Pitching machines (like these) definitely have their place, but that place is in Little League or when all available live pitchers have tired arms.
It’s a longstanding debate.
Many think that pitching machines are the optimum way to practice hitting because of consistency. Hitters can practice the same curve ball over and over again, but are they ever going to have that exact curve ball from a live player? Probably not.
Practice needs to be like real life.
Real pitchers throw real balls, not the balls especially made for pitching machines. In order to hone skills, everything has to be realistic. Likewise, the unpredictability of a pitcher brings response time to practice. Hitters have to read the pitcher, and they must respond in a split second to wild balls thrown from fallible hands.
Why are pitching machines the standard?
Well, as much as they cannot adequately replace real pitchers, pitching machines never tire, and they are precise. Hitters can practice certain swings or perfect their stance following injuries.
The biggest advantage of pitching machines is in Little League, where the pitchers are not as good as the machine and may not be able to get the ball over the plate. The little league player is not strong or talented enough to consistently throw balls that can be hit. They are also afraid of being hit, and the pitching machine does not throw wild pitches. Having a pitching machine not only keeps practice focused and less frustrating for everyone involved, but it keeps kids interested in the game and not living in fear of a black eye.
The advantages are clear, so why the debate?
The reason the value of pitchers is being questioned is because pitchers get worn out in the field during practice. It is true that pitchers should not over-work their throwing arm during practice or risk injury and inability to play the game. Therefore, players tend to want to rely on the machines. It’s also easier to hit the ball when thrown from a pitching machine, so hitters appear to be even more skilled.
A mix of pitchers and pitching machines is the ultimate answer to this debate. If pitchers were Energizer bunnies and could just keep going and going, there would be no debate. However, the stamina of Iron Mike makes the debate a tie between pitchers and pitching machines.