Baseball 101: Fly balls

Like a ground ball, the basic definition of a fly ball seems pretty self-evident: it is a batted ball that is hit into the air.

A standard fly ball, or “fly,” is usually hit high and travels some distance laterally, usually to the outfield.  On the defensive side, fielding a fly ball is usually considered to be a routine play, and catching a fly ball before it hits the ground results in an out.  A pop fly, sometimes called a “pop up,” is a batted ball that typically soars even higher than a routine fly ball, though it does not travel very far laterally, if at all.

Meanwhile, a line drive is a ball that, while hit in the air, does not quite typically as a fly ball.  Line drives, or “liners,” are hit lower to the ground than routine fly balls, and usually with more speed and power.  They have little to no arc in their flight paths and are generally more difficult to field than routine fly balls.  A big reason that the third base position is referred to as “the hot spot” is because a lot of line drives get hit towards third base, often at dangerously high speeds.

Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt catches a routine fly ball when asked to play outfield in a 16-inning game against the Astros (Photo source: USA Today)

Baseball 101: Ground balls

Another very basic facet of baseball: the ground ball.

A ground ball is a ball that is hit by the batter that rolls or bounces along the ground.  Simple enough, right?  It may also be referred to as a “grounder.”

Ground balls are typically fielded by infielders, although some may make it to the outfield if they are hit hard and out of reach, or if an infielder mishandles the ball.  A ground ball can sometimes referred to according to the number of hops it takes before a fielder gets to it.  For example, if a ball bounces once in between being hit and a fielder grabbing it, it is a one-hopper.  Two bounces for a two-hopper.  A ground ball that takes an unexpected bounce (i.e. bounces in a manner that defies the expectations of the fielder) is said to have taken a bad hop.

Bunts typically are not considered ground balls, even though they usually roll along the ground.  Instead, they fall into a classification of their own due to the way that they are put into play (tapped with the bat rather than swung at).

Cal Ripken, Jr. chasing down a ground ball (Photo source: