Measuring the Process:
Line Drives + Groundballs > Strikeouts + Flyballs
All baseball and softball coaches can agree that a groundball is a tougher play to get an out on than a flyball. This is not a tough concept to understand but sometimes I think it is so elementary coaches overlook it and do not measure it in the games they play and they certainly don’t measure it at practice. The easiest outs are strikeouts and flyballs. We want to limit those types of outs when we are on offense. We want to force the other team to make the toughest plays. As a team we want to have the mentality if we going to get beat lets at least get beat when the other team is forced to field groundballs, one or two hoppers, or line-drives. Those are tough plays that will most likely require a catch, a throw, and another catch to produce an out. Make them earn it. Flyballs and strikeouts are only going to require one catch. Plus there are no bad-hops on flyballs and a higher percentage of those are caught then groundballs.
Statistically speaking a line-drive ends up being a hit 75% of the time, a groundball 35% of the time, and a flyball (including homeruns) only 20% of the time. It is a simple idea our line drives plus our groundballs needs to be greater in the course of a game than the strikeouts and flyballs. If you limit the easy outs you give yourself a better chance to win.
Line Drives + Groundballs > Strikeouts + Flyballs
What I have done is created charts to measure this process within three different parts of practice or competition. The first would be the game itself. You can use the variation to my normal Quality At-Bat Chart to determine if you are getting more lines drives and groundballs than strikeouts and flyballs. Above 50% here is a great place to start. You can tailor this to the type of team you have of course. If you have a stronger power hitting type of team then maybe slightly less than 50% would be ok, if you have a fast team with speed on their side then it makes much more sense to put the ball on the ground and leg it out. Whether you have a fast team or a slow team putting the ball in play on the ground just makes sense post BBCOR.
On the chart you will see 1st AB, 2nd AB, etc. Under each at-bat you will see two boxes. The first would be if the at-bat was a quality at-bat. Check if it is a QAB and X if it is not. The next box would be where you would record if the batter had a groundball/line-drive or strikeout/flyball. Again, you could use a checkmark or X system. You could also use a 1 for groundball/line-drive and a 0 for anything else. Which when it comes to the BP Spreadsheet will be very similar. At the end you would have two scored for each hitter. Their QAB Ratio and their GBLD Ratio. Of course there may be similarities to them but they could be different. A player may go 0/4 that night for QABs but 4/4 on their GBLD Ratio because they hit 4 weak groundball that weren’t hit hard enough to count as a QAB. I think this ads another dimension to a players PPI (Player Process Index). If you have two players who have battled it out all season and their QAB percentages are neck and neck then the Groundball/Line-Drive Ratio can help be the determining factor. The guy who puts the ball in play more often on the ground may be the guy to go with. Lets face it with the bats the way they are the chance of balls going out at any level has diminished greatly. Coaches need to take that into consideration when selecting who will be in their lineup.
Second, I have created a chart/spreadsheet to measure batting practice efficiency that would let you know how productive you were at hitting the ball on the ground/line drives. One of the biggest things I think we do as coaches with our philosophies is disconnect the strategies we are trying to accomplish in the games and what we actually do at practice or during our game day preparations. These two components need to be the same and using the BP chart will allow you to see your effectiveness and also let the players know that you find it valuable enough to measure it. Not only would I measure it during BP, I would hold players to a higher standard than what we expect in the game. If you want you could incorporate some sort of conditioning if the goal is not met. But that is up to the individual coach. It would put more pressure on them but it is not completely necessary. Post the results after BP and share with your team. You will be able to give them the result immediately.
Using the chart is easy. You just have to score a flyball/foulball/swing and miss with a ZERO. If it is a line-drive or a groundball then you would give that swing a score of a ONE. This way your average will be a reflection of how close you were to hitting all groundballs and line-drives statistically speaking will give you a better chance to have a good outcome.
The third and final piece would be situations during BP. Hopefully you are already using the Quality At-Bat System not only in your games but also at practice. Measuring your groundball/line-drive efficiency should go hand in hand with this while trying to have competitive game-like at-bats. You could use the game chart for this use the BP chart.
I feel that it is vitally important for a coach to have game philosophies that also translate into practice and also get measured and evaluated at practice. Award a groundball/line-drive champ of the day for the group that has the highest percentage. Maybe they have no conditioning or don’t have to clean up the field that day. Award it daily and be consistent. Have a player record this information during the games and a coach could do it during practice unless you have an injured player or manager.
Coaches who have access to the 1PW Mental Toughness Training System 2.0 can take a look at the charts immediately in the Groundball-Line Drive Process Folder. If you have any question or would like to set up a 1PW Consulting Skype Session please let me know. It will be like your own private coaching clinic tailored just for your program. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 515-371-3059.