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APRIL 2018 - Situational Hitting

Updated: May 11, 2018



Q: While winning three consecutive ACBL Championships (‘15-‘17), the Allentown Railers have led the league in several offensive categories (led the league in runs scored in ’15 and ’16, led in walks and RBI’s in ’15). What role has situational hitting played in the team’s recent run of dominance?


A:

Situational hitting has played a big role in how good the team has been offensively over the years for the Railers. It starts with the players buying in to our offensive philosophy. We want our hitters to be swinging at good pitches. We do not want them expanding the strike zone and going after bad pitches.
We want our hitters to be willing to take walks and make a pitcher work to get outs. We want to have our hitters make the pitcher spend a lot of time pitching from the stretch. We want our hitters to understand that the objective is to score runs and there are a lot of ways to do that. We want to be able to score runs as many different ways as possible.
Home runs and doubles are great and that is obviously a quick way to score runs, but bunts, ground balls behind runners, sacrifice flies, and giving runners an opportunity to steal a base (and protecting runners when they run) are all key components to score runs when you are not hitting home runs and doubles.
When you do not swing at bad pitches, pitch counts rise and you get deep into your opponent’s bullpen, which is usually where you want to be. More than anything, it just comes down to having guys willing to do it. When they see it work during the game, then they buy into the philosophy more and more.

- Dylan Dando, Allentown Railers Manager

Situational hitting has played a major role in our success in the ACBL. As players make the adjustment to wood bats, situational hitting takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of the hitter and allows them to have a productive at bat without having to feel like they always have to get a hit to be successful at the plate. We ask players to bunt, hit the ball on the right side to move a runner, and put the ball in play with less than 2 outs with runners in scoring position. Some of these things don't actually influence a player's batting average in the negative direction, and therefore, creates a positive feeling for the hitter. In turn, this places a lot of pressure on the opposing pitcher and defense. There is always some sort of action being created by our offense which takes away from the pitcher controlling the rhythm of the game and forces the defense be on edge. Our players have adjusted well to this philosophy over the last few years and we've been very fortunate to have players who have been unselfish and willing to put the team's success ahead of their own individual performance.

- Mike Hercik, Allentown Railers Assistant Coach


Q: Members of the “launch angle, never bunt” movement have made statements such as, “never listen to a coach who tells you to hit the ball on the ground,” and “ground balls don’t get you to the big leagues.” How would you respond to these statements?


A:

My philosophy is that guys should be going to the plate to hit the ball hard and try to find the barrel as often as possible. There is swing training and then there is hitting. Ultimately, I am just looking for guys who hit the ball hard. I guess hitting ground balls does not get you to the big leagues, but we are looking for players who make themselves valuable and are going to do whatever they can to help our team.
Maybe nobody wants to hit ground balls, but if there is a runner on third base with less than two outs and the infield is back, the goal there is to score a run. The situation can dictate everything. I understand players don't want to hit ground balls in the cage, but there are certainly situations that arise during any baseball game where hitting a ground ball is valuable to your team.

-Dylan Dando, LVBA Owner/Director

I would say that there is a time and place for everything. As a hitter, you want to be as versatile as possible. At younger ages, I believe kids need to focus on becoming good hitters. This equates to making your barrel as accurate as possible.
Also, you have to understand what type of hitter you are. If you have slow bat speed and you’re not a very physical guy, you have to find ways to make yourself useful offensively.
I'll leave it at this: when you get to the college level and you’re in your first couple rounds of BP and you can't hit anything hard to the opposite field there will be some problems there.

- Pat Kregeloh, LVBA Director of Baseball Ops, Instructor/Coach


Q: What are some of the qualities you consider when evaluating whether hitters will be able to hit in different situations at the pro level?


A:

A player’s capabilities are a big factor when evaluating situational hitting at the pro level. The goal of every player is to be a productive offensive player regardless of your size and strength, and a big part of that is to make yourself difficult to defend. If you aren’t one of the very few burners who can beat defenders in front, or pure power hitters who can beat outfielders overhead consistently, you probably fall into the largest category: the line drive, gap hit type. The goal would be to aim for as high a line drive percentage as possible as the ideal along, with the ability to drive the ball from line to line, making it hard for the defense to align itself in any particular direction. Some of the hitting characteristics that I am looking for in professional hitters is an “accurate barrel,” meaning you can deliver the bat head and find the sweet spot consistently, along with “bat quickness” and a desirable “swing path” that keeps the barrel in the zone a long time, allowing margin for error in timing. Very valuable also is an”athletic barrel” which would be the opposite of a grooved swing. That trait shows ability to square strikes in all quadrants of the strike zone. Another coveted skill is early pitch recognition, “strong strike zone judgement.” As you continue on to higher levels of play “pitch recognition,” especially the early read of what NOT to swing at becomes critical when evaluating hitters. Here is the recap of hitting qualities to emphasize:
1. Accurate barrel
2. Bat quickness
3. Barrel that stays in zone a long time. Room for error.
4. Athletic barrel, awareness of sweet spot, coverage of all quadrants.
5. Early pitch recognition, strong strike zone judgement.

- Jeff Bittiger, MLB Pro Scout (Oakland Athletics)


Q: As a hitter at the collegiate level, what have your coaches expected from you in regards to your ability to be a situational hitter? What value has situational hitting had in your baseball career and/or the success of the teams you’ve played on?


A:

I was depended on heavily throughout my high school and college career as a middle of the line up guy that is going to produce runs. This didn't mean I couldn't situational hit. Every BP round when your working on situation hitting your not only working on hitting ground balls and fly balls your working on become a better hitter. Your working on developing an accurate barrel. This is huge because when you have a man in scoring position and your in a down count and get a tough pitch, your able to handle it due to training your barrel on a daily basis.

- Pat Kregeloh, LVBA Director of Baseball Ops, Instructor/Coach


As a defensive-minded college player who didn’t possess the bat speed to consistently beat outfielders overhead, I had to embrace any opportunity to impact our offense’s success. Whether it’s hitting behind a runner, protecting a runner in motion, laying down a sacrifice, or knowing what you have to do to get a runner in from third base, situational hitting can easily decide close games. My coaches always preached that the teams who played offense better than other teams would have success in the long-run. There is always a way to help your team win on offense, and most of them don't require hitting the ball over the fence.

- Brett Bittiger, LVBA Coach/Instructor


Q: What value does the LVBA Prospects program place on situational hitting? How do we instill situational hitting and the ability to execute an offensive game plan in our young hitters?


A:

We just work on situational hitting and more importantly we want our players to understand that the situations during the games dictate a lot of things. We want our players to recognize what the situation is and then do what they need to do offensively to score runs without necessarily getting hits. And you can make yourself valuable to any high school or college team just by doing that. We do not go into a cage and just take 100 swings without purpose. We work on bunting and what to do when the infield is in or back and we have our players deal with multiple situations that occur during a game while they are hitting in the cage.
We want to get our kids to understand there are a lot of ways to score runs without getting hits. There are lots of ways to help a team win games without getting hits .When you get the kids to understand how the game is played. Then they learn how to recognize these situations on their own and know what they need to do to be successful in those situations. We try and get these kids to learn situations and have productive outs and once they do that, they become a more valuable member of their team.

- Dylan Dando, LVBA Owner/Director


Situational hitting at LVBA starts at our youngest age groups and goes all the way up to our 18U players. We do this to teach the meaning of what it is to be an offensive player. At our younger ages, it teaches kids that hitting isn't all about just swinging a bat and trying to hit a ball. It's about knowing a situation and trying to help your team win. At our older ages, it's a tool used to create runs. Situational hitting teaches players how to control the bat, how to be productive on offensive no matter the circumstances, and how to be a team player.

- Pat Kregeloh, LVBA Director of Baseball Ops, Instructor/Coach

Throughout our program, we put a lot of work into teaching situational hitting. In 11 years here, I’ve seen the results of that work at every level I’ve coached and managed. I stress productive at-bats compared to watching your stats. Productive at-bats means being able to move runners when needed, either through sac bunts or hit- and-run or just hitting ground balls behind runners. When we have guys on third with less than two outs, it becomes crucial to get those guys in, however we can. My teams have been very good in this area, which has helped us win many games, and more importantly has helped them understand how to be productive offensive players. Good pitching many times will shut down good hitting. In order to score at times we need to create our own opportunities. Teams that can do this will win, in my opinion, more than they lose in close games! Hard work does pay off!

- Rick Frankenfield, LVBA Coach/Instructor


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