MIAMI, June 18 (UPI) -- Rhys Hoskins saw nearly 3,000 pitches last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, more than any player in Major League Baseball. Hoskins also leads the league in that category in 2019.
Most everyday MLB stars see pitches by the thousands each season. Each of those tosses prompts a decision.
Many of baseball's best bats believe their best approach is studying before settling in against opposing pitchers. But there is still much that needs to happen to turn the milliseconds it takes a pitch to get to home plate into a slow-motion scanning of the ball whizzing in at up to 105 mph.
What happens to pitches in that 60-foot, six-inch zone isn't an exact science. Approaches differ from player to player.
Pittsburgh Pirates star Josh Bell, Cleveland Indians slugger Francisco Lindor, New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso and Miami Marlins veteran Curtis Granderson spoke to UPI about how they succeed in a game that considers failing 70 percent of the time a triumph.
Know your strengths
You might expect a macho approach from some of baseball's loudest bats, but veterans like Curtis Granderson have seen every type of pitch from every type of pitcher. He knows his strengths. He knows the strengths of opposing pitchers.
It's easy to get lost in the math, with nearly 750,000 pitches thrown to hitters last season. But somehow Granderson manages to pick out MLB's active pitch leader when asked about his approach. The Marlins outfielder was teammates with CC Sabathia for four seasons with the New York Yankees.
The 16-year veteran points to the pitcher in his 19th season when it comes to exemplifying a match-up.
"He has a really good change-up," Granderson said. "He throws it at anytime to anybody and that's what makes him good, in addition to the other stuff. You can have a guy that loves hitting change-ups or doesn't love it, he's still going to throw you a change-up and that's what makes him so effective."
Granderson said every pitcher has "great stuff" when it comes to arm talent, but the best pitchers maintain confidence regardless of the situation. He also said the best pitchers evaluate their mistakes, translating if those pitches can be hit when they miss a spot in the zone.
The three-time All-Star also studies the frequency with which pitchers throw certain pitches.
"I don't want to know if it's a good or bad [pitch]," Granderson said. "If it's good it's going to be good. If it's bad, it's going to be bad. Knowing that isn't going to change my approach.
"Even if it's a really good pitch, I'm not going to hit it anyway. So why do I need to know if it's good? If it's bad, and he makes a mistake with it, then I have a chance to hit it.
"This guy throws this pitch, let's call it a devastating curveball. If it's really good you aren't going to hit it anyway. When they make a mistake with it, that's when you are going to hit it. It doesn't matter if the guy throws it a million times, a few times, a good one or a bad one."
Granderson has the benefit of experience not yet afforded to Pete Alonso. The New York Mets rookie has a football player stature, making the bat look miniature when he mashes homers at Citi Field. But while the big flies might be gargantuan, Alonso has to remind himself to shrink down at times in the batter's box.
"If I try and get too big I'm not going to be as successful as if I am calm and collected and swing at what I want," Alonso said. "That's the main thing for being successful. Swinging at good pitches and not swinging at the bad ones."
Alonso is hitting .263 and is a top candidate for National League Rookie of the Year. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound first baseman leads all rookies with 23 home runs. He is on pace to break the franchise record for home runs in a season and could smash Aaron Judge's rookie home run record of 52.
He is also on the same page with Granderson when it comes to the unhittable pitch.
"I know if they are throwing their best stuff and I'm not going to hit it if it's well located," Alonso said. "But if it's over the heart of the plate, then I'll have a much better chance. To me, I just want to stay the same and be able to capitalize on pitches that are in the zone."
Max Scherzer's full arsenal, Chris Sale's slider, Blake Snell's curveball, Jacot deGrom's four-seam heater.
MLB hitters voted those pitches from those pitchers as some of the nastiest offerings in the game. Cleveland Indians star Francisco Lindor has seen his share of sizzling strikes from those aces. He also led the American League in plate appearances and at-bats in 2017 and 2018. That -- and three All-Star appearances -- gives him the credibility to name the hardest pitch to hit.
But you might be surprised by his answer: "Fastball, right down the middle."
"Because you don't know what to do with it," Lindor said. "Every pitcher has that."
Lindor's .289 career batting average proves that he knows what to do with offerings nearly 30 percent of the time. While other sluggers study pitchers before games and go into at-bats knowing that they won't be able to hit the most-executed offerings from baseball's best arms, Lindor leans on his strengths to surface.
"A lot of hitters make the mistake that they vary a lot pitch after pitch in the at-bats. I try to stay within myself and my approach and make the adjustments. But also understand what I do works," Lindor said.
"If his strength is my strength, I'm going to stick to my strength. At the end of the day, if the pitches were perfect, we wouldn't hit. The pitches are not perfect and neither are we."
Lindor said what separates Cy Young award-winning pitchers from others is their ability to make adjustments quicker.
"It's just a matter of taking advantage of as many mistakes they make so we can be successful," Lindor said.
'I gotta sell out'
Josh Bell isn't a rookie. He has been on the MLB scene since the 2016 season, but he really arrived in 2019. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Pittsburgh Pirates star is hitting .321 and leads baseball with 27 doubles and 65 RBIs this season. He also has 19 home runs in 70 games this year. This after hitting .260 with 41 homers through his first three seasons.
Bell credits an approach change for his breakout campaign.
"Early on in my career, I was kinda thinking about my stance and where I was in that space in time rather than kinda selling out to what I was doing and finding an approach," Bell said.
His approach depends on the starting pitcher he is facing. If he is going against a guy who likes to throw change-ups down and away, Bell likes to "sell out" for that pitch and see if the pitcher makes a mistake.
"You have to make adjustments based off their best pitch, but I feel like if things are going well, you aren't missing that mistake," Bell said. "In a bigger scenario, with runners in scoring position, you can kind of sell out to that pitch and try to do damage on it. But for the most part, if they are successful with something, it's for a reason. It's deceptive, it's probably low at the bottom of the strike zone and not a strike. So you have to be careful with hunting their best pitch."
Bell said the hardest pitch to hit for him is a good split fastball underneath the zone, an offering that starts as a strike then bottoms out when it arrives. He also doesn't fear those fastballs down the middle.
"That's not it for me," Bell said, cracking a smile.