Drill: Plate Discipline - Batting Practice or Scrimmage
To help players learn their hitting zone for different counts. This is a drill to learning plate discipline that can be used to get the player thinking about pitch location and get a rough idea of what pitches they like.
For this drill to be useful you'll have had to discuss the concept of plate discipline and adjusting to different counts. If not, do not use this drill. Information on developing plate discipline and a game time approach.
Bat, Batting helmet, Baseballs
This is a variation to your normal main station batting practice and works well in a cage as well. It can also be used for a scrimmage situation.
When a new hitters steps into the box, he starts with a zero strike count. I don't track balls in this drill as the goal is to have them adjust to the number of strikes they have in the count (for older teams this might need to be incorporated as a 1-1 count might be different for a hitter than a 3-1 count. The player should put the barrel of his bat in the middle of the zone where he likes the ball the most. That gives the coach an idea of where the ball should be in order for the player to swing with zero strikes. Again if you haven't worked with them on shrinking the zone with zero strikes, then this drill doesn't make any sense in less you just want them to adjust to a bigger zone when they have two strikes.
For batting practice: Throw the first pitch, if the pitch is not in the zero strike zone and the player swings, the player loses a swing in addition to the one just taken. If the pitch is a strike whether in the zone or not, then the count goes to one strike.
At one strike, ask them what their zone is. For most players this should be the standard strike zone. Throw another pitch and again make sure that they are swinging at strikes and laying off balls. Same penality if they swing at a bad pitch.
Finally go to two srikes and have them work on protecting. I don't penalize the hitter if he swings and misses at a pitch he should be swinging at, but if he swings and misses at a pitch way out of the zone, then just like the other counts, he loses a pitch.
Example - Batting practice where each player gets 5 swings.
Pitch 1: 0 strikes, pitch is high, batter swings. Loses one swing.
Pitch 3: 1 strike, pitch is in strike zone. Player takes the pitch (good pitch). Loses one swing in addition to this one (if it's close to being a ball I wouldn't have them lose a pitch)
Pitch 5: 2 strikes, pitch is way outside, player doesn't swing. Next pitch is in the strike zone, player swings and runs it out.
Hitter 1 only got 3 swings of the bat instead of 5.
Pitch 1: 0 strikes, pitch is a strike but not in the zone, batter doesn't swing. Add one pitch to the hitter. I don't give extra swings for balls as I'm just not that accurate all the time. Switch to 1 strike and throw another pitch.
Pitch 2: 1 strike, pitch is in strike zone. Player hits the ball.
Pitch 3: 1 strike, pitch is in strike zone. Player hits the ball.
Pitch 4: 1 strike, pitch is in strike zone. Player hits the ball.
Pitch 5: 2 strikes, pitch is in strike zone. Player hits the ball.
Pitch 6: 2 strikes, bonus pitch. Player hits it and runs it out.
Hitter 2 gets 6 swings because he was a disciplined hitter.
Teaching plate discipline can be difficult to do. I see many coaches who want kids up there swinging as if swinging is the goal. Swinging isn't the goal, getting on base is the goal whether by getting a hit or walking. At the same time we want kids to be aggressive and not let good pitches go by. This drill attempts to promote swinging at good pitches and not swinging at bad pitches. It makes the players think about the strike count during batting practice and to think about their approach. Feel free to modify how you use this drill. Maybe you want two pitches thrown for each count, or to do it in some other fashion. As long as the kids understand the rules and the rewards (extra swings) and punishments (fewer swings), then you'll find that this is a good drill to get kids swinging at good pitches.
For a scrimmage you'll keep an accurate count, but there are still rewards and penalities. With zero strikes, if a player swings at a bad pitch and doesn't put it in play, then he goes right to two strikes. With one strike, a swing at a bad pitch results in being out. Again, make sure you give a little grey area as you do want players being aggressive if the ball is in the strike zone. You really just want to punish the swings at poor pitches.