What qualities do you value in hitters? Do you have a plan and roadmap to develop these qualities? Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Baseball season is back, and we have been hard at work helping our coaches plan their roadmaps for their spring development.
It Starts with Assessment
To design any good program, you have to collect as much information about the player as possible so that you can know both their strengths and weakness. This will guide us in how we design the player development plan for each player. Data can be collected with something as simple as a Blast or Diamond Kinetics swing sensor. This will gives you objective data to classify each hitter into our hierarchy of needs which are bat speed, swing plane, quickness, and timing/adaptability. A coach will also need to collect video of his players so that he/she can outline mechanical focus points through the drill progressions of their practice plans.
Period 1 – Bat Speed
A good majority of players at the high school level will need to spend the early weeks of practice focused solely on bat speed. Bat speed is always a great place to start. The harder you can hit the ball on average, the greater the window of launch angles to which you can be potentially successful. You can read my article on exit velocity and launch angle correlation. A sound bat speed plan contains a pre-hitting prep that includes med ball throws, rotational patterning, overload weighted bat drills, & over speed underload drills. We can discuss developing bat speed practice plans further later. This period will last approximately 2 to 4 weeks depending on when the first games are scheduled.
Period 2 – Swing Plane and Adaptability
Once players have achieved minimally accepted levels of bat speed, the plan will then become more focused on developing consistent swing planes. Not only do we want players to hit the ball hard, but we also want to have the ability to stay inside the pitch plane longer which will increase their area of impact. The pre-hitting prep drills will still contain bat speed elements, but will now be more focused on swing plane with an increased volume of hitting moving balls both in constraint and full swing environments.
We will also begin to build more high-velocity reps into their training economy to plan for in-game speeds. Access to a machine or someone that can throw from the mound at game speeds is best. However, shortened batting practice at higher speeds is acceptable. Again this period will last 2-6 weeks depending on the needs of both the player and the schedule of the team’s games.
Period 3 – Timing, Quickness, and Adaptability
We are coming into the home stretch, and the playoffs are closing in. We want our team to be performing at their peak during this time. Our pre-hitting plan doesn’t change as we will remain focused on maintaining our bat speed and refining our swing plane. However, most if not all of our training economy will be done at quick reaction time and/or game speed velocity. This includes front toss/flips as well as coach BP. Rotations that consist of a machine throwing balls at game speed is best. However, I understand the limitation of budget for some programs. Do the best you can.
Retest and Addressing Individual Needs
Somewhere between 4 and six weeks, you will want to reassess players. Are they getting better? Are they Not? If not, why? Do you need to change their training plans? Keeping an open dialogue with players is important and not pretending like you know everything (which you don’t) will go along way in aiding the player reach their potential and thus your team reaches it’s potential.
On any given practice you might have 2-4 hitting plans in motion depending on player needs. Group players that are working off of the same plan. Have those plans posted where players can easily view them at any time. Players should accountable to each other to see that the work is being done correctly. Anyone who isn’t can and should be weeded out anyway.
I like to win, but so do a lot of other people. It’s been my general observation that most games are won by the team with the better players. Help your players reach their potential at the plate and watch your win totals increase. Having a season-long plan is critical in doing all that you can for your team.
A hitter’s dynamic warm-up can and should be individualized. The purpose is to cover their movement and mobility deficiencies identified by a mobility screening (TPI preferred). This will ultimately help them move and adapt their bodies better in space.