Stop Popping Up

Written By: Tyler Zupcic

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:

  • You SHOULD be dropping your back shoulder!
  • You SHOULD work back up towards the ball!

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.

Why drop your back shoulder and swing up?

If you have played or have a kid who played little league, you most definitely have heard a coach say to “not drop your back shoulder.” But why? Well, the thought of dropping your back shoulder prevents the hitter from having a “downward” or “level” swing. Which is the desired swing path for the majority of coaches out there.

Fortunately, the advances in technology (slow motion video, ball tracking systems, etc.) have shown us that swinging down or level is NOT the most efficient way to hit the ball hard or far.

The pitch will always be at a downward angle from the pitcher’s hand to the catcher’s mitt. Because of this, we MUST swing back UP at the ball that is coming down to achieve the maximum margin for error. The best way to swing up at the ball IS to drop your back shoulder. This allows the barrel to work back behind the hitter and get in front of the catcher’s mitt, which is where the ball is going. Think this is a new concept? Check out this picture from Ted Williams book, “The Science of Hitting,” written in 1970.

Ted Williams Swing Up

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:


Major League Examples

Joey Gallo

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)

Joey Votto

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:

Just SIX!? SIX!? infield fly balls in the past eight years??? That's just insane to me and it should be to you. And there is a reason for that. Numbers don't lie.

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.

The Root of the Popping Up Problem

During my time as an instructor here at Baseball Rebellion, there is one common mistake I see our youth 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:


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3 thoughts on "Stop Popping Up"

  1. Armando says:

    Thanks for the article, you guys are the absolute best!!!!!!

    1. Admin says:

      Thank you for reading!

  2. mr.vargas says:

    Always great insight!!!

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