Part 1: Why Front Toss
My D1 Head Coach loved front toss compared to hitting off of a tee because he wanted the ball moving and he wanted it moving fast.
If hitting a pitcher in a game is driving a car, then hitting BP is driving a golf cart, and hitting front toss is riding a bike.
1. It keeps you square to home plate. One of the problems with a lot of soft toss and tee work is that you tend to start to turn your inside shoulder toward the opposite gap in order to hit the ball that way. In the game, of course, we need to be square to home plate, that is with our shoulders pointing in line with the pitcher. Front toss comes from the same direction as a pitch so it allows us to work on driving the ball the other way and to all fields while staying square.
2. Anyone can do it. It sucks but coaches who consistently throw great BP are few and far between. Don’t get me started, but this can be really bad if you’re a Professional Baseball Player and your manager is terrible at it (which has happened to me twice!). Because it’s not like you can tell them they’re terrible! Front-toss is super easy. The feeder can sit in a chair or stand so very little movement is required. It’s also a lot less tiring for the thrower because we can pretty much throw underhand all day.
3. Accuracy. One of my hitting coaches was once a Big League Hitting Coach with a World Series Ring and he told me that he loves to front toss with his hitters because he can throw it as accurately as it sitting on a tee, but you still get the benefit of hitting a moving ball. This may not be true for all front toss throwers, but for the most part accuracy is a whole lot easier with front toss.
4. Off-speed pitches. Timing is easily the most overlooked area of hitting for young hitters. Coaches hardly ever point to timing as an issue for slumps, but they almost are the reason. We can easily work on our timing vs off-speed pitches by having the front tosser mix in a change-up in some of our change-of-pace rounds. Don’t take too much off of it, just a few miles per hour because of the distance. (More on this in the next section).
5. Lefties and righties. Moving the screen one way or the other can mimic the angle of the pitch that would come from righties and lefties. You’ll see off-centered front toss later in our Front Toss Drill-Series
6. It’s easy to replicate velocity. The next section includes a grid to help you throw the optimal speed for the player you’re throwing too but it is very easy to mimic fastball velocity while hitting front toss.
7. Develops good rhythm. We’ve asked a lot of Professional Hitters why they front toss recently and one of the most common reasons is rhythm. A huge part of hitting is timing and a huge part of timing is rhythm. Front toss allows you to get in synch with the tosser which we hope translates into getting into synch with the pitcher.
Why do so many Big Leaguers do it? The final question you have to ask yourself when asking why front toss is right for you getting better as a hitter is why do so many Big Leaguers do it? For me as a player its a way for me to get tee-level controlled work in with a moving baseball. Our coach at ORU had us hit front toss about 30 min a day, the head coach of College World Series Champs Coastal Carolina had his players hit and hit and hit. When asked why he said that he wanted his players to have swing endurance. This concept means that you can go and get 2 hours of solid hitting in and not be too tired to get quality reps. It doesn’t happen in a day, has to be built over time.
McCutchen said he spends about five to 10 minutes every day in the cage working on flip drills and hitting balls off a tee.
In conclusion. As we start to really think about crushing the ball the other way we have to reinforce good habits and get rid of the bad. Front toss allows us to simulate a fastball away and let it travel to the part of the plate that we were just working off of the tee. We can let the ball travel and get comfortable driving the ball to the opposite gap.
Doing lessons its very difficult to get a kid to drive the ball the other way if you were to just start by throwing BP. But if you get them off the tee for a while, and get them really comfortable hitting the ball in the way that we talked about in the previous section, then taper them to front toss for a while, then to BP; that’s when players make the big jump you’re looking for.
Crawl, walk, run. You’re crawling on the tee, front toss is when we walk, then BP and Live is when we run.
“Batting practice has become, at times, home run shows and a ‘gig me’ period. It’s not,” Oakland hitting coach Chili Davis said. “It’s a time to create and foster good habits. The guys who do it and do it right are the ones who are more successful. You watch Miguel Cabrera in BP. He can hit the ball as far as anyone. But in batting practice, he’s all about hitting to right-center field, right-center field, right-center field. He might have one round where he goes in there and tries to feel his extension, but not with the intention of hitting the ball in the seats. He’s trying to square the ball up.”