Last Monday, Bryce Harper hit a preposterous broken bat home run. It was one of those unifying and mesmerizing baseball moments that did not require a modicum of sabermetrics understanding to appreciate. Assuming that you grasp the DualShock 4 in an orthodox manner (and do not play with a Steering Wheel or flight stick), our goal with this guide is to empower your mind and thumbs with the same dexterity, power and confidence that allowed Bryce Harper to bludgeon that cowhide sphere all in the comfort of your own home.
Take the First Few Pitches
I have played The Show for over 10 years straight now, and the nerfing of early-count hitting has been palpable and frustrating over the last few entries. Well-timed hits that almost assuredly would be no-doubter home runs or extra-base hits ripped down the line suddenly devolve into weak choppers or soft fly outs (this year, it’s line drives right at the infielders). The worst part is, and this only happens after you become comfortable with working counts, sometimes a meatball is too juicy to take and you betray your patience. And what happens? The ball plops onto the outfield grass for a clean single. Suddenly, you feel like you’ve cheated yourself out of so many first-pitch meatballs. That’s just The Show baiting you into revitalizing your early hacks. Go ahead and swing aggressively at the first two pitches and see where it takes you even on Rookie. My solution: spare yourself the frustration and take the first two pitches. I cannot recommend this enough until The Show’s punishments for early swinging get revamped. You’ll either be at 2-0, 1-1, or 0-2, and all three of those breed much clearer hitting strategies than a pitcher trying to set the tone at 0-0 or even 0-1. Just be wary on 2-0 counts as many hitters will try and square up a fastball early only to find that the pitcher is dropping something off-speed into the zone. Baseball is a cruel game.
Leave the PCI Alone At First
Remember that simply timing pitches with a mere contact swing and no PCI movement can feed directly into the no-doubter home run animation. This can happen with players of any hitting stats as well (mine came by way of Breakout Ryan Raburn (against a righty), Live Jonathan Schoop, and Impact Veteran Babe Ruth). As tantalizing as it is to swing heavy and early (who doesn’t love destroying the baseball), this can be done without ever moving the PCI. Do not treat MLB The Show 18 like MVP Baseball 2005 and try and use it to aim your swing. The Show’s default settings are based mostly upon ability and timing. Once you get more comfortable working counts and seeing the ball, then you should overcommit with the PCI to try and bloop singles to the opposite field or crush an inside pitch. That is when MLB The Show 18 shines its brightest, but it takes a bit of adjusting. Establish a comfortable rhythm at the plate before moving the PCI around, and when you think you’re ready, start by moving it up slightly to obliterate fastballs higher in the zone.
Train Your Eye
Much like my inability to take only one donut when a co-worker brings in an unnecessarily large collection of donuts in the morning, I cannot lay off of off-speed pitches an inch below the strike zone or fastballs that catch the very bottom. Thankfully, MLB The Show 18 has one beneficial feature that is very easy to overlook: Custom Practice. You can set any count, any hitter and any pitcher in a perpetual loop. Set yourself up with an 0-2 count and a pitcher that commands the zone that you struggle hitting and go to town. This is an exceptionally helpful way of training your eye and improving your plate appearances. After all, MLB players take BP and participate in simulated games, so why should you be exempt?
Save the Power Swing for the Right Moments
Imagine that your electricity is out and you can only open the fridge so many times before all of the food goes bad. Should you really waste it to grab and put back 10 different sandwich ingredients? Or should you use it to quickly snag that half-eaten tub of Blue Bell cookies and cream ice cream (ice cream’s all-time WAR leader) that runs a high risk of melting? You should not take a power swing with Breakout Emilio Bonifacio on a 2-0 count with the bases empty just as you should not waste precious refrigerated air making an elaborate sandwich. However, you most certainly should enjoy the power swing with Live Khris Davis with the bases empty on a 2-0 count just as you should live lavishly eating that ice cream. As tempting as it is to smash the life out of the ball at every at-bat, the power swing dramatically shrinks the PCI and should really only be used when the player feels comfortable enough to square up the pitch. The Show seems to reward players for patiently working deeper counts, so keep that in mind as well.