Half an inch isn’t much at all, but it can make a huge difference in how your hitters hit and your pitchers pitch – be sure to find out how.
Next time you don’t think a little bit matters then consider this –half an inch can determine whether your hitter smashes a line drive over the fence or pops up to the leftfielder. Half an inch is the difference between a hitter being great or the pitcher dominating. Half an Inch!
While there’s a lot of space to cover in softball, from a huge outfield to an entire infield, you’d be surprised at how many times the game comes down to that minute distance of ½ an inch.
So let’s see how it works. From a hitting point of view, to hit the ball the hardest and farthest, the hitter wants to hit the back or the middle of the ball. This transfers maximum force onto the ball and sends it out toward the field in a forward direction as you can see in the picture on the top right.
Now check out what happens when your hitter misses the Middle of the ball and hits the Top. The difference of just half an inch will now force the ball to go down and become a groundball. Same is true if the hitter is half an inch too low of the Middle and instead hits the Bottom of the ball resulting in a pop up. While the hitter tries to hit the middle of the ball the difference of just half an inch turns a line drive into either a groundball or pop up.
OK, I know this doesn’t sound life shattering, or even significant, and yet it’s tremendously important. Think about how your players use their eyes when they hit. Most of the time your players are “Kinda looking” at the ball which will result in them “Kinda hitting” the ball…or missing the middle by at least half an inch. I use this example to hitters all the time to help them see the need to better use their eyes when they’re hitting by trying to find the back of the ball (or the middle as it comes at you) and trying to hit it squarely.
Let’s turn this half inch concept around and look at it from a pitcher’s point of view. How many of your pitchers are out there day in and day out trying to make their pitches break 6 to 8 inches, or more? Pitchers work their guts out trying to get a crazy amount of movement but in reality balls don’t need to move that much. If a batter can miss-hit a ball by half an inch, then a pitcher can succeed by getting anywhere from half to 3 inches of movement. That’s right, I said half an inch to 3 inches of movement and your pitcher can be successful – but how is that possible?
As the ball approaches a hitter the batter determines where the ball will end up when it reaches her hitting zone, and from that information she decides if she’s going to swing, and if so, where to swing (high, low, in or out). As we’ve already discussed, miss that calculation by half an inch and the batter pops up or grounds out. But, miss that calculation by 2 inches or more and the batter misses the ball completely!
So from a pitcher’s point of view, it isn’t a huge amount of movement that makes it almost impossible for the batter to hit the back of the ball, it’s how close to the batter the ball makes it’s ½ to 3 inches of break. The farther away from the batter that the ball breaks the more the batter can accurately predict where it will end up and successfully hit the middle of it. But if the ball breaks right on top of the batter then her ball flight calculations will be off, slightly – say ½ to 3 inches – and that’s all it takes for the batter to think the ball’s one place while it’s really in another.
Sounds easy doesn’t it, and that’s the point. When something sounds easy it sounds possible, so that means our players will practice to make it happen. Hitters need to work on using their eyes stronger to find the back of the ball as it approaches them, and then hit it. While pitchers need to work on making the ball approach the hitter more and then make it spin tighter so it breaks faster and closer to the hitter.
Whether from the hitting or pitching aspect, dominate the 1/2 inch and dominate the game!
For more help with these topics check out the following: