Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Coach hitters like an economist

January 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Coaching, Hitting

It has been said that the enemy of the dictator is the economist.  The dictator wants to make all the rules.  They also want everyone to like the rules and to not criticize them. “I make the rules, they will work, and everyone will like them!”   Often it’s the economist who is the only one in the room that speaks up to say, “You may want to give that idea some more thought.”   

Here’s an example.

To calm the masses and win people over, the dictator may decide to raise worker pay to, let’s say, $30/hr.  The economist steps in and informs the dictator of some of the possible unintended consequences of such a ruling.  The economist does not judge whether or not a decision is right or wrong.  To them, every decision is simply a matter of tradeoffs.  They may explain that $30/hr will indeed help those that receive a paycheck.  However, on the flip side, there probably will be more unemployment due to the basic economic law that if you raise the price of something, people generally will buy less of it.  Raise the price of a worker and companies will want less workers.  The economist is not telling the dictator that he is wrong, he just explains to him the tradeoffs.  

In my opinion, hitting instruction should largely work the same way.  Even more so as players get older.

I have said numerous times in previous posts and on video that coaches have to be very careful about taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach to anything in baseball.  Too often, coaches use judgement comments like “You can’t do that” or “That technique is wrong” or “The way you do it won’t work.”  What is bound to happen is that the player will hear you say that and then watch a major leaguer on TV do the very thing you said won’t work.  This is why I tend to be more like the economist when I teach hitting.  I usually deal more in the tradeoffs rather than the judgements of right and wrong.

Listen to me work with a hitter and you’ll probably hear me say something like the following:

  • A 32 inch bat can be fine but you’ll have to stand more on top of the plate.  If you do then good pitchers who throw inside may give you trouble.
  • Starting with your feet closer together in an open stance can be a very comfortable way to stand in the box but it can lead to more moving parts in order to make your body more athletic at the load up and contact points.
  • Staying very tall throughout your swing may enable you to kill pitches up in the zone but it may hurt you when you face the better pitchers who will keep the ball down in the zone more often.
  • Having a “loud bat” – moving your hands and bat a lot in your stance – can help relax your hands and may improve your bat speed but more movement may lead to more timing problems.

Taking the tradeoff approach often has two benefits:

  1. It puts the responsibility on the hitter to search for the best solution for them and not just move towards what everyone else does or what worked for the coach when he played.  Every player is unique in terms of their flexibility, body strength, agility, body control, etc.  Provide the tradeoffs and the player can then search for what works best for their own set of unique strengths and weaknesses.  Coaches can certainly help with advice but the player learns to take more ownership of their development.
  2. It can also help with those stubborn players who just don’t seem to want to listen to anyone.  The reason is that this approach does not force them to do anything.  If you are not forcing them to do anything, there tends to be a lot less pushback.  “Here are the tradeoffs.  Do what you want.  It’s your career.  Produce and you play.  Don’t produce and you won’t.  It’s your call.”  Stubborn players frequently become more open minded after getting that message. 

Note: With beginning players, coaches naturally will need to be more hands-on and deal in more judgements.  With little kids, the less movements and mechanics the better.  What is described above is generally for older kids who are going to better understand the tradeoffs.

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