Pitchers hitting

There is all kinds of “conventional wisdom” in the game of softball. You’ll often hear you should never make the first or last out at third base, that you should always bunt a runner to second with nobody out, and other such ideas. Some of them make sense, some do not.

Another common one is that you should DH for the pitcher. The reasoning is pitchers can’t hit because they spend all their time working on hitting. (Or in some cases there is a fear that the pitcher will get hurt batting or running the bases and then be out of the game, perhaps even down for the season.)

Yet let’s think about it for a minute. Pitching in fastpitch softball is an extremely difficult position. It requires great dedication and great concentration. Pitchers often continue to practice their craft after the field players have been sent on their way. Hmmmm. What attributes would we like in hitters? How about dedication in the off season and concentration at the plate? Get where I’m going?

Here’s an extreme example. When the 2004 National team was making its run toward the Olympics, their cleanup hitter in most games was a lady named Lisa Fernandez. She was either playing third or DHing for someone, and hitting the heck out of the ball. Yet when she was in the circle, the coaching staff would have someone hit for her. One day Coach Mike Candrea stopped to think about it and realized that was just silly. He then let Lisa hit for herself when she was pitching, and she helped the team win its third Olympic gold medal.

On my own team we’re seeing a microcosm of that scenario. Currently three out of the top four hitters are also my pitchers. (The fourth is an ex-pitcher, incidentally.) We’ll see how it goes during the season, but those three are leading or close to leading most offensive categories. Why on earth would I want to DH for them?

I’d be interested to hear from others who let their pitchers hit, to see if they are also at the top of the stats. Maybe we’re on oddity. But I don’t think so. Dedication and focus are required to hit well. Good pitchers have both in abundance.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on June 17, 2008, in Coaching, Hitting. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. We have the same thing. Our top hitter just hit 0.533 one HR and had a 1533 OBS,8 RBI in a five game tournament. She is an ex-pitcher as well. Our starter hit 0.364 other hit 0.385. With the exception of our lead off hitter who is not a pitcher but hit a 0.533 as well. This group makes up that 80 – 20 rule where 20% of your athletes perform like this 80% of the time while the others are hit and miss.

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  2. two sides to the coin. Pitchers tend to understand situational pitching better and as a result, are better at predicting what pitch might be coming next. Conversely, look at Hal Steinbrenner’s comments on the DH when he lost Chen-Ming Wa (sp) running bases.At 14s, my pitchers hit. They are athletes and are always in the game.

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  3. My daughter pitches for our 14U team and is also the top hitter. She normally plays 3rd when not hitting. I have discussed the pitching & hitting dilemma with her. Pointing out that right now most pitchers on top college teams don’t hit. She loves to hit as well as pitch and right now cannot decide between the two. If she goes on to play softball in college I am sure here ability to be a hitting pitcher could be a deciding factor.

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  4. Hopefully the thinking will change in the next few years and it won’t be such a dilemma. One of my students plays for a D3 college team. She was told during the winter not to bother working on hitting because she was only going to pitch. But she’s a good hitter, and eventually started hitting clean-up for her team. No sense keeping a good bat on the bench — especially when you don’t have too many on the field! So there is hope for your daughter.

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