Baseball Hitting Progression and Drills
ChadParkersonHead Baseball Coachat TCCHS
My name is ChadParkersonand I have been the head baseball coach at Thomas County Central since 2005. Gary Smith asked me to put together something for the volunteer coaches at the Thomasville YMCA. I envisioned doing a clinic but I know time constraints for everybody would make that difficult. I wanted to put together something that you can refer back to during your season or offseason that would be helpful. There are a bunch of different theories and drills out there. So find something that works for your athlete/team. I believe local coaches should be a reference for youth teams. If any of you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]
Be fundamentally soundBe prepared and organizedHave fun so the kids will develop a passion for all kinds of activitiesGood hitters are:Tough outsProductive at the plateStudents of the gameAble to make adjustmentsAble to learn from mistakesConfident – this happens through preparation
Week 1 – Set up, Balance throughout the swing is the main focusWeek 2 – Swing mechanicsWeek 3 – Ball in motionWeek 4 – Batting Practice (B.P.) distanceWeek 5 – B.P. distance Breaking Balls/Off SpeedWeek 6 – Situational Hitting
Week 1 - Balance
Balance isthe mainfocus. You cannot be a good hitter without balance.Stance - always work from the ground - upSlight bend in the knees, 60-70% of weight should be on back legFront foot should be “light”Be on the balls of your feet – “athletic.” A quick fix is to slightly lift your heels (imagine a sheet of paper needs to slide under both heels)Grip – loose grip in the fingers, not the palms. We don’t want a “death grip” on the bat because that will slow the hands down and hinder wrist extension which weakens the “pop” or “whip” effect through the ball.Hands – should be comfortable with relaxed elbows. A high back elbow makes it easy to upper cut and hinders the top hand grip.Head – make sure both eyes are on the pitcher and level
Tee Work is great for any age. The ball is not moving and this is a great time to concentrate on the swing.My favorite Tee Drill is called “Long Tee,” using a tee to hit the ball the full length of the cage. Try to hit line drives into the back net. Stay off the top.If you are pulling the ball and hitting weak grounders, you are going “around” the ball and your swing needs to shorten up or your hands need to be more in a straight line.Freeze at the end of swings in tee work and soft tossUse commands (Stance, Trigger, Swing) for tee work and mix up the times between Trigger and Swing to make sure the hitter is staying balanced.Soft Toss
I provided some links to some videos. Find what works for you:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZsY0nSiEAohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhVSBMjLwsAhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuhwyV32aLU
Week 2 - Swing Mechanics
Pitch selection-the most important thing in hitting!!!Swing at strikesand do not swing at balls. This starts in batting practice. Know the strike zone!Trigger/Load-hands aremoved up slightly (2 to 3 inches)and stride is occurring at the same time. Shoulders should remain square to prevent wrapping. Hips should slightly trigger back to include lower half into your swing and front knee should slightly “roll” and lead with the front heel to stay back.Slot– hands 1stfew inches of the swing should be close to the body and in a line to the baseball. Thinkswing the knob.
Stride-have a small stride and be very light on the front foot. Act like you are stepping into a pile of mud and do not splatter it by stomping into it. Remember; stridetohit not strideandhit.Get the front foot down early and soft.Swing-from the launch position (peak of trigger) hands begin a downward anddirect path to the ball.
Contact–Imagine keeping the barrel above the hands to make sure there is a good top hand. Swing through the point of contact so the bat will stay in the hitting zone longer. Imagine a frame by frame high speed camera taking pictures during the swing, at some point, your hands should be in front of your belt, both arms are extended and the bat is pointing at the pitcher.Finish-be balanced when finished. Front foot is at 45 degrees and back foot is pivoted. Head is at contact. Hands and bat should be between the ear and shoulders.
Lunging/Jumping at the ballHum Drill – I know it sounds funny but hum while in your stance and during the swing. The volume of the hum should not get louder before contact.Place your hat in front of your front foot and take your B.P.Long SwingFence Drill – bat length away from a fence and take a full swingInside/Out tee – place a tee in the middle of the plate with a ball and a tee on the outside corner and elevated. You should only hit the ballDrop Toss – instead of soft toss, hold the ball about chin height, say trigger and then drop the ball.Upper Cut/Weak Pop FliesLong TeeHigh Tee – place tee on a chair or anything that puts the ball at the top of the strike zone. Hit a line drive.
Mechanics Drills Continued
Weak Backside (Not fully pivoting the back foot)Dummy or Tire Drill – hit a tire or dummyBasketball Tee Drill – place a half deflated basketball and do your regular tee workHit off of a slight decline – hit downhillPulling Head Off (Flying open)Hand to Tee – after a swing on the tee, be able to place your top hand on the teeChin to Shoulder – stress getting the back shoulder to their chin as quick as possible during the swingNot seeing the Pitcher’s ReleaseBunt
Week 3 – Ball in motion
Make sure the player feels good about his setup and overall swing mechanics by hitting off a tee. There are limited variables when working on a tee. So if you don’t hit the ball well off a tee you know that it is the swing and not the pitch.You still need to stress:Balance, Head at contact, etc.
Simple checkpoints after the swing (start from the ground up):Front foot closed (can be at 45 degrees, but toes do not need to face pitcherBack foot pivot (should be on the balls of feet and toes face pitcher)Hip full turnShoulders – should be close to levelHead – should be at contact
Ball inMotion Drills
Soft Toss – batter should trigger when the hand is dropped.Drop Toss – tell the batter to trigger then drop the ballBack Toss – get behind the batter and flip the ball firmly towards the pitcher over the plateUnderhand or Short Cage – Get behind the L screen 10-15 feet from the batter and toss the balls on a line for a strikeRapid Fire (soft toss)
Week 4 – B.P. regular distance
The most important thing about B.P. is strikes on a line. Move the L screen about half way from the pitchers mound and now the hitter can see arm movement with hittable pitches. Throw only B.P. fastballs for now.B.P. pitchers are not perfect, so stress the importance of the hitter only swinging at strikes.When they take a pitch, make sure they feel that they are not lunging or jumping at the ball, hands are not dropping, front foot flying open, etc.I like to keep each round with my team to about 8-10 swings per round. More than that can develop bad habits and slows practice down.
Week 4 – B.P. regular distance
In B.P. they should be thinking about strike zone recognition and hitting the ball hard where it is pitched.A few of Mike Trout’s B.P. swings (line drives up the middle and a bunt)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LPW_5qdTwU
Week 5 –OffspeedPitches
You have been stressing balance all along so these drills will test them.The stride should be small and light so that the hitter does not over commit to a pitch. If he lunges, drifts or jumps at the pitch he will not hit the ball with authority. This is a lot easier said than done.During swings (soft toss, tees and any other time you can watch from the side) watch the hitter’s head and it should have little movement.If his head is moving forward, he is probably not staying back andoffspeedpitches will give him trouble by swinging and missing or rolling over (RH hitters – weak grounders to SS)
Tee work – use the commands: stance, trigger and swing in a natural tempo. Then hesitate between the command trigger and swing to simulate a curve ball or change up.Soft toss – regular tempo is drop the hand and then toss. Mix in a few slight hesitations at the bottom of the drop.Bounce drill – this takes a good B.P. guy or a machinehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOxSw3MJCIwRegular B.P. withoffspeed– the first round tell him when theoffspeedpitches are coming. After that you can mix them in
Week 6 – Situational Hitting
Every hitter will make outs. Good hitters make productive outs. For example:Ground ball to 2ndwith a runner on 2ndand nobody out to advance the runner to 3rd.Runner on 3rdwith 1 out and hit a ground ball up the middle to get an RBISacrifice Bunts – bunt strikes and executeRunner on 1st– bunt the ball down the first base line, 3rdbasemen will be charging and the 1stbasemen has to hold runner so will be late charging.Runner on 2nd– bunt the ball down the 3rdbase line, 3rdbaseman will be late charging so he can defend the potential steal. 1stbasemen could be charging earlySuicide Squeeze – show when the pitcher’s arm begins forward and bunt the ball down in fair territory. Preferably not firm back to the pitcher.
Hit and Run
This is a good strategy when the catcher is good so stealing is not a good option and your batter is a good contact hitter.Runner– get a regular lead and make sure the pitcher goes to the plate. Run on the pitch and take a look on your thirdstep in case the hitter pops it up, you have a chance to get back.Hitter – hit the ball on the ground (preferably to the right side) no matter where the pitch is located.Most of the time – 2B are covering with a RH batter, SS is covering with a LH batter, so the biggest hole on a hit and run will be to the opposite field side.Rules:Runner – DO NOT GET PICKED OFF!Hitter – HIT THE BALL ON THE GROUND!
Same strategy as a hit and run but this can be a good aggressive call in a bunt situation. This gets infielders moving around and opens holes in the infield.Runner– treat just like a hit and run.Hitter – show bunt until the ball is released and pull back and hit the ball on the ground (preferably to the right side) no matter where the pitch is located.Runner – DO NOT GET PICKED OFF!Hitter – HIT THE BALL ON THE GROUND!
Situation: runner on 2ndwith no outsObjective is to advance the runner to 3rdto set up the next hitter for an RBI.Execution:Bunt to 3rdGround ball that goes behind the runner (ball up the middle, to 2ndbaseman or 1stbaseman)Deep Fly ball to CF, RF or the right center gapAny base hitBad Execution:Ball to 3rd, SS, Pitcher or weak fly ball to CF or LFPop up or Strikeout
Situation: runner on 3rdwith no outs or 1 outObjective: to get an RBIExecution:If the INF is playing back, any ground ball up the middle past the pitcherDeep fly ball so the runner can tag upAny base hitBad Execution:Ground ball to 3B or PWeak Fly ball where the OF are running up on the catchPop up to INF or Strikeout
These are balls that should be crushed!2-0 or 3-1 counts on the batter. The batter is looking for his pitch to drive. Think line drives or doubles in the gap.On these counts, do not be fooled and give a pitcher a cheap out.If you don’t get the pitch that you are looking for take it and make the pitcher make 2 or 3 good pitches in a row.
Examples of B.P. rounds
Round 12 - Bunt to 1st2 - Hit and run2 - Move him5 - Score himRound 22 - bunt to 3rd4 – Mix or 2 strikes (2 strike situation looking for putting the ball in play, mix inoffspeedpitches with B.P. fastballs)4 – Pick ‘emRound 38 – Pick ‘em
Extras and Closing
We will have runners on base reacting to the different situations during batting practice so they can develop instincts on the bases. This can be confusing for young players but if your guys are ready then go ahead and try it.It is also important to teach them why we are trying to hit the ball to the right side when a runner is on 2ndand up the middle when a runner is on 3rd, etc. This helps them understand the game.Thank you for spending time with these young ball players. Don’t hesitate to contact me or any other coach if you have any questions.