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An Overlooked Element for Successful Hitting

Updated: Feb 28, 2021

Detroit Tiger slugger, Miguel Cabrera, is one of baseball’s all-time greatest hitters. His 2012 and 2013 seasons rank as two of the most prolific offensive seasons in the history of the game.

For the record, Cabrera is a lifetime .315 hitter over 17 seasons (many of which have been impacted by injuries). He’s also hit for power, swatting 477 career homeruns.

What is the difference between Cabrera and the 15,213 others who have played major league baseball?

In 2013, my good friend, former Detroit Tigers Hitting Coach, Don Slaught wanted to find out.

After extensive film study and sitting down with Miguel to examine his hitting process – Slaught discovered a key element that defines Cabrera’s success.

Simply put, Miguel Cabrera’s recognition and processing skills are superior to his peers.

Think of your brain as a computer. It can upload information (game experiences, practices, training) and then applies what is learned into real-time scenarios.

For any hitter, the ability to recognize such things as pitch location, pitch speed, and pitch spin are critical to delivering the bat on-time and on-point.

Miguel Cabrera stated to Slaught that he recognized what pitch was coming and where it would track just prior to the pitcher releasing the ball.

How is this possible?

Cabrera’s brain works like a high-speed processor. He’s able to (i) recognize the pitch based on the pitcher’s grip and arm slot and (ii) he’s able to quickly transfer the visual cues into usable information that supports his decision-making.

How can athletes improve Recognition and Processing Skills?

1. Play. There is no substitute for game experience. The more we get – the more we enhance our recognition and processing skills.

2. Practice. The more a hitter sees a “moving ball” during practice sessions, the more enriching the experience – depth perception improves, timing develops, and it challenges processing skills.

3. Train. Out of the box thinking on this point. Athletes can improve processing skills by challenging the brain to recognize and process quickly – flashcards, brainteasers, eye-sight and memory games.

A Recognition and Processing Drill to Do at Home

You can use virtually anything and be creative. (peas, golf balls, whiffle balls, baseballs, softballs)

· Mark your item with a color, shape, or number.

· While playing catch challenge the receiver to identify the marker before catching it.

While playing catch – the athlete’s skill level determines the distance – if it feels too easy – increase the distance – alternate one eye shut – catch with one hand – keep the eyes closed until an auditory clue – increase the speed of the throw. (There are many ways to increase the challenge of this drill)

The drill works best when it’s difficult but not impossible for the participant. The focus should be on improving over time and making the drill increasingly challenging while keep it fun.

Visit again on Monday for a video analysis breakdown of a pro hitter!


Jerrad Hardin is an award-winning coach and best-selling author. To learn more about Jerrad, please visit:

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