What are Big Leaguers Thinking About in the Batter’s Box?

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As a batter, should you be guessing pitches? What should you look for? What should be your mindset in the box when facing a tough pitcher with nasty off-speed stuff? A good rule of thumb that you hear around the baseball world is, “If the pitcher has a good fastball, you have to look fastball and react to off speed.”  Staying balanced with your stride and keeping your hands back will allow you to hit the off-speed even if you’re fooled.

Now let’s hear from a few of the top big leaguers and see what they have to say about, guessing pitches, their mindset in the batter’s box, hitting a curveball, slider, cutter, and splitter, and more. All but two of the guys below have made an All-Star team, and it’s common knowledge that it’s only a matter of time before Andrew McCutchen and Starlin Castro join the ranks. Enjoy.

The following quotes were either taken out of a recent Sports Illustrated article titled, “Bangers and Mash” or from personal interviews I’ve done with big leaguers.

Robinson Cano on finding out that he was one of the best in the bigs at hitting the slider:  “I didn’t know I was a good slider hitter. I don’t look for any special pitch, just for something in the middle of the plate. That’s the only way to drive the ball.”

Andrew McCutchen on hitting a curveball:  “They always say that the way to hit a curveball is to hit the fastball. If you’re ready to hit the fastball, you can hit anything. As long as you’re set, your base is good, you can adjust to the off speed.”

Rod Carew, Hall of Famer, on hitting a curveball, “when you hit a curveball, you have to hit it with an imagination. You can’t hit a curveball where you see it, you have to hit it where it’s going.”

Ben Zobrist on what his mindset is in the batter’s box, “I try to simplify things. I do my routine and focus on the one pitch I’m looking for and then I’m just looking for the release point.”

Howard Johnson, former NL All-Star and Mets’ hitting coach on how he would describe his mindset at the plate, “Quiet.”

Josh Hamilton on whether he ever looks for a breaking ball, “I never look for a breaking ball. I can’t think about anything else besides the fastball. Just like everything with hitting, if your timing is good, it doesn’t really matter what they are throwing.”

http://www.nextlevelballplayer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/longo.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 150px) 100vw, 150px" />Evan Longoria on why he’s been one of the best in the big leagues at hitting a cut fastball, “If I’m facing a guy like Jon Lester or Cliff Lee, or I know Mariano Rivera’s coming in, I’ll have our BP pitchers throw cutters. You’ve got to let it get to you. You’ve got to let it get deep into your swing.”

Vladimir Guerrero on whether he looks for certain pitches, “I don’t practice hitting any pitch, whether it’s a fastball, curveball, slider or changeup. I just try to see the ball and swing as hard as I can.”

Starlin Castro, the Cubs up and coming SS super-star on his approach at the plate and why he’s one of the best at hitting the split-fingered fastball, “I try to never strike out- I try to put the ball in play. I feel good hitting splitters; I have no idea why. I’ve been good at it all my life. But they don’t throw me too many. Last year nobody knew me, and so they threw me a lot of fastballs. Now they’re throwing me more off-speed stuff, and I’m ready for that.”

*Who’s perspective did you find the most insightful? How about least insightful?*



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  • Brett

    I love Vlad’s approach- “I just try to see the ball and swing as hard as I can.” Very evident, when you watch him hit.

  • Chris

    Vlad’s was entertaining and true………..seeing him hit a pitch that bounced in front of the plate proves that. But, really like Rod Carew, because if you really think about it, it makes sense.

  • Chris

    By the way….I think your picture of Josh Hamilton is actually Mark Teixeira.

    • http://www.nextlevelballplayer.com Franco

      Chris- Great catch on the pic. Tex has been traded for Hamilton. Good looking out.

  • Jon Knudson

    I use a combination of approaches in the box. I’m Vlad until I get 2 strikes. Then I practice Starlin’s “no strikeout” philosophy. Perhaps not surprisingly, I find myself often hitting with 2 strikes. Sorry, Vlad.

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  • junkyfour

    It appears to me batters don’t guess at pitches despite what the conventional wisdom says.