Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Plate Discipline

Great article from ESPN.com writer Jerry Crasnick about plate discipline. Here are a few excerpts and a link to the article.

To Daniel Murphy, the Mets' young left fielder, plate discipline means having the willpower to say no regardless of how much his eyes say yes.
"Plate discipline for me is swinging at something that I'm looking for and I can hit," Murphy says. "For the most part, I like the pitch down, so I try not to swing at anything up until two strikes, because if I swing at that, then I'm out."

Boston Red Sox approach on plate discipline:

Boston's approach is centered on two building blocks. First, hitters are encouraged to approach an 0-0 count with the same mindset they have at 2-0 or 3-1. If they see a fastball in their zone, they're poised to climb all over it and drive it. If they don't see that pitch, they lay off, and it's either a ball or a strike they probably couldn't have done much with, anyway.

Boston's minor league instructors also stress the importance of a consistent two-strike approach. Generally, hitters like to widen out at the plate, choke up, let the ball travel deep in the zone and try to foul it off. Some hitters expand the zone from black to black. Others might look away, since that's where most pitchers try to finish off hitters, then adjust to anything inside.

One popular misconception is that teams such as Oakland and Boston bombard their young hitters with a directive to walk more and strike out less. Instead, those clubs preach the value of a sound approach, and believe the numbers will take care of themselves as a byproduct.

"We don't want guys to strike out, but I don't think a guy strikes out less by telling him to strike out less," Cherington says.

"There's a learning curve for hitters, and there are going to be some down cycles," Lieppman says. "As you teach people how to be selective, in many cases performance will go down and you'll see an increase in passivity for hitters. It's hard to be aggressive and patient and selective at the same time."

"For me, plate discipline is being able to know what pitch you want to put in play before you step in the box and not swinging at anything else but that," Jones says. "A lot of young hitters go up there and look for the first strike. They could be sitting on the fastball, but they still swing at the curveball.

"That's where young hitters make outs, whereas older hitters might sit on the fastball, then spit on the curveball, spit on the changeup and spit on the slider until they get that one fastball in the count. If you go up there with a game plan of knowing what pitch you want to put in play, it automatically makes you a much more selective hitter."

"The more pitches hitters see, the more confident and mature they are," Lieppman said. "They're not panicked by a 2-2 sinker or a slider that's barely off the plate. They come to understand it's not a pitch to hit, or they foul it off. That's the level you're trying to get to."

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