By Coach Andy Lopez
Is there a difference between hitting and offense?” This is a question I get asked quite regularly - from both my collegiate players and colleagues. At first, the answer seems obvious. I mean, you’ve got to hit the ball to get on the scoreboard, right?
Certainly, solid hitting helps your team’s offense, but it shouldn’t necessarily be your team’s only offense. There’s much more to offense than scoring, and there’s much more to scoring than hitting.
This can be a hard concept for young ballplayers to understand. If asked early in the season to define offense, my first-year players would probably define offense as driving the ball into the gaps, three-run homers and 12-run innings, etc. But hitting should just be one aspect of your team’s offense.
As I see it, there are three other key components to a good team’s offense:
1. Bat Control
Bat control is vital. Hitting is about more than just making contact between the bat and the ball. The decisions you must make between pitches, such as whether or not to bunt and, if so, what kind of bunt to use (sacrifice? drag? push? slash?) are critical. You need to visualize in your head whether or not you should prepare yourself to slash and run, or hit and run. Both players and coaches need to make fast and accurate judgments to maximize their offensive opportunities.
2. Running Game
In addition to solid bat control, an adept offensive team must have a tactful running game. As a batter, you need to have the ability to understand what the pitcher is up to. As a runner, you must grasp the ability to read a pitch-out, anticipate a ball in the dirt, and know when to delay steal.
Spontaneity is the key to a successful offense. Great offensive players do not need to “think” about what to do. It must be an athlete’s second nature. The only way I have found to instill spontaneity into my players is to make practice and hitting drills as game-like as possible. Instead of having my club take pitches in a cage or on the field with empty bases, I place my hitters in game-like situations where they need to think about more than just making contact with the ball.
Coaching a team to understand and appreciate the difference between hitting and offense can be a challenge. Understanding the significance of a game-winning, two-run homer is simple. It’s the special (and successful) team that can appreciate the baserunner who got himself into position to score the game-winning run.
Coach Lopez retired in 2015 and was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2018. He is one of just three coaches to take three different programs to the College World Series including University of Arizona, Florida and Pepperdine. He won the College World Series with Pepperdine in 1992 and Arizona in 2012. He finished with 1,177 wins in 33 seasons of collegiate coaching.