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Swinging On A 3-0 Pitch Hitting Strategy

Updated on June 20, 2012

What is the hitting strategy for swinging at a 3-0 pitch? There is no definitive answer. Some baseball experts go by the rule "never swing at a 3-0 pitch", while others say that swinging on 3-0 is a solid hitting strategy. Both of these hitting strategies have advantages and disadvantages.

Should You Swing At A 3-0 Pitch?
If successful, swinging on a 3-0 pitch can change the momentum in a team's favor. If unsuccessful, it could kill a rally, reduce the chance of a hitter getting on base, or even worse, it could deflate the team's confidence.

But using the opposite hitting strategy, to never swing at a 3-0 pitch, also has it's consequences. Although not swinging at a 3-0 pitch increases the chance of the hitter getting on base, it can be a missed opportunity for a big hit.

The decision to allow a batter swing or not swing at a 3-0 pitch can be a tough one. However, it can be made easier based on whether the team is winning or losing. The team with the lead is more likely to take the risk of letting the batter swing away on 3-0.

Swinging on 3-0 When Your Team Is Winning
In general, a manager is more likely to allow a hitter to swing on a 3-0 pitch when his team is winning. The likelihood of this hitting strategy being used increases when a power hitter is at bat.

Swinging on 3-0 When Your Team Is Losing
But what if the team is losing? Does it make sense to let the batter swing on a 3-0 count? Again, it is very risky ... and can make or break the game. Even if a manager gives his batter the green light, it is up to the batter to swing or not to swing. This is part of the fundamentals of baseball.

If the batter does swing, he must absolutely execute it by getting a hit. If he fails to get a hit, he is completely at fault. He must get a hit on a 3-0 count.

Case In Point
In the American League Championship Series game 1, between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, the swinging on a 3-0 count was the turning point of the game.

The baseball scorecard read Red Sox 2, Rays 0. Even though the Tampa Bay Rays were losing by two runs, it kills an 8th inning rally that gave the Red Sox the game. Here is what happened:

The Rays' Iwamura let off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single to left. Iwamura moved to second base on a wild pitch by Daisuke Matsuzaka. Upton reached on an infield single to third. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Okajima replaced Matsuzaka as the Red Sox pitcher.

Pena of the Rays entered the batter's box and the count went to 3 balls 0 strikes. Pena then swung on a 3-0 pitch that resulted in a fly out and the baserunners not advancing.

The failure to get a hit completely deflated the Rays. The next batter, Longoria grounded into a double play to end the inning.

What was wrong with the decision to swing on a 3-0 pitch? The main reason is that there was a new pitcher who threw 3 consecutive balls. Why didn't he take a pitch? Regardless of the reason, Pena did not execute, and the Rays lost the game.

While hitting 3-0 is is an acceptable hitting strategy in major league baseball, it's not a recommended hitting strategy for most youth baseball hitters.

Do You Think Pena Should Have Swung On The 3-0 Pitch in the 8th inning of Game 1 of the ALCS?

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    • B4UPLAYBALL profile image

      B4UPLAYBALL 9 years ago from NYC - USA

      You're right! They still only one out after that play. The next batter, Evan Longoria grounded into a double play to end the inning. And they still had one inning left.

    • profile image

      JHS 9 years ago

      Interesting explanation but one can hardly conclude that swinging on a 3-0 pitch caused the loss in the Sox v. Rays game.