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Battle to the Mistake

April 12, 2010

Plan the work, work the plan.  This is a mantra that I heard over and over again while pitching for the University of Arizona.  Thanks Coach Lopez.  It might be one of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard.  It transcends the baseball field and carries over in to the real-life sector as well.  Regardless, it was the first thing that came to my mind after reading fellow authors Justin Abramson and Dee Clark’s opposing pieces on hitting philosophy.  As a coach, I rely heavily on teaching my hitters to plan their work, and work their plan.  When it comes to hitting, I want them to plan on hitting the mistake.

As a former pitcher, I am quite familiar with what quality hitters do with mistake pitches.  They shit all over ‘em.  It never mattered if it was the first pitch or the 8th pitch of the at-bat either.  It only mattered that the pitch was not where it was supposed to be.  As a hitting coach, I now work to instill this idea in all of my hitters.  I preach, “Battle to the mistake.”  If I were to subscribe to Dee’s philosophy this might mean trying to work a 9 pitch sequence.  On the other hand, if I were to subscribe to Justin’s philosophy, this would mean that I should jump at the first fastball I see in the sequence.  While I tend to be more conservative in my plate approach (I was schooled by Dee in the ideas of plate approach) I still am very fond of seeing a good pitch early and jumping all over it.  Sometimes pitchers will attack the zone early with fastballs to get ahead, and this often times leads to a pitch finding itself traveling over too much of the white, or heart of the plate.  Other times, especially in later or more meaningful at-bats, a hitter may not see a mistake pitch until the 4th, 5th, or even 6th pitch of the AB.  If the latter is the case, the hitter must be disciplined enough to withstand the pitchers attack until the pitcher makes a mistake.

No matter when the mistake pitch is thrown, the hitter must have it in his mind to attack the mistake.  When dealing with high caliber baseball there is usually just one mistake pitch thrown per AB (if that.)  This means that if the hitter neglects to take a chance (swing) at the mistake, he will more than likely end up swinging at a pitcher’s pitch and have difficulty squaring up the baseball, thus leading to a probable out.  This is why it is so important to take advantage of the mistake, no matter when it occurs.  You can bet the farm that you will not get any second chances that AB.  I guess what I am trying to say is that as a hitting philosophy, I believe in hitting the mistake.  All pitchers make them, so why not try to hit the one pitch in the sequence that the pitcher wishes he could get back?  While the more pitches you see tends to give you a higher percentage chance of seeing a mistake, what happens if the mistake is that 0-1 CB that hangs in the zone?  You bang the damn thing.  Just ask Pujols, or Longoria, or any other high caliber hitter in Major League Baseball.  Taking advantages of mistakes trumps any other hitting approach.  So plan your work and work your plan, and battle to the mistake at the dish.  This mentality, or philosophy if you will, will give you the highest percentage opportunity for success.  I’ll put a Griffin Phelps guarantee on that one.  One love, I’m out.

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