The Baseball Zone Blog

Ryan Armstrong | Apr 30, 2014 11:27:32 AM

4 Things Pitchers Can Do the Night Before They Pitch

One question I often get asked by pitchers here at The Baseball Zone is "I have a practice the day before my next start - what should I do or avoid doing?" This is a great in-season baseball training question. I love when it is asked and will soon share the options that I give to them.

However, unfortunately I am not asked this question as often as I wish I was. So I have to go on the offensive and ask pitchers what THEY are doing the night before they are scheduled to take the mound - and the answer I sadly get most often is "NOTHING". Well in my opinion, that is an opportunity missed to get better for the next night and for the long term. There is often - at the heart of it - a "concern" for being "too tired" for the next night which is...well...kinda funny. We are not suggesting anyone climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro the day before, but simply takes the opportunity to put in productive work for both the short and long terms. You wanna get better? Then work at it. Don't get me wrong - I don't expect people to know this. That is why there are coaches and instructors - to help provide answers and guidance. But when you don't ask the question and assume you know the answer already, you are likely missing out on at the very least educating yourself on options for your own best path.

So back to the question of what to do the night before a scheduled outing, here are 4 options I would give to pitchers when they ask (and when they don't ask!):

1) Play productive catch: 

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Topics: pitching, pitching tips, pitching instruction, pitching velocity, playing catch, playing better catch, batting practice, pitching advice, cool down, long toss, flat ground

Rick Johnston | Nov 27, 2013 2:00:00 PM

Is Your Batting Practice Senseless?

What a great question! And yes there are numerous occasions during a season when some batting practice is as senseless as a golfer showing up to their tee time to play “show and go” golf!

Let’s now review one of these typical occasions when batting practice is senseless where you can instead put in place a system that will permit a much better utilization of time.

The scenario is your team has 30 minutes to hit and you need to get all the hitters through BP. Assume your team consists of 13-15 players and at least 12 need to hit prior to the game. So what happens...it is simple, each hitter gets a chance to swing the bat 6-8 times, maybe mix in a couple of bunts (to gauge the speed of the pitch and lay down a few sac bunts) and then BP is done. Now they go out and shag. 30 minutes later, BP has been completed and each hitter swung the bat 6-8 times! Wow, what have these hitters really accomplished in this timeframe? If you said not much, you are correct!

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Topics: hitting tips, hitting preparation, baseball practice, practice organization, batting practice, pregame drills, team practice

Rick Johnston | Nov 6, 2013 2:31:00 PM

3 Reasons NOT to Ask to Speed Up the Pitch in the Batting Cages

How many times do you think a coach has heard this before:

Hey coach can you crank it up?

Crank it up?! That is exactly what hitters don’t need...a machine set up so fast or faster than what a player really needs to work at to have any type of success. It really amazes me that many hitters, coaches and parents think that the faster the speed of the machine, the better the hitter will become. Truth be told, a machine set up with speeds beyond the capabilities of the hitter will actually do more harm than good.

Here are 3 reasons why you shouldn't get too ahead of yourself and thus keep the speed of the machine from mimicking Nolan Ryan:

1. Just Poor Contact - In analyzing variable speed changes or increasing the speed of the machine, the primary observation that one should first look at is if the hitter can consistently make square contact with the ball, no matter what the speed is. I am not saying just contact, as in a foul ball, I am speaking of square contact, where the ball is being driven with authority to all areas in the cage and preferably to the sides and back of cage on a line. If balls are barely being hit or there are many swings and misses or the hitter is making contact occasionally, but contact is late...yes, that's right, the speed of the machine is too fast!

2. Sacrificing Mechanics for Contact - 

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Topics: hitting tips, hitting, baseball parents, hitting drills, baseball practice, batting cages, batting practice

Rick Johnston | Aug 15, 2013 11:13:00 AM

Hitting to the Opposite Field…15 Reasons Why Hitters Struggle

No one has ever said hitting a baseball is easy. In fact, it has been said that hitting a baseball may be the single most difficult athletic skill to do successfully. Consequently if hitting a baseball is that difficult without taking into account any direction or field, even for the best in the world, let’s examine 15 reasons why hitting the baseball to the opposite field is an even more difficult task.

These 15 are in no particular order. Simply put, there are several reasons.

  1. Young hitters lack strength and when strength is lacked, it will have an enormous effect on the bat speed, swing plane and a hitter's timing. One of the fundamental pillars to hitting that goes hand in hand with mechanics, mental approach and visual awareness, is physical strength. Young players just need to get stronger.
  2. Most hitters are pull conscious and would prefer to hit the ball to the short side of the field than the large areas of the field. The irony is that standing around a batting cage or listening to the game within the game you will forever hear coaches say to their hitters, “use the whole field”. For whatever reason, hitters will make conscious efforts in practice to do so, but once the game starts, their mind set reverts back to the pull happy concept.

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Topics: hitting tips, hitting instruction, hitting preparation, hitting approach, hitting, opposite field hitting, batting practice

Rick Johnston | May 30, 2013 9:22:00 AM

Batting Practice: 6 Ways to Make it More Effective

Make it Effective or Don't Do It At All!

Perhaps the most difficult part of any practice is the organization of batting practice or as it is commonly referred to as BP. It is difficult for a number of reasons in youth baseball, far more so than in collegiate, professional or even older levels of amateur baseball. Trying to organize as many as 12-15 hitters in a timely fashion, under a supervised breakdown of tasks, with a certain amount of pitches, is certainly not easy and for many can be daunting to say the least. 

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Topics: baseball coaching, baseball practice, practice organization, batting practice

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