Don't Simply Accept Striking Out
I don’t accept that a strikeout is just another out. I hated doing it as a player and I don’t enjoy watching guys walk back to the dugout after a “K” these days. While I understand some of the rationale behind the philosophy—don’t sacrifice power, stick with your A swing—I think the advantages of contact far outweigh those things in nearly every hitter. With the average at the big league level well under .200 in two-strike counts, a different approach could be worth a try.
In the simplest form, it just makes sense by the numbers. A ball put in play at least provides a chance for a hitter to successfully do his job—reach base. Adding the chance of an error being made certainly gives the hitter more opportunity to reach than his only option with a strikeout—a dropped third strike. As you move down levels from the major leagues, defenders as a whole have less range and make more errors, which only increases the chance for a batted ball to result in the batter getting on base. That makes a good two-strike approach, that puts the ball in play, even more advantageous.
I’ll take barrel contact at a slightly reduced exit velocity over a swing and a miss any day. With the live ball and strength of hitters in the major leagues, that slightly reduced exit velocity can still do a lot of damage! Simplifying and shortening the move to the ball with two strikes should improve barrel accuracy as well as the ability to make decisions on pitches, giving hitters a better chance to make something good happen at the plate.
Some of the game’s best hitters have talked about their two-strike approach and the subtle changes they make in those counts. Guys like Mike Trout, Juan Soto, Alex Bregman, Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto all adjust with two strikes on them. It often involves choking up, and certainly in Soto’s case, it can also mean spreading out and cutting down on the stride and movement. They still hit some home runs with two strikes, and they also put pressure on the defense, beat the shift and make life tougher on the pitcher by making contact.
We still teach a two-strike approach at Baseball Factory and I feel every young player should have one. The “battle mentality” along with some physical adjustments should be implemented by all young players for sure, and more players at the highest level as well. Put the ball in play more and see the positive impact it has on the team. Being on base sure beats that long walk back to the dugout from the batter’s box.