Bo Bichette Talks Hitting by David Laurila August 5, 2021 Bo Bichette is one of the best young hitters in the game. Just 23 years old, the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop has a .299/.345/.509 slash line to go with a 128 wRC+ and 35 home runs — 19 of them coming this season — in 795 big-league plate appearances through Tuesday’s action. Drafted 66th overall in 2016 out of a St. Petersburg high school, the 2021 American League All-Star is the son of former major-league slugger Dante Bichette. Bichette talked hitting prior to a recent game at Fenway Park. ——— David Laurila: Let’s start with one of my favorite Talks Hitting ice-breaker questions: Do you view hitting as more of an art, or more of a science? Bo Bichette: “That’s an interesting question. I’d say it’s a combination of both, but I would lean more toward it being an art. I think hitting is more mental than anything, and science kind of equates to mechanics and all that. So I would say art.” Laurila: Hitting analytics have obviously become a bigger part of the game… Bichette: “Yes, but for me, no. I think the analytics are more how we’re evaluated as players. Everybody has their own things that click in their head. I haven’t really looked at the analytics all that much. The one thing is that pitchers pitch up in the zone more often, so you definitely practice hitting that pitch a little bit. But I don’t pay attention to my launch angle, exit velocity, and stuff like that.” Laurila: Is your stroke conducive to hitting the elevated fastball? Bichette; “Yeah. I’ve always been able to get to that pitch pretty good. But I’ve definitely worked on it a lot over the past couple of years, too. All that is, is a flatter path to the baseball. I mean, if you swing up and the fastball is up, you’re probably not going to have a very good chance of getting to it. You’ve got to flatten out the path a little bit. My entire career, I’ve worked on having multiple different swings. If somebody is throwing sinkers, I practice that. If somebody is going up in the zone, I practice getting on top of the ball.” Laurila: How does a hitter go about “getting on top of the ball”? Bichette: “I think it’s different for everybody. For me, it’s more about my hands, just making sure that I’m going from ‘here to here’ — being more direct to the ball. I mean, it’s nothing too complicated. The more you make it complicated… that’s when it becomes tough to hit. Really, it’s just about the path. If the ball is up, you’ve got to be more direct — you’ve got to be more flat — and if the ball is down, then you can have a little bit of lift.” Laurila: When I talked hitting with Edgar Martinez a handful of years ago, he told me that he wanted to start his hands close to where he was firing to hit a fastball. Is that something you’ve thought about? Bichette: “It’s something I’ve tried to get closer to over the years. I have a little bit more movement than most people, so I try to quiet it down as much as I can. At the same time, I have to remember that athleticism is a part of my game, and movement is a part of my game. But I do agree with him that the less movement you have, the better.” Laurila: What is your timing mechanism? Bichette: “It’s everything together. I want to make sure that I’m getting in my legs to my backside, and sit on my backside at the same time my hands are getting ready. My hands are a little bit of… they push back a little bit, so I make sure that that move is going at the same time as my legs.” Laurila: What tends to be the issue when you’re scuffling at the plate? Bichette: “Honestly, pretty much every time it’s because I’m worrying about my mechanics during the game. It’s really hard to hit 95 [mph] as it is. It’s way harder to hit it when you’re thinking about where your legs are, or when you’re thinking about where your hands are. Then your focus isn’t on the ball. So, when I struggle, it’s most often because I’m thinking about my swing and worrying about being on time — all that kind of stuff — instead of just trusting my preparation.” Laurila: That said, what can you think about in the box? Bichette: “You think about the pitch you want to hit. Do I want to look up in the zone because I think he’s going to get me to chase down? Do I want to look down in the zone because I think he’s going to try and get me to chase up? Things like that you can think about. But it all has to be on the pitcher or the baseball. It can’t be on yourself, because this game is hard enough as it is.” Laurila: To what degree can you think about velocity as opposed to location? Bichette: “There are definitely days where I look for a little bit softer a pitch. There are days where I try to be ready as quickly as possible. There are days where I look in zones. It really just depends. Most of the time, I’m looking in areas of the zone that I want to attack. But there are definitely some days where I just feel like sitting soft.” Laurila: Sitting off-speed increases the chances that you’re going to get beat by a fastball… Bichette: “Yes, but there are moments where they’re probably not going to throw you a fastball. I think you have to be okay with letting the fastball go sometimes.” Laurila: Are there times when a hitter intuitively knows that a certain pitch is coming? Bichette: “Yeah. Definitely. When you’re going good, there are times where you don’t even realize it, but you’ll hit a breaking ball and then you’ll be like, ‘Dang, I knew that was coming, even though I never told myself it was coming.’ So there are definitely times where you get in the zone.” Laurila: I’ve had hitters tell me they have both an A-swing and a B-swing, while others have said they have just one swing. Where do you fit in that equation? Bichette: “Personally, I think that shortening up a little bit when I get to two strikes helps a lot; it helps me slow the game down. But if you watch a guy like Vladdy [Guerrero Jr.], he has the same swing every time and he’s never rushed. So I think it’s different for different people. I need to make a mechanical change to slow the game down mentally. Some people don’t need that.” Laurila: So, you do have more than one swing… Bichette: “No. I have the same swing. It just looks different. The difference is basically that I leg-kick early in the count, and then when I get to two strikes I put my front foot where I normally land after my leg-kick. Basically, I just don’t leg-kick. So it’s the same exact swing, I just start in a landing position.” Laurila: When I interviewed Cavan Biggio for this series, I asked how much of what he’s learned about hitting came from his father. I’ll ask you the same question. Bichette: “I’ve learned everything from my dad. Obviously, I’ve learned different things from different players along the way, and I have a lot of great teammates who are really good players. I have learned from them. But I would say that 99.9% is from my dad.” Laurila: What are some of the things he’s stressed to you? Bichette: “He taught me so much about how to attack a pitcher, how to have a game-plan and how to stick to the game plan. He taught me how to deal with the fear of failure. So I learned a lot from my dad mentally. Growing up, he basically told me that the most important thing as a hitter is to be ready to hit, and to have a good bat path. My whole life, those have been my priorities. And now I’m really starting to learn more about my swing, and more about rhythm. But my dad was huge in helping me get a head start mentally.” Laurila: Do you ever joke with your father about who is going to end up with more big-league home runs? [Dante Bichette hit 274 home runs.] Bichette: “No. It wouldn’t even be a conversation. He’d want me to hit more home runs than he did.” Laurila: Do you view power as being a big part of your game? Bichette: “I have power and I can hit home runs, but I don’t really consider myself a home run guy. I’ll just kind of run into one sometimes. So no, I like to consider myself a good hitter. If you focus on being a good hitter, that other stuff will come.” Laurila: Any final thoughts? Bichette: “I think the biggest thing, if you want to be a great hitter, is to pay attention to the game. Especially when you get to a level like this. Everybody has really good pitches to get you out, but there are moments where it becomes obvious what pitch they’re going throw to you — if you watch the game. So that’s a huge thing. If you pay attention, the game can give you more confidence when you get in the box.” —— Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Tim Hyers, Trevor Larnach, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Daniel Murphy, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Zac Veen, Luke Voit, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke.