My first article explained why teams struggle at the plate. If you have not read it yet click here for Part 1. This article will follow up with some ways to improve your team’s hitting.
If you are not the coach your practices my not allow for you to change some of these things. You need to do what your coach says to do during practice. 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.
Like I said in the last article, the easy answer is that your players probably just don’t hit enough. Players, no matter what skill they are performing, need to be put in a position to succeed. That means they need to get enough reps and proper instruction in practice. I’m not going to get into hitting mechanics here but there are some basics that should be taught that will help players at any level to succeed starting with a proper athletic position.
The hitters also need to know what is expected of them and have the confidence that they can go out and succeed. This starts with the offensive philosophy.
If you want your team to be able to hit well produce runs you need to develop an offensive philosophy to back that up. This philosophy needs to clear and plainly explained to the players.
This often becomes an issue of small ball versus long ball. It is important to keep in mind when deciding strategy what you want in the long run from your team. The answer is improved hitting if you are confused. The short game does not need to be given up on entirely but you are not going to produce a lot of runs and consistently hit if you are giving up an out every time you get a runner on first base.
Up to the high school level and even often in college many players can abuse pitchers and catchers on the base paths. Whenever this is the case the stolen base is much more effective than the bunt. This gets the defense moving and moves runners without the “automatic” out.
Stolen bases are more exciting than bunts too!
As you move up in levels balls hit on the ground are increasingly turned in to outs. Teaching kids to hit the top half of the ball and swing down or level will result in a lot of ground outs. If you want to hit better you need to start teaching players to square the ball up and hit it in the air. When kids are able to drive the ball deep into the outfield the defense is force to move back which opens up green space between and in front of outfielders for the ball to drop in when it is not hit as hard. Outfielders are required to cover much more ground to defend against this strategy.
This is also a much more exciting way to play the game. Crushing the ball in the gap and sprinting around the bases is exciting to do and to watch.
HIT AND RUN VS RUN AND HIT
These are both plays that work well with the long ball strategy. Most people know how the hit and run works so I won’t go into the mechanics here. It fits well because you are still letting the hitter swing while also giving him an advantage by getting the defense out of position.
My preference is for the run and hit play. The difference is that with a run and hit the runner is attempting a straight steal and the batter is going to hit away. The hitter is not required to protect the runner and is just going to try to hit the ball hard like any other pitch. There is a chance that this could turn into a double play with a line out but the payoff in my experience has been way higher than the downside. In addition, it supports a philosophy of going out and trying to hit the ball hard.
If you are going to try to implement these plays, it is important for the team to understand the goals of each, how they are executed, and when to use each play.
Now let’s look into how to make the most out of batting practice. First of all we need to make sure that all of our reps count. Players need to learn to value each swing they take. This will help them take better swings in practice which will lead to better execution in games. We can do this by adjusting the number of swings per round. By lowering the number of cuts per round to a maximum of five the value of each swing will increase tremendously. This will also help them be more game-like as there will be more pressure to make the most of a limited number of cuts. (This does not mean there is not a time for taking a lot of cuts at a time, but that most of the time this will help improve the reps)
A good way to implement this is with a decreasing sequence of rounds such as a 5-4-3-2-1 set. In a small group of hitters the hitters rotate after 5 cuts, then 4 cuts on down to 1 then the next group moves in to hit. (note: cuts should be swings regardless of the result)
Trust me kids players will do not want to give up cuts when they only get one or two.
Another way to accomplish this is by letting kids hit till they don’t hit the ball hard. You need some way to judge if it is hit hard which can be done by a coach on sight or for older kids make them be honest about their result. Most older kids won’t want to claim they hit a ball hard if it is rolling slowly through the infield.
EXECUTE WITH LESS REPS
If you have made your goal to hit the cover off the ball, you have gotten your players to buy in, and you are getting your kids to value their reps, a great way to get them to execute small ball techniques in batting practice is to tie execution to reps.
At the beginning of each round (5-4-3-2-1) the player is given a play to execute. If the player does not execute they lose a cut for that round.
Below is a chart showing an example of how this is done.
|Round||Play||Cuts if executed||Cuts if not executed|
|3||Hit and Run||3||2|
Players will not want to lose cuts. They want to hit!
This is a very efficient way to get your kids to take good reps and learn to execute quickly in practice.
FENCE DEPTH (are your fences too deep?)
Just a quick note: If you have control over this, home runs are exciting and fun. Play with a short porch. This may mean having practice on the field that is too small for the kids (12U team on a 10U field) or moving closer to a fence if you are playing in a public park without an actual infield. It can help players’ confidence if they feel like they can take somebody deep.
SOME THINGS THAT CAN BE DONE TO BOOST YOUR HITTING QUICKLY
- Make it known that you are going change your goals and then start talking about your new goals with your players
- Stop giving up outs every time you get a runner on base
- Utilize the Run and hit
- Switch your sets and reps for BP (make it count)