How to improve a hitters mental gameNov 14, 2023
Read time: 3 minutes
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This is the typical scenario.
The season starts.
Hitters start to worry about hitter things.
We tell them to relax and stop thinking.
They then keep thinking, which makes things even worse, and are now on a roller coaster ride the entire season that looks like this:
How about you try this instead?
Change how they view success.
Every hitter on the planet, at one point or another, has focused on the results more than the process.
We’ve both heard of the process mindset.
What does that mean?
Let’s look at the definition.
Process: “A series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.”
Outcome: “The way a thing turns out; a consequence.”
The outcome will improve if the focus is on the process. But that is hard to do because we all have shiny object syndrome, and that takes us away from the process.
Teach hitters to view the process as the goal, not the outcome.
Examples of worrying about an outcome:
Rankings: "Why isn’t my ranking higher? I have better metrics than Patrick Jones (wink)"
Scouts: "I wonder what those scouts are thinking about me after I grounded out last AB; I need to get a hit my next AB to keep them coming back, so my drafted stock continues to rise".
Metrics: "My max exit velocity hasn’t increased in 3 weeks; I need to try to start swinging harder in the cage".
Teammates: "I wonder what my teammates think of me since I’m playing and not hitting well".
Parents: "My Dad will be mad if I have one more strikeout".
Playing time: "If I don’t get a hit this upcoming AB, I’ll be 0-4, and I know the coach won’t put me in the lineup the next game".
A few years ago, when I was a hitting coach in the Baltimore Orioles organization, I had a player focusing too much on the outcome.
It was hurting his performance. So, we both sat down and decided to come up with a plan to focus on 3 things he could do that would be “within his control.”
No matter who was on the mound that day, how he was feeling, etc, he could accomplish these 3 things. If he did these 3 things, he had a successful day as a hitter.
(It’s essential that the player is in on this conversation and comes up with the 2-3 things so they have ownership.)
After each game, he would come into the coach's office, I would print out his checklist, and he would check the boxes that he accomplished for the day.
Here is his checklist.
You would’ve been AMAZED at the games he had when all three of these were checked.
He didn’t always get a hit when they were, but he had very productive ABs.
On the days he didn’t have any checked or only 1 checked, he struggled and was prone to swinging at bad pitches.
This is a simple way to help hitters change how they view success.
If every hitter focused on the 2-3 things they could control that would lead to their best AB consistently, their outcome and statistics would be better.
Far long ago, in a city overlooked in the middle of the Midwest that has struggled for decades to have a winning baseball team, a particular hitter who was often thought of around the area as a “weird, strange guy” tended to view hitting of course, in a ‘strange', weird way compared to his teammates and coaches.
One night, this hitter had a great game.
3-4 at the plate
He got a big hit down the stretch to give the team the lead and eventually win the game.
Most hitters would be happy, wouldn't they?
The next day, this hitter walked into the cages and was congratulated by one of the coaches on his performance the night prior.
“Great job last night!” The coach told this player.
The player started to shake their head and say he was not happy with his performance from the previous night.
“I didn’t swing at my pitch, and my timing was off. That will not be sustainable for the remainder of the season.”
The coach was left speechless…
That night, this player goes 0-4 at the plate.
You’re probably thinking, that’s what happens with you piss the baseball gods off.
Just kidding. But seriously.
The next day, the player walks into the cage and makes it a point to find the same coach who congratulated him the night prior.
The player says: “Now that last night, that is going to be sustainable throughout the season, I got my pitch, and I was on time. I am happy with my performance last night.”
“Happy with my performance last night?!” After this player went 0-4?!
This player understands something that 99.9% of hitters need help buying into.
This player’s version of success was process-based, not outcome-related.
That player had a fantastic career and was always considered a “weird, outside-the-box thinker. But maybe he was considered different because he was thinking about the things that everyone else was supposed to.
That player was Joey Votto.
And he understood that in order to be the best version of himself over an entire season, he need to be processed based, not outcome driven.
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