Hitting is hard! This is the most overused statement I use, because I want kids to understand that it is hard. Because it is hard, you need to work hard on developing your mechanics, developing an approach and plan, and find any way possible to gain a competitive advantage of the pitcher who is trying to get you out.
The competitive advantage I want to cover in this post is, understanding the count and what it means for you. As a hitter you need to be on an endless pursuit to gain a competitive advantage on the pitcher. Having an advantage does not guarantee victory, but will put you in a position to succeed as a hitter.
Initially, when you first get to the plate, the pitcher will have the advantage, because he is holding the baseball and knows where he wants to throw it and what kind of spin he wants to put on it. But, as the count falls more and more into the hitters favor, then he gains the advantage over the pitcher. Why is that good? Because you can be more selective, and wait for that pitch that you can drive and do some damage with.
As we approach the plate, we have already developed our approach and have gained information on the pitcher from past at bats, scouting reports, and watching how he pitched to other hitters in your line up, etc.
Lets now try to understand the count and what it means for us.
The first pitch of the at bat and pitch. The pitcher has been trained to ensure they get ahead in the count, and they do that to gain advantage over you as a hitter, so you are more likely to see a pitch you are looking for and in your window.
If this pitch is in your window, you cannot miss it. The worst thing you can do is miss this pitch in an 0-0 count, then the count falls into the favor of the pitcher.
If this pitch is not in your window, take it. If it is a strike, you get another one. If it is a ball, then the count falls into your favor.
The 1-0 falls into the favor of the hitter. A good train of thought, unless you have enough data and understanding of the pitcher, is that you will get the same pitch you got in the 0-0 count. Pitchers do not want to fall behind.
In the 1-0 count, you are still looking for your pitch, do not help the pitcher out. Be aggressive, but wait patiently for your pitch.
The 2-0 count falls into the favor of the hitter. As a hitter, you need to be aggressive in this count and make a point to catch the ball out in front, and do some serious damage to the baseball. Pitchers do not want to fall into the 3-0 count, and depending on what level you are at, they might put this pitch in your window, as well as taking some speed off of it. You are now able to shrink your strike zone and not let this pitch go if it in your window.
The 3-0 count falls into the favor of the hitter. As a hitter, you should treat this count like a 2-0 count by being aggressive and making a point to catch the ball out in front. You want to hit the baseball and do damage, do not take this pitch if it is in your window.
The 0-1 count falls into the favor of the pitcher, as it allows him to make more choices as to what he wants to do with the next pitch. This count should not affect the hitter’s mentality, as you get one more pitch to find the pitch you want and the pitch that is in your window. The hitter wants to be aggressive in this count, but disciplined enough to lay off the pitch that leaves the window and strike zone. If the pitch gets into your window, do not miss this pitch.
The 1-1 count is the most important pitch in all of baseball. If the pitcher gets the strike, then the odds go up significantly in his favor. If the pitcher gets the ball, then the odds go up significantly in the hitters favor. As a hitter, you are still aggressively seeking your pitch, while being disciplined enough to let the next pitch go.
The 2-1 count favors the hitter. The pitcher does not want to fall to 3-1, so he will likely give you a pitch over the plate and in your window. Be aggressively waiting for your pitch, and disciplined enough to let go, if it’s not there.
The 3-1 count falls in favor of the hitter. To avoid walking the hitter, the pitcher may throw an easy pitch over the pate and in your window. Be aggressive enough to swing at your pitch, but disciplined enough to not swing at pitch out of your window, even if it is a strike.
The 0-2 falls in favor of the pitcher. Pitcher are taught to use this count to their advantage, rather than wasting it by making quality pitches just outside of the strike zone, but close enough to make the hitter want to swing while protecting. As a hitter, we need to expand the strike zone and swing at anything close to the umpire’s strike zone. Learn to fight pitches off, learn to battle, and make the pitcher work to get you out. Hitters should develop enough pitch selection discipline to swing at pitches that are close, without panicking and swinging at pitches way out of the zone.
The 1-2 count favors the pitcher. Pitcher will approach this count like they would the 0-2 count, so as a hitter, you need to approach 1-2 count as an 0-2 count. Be aggressive and fight pitches off, learn to battle and make the pitcher work to get you out.
The 2-2 count favors the pitcher. The pitcher in this count does not want to fall into a 3-2 count, so while you still have the 2 strike approach, your chances of getting a pitch to hit are pretty good.
The 3-2 count favors the pitcher. While this count appears even and appears as if no one is in favor, that is not the case. The pitcher has the advantage, because he knows where the ball is going and what kind of spin it will have, and the batter still has 2 strikes on him, so he has to expand his zone and battle.
The pitchers disadvantage has to do with concerns about walking hitters. If they are concerned about walking a hitter, then they are more likely to give you a pitch you can handle. If the pitcher isn’t worried about walking you, then they will try and get you out of the zone and try to get you to get yourself out.
Understanding the count gives you an idea of what type of pitches you might get, when you need to be more aggressive, when you need to be more disciplined, or when you need to battle against the pitcher, etc.
Again, hitting is hard. Gaining this understanding will help you as a hitter.