This year, baseball fans have been greeted by a welcome change in MLB 09: The Show: an increased difficulty level while at the plate. Not only is there an entirely new difficulty level, Legend, but each other level, from Rookie to Hall of Fame, has been made more difficult. With that being said, I will attempt to shine a light on some base-level batting strategies that will help players get the most out of the offensive side of their game -- and hopefully increase their overall batting average in the process.
Batting Practice Is There for a Reason
Before I get into specifics for batting strategies, I want to make one point clear: Batting practice will help users become better hitters in this game. It will increase the amount of solid hits gamers get, and will allow them to better recognize pitches that are outside of the strike zone.
For example, in most baseball videogames I am a free swinger. However, with the new Batting Practice mode, I have found great enjoyment and great results by taking a lot of swings with random hitters. I have found that taking 100 or more pitches before a real game will greatly increase my chances of success during the actual game. Granted, many people will not have the time to face that many pitches before they want to play a game, but just going through one session -- 20 pitches -- will make users better hitters and will also allow them to avoid swinging at junk pitches.
Look for a Specific Pitch and Location (0-0 Count)
At the beginning of an at-bat, I will usually pick one pitch to look for and sometimes even a specific area in the strike zone to look for that pitch. If I see the pitch in the area I am looking, I will swing at it. If I do not see the pitch or location, though, I will usually take the pitch. Whether it is a ball or a strike will only slightly influence my strategy on the next pitch, so I do not consider it necessary to swing at a pitch simply because it looks like it is over the plate.
This will keep gamers from having a lot of one-pitch at-bats and will also allow them to begin reading pitches with more accuracy.
Look for a Fastball or Take the Pitch (3-0 Count)
With a 3-0 count, the batter is in complete control. In this count, I always look for a fastball in the strike zone. If I do not get it, I will not swing. However, depending on how my team is doing in the current game, I will sometimes let the pitch go by -- even if it is a fastball over the plate. For instance, if my team is facing a large deficit late in the game, I will be more focused on getting people on base. Sometimes when the 3-0 pitch is a strike, the 3-1 pitch will be a ball, which will allow me to get someone on base and possibly start a rally. On the other hand, if the game is close, I will try to line up a fastball and get a solid hit or a home run.
Recognize the Pitch and Stay Alive Until You Can Make Solid Contact (3-2 Count)
With a 3-2 count, the user has to be completely focused. While the same can be said for any count the batter is facing, it is especially true on a full count because there is no room for error on either end of the baseball equation. I usually try to wait a fraction-of-a-second longer in order to better tell if the pitch is likely to be a ball or a strike -- and also if the pitch is straight (fastball or changeup) or breaking (curveball or slider). While it gives me a better chance of recognizing the pitch, it also usually results in a slightly late swing, which means an opposite field hit or foul ball.
This method is usually a good way to work the count a little more, and it gives the pitcher a chance to miss his location one more time.
Down in the Count, Protect the Plate (0-2 Count)
With an 0-2 count, the batter is in a position where he will likely see a lot of breaking balls in the dirt and, in general, bad pitches that the pitcher is attempting to strike him out with. After playing the game extensively, and continually swinging at bad pitches and striking out, I have become a much more timid hitter during 0-2 counts. I now use my previous strategy of waiting an extra fraction of a second, so I can attempt to pick up on any potential breaking pitches.
I have found that it is very rare for the pitcher to throw a strike on an 0-2 count, so I try to be as patient as possible. Also, when I see a pitch low in the strike zone, I will usually let it go by simply because there is a high probability of the pitch being a breaking ball that will drop below the zone. While I may be called out on strikes a few more times than I would like, it keeps me from swinging at terrible pitches outside of the strike zone.
Batting practice is a user’s best friend in MLB 09: The Show. Unlike other baseball games, seeing a lot of pitches will tend to increase the user’s hitting ability in the game. In addition to that, a few of these general rules for what to expect and what to look for when batting will also improve your overall hitting ability.
Taking a pitch can sometimes be hard to do in video game baseball, but if gamers are able to master this talent, they will work deeper into the count and see more pitches, which will give them a better chance of making solid contact when a mistake pitch is thrown.