Every successful hitter has a two-strike approach. With two strikes, a hitting approach can be as simple as a minor physical adjustment or a complex mental strategy. There is no perfect formula that will work for every player and developing a good two-strike hitting approach takes time and effort.
Developing a two-strike hitting approach takes a lot of trial and error. Players will find success with different physical adjustments and mental cues but must work hard to find what those are. Mastering these adjustments can drastically change the success of a hitter over the course of a season.
Many players do not have to make drastic changes to their swing or overall approach to find more success with two strikes, but having some plan of action is key. In this article, we will discuss how to develop a two-strike hitting approach from scratch and begin to implement it into live at-bats.
A good two-strike hitting approach should be an extension of a player’s overall hitting approach. As we discuss in our article about developing a hitting approach, the first step is to perform a self-evaluation, as hitters should be aware of their abilities at the plate. Is the player a power hitter looking to hit the ball out of the park, or are they a singles hitter trying to get on base any way they can? Different types of hitters will have different hitting approaches and this can be carried into two-strike hitting.
If a player is a power hitter and their role is to hit home runs and drive the baseball, in certain situations they might be willing to risk striking out more often to increase their chance of still trying to drive the ball with two strikes. For example, they might elect to not make any physical adjustments that would help to make more consistent contact with pitches but result in a decrease in power.
On the other hand, players that are more scrappy and have the goal of reaching base in any way may have a very different two-strike approach. In this instance, the player might cut down their stride and choke up on the bat in order to fight off any borderline pitches, increasing their chance to work the count into a walk or put the ball in play for a base hit.
Depending on the situation, a two-strike hitting approach can be altered. Factors like the score, inning, outs, and if there are runners in scoring position should all be considered when in the box.
Let’s use a situation as an example; the game is in the 2nd inning, there are no runners on base, with two outs, and the hitter has two strikes on them. Since there are no runners in scoring position, the batter’s job is to put themself in scoring position. The easiest way to do this is with an extra-base hit. With that said, even with two strikes, the batter can reduce any physical or mental adjustment they might typically make with two strikes to prioritize driving the baseball, as there is minimal difference between a strike-out and a weakly hit ball put in play.
In another example, say there is a runner on 3rd base with 1 out, and a batter has two strikes on them. In this scenario, putting the ball in play should be the priority as it will likely score a run, and a strike-out is the worst possible result in this at-bat since there is no chance it will score the runner. So in this case, the batter might make more physical and mental adjustments that allow them a better chance of making contact with a pitch.
Physical Adjustments with Two Strikes
Not all coaches will agree on this, but players making big physical adjustments with two strikes may do more harm than good. Successful hitting comes from repeatable swing mechanics and an understanding of the strike zone. As a hitter, you do not want to add any more variables to an at-bat, such as your position in the box, grip on the bat, or stride with your legs. However, the best approach for a player is one that works, and many players of all levels have found success hitting with two strikes by making physical adjustments, so here are the most common ones made by players:
- Choke up on the bat
- By choking up the bat, it bat feels lighter and quicker to swing. The added control can help players fight off borderline pitches and extend the at-bat to either draw a walk or hit a mistake by the pitcher.
- Stand closer to the plate
- Moving closer to the plate can help a player control the strike zone. It makes outside pitches easier to hit, and it is often a visual distraction for the pitcher.
- Limit front foot load
- Limiting the front foot load, whether it’s a leg kick, strike, or toe-tap can help players minimize the room for error in their timing. Cutting down their load essentially makes them able to adjust easier to the speed of the pitch.
Mental Adjustments with Two Strikes
Mental adjustments can be a game-changer for some players. This is going to take players some trial and error to find out what works for them because mental adjustments can take many forms. Some can be technical, such as thinking about a fastball on the outer half of the plate and adjusting to anything else, or it could be something as simple as positive self-talk. Many players lose confidence with two strikes and have a fear of striking out so anytime they get two strikes on them, negative thoughts begin to creep into their heads. Finding ways to positively spin the situation mentally, such as thinking “this pitcher can’t beat me with anything” or “I’m getting on base any way I can”, can go a long way.
For the more technical mental adjustments, thinking of timing, pitch location, or pitch type and adjusting to anything else could all be triggers that lead to more successful two-strike results. Again, hitting approaches in any scenario are very specific to the player, and what works for some won’t work for others. So it is important to test out different strategies and for players to learn and pay attention to what works for them.