Rhythm

By Doug Bernier

Rhythm is part 1 of the baseball swing. It provides the relaxed readiness that is essential to a well-timed swing. Good rhythm allows for quick reactions that will have you making contact with the baseball more often.

(The baseball swing, Stage 1)

In every sport, before a quick action, relaxation and rhythm precedes your explosive move.

Example: When a tennis player is returning a serve, or a basketball player is defending in a one on one situation, each defender is relaxed and waiting to explode.

In other words, it’s is the movement that helps keep the hitter on his toes and ready, but loose and not rigid or tense.

Why rhythm is important: This idea is the same for hitting. Once you get into your stance, the slight movement in your hands and legs will help to keep you relaxed and under control. This helps us not get too stiff or mechanical when we start our swing.

The bottom line is…

You are quicker and more in control of your body if you have rhythm and are relaxed.

This means better bat speed, and better reactions and adjustments in the split seconds you have before contact.

Next: Load

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins’ AAA team in Rochester, NY

Pro Tips for How to Play Outfield

By Doug Bernier

The tips on this page for how to play outfield will help you create a foundation of knowledge and technique that will make you a better outfielder, maximizing your natural talents and helping you go as far in this game of baseball as you can.

Having an understanding of the proper way to track down and how to catch fly balls will help you cover more ground, and take more hits away from the other team.  There are many types of fly balls that can be hit into the outfield.  Balls to your left, right, up, and back, as well as many variations of each.

Former Red Sox outfielder offers tips for outfielders on Baseball-Insider.comFormer Red Sox Outfielder Jonathan Van Every believes the three essentials of being a good outfielder are:

  • Get a good initial read
  • Get a good first step
  • Take a good route to the baseball

1. Ready position

This is the position we should be in every time when the ball is being pitched and traveling through the strike zone.

  • In between pitches, outfielders can be walking around and moving, or doing whatever we feel is comfortable, it doesn’t really matter. Don’t fall into the trap of not moving your feet for 2,3,4 pitches. Keep your legs light and ready by moving in between pitches.
  • As the pitch is about to be delivered we want to be in an athletic position. This position would mirror a basketball player playing defense, or a tennis player about to return a serve.
  • We want to have our legs a little wider than shoulder width and have some movement with our legs.
  • Our hands are off of our knees and we are anticipating a swing and getting a good first step.
  • React with what you see, let your eyes guide your body.

2. Movement of baseballs off the bat

Most of the time, balls that are hit to outfield are either hooking or slicing. This will affect the corner outfielders more than the centerfielder. Balls that are hit back up the middle towards the centerfielder can have some movement but usually have more backspin and less sidespin.

Balls hit towards the corner outfielders will likely have some hooking or slicing action depending on the side of the plate the hitter is hitting from. The action of a batted ball tends to hook or slice toward the foul line. Very rarely you will see a baseball start toward the line and work back into the gap.

Left Fielder
  • Right handed batter: If a right handed hitter hits a fly ball to left field, the action on the baseball most likely will be going left to right from the outfielders perspective (or hooking from the batters perspective).
  • Left handed batter: If a left handed hitter hits a fly ball to left field, the ball will be working from your left to right (or slicing from the batters perspective).
Right Fielder
  • Right handed batter: If a right handed hitter hits a fly ball to right field, the baseball will be working from your right to left (or slicing from the batters perspective).
  • Left handed batter: If a left handed hitter hits a fly ball to right field, the ball will be working from your right to left (or hooking from the batters perspective).

It’s important to understand this theory when tracking down fly balls and making your first move on baseballs

3. Movement of baseballs on the ground (snaking ground balls)

Keep in mind how the outfield grass is cut. When there are a bunch of nice looking designs and lines in the grass, after a fresh mow, the ball will do weird things.

The outfield grass is different shades of green because of which way the grass is laying, so when the ball is rolling towards you the ball will actually “snake” or zig zag left and right depending on which way the outfield grass is laying when the ball is rolling over that section.

This can be tough for some fielders to get used to this when fielding ground balls. Just know how the ball is rolling, take your time, and watch the ball into your glove.

tips for outfielders, how to back up plays, outfield positioning“Know when to throw out runners at home plate and when to throw to 2nd base. With a runner on 2nd base and a ball hit that takes you to your right or left a few steps, throw to second. Base hits that are hit right at you take a chance and try for the runner at home.”- Kevin Russo, Left fielder and second baseman for the New York Yankees

4. Using a crossover step

Using a crossover step is the foundation to starting your track after a fly ball. This is where you can save valuable steps by getting to where you need to go in a straight line.

Our first move from our ready position is to make a good, hard step.

  • This step is made by if we need to be going left, we will take our right foot and throw it over our left foot in the direction we need to run. This movement is quick and violent, so we can get to top speed as quickly as possible.
  • The opposite is true by going to our right we will take our left foot and throw it quick and violent over our right foot in the direction we need to run.

After our crossover step is made and we are in stride, we will need to use our eyes to figure out where the baseball is going to hit the ground. Once we find this spot we need to beat the ball there. Our eyes are very good, with practice, at calculating how hard the baseball is hit, how high it is hit, and how much spin is on it. This calculation is what we rely on to get to the spot where we need to be to catch the baseball.

5. Catch the baseball with your eyes

As the baseball is coming down and it is about to fall into your glove, keep your glove out of the way of your eye sight.

Every outfielder has done this before and it gets a little scary because when your glove crosses in front of your eyes you lose track of the baseball for just a split second but that is about the time you are catching the ball. This is how people drop fly balls.

As you are running to your left and right, follow the baseball all the way into your glove and catch the it with 1 hand.   Click here if you want to read more about tracking fly balls.  Also, you can read more about how to avoid losing baseballs in the sun.

6. Run on your toes

When outfielders are running after the ball, sometimes it might feel like the ball is bouncing all over the place.

This happens because of how you are running after the baseball.

When you run and your heels hit the ground first at impact your eyes will bounce and it will give you the illusion of the baseball jumping all around.

To minimize this bouncing, try letting your toes hit the ground first and the impact will be a lot softer on your eyes and you will see a big difference when running after a baseball.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins’ AAA team in Rochester, NY 

Hitting Situations and Strategy

By Doug Bernier

Situational hitting is important slice of a balanced offensive attack.  Understanding baseball situations and how to hit strategically in those situations set you up for a productive at bat, even if you don’t get a hit.

Effective situational hitting can keep pressure on the defense and push runners around to score even if the offense isn’t fully clicking.

Runner at 1st base with less than two outs (most likely 0 outs)
Potential bunt
The direction of our bunt will be towards first base

Potential hit and run
When a “hit and run” is signaled to you the hitter, it means the runner is going so your number one responsibility is to swing and make contact with the baseball no matter where it is thrown – unless it is going to bounce in front of the plate.

If the baseball is going to bounce we are betting that the catcher won’t be able to block the ball, pick it up and throw out the runner that is stealing on the pitch.

Next we want to hit a ground ball, the runner is stealing the base and we have to protect him.  If we hit the baseball in the air there is a potential for a double play, or at least the runner gets back to 1st but we make an easy out.

Ideally we would like to hit it to the opposite middle infielder.

*If right handed, hit a ground ball to the second baseman.
*If left handed, we want a ground ball to the shortstop.

We want to hit it to the off middle infielder because he likely will be the person covering the second base bag on a steal, so there will be a big hole open for you to hit through.

However, it is more important to hit it on the ground anywhere than try to for the hole and end up with a pop fly getting caught.

If the pitcher has a good sinker (especially righty on righty, or lefty on lefty) it may be difficult to put his sinker on the ground to the opposite middle infielder.

*As a righty facing a right handed sinker, it is sinking down and in to the hitter.  The bat is more likely to get under the baseball and end up with a weak pop fly to the 2nd baseman or right fielder than to bat a ground ball the other way.
*In this situation it is probably better to just turn on a sinker and hit a ground ball in the 5-6 hole (in between the shortstop and third baseman).

Hitting behind the runner
When the 1st baseman is holding on the runner at 1st base, the 2nd baseman is in double play depth which brings him a little closer to the 2nd base bag it leaves a huge hole open to the right side of the infield.

This is much easier for a left handed hitter but there are many hits to be had by hitting the baseball in the lane between the 1st and 2nd baseman.

This isn’t so much situational hitting, its more handling the bat and taking what the defense gives you.
Runner at 2nd base with 0 outs (move the runner to 3rd base with less than 2 outs)
Potential bunt situation
The direction of the bunt will be towards third base in this hitting situation.

Hit behind the runner
Hit a grounder to the right side of the runner at 2nd base (toward the 1st or 2nd baseman)

Even if the shortstop fields the baseball and has to move to his left, he will most likely just take the out at 1st base. It is too risky of a throw to make to third base, because of his momentum and that the base runner will be potentially in the way of the throw.

Hit a deep fly ball
You can move the runner up from 2nd to 3rd base by hitting a fly ball deep enough for the runner to tag up and move up a base.

The runner is more likely to tag up if you bat a fly ball to deep center or right field, it is a much further throw.

Runner at 3rd base with less than 2 outs
Potential squeeze situation
As the bunter, wait until the pitcher is about to release the baseball. Square around and just get it on the ground, in fair territory.

This bunt can even go right back to the pitcher. We are taking the out at 1st base for a run.

Infield back
Keep your sights up the middle and hit a ground ball.  Keep the baseball away from the corner infielders (especially the 3rd baseman, sometimes the 1st baseman is really deep and its ok if he has to make the play.)

This is a great situation as a hitter because they are giving you a free RBI, all you need to do is just hit a ground ball toward the middle of the field.

Infield In
In these hitting situations, you need a line drive or fly ball to the outfield so the runner can tag up and score.

Think of driving the ball rather than hitting a fly ball. More people get in trouble by trying to hit a great fly ball that they get a little loopy with their swing and they pop the baseball up in the infield, or they miss it all together.

Most people hit more fly balls to the opposite field and more ground balls to the pull side. Think of driving the baseball middle of the field to the opposite gap, this will give you a good approach for driving the runner in from third base.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins’ AAA team in Rochester, NY. Originally published at http://probaseballinsider.com/baseball-instruction/fundamentals-of-hitting/baseball-situations-and-hitting/