Why everything goes wrong when you get to the game.
I often get the question, why is it that a player seems to have correct hitting mechanics, and he practices well, particularly in t-drills and soft toss, where his form and technique are good. And then when he gets into the game, everything goes wrong.
Let’s understand three important principles when we talk about when hitting:
Mechanics, which include form and technique
When a player is hitting off of a tee or in soft toss, this involves only mechanics. There are no judgmental or confidence factors at all involved. Whereas, in the game, judgmental principles may be even more important than mechanics. This involves reading the pitch and taking appropriate action.
Here is one of my best teaching aids I used when coaching. The player who does only short-toss and t-hitting misses out on a major part of hitting, and that is judging the pitch in space (trajectory). When we practice with soft toss, it is “pitch – hit”. But when we hit in the game, the sequence is “pitch – trajectory – hit”.
And no player can perform at his best unless he has confidence. Tension forces a player to do things he would not do during practice. So how do we make the transition from practice to the game?
Hitting is a conditioned reflex. A hitter must practice to “groove” his stroke, and then trust it. In other words, no stinkin’ thinkin’ at the plate. it’s see-ball, hit-ball, have fun!
Toss and tee hitting only provide practice of mechanics, and the hitter needs much more. Not only does he need to see pitching from a distance, but he also needs to have some pressure put on him during his practice sessions.
In our practice, we can add a measure of pressure on the hitter in a batting cage by using a Power-10 series, where he works to hit 8 out of 10 pitches hard. This puts pressure on him to get a high score. He can also run a series of power-10’s. This will also increase his confidence level.
There is an old saying that is so true:
Play like you practice and practice like you play. This was never more important than in the game of baseball. So here are some ideas to help accomplish this.
1. Batters should have some practice where they get some distance from the pitcher, either a machine or live pitcher.
2. Put some tension in the practice.
3. In every batting cage practice session, include a “Power-10”, 7 or 8 hard hits out of 10 to increase confidence level and a good feeling of performance.
4. Use practice that simulates game situations and encourages players to feel good about their performance.