In baseball, batting is the act of facing the opposing pitcher and trying to produce offense for one's team. A batter or hitter is a person whose turn it is to face the pitcher. The three main goals of batters are to become a baserunner, to drive runners home or to advance runners along the bases for others to drive home, but the techniques and strategies they use to do so vary. Hitting uses a motion that is virtually unique to baseball, one that is rarely used in other sports. Hitting is unique because it involves rotating in the horizontal plane of movement, unlike most sports movements which occur in the vertical plane.
In general, batters try to get hits. However, their primary objective is to avoid making an out, and helping their team to score runs. There are several ways they can help their team score runs. They may draw a walk if they receive and do not swing the bat at four pitches located outside the strike zone. In cases when there is a runner on third and fewer than two outs, they can attempt to hit a sacrifice fly to drive the runner in by allowing the runner on third to tag up and score. When there are fewer than two outs and runners on base, they can try to sacrifice bunt to advance the runner(s) or, with a runner on first or with runners on first and third, they can try a hit and run play, also designed to advance the runner(s). They might even be hit by a pitch, reach on an error or—if first is empty or there are two outs—on a dropped third strike.
The defense attempts to get the batter out. The pitcher's main role in this is to throw the ball in such a way that the batter either strikes out or cannot hit it cleanly so that the defense can get him or her out.
Success in batting
Batting is often cited as one of the most difficult feats in sports because it consists of hitting a small round ball, usually moving at high velocity, with a thin round bat. In fact, if a batter can get a hit in three out of ten at bats, giving him a batting average of .300 (pronounced "three hundred"), he or she is considered a good hitter. In Major League Baseball, no batter has had over a .400 average at the end of the season since Ted Williams' .406 in 1941, and no batter has ever hit over .367 in a lifetime—Ty Cobb hit .3664. In modern times, the statistic on-base plus slugging (OPS) is seen as a more accurate measure of a player's ability as a batter; this stat combines the player's on-base percentage (a percentage of their plate appearances where the batter gets on base), with the player's slugging percentage (an average of total bases with at-bats). An OPS at or near 1.000 is considered to be the mark of an exceptional hitter. A sustained OPS at or above 1.000 over a career is a feat only a few hitters have ever been able to reach.
Batters vary in their approach at the plate. Some are aggressive hitters, often swinging at the first pitch (as pitchers often attempt to throw a first-pitch strike). Others are patient, attempting to work the pitch count in order to observe all the types of pitches a pitcher will use, as well as tire out the pitcher by forcing him to throw many pitches early. Generally, contact hitters are more aggressive, swinging at pitches within the strike zone, whereas power hitters will lay off borderline strikes in order to get a pitch they can drive for extra bases.
In preparation of hitting, every baseball player has their own particular warm-up routine. Warming up before the game is usually done as a team, at the amateur level, and focuses on helping the hitter get in the correct mindset to hit the ball. The most notable drill used is the "Tee Drill", where you hit a ball off a baseball tee and correct any issues you found during previous games or practices. There are also various hitting devices used during warm up in the "on deck circle" to try and increase the batter's bat velocity. The over weighted supplemental devices include swinging multiple bats, Schutt Dirx (96 oz), Pitcher's Nightmare, Power Fin (14 oz), Standard 23 oz softball bat, heavier 26 oz softball bat, lighter 18 oz softball bat and Doughnut ring (16 oz). Weighted warm-up devices are commonly used because players feel that warming-up with heavier bats will help them increase bat velocity because after the warm-up with a heavier bat, the normal bat feels lighter and they feel they could swing it faster. The effect of these devices is not only mental, but it may also be physical. Heavy warm up loads stimulate the neural system, allowing for increased muscle activation during lighter bat swings. The use of weighted bats is based on the theory of complex training where sets of heavier and lighter resistances are alternated to increase muscle performance. This theory revolves around the idea that muscle contractions are stronger after reaching near maximal contractions. The postactivation potentiation improves motor neuron pool excitability and increases the number of recruited motor units, both leading to greater power output. The additional weight may also help strengthen the muscles of the forearms and wrist thus increasing bat velocity, though some evidence suggests that the effect is psychological rather than biomechanical.
The lineup or batting order is a list of the nine baseball players for a team in the order they will bat during the game. During the game the only way to change the lineup is via substitution, as batting out of turn is not allowed. Once the ninth person in the lineup finishes batting, the first person bats again; this is the top of the order. Lineups are designed to facilitate manufacturing runs. Depending on batters' skills, they might be placed in different parts of the lineup. Of course, when it comes down to it, all batters are attempting to create runs for the team.
The player currently batting in a game is said to be at the plate, at bat, or up to bat (shortened to up). To keep the game moving at an orderly pace, the next batter due up waits to take his turn in a circle (actually marked or imaginary) between his team's dugout or bench and the batter's box, and is said to be on deck, with the circle known as the on deck circle. The player in the batting order after the on deck batter is said to be in the hole.
Types of hitters
- Power hitters: power hitters, or sluggers, are batters who drive the ball, often hitting home runs and other extra-base hits, but tend to strike out more often than contact hitters. See also slugging percentage.
- Pull Hitters: batters who tend to hit the ball to the same side of the field as the side of the plate they are standing on.
- Opposite Field Hitters: batters who are able to delay their swing by a fraction of a second so as to drive the ball in the side of the field opposite from the side of the plate they are standing on. Opposite field hitting does not come naturally to most batters, and not many players have the bat control necessary for opposite field hitting. Derek Jeter is well known for his ability as an opposite field hitter.
- Contact hitters: batters who do not strike out often and are able to put the ball in play very often. Because of this, they tend to hit fewer home runs than power hitters.
- Slap hitters: slap hitters are batters who rarely try to drive the ball; instead these hitters simply try to "slap" the ball through the infielders to reach base.
- Complete hitters: players who can not only slap the ball, but can come up with extra base hits.
- Designated hitters: used primarily by the American League as a substitute for the pitcher, but only for batting. National League teams may use a DH when in an AL ballpark. If an American League team is playing in a National League ballpark, the DH may not be used.
- Switch hitters: capable of batting left or right-handed
- Pinch hitters: a substitute hitter for the scheduled batter in the lineup. A DH acts as a permanent pinch hitter for the pitcher. Once a pinch hitter bats, he will replace the previous batter in the lineup unless a substitution is made. The NL occasionally uses pinch hitters in place of pitchers when not playing in an AL ballpark.
History of the bat
When baseball was in its beginning years, baseball players made their own bats. This allowed players to experiment with different shapes and sizes of the bats. It did not take long for players to realize that the best bats were those with rounded barrels. Wood bats are rare at most levels other than the pros. The majority of wood baseball bats today are made from northern white ash harvested from Pennsylvania or New York. White ash is used because of its hardness, durability, strength, weight and feel. Trees that provide the lumber for baseball bats are often 50 years old, and of all the lumber harvested, the top 10 percent is saved for pro bats. Recent technology in drying wood has created bats with lower moisture content, which are light enough to make effective baseball bats. Rock or Sugar Maple bats are preferred. Maple bats cost more than white ash, but they often last longer as a result of their high strength.
Types of bats
In addition to the Louisville Slugger, there are many other types of bats that have been used throughout the history of baseball.
|Player and Event||Type of Bat Used|
|Barry Bonds sets all-time home run record||Sam Bat|
|Mike Piazza breaks all-time home run mark for catcher||Mizuno Corporation|
|Sammy Sosa hits 500th home run||Easton (BRG Sports)|
|Mark McGwire sets single-season home run record||Rawlings (company)|
|Babe Ruth hits 3 home runs in one game||Hillerich & Bradsby|
The introduction of aluminum baseball bats in the 1970s forever changed the game of baseball at every level but the professional. Aluminum bats are lighter and stronger than wooden bats. Because of the trampoline effect that occurs when a baseball hit an aluminum bat, aluminum bats can hit a ball significantly farther than wooden bats can.
In light of the increase in power of composite and alloy bats, the NCAA and NFHS have adopted more stringent standards against the use of composite and alloy bats. The NCAA changed standards at the start of the 2011 season, and the NFHS plans to complete the change in the 2012 baseball season.[needs update]
The design of bats also continues to evolve as manufacturers search for ways to magnify the trampoline effect and increase the size of the bat's “sweet spot.” In aluminum bats, a double-walled bat was introduced in the late 1990s. This design comprises an outer wall of scandium-aluminum, an inner wall of a composite material, and a “filling of rubber or a thick fluid between the two walls.
- A mill worker places each split onto an automatic lathe that shaves the rough edges off as it turns the wood. The billets, as they are now called, are inspected again for straightness of grain. The billets are stacked and strapped together into six-sided bundles. Workers paint the ends with a protective preservative to keep the wood from fraying or rotting. The bundled billets are then trucked to the lumberyard of the bat manufacturer.
- The billets that arrive at the lumberyard are considered "green" wood because they still contain sap and gum. In order to strengthen the wood, the sap and gum must be removed by an air-drying process called "seasoning." To achieve the proper seasoning, the billets are simply stacked in the yard for a period of six months to two years.
- When the billets have dried completely, they are weighed and inspected for quality. A worker places each billet on an automatic lathe and shapes it into a rough baseball bat shape with a narrowed neck. The bat forms are sanded, inspected once more, and then sorted according to weight.
- The bat manufacturer keeps a model of each bat made, typically identified by the baseball player who initially ordered it. When a player or team places an order, the order may look like this: six Johnny Bench models, ten Hank Aarons, four Mickey Mantles.
- The plant workers who create the final product are called bat turners. They are highly skilled artisans who have been specially trained for the intricate work. When an order is placed, the bat turner selects a billet from the storage bin that fits the called-for weight and length. The billet is placed on a lathe. The model bat is placed on a rack above and behind the lathe.
- The bat turner revolves the billet slowly on the lathe, sanding and shaving it to an exact replica of the model. Using calipers, the bat turner measures the billet every 1-2 inches (2.54–5 cm) and weighs it repeatedly until it is perfect.
- The bat is branded with the company trademark and the signature of the player associated with the model. The trademark is placed one-quarter of a turn from the sweet spot. If the order calls for staining, the bat is dipped into a staining vat. All of the bats are then varnished, packed into cartons, and shipped to the player or team.
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