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A Simple Way To Train Pitch Recognition That Works For Collegiate & Pro Hitters

 

The Sixth Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition

Dr. Peter Fadde applies sports science to batting drills focusing on pitch recognition.  He’s a Professor in Learning Systems Design & Technology at Southern Illinois University.

CLICK HERE for a great case study featured in the Baseball Collegiate Newspaper titled, “Pitch Recognition Can Be Done By Hitters”, where Dr. Peter Fadde was asked to consult with Southeast Missouri State hitting coach Dillon Lawson on the subject of pitch recognition with his hitters, in March of 2014.

I heard about Dr. Peter Fadde through a few of my readers who saw him speak at the 2015 ABCA conference (ABCA “Doing Damage at the Plate by Training Pitch Recognition” video above).

Since, I’ve read his ebook The 6th Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition” in less than an hour, corresponded with him via email, and felt it a MUST to put together an interview with him sharing his insights with you.

(NOTE: if you purchase his ebook, and after reading it you like what he has to say, PLEASE leave him a review on Amazon.)

You can see the presentations he’s done, recognition he’s earned, and his current work at his website:

http://peterfadde.com/

Here are some other places you can find him online:

By the way, the pitch recognition hitting drills that Dr. Peter Fadde proposes in The 6th Tool book link above, work well with both baseball and softball hitters at ALL levels, not just at the collegiate and pro levels.

Also, Dr. Peter Fadde is one of the experts in the area of vision, tracking, and timing that has contributed videos to the Reaction Time Mastery online video course.

Without further adieu, here’s the interview… (rhyme intended 😉 )

 

What are some great drills to practice vision/tracking?

Pitch Recognition: Dr. Peter Fadde

Dr. Peter Fadde meet my readers, readers meet Dr. Peter Fadde 🙂

What I focus on for Pitch Recognition (PR) is separate from vision skills (peripheral vision, dynamic tracking acuity) and tracking.

Sports science calls it a “perceptual-cognitive” skill, meaning that it is vision-based but a mental skill. It’s picking up cues in the pitcher’s wind-up, release, and the first 10-20 feet of ball flight. By picking up advance cues, expert hitters anticipate pitch movement earlier.

The best drill for practicing PR is Bullpen Stand-In Drill. Batters have been standing in forever. The difference here is the batter needs to call out loud “Yes” or “No” BEFORE THE BALL HITS THE CATCHER’S MITT. That’s what turns it from passive tracking to PR practice.

You need to recognize the pitch right out of the pitcher’s hand to get your call made in time. “Yes” can stand for a pitch type (usually Fastball), or for FB in Zone, or Strike, or Swing Ahead in Count — whatever a coach or hitter wants to work on.

Call LOUD so that it is good feedback for pitchers. Bullpen Stand-In Drill is one of six PR drills shown in the “The 6th Tool” eBook.

 

How do you teach kids to pick up the seams and stay balanced on off-speed pitches?

Kids should practice calling breaking pitches out of the pitcher’s hand, so that they recognize that most curve balls need to “pop up” out of the pitcher’s hand in order to come down in the strike zone. Their eyes and natural tracking want to give up on that pitch. Learning to see it early and plan to attack it should keep mechanics sound.

 

How do you use vision drills for high school hitters?

A high school hitter can learn the PR drills in the Sixth Tool eBook and then teach a parent or coach as a hitting facility for one-on-one drills. I also have several occlusion videos of High School and College pitchers that are available to coaches or players who get the eBook and email me.

How can I get my players to recognize which curveball is the right one to hit and which one to take?

Wade Boggs said he could feel his eyes bob up in his head for the hanging curveball. Every batter can use his own clues. The point is to TRAIN yourself not to give up on that pitch. Few high school pitchers can throw a tight enough curveball to have it come out flat and not drop below the strike zone. Learn to jump on that pop up curve rather than giving up on it.

 

What’s an easy way to explain the concept of vision,tracking, timing a pitch?

Without trying to make things more difficult, I am adding PR as another dimension to Vision and Tracking. The good news is that a batter can get better by improving any or all of the three. A good program includes all three.

 

What keys does a batter use for tracking the ball prior to the pitch and on the release?

Especially at high school level or lower, pitchers often give pre-release cues. I don’t mean pitch tipping things, like glove position. More like learning to “feel” the pitcher muscling up for his fastball, or throwing up hill for a curve. At release, some batters pick up “skinny wrist” for curveball. Some batters pickup more white or less thrust out of the pitcher’s hand for changeup.

 

How can I concentrate better and see “the ball hit the bat”?

The science suggests that hitters don’t see the ball hit the bat. Ted Williams said that, contrary to opinion, he did not see the ball hit the bat. “But a master carpenter doesn’t need to see the nail to hit it square every time.”

Concentrate on seeing the pitcher’s motion and release. These aren’t natural and so need direct practice. Tracking to (or near) contact is natural so needs less direct practice. Good PR approach and sound mechanics should generate plenty of good contact.

Again, Dr. Peter Fadde can be reached at the following places online:

The Sooner You Know These Batting Timing Drills The BetterBatting Timing Drills

Take a guess at one of the biggest hitting frustrations is, according to my readers?

Timing!

Probably not a shocker because your hitters probably struggle with this as well.  Mine do!

I always tell my hitters, the most efficient mechanics in the world don’t mean a thing, if a hitter’s NOT working on being “on-time”.

In the survey, my readers asked if…

I use any batting timing drills with my hitters – that work?

Funny, because…

Last week, I was on a call with one of my online lesson dads from Southern California.  He said the difference in his son hitting the ball harder, with more consistency, has been because of how we cue one of the batting timing drills I’m about to share with you.

Before we get started…

I want you to note that the following two batting timing drills are rooted in science.  They follow the Principle of Variance (CLICK HERE for another post I did on that).

In this post, I want to share the:

  1. “Float” Variance Drill, AND
  2. Reaction Time Variance Drill.

CLICK HERE to watch this Carlos Pena video on how a hitter’s reaction time changes with pitch location.

 

“Float” Variance Drill

Basically, a “float” is a slight pause before falling forward.  Make sure you’re cueing “load slow and early”.  This is what helped my SoCal hitter from above.  CLICK HERE for this post referencing how Jose Bautista turned his swing around with the same cue.

We want the hitter to pick the stride foot up and shift their weight back.  Which means the back knee will have to track over the back toe – and not inside.  How far the back knee tracks depends on whether the hitters has a:

  • High leg kick,
  • Medium leg kick, or
  • Slide step/toe tap.

The higher the leg kick, the more the back knee tends to track over the toe.  The knee shifts inside the toe during the fall.  And this should be a natural move.  Most hitters cannot be “on-time” by just picking up the stride foot and falling forward.

And this is what would happen if the hitter focused solely on keeping the back knee inside the toe pre-stride foot lift.

If you don’t believe me, then do an experiment with the drill, and have your hitters note the difference in their quality of contact and control swinging the bat.

When to lift the stride foot to start the “float”, will get fleshed out in the next batting timing drill…

 

Reaction Time Variance Challenge

In the past, part of my timing training, was to tell my hitters to lift their stride foot at a specified point in the pitcher’s delivery.

Which is okay.

But now, my batting timing drills put more emphasis on trial-by-fire.  Let me put my hitter through an environment where they have to learn to calibrate their own timing.  I’m trying to melt them down mentally.  And they’re trying to keep me from melting them down.

In a game, the same thing happens.

In other words, this batting timing drill “takes care of business”, in a natural way.

Please post any other batting timing drills – like these – that are working for your hitters in the “Leave a Reply” section below (or share your testing on the drills I included)…