Saturday, September 5, 2015

What is Your Hitting Identity?

                                                                                 (Photo credit: beyondtheboxscore.com)

A hitter's talent, skill set and approach combine to make his identity.

An identity might be a power hitter with plate discipline, a line drive grinder who isn't strong enough to hit consistent fly balls, or a young and talented hitter who's youthful intangibles cause a roller coaster of success.

Whatever the identity of a hitter, it can change. Approaches can improve, bodies get stronger, mechanics can change and bat speed may even slightly improve.

Faster or weaker hitters should focus on hitting low line drives and hard, deep ground balls. Bigger, more physical hitters should hit high line drives and low fly balls.

As you may recall, at Lee University, we assess a number (1-10) for every ball flight our hitters create. A "4" flight is a ball that is hit well and first lands in the infield dirt. A "5" is perfectly squared up and lands just beyond the infield or in the shallow outfield. A "6" has a five to seven degree angle flight with tremendous backspin and usually results in a single, line out, double or triple. A ball must be crushed with 6 flight to be a HR. A "7" flight usually results in a double or home run if well struck. Batted balls that are 8-10 flights are rarely hits. Three out of our twenty hitters can consistently hit an 8 flight out of the park.

Some of our hitters are given the identity of "456" while others are "567." We test exit velocities on our hitters, and are specifically aware of their weight room strength numbers. We pay attention to the size and strength of their forearms and hands. We understand the speed of our hitters, and who can get away with 3 and 4 flight mistakes, as well as 7 and 8 flight mistakes. All of these bits of data go into our determination of the type of hitter a player is, today. May sound like a lot, but it is a relatively simple process. Imagine the bits of information you would use to assess yourself or your own hitters.

If you are still teaching your hitters to consistently hit ground balls to the opposite field, stop reading this post and do your research here.

Another great tool is MLB's Statcast web page. Check out this link.

A coach doesn't want his 8 hole hitter focused on dropping bombs if that isn't in his skill set. An 8 hole hitter should be pursuing reaching base by any method possible. Conversely, you don't want your 4 or 5 hole hitter taking so many pitches, perhaps in an effort to reach via walk, that he takes most of the good pitches that he sees to hit with runners in scoring position, two outs and a less talented hitter on deck.

We tell our hitters that they can change their identity. Nearly every hitter wants to be a 567 hitter. As Greg Maddux famously said in a Nike commercial where pitchers were taking batting practice, "Chicks dig the long ball."

What is your identity as a hitter?

If you coach, do you know who your hitters are? Have you explained this to them?

We have begun giving them more detailed information on who they are and why. All of our BP sessions are charted, and we plan to chart intrasquads, too. Our BP sessions always consist of a spray chart showing ball direction as well as a ball flight number, and we break down their percentages of each type of ball flight our hitters hit in a weekly assessment we put in their lockers.

For instance, one hitter may have hit 20% ground balls (1-4 flight), 20% line drives (567) and 60% fly balls (8-10). If this hitter is one of our 456 guys, this is not good. He's hitting way too many fly balls and needs to change his timing and approach. If that hitter is a 567 hitter, this is more towards his desired standards, but probably slightly too high of a fly ball ratio.

We want them to not only know what their identity is, but be able to be emotionally invested in this process. We want them to accept who they are while pursuing who they want to become.

If we can develop this mindset of acceptance and growth, I believe our hitters will better fill their roles on the team, while still pursuing growth and maximizing their potential.

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