Stand Back!

David-ortiz-batters-boxnicloe pauly

Where should a hitter stand in the batters box?  The reason I ask this question is because I don’t think very many coaches or hitters give it much thought.  Hitters often tell me they stand wherever they feel most comfortable.  Or, they like to stand forward in the batters box when a pitcher is slow or when they want to hit a breaking ball before it breaks.  Both are not good reasons to stand in the front of the box.

Here is my opinion….all hitters should stand on the back line of the batters box.

The baseball or softball rule books give hitters an advantage through the size of the batters box.  In baseball, the tip of home plate to the pitching rubber is 60 feet, 6 inches.  However, the batters box actually extends nearly 30 inches farther back to the end line.  Simply put, a hitter should not give the pitcher an advantage by standing anywhere else other than the back line of the batters box.  Hitters who move up in the box from the end line actually help increase the velocity of the pitcher and reduce their reaction time after the ball is released from the pitcher.

In Illinois high school softball, the pitching rubber was moved back from 40 feet to 43 feet to help hitters.  I am astonished by the hitters who still choose to stand in the middle or in front of the batters box.  Think about it.  At 43 feet, a good pitcher will leap toward home plate and will actually release the ball from approximately 40 feet.  If a hitter stands in the middle of the batters box, she just gave those 3 feet back to the pitcher.  Like baseball players, softball hitters who stand in the front of the box reduce their reaction time dramatically, giving pitchers a decisive advantage.  Conversely, hitters who set up in the rear of the batters box enjoy the 43 feet distance the rule makers intended them to have.

So, how about the argument that hitters should move up in the batters box when pitchers are slow or they are throw breaking balls.  Even if pitchers are slow, hitters should want as much reaction time as possible before swinging at the pitch.  More reaction time means hitters can use better hitting mechanics, which will result in more batspeed, power, and consistency.  One of the videos I have referenced before in this blog is the Sport Science video that proved this point when they described how professional hitters hit those monster home runs in the annual Home Run Hitting contest, even though the pitchers are just tossing the ball to them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9CEuJ5e2cM&feature=related

How about hitters who believe moving up in the batters box will give them better luck hitting breaking balls? Luck  is exactly what it will take for hitters to consistently hit breaking balls successfully from the front of the batters box.  First, I tell my hitters that breaking balls are sucker pitches!  Pitchers typically throw breaking balls that end up out of the strike zone, enticing hitters to swing wildly.  I tell my hitters the best way to have success with breaking balls is NOT TO SWING AT THEM!  The best hitters in baseball and softball are the ones who don’t chase breaking balls and don’t miss fastballs.  Of course, hitters will have to swing at some breaking balls, especially when the count is against them.  Hitters who stand in the rear of the batters box (right on the back line) will be able to see breaking balls longer and will be less likely to swing at balls out of the strike zone.

Don’t just take my word for it.  The next time you watch a baseball or softball game, you will see the best hitters standing as far back in the batters box as they can.  All great hitters also control the batters box. In future posts, I will discuss how I teach my hitters to move closer or farther away from home plate to gain an advantage over the pitcher, even before the ball is thrown.