How to get a better rhythm to my swing?

I feel I have very solid mechanics and enough bat speed and hand quickness to hit any pitcher out on the mound against me. The problem I have ran into on the field this year (my rhythm and timing is great in the cage) is I feel my swing is out of sync once I step on the field and see the pitcher standing 60'6" away from me. I have trouble letting the ball get to me most times and I feel like my bat is not as quick as it is in the cage or during on-field BP during the game in my at bats. Are there any remedies for this? Thanks a lot!

Swing Smarter Response:
Great question! This is something most hitters will struggle with from time to time because hitting in the cage is definitely different than hitting at the plate. There are a few remedies here that will help.

It doesn't sound like rhythm per say is your problem...traditional rhythm being what a hitter does to relax in the stance phase of the swing. For example: opening/closing the hands, rhythmically shifting the body back and forth, front toe tapping, circling the bat around in the hands...these are all great techniques for keeping the body loose before the pitch...however,

I think the issue is lack of a mental plan at the plate, which this month's issue of The Dugout will address, and I'll briefly mention here. If you want the full article, then please contact us :)

One, make sure hitting in the cage is as realistic as hitting in the game as possible...avoid worthless wheel hitting machines at all cost, have a purpose when you hit (more on this later), have a real flesh and blood pitcher throw to you on the field, so you can work on hitting non-fastballs. Start with him tipping you as to what he's throwing, then eventually you NOT knowing what he's throwing. And play counts just like in a game.

This is what all the greats like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, etc. did back in the day when they were kids playing on sandlots.

Two, having a mental plan and purpose when you hit is crucial. Consistently practicing a game plan will keep you focused when the game seems out of control.

1. Have a clearly defined mission

Why are you a ball player? What are you doing it for? Why go through all the trouble of the blood, sweat, and tears for practices and games? We love the challenge is a common answer...

2. Understand hitting is a game of failure

You're going to fail, you've heard over and over, in the Big Leagues, Hall of Famers fail 7 out of 10 times, if we had that rate in school, we'd all flunk out! You're not going to hit 1.000 and nobody ever has. We have to recognize, as a hitter, failure is a part of the game like embers coming out of a chimney with a fire in the fireplace. It's inevitable.

3. Read Ken Ravizza's book Heads Up Baseball: Hitting One Pitch at a Time

He talks about a Control, Plan, & Trust system for getting your mental game right. We have to learn how to ruthlessly control the controllable, and become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

We have to have a Plan, or purpose, when we hit. This is where the hitter must know himself. What are your strengths/weaknesses in: plate discipline, pitch location, pitch selection, what part of the field do we hit to when things are going well, and what are we trying to accomplish at the plate? We must know what we do well and what we don't do well at...we can't cover all of the plate, so where are we strongest/weakest?

The last part is Trust. We have to trust our plan. We use relaxation techniques when things start to spiral out of control like a deep belly breath, stationary focal points, and simple one action routines to "dump out the trash" in our minds in order to play one pitch at a time.

This is a very powerful concept, and one I go deeper in in this month's issue of The Dugout. I hope this helps. Remember, Ted Williams said 50% of hitting is proper thinking, so even though the mental game may seem like mumbo jumbo black voodoo, it's definitely not...all the greats have done it or are currently doing it every day in the Big's what separates the most elite Big Leaguers from the rest of us.

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