I thought it would be good to talk about the different types of ground balls. The thing about playing the infield in baseball is that every single play is different so it only makes sense to talk about the types of ground balls that infielders see and how they differ.
Routine – A routine ground ball is a ground ball that takes multiple hops. It does not have a funny spin. This is the ball that wouldn’t require any infielder to go more than two or three steps in either direction. On a routine ground ball you would be able to turn a double play quite easily. The term “taylor-made” double play would be a routine ground ball.
How to Play it: Routine ground balls are not hit extremely hard and they’re not hit so softly that the fielder would need to charge the ball extremely hard either. So, this ball won’t get on the infielder so fast that he can’t react, but he WILL need to come get the baseball under control. The routine ground ball allows us to come off to the side if necessary, but most of the time it will be fielded in normal fielding position.
Hot Shot – The hot shot is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a ball that’s hit very hard and will often be no more than one or two hops. This ball will get on the fielder very quick and will require no more than one step and possibly a dive in either direction. When playing the corner positions this ball will often have a little hook or slice to it as well. There are a couple different hops that this type of hit can take and they all require a different method of playing those hops.
How to Play it: Hot shots will come with a couple different types of hops depending on where they land in relation to where the fielder is playing. So assuming it’s a one hop hot shot, there are three different hops that it can take. It can take a long hop (which is what we hope for, but often don’t get), where the ball will actually be traveling down at the fielder when the ball is caught. It can take a short hop, which is the second most ideal and allows the fielder to “pinch” or come through the ball. Lastly, it can take an up hop or in between hop – this requires the fielder to give ground and use a drop step or spin play to complete the play. For whatever reason, it seems like most of these hot shots turn into that up hop type.
Slow Roller – Again, exactly how it sounds. The slow roller is a very common play that any infielder will need to have the ability to make if they want to continue playing infield at a high level. The slow roller happens in a few different situations. The hitter gets jammed or hits it off the end of his bat and this can produce a slow roller. Also, if the hitter bunts then these plays are pretty much always slow rollers as well. Sometimes when the hitter hits it off the cap that ball will have a little bit of some funny spin, but in most cases a slow roller will play fairly true with respect to spin.
How to Play it: This play will require the fielder to come and get the ball in every situation. The slow roller does not allow the fielder to set up and field the ball in normal fielding position. This is going to be a very close play and the fielder will have to get rid of it as quickly as possible. This play requires the fielder to field the ball off to the side. There’s a complete explanation on how to go about fielding a slow roller here.
The High Hop – The high hop is defined as the ball that is hit into the ground and shoots high in the air (over the fielders head) off of said initial hop. This is another ball that requires the fielder to come and get the ball at a feverish pace. The thing about this play is that the ball is up in the air so long of the initial hop that the runner has a lot of time while the fielder is waiting for the ball to come back down. So the play at first will be very close most of the time, especially with a plus runner.
How to Play it: This play also requires the fielder to come and get the ball. Often the only way to play this ball is off to the side while picking the short hop. A lot of guys like to pick the short hop off to the left, although I’ve seen a lot of infielders doing this play off the backhand as well. If you watch Nolan Arenado from the Rockies, he’ll often take this high hop off the back hand side. I like this because it puts the fielder in a better throwing position after they receive the ball.