While this website and blog primarily focuses on pitching, this post by Kurt Davidson is a must read for both pitchers and hitters. Kurt is currently the Hitting Coach at Walsh University. He played at the University of Akron and he finished his career at Akron as the leader in several statistical categories, including home runs (41), RBIs (180), at bats (807) and total bases (430). He is also second in career hits (253), and third in career doubles (52). He remains tied for second on the all-time single season list for home runs with 12, a feat he managed to accomplish twice in his career as both a sophomore and senior.
The question I get asked all the time is,” What does it take to be an Elite Hitter?” While the obvious answer is a great swing and unbelievable hand /eye coordination, there are many other things that go into being an elite hitter. Hitting is the single hardest thing to do in all of sports. An inner drive to succeed in spite of such a low success rate and a work ethic unlike any other is a must to be an elite hitter. It is not something that you can just pick up a bat and be a great hitter. There are several areas that I will discuss below that are very important to contribute to ascending to elite status.
Be a student of the game.
This is an area that separates the good from the elite. Studying the game is something anyone can do if are you willing to invest the time. This is a controllable event that can easily improve performance. This can make the difference of being average to good or good to elite. An elite student of the game will see things that others don’t. An elite hitter will look for every advantage in a battle between the pitcher and himself. There are times where a pitcher has stuff that is downright nasty. What is a hitter to do when they face that pitcher? Give up? NEVER.
The Art of Recognition: Pitchers Tipping Pitches
A great hitter will never give up and chalk his at bats to the pitcher being better than him. This is where an elite hitter will try and find every advantage possible. One of the advantages that can be ascertained from studying the game is the art of recognizing pitchers tipping their pitches. This “art of recognition” is where a good hitter can go to a different level. There are many ways that pitchers tip pitches that they don’t even know or have never even thought about. I will cover the most common ways a pitcher tips their pitches.
1. Index Finger Popping – When a pitcher has their index finger outside of the glove with no index finger sleeve on the glove a hitter drools over this. When glove companies started making the index sleeve hitters started to lose an advantage. When the index finger is exposed on the glove I can almost guarantee the pitcher tips his pitches. How the pitcher does this is very subtle to the average person. What happens is the pitcher will pop his finger on and off the glove. This is normally a fastball when this happens. Many pitchers will leave the index finger flexed or press against the Glove on breaking ball. The pitcher presses harder against the glove to get extra pressure for their breaking ball.
2. Fanning of the Glove – One of the hardest pitches to hit in Baseball is a Good change-up. Josh Collmenter of the Diamondback had the best change-ups I’ve ever seen. Josh was a very smart pitcher and started with a change up grip that way he didn’t fan his glove. Fanning of the glove is widening of the glove to be able to get the grip of the circle or straight change. The glove normally isn’t wide enough to the whole hand in the glove, so when they go to throw a change-up they widen their glove. I can’t tell you how many times this saved me, as a good change up is almost impossible to hit.
3. Hand Position in the Glove -The hand in the glove at times will let a hitter know what is coming. If you look at how the hand is in the glove on the fastball out of the stretch it normally is at a 45 Degree Angle. Every pitcher is different in this, however they all are very similar. On a change-up the palm of the hand will be closest to the glove. On breaking ball the palm will be the furthest from the glove because they will be trying to make sure to get on top of the baseball. Check out how Matt Moore of the Ray’s tipped his pitches by watching this video.
4. Hand Positioning Outside of the Glove – This is one of the tougher ones to pick up. What will happen from time to time is that a pitcher will come set with his glove at a certain height. Then when they change to a different pitch they come set at a different height with the glove. As a hitter we will know what is coming based on where they come set. This isn’t as common but it does happen from time to time. Baseball Tonight had a segment on this the other night with a Carlos Carrasco. Read more about this story here.
While I didn’t go into all the tricks that Hitters have, I hope that the two techniques I did go into (studying the game and the art of tipping pitches) will help you as player continue your development. These little things are some techniques that helped to make me a 3x All MAC Selection and career leader in homeruns and RBI’s at The University of Akron.
Many of you have seen that the University of Akron will no longer have a baseball program. I can only hope that when things with the University of Akron’s financial issues are resolved that they will reinstate the baseball program.
Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.