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How can Major League Baseball Improve Hitting in 2015?
MLB needs to make a few changes to improve hitting
During the 2014 season, the overall state of hitting in Major League Baseball (MLB) has become weaker than it has ever been in the history of the game. Some may disagree with this assessment by referring to the 1968 season when the league BA was a weak .237, when there were only 7 MLB hitters who managed to hit .300 or better, Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA, and Boston's Carl Yastrzemski won the AL batting title with a .301 BA, the lowest BA ever to win a league batting title.
However, referring to the 1968 season would be a mistake because this was the last year the pitcher's mound was 15-inches tall and the umpires called the strike zone from the knees to the letters. Beginning in 1969, the pitcher's mound was lowered to only 10-inches tall and the umpires were ordered to call any pitch above the hitter's belt a ball. Therefore, beginning in the 1969 season, both the height of the pitcher's mound and the size of the strike zone were reduced in size by one-third, thereby making life much easier for hitters and much more difficult for pitchers.
These two rather significant changes were made by the MLB owners to generate more offense and increase sagging TV ratings. The owners and these two changes encouraged hitters to hit more home runs and this new home run mentality led to an increase in pull-hitting and a steady decline in hitting fundamentals. Both Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby believed dead pull hitting was a mental disease and had no place in the big leagues.
Now, in 2014, MLB hitters are fundamentally weaker than ever before and this is clearly indicated by the fact that the league strikeout percentage for MLB hitters is now greater than 20%. Some regular starting position players are even striking out more than 30% of the time! This is horrible to say the least. Humiliated hitting coaches and player development folks are pulling their hair out and being fired in record numbers.
So, what needs to be done to improve hitting in MLB?
First, and most importantly, there needs to be a far greater emphasis placed on the inner game of hitting, the mental side of hitting, instead of the almost total emphasis on the physical-mechanical side of hitting as is the case today. Currently, Bruce Winship Wright understands and explains the inner game of hitting as well if not better than anyone else in America. Read his paper entitled "Hitting From The End Result" which was originally written for a college fastpitch softball coach. It applies equally to baseball hitting.
Bruce explains how a hitter's self esteem determines the size of the goals the hitter sets and honestly expects to accomplish. Bruce explains why most MLB owners, upper management, managers, coaches, and players unwittingly have low self esteem and how this low level of self esteem leads to the players setting goals that are far too low, naturally producing low batting averages, low OPS, etc.
Bruce explains how the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the superconscious mind actually operate together to create experience. Bruce explains, in simple and understandable terms, how to consciously turn over the act of hitting to the subconscious and superconscious mind which is, BY FAR, the most important thing any hitter can learn how to do.
The most important inner game information involves understanding two basic things. The first is understanding how to enhance or strengthen the self esteem which increases the size of the goals the hitter's honestly expect to accomplish. Currently, far too many MLB hitters are selling themselves short by setting their goals much lower than they can and should. The player's subconscious mind MUST produce the end results the player's conscious mind honestly expects.
And, the second basic inner game factor that needs to be understood and utilized is how a hitter can consciously, methodically, and most effectively increase the assistance of his powerful subconscious mind and superconscious mind at home plate. Understanding and using this inner game information on a regular basis leads to the enhanced mental state of perception known as The Zone, which is, BY FAR, the most important and productive thing any hitter, at any level, can possibly experience.
Regular Pre-Game Batting Practice is another outdated and harmful form of practice that nobody in MLB management seems to recognize at this time. Why is regular pre-game batting practice so harmful?
Regular pre-game batting practice is harmful because hitters are practicing something they will never see in an actual game. It wreaks havoc on a hitter's timing. The BP pitcher is pitching from flat ground (not off of a mound), throwing the ball maybe 55-60 mph, and typically pitching from a distance other than 60'-6" away. While this exercise may have some value, it produces more harm than good. Just prior to the game, hitters would be much better off simply playing "line-drive" pepper to fine-tune their focus on the center of the baseball.
Every MLB hitter needs to have a very specific plan of attack, preferably a well rehearsed plan of attack, for each and every pitch during each and every at-bat. Currently, this strategy is not being used by the vast majority of hitters. The evidence for this is the fact that at least 90% of all fast balls, when swung at and missed, are swung UNDER which means that the hitter is too slow with his bat. This is the product of confusion, indecision, or uncertainty. As Ted Williams learned from Rogers Hornsby and also taught in his book The Science of Hitting, "Uncertainty is a hitter's worst enemy".
There are only two basic forms of hitting which are the "crush it" form and the "move it" form. Every hitter must decide, prior to each and every pitch, which form of hitter he will be. Indecision and uncertainty regarding this crucial decision generally produces poor performances. This is still a major problem throughout the world of baseball today.
The "crush it" from of hitting was the dominant form of hitting used by the greatest power hitters like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Barry Bonds. This form of hitting should only be used with less-than-two-strike counts.
The "move it" form of hitting was the dominant form of hitting used by great hitters like Ty Cobb, Wee Willie Keeler, Nap Lajoie, Wade Boggs, and Tony Gwynn. Using this form of hitting, the hitter is trying to make solid contact, generally using maybe 75%-80% of their maximum power, going with the pitch, using the entire field, employing Ty Cobb's rhythm and flow, letting the bat do the work, hitting a zero-degree line drive. This is the only intelligent form of hitting to be used with two strike counts.
Ideally, to maximize your OPS, which is your On-Base Percentage & Slugging Average combined, you would employ the "crush it" form of hitting employed by Ted Williams or Barry Bonds whenever you have less than two strikes and then employ the "move it" form of hitting whenever you have two strikes against you.
Every MLB organization should purchase a minimum of a dozen or more of the PX2 hitting simulators produced by a company called Pro Batter Sports. The Big team should have a few and every minor league team should have them as well. These are the most realistic hitting simulators ever produced and can be enormously helpful to any serious hitter.
These state-of-the-art hitting simulators can throw 8 different types of pitches ranging in speeds from 40 mph to 100 mph to pinpoint locations in the strike zone, and even a few spots outside of the strike zone. Every professional baseball player should spend at least an hour every day in one of these simulators. Ideally, every serious MLB hitter should have one of these PX2's installed in their home as well.
In addition to the simulator work, every hitter should spend at least another hour every day doing mental rehearsals of perfect hitting performances, always including perfect bat/ball compression imagery, and seeing nothing but perfect end results. Doing these mental rehearsal exercises for at least a few minutes just before going to sleep at night is the best time to do them because your subconscious mind works on them all night long while you sleep. It fine tunes and coordinates your mind-body blueprint of perfection all night long because your subconscious mind NEVER sleeps!
As this more modern, powerful, and effective form of hitting technology is employed, the results will be so compelling that more and more hitters will begin to honestly think of themselves as .400 hitters. They will then begin honestly expecting to hit .400. This is when we will see the next .400 hitter.
Currently, there doesn't appear to be a single MLB owner, front office executive, GM, manager, coach, or player who will publicly admit that the .400 batting average is a realistic goal. In my opinion, this all pervading belief in MLB that the .400 batting average is not a realistic goal is the primary reason why we have not seen a .400 hitter for the past 73 years.
Automotive giant Henry Ford said, "Whether you believe you can or can't do something, you will be right in either case." It goes back to the most fundamental mental law of all which is, "Whatever the mind of man can conceive, and BELIEVE, it can achieve."