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Handling OffSpeed Pitches

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Hank Aaron used to have problems with the changeup.  It was his one piece of kryptonite that he worked extremely hard to fix...and did.

A hitters timing can easily be disrupted with curves and changes.  True discipline for hitters doesn't necessarily mean to jump on ONLY pitches you know is coming...but by disciplining your hands to stay back and loaded...EVEN IF YOU ARE PULLED TO YOUR FRONTSIDE BY AN OFFSPEED PITCH!

Hitters pick up four different factors when a pitch is thrown:

Arm speed
Ball trajectory
Spin
Velocity

Note that I listed velocity LAST.  It is the very last thing a hitter will pick up, which is why timing is so critical to a hitter.

Once a hitter's hands are pulled to his frontside or across his vertical axis (draw a straight line from the hitter's crotch to the top of his head), then he is in trouble.  For myself, as a pitcher, my goal is to get a hitter's hands to this spot.  From there, a hitter has no time to reload his hands and strike the ball with any pop.

One drill I specifically like is a soft toss drill, where balls are lobbed towards the hitter.  I purposefully mess with my student's timing by either speeding up or faking a toss in order to try and pull him to his frontside and then tossing the ball.  With these random tosses, the hitter's goal is to keep his hands back (even if his weight transfers forward) until it is time to drive them into the pitch.  Repetiveness is key...this must become a natural reaction.
Remember Clarence, (and other hitters)...you have the disadvantage at the plate.  You WILL be fooled...your timing WILL be disrupted.  How you plan to ADAPT and COUNTER that plan will lie in the work you put into keeping your hands and weight back.  Cutting down your swing will do nothing if you haven't developed patience and discipline at the plate.

Lastly, if your son is a power hitter looking to drive the ball...it is important to develop a plan at the plate that coincides with what the current pitcher is throwing.  Batters on deck and in the dugout must be watching the pitcher in order to pick up:

1.  Pitch Sequences:  Does he double up his offspeed pitches after a ball?  What does he throw in 1-0, 2-0, 3-1 counts?  What does he throw in ALL COUNTS?  Does the curveball hang in the zone?  

2.  Pitch History:  What did he throw you before?  Has your team seen this pitcher before?  Read the scouting reports.  Good pitchers adjust per team, situation, at-bat.  Most pitchers fall into familiar sequences or patterns that can be picked up on if you pay attention during the game.

3.  Telling signs:  Can the pitcher be read?  Does he hook his wrist on his curve or can you see ALL of his fingers on the ball (signaling changeup)?

These are questions that must be answered as soon as possible.  Hopefully before you step in the batter's box.  Only hitters with a plan can dominate this game.  Hitting may be a guess, but it'd better damn well be the most educated guess you can make!
 
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