Hit the First PitchPosted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
One of the worst pieces of advice you can give a hitter is to tell him to watch the first pitch go by!
Often times, the first pitch is the best pitch to hit and we need to be ready to jump all over it.
Here’s why: at ALL levels of the game, pitchers are (correctly) taught to try to get ahead in the count. So whether you’re a 10 year-old hitter or 22 year-old hitter, you know the pitcher is really going to work hard for “Strike 1.”
At the Little League level, the first pitch is going to a fastball close to 100% of the time. So, we know we’re getting a first pitch fastball and that usually the pitcher is trying to throw it right down the middle – what could be better than that as a hitter?!
For more advanced hitters, we can start looking at the statistics to support the argument that hitting early in the count is clearly the best strategy.
Here are some overall MLB batting averages by count in 2009:
As you can see, batting averages when hitters put the ball in play early in the count are more than twice as high as later in the count. The more we have to hit with 2 strikes, the more trouble we’re in as a hitter.
Sometimes, we’ll swing at the first two good pitches and miss or hit foul balls – hitting with 2 strikes can’t be completely avoided – but overall, the more we’re swinging at pitches earlier in the count (when they’re also more likely to be fastballs), the much better off we’ll be!
For younger hitters who might not make contact as often as older hitters, taking as many swings as possible in an at-bat is crucial. If we watch Strike 1 go by, that’s one less swing we get this at-bat; hitting is really hard and we need to give ourselves as many chances to hit the ball as possible.
So parents and coaches, please please please encourage your hitters to step into the box ready to swing at the first pitch if it’s in their hitting zone – you won’t believe how much better they’ll do this year if they can stay aggressive early in the count all season long.