By: Geoffrey T. Spaulding
Dear “Take A Strike” Coach –
I know you know a lot about baseball – and just sports in general. They just don’t give a clipboard and whistle to anyone, right? And, yeah, if Coach would have put you in fourth quarter, we would’ve been state champions. No doubt.
But, can we talk about your policy of having batters take a strike? Actually, first, I want to talk about hitting with two strikes.
Hitting with two strikes is really, really hard – even if you’re a good hitter.
Have you ever heard of Mike Trout? He’s a pretty good hitter. In his first 8* years in the major leagues, he’s batted .305 and slugged .566 in 944 total games.
Hey, let’s be honest, Mike Trout is a great hitter. The dude rakes like he’s the love child of Roy Hobbs and Marla Hooch. But, as great as he is, when he’s got two-strikes, the big guy loses a lot at the plate. In the 2,249 plate appearances where he’s had two strikes on him, Mike Trout is batting .223 – and that’s a far cry from his career mark of .305.
It’s not just Mike Trout. Try googling for images of “Batting Average By Pitch Counts.” You’ll see tons of stuff out there showing you that batters hit much better when there’s no strikes and they hit like bleep with two strikes. It’s usually around a one-hundred point drop in batting average when you have two strikes. And, “no strike” counts are usually the highest batting averages of all possible counts. (Remember Mike Trout? He’s batting .391 with a slugging percentage of .708(!) when he hits the first pitch. Good thing his coach doesn’t tell him to take a strike!)
But, Trout is a stud. And, kids aren’t as good as him. Well, that’s exactly right!
If Mike Trout doesn’t do as well with two strikes, why expect a kid to be able to handle it? Hitting with two strikes is a terrible position for a kid. They get nervous. Plus, they have to deal with the risk of the umpire making a bad call and punching them out. Or, maybe the pitcher makes them chase for strike three on a pitch that’s nasty.
You’re probably thinking “I ask them to take a strike and you’re blabbering on about hitting with two strikes. It’s apples and oranges!”
But, it’s not. Truth is, this is very simple. You can’t get to two strikes without first having one strike on you. Follow me here? If you let the kid swing at the first strike, maybe he gets a hit and then never has to worry about batting with two strikes?
Further, think about this: We know it’s a huge disadvantage to hit with two strikes. Numbers don’t lie. And, when you ask a kid to take a strike, then you are essentially only giving him ONE STRIKE in that plate appearance to do some damage with the bat – since he, and anyone, is basically toast once they have two strikes on them.
How many kids are good hitters when they only have ONE SHOT at connecting with a pitch? Plus, that ONE PITCH is the potential second strike, after taking the first one. Maybe that “first strike” would have been the best pitch for that kid to hit in his At Bat? And, by you forcing him to take it, you’ve made him miss his best chance at getting a hit.
Outside of a situation where the pitcher has just thrown 12 balls in a row and walked the bases loaded, it is blatantly stupid to force your batters to take a strike.
Think of the song, “For it’s one, two, three strikes, you‘re out.” It’s not “Take a strike, then try and hit with only two strikes and you’re out.” Or, think of the expression “has two strikes against him.” People use that outside of baseball to express someone is really up against the wall. Why would a coach intentionally put one of his players half way up against a wall by having them take a strike?
Imagine if your coach had asked you to take a knee when you were going for that fourth touchdown at Polk High?
In closing, I remain respectfully…
…wishing you would actually think about what you’re doing.
*All of the stats mentioned herein are Mike Trout’s career stats from July 8, 2011 through and including April 19, 2018.