Whenever we think of great baseball hitters, we tend to think of players that can hit home runs, but being a great hitter does not necessarily mean hitting home runs. If you have ever wondered what makes a great baseball hitter, then this is the post for you. In this post, we will take a look at twelve characteristics of highly successful hitters and what makes them stand out from the crowd.
1. Confidence at the Plate
Being confident at the plate is a must-have for great hitters. Confidence is the one trait you’ll see come up as a must-have in any sport, and baseball is no different.
As a hitter, you’ll want to make sure you approach the plate with confidence with every at-bat. It will be impossible to achieve success at the plate when you doubt yourself, so hitters need to trust themselves and their abilities.
It is okay to be nervous sometimes – especially when facing a pitcher who throws hard or knows his stuff – however, if you let that fear and nervousness consume you, there is no way you are going to be successful.
At this point, some people might be wondering how they can become more confident at the plate. It may take some time to get comfortable, but the best place to start is by practicing and getting in enough swings. The more a player practices, the more confident they will become.
While practicing, it’s important to take each swing seriously. Getting in some swings in the batting cage is great, but being deliberate in the batting cages can go a long way to improving a player’s abilities and confidence.
Another simple strategy to being confident at the plate is to take a deep breath before approaching the plate. Whenever we get nervous we tend to take shorter, quicker breaths. So take a second to breathe and calm your mind before stepping into the batter’s box.
On that note, you also want to make sure you are mentally ready before you enter the batter’s box. The last thing you want to do is to enter the box when you know you aren’t ready. That can easily lead to striking out after three pitches.
If you ever find yourself in the batter’s box and realize you aren’t ready to go, do not hesitate to call time and take a break to gather yourself before you step in.
To sum it up, great hitters believe they will get a base hit each time they step into the batter’s box. No matter how good the pitcher might be, they trust themselves and they trust the practice they’ve done. Once they take their batting stance the only thing left to do is make contact with the ball.
2. Having An Aggressive Mentality
Every elite hitter has an aggressive mentality, which is why most players need to adopt that mindset into their game. Once a hitter gains confidence and steps inside the batter’s box, the next thing they’ll do is anticipate the throw and know that this next pitch is theirs to swing at.
To be an aggressive hitter, especially early in the count, anticipate what the next pitch will be and go for it. Great hitters always want to be in the mood to hit while they’re in the batter’s box and simply reacting to a pitch is a great way to strike out with the bat on your shoulders. So, anticipate the next pitch and anticipate swinging at that pitch. You have three strikes during each at-bat so use that to your advantage.
3. Being Great at Timing the Pitch
Another very common trait that all successful hitters have is that they are great at timing pitches. This means being able to make contact with the ball in the strike zone, with the ball hitting the sweet spot of the bat. Swinging a little too early can lead to easy pop-flies while swinging a little too late can lead to easy ground balls.
If you want to be a successful hitter, then timing is something you’ll want to focus on. If you ever notice something wrong with your swing then your timing is the first thing to check out. This is because a lot of hitters, even veteran hitters, struggle with pitchers who throw at different velocities.
When a pitcher throws slower than expected it leads to players swinging too early and lunging. On the other hand, when pitchers throw harder than expected it leads to players swinging too late and missing the pitch.
Sometimes the problem isn’t with the swing, but with the timing of the swing. So players who work on their timing can solve most of the mechanical issues they face.
With timing, you want to make sure you anticipate a great strike instead of waiting for a strike. It’s much easier to anticipate a strike and pause your swing on a bad pitch than it is to wait and see what the pitch is and decide to swing after the ball has been delivered.
So, if you want to become a great baseball hitter, one characteristic you must possess is the ability to perfectly time your swings.
4. Staying Balanced When Swinging
Great hitters are balanced most of the time throughout their swing. This doesn’t mean that they are in 100% perfect balance, but it does mean they have practiced enough to be in control of every swing.
Staying balanced while swinging means being able to keep your weight relatively even. Of course, there will be some shifting of weight while swinging, but players who are in control do not have their weight shifting too far back or too far forward.
If you tend to lose your balance and then you tend to lean backward, there is going to be little chance of having a successful hit. On that same note, if you lose your balance and you lunge forward, you also won’t have a successful hit.
So, how do you become balanced as a hitter? One simple tactic is to make sure your head stays in-between your feet throughout your load, your stride, your swing, and even when you make contact with the baseball. Applying this strategy should help you stay perfectly balanced throughout most of your swings.
Another tactic to having more balance as a hitter is to have a strong base. You wouldn’t want to begin your batting stance with your weight too far in one direction. Instead, you want your weight to be fairly even for a strong base. With a strong base, there is less of a chance the pitcher will keep you off-balance.
5. Controlling The Strike Zone
Great hitters will always control the strike zone. They make sure that the pitcher is throwing the ball in the strike zone, which is where they want to hit the ball.
Swinging at bad pitches only helps the pitcher, so great hitters try to avoid swinging at balls. Realistically, it would be impossible to never swing at a bad pitch, but great hitters practice enough to read when a pitch will be a strike and when a pitch will be a ball so they have a good understanding of the strike zone.
Controlling the zone is important because it increases your chances of a great hit. If you’re interested in learning more about what exactly the strike zone is, check out another article I previously wrote that goes into more detail on what the strike zone is in baseball.
6. Taking Advantage of Pitcher’s Mistakes
Pitchers are not perfect which means they’ll sometimes make mistakes. Those mistakes may not happen often, but great hitters know how to take advantage of those opportunities.
If you’ve played long enough then you’ve been up to bat when a pitcher has made a mistake. That mistake could be a fastball down the middle of the plate or a hanging curveball, but those who have witnessed a mistake pitch and were not ready to hit will understand how frustrating it is to miss that opportunity.
If you want to become a great hitter, you need to make sure you nail those mistake pitches. Regardless of the level you find yourself in, you are going to have a pitcher throwing these kinds of mistake pitches. The higher the level of play, the lesser you will encounter such experiences, but you’ll always want to be ready. So, always be prepared to take advantage of these mistakes made by the pitcher.
7. Preparing For A Fastball
Elite hitters are always prepared to crush the fastball. In fact, being able to hit a fastball is one of the most crucial aspects of hitting. If you’re unable to hit a fastball then you’ll struggle as a hitter. So, you always need to be fastball-ready.
This is because most pitchers will throw a fastball for a majority of their pitchers, and if you are looking to be a great hitter, this is something that you need to be able to consistently hit for power.
The fastball is one of the straightest and best pitches hitters are going to get, unlike curved balls, which is why you need to be able to crush these pitches. So, most hitters are first prepared to hit a fastball, and then make adjustments if the pitch turns out to be a breaking ball.
It is great if you can also hit other pitches, especially since breaking pitches are part of the game. However, nothing beats being prepared for and crushing the fastball.
8. Having A Plan And Sticking To It
Great hitters always make sure they have a plan before they enter the batter’s box, and then stick to that plan. Having a plan means you want to know what pitches you are going to hit, based on how the game is going.
For example, you might think that it is a great hit-and-run situation when you realize that there is a runner on first base. And upon looking to your third-base coach, he gives you the go-ahead. So, in such a situation, the plan you would have in your head would be to swing no matter where the pitcher throws the ball.
In hit and run scenarios, swinging at the pitch will help to protect the base runner, and most likely put the ball in play. To do this correctly, you might want to plan on choking up a little bit and aiming for a hard-hit ground ball on the right-hand side of the field. So, once you make a plan like this, you want to make sure that you stick to it when you enter the box.
Another example would be if you are in a scenario where there are runners on first and second base, and you are up to bat with no outs. In this scenario, you might make a plan to hit the ball up in the strike zone to try and hit the ball in the outfield. The alternative you would want to avoid is hitting into a double-play, so hitting the ball in a spot where you know you can get it into the outfield would be a good strategy.
So, you always want to read the game before you enter the batter’s box and try as much as possible to anticipate the pitch the pitcher might throw next. And once you enter the box, you want to make sure that you stick by the plan you formulate. It’s much easier said than done, but with time and practice, it’s a skill that can be developed.
9. Having Great Plate Discipline
Hitting a pitch is really difficult, and as difficult as it is, one thing highly successful hitters avoid is chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Once they find themselves in the batter’s box, they still have an aggressive mindset, however, they are also very patient. Once the pitcher throws a pitch in the strike zone that they know they can crush, they go for it.
You only have three strikes to spare when you are hitting and it would be a shame to let the pitcher get an easy strike because you swung at a pitch outside of the strike zone. So, you want to make sure that you step in the box ready, however, you want to be patient for the best pitch in which you can be super aggressive. You do not need to swing at every single pitch.
Great hitters know that every strike counts so when they notice a pitch outside of the strike zone, they let it go.
Another advantage to having great discipline is that it forces the pitcher to throw strikes. The more strikes the pitcher throws, the better the chances are of getting a base hit.
10. Practicing With A Goal
To improve their hitting abilities, successful hitters practice with a purpose or a goal. Some hitters might go to the cage to get in 50 swings a day and some might go with the intent of honing in on their swing mechanics. But one thing all successful hitters have in common is that they have a purpose each time they practice.
If you are looking to improve your hitting ability then you want to make sure that you practice, but practice with the goal of improving a part of your swing. Going to the batting cage is great, but you also want to make sure you are practicing with a purpose or a goal instead of going for the sake of hitting.
Regardless of the practice you might be doing, you also want to make sure that you know what it is you want to improve on for that practice. One example could be if you realize that you have a problem keeping your hands back during off-speed pitches. For this scenario, you might want to work on timing some curveballs.
So, it’s highly recommended that you have a plan and a purpose each time practice beings. Without a plan or a goal, then practice just becomes another mundane event.
In addition to having a plan, great hitters also make sure they work hard during each practice session. It’s true that having a goal is important, but going into practice with mediocre effort means mediocre results. So, while it is important to have a goal, it is just as important to practice hard every time.
11. Improving On Mistakes
When practicing, successful hitters make sure they are learning and improving on mistakes they’ve made during games. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you are unable to work on these mistakes or improve on them, then it’s difficult to grow as a hitter.
Failure is something that a lot of hitters have a hard time dealing with, but if you are looking forward to being a great hitter then you want to make sure that you look past these failures in a game and work on them during practice. Baseball is a game of failure and those that work on their failure tend to improve and become better in the long run.
Most hall of fame players have a batting average of .300 and above which means they are successful about 30% of the time. So, all great hitters know that failure is inevitable, but once they fail, they make sure they are improving on those mistakes they made during the game.
So, one takeaway from this section is that it’s ok to make a mistake at the plate. Mistakes happen to everyone, but it’s important to learn about what went wrong and then set aside some time to work out those wrinkles.
12. Knowing Most Pitchers Will Try To Throw You Off Balance
Simply put, hitting a baseball is tough. What makes it even tougher is that you have a pitcher who is actively trying to get you out on three strikes. One of the things great hitters are aware of is that pitchers are always looking to keep them off balance.
Being off-balance in your swing could mean that a pitcher will be throwing off-speed pitches when they think you’re not ready for it or it could mean that a pitcher is trying to quick-pitch you when you’re not completely ready in the batter’s box. Either way, great hitters know that part of hitting is a type of chess game between them and the pitcher so they need to be ready for anything.
So one thing great hitters will do is study the pitcher when they are watching their teammates bat. Some hitters might notice a trend where a pitcher likes to throw an off-speed pitch with a certain number of strikes or they might notice a slight tell that a pitcher has when they are throwing a certain kind of pitch.
All successful hitters know that pitchers will try to keep them off-balance during their at-bat so they try to study the pitcher’s moves to reduce the chance of being caught off-guard.