Ground balls v. line drives
For many of you this is probably old news. But I still hear it enough from my students and other players I know that it bears repeating. When it comes to hitting, the goal should not be a ground ball. It should be a line drive.
Back in the day, when the ball was white with white seams, college and HS age pitchers stood 40 feet away, fielders weren’t as athletic through the field, bats were made out of basic low-grade aluminum and hitters taking lessons were few and far between, ground balls were the goal. Well, to be honest putting it in play was the goal.
A lot of games wound up 1-0 or 2-1, so anything you could do to get the bat on the ball was acceptable. Hitting a ground ball stood you a good chance of getting on base too because many of the fielders didn’t have the range or arms that today’s players do. All you had to do was sneak it through and you were on base.
Not so today. Athletes of today, as a whole, train harder. They are bigger, stronger, faster. In nearly 20 years of coaching I’ve seen a definite upgrade in that area. So what used to get you on base back in the 1990s will probably get you thrown out today.
Then there’s the bat technology. They have big sweet spots with trampoline effects. If you time it just right, even a checked swing could end up going deep. That may be an exaggeration but not a big one. Better bats plus hitters who train as seriously in the off-season as pitchers do have had a huge impact on the game.
And that’s why your best strategy is a line drive – preferably one that finds a gap, although you can’t control that. A rising line drive that clears the fence is even better. Basically, why settle for one base when you can get two, or three – or four?
You don’t want to swing down on the ball. You don’t want to pound it into the ground. Instead, you want to get a little under it, get a little lift, and drive it hard into the outfield. That’s the way to win in today’s game.
Oh, and what about fly balls? That depends. If you can hit them 210 feet on a field with a 200 foot fence they’re perfectly fine. If you’re hitting them 180 feet, best to try to bring them down a bit unless the winning run is on third with less than two outs.
That’s my take on it. What about yours? Coaches, are you still stuck on ground balls or are you encouraging more line drives? Players, what are your coaches looking for out of you at the plate?