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Goal setting is incredibly important for athletes who strive to get the best out of their abilities. It’s a way to push the limits of what you can do, monitor progress, and receive satisfaction when you achieve things you set out to do. Regardless of how big or small these goals are, we’re going to focus on two types of goals today: process and outcome oriented goals.


Outcome oriented goals are goals that deal with end results you wish to achieve. On the baseball diamond, some outcome based goals could be getting a base hit, hitting .350 on the season, winning a local tournament, or earning a college scholarship to play baseball. Outside the baseball diamond, some goals could be to lose 10 pounds, earn a 4.0 GPA, or find a new job in a field of interest.


On the other hand, process oriented goals are goals that focus on how you take steps to achieve outcome based goals. If your goal is to hit .350 on the season, some process goals would be attacking your weaknesses in training, learning how to take a quality deep breath, and developing a consistent preparation routine. If your goal is to earn a college scholarship to play baseball, some of your process based goals could be lifting weights three times per week, putting together film of yourself, and reaching out to college coaches of schools you’re interested in.


If losing 10 pounds is your outcome based goal, your process goals could be sweating every day, cleaning up your diet, and keeping track of your calorie consumption. If you want a 4.0 GPA some process goals could be studying each class every night for a period of time, being involved in class discussions, and asking teachers questions about learning material. If you’re in the middle of a job search, some process goals could be building a resume, reaching out to different companies, and honing your craft daily to make yourself a more attractive option.


The big overarching difference between process and outcome oriented goals is the control you have over each. Process goals are things that you have complete control over. There are no barriers to doing things like showing up, working on your weaknesses, and asking for help. The only one stopping you is you. We can influence outcome based goals and tip them in our favor, but we can never have complete control over them. You can completely crush your process goals and put yourself in the best possible position to achieve your outcome based goals, but it doesn’t guarantee you success.


There are always going to be things outside of our control. We can do everything right and hit four baseballs right on the screws, but all we’ll have to show for it is an 0-4 day if we hit all of them right at the center fielder. If we are constantly worried about our outcome based goals without a process behind them, our confidence will slowly erode until there is nothing left (see Syndergaard).


This is why creating process goals is so huge as a player: They gives us confidence by knowing we’ve done everything we can to prepare for what’s to come. When our confidence grows, our skills improve, we trust the work we’ve put in, and we start to see the results on the field. Whether we have our A, B, or C game, we know we’ll always have our process. If we show up everyday and commit to it, our outcome based goals will start to take care of themselves - not the other way around.


Building your process


Alan Jaeger of Jaeger Sports is a huge advocate for the importance of athletes to build an in-game process through process oriented goals. In his work with athletes, he recommends players pick 3-4 simple, attainable process goals to focus on when competing. The idea is not to do a lot of things fairly well - it’s to do a few things really well.


Below are some ideas on what athletes can choose from to develop their own personal process. While some ideas are individualized, others are things we strongly recommend for all athletes (ex: breathing).


Hitters


  1. Take a quality deep breath.
    1. Everything starts with the breath. Release the past pitch, slow your heart rate, get yourself under control. See our post “Just Breathe” for more information on what the breath can do for you.
    2. Watch MLB hitters between pitches - they are great examples for how to take a quality deep breath.
  2. See ball, hit ball.
    1. Keep it simple - the less you think, the better you perform.
  3. Visualize yourself hitting hard line drives
    1. Building positive images in your mind is a powerful tool. See our last post for more information about this.
  4. Recite a mantra
    1. Keep it short, sweet, and supportive (hit it hard, see it up, next pitch)
  5. Mechanical cue
    1. Small action to remind you about a helpful mechanical cue (feeling the back elbow slot, front shoulder down, front knee brace)
  6. Physical release
    1. Letting go of the last pitch through a physical cue (Picking a handful of dirt, wiping away the rubber (watch Justin Verlander pitch), taking your hat off)

Pitchers


  1. Take a quality deep breath
    1. For the reasons above - we’re at our best when we’re calm, confident, and in control.
    2. See Kevin Abel’s breathing routine from when he threw in the 2018 College World Series championship game. You can also read up about his process here.
    3. David Price from the 2018 World Series
    4. Justin Verlander bullpen
  2. Pick out a specific target
    1. Aim small, miss small (pocket of the catcher’s glove)
  3. Visualize the intended pitch
    1. See exactly what that pitch looks like, how it’s going to finish. See the last 15 feet of flight.
    2. Jake Arrietta, Orel Hershiser.   
  4. Recite a mantra
    1. Commit to this pitch, next pitch (see Stephen Strasburg), you’re in control, through the mitt
  5. Commit through your target
    1. There can’t be any doubt you’re going to throw it through your visual with 100%  conviction (see Kershaw, Bumgarner, Rivera, Harvey).
  6. Physical release
    1. Take your glove off and rub the ball, step behind the rubber, take your hat off

Fielders


  1. Take a quality deep breath
    1. See a theme?
  2. See the field, scoreboard
    1. Know the situation
  3. Visualize the play unfold
    1. Anticipate the ball coming to you, making a play
  4. Recite a mantra
    1. Give me the ball, next pitch, out front, through the mitt
  5. Step into the circle
    1. Everyone in the field needs some sort of pre-pitch movement

When you’ve chosen a process that makes sense for yourself, write it down on paper. Place it in a spot where you can see it all the time. Remind yourself of it on a daily basis. Talk to your coach about it so you’re both on the same page.


Whenever you train, go through your process. Grade yourself on how well you executed your process. If you three 25 pitches, how many of them were you fully committed to your process? Out of all your swings, how many of them did you take not committed? How did we react after a few bad outcomes in a row? Did we get frustrated and let the game speed up or did we go back to our process? If we want to be able to slow the game down and build confidence in our abilities, we must learn how to crush our process every time we touch a bat or a ball.


As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. Keep learning, growing, and crushing your process.



There is a strong connection between the physical and mental game of baseball. One cannot practice the mental game without working on the physical game - they are forever intertwined. Just the way your thoughts can influence specific movement patterns,
the images in your mind are a great indication of what your future performances will look like. This idea can be practiced through something known as visualization: the creation of strong, mental images that illuminate a future scenario before it ever happens.


Research shows that your brain cannot differentiate between real events and imagined events. Whenever you imagine events, your brain stores them as actual memories - hence, something you’ve actually experienced. A great example of this is the physical reactions you have when you experience a bad dream (heavy breathing, sweating). The dream was not real and did not actually happen in real life, but your mind elicited responses that made it seem very real to you.


Research also shows that when we visualize an action, we stimulate the same regions of our brain actually involved in performing the action. When the events we imagine are stored as real events, we build and strengthen the neural framework required to perform the action just as if we had physically practiced it. Through this, we’re able to improve a skill without even leaving the comfort of our bed - by vividly performing it in our mind.


Many high level athletes and performers claim much of their success to consistent visualization practices. Jon Lester has been using an imagery routine before each of his starts since 2013. Hall of Fame Red Sox player Carl Yastrzemski would visualize the pitcher and pitches he was going to see the night before a game. Fellow Hall of Famer George Brett would see himself hitting line drives gap to gap while he was on the on-deck circle.


Outside of baseball, Jack Nicklaus was famous for seeing every shot he ever hit on the golf course before actually hitting it. Former All-Pro Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Ahmad Rashad claimed his imagination was the key to his success. “I got ready for a game by imagining every possible move a defender might try to use and stop me,” said Rashad.


Lou Holtz instructed his Notre Dame football team to visualize themselves making great plays before bed heading into their 1988 matchup with the #1 Miami Hurricanes. The Irish defeated the Hurricanes and went on to win the national championship that year.


While these are just a few examples of different teams and athletes using visualization, the bottom line is visualization works. Using it to your advantage ultimately comes down to discipline and execution. Visualization is not simply daydreaming when it’s convenient for you. It requires a deliberate effort and consistent practice with complete focus and concentration. Below are some tips on how to put together an effective visualization practice:


  1. Become a careful observer. Visualization requires great attention to detail. Note what your environment looks like, the relation between objects, different textures, colors, designs, odors, sounds, and other sensations that build a detailed picture of what you’re experiencing.
  2. Find a quiet place with no distractions. Turn your phone and all electronics off. Calm yourself by bringing focus to your breath. If you encounter distracting thoughts, address them and return your focus to your breathing.
    1. See Alan Jaeger’s meditation mental training talk and practice for help with this (16:00).
  3. Practice visualization by putting together visual images of scenes outside of baseball. Examples include your bedroom, a vacation spot, or a walk around the park.
    1. In the vacation example, see what the beach looks like. Feel the cool breeze on your skin and the water wash up against your bare feet. Feel a handful of sand as you pick it up and it slips through your fingers. Smell the scent of the fresh ocean and hear the waves crash up on shore. Be as creative as possible. The more vivid the better.   
  4. Take your practice to the baseball field and visualize a skill that you struggle with. Make it as real as possible.
    1. See yourself approach the task with confident body language, a clear mind, and positive thoughts.
    2. Note what you see, hear, smell, and feel. See yourself having success. If you don’t succeed at first, fix it and try again. Create positive images.  
  5. Set aside 10-15 minutes per day to go through your visualization practices. Pick out a specific time to work on them.
    1. Ex: when you wake up, before bed, on your way to practice
    2. If it is difficult at first, start with 5-10 minutes and gradually build on to it as your practice becomes better   
  6. Put together a highlight tape of yourself having success on the baseball field. Go through it on a consistent basis.
    1. Visualization is touch to do when we’re in “funks” because all we see in our minds is our most recent failures. Highlight tapes are a great way to reinforce positive images of us competing in our mind. Positive images build confidence, negative images destroy it.

The body will always follow the mind. If our mind is cluttered with images of us striking out, giving up bombs, or booting ground balls, we’ll soon find ourselves in similar situations. Having success starts with how we think, see, and feel about ourselves. Feed your mind what it needs to succeed.


When you step into the box with the bases loaded, two outs, and the game on the line, you know you’re going to succeed because you’ve already gone through this situation in your mind. You saw the low and outside fastball right out of his hand and your barrel connecting with it to make that sweet sound that feels like nothing. You saw the ball go deep into the right field gap, scoring both runners, and the dogpile that resulted on second base.


You know exactly what to do and how to do it. All that’s left is the fun part - bringing your visualization to life.


For more information on visualization, see 4 Scientific Reasons Why Visualization Will Increase Your Chances to Succeed, The Mental Game of Baseball, and the Mental ABCs of Pitching by Harvey Dorfman.


Keep learning and growing.







This article was written by staff member Andrew Parks. 

Pitching with two strikes is something I feel is misunderstood. Given what we know about two strike hitting (see the last blog post), pitching with two strikes is a pitcher’s dream. The odds hitters go back to the dugout with two strikes are upwards of 80%. They’re more susceptible to swinging and chasing pitches outside of the zone out of fear of the strikeout. With this, it would make sense for pitchers to be most aggressive in two strike counts.


Instead, we teach pitchers the opposite. We tell them to shrink the strike zone. We teach them to make perfect pitches on the corners of the strike zone because we’re afraid of giving up a base hit. We teach them to throw uncompetitive fastballs six inches off the plate or 55’ breaking balls that the hitter never even thought about swinging at. Instead of being aggressive in the strike zone and utilizing all of it to our advantage (hitters tend to expand the zone with two strikes), we make it smaller and give ourselves little room for error. If we know the very best hitters in the world struggle when they’re down in the count, why wouldn’t we go right at them? Why do we let hitters back into counts instead of finishing them off while they’re down? Why do we pitch out of fear with two strikes instead of pitching with confidence and aggression?


I know it’s not the greatest feeling in the world when you hang a 0-2 curve and it goes 380’ to left, but statistics will show you that balls put in play in 0-2 and 1-2 counts do minimal damage. The issue becomes when we let hitters back into the count. In 2018, Mike Trout hit 10 of his 39 homers with two strikes - but just two in 0-2 and 1-2 counts. JD Martinez hit 14 of his 43 homers with two strikes, but only hit four of them in 0-2 and 1-2 counts. Jose Ramirez hit 18 of his 39 bombs with two strikes - but only hit one in 0-2 and 1-2 counts (see a pattern?). Out of all the two strike home runs hit between these three, 35/42 (83%) were hit in 2-2 and 3-2 counts. Maybe we should rethink those “waste pitches” after all.  


I love Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux’s thoughts about pitching with two strikes. See his thoughts below (image from @PitchingNinja).




Feel free to check out Maddux’s stats to see how this worked out for him.


Below are some ideas on how to pitch with two strikes:


  1. Make competitive pitches, force hitters to make decisions. Noncompetitive pitches (i.e. fastballs 6” off the black) don’t get swings or calls.  
  2. Utilize the entire strike zone. Hitters expand the strike zone with two strikes, meaning they’re more vulnerable to swing (like Maddux said above). Hitters also like to hunt specific speeds in specific locations. Nothing is more uncomfortable than not knowing what’s coming.
  3. Throw the FB in and up for strikes and not for strikes. Create uncomfortable at-bats (see Donaldson vs. Bauer, Kluber vs. JD Martinez, Snell vs. Encarnacion). Moving the feet of hitters and changing eye levels will create uncomfortable swings and help set up future pitches.
  4. Pitch to your strengths. Don’t waste two curveballs in the dirt if you have no confidence in the pitch. Go after guys with your best stuff - not your worst.  
  5. Know your swing and miss pitches/locations. These are especially useful in situations where you need a strikeout (ex: RISP <2 outs). Practice these pitches in your bullpens.
    1. Know what these pitches look like, how they feel coming out of the hand, and what visual you need to execute it. If you’re trying to bounce the pitch in the dirt, aim a foot or so behind home plate.
    2. Examples: Snell (see third pitch for 0-2 chase pitch), Syndergaard, Hicks, Scherzer  
  6. Understand how your pitches play off of each other. Try to get your pitches to look as similar as possible coming out of the hand (hitters make their decision whether to swing or not around 20-24’). Your big loopy curveball isn’t going to play well off a low and out FB - but a high FB can.
    1. High FB/CB: Glasnow, Hendricks, Snell  
    2. FB/SL: Bauer, Stroman, Kluber
    3. FB/CH: Syndergaard, DeGrom, Greinke
  7. Mess with timing. Hitting is all about timing. Pitching is about upsetting timing. Using the slidestep, different tempos can help give pitchers more room for error by throwing off the internal clock in hitters (See Stroman, Greinke, Cueto).    
  8. Put everything over the plate for pitchers who struggle with command.  
  9. Create some sort of separation between your FB and BB/CH. Can be speed (6+ mph) or movement profile (see Lance McCullers power change, Greinke changeup from above). The more similar your pitches are, the easier it will be for hitters to make adjustments.  
  10. Get feedback from your catchers/hitters on what pitched worked well/didn’t work well. Try to figure out what guys see well, don’t see well, had a tough time laying off, etc. The more you know about yourself and your arsenal, the better you can gameplan.
  11. Be aggressive. Pitch with confidence. The odds are in your favor when you get batters into two strike counts - pitch like it. If you’re constantly worried about giving up two strike hits, you’ll become paralyzed by your fear.
    1. If I tell you not to think about a pink elephant, a pink elephant will sure enough pop into your mind. Tell yourself positive, controllable actions (commit to this pitch, through the glove) instead of negative, outcome-based actions (don’t give up a hit, don’t waste this pitch).

Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. Keep learning and growing - and get rid of your “waste pitches.”




This article was written by staff member Andrew Parks. 

by Andrew Parks

With my playing career officially complete, I wanted to look back and share my experiences in baseball and how they’ve impacted who I am today and who I want to become. I always dreamed at a young age that I wanted to play collegiate baseball, but I never could have imagined where it would have taken me many years later. My hope is that my story can urge you to follow your dreams on the diamond and relentlessly work to make them a reality.


Growing up, baseball was always something I loved to do. Going to practice was my favorite time of the day. I loved hanging out with some of my best friends, seeing my skills progress, and competing in games. I spent my weekends practicing at the park and in the backyard with my dad and brother. If I learned anything from those years, I learned how to show up and work hard - even though it never really felt like hard work because I loved to do it.


I got my first reality dose of baseball my freshman year of high school when I was cut from the junior varsity baseball team. I was crushed as I went to all the workouts, hitting sessions, and did everything I could to give myself the best chance to make the team. It would be the first spring where I wasn’t able to play with my friends as they instead were all playing on the junior varsity team. I felt like I was beside myself. I knew I wanted to play college baseball, but I had no idea how I could possibly make it happen.


That’s when I found Carmen. That spring, my dad told me to hop in the car and we’d drive to check out this place called Carmen Fusco Pro Baseball Academy. I was uncomfortable and hesitant at first as I had some previous private instruction going into my freshman year. When we learned that we could train year round and get professional level instruction, we took the chance and spent that year training with Carmen and his staff.


Throughout my first few sessions, I realized I had a long way to go. I had never trained before like the way they did at Carmen’s. I found out that some stuff I had heard from coaches growing up wasn’t accurate - which I had a tough time swallowing. I had zero confidence in my abilities and I had no idea where to find confidence. I tried my best with what I had most days, but early on it was a struggle to put it together. I was an introvert in a completely different facility with people and faces I had never seen before. I didn’t say much of anything to anyone.  


Along with training, I decided to join a team Carmen was putting together for the summer. At these practices, I got my first glimpse of what Carmen was on a baseball field. He was tough, demanding, and taught things I had never even heard of before. I felt like a fish out of water trying to keep up with the older and more polished players. I couldn’t believe what I had gotten myself into, but there was no going back at this point. If I wanted to play college baseball, I knew Carmen was going to be able to get me there.


Over time, I started to figure some things out. The ball started coming off my bat a little bit better. I was becoming more comfortable and making friends at our team practices. I was starting to build some confidence in my abilities with some more consistent training. I realized how important confidence actually was when it came to baseball. I didn’t feel completely out of my comfort zone anymore and I was starting to believe I was a decent player. It was far from a finished product, but it was a much-needed glimmer of hope in my baseball career. The next spring, I ended up making the junior varsity team as a sophomore and starting at shortstop on opening day. It is one of the proudest moments of my baseball career to this day.


I continued to work and train over the next year trying to take the next step to prepare myself to play collegiately. I started to lift weights seriously in the fall and winter of my junior year with my pitching coach Corey Thurman. We would go twice a week at 6 a.m. before school started, sometimes three times. While I had dabbled with lifting before in the past, my time with Corey was the first time I really got after it and started to push around some weight with a structured plan. I started to eat more and put some weight onto my 140-pound frame. I felt my training was paying off and I was starting to look at colleges - and then it all seemed to all fall apart when I was cut from the varsity team my junior year.


While getting cut my freshman year stung, this one hurt really bad. I thought I had done all the right things and prepared myself as best as I could, but now it felt like I was back to square one again with no hopes of playing college baseball. Like my freshman year, all of my friends would be playing baseball this spring and I would be searching for answers yet again - and this time I was running out of time.


If I didn’t have the support system that I had at the time, I’m not sure if I would have kept playing. I was embarrassed, humiliated, and would have to spend yet another spring watching my friends from the stands. However, I knew I couldn’t let everyone down that had helped me get to that point. I had come too far to throw everything away and let other people dictate my dreams. When I found out that I had been cut from the varsity team, I was in the gym the next morning at 6 a.m. with Corey. It was time to get back to work.


Over the next year, I trained harder than I ever had before. I was hitting in Carmen’s and taking ground balls all summer long at his baseball camps. I was hitting the weights with Corey and getting my arm in shape for games. Everything I did that year had two end goals in mind - make the varsity team next spring and find a college to play at next year. There were good days, bad days, and plenty of days where I didn’t feel like showing up and putting in work. Whenever I didn’t feel like doing what I needed to do, I remembered how bad it felt to be on the outside looking in last spring. That was all I needed to keep pushing forward.


That winter, I was able to take one of those monkeys off of my back when I decided to attend Medaille College in the fall. I loved the opportunity it presented in the Buffalo area and it felt like a place I could really flourish at. I was very excited for the road ahead, but I knew I had one more obstacle to tackle - and it scared me.


When tryouts came around, I knew I was as prepared as I was going to be. It’s difficult preparing for a tryout because you want to be at your very best each day, but sometimes you’re a little off here or there. Every time you slip up makes you worry about what the coaches are thinking and if that could be the straw that gets you cut again. It can be a nerve-wracking process and it’s something that I had to learn how to deal with the hard way. If I was going to get my chance at varsity, I was going to have to face my fears and show the coaches I could play.


Making the varsity team that spring is something that I’m still proud of to this day. Being able to finish out my high school career on the diamond with some of my best friends is something I’ll never forget. The year had its ups and downs, but it proved to me that I could face and conquer my fears if I put my head down, worked hard, and never gave up. It was an experience that would help prepare me for the next four years of my life. While it didn’t play out the way I had hoped going into high school, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


My freshman year of college opened me up to what it’s like to play Division III baseball. While it’s not DII or DI, I quickly learned that these guys could play. If I wanted to compete with them, I had to take my training to a completely different level. I hadn’t earned the right to play with those guys my freshman year. Showing up, going through the same stuff, and not practicing the mindset on a daily basis prevented me from competing with confidence. The game speeds up big time when you get to college and I simply wasn’t ready to handle it.


The summer going into my sophomore year is when I started to take ownership of my training. I started working at Carmen’s part-time as a coach. After seeing what he did to me as a high school player, I wanted to get into it myself and do the same for others. It helped spark a curiosity for learning that I still carry to this day. On the field, I began to own the mindset as a player and practice it in games. I became obsessed with learning about great players and coaches and what separated them from the rest. Through this, I realized that there was so much that I had left on the table throughout high school. Going forward, I would exhaust every resource out there and use them to become the best player and coach I could possibly be. My winters would no longer be spent going through monotonous workouts and playing video games. They would be spent learning, growing, and dedicating myself to a training process that would get the most out of myself physically and mentally on the diamond.


I felt better and more confident than I ever had before going into my sophomore year of college. I completely changed how I trained and became a student of the game absorbing as much as I could. I started off the year well and earned my first career collegiate start, a game in which I wish I would have thrown a little better. I earned another start but ended up performing horribly and did not see the mound for the rest of the season. I was devastated as I had worked so hard to create opportunities for myself that season but in the end, I could not capitalize on them.


This was a tough point in my career because I knew I was better than what I was showing on the field. It sends you into a spiral of negative thinking causing you to doubt and question your abilities. The love of the game is sucked out of you and you suffer as a player and a teammate. Instead of being supportive and embracing the grind, you selfishly try to find ways where you can earn opportunities again. After changing the way I trained and taking my game to the next level, I had nothing but failed opportunities to show for it.


I ended up getting buried under the depth chart going into my junior year and had lost a lot of confidence in my game. While I continued to learn and grow, I couldn’t seem to put it together on the mound as I had in the past. After months of compensating and adjusting, I began to figure some things out again and took advantage of a few opportunities early on in the season.


My first real opportunity since my last start sophomore year came on the road against a nationally ranked team in LaRoche College. With much of our pitching depleted, I was given a start in the second half of our doubleheader against LaRoche. Using what I had learned over the course of the last two years, I was able to battle through six innings of work leaving the game with an opportunity to get the win. While we could not finish off the game, it was a breakthrough moment in my career.  It taught me the importance of competing with confidence, overcoming adversity, and not letting previous performances dictate my future appearances. After 2.5 years of trial, error, hard work, and heartbreaks, I finally believed I could compete and win at this level.


While the rest of our season did not finish as we would have liked, I took my new sense of confidence into the summer and ended up winning pitcher of the year for the York Central League. I took this into my senior year ready to give it one more run on the baseball field. I picked up hitting again for the first time since my senior year of high school, but my first few at-bats of the season reminded me how hitting isn’t as easy as it seems sometimes. My first six at-bats of the season all ended in strikeouts - sending me into a negative spiral of fear and doubt. Facing the same demons I once used to battle as a young hitter growing up, I had to trick myself into being a good hitter again. Instead of believing the negativity my mind was feeding me, I picked myself up and in my seventh at-bat delivered the game-winning RBI in extra innings for our team’s third win of the season.


The rest of my senior season didn’t end as well as we had hoped. While it’s easy to sit back and point fingers, we just didn’t get the job done and it was a disappointing feeling to know we couldn’t make playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. As a senior, you want to go out in a way that really culminates the hard work that you’ve put in over four years as a collegiate baseball player. It was tough to swallow this at times but to me, it wasn’t a fair representation of our senior class and what we brought to the table. Between all six of us, we made incredible contributions to the baseball program, our school, and the Medaille community as a whole. It makes me proud when other people look at us and say the next class coming through has some big shoes to fill.


Playing college baseball has easily been the best decision I have ever made in my life. It taught me how to work hard, dominate the classroom, become a student of the game, make a positive impact on others, and ultimately become a mentor to those who once stood in my shoes. It helped me build lifelong friendships, create unforgettable memories, and drive an incredible experience that I would have never had a chance to live out if it weren’t for baseball. It taught me the pain of failure and how to courageously face your fears. Nothing has taught me more about life than baseball - and quite honestly, I don’t think there’s anything out there that teaches you more about life than baseball. For all the hardships, heartbreaks, and failures I’ve experienced playing, those moments of success where you feel on top of the world make it all worth it. The difference between those who dream about them and those who make them happen is the work that you put in. Nothing in this world can replace hard work.  


Going forward, I couldn’t be more excited to start my journey as a coach and mentor to those who aspire to get the most out of their abilities through the game of baseball. You don’t have to play in high school, college, or any kind of level to determine whether or not you had a successful baseball career. If you can look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and know you gave it your very all to become the best player you could possibly be, you were a success. I know there are people out there like I once was who have no confidence, no direction, and no hope when it comes to their dreams on the diamond. You are not alone. If I could do it, you can do it - and I can help you.


I look forward to the challenges ahead as a coach. I know for sure that my playing days have prepared me for whatever comes my way in the future and I embrace it. Coaches like Carmen and Corey have forever changed my life and are the reason why I want to do the same for others. Being a coach and a mentor to young men and women is a privilege. I won’t take a single day for granted.  


Thanks for taking the time to read my story. It’s not glamorous, but it’s something I’m proud of and it’s the reason why I want to turn a children’s game into a career. I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to positively impact individuals through the game of baseball. It would be my greatest failure in life if I did not take advantage of this.

As we covered in the last blog post, hitting with two strikes is pretty hard. Based on data from the 2017 MLB season, MLB hitters batted .177 in two strike counts (0-2: 0.152, 1-2: 0.159, 2-2: .181, 3-2: .216). If we remove the 3-2 neutral count, hitters batted .164 with two strikes.


To put this into perspective, let’s look at batting averages from the top five offensive WAR leaders from the 2017 MLB season and their splits with two strikes.   


  1. Jose Altuve: 0-2: .255, 1-2: .235, 2-2: .151
  2. Mike Trout: 0-2: .172, 1-2: .188, 2-2: .183
  3. Aaron Judge: 0-2: .184, 1-2: 172, 2-2: .165
  4. Giancarlo Stanton: 0-2: .100, 1-2: .132, 2-2: .147
  5. Charlie Blackmon: 0-2: .259, 1-2: 218, 2-2: .248

While Blackmon’s splits were the best by far, it is worth noting that both the AL and NL MVP (Altuve and Stanton) combined for a .170 batting average with two strikes (Altuve: .214, Stanton: .126). Even Mike Trout, baseball’s current $400 million man, couldn’t muster a batting average over .200 in 0-2, 1-2, or 2-2 counts.


There are several reasons why it’s hard to hit with two strikes. For one, hitters don’t have the ability to be as selective because of the strikeout. Hitters can take tough pitches early in the count for called strikes, but can’t afford to strike out looking on borderline pitches deep in the count. Strikeouts are the most unproductive out in baseball. Good teams strike out less. In 2017, the World Series champion Houston Astros finished with the least amount of strikeouts in the MLB with 1,087.  


Since hitters can’t be as selective with two strikes, they are more susceptible to pitches that look like strikes and end up finishing outside the strike zone. Instead of seeing fastballs, hitters now have to defend against cutters/sliders, curveballs, and changeups. In 2018, the MLB batting average on cutters/sliders was .267, changeups was .279, and curveballs was .267. Against four seam and two seam fastballs, hitters batted .348.


Given what we know about hitting with two strikes, we are faced with a few options. One of the most effective ways to get good at hitting with two strikes is to never get to two strikes. A large majority of the best hitters in baseball attack good pitches early in the count - and have a lot of success. Since we know pitchers want to throw 2 of their first 3 pitches for strikes (0-2 BA: 0.125, OBP: .160, 1-2 BA: .159, OBP: .166), hitters have a great opportunity early in the count to hunt pitches over the plate. Below are the batting averages of the five hitters from above on 0-0 counts:


  • Altuve: .449
  • Trout: .447
  • Judge: .400
  • Stanton: .475
  • Blackmon: .441

While avoiding two strikes seems like a pretty good plan, 48% of your at-bats are going to ultimately get to two strikes. We also know that batting average on balls in play (BABIP) with two strikes in 2017 was .295. The worst BABIP in any count in 2017 was .294. That shows us a large part of our battle with two strikes is simply putting the ball in play. Considering this, it is worth coming up with a different approach for two strikes that will help you put the ball in play and avoid striking out. Below are some tips on how you can improve how you hit with two strikes:


  1. Hitting with two strikes is tough, but it’s not a death sentence. Remain confident when battling with two strikes. If you’re having confidence issues at the plate, revisit your pre-pitch process (see previous blog posts on this).
  2. Pay attention to what pitchers are throwing in two strike counts. Pitchers are creatures of habit. Anticipating certain pitches/pitch sequences can help you avoid the unpredictability of hitting with two strikes.
  3. If anticipating the breaking ball/changeup, see the pitch up. If the pitch starts off looking like a fastball, it’s going to finish outside of the strike zone.
  4. Expand in a specific part of the strike zone, not the entire strike zone. Hitting is hard enough with the zone you have. Expand where you think the pitcher will be coming (a few baseballs outside, inside, etc.).
  5. Widen your stance, choke up on the bat, move closer to the plate, use a different timing mechanism. If pitchers have to learn a windup and the stretch, it’s not a bad idea for hitters to learn two different swings.
  6. Take bad pitches, work yourself back into the count (3-2 BA: .216, OBP: 462). Most pitchers are going to shrink the zone with two strikes because they don’t want to give up a base hit. Use this to your advantage.
  7. Practice with two strikes. Learn what borderline pitches look like. Understand which ones you need to fight off/take. Drive mistakes.
  8. Practice adjustability. Sometimes you’re going to have to barrel speeds you weren’t looking for originally.
  9. Keep things simple. Don’t get caught over analyzing every possible pitch/situation in the box. You’re at your best when you’re thinking the least.
  10. Be the best competitor on the field. Compete one pitch at a time. You can’t worry about the two that just went by you. Be great at being where your feet are.
  11. Remember times when you succeeded with two strikes, forget times where the pitcher got the best of you. We tend to hang on to negative experiences the longest. If you’re constantly thinking about how bad you are with two strikes, there’s a really good chance you’ll see more two strike counts in the future - and you’ll see similar results.

Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.


Keep learning and growing.





This article was written by staff member Andrew Parks. 

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