Here's why you keep hitting weak ground balls. You don't have a plan to "Win The At-Bat".
I'd say the biggest difference between an average hitter and an elite one is their ability to find different ways to win the AB's.
When you're not Winning The At-Bat, chances are you're throwing away at-bats by swinging at balls out of the strike zone, making poor contact, and hitting weak flyballs and grounders.
One of the most common causes of weak groundballs especially with youth players is because the hitter is:
- Hitting with no approach at the plate
- Not ready to hit. (Finger not on the swing-trigger)
- Pulling pitches they shouldn't be pulling.
- Trying to make contact instead of hitting the ball with 100% authority.
- Has poor pitch recognition skills
Let's break each of these down.
Having No Approach or Plan
If you ask a hitter what their approach is at the plate, and they shrug their shoulders or is unable to clearly explain what their approach is that isn't "I'm trying to get a hit" or "I'm just trying to make contact or hit it somewhere"...
...then I can guarantee that part of the reason why they're underachieving and hitting weak groundballs is that they have no approach.
Or at least the wrong one.
Hitting starts with the approach, first. Here's why.
You can have Mike Trout level confidence and a swing that's explosive and mechanically sound as Jose Altuve's...
...but if your approach is off, your confidence will shrink and your mechanics will break down.
The right approach fixes your swing. Also, the right approach gives you a foundation for you to build your confidence on.
If you don't have an approach, or plan, your gambling on your ability to perform in the batter's box. Period.
So what is the approach?
The approach always starts with "attacking the inner half of the ball with the swing trigger ready to be pulled."
In other words, your approach is to allow the ball to travel in the zone to drive it up the middle, while having a mindset that says, "the next pitch is going to be the perfect pitch to drive".
Which brings me to the next common cause of weak groundballs.
Not Being Ready To Hit
Often times, when we make poor contact, the hitter's mentality is, "I'm going to swing IF it's a strike".
If you're not assuming the next pitch is going to be your pitch, it'll be too late. The ball is going to beat you.
Especially fastballs that explode out of the pitcher's hand.
Your pitch recognition will never be as efficient if your finger isn't on the swing trigger ready to be pulled, every single pitch.
The mentality is "YES, YES, NO!" on balls and "YES, YES, GO!" on strikes.
It's not "MAYBE, MAYBE, NO or GO". Every pitch is going to be a strike until it's not.
If you're not ready to hit, the pitcher will beat you with swing & misses or weak contact. Believe it.
Pulling Non-Pull Pitches
Hitting is about being on time. Pitching is about upsetting that timing.
The weak ground ball happens often times when you're trying to pull a pitch that you have no business pulling.
If a pitch is on the outer half of the plate, it's not a pull pitch.
If you're hitting with two-strikes, trying to pull the ball is out of the question.
Good hitters Win The At-Bat by using the entire field to make solid contact.
In other words, they're thinking gap-to-gap. Attacking the inner half of the ball while letting the ball travel deeper in the zone.
In many ways, the oppo-round in batting practice is the most important round because it places your swing on plane with the pitch.
If you'r unable to drive the ball consistently to the opposite field, you need to refine your swing.
Get great at driving the ball to all fields.
Not Swinging With Authority
There is a BIG difference between HOPING you're going to hit the ball hard and KNOWING you're going to hit the ball hard.
Also, there is a BIG difference between swinging the bat to make contact and swinging the bat to drive the ball with 100% complete authority.
One of the most repeated mantras I've said in the over 2,000 hitting lessons I have given in the past few years is this...
"The more aggressive the swing, the more accurate the contact".
When we're tentative with the swing, the bat swings us and the ball hits the bat. This can't happen.
Rather, when we swing with controlled violence, with authority, we're swinging the bat, and the bat hits the ball, not the other way around.
It's a small adjustment with big payoffs.
Swing to crush. Don't swing to "not miss."
Poor Pitch Recognition
Seeing the ball as well as you can is so important it's astonishing how often this aspect of hitting get's overlooked.
A hitter has a tough day at the plate and the coach, mom and dad want to change the swing, the bat brand and stance without even asking the most simple question...
..."are you seeing the ball well"?
Now they're really screwed.
Here's my analogy about making adjustments to the swing and approach and how it relates to pitch recognition.
The swing and approach is like planting a seed.
You plant the seed (choosing a stance and approach) hoping that it grows into a tree (mechanically sound swing).
You maintain the tree by providing it with water and fertilizer.
The water and fertilizer is solid pitch recognition skills and practicing on the fundamentals.
If the tree isn't growing, you don't just dig it up to see if it's started sprouting.
Rather, you let nature do its thing.
You trust the process while focusing on what you can control, which is your grasp on the fundamentals.
Early pitch recognition. Judging balls and strikes. Strike Zone awareness. Plate discipline...are all aspects of slowing the game down.
When our pitch recognition is off, we don't swing at good pitches.
Swinging at balls out of the zone is a guaranteed way of consistently hitting weak ground balls.
Don't get this part wrong. Work on your pitch recognition to make sure you're seeing the ball as well as you possibly can.
Here's Why You Keep Hitting Weak Ground Balls Checklist.
If you find yourself not hitting the ball consistently, take time to run this checklist through your mind.
- Have an approach
- Always be ready to pull the trigger
- Use the whole field & attacking the inner half of the ball
- Swing with authority
- Make pitch recognition a priority
Mastering even one of these will have a compounding benefit to your performance at the plate.