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Why tracking your Batting Average is HURTING your Batting Average

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Every season, players and coaches set goals based on how they want to perform over the course of the season. Hitters want to hit .300. Pitchers want to have a sub-3 ERA. Coaches want to win 20, 30, 50, or 100 games, depending on the level of play. These measurable stats have existed since the beginning of baseball, and in particular the batting average has become the go-to number to illustrate a hitters success.

But is batting average, hits, or strikeouts really the way to measure the success of hitters throughout the course of the season? When they line out to the shortstop and see “0-1” in the stat book, is that a way for them to build confidence as a hitter? It’s probably the way for them to LOSE confidence as a hitter. Because according to baseball history, an out is the definition of a failed attempt. Which is crazy, because so much of this is out of our control!

Think about it, you did everything right over the course of an at-bat. You visualized hitting a missile in the on deck circle, and strolled up to the plate with a slight smirk knowing you were about to do DAMAGE to this baseball. You had a simple plan of attack. To HUNT the fastball, be on time for it, and LET IT FLY. You were focused, relaxed, and calm.

As you saw the first pitch fastball seeming to move in slow motion to your happy-zone, you did exactly what you had planned. YOU LET THE BARREL FLY! The barrel met the baseball with so much speed and pureness, that it sent it sizzling on a line…directly to the shortstop, whose momentum took him 2 steps back after catching the baseball at such a high speed…

0-1

You’re not terribly mad at your at-bat, but you are disappointed you didn’t get the end-result. According to baseball you failed. According to the stat of all stats (batting average), you are a worse hitter than you were going into the at-bat. Which is starting to weigh on your head. Because going into the last month of the season, you’re hitting .308…and your average has been steadily declining over the last couple weeks.

As you take the field, you try to do the calculations in your head to see how many points lower your batting average is. You have well over 100 at-bats, so it won’t bring it down a ton. But a 0-for day might do big damage to your goal of hitting over .300 that you set before the season began.

Your next at-bat comes with a little tension. You’re still confident, but you feel some pressure to change your mindset so that you don’t have the same end-result as last time. You stroll up to the plate KNOWING you’re about to do damage to this baseball! You’re focused and relaxed, but feel some nerves kick in as the pitcher looks in for his sign. As the pitcher comes set, you see the second baseman cheat towards the middle of the field, opening a huge hole between the second and first baseman. A split second thought comes into your head as the pitcher lifts his leg to deliver: “Hit it in the 4-hole…that’s where my hit is!”

As the fastball comes streaking towards you with what seemed to be a lot more velocity than last time (maybe this pitcher throws harder as the game goes on), you try to hit an inside pitch in the 4-hole. Much to your dismay, the ball hits just above your hands on the bat, and rolls weakly back to the pitcher.

 0-2

Now you’re frustrated. You most likely have 2 more at-bats over the course of the game. And your thought going into the field is to get just one hit in these next 2 at-bats to save your batting average from a complete plummet.

As your third at-bat approaches, you’re nervous. A new pitcher on the mound throws hard and has a dirty slider. In the on-deck circle, you tell yourself you don’t want to get to 2 strikes with this guy. “So hack early.” You go up to the plate and you definitely feel the nerves this time. “Swing early” “Swing early” “Swing early”. You see the ball out of the hand and you’re swinging at the meaty first pitch…slider in the dirt…strike 1. Now you’re nervous, and everyone in the stands can see it. You have no idea what’s coming next; all you know is you can’t let this guy get another strike on you, or its game over.

You guess that he’s going to throw that same slider he just fooled you on. But you don’t commit. You’re not sure. And you’re scared to make another mistake. As he delivers, you see the ball shoot out of his hand. It looked like the same pitch at first. But as it gets closer to you, you realize this is staying on a much straighter course. You panic, and swing at the fastball you might never see again. Only the ball is practically in the catcher’s glove when you do swing…

0-3

But wait a second that’s only 2 strikes! We all know what happens to a hitter who’s scared to hit with 2 strikes. And with the mindset he has now, we all know it’s a strikeout. So lets save the paper and move on.

Now you have ONE more chance to get a hit in this game and save your batting average from taking a massive dip.

As you’re swinging in the on-deck circle, your mind wanders back to your first at-bat.

“What if I had hit it just a little bit higher to get it over the shortstops head. Instead of 0-3, I would be 1-3. If I was 1-3 my batting average actually would have gone up! Ugh! Now I have one more chance to save my day. Maybe the baseball gods will make up for my bad luck earlier in the game with a cheap hit here.”

When you finally turn your focus back to the game, it’s your turn to hit again. You walk briskly up to the plate, step in the box, and get ready to hit…Your batting average is on the line….

Regardless of what happens in his last at-bat, its safe to say that the mindset this player has had throughout the course of the game is not a recipe for success. By chasing a mostly uncontrollable number, this player has developed an inconsistent mindset that is limiting his ability to ultimately play up to his capabilities.

So why are we measuring players success based on numbers outside of their control? As a coach, you were probably taught from a young age to measure success based on batting average and hits. If your player goes 2-4 it’s a good day, and if they go 0-4, it’s a bad day. But if you’re honest with yourself, is that really a good way to measure success?

As coaches and players we need to shift our meaning of success from a result-oriented mindset, to a process-oriented mindset. Did I walk up to the plate with confidence? Did I have a plan? Did I stick to the plan? Was I on time for the pitch I was looking for? Did I hit the ball hard? Did I execute my plan? Did I give myself the best chance to have success through the process I created?

These are all questions that should be evaluated after games and at bats. Not whether my batting average went up or down. By focusing on the process it takes to be successful, players are able to play with much more freedom and consistency. They are able to focus on a controllable process, rather than an uncontrollable result.

If the mental aspect of the game is really 90% of success in baseball, then why not approach the game with a mindset that enables consistency? If consistency is the ultimate sign of a great player, why don’t we change our mindset to allow it to happen?

Create a process that enables you to have success, and find a way to measure and evaluate that process. Change your meaning of success, and the results will be there in the end. I promise you that!

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About Brian Hamm

My name is Brian Hamm and I am all about "Baseball Development". Through my journey as a high school and college player, I always felt that a competitive advantage eluded me. I constantly researched and discovered new resources, ideas, and theories that have shaped how I coach today. It’s my goal to work relentlessly in order to give my players, clients, and coaches the biggest competitive advantage that will allow them to reach their full potential. My mission is to spread my knowledge to baseball players around the world and help change the developmental process forever.

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