Enhancing Front Toss
At the ABCA National Convention I had the opportunity to watch Bobby Tewksbary (@TewksHitting) give a hitting demo. The demo was about the different angles we can throw the ball at to mimic the angle we will see in game, using the pitching angle on Hit-Trax. This got me thinking about the ways that I have typically done BP and ways we can enhance it. The main way I thought we could enhance our BP, was through changing the way we did front toss. Tewksbary did everything from an overhand angle, except for one demonstration, which I will go over below. Here are 3 ways I believe we can enhance our front toss to make it better
- ) Stop doing underhand flips
The angle of underhand flips is typically on an upward trajectory, whereas the typical path of a baseball from a pitcher is from a downward trajectory. Therefore, what is the purpose for flips? Is it to feel good? If so, we are feeling good at a trajectory we will never see in game. Therefore, if we want to ‘feel good’ in BP, I would much rather have someone throw slow BP at a downward angle that helps to mimic the game trajectory. I’d argue we should be doing less and less of ‘feel good’ BP, but I talked about that in a previous blog. The main thing here is to mimic game trajectory, so the path we are trying to create plays in game. If we are getting used to a path that we don’t see in game, then our bat path may not be set up for game like trajectories of pitches. Therefore, I don’t think that underhand flips serve much a purpose for helping create the path we want
2.) Throw overhand and firm
If you do want to do front toss, throw with some firm velocity and throw overhand from sitting on a bucket. If you have a Hit-Trax I’d recommend looking into what game-like angles are for pitches and then try to mimic them with your overhand angle, either by sitting on a bucket or standing up, depending on what each does to your angle. Also, use a radar gun to test what your speed is and then use this chart, which I believe was created by Derek Florko of the LA Angels (@derekflorko):
If you don’t have a Hit-Trax, I would make sure that each angle I am throwing at is a downward angle and firm to create a more game-like environment for the hitter.
3.) Use an upward angle to mimic high spin fastballs
One thing that I found interesting from Tewksbary’s demonstration, was when he laid almost flat on his back to throw front toss. Not only, was this incredibly difficult to do, but it created an angle that mimicked high spin fastballs a the top of the zone, which caused his ‘student’ John Lampros (@twofivebaseball) to swing and miss a couple of times before adjusting what he did at the plate. The reason for this is that swings are not being shaped to hit high spin fastballs because they look like they are rising and aren’t continuing at the downward angle that most pitches are. Therefore, throwing pitches at these angles causes hitters to have to adjust and learn what those pitches look like and what it takes for their swings to connect with them. It was a very unique way to do front toss and one that can help hitters adjust to what pitchers are trying to do now in today’s game.
Front toss can absolutely still be a beneficial part of batting practice. However, there needs to be a specific purpose to what we are doing. There is no reason anymore to just sit up there and flip slow baseballs at the incorrect angle for our hitters. It either needs to be at a downward angle and firm or re-creating an angle that mimics high spin. If we are just throwing front toss as an extra station to give our hitters extra looks, we are doing a disservice to them and their careers. We need to use the new data we have to help create better hitters and better competitors in every drill we have. If we are looking to change some things mechanically, there are better drills than underhand front toss to create the desired results. Lets use front toss to our hitters advantage and help them create a path that will play in game.