How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake
There is one mistake that can cause a hitter to struggle more than anything else.
What is it?
Not knowing and understanding their Hitter Identity.
What is a Hitter Identity? It is knowing what type of hitter a player is and embracing the strengths and roles that come with that identity.
One of the biggest mistakes a hitter can make is trying to be someone that they are not. Hitters can evolve into different identities throughout their career, but everyone falls into one of the four categories below. Hitters who embrace their identity and play to their strengths within their identity are the hitters who have the best opportunity to add value to a lineup and have success at the plate.
The Four Types of Hitters
There are four types of hitters:
Before we dive into the characteristics and roles of each category, we need to make one point as clear as we possibly can:
Different DOES NOT equal better or worse. Different simply means that different categories have different skills sets and roles at the plate. Certain types of hitters get more airtime on ESPN highlight reels, but the bottom line is that every team that is successful offensively has a lineup that made up of all four types of hitters. Part of embracing a hitter identity is understanding that all four types of hitters have the ability to add tremendous value to a batting lineup.
Here is a graphic that breaks down the characteristics and roles of each hitter identity category, followed by more explanation for each:
Speed guys are the fastest runners in the lineup. They are good contact hitters, and some have gap-gap power potential. They are excellent baserunners, and are also good bunters because bunting can utilize their speed tool and open up more ways to get on base. These are your prototypical leadoff hitters, but they can also do well anywhere in the 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 spots.
The bottom line for a speed guy is to figure out how to get on base at all costs. They are willing to take walks, HBPs, bunt for hits, beat out infield ground balls, and of course, get hits. Whatever it takes. They also have to put the ball in play consistently. They should not strike out much at all. Their speed is their greatest asset, but their speed doesn’t matter if they can’t put the ball in play and get on base.
Gap-Gap hitters are highly skilled in all hitting categories. They are the best blend of power and speed in the lineup. They make consistent hard contact and hit a lot of line drives. They have a high batting average and good power. They are the type of hitter that leads the team in doubles. These hitters are typically 2-3 hole hitters, but their skill set allows them to fit anywhere in the lineup based around the other hitters.
The Gap-Gap hitter should be making consistent, hard contact. Their job is to produce runs by hitting doubles, triples, and homeruns, especially with runners on base. They are counted on to drive in runs in RBI situations, or start rallies with a double or triple. This is the hitter that everyone wants up to bat in the most important situations.
Power hitters have plus power. They are the biggest home run threat in the lineup. They have the ability to drive to the ball to and/or over the fence with any swing. These hitters are your prototypical 4-5 hole hitters.
The Power hitter role is simply to let it eat! They are trying to drive the ball in any count. These hitters may strikeout more than other hitters because their two strike approach is still to challenge the fence. These are the hitters that can change the game at any time with one swing of the bat.
The Grit hitter has great bat control, but they are also the guys who earn their way into the lineup with their defense first. They are versatile, smart hitters who are excellent at situational hitting. Grit hitters are the “glue guys” in a lineup. They find a way to do what the team needs in any situation. These are typically your 6-9 hole hitters, but if they are truly gritty enough then they may find their way into the 1-2 hole.
Grit hitters play to the situation at all times. They compete to get their job done no matter what and are relentless competitors in the box. They limit strikeouts because their ability to make pitchers work and put pressure on the defense, especially when they are towards the bottom of the lineup, are essential for team offensive success.
Hitter Identity = Success
Understanding and embracing Hitter Identity is the key to success, both on the individual and the team level.
The biggest mistake an individual hitter can make is try to be someone he is not. Hitters can evolve into different identities as they progress through different levels, but its essential that a hitter knows who he is, what his strengths are, and how to use those strengths to bring the most value possible to their lineup.
At the team level, understanding Hitter Identities is vital for constructing the best possible lineup. Every team is going to have hitters that fall into each category. Understanding what hitter falls into each category, and then designing the lineup based around each hitter’s strengths is how teams are able to produce runs up and down the lineup.
Hitters should always be working on improving their game at the plate, including both hitting for a higher average and more power. But, hitters also need to understand who they are (today) and live into their Hitter Identity. Trying to be someone they aren’t is a huge mistake. Embracing their Hitter Identity and maximizing their role in that identity is what gives hitters at any level the best chance to maximize their abilities and have success.
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