By: Todd Guilliams
Originally Published in: High-Scoring Baseball
Provided by: Human Kinetics
The first element that the offense will have to adjust to on game day is the umpire's strike zone. The strike zone is not what is in the rule book but what the umpire says it is. The umpire's strike zone has a great influence on game strategy. If the umpire has a small zone, batters can tighten their hitting zone and wait for a good pitch to hit. On the other hand, if the umpire has a large strike zone, hitters will have to expand their hitting zone and have a good two-strike approach. When the umpire's strike zone is small, game strategy may call for use of the take sign. The opposite would hold true if the strike zone is large. In that case hitters have to be more aggressive and move in the batter's box to adjust to the "real" strike zone. Adjusting to the umpire's strike zone is important for the high-scoring offense.
The second adjustment that the offense must make is to understand how the pitcher is trying to get each hitter out. If the pitcher is consistently throwing pitches on the outer half of the strike zone, the hitter will have to move closer to the plate to hit the ball to the opposite-field gap. The hitter should have the mentality that the pitcher controls only where the hitter hits the ball, not how hard he hits it. If the pitcher is throwing the batter a steady diet of curveballs, the hitter should move up in the box and sit on the curveball. With less than two strikes the hitter is looking for the curveball up in the zone. With two strikes, depending on the umpire's strike zone, the hitter may have to get on top of the plate and take away the outside corner.
Baseball is a game of adjustments. High-scoring offenses can make immediate adjustments to the umpire's strike zone and to the way in which the pitcher is trying to get each hitter out. The offense does not wait until the seventh inning to start making adjustments. At the higher levels of baseball, the players make in-game adjustments quickly. Average hitters make adjustments game to game, good hitters make adjustments at-bat to at-bat, and great hitters make adjustments pitch to pitch.