Pitching Machines – Not For Hitting!





So you don’t understand the title of this blog? 


If a pitching machine isn’t for hitting then what is it for?


That is the point of this blog entry. Pitching machines have been marketed for years now as a must have for the serious softball player.  Parents have been buying the backyard kit of the pop up cage, l-screen and pitching machine for years. Now before you get too close to the edge thinking about the money you spent on a pitching machine, I’m not saying it has no value, I just think it has limited value for real hitting.


Timing is a huge part of hitting.  Hitters spend a great deal of time working on their swings and trying to determine how to time up the pitched ball. 


Hitters need to have a way to time when the ball will be delivered. When a pitcher pitches the ball there are cues available to the hitter that help them determine when the ball will be reaching the hitting zone. And while pitchers do attempt to throw a hitters timing off with the change up, for the most part there is a direct correlation between the speed that the pitchers arm moves and the speed that the ball is pitched with.


Now I hear arguments from coaches about why they want to use a pitching machine all the time. Let’s take a look:


Coach says: We are facing a lot of hard-throwing pitchers and we need to simulate the speed. We have to use a machine because we don’t have anyone who can throw that fast.


Response: Yes the machine can match the speed but there is no timing cue. Faking an arm swing as you feed a ball isn’t the same as a live arm delivering the ball. And while the ball is faster it is very predictable and leads to a false sense of security about the ability to make contact with a hard thrower.


Coacb says: We don’t have enough pitchers to throw batting practice so we need a machine!


Response: A pitching machine is good for working on your swing but that doesn’t mean it applies to real hitting. Again, without a timing cue the benefit for real hitting is nonexistent.


Statement: I hate throwing front toss so I need a pitching machine.


Response: Front toss can be and should be thrown by everyone on the roster, assuming you are using a protective screen, of course! Seeing the arm in motion gives the hitter a very strong timing cue that related directly to hitting.


The moral to the story is pretty simple.  A pitching machine is great for getting in repetitions. If you are working on your swing and just want to get swings in, then a pitching machine has some value. 


If your goal is high-level hitting, then you need to focus of balls that are thrown.. Front toss, soft toss, side toss and live batting practice are all much more beneficial. 


If you want to be a great hitter, put away the machine and get the arms moving!! 


About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.


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