Ever watch your players swing and miss on the changeup and wonder why they can’t hit something so slow? Well discover 4 things you can do to keep your hitters from looking like fools the next time you face that change up pitcher.
Here it comes, a nice slow meatball, and yet hitter after hitter swings and misses. It’s enough to make you crazy as a coach – and as a hitter – so discover 4 things you can do about it.
We talk so much about speed in our game; speed on the bases, fast hands at the plate, quick throws against those crazy-fast slappers, and of course – fast pitching. It seems like speed is EVERYTHING in softball and all sports these days. If that’s the case then why is the changeup so hard to hit? What makes a pitch that barely travels 50 miles an hour so hard for hitters of all levels to even get their bat on?
If you’ve never actually played fastpitch, and you haven’t’ stood up there against a pitcher that one minute is throwing a 64 mph riseball and the next minute is floating up a 42 mph changeup, then you can’t really appreciate the challenge your hitters are facing. While you might not actually understand the difficulty you can appreciate their struggle since you’re no doubt having a great deal of your own, like struggling with why they can’t hit something coming in so S-L-O-W!
But SLOW doesn’t mean easy! Just ask any Major League hitters that have ever had to face a great knuckleballer. Once such pitcher was Boston Red Sox pitcher, Tim Wakefield and Wakefield’s main pitch was a knuckleball that traveled only 65 miles per hour – which in the world of 90+ mph fastballs is nothing! Yet without throwing fast, Wakefield became one of the top pitchers in Boston Red Sox history – that’s saying something! So just because the opposing pitcher isn’t fast, doesn’t mean she (or he) is easy to hit. Spotting your locations and forcing hitters to control their anxiety as well as their swing, patience and weight shift are all weapons that changeup pitchers rely on.
So let’s look at 4 things your hitters can do to have success against a pitcher with a good changeup:
- Expect It – The first thing your hitters must do, when facing a pitcher with a good changeup, is to know she wants to throw it – so expect it! Don’t be surprised when you see it, look for it. Early in the game have your hitters watch the pitcher and see if she throws it only when she’s ahead, or anytime on any count. This is VERY valuable information as it pretty much tells your hitters when they can expect to see it!
- Hit It Early – The changeup is a pitch that takes a while for most pitchers to warm up and get under control in a game. Pitching great, Lisa Fernandez had one of the best changeups ever and it never was as good early in the game as it was in the later part. When you’re facing a changeup pitcher with a deadly changeup, you’ve got to get to her early before that changeup really kicks in. That means work to hit her other pitches and take every advantage you can to attack her and score on her early in the game.
- Look for Signs – Most pitchers tip, or give away, all of their pitches, but the changeup seems to be the easiest to pick. Common ways that pitchers will tip this pitch include taking more time to grip than their other pitches, struggling in their glove to grip it, actually gripping it outside the glove on their hip, or scrunching up their face slightly when they grip the ball. These are just some of the ways that pitchers will give away their changeup – so watch for these things. Make a challenge out of it with your players by breaking your team up into groups of 3 and seeing what group is first to pick the opposing pitcher’s changeup.
- Throw it For a Strike – The final step in your hitters being successful against a good changeup pitcher is to make her throw the pitch for a strike. Swinging at changeups out of the zone only helps the pitcher so practice recognizing the changeup early in its flight and then laying off the pitch unless it’s a strike. Many teams will focus on taking the pitch until they get 2 strikes! They don’t even try and swing at it until the pitcher backs them into a corner, count-wise.
But whatever methods you choose for helping your hitters handle facing changeup pitchers, they’ve got to practice them. Alter your pitch speeds in batting practice during front toss by sometimes throwing a backhand changeup. You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to allow your hitters to see the pitch and start identifying how to spot it in a game. Or occasionally lob in a front toss pitch, like a slowpitch, to help your pitchers identify the differences in not only pitch speed, but pitch angle as well.
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