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Solve the Puzzle

Have you ever played the game inside the game? You know… the game between the pitcher and the batter. That really is “the game”. Ok, ok, you do have to field your position, throw accurate, know all of the defensive plays, offensive plays and be a team player. But.. if you just break baseball down to its bare bones, the pitcher vs. the batter is “the game”.

Besides, it’s a fun game if you think about it. The pitcher gets to heave the ball at any speed, any angle, with any spin and utilize most any manner of deceit while doing so. He does this with every intention of either striking the batter out, or inducing him to hit the ball weakly to one of his fielders. Oh, and when he makes a mistake and the batter thoroughly smashes the ball… yea, he still has those fielders to make spectacular plays behind him.

The batter? Well, he gets a big stick to try to hit that pitched ball “Where they ain’t” as Wee Willie Keeler so adeptly put it.

If you were to look at the advantages of each side, it sure does seem to stack the odds in the pitcher’s favor. Don’t you think? It’s no wonder that the gauge for a decent hitter in just about every league is a .300 batting average. Yea,  that’s a success rate of 30%! A “failure” rate of 70%. Wow, not exactly fair is it?

So, what does a hitter do about it? How about deciding to play “the game”? There is so much more to being a good hitter besides developing a powerful, accurate and repeatable swing. You need to learn how to solve “the puzzle” to win the game. Or, at least give yourself a fighting chance. What puzzle, you ask? The pitcher puzzle… that’s what puzzle.

If all you are doing is taking a few swings in the on deck circle, stepping in to the batters box and taking your hacks, chances are you don’t have much of a chance. If you want to be one of those good hitters (you know, the guys that fail only 70% of the time), you better be doing a little bit more than that in your at bats.

For starters, what exactly is the pitcher doing well? Is he throwing a good fastball, or is his changeup working down exceptionally well? When is he throwing that changeup, ahead in the count, or behind? Is he hitting that outside corner on a regular basis? These are just pieces to the puzzle. There’s more…

How about the umpire? How is he calling pitches? Consistently? Consistently what.. inside, outside, high, low? You have to know the answers to these questions if you want to slowly start moving some of the odds over to your side.

And how about this piece of the puzzle: When you do step into the batters box, what is the situation? If there’s nobody on base.. you have to get on. Somebody is on.. you have to move them into scoring position. If they are in scoring position… drive ‘em in!

Oh, yea.. the fielders… the pitcher.. they know all of this stuff too. How are they defending you? How are they setting up their puzzle to try and beat you? Pitching you away into the teeth of the defense? Or, playing you to pull and jamming you inside? You need to know the answer to these questions too. IF you want to be one of those guys that fail only 70% of the time.

Are you starting to realize that there is a heckuva lot more to hitting then simply having a real sweet swing? Yea, there is. Don’t get me wrong, having a real sweet swing that is powerful, accurate and repeatable is really, really important. It’s just that it’s …well, only part of the solution to the big puzzle. Just a small piece you have to work with.

The rest of the stuff is game time information. It’s all there in front of you, unfolding one pitch at a time. Are you studying for success, or taking your chances when it’s your turn to solve the puzzle? Because, if you want success… you have to study, the whole game! The game is changing with every pitch. New pieces to the puzzle are added or subtracted, mixed and matched. The game is dynamic… in a constant state of change, until the final out.

Well, will you pass or fail?

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