What is Your 2-Strike Approach?

Today’s Blog is by Mike Rozema, Director of Hitting at RPP, on a situation every player can relate to, hitting with two strikes…

By Mike Rozema (Rozema Baseball, Director of Hitting at RPP)

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From a player’s perspective, there are a wide range of situations in a baseball game. Players need to constantly make adjustments to put themselves in the best position to succeed. In this article, I am going to look at one specific situation every player can relate to; hitting with two strikes.  What is your 2 strike approach?

There are different types of approaches on this topic depending on the level of game you are playing in. Looking at this from the high school or college levels (approach might be different as a professional), making the opposing team’s defense make plays is very important.  So putting the barrel on the ball in a 2-strike situation should be our primary objective. Strikeouts are a part of the game.  But we need to keep them to a minimum.

So in a 2 strike situation we need to take a step back and adjust how we approach the at-bat and slightly modify our swing. We need to be shorter, more direct, and we must stay inside the ball.  So let’s review 4 adjustments we can make with 2 strikes at the plate.

1. Approach – Before we get into the physical adjustments, we have to take a moment and re-adjust our approach. With 2 strikes, in very basic terms, we can’t be too selective. We need to expand the strike zone and focus on being aggressive, swinging at any pitch that can be reasonably called a strike by the umpire. This is a mindset and an approach that you need to develop in 2-strike situations.

2. Choke up on the Bat – Many hitters don’t like to choke up on the bat. Whether it is comfort or ego that gets in the way, many players don’t like this. Choking up on the bat gives you slightly more bat control.  And bat control is imperative as we are going to have to swing at some difficult pitches in a 2-strike scenario.  Bat control gives a player the ability to be slightly shorter and quicker with the swing path to the ball.  This can be extremely helpful when the objective is to put the barrel on the ball and force the defense to make the play.

3. Getting Wider and Lower with Stance – These two adjustments sometimes work hand in hand, so we will classify them as one. I will break them down separately here.

Widen Your Stance – Widening your stance stabilizes your body and is very helpful in minimizing any excess movement that may affect your timing or ability to get the barrel to the ball. We are simplifying the stance/stride so your focus can be on the ball as well as bat path to ball. As a suggestion, start with a couple inches wider in your stance.

Getting Lower – Bending your knees has a similar effect. Slightly more bend puts you in a more athletic position and stabilizes your body and hopefully limits any movement that may prevent you from getting to your hitting position on time to swing more aggressively.

4. Stand Closer to the Plate – This is a 2 strike adjustment I used when I needed to take away the inside pitch. I did not want the pitcher to feel comfortable throwing the ball inside which meant if he did I had to be prepared to stay strong in my stance and be willing to get hit by the ball. Getting hit by a pitch is part of the game. I used this technique the most during high school and college.  At the professional level I did not use this technique nearly as much because pitchers have more control and umpires tend to have a more polished strike zone.   Let’s discuss the pros and cons.

Pros: Getting closer to the plate helps a player cover the outside part of the plate a little easier. It also makes it much more difficult for a pitcher to throw inside, since there is less room for error on the inside pitch.

Cons: Here is why I did not like doing this as a player on the professional level.  Visual perception and the repetition of developing what a strike zone is for a player is a long, long process.  As a hitter it is extremely important to know the strike zone. This is a constant work in progress.  It is challenging enough for players to have command of the strike zone.  I never found it easy to change what I was used to after thousands of swings.  It made me uncomfortable and that is never good at the plate.

I am a big believer in simplicity and comfort. These are very basic adjustments for a hitter. When discussing these topics with players I also tell them “you do not have to do all of these at the same time, but you have to do at least one of them”.  If a player is up at bat with 2-strikes and I don’t see some type of physical change in their stance and/or approach then I can safely say they are not prepared to hit with 2 strikes.

 

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