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Five Tips for Approaching a Two-Strike Count

Once a hitter finds himself behind two strikes, anxiety often sets in, especially with young players. Don’t strike out; make contact with the ball, he’s told over and over by coaches and parents. The fear of striking out in front of teammates, family and friends is his only thought.

It doesn’t have to be, according to Cade Griffis, founder and CEO of D-Bat Sports, an indoor and outdoor facility with 40 locations around the United States. He believes a strikeout is the most overrated statistic in baseball. To emphasize his point, he uses former major leaguer Derek Jeter and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson as examples. Jeter struck out 1,840 times during his career, Jackson 2,597 times.
Cade Griffis photo.jpg

“(The prevailing thought) used to be make contact, try to make something happen,” said Griffis, a former scout for the Chicago White Sox who played in the Kansas City Royals organization. “At the younger age group, that works, because if you force them to make a play, you probably have a 40 percent chance you’re safe. As you get older, (fielders) don’t make as many mistakes. Putting the ball in play doesn’t help your team as much. No one talks about what their contact stat is; it’s more what your on-base percentage or batting average is.”

The best scenario for any hitter is to avoid getting down two strikes in the first place, Griffis said. Easier said than done, perhaps, but he offers five tips batters can use to make something happen or get back in the count.

Go on the offensive. Hitters often become less aggressive once the count reaches 0-2, choking up on the bat or moving closer to the plate. Odds of drawing a walk are slim, so Griffis believes you should be more aggressive, not less.

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“You never practice swinging 70 percent,” he explained. “I would much rather have a good, hard swing for strike three than a weak ground ball.”

Don’t be afraid to hit a foul ball. Griffis learned this tip from former Royals Hall of Famer George Brett. If a pitch is away, don’t leave your fate in the hands of the plate umpire. If you try too hard to hit a fair ball, you’re more likely to hit a weak grounder. Instead, drive it foul down either the first- or third-base line. 

Watch and listen. According to Swing #4.jpgGriffis, some coaches make the mistake of sending verbal clues to the opposing hitter of where the next pitch will be thrown. If a batter hears, “0-2, nothing close,” it usually means the pitch will be up in the zone. If the coach yells, “be smart,” it will probably be away. In other words, don’t give the hitter a chance.

Change the way you think about striking out. Griffis says the natural inclination of most players, coaches and parents is to dread a strikeout more than a groundout or fly ball out.

“I don’t judge a kid (any worse) who goes 1-for-3 and strikes out twice,” he said. “It’s the same thing if he goes 1-for-3 and hits two weak ground balls to the pitcher. An out is an out. I think we create outs because we put too much emphasis on the strikeout, and we get them out of their comfort zone.”

Be ready when you step in the batter’s box. According to Griffis, a third strike isn’t always what strikes you out; it’s usually because a hitter missed one of the other two strikes that may have been right down the middle. The earlier you can get ahead in the count, the better, since this puts more pressure on the pitcher.

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.

Baseball, Baseball Player Development, Baseball Tips & Drills