Friday, December 15th, 2017

Improve your defense near a batting cage

October 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Infield, Second Base, Shortstop

The other night I was wondering around a park where my son’s soccer practice was and noticed a young player taking some swings in a batting cage with what appeared to be his father.  His father was throwing a pretty good BP and his son was hacking.  I noticed immediately that my brain was correctly predicting where he was going to hit the pitch a split second before he even hit the ball.

Cages like this provide lots of room for fielders to watch and learn

Cages like this provide lots of room for fielders to watch and learn

As a shortstop for most of my career, I got very used to seeing pitches thrown and hit from the angle of a shortstop.  If you see tens of thousands of pitches and swings during batting practice and games over the course of many years, you tend to notice a few things.  You tend to notice and recognize the different types of swings.  You notice when a batter is starting his hands a little early based on the timing and type of pitch approaching him.  You begin to notice where the pitch is going to land by seeing its trajectory and to what area the catcher is moving.  Basically, you start to NOT just wait until the ball is hit before reacting.  All the information you process in realtime gives you a good chance of predicting what’s going to happen before it happens.  If you look very carefully at middle infielders, you will often see a slight lean one way or the other on certain pitches.  Usually this is a result of information recognized, processed, and acted on from the release of the pitch to contact.  If a player can do this effectively and accurately, their fielding ability can jump to an entirely new level.

Obviously, this higher level thinking does not come about over night.  It comes from lots of repitition and discipline on the part of the player to purposely look for this type of information and consciously act on it. 

One easy way to start or at least provide an opportunity to improve on this is simply watching someone in a cage like I did.  If you stand outside the cage at roughly the same angle as you would during the game, you can get more experience in this information gathering and acting process.  Most hitters just stand around the cage and wait until it is their turn to hit.  If this is you, mix in some defensive skills by just watching other guys hit and try to make predictions on where the ball will be hit.  It will force you to see things you may not have paid much attention to in the past.

To be honest, when I coached I never had my players do this near a cage.  If we were hitting, I wanted them to just focus on hitting.  However, for your advanced players especially, planting a bug about all this in their head might just inspire them to do it on their own whenever they get the chance.

Tomorrow’s post:  The Drop-Step Drill for Pitchers

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