What do the Mets mean by ‘hunting strikes’?

Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer

The goal isn’t to draw walks, Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens once told me about the team’s hitting philosophy. Instead, the goal is to have a very refined strike zone, which will help hitters make better contact.

“We want hitters to look for their strength, especially early in the count, from the first pitch to the fifth pitch to the sixth pitch, when we’re in hitters counts we want to be aggressive on our pitch,” he said. “I mean, obviously, I’d rather see a double in the gap with two guys on than a walk. But, there’s sometimes during the game, David Wright‘s not going to get his pitch. I would rather him take the walk as opposed to swing at a marginal pitch and hit into a double play.”


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The idea, according to Hudgens, is that power will come naturally when focused and swinging at the right pitch in the zone. In other words, while a high OBP and walks are a nice by-product of being a more disciplined hitter, the goal is square the bat up on better pitches.

They call it “hunting strikes,” which is a phrase that is being written about more and more lately.

It’s a mindset. It’s an approach. It’s about doing damage and making contact on pitches over the middle 12 inches of the plate. It’s what Hudgens considers his top priority, based on a model created by Sandy Alderson with the A’s in the late 1990s. These days, it starts in the farm system, where coordinator Dick Scott, heat maps, lots of video analysis and an organizational-wide strategy will hopefully become second nature as young players move through the ranks.

In the meantime, players like Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, among others, are being asked to think differently, despite years of habits that got them to the big leagues. The idea isn’t to change batting stances, it’s to change the way a batter sees the goal of his at bat. It’s not just about hitting, it’s about hitting the right pitch… and, if not, draw a walk.


To hear more from Hudgens on the team’s hitting philosophy, listen to this Q&ACast I did with him a few months ago:




54 comments
Tom Zupan
Tom Zupan

This is what makes games boring to watch. They're taking away any chance these guys can get a hit with 2 strikes. If they're taking "marginal" pitches (strikes at least 50% of the time) they're going to keep striking out at a phenomenal rate. Just don't see how Hudgens can think things are getting better when stats prove that they're at a constant downward spiral offensively.

plzselltm
plzselltm

I remember Piazza once saying I see the ball..I hit the ball. the end.

feckin eejit
feckin eejit

Paralysis by analysis. I'm done with the Alderson regime. We have ZERO position players SA has drafted who are ready or even close to ready to come up. And how long are the tryouts at ss, 1b, catcher, the bullpen, and the outfield going to last?

Patrick Boegel
Patrick Boegel

Four years into the reign of lame by Sandy Alderson and this is what we here from his lackey coaching staff.  We are hunting strikes.  REALLY!!??! You don't say.

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

Hitting coaches, philosophies...it's all just rhetoric.  You can drill someone as much as you want, it's not changing all that much once you're in this level..

hashburry
hashburry

And do they ask players "were you hunting strikes there?" and the player is like "yeah, hunting strikes, hehehehehe" (use Elmer Fudd voice here).

Craig Ramirez
Craig Ramirez

Sorry, but only Mets fans and/or people who have never played the game beyond the LL level would disagree with this approach. You can call it "hunting strikes", or whatever else you would like, but it's basically the same approach that every successful hitter, (and by extension) team has ever taken.


Who could possibly disagree with this statement:


“I mean, obviously, I’d rather see a double in the gap with two guys on than a walk. But, there’s sometimes during the game, David Wright‘s not going to get his pitch. I would rather him take the walk as opposed to swing at a marginal pitch and hit into a double play.”


I don't think DW is a great example here as he is the biggest bat in the lineup, but would you prefer he goes outside of his zone simply so that he "does something".  Even if that something is a double play?  It makes no sense.  It's the same "argument" idiot Mets fans have been making about Beltran striking out in the 2006 NLCS ("At least swing!!!!" - as if that would have made a difference against a hellish curveball by a guy who ended up being a CYA winner).


Again, this approach is really saying "Know thyself".  Know your strengths and weaknesses depending on the game situation.  In other words, be a thinking baseball player as opposed to a hacker who blindly swings at anything thrown (i.e. Jeff Francouer - remember him?????).


But, of course this will be misconstrued by what I once thought was a knowledgable fan base.  


getalife
getalife

Where is it being written about more and more?  Metsblog?

hankincolo
hankincolo

Ike has a better approach these days, he's not an automatic out, and he's not a sucker for a curve low and away, but I wonder if he's lost a  little bit of his aggressive swing when there's a pitch he should be driving. Now go ahead Ike haters, take your shots. 

cj1786
cj1786

Yet no matter how many times they explain this (common sense) strategy, you still get idiots like Francesa who constantly just parrot the same 'we know they want guys to walk' nonsense.

C.K. Dexter Haven
C.K. Dexter Haven

ummm, couple of points:  there are 12 position players on the ML roster.  12 DIFFERENT players.  And you're going to push one institutional hitting strategy?

Why does hudgeons have them hunting strikes...when strikes have to find them anyway?  What the hell happened to " see ball, hit ball"??

Doubleday
Doubleday

CY LF

Murphy 2B

DW 3B

Grandy 1B

Flores SS

Captain K RF

Lagares CF

d'Arnaud C


Surely Granderson can play first base.  Most outfielders can.  When Kirk's hot ride is over, put Granderson back in the OF, or leave him in the infield where he can't run into walls, and play EY in the OF.

hashburry
hashburry

And you know what, I'm tired of hearing about Alders and the A's in the 90's.  Until Billy Beane showed up, there was nothing special about the A's except they were way ahead of the curve in steroid abuse.

hashburry
hashburry

There isn't another team in the league that implements this kind of nonsense.  What other organizations do is get hitters that can actually hit.  What the Mets do is either take away their hitters' aggressiveness or desperately try to make hitters out of guys who just can't hit.

hashburry
hashburry

Whatever they want to call it to m ale it sound inventive, ti doesn't work.  More like hunting strike outs.

rico
rico

supposedly Murphy hates this approach and tunes out hudgens

Cheryl Ann Boogaard
Cheryl Ann Boogaard

Yeah. You would think the saber metric money ball gurus would be able to look at the strike out statistics and see that the strategy is not successful. Plus now that it has been talked about so much other teams know exactly what they're trying to do and how to attack. Absolutely crazy.

Thomas Stridiron
Thomas Stridiron

One look at the Mets offense the last few years and it is amazing this guy still has a job.  


If you watch the Mets approach, it is to try to get a walk, then get 2 strikes and take emergency hacks to try not to strike out.


It is no coincidence that this approach has a direct correlation to the Mets million strike outs this year.

cj1786
cj1786

@feckin eejit Well considering that he's only had three drafts so far, and all of his top position player picks have been HS kids, I think its ridiculous to judge Sandy on those players right now.  That just makes no sense.  Brandon Nimmo, who was Sandy's first pick as Mets GM just turned 21 years old.His top pick in 2012, Gavin Cecchini just turned 20 in December.  


Yet here we are with clueless fans killing the guy for not producing immediate results when many of his early picks were clearly longer term prospects. 

Gregor Kitzis
Gregor Kitzis

@BringBackDaveTelghe  You can't  hit the ball if you don't swing. The simple explanation is that on no or one strikes you can wait for your pitch but on two strokes you have to swing at anything close. Getting called out on a pitch that was too close to take should either get the hitter benched or the hitting coach fired.


Gregor Kitzis
Gregor Kitzis

@Joe Wenzel  You can't  hit the ball if you don't swing. The simple explanation is that on no or one strikes you can wait for your pitch but on two strokes you have to swing at anything close. Getting called out on a pitch that was too close to take should either get the hitter benched or the hitting coach fired.

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

@Joe Wenzel Who cares what he did in the pros?  I'd rather hear from a failed hitter then a guy that was great and everything came easy to.

cj1786
cj1786

@Craig RamirezRegardless of what all the hitting experts in the comment section here think, you are exactly right.  This isn't some far fetched hitting philosophy, as much as it is simple common sense when it comes to baseball.  The fact that people would actually have a problem with this approach just shows how clueless many fans are when it comes to actually playing the game. Basic common sense says when you are in a hitters count you look for a pitch to drive.  If its not, let it go.  I'm sure if you interviewed every hitting coach in the league they would tell you they try to implement something similar.


Mark McGwire - Cardinal hitting coach last May:


"My theory is the majority of the time when hitters are struggling it is usually about pitches that they are trying to hit," he says. "They are trying to hit pitches they can’t handle. The whole thing is they have to stay in their zone. They have to understand their strike zone. If you are going to go out of your strike zone and think that you can cover the whole 17 inches of the plate, it is pretty hard to do that up here in the big leagues"

Hensley Meulens - Giants hitting coach

"Every hitter has his own “happy zone.” Meulens said that he constantly reminds his hitters to look for pitches in those zones, be they high, low, inside corner, over the plate, etc… Each month he hands hitters a hot-zone chart to remind them"

Steve Henderson - Phillies pitching coach

""I always believe in being aggressive at the plate, but at the same time being selective," he said. "You can't just go up there swinging at everything, but you have to attack the fastball. Everybody is throwing it. Sometimes we get caught up in on-base percentage, which is great. I understand it. But guys have a tendency of throwing a lot of fastballs, and we have a tendency of just letting them go by. That's why I say be aggressive, but selective at the plate.

I could probably dig up a similar quote from every hitting coach in the league if I had time or gave a shart.  They all say it a bit differently, but they are all saying the same thing.  Why?  Because its the best way to approach hitting.  Its exactly what everyone should be teaching, yet people here hammer the Mets about it.  

feckin eejit
feckin eejit

This self-important arse must be related to SA.

Patrick Boegel
Patrick Boegel

@Craig Ramirez  you mean the statement laden with a ridiculous straw man outcome?


Not getting the perfect pitch and swinging at a pitch you might still be able to effectively drive is not the same as going from a walk to basically the straw man worst outcome, a double play.


Also this is clearly NOT been communicated in any effective manner.  Hudgens is in his fourth year as the Mets hitting coach, pawning this off as a system wide approach that needs to teach the younger players in the minors how to take effective at-bats is bush.  There is ample evidence this philosophy has not been implemented with any clarity.  From Ike Davis having the absurd goal going into 2013 of walking 100 times, to hearing Sandy Alderson say he is not worried about the strikeouts as long as the walks are there to match (which is only one freaking part of OBP) to near tearful post game rant breakdowns in both 2012 and 2013 by Terry Collins when the Mets were in deep funks about letting TOO many GOOD first pitch strikes go by, which was preceded by spring training mantras about willingness to be patient and sometimes even allowing a good but not great pitch to hit go by.


The argument is about clarity, and as is always the case with the NY Mets, there is none.  It is April 2014, Hudgens did not arrive this February.  We have suddenly learned about hunting strikes, or to be better said, professional hitting 101.  


Enjoy the kool aid.

Gregor Kitzis
Gregor Kitzis

@Craig Ramirez  I normally refrain from insults but you are a brain washed boob. You can't  hit the ball if you don't swing. The simple explanation is that on no or one strikes you can wait for your pitch but on two strokes you have to swing at anything close. Getting called out on a pitch that was too close to take should either get the hitter benched or the hitting coach fired.

Gregor Kitzis
Gregor Kitzis

@hankincolo  I liked him when he had a high batting average and hit home runs when they presented themselves rather than seeking homers exclusively and hitting .240 because of it. Hit s are good, outs are bad. Someone tell Hudgens this.

hankincolo
hankincolo

That's because Francesa played major league baseball, appeared in 8 all-star games and hit for the cycle 5 times.... in his dreams. Therefore, he knows everything.

ericloz
ericloz

@C.K. Dexter Haven You're kidding , right? 'See Ball-Hit Ball" works very well in rec league, but has been tossed for more efficient at bats with selective hitting techniques. It's more a philosophy and finesse kind of thing.

cj1786
cj1786

Yes, every hitter should be focusing on hitting to their strengths. There is nothing wrong with teaching it to all your players.

As for 'see ball, hit ball'? That philosophy died a long time ago once everyone realized that focusing on hitting good pitches, and laying off bad ones was more efficient.

Gregor Kitzis
Gregor Kitzis

@doubleday  I'm a huge Captain Kirk fan but this makes sense more because Granderson certainly is enough of an athlete to play first base and it opens a spot for Puello, who is coming fast.bGranderson is no use if he's getting hurt playing defense and if he's going to maintain his value over a 4 year contract, which I just don't see happening, then first base is his best chance.

cmetsfan
cmetsfan

@doubleday  Only thing I like about that, is I think Duda is nice weapon off the bench if starting doesn't work out. 

hashburry
hashburry

@doubleday  I just have to say, there is nothing I find more allying on this blog then when people post "their" lineup.  Just bugs me.  No offense meant.

nym68
nym68

@doubleday  you're basing the Captain Kirk stuff on two games in the same type of ballpark as Vegas? And you're putting Grandy at first because of what exactly? Give Kirk a few games on a normal altitude before we anoint him the savior...and Grandy isn't need at first base. The Mets already have 40 first basemen on the 25 man roster

Gregor Kitzis
Gregor Kitzis

@rico  Murphy would be a way better hitting coach than Hudgens. Why? Because he can hit. You can't teach what you don't know.

cmetsfan
cmetsfan

@rico  Yeah but a lot of the fans hated Murphy for a long time too.

jdr9
jdr9

@BringBackDaveTelghe @Joe Wenzel I don't remember Charlie Lau and Walt Hriniak being successful major league players. But they were the top hitting instructors for many years.

Craig Ramirez
Craig Ramirez

This is brilliant. Unfortunately it's going to get buried. (On the other hand, it's unlikely that it would have any effect on the "you can't get a hit if you don't swing" crowd.)

It would be a great test to do a blind survey of these different approaches and the reveal who said what.

The truth is this fan bad is so jaded (and, not without some damned good reasons if I may add) that if it comes from the Mets it must be wrong.

Craig Ramirez
Craig Ramirez

Hudgens used the word "marginal" as opposed to "a pitch that you might still be able to effectively drive". It's a slight distinction, but a distinction nonetheless.

Otherwise I don't disagree with what you're saying depending upon the situation. This is why I said I don't think DW is the best example because as the teams biggest bat there are obviously going to be situations where he will have to expand his zone (i.e. swing at pitches that aren't ideal but that he can still drive) in order to accommodate for a weak lineup.

As far as a lot of the other bats in this lineup, swinging at marginal pitches is only going to result in them meekly grounding/flying out.

Again, forget the coach speak about "hunting pitches". Hell forget his whole "philosophy" if you want, but very rare is the consistently successful Major Leaguer hitter who goes up to the plate without knowing his zone (I.e. Strengths and weaknesses) and not working to get himself in a good hitters count. In this sense, they are following Hudgens' philosophy without even knowing it.

Ultimately, my point is that I don't think what is being taught here is all that revolutionary. The fact that we don't have very good hitters and are unable to implement the philosophy is a valid and completely different argument.

P.S. For those arguing that players should "simply do what got them to the Bigs", think about how ridiculous that truly is. A hitter should approach his at bat the same way he did when he was in HS, College, A Ball? If he took that approach he never would have advanced at all because he would have easily been picked off by the increasingly better competition at each level. Hell do you approach your day the same way you did when you were 20?

Craig Ramirez
Craig Ramirez

"You can't hit the ball if you don't swing."

Oh cool, let me try. "You can't make an omelette without cracking some eggs."

You can't really think that things are that simple. Oh wait...

"Getting called out on a pitch that was too close to take should either get the hitter benched or the hitting coach fired."

Must be nice living in your zero sum, black/white world.

And I'm the boob.

C.K. Dexter Haven
C.K. Dexter Haven

@ericloz  Efficient.  Ok...but all i'm seeing from philosophies and finesse are a RIDICULOUS amount of Ks across the entire MLB landscape.  I know i'm a bit too ol school and you and cj are probably accurate.  But i also know guys like Pablo Sandoval and Vladimir Guerrero (notorious "bad ball" hitters) never struck out more than 100 times in any season. 

cj1786
cj1786

@Craig Ramirez Yea its a bunch of little league coaches in here with their old "go up there hacking" and "swing at anything close" attitude, acting like that garbage works in the pros.  Little League, yes, go up there hacking.  In the MLB where the line between success and failure is razor thin, that does not work. 

cj1786
cj1786

@Joe Wenzel How many pitching/hitting coaches were great players?  Answer is that most were not and the reason is that it doesn't matter at all.  Coaching and teaching is about watching and identifying things.  You don't have to have been the best at something to teach it.  Truth is that many of the great hitters were simply just so gifted that they likely just did what they did naturally, and really wouldn't be the best teachers because of it. 

methead
methead

@mikesml  Not saying I agree with this On base stuff, but they have been pretty successful for years.  At least they compete almost every year.