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How should the leadoff hitter approach the 1st at bat of the game?
The leadoff hitter's role is to get on base. It helps if he has decent speed, but the most important attribute of a leadoff hitter is his ability to reach base so the strongest hitters in the lineup can drive him home.
Traditional strategy suggests the leadoff hitter take the 1st pitch. I also like this approach. In fact, I like to take at least one strike when leading off the game. Taking pitches gives you some education. You start to learn the speed and trajectory of the pitcher's stuff. This will be helpful for you in this at bat and later at bats. You set the precedent that the pitcher will need to earn his outs. In the absence of reaching base, a good leadoff hitter will gain information and share it with his teammates.
Switch It Up Any strategy should be dictated by situation. There are no hard fast rules.
If I've faced a pitcher before and know his stuff well, I might pick a spot in the strike zone where I will swing if he puts it there.
If the pitcher is a stud with good control, I might also swing at that first pitch.
What approach do you take as a leadoff hitter of a game (or an inning)?
Book Reference: Ted Williams talks a lot about taking pitches in his book, The Science of Hitting. Williams took a lot of pitches, but of course he was one of the greatest hitters of all time.
Read related articles at the BaseballThink blog.