Teaching a hitter to time a baseball is difficult. There are many variables that are hard to figure out. First of all, timing is based on good vision. Hitters who do not have great vision are at a disadvantage when trying to time a pitched baseball. Also, some hitters naturally have better hand-eye coordination, which is also necessary for good timing. Developing great timing is one of those things that if anyone ever figured out the key to getting and keeping it, they would become an instant millionaire. Additionally, good timing can be there one day and disappear the next day, or even from one at-bat to the next. I do know the best way to attain and keep good timing is to develop a good repeatable, compact swing. Many of my articles and in my book deal with developing a compact swing because of the value in having one. It makes sense that the more compact the swing, the longer the hitter can wait on the ball.
Hitters who can wait the longest for the pitch become good hitters because it allows them to swing at good, hittable pitches. Timing is useless if swinging at bad pitches. Additionally, unless a hitter can repeat a good, fundamentally sound swing, timing is often irrelevant.
This is not meant to mean that timing cannot be improved. The following hitting tips will help baseball players develop and maintain good timing:
1. Baseball players should have their eyes checked once a year to make sure their vision is at an optimal level.
2. As mentioned, hitters should continue to work on developing a compact, fundamentally sound swing.
3. Hitters should be taught to hit the ball in the direction of where the ball is pitched. For example, inside pitches should be pulled to the hitter's side of the field and outside pitches should be hit the opposite way. This should be ingrained into hitters' minds from a young age. The location of the pitch determines where it is hit and not the speed of the pitch.
4. Batting practice pitchers should alternate speeds of pitches with no speed considered too slow or too fast, within reason of course based on a player's age.
5. Batting practice speeds should be as close to game speeds as possible. Having batting practice pitchers move up or back as needed may be necessary to simulate these speeds.
6. Hitters should be encouraged to stand in (with helmet on and no bat) when their pitchers are warming up before games and during practice. This will help them see more game-like speed pitches and it allows them to just focus on the ball without swinging.
7. It is usually easily noticed when hitters are continually late on pitches or early on pitches. For players who are late, they should face faster thrown pitches than normal and hitters who are generally swinging early should face predominantly slower thrown pitches.
8. Coaches should stress to hitters the importance of watching the ball the complete distance. It is common for many hitters not to focus on the ball the first half or the last half of the ball flight.
9. Setting objects down along the path between the pitcher and batter and having the hitter call out when the ball goes over those objects can help players with tracking pitches.
10. Players should be encouraged to play other sports where hitting an object is involved. Sports like tennis, racquet ball and table tennis can help develop timing and hand-eye coordination.
Finally, just like developing a good swing is a constant process, developing good timing is a never ending job for baseball players.