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Thread: hitting fast pitching

  1. #1

    hitting fast pitching

    For 10/11 year olds:

    We got killed by a fast pitcher last game. We are going into the final games of the season and we will be facing more of the same. It has happened earlier in the season too, maybe not every time, but we've struggled with the guys throwing heat. I've usually tried to throw BP easy enough for the boys to work on their swing and build confidence...but maybe that's the problem. Any advice?

    Also, any advice on 2 strike hitting with age group? ..I have tried to stress not trying to kill the ball and just make contact with 2 strikes, but it doesn't seem to register with them.

    We are trying to hang on and make a playoff run. Gotta get the bats going.
    Thanks for the help.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by danocaster View Post
    For 10/11 year olds: We got killed by a fast pitcher last game. We are going into the final games of the season and we will be facing more of the same. It has happened earlier in the season too, maybe not every time, but we've struggled with the guys throwing heat. I've usually tried to throw BP easy enough for the boys to work on their swing and build confidence...but maybe that's the problem. Any advice?
    Well, that's why everyone gets excited about pitchers with mediocre command and 100 MPH heat and don't care about the nine gazillion pitchers with nasty, filthy sliders and 82 MPH fastballs. And it's affecting your kids too -- maybe even more so, because courageous hitters facing real heat may all of a sudden regress a couple years and start stepping into the bucket.

    Kids can adjust, but there's no specific drill that I've found to do it. They've got to get the slop out of their swing (which is mostly about making sure the first move is NOT to drop the hands), but most have to find the path in their own way. And, of course, they need confidence -- sometimes the old, "The faster they come in the faster they'll go out" line will resonate with kids.

    Try this. Take some of your kids to a commercial batting cage and put 'em up against 75MPH heat. For the first three or four coins/rounds, the kids will be lucky to get a foul ball. Somewhere between round 4 and 6 (assuming 10 pitches per round), they'll start hitting the ball to the right side. A couple of rounds later, they'll be consistently hitting the ball up the middle. Cages with pitching machines are good, because the kids need to first find a way to time fast pitching without worrying about getting hit. Then take them back onto the field and throw them BP from about 40 feet away with some zip, and see if they can transfer that adjusted cage/swing to the field.

    One thing to be alert to -- fast pitches don't drop as much as slower ones, so kids tend to swing under faster pitches. Get some video of your kids facing faster pitchers to see to which kids this observation applies, and then counsel them to hit the top half of the ball.

    Also, any advice on 2 strike hitting with age group? ..I have tried to stress not trying to kill the ball and just make contact with 2 strikes, but it doesn't seem to register with them.
    We are trying to hang on and make a playoff run. Gotta get the bats going. Thanks for the help.
    It will vary from kid to kid, but I've found it to be a mistake in that age group to push to 'just make contact' or 'shorten up'. That gets them passive and reactive, and they'll usually approach the pitch with an attitude of "I'll only swing if it's a good pitch," and they'll never catch up to the ball unless it's really slow. Or, they'll start early so the ball doesn't get by them, but then have to slow down in order to not swing too soon, and they end up pushing the hands forward and windup up with a grounder to the right side (if they're righties).

    In my experience, the best result usually comes from two bits of advice. First, tilt over a little more, to make sure you can reach the lowish-outsidish strikes that you can afford to eschew with one or two strikes but not now. Also, this helps with the focusing. Second, think about hitting to the right side. This discourages the big loopy swings or pulling off the ball that are more prone to lead to a complete whiff. Otherwise, I don't think kids should alter or compromise their basic mechanics as to loading, striding and initiating the swing.

    This advice may (likely?) not apply to all your kids. And some of the regulars here may well have better ideas. Sift through it all and assess your kids, and decide who will benefit from each.

    Good luck. Let us know how your playoff run goes.

  3. #3
    Get the front foot down in time.

    and as ursa said practice, practice, practice. If you just lob them in in BP they won't be able to hit fast pitching in games.
    I think walks are overrated unless you can run. If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps, but the guy who walks and cant run, most of the time hes clogging up the bases for somebody who can run. Dusty Baker.

  4. #4
    If you have access to a pitching machine for practice, set it on 65 and let them swing away. I did this with my 10's a while back....they had no problem hitting speed. The machine was key because they knew they wouldn't get hit....it allowed them to have the confidence to stay in there and swing. If I personally tried to throw that fast....they were in trouble.

    Hitting with 2 strikes....that is a tough one for young kids. I think alot of them sike themselves out. Ursa has some good advice, I can't really add much. I just stress that they have to swing if its close...no attempt doesn't help the team at all.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by danocaster View Post
    Also, any advice on 2 strike hitting with age group? ..I have tried to stress not trying to kill the ball and just make contact with 2 strikes, but it doesn't seem to register with them.
    One thing one of my 11 year olds Travel/AS coaches preaches is "being a good two strike hitter". He teaches them to choke up on the bat a little, spread their feet a little and get a little closer to home plate. Now none of these changes are too drastic IMO, most kids are already pretty close to the plate anyway, and the choking up and spreading out of the feet are usually a matter of an inch or two, or fractions of inches. But what it does, again IMO, is give the batter kind of a plan. Instead of being intimidated by having two strikes, it give the batter a kind of control, or at least the feeling of control. Its like the Boy Scouts always say, "Be prepared" Instead of having to react on the fly when the umpire says "Strike two!", the batters already have a plan in place. Then once the batter is in the box the only rule is "Dont take strike three". For some batters, those with severe two strike vapor lock, a pitch that is fouled off is often met with as much praise as a hit. And in extreme cases (this is more for his rec ball team) even swinging at a pitch way out of the strike zone is given a positive spin ("I LOVE the aggressiveness buddy...now next time we can work on being more selective.") Of course this is all tailored to the batter, more advanced batters are expected to be more disciplined.

  6. #6
    if the practice doenst seem to help during game - start bunting and do it often. it'll shake things up. but they have to bunt for hits, not the old square around look at me I'm bunting now.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by mcp View Post
    If you have access to a pitching machine for practice, set it on 65 and let them swing away. I did this with my 10's a while back....they had no problem hitting speed. The machine was key because they knew they wouldn't get hit....it allowed them to have the confidence to stay in there and swing. If I personally tried to throw that fast....they were in trouble.
    Do the kids find it challenging to hit off the machine versus a person throwing, assuming the same speed? I took my son to a cage, slowest they had was 50mph, and he could hardly foul one off. Part of it was that the machine was closer than mound distance, but he said it was really tough since you don't have the pitcher's arm motion to help you time your swing. It's just "boom" and the ball is coming at you.

    I talked with another coach in our LL and he said the same thing, that his kids prefer live pitching for that reason.

    Of course not having to worry about anyone getting plunked, and having each pitch in the strike zone, is a big plus. I'll have to try it out.

    One drill that Cal Ripken is fond of for helping kids learn to take the bat on a direct path to the ball quickly, is the "one-arm" drill. Do soft-toss from in front and have the kid take 5 swings two handed, then they remove their top hand from the bat and take 5 swings (not easy to hit the ball), then 5 more swings two handed. He emphasizes "loose hands, quick bat" on this drill, where the hands are nice and relaxed on the bat, then the swing is quick and direct to the ball. Might be worth a try (check out the Ripken hitting video for more details).

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Megunticook View Post
    Do the kids find it challenging to hit off the machine versus a person throwing, assuming the same speed? I took my son to a cage, slowest they had was 50mph, and he could hardly foul one off. Part of it was that the machine was closer than mound distance, but he said it was really tough since you don't have the pitcher's arm motion to help you time your swing. It's just "boom" and the ball is coming at you.
    Yes, that is one of the downsides of a machine. Its much harder to time. Indoors is even tougher, because its harder to see the ball. We set ours up right on the mound, and I would show them the ball, then drop it in. Same thing every pitch so they had some consistency. It took them all a little time getting used to it (and no, we didn't start day 1 at 65mph - we worked up to it). Absolutely if there was a way to face fast live pitching that would be better, but at least you can have them get used to the speed. I am certainly not a guru, but I know this helped our guys. Also, this was for allstars, so they got to do this day after day in practice....not just one time a week.

    Of course not having to worry about anyone getting plunked, and having each pitch in the strike zone, is a big plus. I'll have to try it out.
    Yes, that is huge....especially the younger they are.

  9. #9
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    Now we have come full circle from all the "should I do side toss" and "should I use plastic golf balls" threads.

    Here is my recommendation for the coach.
    1. Use real baseballs and real bats before games.

    2. Throw BP at game speed. Measure the speed of the upcoming pitcher and match that speed by moving your L screen up or back given your normal 45-50 mph BP speed. Buy a $100 radar gun if you don't have one.

    Here is what may help the player.
    1. Get your front foot down when the ball is halfway. The ball takes roughly 0.400 secs to get there, and a swing takes roughly 0.200 to complete. The swing can't begin until the front foot is down. (Now we are full circle with the "my kid is swinging as he strides forward" threads.)

    2. Stride on every pitch, not just strikes. You cant wait until you think the pitch is a strike. (Coaches can randomly hold the ball in BP to see if they are moving forward)

    3. If you're late on the first pitch, stride even sooner.
    Last edited by songtitle; 05-18-2011 at 07:42 AM.
    eFastball.com hitting and pitching fact checker

  10. #10
    They shouldn't be changing their swing mechanics just cause they have two strikes. If they strike out they strike out. With two strikes it is harder to hit cause you now have to cover the whole plate. With 0 and 1 strike you can be pitch selective. What I say to my kids with two strikes is look middle away if he beats you inside he beats you inside. Most kids don't pitch inside.

    Hitting harder pitching is simply a timing issue. If this kid throws just heat it shouldn't be a problem for a good hitter to time him. The problem comes if the kid features his killer heat and mixes in a change up.

    If you want them to hit the speed they have to practice the speed. You cannot expect these kids to show up hitting 45 mph fastballs all season and then face a kid who throws 62 mph and rack him without the practice.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by pb07bp View Post
    They shouldn't be changing their swing mechanics just cause they have two strikes.
    Exactly.

    Bobby Valentine corrected one of the announcers the other night. He said something like "Major league hitters do not have different swings for different counts. They just swing hard."
    eFastball.com hitting and pitching fact checker

  12. #12
    Facing a faster pitcher than the kids normally see is a tough one. BP is for working on the swing so grooved pitches are the way to go but the kids do need to take some swings at the faster speed to get there timing down and a few games a season might not be enough. A pitching machine is good for this. So far this year my 9-10 team has face two pitchers that could really bring it. The first one had great control and if he missed it was only by inches. So I kept telling my kids dont worry about balls and strikes because they are all going to be strikes just get up there and swing at the first three. By the third time through the order they were hammering him. Of coarse all he had to do was throw it 3 feet out side and they would have all struck out hahaha. The second was wild as crap and I told my kids don't worry about hitting just try not to get killed. They pulled him after he hit 4 and walked 6.

    As for 2 strikes. I don't change anything and only give one instruction. If you can touch the ball with your bat the swing at it. Most of our hits have come with two strikes because they spend less time thinking if its a ball or strike and more time just trying to hit the ball.
    Bad Habits: If you aren't correcting them your coaching them.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by mcp View Post
    Yes, that is one of the downsides of a machine. Its much harder to time. Indoors is even tougher, because its harder to see the ball. We set ours up right on the mound, and I would show them the ball, then drop it in. Same thing every pitch so they had some consistency. It took them all a little time getting used to it (and no, we didn't start day 1 at 65mph - we worked up to it). Absolutely if there was a way to face fast live pitching that would be better, but at least you can have them get used to the speed. I am certainly not a guru, but I know this helped our guys. Also, this was for allstars, so they got to do this day after day in practice....not just one time a week.
    This is why the only commercial batting cage we use is one that has the old Iron Mike, swing arm type. The timing of the arm swinging around is surprisingly (or maybe it's no surprise because it's designed to be that way) close to the timing of a real pitcher. Wheel machines aren't too bad if the feeder keeps a consistent and visible feeding motion, as MCP notes. The commercial machines that shoot balls out of holes in the wall are useless for setting timing.
    It's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Ursa Major View Post
    This is why the only commercial batting cage we use is one that has the old Iron Mike, swing arm type. The timing of the arm swinging around is surprisingly (or maybe it's no surprise because it's designed to be that way) close to the timing of a real pitcher. Wheel machines aren't too bad if the feeder keeps a consistent and visible feeding motion, as MCP notes. The commercial machines that shoot balls out of holes in the wall are useless for setting timing.
    we have the feeder perform a throwing motion with the other arm while he feeds the ball.
    I think walks are overrated unless you can run. If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps, but the guy who walks and cant run, most of the time hes clogging up the bases for somebody who can run. Dusty Baker.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by dominik View Post
    we have the feeder perform a throwing motion with the other arm while he feeds the ball.
    I was going to suggest that. I saw some girls hitting softballs the other day where the coach would go through a fast pitch windup before dropping the ball in the feed with the other hand. It looked amazingly realistic from the side. A baseball pitch may be a little more difficult to simulate.

  16. #16
    Thank you all for your helpful advice. We dont have an L Screen, so we reserved the commercial batting cage the night before the game. It's the machines where you can see the ball drop, so that helped a bit for tming it. We started them off in the slower cages, and moved them to the faster ones later.

    The result: Good. The team hit the ball well. I didn't see too many problems catching up to it....well maybe a bit from the less experienced kids. I think it also gave them an overall impression of being more aggressive with the swing (having a quick bat) and gave them some confidence going into the game.

    BTW- Another piece of advice that I received was to tell the hitter to make sure he gets his front heel down quicker. (I used to say make sure to get the heel down in time) I think the word quicker made more sense to them. My son hit the ball hard all 3 times- line drive out to RF, hard grounder up the middle, and a double down the left field line that rolled all the way back. We scored 3 runs in the last inning for a come from behind win.

    Now....another challenge is that we had 5 strike outs looking last night. I agree with, and teach the approach of "if you can reach it, hit it", but we still have guys taking the 3rd strike. Any suggestions or new ideas?

    Thanks again for the great advice.
    Last edited by danocaster; 05-20-2011 at 12:45 PM.

  17. #17
    Waterboarding....

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by danocaster View Post
    Now....another challenge is that we had 5 strike outs looking last night.
    Did they stride? My guess is no.

  19. #19
    Waterboarding LOL

    songtitle- I really cant say for all of them. I know at least 2 if them always do. Are you getting at the point that the hitter needs to think "yes" and load on every pitch? If so, that is something we've always taught. Whether they do it or not is a different story.....

  20. #20
    Candy bars for anyone who swings at the 3rd strike

    I don't think I've ever coached a young team that didn't have some of that. I tell them you have 100% chance of not hitting it if you don't swing. I've tried lots of different things. I think there are so many reasons they don't swing, no one fix is gonna cover them. Heck, I had a 14yo this year doing that....he finally swung and hit the ball for a ground out his last time up. His is pure fear of the ball, hopefully it will get better over time.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by songtitle View Post
    Exactly.

    Bobby Valentine corrected one of the announcers the other night. He said something like "Major league hitters do not have different swings for different counts. They just swing hard."
    Maybe I'm whacked out in my thinking but I feel like you have to adjust with two strikes, especially at the lower levels.

    Just because Major League guys do it that way doesn't mean everyone should; most of those guys fall into the "freak" category and find a way to get it done.

    Against quicker pitching, most of our guys at the college level stand further back in the box; most of the time their back foot is on the line in the batter's box. As others have said, its a focuse on getting the front foot down and having bat control; a number of our guys will choke up and look to go in the middle/backside with it. It doesn't mean they have slow hands or bats, that's just the game plan they've got going into it. Every now and then we'll pick up a location tendency during the game and may tell a guy "hey, he's throwing fastball on inner half 1st pitch to lead you off so you may want to think about cheating on it a little bit", again at the college level most of our guys are able to do this.

    With two strikes, we have what we call the 3 ups; choke up on the bat, move up in the box (SLIGHTLY) to take away a 58 foot breaking ball, and move up onto the plate (crowd it a little bit). Give yourself the best chance to cover the plate with two strikes and the best chance to move the baseball and make the other club play defense

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by danocaster View Post
    … Now....another challenge is that we had 5 strike outs looking last night. I agree with, and teach the approach of "if you can reach it, hit it", but we still have guys taking the 3rd strike. Any suggestions or new ideas?…
    I don’t know if you’ve done this, but I have, and the results are quite illuminating.

    Compare the players who strike out looking to the players who are aggressive. I think you’ll find that the players who are the most aggressive are also the ones who strike out the least, and likely have the lowest percentage of called 3rd strikes.

    Once you have that information in hand, its pretty easy to concentrate your instruction on those that need it the most.
    The pitcher whos afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

  23. #23
    Update: We have gone to the cages with pitching machines, once a week, for the last 3 weeks. We are also having them hit live pitching on the other practice days. The boys are hitting the faster pitchers and even the bottom of the order has hit the ball for the last couple of games. Perfect time to get the bats going now that we are in the playoffs:-)

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