One strike away from making an out… That is the mindset many baseball players have when down in the count with two strikes. These hitters will get bogged down with so many distractions that they tense up, freeze or chase balls out of the strike zone.
There are many distractions when a hitter steps in the batter box. Possible distractions hitters will face include: the count, score, defensive shift, runners on base, situation, last at-bat, pitcher’s strengths, pitcher’s windup, hitting mechanics, spectators, opinion of the manager, life outside of baseball, weather, field conditions, nagging injuries… and on and on and on…
With so many distractions, how can a hitter focus on their current at-bat, more specifically, the next pitch?
The best method for minimizing distractions is to focus on your hitting approach or strategy for the next pitch.
Since you can’t focus on multiple things at the same time, focusing on your approach will prevent you from getting overwhelmed by all those potential distractions.
For example, New York Yankee Aaron Judge has been tearing it up at the plate during 2019 spring training. In 12 pre-season games, Judge has six homeruns, 12 RBIs and a .333 batting average.
Judge credits his work on a new two-strike approach as the reason for his success.
JUDGE: "I simplified things, because the big thing that guys get in trouble with -- especially with two strikes -- is timing. That’s what you see with pitchers nowadays; they're doing all their herky-jerky [movements], trying to mess up your timing. The minute your timing is off as a hitter, you're just going to have a bad swing. For me, taking the leg kick and stuff like that out of my swing, it allows me to simplify things to another level where I don't have to worry about the extra timing mechanism. You just have a slow little load and swing."
In order to strengthen your focus on your approach, you must work on situational hitting in practice. One method to improve your focus, create different scenarios while taking batting practice and identify what you should focus on. Dedicate at least 15 minutes to this strategy each practice. Be consistent with adding this type of training into your practice routine. With a strengthened focus, you will see greater consistency and results at the plate.
Remember two important things when it comes to the psychology of hitting:
Mental factors have a big impact of your success at the plate.
There is no magic when it comes to your mental approach. It takes practice, work and patience!