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How do 14u players get better at hitting junk?

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  • How do 14u players get better at hitting junk?

    I've discussed in several threads already from the pitching angle, how 65-70 MPH fastballs down the middle don't lead to much success for 14u pitchers in my area - it takes off speed and/or good location to slow down competent 14u hitters (or velocity over 70 MPH - but we don't see that much)

    But I want to ask about how to deal with this from the hitter viewpoint now.

    My own son was on the B 13u team this summer but come September 1, a few weeks after they flipped to 14u, the two teams merged into 1 and mostly it's just the better players left. And yet . . .

    They can't hit junk.

    We have one really great hitter who is far beyond everyone else on the team, who seems to be able to hit anything. But the rest? They hit fine against 60-70 MPH coming down the middle. Lots of quality contact in those situations.

    However, in 7 games my son has played with this team, we have had only one game where we saw pitchers delivering mid speed fastballs like this. They hit well in that game. They hit terrible (except for our one good hitter) in all the other games, where the pitchers we faced pounded the outside corner, changed speed, threw curveballs, etc. We are getting 2-5 hits per game, and around half of them are coming from our one good hitter.

    Our hitters are not striking out too much - it's lots of sky high infield popups, high fly balls that are caught grounders that are cleanly fielded, etc. Not a lot of quality contact except in the one game I saw where the pitchers threw nothing but fastballs.

    So how can my son and the rest of his BBCOR wielding teammates hit better when faced with pitching that goes beyond mid-velocity fastballs?

    Is this just a matter of getting strong enough to increase swing speed with BBCOR? Or is there a typical learning curve and set of things you can do in practice to learn how to hit better against tricky pitching?

  • #2
    My kid noticed that at the further distance he had a much easier time reading and reacting to the spin of the ball. I was kinda shocked when he was breaking down what pitches he hit after his first 13U tournament last night. Maybe concentrate on that?

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    • #3
      What do your average hitting sessions look like? Do you pitch "junk" to them? If they see nothing but pitches that simulate fastballs during practice (which is typical) then I would not reasonably expect them to be able to hit anything but fastballs. They will only get better if they have focused practice in the areas they are weakest.

      We previously asked the moms and much less experienced dads to throw bullpen because it is a lot closer to the "junk" that they seem to struggle with. They fuss and whine because it is harder to hit than what they normally face but since it does more closely simulate the "junk" I believe it has value. Might be something worth trying.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by SouthGaBaseball View Post
        What do your average hitting sessions look like? Do you pitch "junk" to them? If they see nothing but pitches that simulate fastballs during practice (which is typical) then I would not reasonably expect them to be able to hit anything but fastballs. They will only get better if they have focused practice in the areas they are weakest.

        We previously asked the moms and much less experienced dads to throw bullpen because it is a lot closer to the "junk" that they seem to struggle with. They fuss and whine because it is harder to hit than what they normally face but since it does more closely simulate the "junk" I believe it has value. Might be something worth trying.
        The hitting sessions are a mix. Practices often end with some kind of hitting, and it can be:

        1) soft toss or front toss from coach with rest of kids on the field (obviously useless for learning to hit junk, but they do this to make sure every kid gets a turn with a few swings)

        2) kids taking turns pitching, being permitted to throw whatever they want - this is useful, and according to my son, exposes just how terrible our team is at hitting the tricky pitching he serves them up. He so proudly tells me stories after practice how he induced weak contact off "great hitters" on his team but really what it's about is that all but one of our hitters suck at anything but fastball hitting. This is the kind of thing they need to do more of!

        3) Occasionally we have intrasquad scrimmages. One time at one such scrimmage, my son was pitching and after nibbling the corners and changing speed and all that for long at bats, the coach got impatient with the lengthy at bats and told him to serve fast balls down the middle. Most players then started hitting bombs to the fence or other forms of quality contact. I thought it was absurd that the coach made him do this given the weakness on our team, and the fact that he only throws 58-60 MPH so I didn't see how anyone was learning anything with this.

        Anyway - you give me the idea that I should talk to the director of the travel program and tell him what I observe about our 14u team, and that maybe they could tilt the practices more towards exposing the kids to tricky pitching, or at least simulations of tricky pitching. I know they know how to do this, it's just a matter of shifting priorities.

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        • #5
          Your post #4 tells me why your team cant hit.

          Practices limited to one hour field time are for defense only. and limited running. (kids pitching here is a serious time waster)

          Cages are for throwing FB curves and sliders by COACHES/DADs. (move them up or back to approximate expected game speeds - ex. 35mph at 30 feet). Are they striding forward on EVERY p[itch?

          If you aren't doing this at this age, you're gonna keep getting hammered.
          Last edited by songtitle; 10-08-2018, 09:31 AM.
          efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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          • #6
            Last week's release of Youth Baseball Edge dealt with batters learning to recognize pitches (not track pitches). Maybe give it a listen.

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            • #7
              Hitting stuff involves recognition of the rotation of the ball, hand-eye coordination, keeping weight back and the front shoulder in. In other words don’t end up flying open with your weight on your front foot. At 14u and under a lot of pitchers tip their pitches. They come from a different place/slot when throwing stuff.

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              • #8
                The best way to get better at hitting junk? Hit the fastball early in the count, don't freakin miss it. Hunt fastballs. Destroy them. The hitter HAS to have a plan when you go to the plate, "I'm hunting fastballs until I'm in a pitcher's count". Your approach changes depending on the count.

                Typically, the guys that can hit junk (curves and sliders) pick up the spin out of the hand. The hangers get hit, the ones that start in the zone get spit on. The only way you're going to learn how to do that is to see it and practice it over and over and over and over....
                Ty Cobb-"Every great batter works on the theory that the pitcher is more afraid of him than he is of the pitcher."

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                • #9
                  Yeah, that too. Our coach has been telling them when you get your fastball, don't miss it since 10U.

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                  • #10
                    Simply practice (repetition of seeing, and recognizing them early), and maybe even more importantly, think (have a plan at the plate..think like a pitcher, and anticipate them).
                    In memory of "Catchingcoach" - Dave Weaver: February 28, 1955 - June 17, 2011

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by chief2791 View Post
                      Hit the fastball early in the count, don't freakin miss it. Hunt fastballs. Destroy them. The hitter HAS to have a plan when you go to the plate, "I'm hunting fastballs until I'm in a pitcher's count". .
                      Amen! This is the holy grail of hitting in high school!

                      I preach this to my teams so consistently that I probably mumble it in my sleep.

                      And, like yourself, I use the word "hunt" instead of "look".

                      Only difference, I usually say "I'm hunting fastballs until I'm behind in the count".

                      Last edited by skipper5; 10-08-2018, 11:22 AM.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by skipper5 View Post

                        Amen! This is the holy grail of hitting in high school!

                        I preach this to my teams so consistently that I probably mumble it in my sleep.

                        And, like yourself, I use the word "hunt" instead of "look".

                        Only difference, I usually say "I'm hunting fastballs until I'm behind in the count".
                        My son does NOT have this mentality. I will see if I can get him to start thinking this way when he's at the plate.

                        I noticed that nobody mentioned anything about BBCOR - does anyone see a big drop off in ability to deal with junk when players start swinging BBCOR (and therefore slower swing speeds)? It's harder to "wait on it" with slow swing speeds, I would think.

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                        • #13
                          The holy grail of pitching: throw curve/offspeed for strikes until you are in a pitchers' count...?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by JoeG View Post

                            My son does NOT have this mentality. I will see if I can get him to start thinking this way when he's at the plate.

                            I noticed that nobody mentioned anything about BBCOR - does anyone see a big drop off in ability to deal with junk when players start swinging BBCOR (and therefore slower swing speeds)? It's harder to "wait on it" with slow swing speeds, I would think.
                            This should never be a consideration. If a player can’t get past it he won’t be playing much longer. My son was 5’ at twelve, 5’2” at thirteen and 5’4” fourteen. With a May birthday he was actually one year younger in baseball eligibility. We never thought in terms of him being small and the bat being heavy. We thought in terms of ... what needs to be done to be successful. By the time he was playing 14u I sometimes wondered how far a ball would have gone if he was as big as most of the rest of the good hitters. At sixteen I got the answer.

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                            • #15
                              Most HS kids don't 'wait on it' because they have no idea how to stride. Striding correctly is simply coiling inward as long as you can possibly hold it.

                              Most kids begin to uncoil, halfway through the stride, which opens up their hips, which drops their elbow, which gives them bat drag. which leads to failure.
                              efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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