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Timing

Hitting is about TIME. You have more than you might think!


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In baseball, without question the number that is best identified with greatness is 90. Pitchers wish to be able to throw it, hitters fear it, and parents associate it with their kid being able to buy them a new house. Because of this, I am constantly correcting parents who try to mimic this magical number in an attempt to get their 5 year old ready to hit big league pitching. To often they shorten the distance they throw batting practice from while increasing the velocity that they throw the ball to them. This may seem like a reasonable solution, and as great as it would be for a hitter to get “used to seeing” high velocity, this practice actually does more harm than good.

The reason it is bad is strictly because what coaches and parents are forgetting about is that a pitcher who is throwing 90 mph is throwing that ball from 60 feet 6 inches. At that distance it takes the ball ~0.5 seconds to get from the pitchers hand to the hitting zone (see chart below). It is also important to understand that this amount of time is
crucial for a hitter to be able to complete all the steps of a good swing. Cutting down on that time results in hitters cutting corners on their swing in order to just make contact instead of trying to drive the ball.

Without turning this into a lesson in aerodynamics, a 90 mph fastball loses ~12 mph from the pitchers hand to the plate and crosses the hitting zone at ~78 mph. It is the 78 mph which makes hitting hard throwers more difficult than softer throwers, because the faster the pitcher throws the ball from the mound, the faster the ball is going in the 1.5 ft over the plate
known as the hitting zone. Simply put the faster that the ball is traveling when the ball gets to the hitter, the less margin for error the hitter has to hit the ball, or more appropriately, the less time the ball takes to blow by them.

Unfortunately, because I am convinced that when it comes to baseball the first thought that comes to us to try to solve a problem almost always completely wrong, we conclude that we
must try to simulate this speed through the hitting zone by throwing closer and harder. The only thing this does however is drastically reduce the amount of time that a hitter has to recognize and judge the pitch’s speed and location which is usually good information to have before they start their swing. It is far more important for hitters to have the time needed to take a good swing than for them to practice having less margin for error to hit.

Take a look at the chart below to give yourself an understanding of how throwing batting practice at close distances can drastically reduce the time your hitter has to read the pitch. It may come as a surprise, but a 90 mph ball takes about the same amount of time to get to the hitting zone as a ball does during soft toss from 15 ft (which is why soft toss is a great tool for hitters to develop timing and pitch recognition).

From general observation I have noticed that most parents throw batting practice to their kids from about 35 feet away and the good news for their son is that they can only throw about 50 mph so they aren’t doing too much damage (giving their hitter 0.5 seconds to recognize and start their swing, and 0.022 seconds to make contact - almost twice as much time as the 0.013 seconds it takes for a MLB player to hit a 90 mph fastball), but if they were to move just 10 feet closer, they would cut that recognition time down to 0.35 seconds which means it will get on them faster than a ball thrown at 110 mph. The good news is that if they haven’t thrown down their bat in frustration, you will still be giving them the same generous amount of time to actually hit the ball of 0.022 seconds... but wait... isn’t that what you were trying shorten.


batting-practice-speed

After taking a look at this, try to understand that there is no such thing as simulating what it is to like to face a pitcher who throws 90 mph. The only thing that does simulates what it is like to hit off a pitcher throwing 90 mph IS a pitcher throwing 90 mph. It is always best to make sure that at your practice, your hitters are taking good swings. In order to do that, you have to make sure that you as a coach or parent are giving them enough time to do so.

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