How to Stay Patient when in a Hitting Slump
Slumps are difficult to process for baseball players and one of the most frustrating experiences any player can have.
One day you are hitting the cover off the ball, driving the ball in the gaps and piling up the hits. Then a few weeks later, you find yourself entrenched in a slump for some unexplained reason and begin to overthink your swing.
But do slumps really occur for an unknown reason? If you can demystify slumps and understand the contributing factors, you can work your way back on track.
Many times, slumps start unceremoniously, such as a couple of hit-less games, several multiple strikeout games or not bringing runners home than are in scoring position.
Then, the mental part happens. You start thinking of those “failures.”
You think, “What’s wrong with me. I can’t hit anymore.” You get nervous at the plate. You make changes or start to press, trying extra hard to get a hit…
Even when you hit the ball hard, it seems to be right at a fielder or the fielder makes a phenomenal play to throw you out. You feel unlucky, frustrated and angry…
You start losing your patience, swinging at pitches out of the zone and overthink your swing at the plate. You tinker with your mechanics in the batting cage. You can’t stop thinking about the slump!
The culprit is not your technique or being unlucky, it’s all mental… it’s overthinking and over analyzing. Overthinking is a mental block for many ball players and keeps them stuck.
For example, when a pitcher is sitting in the dugout about to carry a perfect game to the ninth inning, he normally sits alone. Rarely will a teammate or coach come over to talk to him, let alone tell him that he is on the verge of history.
Nobody wants the pitcher to start overthinking his mechanics, the batters he is about to face, what pitches have been off a bit, how tired he is, who is watching, the importance of the game, etc. Overthinking becomes a huge distraction that could impede his ability to throw strokes with the same velocity and accuracy.
Overthinking is the exact reason why Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis has been entrenched in a historic hitting slump.
Davis finished the 2018 season hit-less over his final 21 at-bats. Davis continued his slump this season going hit-less in 33 at-bats with 16 strikeouts in 12 games.
Davis’ 54 hit-less plate appearances is the longest hit-less streak by a position player in major league history. The previous record was 46!
Davis was a powerful hitter in the past leading the majors with 53 home runs in 2013 and, again in 2015 with 47 home runs. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, Davis has only hit 16 home runs in 140 plate appearances and set an MLB record in 2018 by hitting .168, the lowest average ever by a qualified hitter.
In 2018, Davis was frustrated and just wanted the season to be over.
DAVIS: “[All my at-bats] feel the same. Pretty much stink,” Davis said of the rough patches he has endured at the plate. “I’m just honestly trying to get to the finish line right now. Not trying to think too much about what’s gone on all year. Just trying to keep my head up and get to the finish line.”
In 2019, Davis has stayed away from the media, not wanting to talk about his struggles at the plate.
Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio played 18 years in the Major Leagues, who once had a 0-for-44 slump of his own, commented on how a slump can affect a player mentally when they step into the batter’s box.
APARICIO: “I fought with myself, maybe I pressed too much. When I went up to the plate, I tried to take my mind off it. I would talk to the catcher, anything to help me forget it. I remember swinging the bat, and looking out on the field and seeing about 90 players waiting to catch the ball. I didn’t see any hole.”
It can be difficult to stop overthinking when you are in the midst of a slump but the more you think and the more changes you make, the more the slump takes hold of your mind.
The solutions is to “fight fire with fire.” Since most slumps are caused by mental factors, you need to learn mental strategies to simplify your hitting.
How to Dig Out of a Slump:
First, you want a pre-pitch routine to keep your mind occupied. You don’t want any unsupervised thinking during your at-bat.
Having a consistent pre-pitch routine switches your mind from outcome thinking to execution during the at-bat.
The important elements of a routine include:
–Timing the pitcher on deck
–Visualizing connecting with the ball
–Studying the pitcher’s stuff
–Digging into the box to set up
–Having a plan at the plate
–Clearing your mind to only focus on the ball
–Trusting your swing
Thinking too much about the outcome, past failures, or overthinking your mechanics will not help you dig out of a hitting slump.
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