Baseball pitching machines are probably the most valuable training tool that a hitter can have. It is the closest thing you can get to "live pitching," without having an actual pitcher throwing to you. If a player is fortunate enough to be able to own a baseball pitching machine, or have access to one, along with a batting cage, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition right off the bat (pardon the pun).
The number one obvious advantage is to be able to hit pitched balls coming in at a velocity close to what actual pitchers throw, as well as from the same distance from home to the mound, without the need of an actual pitcher. They are usually much more accurate than a human pitcher, and nobody has a sore arm after batting practice.
There are two types of baseball pitching machines. One is the "arm style" pitching machine, which is the most expensive, but I believe the most beneficial. And second, there is the wheel style, which is less expensive and much more common.
The arm style uses an "arm" to sling the ball toward the hitter, and the wheel style uses one or two wheels turning at a high speed to push the ball out. The advantage of the arm style is that you can physically see the arm turning, which allows you to time the pitch coming to the plate. The wheel style machines make this a little bit more difficult.
Probably the most well known of the wheel machines is the Jugs brand (pictured to the right). They feature many different styles of machines for youth levels on up to adult. They have one wheel and two wheel machines, one which is able to throw breaking balls, as well as fastballs up to 104 mph.
Other high quality, heavy-duty wheel machine brands include Atec, BATA, Zooka, and Bulldog. There are also several other lightweight machines, that throw lightweight baseballs or wiffle balls.
If you have the budget, and are looking for a bit more realistic batting practice session, I would look into the Iron Mike “arm-style” pitching machine. These do not throw breaking balls, but you will be able to time the pitched balls, much better than the wheel machines.
A baseball pitching machine is something that I would highly look into investing in if I were a very serious player, or a parent of a child who was serious. Yes, a heavy duty pitching machine that throws regular or machine baseballs along with a batting cage would carry a hefty price tag. If you do have the budget for something like this, obviously make the investment. It will be something that will last most of your or your child’s playing career, and is an invaluable tool for your game.
Even if you have a smaller budget and can only afford to spend a few or even a couple hundred bucks, there are still a variety of lightweight machines that can be very helpful in improving your hitting fundamentals. There’s nothing like being able to hit “thrown” balls for practice that will better your game.
Below you will find links to reviews and information on pitching machines broken down by brand or model.
Jugs Pitching Machines
Atec Pitching Machines
BATA Pitching Machines
Zooka Pitching Machines
Granada Pitching Machines
Ultimate Pitching Machine
Grand Slam Pitching Machine