Hitting popups may be better than hitting ground balls
Youth baseball coaches often preach to players the negatives of hitting popups and that ground balls are much preferred. They should be careful with that philosophy.
Continually hitting popups or groundballs are both frustrating occurrences for batters. When hitters fall into negative tendencies, hitting ground balls or hitting popups, hitting coaches have their work cut out for them. Of the two negative hitting tendencies, personally, as a hitting coach, I much prefer the popup hitter, because the pop up hitter is usually closer to the correct hitting mechanics than the ground ball hitter. Ground ball hitters’ mechanics are often more complex and more trouble. Although neither is a simple fix, as all muscle-memory changes are difficult, harder for some players than others, I would rather deal with the popup batter.
The good news with popups is that hitters usually are very close to the correct baseball swing, because they are hitting the correct part of the ball for backspin line drives, and hits. When they adjust their swing path a half-inch higher, they are on their way to hitting success.
The analysis is usually simple, as the batter is dropping their hands, rear hip or bat barrel just enough to hit the bottom of the ball. However, players’ hands are heading to the correct part of the ball and their hitting mechanics are not far off from correct. The solution for pop up hitting involves drills that keep the hands and bat barrel up, while the hips remain level. The following drill works for that solution.
Hitting Popups Solution
Using two batting tees, set one a balls distance below the other, and have batters miss the rear ball and hit the front ball. This helps give batters a more direct path to the ball by eliminating any hand or shoulder drop, leading to more line drives and less pop ups, but still maintaining the same baseball swing. When only one tee is available, players should set the tee at chest high and hit balls until they stop popping them up.
The solution for continual ground ball hitting is more complex, usually, as this indicates batters do not get their hands towards the back of the ball, a sign their swing is not fundamentally sound. Continual ground ball hitting is a sign the batters hands are heading away from the inside back of the ball or there is little hip turn, which is a definite problem and one that is more difficult to fix. The solution often goes back to setting batters’ initial hitting position correctly, along with getting their first hands and hip moves to the ball correct, an action that is probably the most difficult to perfect, especially when years of the wrong way have occurred.
As implied above, often the problem develops the minute players begin to pop up, coaches immediately tell them that those are bad, especially because they turn into easy outs. Even though bad, as mentioned, they may be closer to the correct swing than appears. Because frowned upon, baseball players learn a different swing that prevents pop ups, but eventually leads to preventing line drives, because of the drastic changes.
Whereas, ground balls often turn into hits at the lower levels of ball, they are not as frowned upon as much. Eventually, ground balls do not work as they turn into outs and players have a more difficult time making changes back to the correct mechanics.
In either case, the solution to successful hitting involves designing drills that work. Of course, often the most difficult hitter to help is the one who makes no contact at all, a story for another day.