Matthew Cerrone, Lead WriterThe 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.”
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: