Baseball Magazine

Winning the Freebie War

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

I heard the term “Freebie War” from a legendary coach named Pat McMahon.  Coach McMahon is  a frequent speaker at national coaching clinics.  He has coached at many levels with success and currently is heavily involved with the Yankees developmental academies in the Dominican Republic.  I heard him speak at a recent clinic where he mentioned the term.  On the offensive side of the ball, “freebies” consist of walks, errors, and hit batters.  

A little while ago I did a post called The Big Inning where I mentioned a common trend in the game of baseball.  If you look at box scores, you will find that about 70-80% of games (sometimes higher), the winning team scores an equal number of runs or more runs in one inning than the other team scores all game.  Basically that means big innings usually end up deciding wins and losses. 

Teaching players how to safely get hit is important to winning the Freebie War.

Teaching players how to safely get hit is important to winning the Freebie War.

To score a run themselves, usually three hits are needed by the hitting team.  However, if the defense makes errors, walks a few batters, and/or hits a few batters, the offense can score multiple runs on little to no hits in an inning.  You don’t have to watch games very long to see this happen, especially at the lower levels.

Knowing this, offensive teams should be working on getting more “freebies” during games.  Doing so will allow them to score more runs with less hits.  To do this, coaches should work in some drills or tweak some old ones to help get some more “freebies” come game time.  Here are three ways:

  • Mix in a take.  During batting practice, encourage your batting practice pitchers and soft toss/short toss throwers to purposely mix in a bad throw every few pitches.  Batters should be told to take those pitches.  Often during batting practice, all throws/pitches are around the plate which can lead the batter to get into the habit of swinging at everything.  Forcing them to take a bad pitch in batting practice will help them be able to do better job of it during the game.
  • Hard on the ground!  Running hard (on the ground) and hitting the ball hard on the ground both lead to more errors.  More bullet grounders will cause more bad hops and won’t allow a lot of time for hitters to react to the ball either.  Running hard all the time makes fielders aware that they don’t have time to waste.  When they think this way, they will often rush their footwork which leads to errors.
  • Practice getting hit.  A good hitting staion (especially indoors) is to have batters work on properly getting hit by pitches.  Instead of backing away from home plate on an inside pitch, hitters should be taught to turn in towards the catcher with their front shoulder so that the pitch hits the less vulnerable (and usually more padded) back parts of their body.  Doing this drill can create some confidence in batters to stay in there and take one for the team.

Note:  I am not a fan of teaching hitters to lean over the plate to purposely try to get hit.  Lifting elbows up and/or out to get hit by inside pitches is something I don’t teach either.  Teaching players how to properly “get” hit by a bad pitch is different from teaching players how “to” get hit with pitches.

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