No reflexive swings
I am very fortunate in that, for whatever reason, I throw a pretty mean batting practice. Tons of strikes, same speed, same location, and easy to see and hit. At least that’s what I’m told. If you fall in that category, congratulations. If
you are not in that camp, don’t feel bad. Some of the best baseball people I know are not able to do it.
There is one problem with a good BP throwing though. Batters can develop “reflexive swings.” A reflexive swing is when a batter’s body and mind get used to swinging at every single pitch. If every BP pitch is right down the middle, the body and mind assume the next pitch will be there too and start the swinging process before recognition of ball vs strike occurs.
When I throw BP I often see this. The batter swings 10 straight times and when the next pitch is a ball (sometimes nowhere near the zone) the batter swings at it. The swing was a reflexive swing. Obviously not something a batter wants to get into the habit of doing.
When we have batters take tons of swings using a tee, soft toss, short toss, and good BP, we often are training the body to swing but ignoring the mental process involved in the decision to swing. During games, the decision whether to swing is arguably more important than the swing itself.
My tip for players and coaches is this – be sure to work the cognitive (thought process) side during batting drills as much as the physical. Here are three ways it can be done:
- Remind them to take the bad pitches. This may seem obvious but it is usually not said enough. Keep reminding them and give praise when it is done correctly.
- Use colored balls and have the coach call out a color just prior to the release of the ball. If the spoken color matches the color of the ball, the batter swings. If not, he takes the pitch. Use different colored tennis balls or draw large colored dots with permanent markers.
- When the BP pitcher is in the process of delivering the pitch he can call out a simple math equation like 2+2. He could inform the batters beforehand that every EVEN answer requires a swing, ODD answers are takes, or vice versa. The same thing can be done for tee work, soft toss, etc.
I’m sure there are other ways too so be creative. Whatever you choose, make sure the batter takes his normal stance and strides BEFORE having to make the cognitive decision. You want the physical and mental processes to be timed exactly as needed in a game.
Next post: Balance and the brain in baseball