This is a question I hear a lot from everyone from little league to college so I decided to lay out my thoughts on this issue. Your coach may do many or all of these things. I will remind you that he is your coach. The best you can do is execute when a sign is given to you and work hard on your hitting so that he is more likely to let you swing away. What you should do with this information as a player is to take it and find a way to improve yourself and your teammates with work outside of practice. If you only hit in season and at practice you will not become a great hitter anyway.
The easy answer is that your players probably just don’t hit enough. But let’s look beyod that for some deeper answers.
“Well, you can run like Hays, but you hit like shit. With your speed, you should be hitting the ball on the ground and be legging them out. Every time I see you hit the ball in the air you owe me 20 push-ups.” –Lou Brown, Major League
How many times have we heard a coach tell a player to hit the ball on the ground and beat it out? But what happens when the hitter jacks a double in the gap? The coach who just told him to hit the ball on the ground gets all excited, cheering and congratulating him on a job well done.
Then the next guy comes up and the coach wants him to move the runner from second to third by either bunting or hitting behind the runner. Then when the batter is thrown out at first he hustles back to the dugout where his teammates congratulate him for using up one of their outs as he walks under the “SACRIFICE” sign above the dugout entrance. Then he goes into the dugout and watches the seventh hitter drive in the runner from third with a ground out to the second baseman to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Come on! With a coach telling the kids to choke up, hit the ball on the ground, put the ball in play, move runners, and give themselves up with sacrifices, what do we expect the kids to be able to do? They are never told to square it up and drive the ball in the gap or hit the ball over the fence. They are told that they can’t hit home runs so they may as well not even try. In fact, they are told that they can’t even hit the ball over the outfielder’s head.
That is why players are continually developed who can’t produce at the plate. They are told the wrong things about how to hit the ball (hit the top half, swing down/level) and these kids lack the confidence to go up and try to hit the ball hard and take good hard cuts at the plate.
If the (stated) goal is not to drive the ball in the air or on a line then you probably won’t do it.
WE’LL HIT AT THE END
This often stems from the offensive philosophy, or is mandated by it, because of poor run production. If you can’t score runs you need to work more on defense, right? Usually practice begins with a lap around the field and some stretching. Then the players go out on to the outfield to warm up their arms before heading out to their positions for defensive work or put on helmets to run for situational defensive work. Defensive drills are run for most of the practice and whatever time left is used for batting practice. And most of that time is spent on bunts, hit and runs, and hitting behind runners. (Coaches: Don’t say you don’t do this.)
There is a way to spend MUCH less time on defensive drills and still play good defense. (CLICK HERE)
If a team uses “whatever time is left” for batting practice, how well do you think that team is going to hit? That is why this coach resorts to bunting. This is a practice organizational issue.
IF YOU ARE ON THIS TEAM YOU
NEED TO HIT OUTSIDE OF PRACTICE!!!
BP STRUCTURE: THE WAY THE BIG LEAGUERS DO IT
Many coaches will go to a Major League Baseball game and show up early for pregame BP. They will come away really impressed by the organization of batting practice. Usually, however, when they try to implement something like it, the only take away they got was that they work on executing the short game. I’m not saying that it is not important to be able to execute in the short game. (More on this in the next article.) Batting practice then becomes work on the short game with different focuses in each round of BP. (Hitting behind the runner, Bunting, Hit and run)
Often hitting the ball in the air or just going up and trying to crush it are left out of BP all together. If you watch a Major League BP, they work on the short game, but they also work on hitting a deep fly ball to drive in a run. They work on hitting the ball on a line to different parts of the field and they work on just hitting it as hard as they can.
I bet whoever hit this ball was not working on moving the runner over with a grounder to the right side!
The other issue with batting practice is that hitters will take too many cuts per round. Often at lower levels this will be up to an entire bucket of ball before the next hitter gets in. This causes the hitter to tire and take lower quality cuts as the round continues. More significantly, the hitter will not value each cut like they need to. It’s fine if you doink one to the second baseman if you are going to get 10 more cuts.
Ideally hitters could be in a group and take a maximum of 5 cuts per round and take more rounds switching out with other hitters quickly.
It’s pretty simple, if you want to hit well you have to work on hitting. If you want your team to hit well, you need to work on hitting well, have the goal to hit well, and a have a strategy for getting there. Teams that don’t practice driving the ball won’t drive the ball consistently.