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All too often you see a hitter pop a ball up to the infield or in foul territory and hear one or both of these reactions from uninformed coaches and parents:
“Stop dropping your back shoulder”
“Get on top of the ball”
Counterintuitively, to limit pop-ups and have elite swing mechanics you need to be doing the opposite of these coaching cues:
Back in 2013, Baseball Rebellion CEO, Chas Pippitt, wrote a very similar article related to helping cure pop-ups using a verbal cue. This article will dive more into common mistakes we see hitters make that relate to pop-ups, as well as drills that we use daily here to help our hitters hit fewer pop-ups.
Dropping your back shoulder helps the barrel start working back behind the hitter and then back up towards the ball. Notice Mike Trout's back shoulder helps the barrel work backward:
Working back up towards the ball helps the hitter create the largest possible contact path while helping the barrel get to top speed AT contact, as you can see here:
If a hitter works "on top" of the ball there is a greater chance of cutting underneath the bottom part of the ball and producing too much backspin which leads to infield pop-ups or a steep swing plane that causes a lot of swings and misses. Look at Joey Gallo, who according to Fangraphs, has a way above average infield pop-up rate (Had 28 INF Pop-Ups in 2017 alone) in Major League Baseball, and here is one of the main reasons why:
Yes, as hitters we would like to create backspin of the ball, but I feel there is TOO MUCH emphasis placed on backspin by hitters and coaches. If you look at Golf, which club produces the most backspin? The answer would be a wedge, which hits the ball the shortest of any other club in the bag (putter not included)
On the other hand, you have one of the best hitters in the game, Joey Votto, showing what he is trying to do with his swing (even when he's not at the plate!):
From the GIF, you can certainly see that Votto is not trying to feel his swing "get on top" or to not "drop his back shoulder". It is no surprise to see this from an article talking about the negative effects of infield fly balls:
You can see from these pictures what Joey Votto is trying to accomplish with his swing. The front arm working up towards the ball and his back shoulder working down, helping the barrel get the depth he wants.
During my time as an instructor here at Baseball Rebellion, there is one common mistake I see our hitters make that produces an infield pop-up. That mistake is taking the head and chest forward in a direct path towards the ball, it looks like this:
Notice where the hitter's head is when his whole front foot is on the ground (inside the green circle) and how it aggressively shoots forward when trying to make contact with the ball, which causes him to "cut" the ball straight up. We see this especially in a lot of young hitters who are very anxious to just make contact.
We like to tell our hitters to create space between them and the ball, not take away space. What we mean by that is we want them, once heel plant occurs, to keep their head and chest back and simply turn/rotate their body, which looks like this:
You can see that the hitters head stays inside the green circle for the duration of the turn, which helps allow his barrel to work down behind him and then back up through the plane of the pitch.
We want to help our readers with a series of drills that we use daily here at BRHQ that helps our hitters get in the right positions and help eliminate the bad mechanics that cause infield pop-ups.
Half Turns (High and Low Pitches with Full Stride and Hesitation Strde)
Hesitation Tee Drill
Hesitation Drill Moving Ball
We all know how frustrating infield pop-ups can be. We hope that the information provided in this article will help better explain WHY they happen and the best ways to help eliminate them!