the game.
- Have the first batter in any inning behave like a leadoff hitter, trying to work the count deep and draw a walk.
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