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Batting practice is a big waste of time

Aug 17, 2012, 8:51 AM EDT

Byron Buxton AP

Or so says most major leaguers. The New York Times has a great story about that:

But despite its almost sacred place in the game, there is one little secret about batting practice: many players think it is a colossal waste of time, a mind-numbing, flaw-producing, strategically empty exercise. Eric Chavez of the Yankees is a veteran of 15 years of major league batting practice, but he thinks it has helped him about as much as staring at a wall for an hour.

“B.P. is part of baseball tradition,” Chavez said. “It’s fun for the fans; you try to hit a couple of balls in the stands. But in terms of work, what are you working on? It’s a 30-mile-per-hour pitch.”

But such is the nature of baseball.  There is no sport that comes close to baseball in terms of “we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way” thinking. Why do batting practice? Because we’ve always done batting practice. Never mind that it’s kind of useless.

If some manager decided to scrap batting practice and did anything other than win the World Series, he’d be crucified. Doesn’t matter what the reason for the losing was, the “he got rid of batting practice!” argument would carry the day. Just ask any manager who tried to do closer by committee or anything else unorthodox about it. You play the non-conformist in baseball at your peril.

  1. hisgirlgotburrelled - Aug 17, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Get Joe Maddon to be the first to get rid of BP and it will be fine. People love that he’s unorthodox.

    • indaburg - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:17 AM

      Maddon might as well get rid of it. The Rays can’t hit worth shit with batting practice. Pitching is what is keeping us afloat.

  2. mntreehugger - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    I like the Buxton image

    • kopy - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:53 AM

      There’s a big hayfield up near Buxton.

      • umrguy42 - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:25 AM

        Well, there’s… there’s a lot of hayfields up there.

      • kopy - Aug 17, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        One in particular. It’s got a long rock wall with a big oak tree at the north end. It’s like something out of a Robert Frost poem. It’s where I asked my wife to marry me. We went there for a picnic and made love under that oak, and I asked and she said yes. Promise me, Red. If you ever get out, find that spot. At the base of that wall, you’ll find a rock that has no earthly business in a Maine hayfield. A piece of black, volcanic glass. There’s something buried under it I want you to have.

    • sabatimus - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:51 PM

      Alas, the movie was not filmed in Buxton–IMDB confirms this, but I can confirm it myself because I grew up there :)

  3. indaburg - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    Although the great Eric Chavez thinks it’s a waste of time, those nobodies Jeter and Pujols think that batting practice does help. Just because some baseball players think it is a waste of time doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Baseball players also wear Ionic Titanium baseball necklaces in the belief that it helps their performance, so their opinion on what helps or doesn’t help is suspect at best. A scientific study would need to be done to see what benefit, if any, it has. Most people do some type of warm up before engaging in athletic activity–loosening and warming up the muscles–and some studies have shown that it does help to prevent injury. Personally, I’d love to see them do batting practice with a machine throwing 130 mph and see what the hitters can do with those. Live pitching would look like slow pitch.

    • groundruledoublebourbon - Aug 17, 2012 at 11:58 AM

      Bat companies are salivating at the thought of hitters taking on 130 mph pitches.

    • theawesomersfranchise - Aug 17, 2012 at 12:46 PM

      Machines are garbage and screws with your (my, and everyone else I know) timing. You (I) need to see the wind-up and arm motion to get anything out of BP. And 130? lol come on man 90 is good enough.

      • indaburg - Aug 17, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        Actually, as a fan, what I would love to get to see are the drills the hitters are doing in the indoor cages. That would be cool.

  4. mybrunoblog - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Pre game on field BP is here to stay. I respect the fact that Chavez and some guys don’t care for it but many players do use it to work on things. I think with the modern advent of the indoor batting cage there is less need for on field BP, however it still serves a useful purpose.

  5. bigleagues - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Judging by Eric Chavez bating average over the last several years . . . OK, the bulk of his career . . . he’s probably one of the last people that should be deriding taking BP.

    How about we ask Tony Gwynn or Wade Boggs how they feel about BP . . . I’d be more inclined to be persuaded by what they have to say.

    I think BP is like most things in life . . . it’s what you make of it. If you are bothered by the mundane tasks associated with your profession, then it will be reflected in the quality of work that you do.

    • wihalofan - Aug 17, 2012 at 2:44 PM

      How about we ask Tommy John what he thinks. Or Craig’s dad.

  6. chumthumper - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Went to a Cards – Reds game once. Bench hit four over the fence during BP. He went 0-4 during the game. I enjoyed the heck out of it, so Chavez is probably right that a lot it is for the tans.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:48 AM

      And, as a fan, I love it. Well, when I was kid anyway. Now I try to show up 30 minutes before the start of the game and just look at the park itself.

  7. thatyankeedude - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    I played baseball all the way up until this year because my knee gave out but I know one thing and that is when I get to take BP before a game I am more likely to do better. I think that these guys might not realize it but no matter what the speed of the pitch is the mechanics of the swing still have to be the same and when you stop doing those mechanics it can throw your game off big time. Don’t think your too good for the game chavez, unless you are batting 1.000 than you can stop batting practice.

  8. sportsdrenched.com - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    I’m not sure Eric Chavez is the best person to be opining on weather BP is usefull or not. Like others have said. If some of the leagues greatest hitters have that opinion I’ll give it some credence.

    Anyone whose done anything athleticly knows that you need to practice your trade…except AI. BP the way it’s currently conducted could probably use some tweaks..I guess. However, if proffessional players aren’t actually playing. I kind of expect them to be practicing.

    • sportsdrenched.com - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      *whether*

      Obligitory Edit Function Request

  9. unlost1 - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    man, we talkin’ ’bout PRACTICE

  10. snowbirdgothic - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    I confess, I’d be happier with a little less batting practice and a little more infield practice. Watching the Indians butcher the ball all over the place the other night had me wondering when Walter Matthau was going to come charging out of the dugout.

  11. jimtherealtor - Aug 17, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Let’s get rid of batting practice and also driving ranges. After all, we all know we leave our best shots and best swings at the driving range and the batting cage. I know most pro golfers warm up to loosen their muscles and get their muscle memory awake. Since baseball players don’t have to compete for their income (except at contract signing time) I’m sure they don’t need it!

  12. kehnn13 - Aug 17, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    BP is good for muscle memory- That is all.

  13. jdillydawg - Aug 17, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    Batting practice is a lot like hitting a bucket of balls before playing golf. It loosens you up a bit, I guess, but does it really help your performance? How does hitting a ball on a perfect lie out in the middle of nowhere equate to the real life shot buried deep in rough with a lake in front of you, a bunker guarding the green and two trees to clear before you’re even close to the pin? (I don’t hit many fairways, as you can tell…)

    Similarly, I’d say BP doesn’t prepare one too well for a Felix Hernandez slider or curveball. But if Felix (or his clone) were throwing BP, then maybe we’d see some killer hitting!

  14. sabatimus - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    Oh, it’s batting practice, not “BP”. I don’t think “BP” is good for anything.

  15. florida727 - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    I used to walk to White Sox park as a kid with my dad for games (yeah, it was a LONG time ago :) ). He’d insist on getting there in time for BP, we’d sit in the left field stands and try to catch “home run” balls. Great memories. Wonder if today’s dads take their kids there early enough to enjoy it?

    • elpendejo59 - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:35 PM

      I actually convinced MY dad to go. I had always wanted to see it. He had no opinion either way, but ever since that Braves vs Marlins game in 2008, he now makes it a point to ask if we are going to show up early enough for BP. Of course, I’m 31, so I’m no kid, but we have had that tradition for a few years, anyway.

  16. tuloisgod - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    I’ve always thought that BP would be good only if the pitchers replicated — in delivery, speed and movement — what the batters actually were going to face in a game. As a result, I believe that each team ought to have a “shadow” rotation of pitchers who could mimic, say, Kershaw one night, Cain the next (on a West Coast trip). Of course, if you had pitchers who could do that, it’d be a shame to waste ‘em throwing batting practice, I suppose. Ask me about the merits of the six-man rotation next, OK?

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