Baseball, like any sport, requires consistent and sustained training. Interestingly, there is a wide range of training apparatus that can help you level up your baseball game. A pitching machine is one such helpful piece of equipment, but it is beneficial only when set up properly and used efficiently. In other words, the apparatus will help you hone your skills only when it is used mindfully. This article explores various aspects of a pitching machine. Here, you will learn how to use a pitching machine, what makes them work, and their various kinds, among other points.
Let’s dive in.
What is a pitching machine?
A pitching machine is an artificial pitcher. It is a machine designed to reproduce the throw that the pitcher makes during a game. The machines are designed specifically for batters to help them improve their swings and batting skills. But some pitching machines also deliver ground and pop-fly balls to help in refining catcher, infielder, and outfielder skills as well.
How do pitching machines work?
Different types of baseball pitching machines have varied pitching mechanisms. So, to understand how baseball pitching machines work, you need to know the different kinds of pitching machines available today. The following section is a deep dive into the different types of baseball pitching machines and how they work.
The different types of baseball pitching machines
All baseball pitching machines can be categorized based on their pitching mechanism and how the balls are fed into the machine.
Based on the ball-feeding mechanism, pitching machines come in two forms—hand-fed and automatic-fed. Typically, hand-fed pitchers require somebody to put the balls into the throwing chute manually, while the automatic-fed models have an automatic ball feeder that rolls balls into the pitching arm.
Based on pitching mechanisms, there are three common types of pitching machines: arm action and roller machines (the most common) and air pitchers. Each model is either automatic (powered by a motor) or manual. In this article, we will guide you on how to use a manual pitching machine as well as the automatic type.
The following describes the types of pitching machines based on their pitching mechanism.
Arm Action Pitching Machine
As the name suggests, the arm action pitching machine has an artificial arm that mimics a human pitcher’s overhead throws. The device utilizes a spring and a crank lever to toss the balls. Some arm-style pitching machines have a motor that controls everything from ball placement to pitching speed. Others are manually controlled; these devices are usually limited to a straight-on ball delivery, whereby batters can adjust only the pitching velocity.
Roller (Wheel) Pitching Machine
Wheel pitching machines utilize spinning, semi-hard rubber roller(s) to pitch a ball. The machines use the reaction force created when the ball comes into contact with the spinning wheel(s) to throw the baseballs. There are three types of roller pitchers: one-roller, two-roller, and three-roller. Typically, a one-roller machine works almost the same as an arm-action machine in that it can pitch only straight balls. On the other hand, the multiple-roller machines can throw various pitch types.
Air Pitching Machine
Air pitching machines use compressed air to project the baseball. Usually, the device detects a ball in the barrel and activates the air compressor. When the compressor is pumped up to a point, air shoots out the internal cap. This pressurized air from the compressor pushes balls out and toward the batter.
What kinds of balls are used for machine pitching?
Almost all machines are adjustable and can throw balls of varied sizes and densities. However, it is advisable to use the manufacturer’s recommendation rather than just any ball. If you check the user’s manual before using a pitching machine, you’ll get the most out of your investment.
Manufacturers recommend specific baseballs for use with pitching machines, depending on the batter’s experience and preferences. These include:
- Soft mini balls
- Fast mini balls
- Hard lite balls
- Soft lite balls
- Slider leather lite balls
- Real poly pitching machine baseball
- Real leather pitching machine baseballs
What pitch types do pitching machines throw?
Can a pitching machine throw a curveball, slider, and other pitches? This is one of the frequently asked questions from baseball players who are considering investing in pitching a machine. Understandably, you would want to practice hitting all the pitch types thrown in MLB when working on upscaling your skills. Most automatic pitching machines are designed to pitch a variety of pitch types. So yes, pitching machines can pitch almost all pitch types, from fastballs to breaking balls and changeups. The following are the most common pitch types you can expect from a baseball pitching machine:
- Fastballs: Four-seam, Two-seam, Splitter, Forkball, and Cutter
- Breaking Balls: Curveball, Slider, and Screwball
- Changeups: Changeup, Palmball, Circle Changeup
How to use a pitching machine
Although different pitching machines have varied pitching mechanisms, the way they’re used is about the same. All you have to do is set them up, load the balls, and you are good to go. Below is a detailed guide on how to use a baseball pitching machine.
Step 1: Set up your baseball pitching machine
Setting up your pitching machine is the core of your practice session. How well you do it influences the effectiveness of your training significantly, so you must ensure you do it right.
When we talk about setting a pitching machine, we refer to putting it in place and calibrating it. Simply put, you need to place the device on a flat surface, face it in the right direction, and reinforce its stability. Be sure to set it at the appropriate distance from the batter.
If you are using a pitching machine for the first time, you will need to do some assembly first, but once you’ve done that, all you need to set up is the pitching speed and pitch type.
Step 2: Load the pitching machine
Auto-feeder pitching machines usually have a ramp connected to the pitching lever that holds multiple balls. Load enough balls for the number of swings you wish to perform per set.
Step 3: Start the pitching machine
After loading the machine, ensure that it is secure and stable and that all’s clear and safe along the pitching direction to avoid harmful incidences and damages. Then start the machine and do a test throw to confirm the machine has the proper settings.
That’s it. Now get ready for your first session and start batting.
How to set up a pitching machine
There is no universal pitching machine calibration procedure. Each specific machine will come with a manual to guide users on how to set it up. Check the user’s manual and follow its instructions if you’re unfamiliar with your device.
How to use manual pitching machines
There is little significant difference between using a manual pitcher and an automatic one. Note that you need a batting partner to control the pitching machine while you bat.
Here is how to use a Louisville slugger pitching machine (and similar models):
- Set up and calibrate your batting machine
- Cock the throwing arm
- Place your pitching-machine baseball on the throwing arm
- Step on the power lever
- Pull back the release level to make a pitch
How to use a jugs pitching machine
Jugs pitching machines are automatic pitchers, so using them is pretty easy. The following are the steps to using this kind:
- Set up the machine
- Calibrate your settings
- Start the machine
- Load the pitching-machine balls and start batting
Note that there are several variations of Jugs pitching machines and each version will have its own settings, depending on its features. For example, a Jugs BP3 is more advanced than the BP1 and has more components. Thus, it has more control knobs and adjusters. Also, note that Jugs pitching machines are manual feeders, so you will need to have a batting partner when using them.
Pitching machines are important pieces of baseball practice equipment. They come in different models and can throw a variety of pitches at varying speeds. They help batters upscale their performance significantly, and they also improve bat-control skills, hand-eye coordination, and timing. However, you must set them up well and use them properly to achieve your goals.
Q1: At how many RPMs does a pitching machine run?
Standard pitching machines have an average RPM of 1900.
Q2: What pitching machines do batting cages use?
Atec, Louisville Slugger, and Jugs pitching machines are the most common for use in batting cages.
Q3: Can you use real baseballs in an Iron Mike pitching machine?
Yes. You can use real baseballs in Iron Mike pitching machines. However, it is not recommended to use regular balls in pitching machines in general, so check the user manual.
Q4: What pitching machine do MLB teams use?
Most major league baseball teams use BATA-2 pitching machines.