When watching a baseball game it is very easy to lose track of what is going on outside the field of play. A lot can be learned by watching what a coach is doing, what the guys in the dugout are occupied with, and our favorite of all what is the on deck hitter doing? Why do the on-deck hitters do what they do? It is our hope to explain what some hitters are doing, or what we like to teach our hitters on-deck or “in the hole”.
Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Anytime a player can get a leg up is an advantage, and having a good on deck plan and approach can greatly impact how successful you can be at the plate. The coaches at GRB like to coach our on-deck hitters more than the actual hitter during a game. This is where a hitter can decide when he will start his load to stride, see where the catcher sets up, what pitches are being thrown, and use being on-deck as an at bat.
Hitting is timing and no better way to figure when to start your load then when being on-deck. First the approach of starting your load, being ready for a fastball, and sitting fastball has to be the priority; that way the adjustment to a hit a slower pitch is a better way to hit than sitting on a breaking ball, and having a fastball blown by you. If a pitcher is throwing the ball harder than what you are normally seeing you know you will need to start your load sooner. If the pitcher is throwing slower than you normally see then your load will start a bit later. Having this be a consistent approach keeps things simpler.
As an example let’s say John is hitting 7th in the order, John can prepare to hit long before his at bat; as the pitcher takes his warm up pitches in between innings he can decide when he will start his load, and what pitches the pitcher is throwing. Because John is hitting 7th he will have six times where he will be on-deck. He will pay attention to when the pitcher throws certain pitches, what part of the plate he likes to throw each pitch, does he tip certain pitches, does he throw slower or harder when in the stretch… All of these things can be learned by being on-deck.
Ben Prather, a former teammate of ours had a great on deck routine, and a plan of what he watched for during the game. First thing I learned when he was playing during a game was not to talk to him unless it had to do with what the pitcher was doing. Ben watched each pitch the pitcher threw. He did this so he knew how to attack the first good fastball he would see. He never wanted to get in a situation where he had to swing at anything other than a fastball. By him knowing himself, and how to make the most out of his at bats, this is what he did.
In Wisconsin we all are able to watch the Brewers at Miller Park or on TV. The next time they play tune in, and watch Ryan Braun on deck. What you will see is Ryan taking 30% swing at about his chest level. As a kid growing up I always wanted to know why. Braun actually started doing this in college when he played at Miami. He struggled at one point in his freshman year hitting several weak ground balls to the shortstop or 3rd baseman. During the time he was struggling he decided to do what he does now before an at-bat. He made solid contact in that at bat, so the rest is history. The actual reason Braun does what he does before an at bat is to over exaggerate his top hand staying through the baseball allowing the barrell, and his swing to stay through the ball.
Being an “on-deck” hitter plays a huge role in how well you can hit, and prepare for an at-bat. Take the time to figure out what best suits you as an “on-deck” hitter. Once you know, use it, be consistent with it, and be willing to share with your teammates why you are doing it.
Article Author: Max Cordio