More than in any other sport, achieving mastery in baseball is dependent on hard work.
While talent still counts, no player has reached a high level of the game without investing a ton of effort on the practice field.
Every Major League batter got where he is with countless hours at the plate. Modern pitching machines have made it even easier to put in the reps.
Batters can work on developing their skills without coaches or fellow players pitching them live balls.
However, pitching machines do have their limitations and some aspects of live pitching can’t be replaced.
The pitching machine vs live pitching debate is probably as old as the pitching machines themselves.
With both practice methods offering certain benefits, it’s up to the coaches to strike the right balance to help hitters properly develop.
Pitching Machine – Pros And Cons
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Last update on 2022-01-16 at 17:25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Pitching machines have become a part of practice on all levels of baseball. They are used by everyone, from kids in Little League to experienced MLB pros.
While they still can’t fully replace live pitchers, pitching machines are more than a valuable practice tool.
This is especially true for modern machines that can not only throw fastballs, but also sliders, curveballs, and grounders.
To provide a clearer picture of how useful pitching machines can be, I’ll go over the main advantages and drawbacks of using them in hitting practice
Pitching Machine Pros:
Kids, just starting with baseball, often struggle with confidence.
This can happen either because of fear of getting hit by the ball or because they get frustrated as they rarely connect.
The adjustable speed of the ball and consistent strikes that the pitching machine provides allows them to get rid of the at-bat jitters.
They can get comfortable in the batters’ box and concentrate on their swing.
Each player prefers a certain type of batting stance and swing.
Pitching machines allows repetitive practice that helps players analyze the mechanics and make necessary adjustments.
When trying to improve a certain skill, for example hitting pitches on the inside edge, a batter needs to work with consistent pitches that hit the same spot.
No matter how good, a pitcher or coach performing live pitching can’t reproduce the same exact pitch time after time.
That’s why using a pitching machine is ideal for target training of a specific skill and building muscle memory.
Pitching Machine Doesn’t Get Tired
The most obvious advantage of the pitching machine is that you can practice whenever you like and for as long as you want.
The live arm of a pitcher or a coach isn’t always available and when it is, it can hardly offer consistent pitches over a longer period of time.
With the pitching machine, players have much more time at their disposal to work on improving their game.
Pitching Machine Cons:
Messing Up Rhythm And Timing
Too much repetition can be a bad thing. A good batter is capable to adapt and adjust to different pitchers.
When working too much with the machine, a hitter can lose the feel for visual cues that can help read various pitches.
Without the human element in practice, his timing and rhythm can become too robotic.
Too Much Consistency
The pitching machine delivers constant strikes which is not something hitters can expect in a real game.
This can make them overanxious in the live game and just swing at everything.
Unnatural Release Point
With pitching machines, the point of ball release is often located so it would suit the feeder.
More often than not, it’s different from the live pitcher’s release point.
Seeing the live arm in action is important for batters to gain the feel for syncing their swing with the ball.
Live Pitching – Pros And Cons
While using the pitching machines has many benefits, live pitching is still an irreplaceable part of batters’ training.
If you compare the pitching machine vs live pitching, it’s clear that hitters will get more swings with the machine.
However, live pitching will provide them with quality swings against quality pitches.
Still, same as with pitching machines, there are certain downsides to the live pitching.
Live Pitching Pros:
Closer To The Real Thing
Practice that involves live pitching will better prepare hitters for the real in-game situations.
Unlike pitching machines, the coach or pitcher can throw changeups, curveballs, and use different timing.
All this helps the batter develop an instinct and the ability to react to various pitching styles.
Easier To Provide And Receive Feedback
During the live pitching with a coach, the batter can receive instant pointers on his technique and adjust his swing.
Realistic Pitching Movement
A key to being a successful hitter is being able to recognize visual cues from the pitcher and react to them.
During live pitching, batters can observe arm movement, windup, and release that are very similar to what they will face in the live game.
It’s More Fun
Practicing with a pitching machine, although useful, can quickly get boring and monotonous.
Having another person, be it a coach, pitcher, friend, or family member, makes things more fun for everyone involved.
It creates a more relaxing training atmosphere and helps keep batters motivated.
Live Pitching Cons:
Lack Of Stamina
During live pitching, a pitcher can throw quality pitches to the batter for only so long.
People get tired, and after a while, a coach or a pitcher can’t maintain the consistency of pitching that is often needed, especially when training younger players.
One of the downsides of live pitching is that it’s often hard to find someone to throw the ball.
While you can use the pitching machine whenever, with live pitching, you depend on the schedule and availability of coaches and pitchers.
Most of the coaches working with batters can’t replicate the speed of fastballs thrown by high-level pitchers.
Some coaches deal with this by simulating fastball reaction time by throwing the ball from shorter distances.
Pitching Machine Vs Live Pitching – Which Is Better?
Pitching machines and live pitching are both essential parts of hitting practice.
Rather than thinking which one’s better, they should be viewed as complementary aspects of training that provide the best results when combined.
Each delivers a valuable contribution to the practice that the other one is lacking.
Pitching machines are useful for building up confidence, developing specific skills, or redefining batting mechanics.
On the other hand, live pitching is better in simulating real-game situations and developing the feel for the pitcher’s movement.
The best coaches manage to find a balance between machine and live pitching so their players can develop a full set of skills.