There is only one way for hitters to pop a ball up and that is to hit the bottom of the pitched ball. The good news is that the hitter made contact but the bad news is that pop-ups are caught at least 90% of the time. Having said this obvious point, there are two causes for why players hit the bottom of the ball. The most common cause for the bat barrel going under the ball is commonly known as “dropping the shoulder.” In actuality, with the correct baseball swing hitter’s back shoulder will drop below the front shoulder in order to arrive at the correct palm-up, palm-down hands position. What causes the bat barrel to drop under the ball creating a popped up ball is an exaggerated drop of this shoulder due to a “collapsing” rear hip and leg.
To prevent hitters from popping out, they need to improve their weight shift into the ball. This action will prevent the hip and back leg from collapsing which will allow hitters’ hips to remain level and allow them to square the baseball up more consistently.
Following are baseball hitting drills to prevent hitters from popping out – these should be done in sequence for best results, but repeatedly doing any of these drills should solve the problem.
Hitting Drill # 1 – Have hitters set their feet together without any knee bend and take swings at different pitches, from high to low. Hitters can turn their hips with this drill but will not be able to rotate their legs as with a normal swing. This drill will take the power out of their swing but will help hitters get the idea of staying tall when hitting and not collapsing. Players with good swings will still hit line drives, even on knee high pitches.
Hitting Drill # 2 – From there regular stance, have hitters swing and pick up their back leg as they swing. This will force a 100% weight transfer and force hitters to firm their front side while staying tall. The rear hip cannot collapse with this drill, which is the root of the problem.
Hitting Drill # 3 – From regular stance, set a batting tee even with hitters’ rear hip and at hip high level. Hitters should practice coming over and missing this tee when swinging to any pitch level.
Hitting Drill # 4 – Set a batting tee in the hitting zone at letter high and have hitters hit balls at this level until they can hit consistent line drives. Players who drop their back side will have trouble hitting anything but pop -ups at this height.
The other less common way hitters pop balls up is by rolling their wrists at contact. This early roll causes the bat barrel to go down, resulting in a pop up. Often, this incorrect swing is only noticed by an experienced hitting coach and can be corrected with hip opening and lead arm extension drills like the following:
Hitting Drill # 5 – Have hitters choke way up on their bat and take some swings with their lead arm only. Their goal is to extend their arm and bat towards the pitcher, keeping their shoulder in and leading to a high, correct finish.
Hitting Drill # 6 – Set a ball on a tee in front of home plate and another ball on a second tee about a foot in front of that one towards the pitcher. Hitters stand in normal position and take swings with the intention of hitting through both balls. This drill forces hitters to open their hips and extend their arms without an early wrist roll. Hitting both balls solidly is the objective. A sign of an early wrist roll would be missing or continually grounding the second ball to the pull side of home plate.
It is important to understand that many young players drop their hands before swinging which can put them on the underside of the ball before they even swing. It is important that hitter–s break that habit in order to prevent hitters from popping out. Previous drill #3 will also help hitters break that habit.
Hitters with normally good fundamentals but in a “pop-up” slump may solve the problem with a couple of slight adjustments to their initial hitting position. Hitters can raise their hands slightly in their set-up and/or stand taller with less knee bend in their batting stance. These slight adjustments can cause hitters to hit a little higher up on the ball, preventing the popped up balls.