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Great BP pitcher? GIVE HIM A RAISE!

If you’re batting practice is realistic, your hitters will be more consistent


I am so fortunate to coach on a staff with fellow coaches who can THROW STRIKES! If you ever wonder how to make your hitters more consistent, look no further than the quality of your BP pitchers!


If your BP guy has command and he can command his pitches at a high velocity, than that guy is worth his weight in gold! There is no way to undersell this point! Live BP when the BP thrower can hit his spots at will is one of the most beneficial things you can ever do for your hitters!


Where I coach, WE THROW EVERYDAY, 6 days a week. Some weeks I wind up throwing all 6 days and some weeks maybe I get a day off, but for the most part, if our team is taking BP, I and my assistant hitting coach are throwing in the cages and another coach is throwing BP on the field. But we are not just lobbing 40 mph pitches down the middle from 25 feet, we are using “speed conversions” to simulate live baseball speeds.


In our cages, we setup our screen at 40 feet and we throw equivalents to a variety of different speeds. Sometimes it’s a 93 mph guy with a hammer and wipe out slider, and sometimes maybe it’s a 76 mph junk baller with a decent change up and loopy curve. Bottom line is that we are simulating something…..ALWAYS and our hitters are seeing strikes at a consistent level and balls when we WANT them to see balls. Usually we simulate 2 different scenarios in our 2 batting cages.


This type of BP significantly helps your hitters as they are more easily able to adjust their start times of their swing….and it especially helps during games when a team brings in a pitcher from the pen throwing from a totally different slot at a totally different speed.


WHY LIVE ARMS AND NOT MACINES?

I read an article referencing a book by David Epstein called “The Sports gene” (I have a link to this article in the Hitting resource section on my blog) and in the book, Epstein recalls a time Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds hit against Jennie Finch and got absolutely blown away! What Epstein noted is that a hitter’s eyes actually cannot move fast enough to track a major league velocity the final 10 – 15 feet, but because they have SEEN so many pitches in their life time, their brain is able to predict where the pitch will end and the hitter is able to put the bat on the ball.


Because Pujols and Bonds had never experienced the spin and motion of elite level softball pitching, their brains were not able to predict where the ball would end up and they had no chance to react quick enough to make contact with Jennie Finch’s arsenal of rise balls.

Essentially, every pitch from a live arm that a hitter sees strengthens the neural network of the hitter thus sharpening the brains ability to predict the ending point of pitches better. Because of this, I always tell our hitters that in BP we are not only training your mechanics, but we are training your brain. It is now part of our hitting culture to double a hitters reps by taking an entire round of on deck reps while the guy prior to the hitter is hitting.


We have our hitters stand behind the batter (with the net protecting them) and practice live “timing” reps while their teammates hits their round of BP. By the time our season ends, our hitters have trained their brain 2 times as much as they would have it they just stood in to hit.


TIMING WINDOWS

This is a concept I first learned by reading the section authored by Gary Ward - “Developing High Production Hitters” in the Coaching Baseball Bible published by the ABCA. Coach Ward calls this the Rhythm Adjustment method.

After our hitters get re-oriented into our hitting system, we will at some point do “timing window” batting practice on the field with the screen at 50 feet. We typically do this once or twice a week with multiple coaches throwing as this BP is taxing on the thrower since he has to throw somewhere in the 71 – 75 mph range to make it realistic.


Timing window BP is done with orange cones placed at 10 foot intervals between the hitter and screen. The point of timing window BP is to tech the hitter when he needs to begin his stride in order to be synchronized to flow through a fastball.


We can also throw offspeed pitches to our hitters to let them see when the proper starting time would be for them to perfectly flow through an offspeed pitch.

Our goal is to have our hitter be able to start on time for a fastball and still be able to adjust his linear movement enough for him to make solid contact with the offspeed pitch. (We call this “FLA” or Front leg adjustment – I will write a post about this at a later time)


In the batting cage “FLA” can be practiced if the BP pitcher can vary the speeds of the pitches enough and still command the pitches. Being 40 feet away makes it a bit more difficult for the hitters to adjust especially if you are not throwing off a mound in the batting cage.


Final Thoughts

· It is still IMPERATIVE to have a part of your batting practice focus on correct kinetic linkage and proper swing movements either off a tee or from front toss. Each day our hitters warm up with a 10 minute tee routine which emphasizes proper kinetic chain movement.


· At the beginning of the year Elite 95+ converted speed will blow your hitters away. By the end of the year if you do it consistently, you hitters will astound you with their ability to hit velocity.


· If your hitters learn their timing windows, they will have better bat control and they will be able to wait longer to swing in 2k counts


- Yes by the end of the season your arm will hurt! Ice, Advil, and compression arm sleeves will be your best friend.


- COACH CHRIS TURCO - State Championship Hitting


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