Have you ever struggled with whether your pitchers should throw batting practice or not, and if not, why not?
If so, here’s some information that will be valuable to you and to your pitchers and hitters!
Lots of coaches I talk to feel very strongly that their pitchers should never pitch batting practice to their own hitters. They’ve heard it will ruin their pitchers. However, this attitude really does matter to our hitters, as hitting off of a batting T, or from side toss or front toss is one thing, but nothing can prepare our hitters for hitting in a game like hitting off of live pitching
I happen to believe that letting your pitchers pitch batting practice is a good thing, and that it won’t destroy a pitcher’s ability to dominate in a game. Back in the day when I was pitching, my coach asked me to throw batting practice to my own teammates so they could work on their hitting – and I did it gladly and willingly! As a coach, I carry-forward that same philosophy, as I often have my pitchers throw to my hitters.
Not only do I believe that having your pitchers pitch batting practice helps our hitters (as they can never see enough live pitching), but I also think there are lots of benefits to it from a pitcher’s standpoint as well.
Depending on the age and skill level of the pitcher, learning to throw to live batters is a big benefit. Young pitchers will gain a lot of confidence as they learn to ignore the hitter and focus on the target. Older, more skilled and experienced pitchers can benefit from a relaxed session of throwing fastballs from behind the safety of a protective screen.
There are usually two rules of thumb when determining whether your pitchers can handle throwing batting practice:
- They can throw enough strikes to make it worthwhile.
- They can handle it mentally and not completely freak out when they get hit.
Keep in mind, there are three completely types of batting practice your pitchers can throw, and you need to determine from the outset which one it will be:
- Batting Practice for pitchers – this kind of batting practice is more game-like and helps the pitchers work on their game pitches and locations while helping the hitters work on their real game at-bats and pitch selection. This type of BP will involve a catcher and either a few different locations or pitches and usually starting with some type of count (2-1, 3-1, 1-2, etc.)
- Batting Practice for hitters – this kind of batting practice allows the hitters to work on their timing and swing against fastballs. The pitcher’s goal is to let the hitters hit the ball by not trying to overpower them or throw different speeds or pitches. The pitcher will throw between 65-85% of their normal speed and will throw from behind a protective screen since they aren’t able to control whether the batter hits the ball or not. This type of batting practice does not require a catcher and pitchers should learn to eventually throw it without using a catcher.
- Batting Practice for hitters – this kind of batting practice will really help improve your hitters’ pitch selection. Have your hitters’ stand in the batter’s box during pitching practice. They won’t swing – they will simply stand there learning to identify pitches, and to work on pitch selection. This also helps pitchers get used to having hitters in the box.
Lots of people will say don’t let your pitchers throw batting practice because they feel it hurts the pitcher’s ability to get hitters out – I was a pitcher and we’re smart enough to tell the difference between when we’re pitching to our team to help them hit better and when we’re throwing to get the other team out. Trust me, we can handle it!
For more help with pitching and hitting: