A concerning trend I continue to see in travel baseball tournaments is where the catcher is giving the target. All too often, the target is given at the hitter's belt, right down the middle of the plate. There's good news and there's bad news here, let's start with the bad news.
If the pitcher hits the catchers mitt he is putting the ball on a tee for the hitter. Every hitter wants that pitch belt high in the middle of the plate so they can lift the ball into the outfield and get an extra base hit!
Teaching the catcher how to lower the target is an easy fix! Coaches should be able to easily show catchers that when they give a pitcher the target, instead of putting the glove in front of their chest, put it between their knees at the bottom of the strike zone.
Let me give you a quick description of why this is so important.
When a pitcher hits the high strike target his pitch has a flat plane, or stays on the same plane through the strike zone. When this happens the hitter can match his bat plane with the ball plane for longer, which results in more sweet spot contact and extra base hits.
When the pitcher hits the low strike target his pitch has a downhill plane. When this happens the ball is continuously changing planes downward and makes it more difficult for the hitter to square up. In this in instance the hitter is more likely to miss the ball or hit the top of the ball, which rarely produces an extra base hit.
The moral of the story here is that if you want pitchers to hit spots, be efficient, keep pitch counts low, and keep your team in the game, then you have to teach catchers to give good low targets!
* Disclaimer: I understand not every target should be low and in the strike zone, but on pitches to get ahead in the count, or pitches while behind in the count, catcher's targets should be generally lower than what I've seen.