Alright, I'll admit that part of the reason I gave this post the title I did, was to get your attention. I actually like the tee, and we use it quite a bit in the cages. However, there are some VERY important issues that you need to be aware of when it comes to using the batting tee.
First, understand what the tee is for and what it does. The batting tee is for working on specific aspects of the swing, and what it does is take away the element of timing so that the hitter can focus purely on what he's attempting to improve.
What was that thing some smart guy said once, "hitting is all about timing?". He was right, without good timing a hitter doesn't have a chance to hit a pitch. This is important in the context of tee work, because the batting tee eliminates the need to have proper timing.
Hitters have all kinds of timing mechanisms built into their swings, and these are extremely important in timing pitches. When the load starts based on the pitcher's motion, what the front leg does, when the stride forward starts, what the hands do, and all other rhythm and timing actions a hitter takes at the plate to prepare to hit a pitch.
These actions are CRUCIAL to a hitter's ability to time and hit a pitched baseball. All of these things make hitting tough, so removing them so that we can work on something else on the batting tee is a good thing. However, the lack of a timing mechanism (or need for one) can cause problems over time.
How many times have you seen a youth player (or not so youth), taking swings on the tee with a big leg kick or a bad stance, or wrapping the bat behind their heads? If you haven't seen that on the tee, you haven't been watching, and that's part of the problem. When a player hits on the tee without using timing, that's okay. What's not okay, is when a hitter hits on a tee using WRONG timing technique, or something that he doesn't use when he's hitting pitches.
Every rep that a hitter takes with improper loading, leg kick, stride, hand action, or body rhythm, makes his timing worse. More accurately, it makes his TIMING MECHANISM worse. This is often overlooked by coaches (and players) when they're hitting on the tee because they can have good success with faulty timing triggers while they're on the batting tee. Unfortunately, those triggers are absolutely critical to success against live pitching, and they must be repped correctly, even when we don't need them.
Using a tee is not a "set it and forget it" drill. Don't assume that just because a player is taking swings on a tee, that he's getting better. If he's modifying or ignoring his natural and effective timing mechanics, he could very well be making himself worse with every swing.
Keep an eye on your hitters and make sure they're doing the following things even on a tee:
- Loading: A small weight shift back to prepare for the swing.
- A natural, controlled leg kick/stride: Don't let this get big, high, or too long on the tee.
- Striding: Yes this one can go both ways, some guys will just turn and swing on the tee with no stride at all.
- Balance: Ensure the hitter is retaining balance throughout his swing, easy to ignore on the tee.
- Squared up to ball: Refrain from over-rotating back to where you wouldn't be able to see a pitch. Because the ball is straight down from the hitter (unlike an actual pitch) a lot of guys over-rotate during the load.
Here's a good coaching tip on this. Watch your hitter and ignore the fact that he's on the tee. How much does his swing look like it would work against a pitcher? The more his swings look like they're against a pitcher, the more improvement (and less damage) he's doing with every swing.
Just because we don't need timing on a tee, doesn't mean we can't practice the things that make us better at timing. We have more to say about the tee (and everything else) so you should check that out as well. Good luck out there, check out our membership area if you're interested in having a Baseball Brains coach help you out!