Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pre-At Bat Preparation

Credit: Newscom

When do your hitters begin to get ready for their at bat?

Most hitters begin preparing for their at bat in the on deck circle. For the first time, their eyes are on the pitcher, though there may not be much focus. So many hitters look in the stands for their Dad, see where their girlfriend is seated, or laugh at someone's toddler picking his nose. Where's their preparation? No wonder hitting is so hard!

While on-deck, some hitters begin to notice how hard the pitcher really is or isn't throwing, the shape of his breaking ball, or the movement of his fastball.

We tell our hitters that the at-bat is the test, and the pitcher will give us the answers, if only we will pay attention.

Here is how we approach pre-AB preparation in our program:

1.) We demand that our hitters get their helmet, batting gloves, pine tar and any other accessory they need to hit prepared when they are in the hole. When a batter steps into the box, our hitter in the hole is fully prepared to hit, and keenly watches the pitcher.

2.) We won't pretend that many student-athletes can focus with intensity for three hours, so we don't ask them to. Hitters have to be able to space out and lock back in. This is natural human behavior, and it's how our minds often best learn. However, we want to give our hitters the best chance to learn what the pitcher is going to challenge them with. All of our hitters are required to be on the dugout rail nearest home plate, and we don't allow pitchers near our area - they stay at the other end of the dugout while we are on offense.

3.) Every game, our lineup card has our lineup on the left, and uses the other team's lineup to write in a second lineup for our team. This second lineup is for our "Mental ABs." Every one of our non-starting players on the right is matched up with a starting player on the left. When the starter pushes his helmet down, pulls his batting gloves on tight and lines his bat with pine tar, our "Mental AB" hitter does the same.

While the starter is on-deck and hitting, our backup hitter visualizes his approach, takes dry swings and goes through his pre-, during and post-AB routines. The mind can not truly separate real experience from that which is imagined, and these hitters are gaining preparation and confidence that gives them a better shot at success when called upon.

Last year, we had a freshman catcher take advantage of his mental reps, and when our number one guy went down with a knee injury, the freshman stepped in, had 3 QABs his first game and rolled to an .830 OPS in 100 ABs.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Objective Measurements for 2015

Hitters who are result-driven don't last long in this sport. Motivated by fear and lacking self-control, they can kill a rally quicker than you can say "6-4-3."

A hitting coach's job is to motivate and inspire confidence and self-trust within a hitter. A simple way to encourage these seemingly abstract concepts is with basic objective measurements.

At Lee, we measure...

1.) OPS (On base % + slugging %), not the batting average. OPS has value over AVG because it accounts for more attributes of a hitter: contact, patience and power.

2.) QABs (Quality At-Bats). A hitter cannot control when a hit falls in. Often his outs are productive! A hitter can have a consistently quantifiable impact on the game without his batting average...or OPS, for that matter, increasing. The QABs we measure: hard contact, 8 + pitch PA, BB, HBP, 2-strike hit (devastating!), Advancing a runner from 2nd to 3rd w/ 0 outs, any successful bunt, any RBI. 

3.) 567. We grade every ball flight. We track these in BP. 5, 6, 7 refers to the most desired flight of the ball, from a perfect line drive, to a fly ball with ENERGY and JUICE. 

4.) Base running. We have a chart with advanced base running metrics. This helps us evaluate and reinforce the most advanced base runners on our team.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: The Year You Become the Best

You want to become the best. The best hitter. The best coach. The best player. The best leader.

You want to win? You want to achieve greatness?

Be excellent at these things:

Don't be on time. Be early.

Be where you need to be, when you need to be there. You can't drive straight staring at the rear view mirror.

Do a little, a lot. It's the start that stops most people.

It's not what you do, but how you do it. Finish the job.

Do it. Do it right. Do it right now.

Being the best doesn't require education, an inheritance, great genetics or pure luck.

Being the best does require desire.

It does require fight, toughness and relentlessness. If you have DESIRE and RELENTLESSNESS, there is not much that will escape your grasp.

If you're tired of catch phrases, read the resilient story of Soichiro Honda here.

Make 2015 great. Become the best you can be.