Find the Gameplay Style That Suits You
When you first boot up MLB The Show 21, you’ll be met with several choices. Not only do you need to select your gameplay style, but you’ll also have to select your difficulty level and which of the varying gameplay mechanics you want to use for hitting, pitching, baserunning, and fielding.
|Casual||Recommended for beginners. Gameplay is more heavily assisted by CPU than other styles.|
|Simulation||Classic MLB The Show gameplay. A healthy dose of player input, but still some CPU-driven outcomes.|
|Competitive||Default for online head-to-head games. Outcomes rely purely on player stick skills.|
When selecting your gameplay style, it’s important to remember that the default settings online will automatically switch you to Competitive. So, if you’re planning to jump into Diamond Dynasty right away, it might be best to start on that setting. That said, if you just want to have a good time playing against the computer, you might be best starting on Casual and bumping it up to Simulation as you get comfortable.
As for difficulty, we recommend starting on Dynamic. This difficulty fluctuates with your play as you improve. After several games, you’ll start to lock in on the difficulty that works best for you and can set it and forget it. You can, of course, just stay on Dynamic, but the fluctuations can get you into weird spots at times.
Be a Better Hitter
After you have your gameplay style and difficulty locked in, it’s time to figure out how you want to hit. MLB The Show 21 has three different hitting styles for you to choose from. Fortunately, the game lets you try each of them out before making a selection.
- Directional: Directional hitting is likely the easiest to learn of the three hitting styles. It’s almost entirely timing-based, though you can influence the direction of your hits with the left analog stick. This style isn’t as precise as the other two, but does let you put the ball in play much more easily.
- Zone: Zone hitting is the most used style in the community. Here, you’ll use the Plate Coverage Indicator (PCI) to try and match the pitches location over the plate. If you do this and time your swing well, you’ll have a hit on your hands. Zone hitting gives the player much more control, but can take time to get used to.
- Pure Analog: Pure Analog hitting takes your swings from buttons to the right thumbstick. You’ll still use the PCI to aim your swing, but now you’ll need to time your swing with the thumbstick. Instead of hitting X (A on Xbox) for a standard swing, you need to push the right stick up. Contact swings switch from Circle (B) to either left or right, and power swings require an down-up motion instead of a simple Square (X). It’s a bit more control, but much tougher to get used to.
We recommend going with Zone hitting. This gives you more control through the use of the PCI, while not requiring the fine touch of Pure Analog. That said, if you’re not planning to move onto online play, Directional is a solid option for beginners just looking to crank homers. Once you’ve picked your mechanic, it’s time to master hitting.
Don’t swing at everything
This first tip is probably the hardest one for new players to get behind. When you’re first starting The Show, it’s easy to struggle with the game’s timing-based hitting. You never know exactly where the ball is going and might panic swing at a ball that’s well outside the strike zone.
Instead, use the Guess the Pitch feature to get an idea of what the pitcher is throwing. To do this, hold R2 (RT on Xbox) to bring up the pitchers available pitches. Select the one you want and you’ll see a blinking red dot on the pitch if you’ve chosen correctly. This gives you an idea of what’s coming and lets you make a more educated decision on if you should swing. If you’re hoping for a fastball and it doesn’t come, consider letting it pass by and live to swing another day.
Work the count
Now that you aren’t just swinging at everything, it’s time to use some baseball strategy to force those good pitches you really tee off on. If you can work the ball-strike count into your favor, you’re much more likely to see a pitch come over the middle of the plate. This means getting to counts like two balls and no strikes or three balls and one strike.
Of course, this doesn’t mean never swing at anything. Each at bat is going to be different from the last. You can’t expect to just do the same thing over and over again. That said, if you’re able to learn patience at the plate, you’ll be able to get yourself into advantageous situations.
Power isn’t always best
The Show has four different types of swings for you to employ: power, standard, contact, and bunt. You might be tempted to always swing for power when your strongest hitters stride up to plate, but you’d be mistaken.
Power swings work best when you can predict almost exactly where the ball will be thrown. So, if you’re up in a count and the pitcher needs to throw a strike, you can expect that to come over the middle of the plate. In that situation, it’s worth using a power swing. In almost every other scenario it’s better to just go with standard.
Power shrinks your contact window and will result in more pop-ups and bad grounders if you don’t guess the location correctly. Use it sparingly.
Switch up the camera angle
If you’re really having trouble reading pitches, changing the camera angle might be worth a try. Competitive players often use Strike Zone or Strike Zone 2 because it zooms you in on the action. Sure, you don’t get to see all of the game’s wonderful presentation, but it’s a bit easier to see what’s coming.
To change your camera style, from the main menu select Settings>Settings>Gameplay>Batting & Baserunning. Then, toggle the Hitting View to select a new style.
Be a Better Pitcher
Like hitting, pitching has several different gameplay styles available. All of these are good in their own right, but a few stand above the rest. Let’s look at the options we think are the best for new players to try out.
- Meter: Meter pitching is likely the one we’d recommend for most players. This style is a two-button meter that first selects speed and then accuracy. While tough to master, it’s a relatively intuitive system to pick up. You just select where you want the pitch to go, hit X (A on Xbox) to start the pitch, tap it again to select speed, and hit it a third time as close to the timing window as possible.
- Classic Pitching: This is a step down in simplicity. All you do is decide where you want the pitch to go and you’re off. There’s no timing involved, making this a good option for complete beginners who just want to focus on learning everything else.
- Pulse Pitching: Pulse pitching lets you select the pitch type and location. Then, a pulsing circle pops up in the strike zone. Hit X at the right time and you’ll toss a strike.
- Pinpoint Pitching: Pinpoint pitching is difficult, but rewarding if you can master it. Each pitch has its own specific right stick movement that you’ll need to use with correct timing. The game does give you a visual aid with every pitch, but this is one most players will have to spend a chunk of time learning before the increased accuracy starts to pay off.
Listen to your catcher
Before each pitch, your catcher will give you both a pitch recommendation and location. These hints aren’t always perfect for the situation you’re in, but they do give you good guidance. As you play, you’ll start to learn which pitches to throw where; however, your catcher is a decent teacher when you’re just starting out.
Don’t be afraid to throw balls
New players might be tempted to only throw the ball into the strike zone. After all, if you can get three strikes quickly, you’ll sit that batter down with a strike out. That said, you need to learn to work the count.
For example, if you get a strike past the batter with no balls, you might try throwing a ball outside of the zone. Now that they’re behind in the count, the batter may chase a bad pitch trying to protect the plate. Work that count as much as possible.
Use your bullpen
Once you start getting close to 100 pitches thrown in a game, your starting pitcher will start to lose his energy. That meter goes down even faster if you give up hits and runs. Once they’ve lost their stamina, you need to get them out of the game.
Thankfully, MLB franchises all have bullpens full of relief and closing pitchers ready to hop in to save the day. As your starting pitcher starts to tire, make sure to pause the game, select the Manager option, and go to your bullpen to start warming up your relievers. Using them correctly is the difference between a win and a loss in many games.
Be a Better Fielder
Fielding isn’t as important as hitting and pitching because you won’t do it quite as much. That doesn’t make it unimportant, though. While most of fielding in The Show 21 is all about reactions and remembering which button corresponds to which base, there are a few things you can do to make yourself better in the field.
Implant the bases into your brain
This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. When you field the ball, you need to throw it to the correct base. In the moment, it can be easy to forget where you need to go, so make sure you learn the bases right away.
- First base: Circle on PlayStation, B on Xbox
- Second base: Triangle on PlayStation, Y on Xbox
- Third base: Square on PlayStation, X on Xbox
- Home base: X on PlayStation, A on Xbox
Follow the onscreen prompts
If you have tutorials turned on (which you can turn back on in settings if you’ve accidentally turned them off), then you’ll see running paths light up any time a ball is in play. Following these paths will usually put you in the right place to make a play. It’s not perfect, but it gives you a fighting chance if your initial reaction is a bit off.
Use the dive button sparingly
When you’re watching SportsCenter during baseball season, all you see are diving catches. While those look rad, you don’t want to be doing it too much in The Show. There are moments when it’s appropriate, but for the most part, diving is going to take you out of the play. If you need those extra few feet to catch a ball, absolutely use it by hitting R1 (RB on Xbox). Just make sure you’re not doing it for the style points alone.
What Mode to Start With
Now that you’re on the path to becoming a stud MLB The Show 21 player, it’s time to get into some real games. Thankfully, The Show has all kinds of modes to hop into and start playing. And the best part is that most of them interconnect with each other. So, if you just want to play Road to the Show at first, you’ll still be unlocking new things in Diamond Dynasty if you ever want to jump over. Here are the modes we’d suggest giving a look.
- Moments: Moments are the best place to start. They’re quick, relatively easy, and let you try over and over again until you complete the task. These put you in the shoes of a single player and ask you to relive a moment from their career. Not only will you be playing with some of the best players, but it gives you real practice before you move to the big leagues.
- Road to the Show: Most players will probably end up here at some point. This mode lets you create your own ballplayer and chart their career path. This year, San Diego Studios is letting players create a two-way player (he can hit and pitch), which lets you test out both sides of the game in depth. However, the games are quick with you only controlling one player, so it’s a great mode if time is an issue.
- March to October: This truncated Franchise mode lets you play through a full season with your favorite club in a matter of hours. It’s a great way to get in some classic Franchise gameplay without having to devote tons of time. Plus, you’ll earn currency for Diamond Dynasty while you play.
- Diamond Dynasty: The competitive, online side of things. Yes, the mode might make you want to spend real money on packs to keep up, but you don’t need to. The mode has tons of different ways to play. From Daily Moments to Conquest to Battle Royale there is so much to do. Give them all a try and see which one suits you and then start building out your dream team.