As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite reads is Justin Dedman’s “Hitting Mental” blog – he has great content for players looking to better themselves at the plate.
He’s recently written about the current ground ball versus fly ball debate – and has shed a little clarity on it. I highly recommend you view his entire post here….
Dedman states, “there are so many mis-teaches in hitting, and coaching players to hit predominantly ground balls is one of them.”
“Nor should we ONLY practice hitting fly balls….and it isn’t OK to strike out a billion times. Let’s get this straight.”
He calls this micro-management at its worst. Teaching players to simply make sure they put the ball in play exhibits a lack of trust in their ability, or in our ability to understand hitting and teach it the proper way.
For example, all hits are categorized in college as only line drives or ground balls. Justin states that “this is absolutely asinine. This epitomizes much of the statistical confusion at lower levels.”
He goes on to say that MLB gets it right. Their stat programs note that HRs can be both fly balls and line drives. MLB’s excellence in statistical analysis, data and measurement are second to none.
With that said, Major League Baseball does have the financial capacity to create highly sensitive visual analysis by computers as well as real, live human beings track every pitch and evaluate each contact.
We all know that every ball hit comes off of the bat at a different angle. Dedman continues “At Lee University, we call these angles ‘ball flights’, and we grade and value each ball flight separately, giving our hitters great perspective on what they hit, and what we want them to hit.”
Here’s his breakdown:
We encourage our hitters to hit 5’s, 6’s, and 7’s. When you hit a barrel in practice, we track it as a 567. To hit a ball at these ball flights requires certain approaches, timing and contact points to be made.
A “1” flight is a ball hit sharply into the ground, first bouncing near home plate. A “9” is the equal, but opposite angle, hit straight up into the air.
A “4” flight is a hard contact that bounces in the back infield dirt. A “5” is perfectly squared up and cuts straight through the air. A “6” has backspin and “extra-base energy” (lots of doubles and triples here). Most HR’s are “7” flight, though our strongest players can crush an “8” flight and have it sail out of the yard.
567’s win. They require aggressiveness in approach and swing.
Our weaker hitters, who have exit velocities typically between 80 and 90, have ball flight identities of 456. They can crush a “7” and not have the same success. Sitting there hitting “7” flights all day is a bad idea when you don’t possess the bat speed or strength to create distance on the baseball.
Justin continues, “our final misstep in the coaching puzzle is the type of linear hand path/lacking separation/pushing the barrel forward to ensure we make contact swing that coaches dis-empower their hitters with.”
“Hit the ball on the ground is a misnomer. I don’t care if you run a 6.5 60. Hitting 456s or 567’s will result in having an ability to drive in runners from first, create a higher slugging percentage, higher OPS, more runs created, and make a greater impact on the game.”
“We chart hitters on-field batting practices to ensure they have accountability and visual reference for what types of balls they are hitting on a consistent basis. We have a goal for each hitter to hit 40% of their batted balls within their identity (either 456 or 567).”
He also talks about hitters making in-game adjustments depending on outside factors. Windy day? Let’s focus on 456’s. He states, “hitting is all about adjustment making, as is coaching.”
I agree with Justin in teaching our hitters that hitting the right type of balls in the air. It’s clearly advantageous and is an adjustment that many programs can make.