As the debate over the use of pitching machines vs live pitching will most likely continue as long as pitching machines are available, I figured I would share some of my own thoughts and experiences with you.
When your kid is just starting out in Little League, the biggest problem you will most likely face is the fear your child will have of being hit by the ball. Being hit by a pitch can produce a fear that can be hard for your kid to overcome after that first time getting hit.
One big advantage with a pitching machine is consistency. In a lot of youth leagues, a pitching machine of some kind is used. The use of a pitching machine is a great tool that allows young hitters to get comfortable being in the batters box, without the fear factor of being hit by the ball.
At a young age, or any player just starting out, the most important batting skill that you will want to concentrate on is the mechanics of the swing. The ability to have consistent strikes thrown to the batter allows you, or the coach, to concentrate more on teaching the mechanics.
By removing the fear of being hit, and giving the batter the opportunity to swing at consistent strikes, you will quickly and easily build confidence. Building confidence in a beginner is very important. If you’re pitching to a beginner and you can’t throw consistent strikes, they will have a very hard time making contact with the ball. You will quickly see their confidence level drop.
Many pitching machines today have the option of throwing many different types of pitches and speeds.
As players grow and progress out of the youth leagues, they will invariably begin to face better pitching. Pitchers will begin throwing curve balls, sliders, change ups, and any other “junk” they can think of.
Having a pitching machine that can throw a variety of pitches with varying speeds is a great tool to prepare them for the changing pitches they will be facing. A pitching machine that can be adjusted for height is also a good feature to have so that you can continue to match the height of the pitchers they will face.
Probably the biggest advantage for me personally with a pitching machine is the fact that it doesn’t get tired!
I have three kids that I practice with from spring all the way through fall, and whether I want to admit it or not, after a couple hundred pitches my arm is feeling pretty dead. After the first hundred or so, my consistency starts to leave little to be desired.
After going through years of dead arm and countless bruises, I decided to start research for a pitching machine of our own. I wanted quality, but didn’t have, nor did I want to spend, thousands of dollars.
One of the biggest down sides to pitching machines is obviously the cost factor. While prices have come way down since I was playing, unfortunately, so has some of the quality.
As I went through the process of deciding whether or not to take the plunge and buy one for my kids, I sat down and added up the costs associated with going to the cages vs owning our own. With 3 and sometimes 4 kids going to the cages at $10 – $20 each, I realized I was spending $40 – $80 bucks every other week for 6 months out of the year. That’s roughly $500 – $1,000 a year!
Now that I had a number in my head, I decided I would finally invest in a pitching machine.
After reading about the pros and cons of pitching machines from the “gurus”, I can personally tell you that most of them have very little idea of what they’re talking about, much less experience. I have seen nothing but improvements in all of my kids after using the pitching machine.
They easily make the transition from machine to live pitch with no problem. Even my 9 yr old can hit a curve ball. (* I do not recommend teaching kids to throw curve balls until at least age 12!)
If you would like to check out my top rated pitching machine that won’t break the bank, please read my full review by clicking the button below.
Let’s take a quick commercial time out, do a little shopping and then we will discuss live pitching. 🙂
While I am a proponent of using pitching machines as a tool for teaching swing mechanics and building confidence at all skill and age levels, I do like to add live pitching into batting practice as much as possible.
One advantage to live pitching is to teach timing. Every pitcher is going to have a different release point and arm angle. When I am pitching for batting practice, I try to vary my delivery speeds and arm angles often.
I also like the batter to feel a little “uncomfortable” while standing in the batters box. I don’t want them to get overly used to seeing a strike with every pitch. As they move up in age and skill level, pitchers are not always going to throw the ball right down the middle of the plate. With a no balls, 2 strike count, the pitcher will usually throw a pitch out of the strike zone to try and make the batter “chase”.
If the hitter is not on the look out in this situation and has gotten too used to seeing only strikes in batting practice, a good pitcher has a very good chance of striking out the batter. Show them a good variance of pitches and keep them on their toes with the occasional “wild pitch”.
With live pitching, the batter is going to see a different pitch, pitch location, or delivery speed with almost every pitch.
Pitching Machine VS Live Pitching – Which Is Better? – The Bottom Line!
When players are just starting out, I would definitely recommend the use of a pitching machine. The consistency you get with a pitching machine will help in the development of beginners.
The ability to see many different types of pitches on a consistent basis will give the batter the confidence they will need moving forward. If a hitter is having trouble hitting a curve ball, set your machine to throw curve balls and let your hitter see as many curve balls as it takes to feel confident hitting them.
Same goes for whichever pitch they are having trouble with.
As far as which is better; this is ultimately a decision you will have to make. In my personal experience, using live pitching in combination with a good pitching machine has produced great results.
I will either start or finish batting practice sessions with the machine. Sometimes I will do one or the other. Keep it mixed up and don’t let them get too used to only strikes and sit back and watch them shine.
I hope you enjoyed this article on Pitching Machine vs Live Pitching – Which Is Better.
If you have any other questions, please leave a comment below and I will be more than happy to assist.
Thanks for stopping by ~Jeremy
One thing I would like to add is that with a pitching machine, kids will see 2-3 times more pitches as coaches can feed balls rapidly with less time wasted. This will make practices more efficient with more swings per kid/per practice. I do believe that live arm in combination with a pitching machine will provide the best results! I’ve also witnessed this in travel softball, where a team my daughter played for, did both machine (to replicate the speeds of the fastest pitchers they would encounter at a tournament) and live arm (to prepare for “real-world” movement and to build courage of facing a real pitcher.)
If I had to choose one or the other, that would depend. Since I am not the best “human” pitching machine, then I would go with a machine, personally. If I could pitch for the boys effectively , then I would save the money and pitch myself. But since all my children play either softball or baseball, and my machine can throw both types of balls, the pitching machine was a great investment in my opinion!
I agree 100%. With the pitching machine, we can usually get through the whole team twice in one practice.
I like to alternate with the machine. While I love building confidence with young hitters through the consistency that a pitching machine provides, I also love showing them the Occasional wild pitch, just to keep ’em on their toes. 🙂
When it comes to pitching machine vs live pitching, my advice is to incorporate both into each batting practice. This is what has produced the best results for me over the years.
That’s awesome that you got a machine that throws both softballs and baseballs. I am in the same situation with 3 boys playing baseball and my daughter playing softball. We went with the Jugs Lite-Flite because it throws both and we had a lot of experience with that machine before making the purchase. That’s why we make it our top rated machine.
Which machine did you get? I would love to hear what you do and don’t like about it and to see if it’s one we have used before.
Thanks for stopping by and hope to hear from you again soon. ~Jeremy
Hello Jeremy and thanks for a really interesting site. We’re not big on baseball here in the UK, but I remember playing it at school, where I must admit I was a bit ‘lightweight’. I think a pitching machine would’ve been perfect for me as it would’ve helped me to overcome my fear of the ball. It’s a bit too late now though!
Robert Buchanan says
Great article. Back when I first stared playing baseball, we never even heard of pitching machines. They were probably out there, just never about them. Then again that was back in the 60’s.
Thank you Robert! I’m glad you liked the article.
Thanks for stopping by and come back anytime. ~Jeremy
i completely agree!
pitching machines are great for starting, but you can’t ignore the whole human element if you want to be ready for the real thing
Hey Eitan! I try to mix up batting practice with the machine and live pitching. I like to keep them on their toes. I try to give them as much live pitching as possible and the addition of the pitching machine has produced big improvements. Thanks for dropping by. ~Jeremy
Great article Jeremy. I never considered using a pitching machine for youth practice. Does it ever malfunction and accidentally throw at a kid? Just a thought haha.
Hey Bryan! A pitching machine for youth practice, or any batting practice, is a great tool. I have seen big improvements with all of my kids. Once in a great while you will get a pitch a little out of the zone, but nothing compared to me after a couple hundred pitches. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and let me know if you need a hand with anything. ~Jeremy