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A Novel Idea in the Majors: Using Batting Practice to Get Better

Morry Gash/Associated Press

While meeting with the Houston Astros’ instructional league players in September 2013, the roving hitting instructor Jeff Albert asked the young prospects a series of questions.

Do you swing and miss in the game? Yes, they said.

When’s the last time you swung and missed in practice? Never.

How many strikes does a pitcher throw in a game? Fifty, 60 percent. How may strikes do we throw in practice? Ninety-five, 100 percent.

“Does this make sense?” Albert asked at the end. “Does this match up with what we’re doing?”

When the players agreed that their batting practice and games had little in common, Albert changed things up to replicate game situations: Coaches wheeled the L-screen closer to the plate, and pitching machines spewed high-velocity fastballs and breaking pitches — sometimes side by side — as well as from different angles.