MLB The Show 18 is the most authentic baseball video game you can play: It has realistic ball physics, true-to-life player models, and deep on-field action that will keep players learning and improving for months to come. It’s also unquestionably a pitcher’s game, with the man on the mound having a clear advantage over batters, even on lower difficulty settings. This might discourage newer players from stepping up to the plate and attempting to drive in some runs, but by following a few basic tips and being patient as you learn the ropes, you will be running up the score in no time. Here is how to master hitting — and scoring — in MLB The Show 18.
The basics of batting
Unlike comparable baseball series such as the now-defunct MLB 2K games, you aren’t going to pick up on pitches as soon as they leave the pitcher’s hand and crush them over the outfield fence in MLB The Show 18. You have to get used to seeing the ball cross the plate, and recognize over time where a curveball will end up compared to a slider or a fastball. Before you even swing the bat, warm up by turning on a quick offline match and letting the pitcher throw several pitches in a row. Just watch carefully and try to guess which of them are strikes before the umpire says so.
Once you have begun to get a feel for discerning balls from strikes, it’s time to use that bat. There are several different control schemes you can choose from in MLB The Show 18, and though your personal preference should ultimately be the deciding factor in your decision, we recommend the “pure analog” option. With this control scheme, you flick the right analog stick forward to initiate a normal swing, and for a more powerful swing, you first pull the right stick back before flicking it forward. You don’t need to worry about swinging at a particular area of the strike zone, as some of the other control options require. It’s also the only option that really replicates the feeling of swinging a bat, which may help you time your swings precisely.
Holding down the triangle button will cause your batter to attempt a bunt. If you do so as the pitcher is going into his windup, this will be a traditional “sacrifice” bunt designed to move runners ahead to second or third base. Should you wait until the ball is leaving his hands, it will be a running bunt, designed to get a hit. Neither are guaranteed to put the ball in play, and releasing the button before the ball crosses the plate will cause you to pull the bunt back.
How to dominate the pitcher
It might seem like the opposing team’s pitcher is unstoppable at times, but you have plenty of tricks up your sleeve that you can use to get the better of them and knock a ball into the outfield. With a little practice, you’ll even go up to the plate expecting to get a hit rather than merely hoping for one.
Don’t swing too early
One of the most common mistakes you will run into in MLB The Show 18 is swinging too early at pitches, particularly changeups and curveballs. These are significantly slower than pitchers’ fastballs, with a difference as great as 15 mph, and if they’re thrown right down the middle of the strike zone, it’s just instinct for your eyes to light up as you take a big hack. However, if you’re positive that the pitch thrown is off-speed, force yourself to wait an extra split-second longer before pulling the trigger. This will result in the ball being hit in fair territory instead of being pulled foul — or missed entirely — and you need to capitalize on these opportunities when you get them.
Force the pitcher to make mistakes
You will have the urge to swing at the first pitch you see in your early at-bats, but this is setting your batters up for failure. Pitchers will attempt to hit the corners of the strike zone with their pitches in early counts, meaning that even if you make contact, you will often hit a ground ball to a fielder in the infield or pop a ball up.
Instead, unless the first pitch you see is right down Main Street, take it. If it’s a strike, you will need to be ready to swing at the next pitch, but if it’s a ball, you now have the advantage. Work the count into a “hitter’s count like 2-0 or 3-1 whenever you have the ability. These counts typically force pitchers to three more hittable pitches so they can avoid a walk, giving you the opportunity to do some real damage.
The power swing is overrated
You will be able to hit plenty of home runs in MLB The Show 18 if you time your swings well and take advantage of poorly located pitches, and you will never have to use the power swing to do it. It’s a great tool to use when you need to hit the ball into the outfield in order to complete a sacrifice fly or you want to avoid hitting into a double-play, but the power swing has a significant disadvantage. Using it will shrink the gold-colored “sweet spot” hitting zone, making it less likely that you will actually make contact with the ball.
If you must use the power swing, make sure you are using it with fewer than two strikes. If you’re down to your last strike, even if you’re at risk of ending the inning with a double-play, you need to focus on making contact with the ball. Ironically, it’s your power hitters who should use the power swing the least — stars like Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge can still absolutely tattoo the ball with the normal swing.
How to score your runners
Getting on base is, of course, only half the battle. You also need to get your runners around the bases and to home plate in order to actually score runs, and this requires just as much practice and care as hitting does in MLB The Show 18. Here are a few tips you can use to get even the slowest baserunners across home plate.
With a runner on third base and fewer than two outs, a sacrifice fly can often put another run on the board for your team. If you hit the ball far enough into the outfield, the game will often give you the option of pressing the L1 button in order to automatically make your runners tag up and advance.
Though aggressive baserunning isn’t always the best strategy, it usually makes sense to test the outfielders’ throwing arms and take the extra base. Even if you’re on second base, tagging up and heading to third will put you in position to score on an infield hit or a screaming line-drive that drops right in from of the right fielder.
Keep your attempted steals to a minimum
Even the worst catchers in the MLB are still pretty darn good at their job, and you will find this out quickly if you attempt to swipe a bag in MLB The Show 18. By pressing L1, you can take a small lead off the base with all of your runners, while pressing L1 and the button corresponding to an individual runner’s base will make only that player lead off. The same rules apply for stealing bases, which is done with the L2 button — tapping it will signal to your runners to steal, while holding it and then releasing it will cause them to take off in time with when the trigger is released.
The problem is that catchers tend to have very strong and accurate arms, and pitchers will notice your aggressive leads and will attempt to pick you off at first base. With absolute speedsters like Billy Hamilton, swiping bags on a regular basis makes sense, but it’s not worth the risk with most players.
But utilize the hit-and-run
One baserunning play can be the bane of a pitcher’s existence — the hit-and-run. By sending a runner as if he were stealing but intentionally making contact with the ball at the plate, the runner can advance from first base to third base on a simple single into the outfield. If your team is short on power hitters, this play can help to make up for your lack of extra-base hits.
If you have a slower batter at the plate, the hit-and-run can also be used to avoid a double-play. With this strategy, it isn’t necessary to take a lead off first base — just send your runner when the pitch is thrown and make contact with the ball. Your runner should be at second before a play is made, preventing a double-play and putting them in scoring position.
For more tips on batting in the MLB The Show series, check out our batting guide for last year’s game, as well.