Relationship of Exit Velocity and Launch Angle

I researched a potential cost of elevating before. I found a small but not significant correlation of launch angle and strikeout rate, and also a hint that hitters who elevate more might suffer in BABIP, especially if the guys pull a lot. That makes sense, since the BABIP on balls above 25 degrees is just 0.093. Some of that is pop-ups as sometimes FB hitters tend to hit more pop-ups, but even just looking at non-popped-up higher FBs (25 to 40 degrees), the BABIP is just 0.167. Even subsetting that for balls hit at 100+ MPH, the BABIP still is only .233, so that doesn’t help much.

However, that is not the whole story, as HRs are hits too. The BABIP might suffer, but if you hit a lot of homers, that can offset some of that. You can calculate that pretty easily. If the BABIP of higher FBs above 25 is 0.093, that means you need a HR/FB of around 20% to hit for a true average in play of .300. If you look at guys who hit no pop-ups, that requirement lowers to about 18% (.114 BABIP on balls between 25 and 60 degrees as non IFFBs). That doesn’t even really change for harder hitters, as the BABIP between 25 and 60 with 95+ MPH still is only .130, so HR/FB remains the limiting factor. High-pop-up hitters might require higher minimum HR/FB threshold to keep the OBP up.

A good example is prime Pujols. He was no Bautista/Dozier HR-or-out type of elevator, but his BABIP was only around league average while his average was higher than his BABIP, due to low K and high HR/FB rates. Thus, he could hit for the same average as Miggy, who routinely had .330+ BABIPs but slightly worse K and HR/FB rates.

Here is a table showing wOBA for different LA/EV combinations. I used 87 as a cutoff because that was the 2017 league average. Minus 10 to plus 5 was taken as more “line-drive grounders” while <-10 was used for chopped grounders and anything above 60 as a pop-up, so I did not divide that more. Keep in mind those are all hits and not hitters/average EV.

EV range <80 80 to 87 87 to 94 95 to 100 100+ 110+
LA Range
<-10 0.103 0.028 0.363 0.176 0.234 0.307
minus 10 to 5 0.138 0.228 0.299 0.385 0.446 0.52
5 to 15 0.316 0.585 0.705 0.718 0.781 0.863
15 to 20 0.638 0.817 0.530 0.571 0.846 1.374
20 to 25 0.626 0.354 0.215 0.615 1.499 1.940
25 to 30 0.450 0.099 0.211 0.859 1.723 1.988
30 to 35 0.347 0.044 0.165 0.668 1.598 2.000
35 to 40 0.249 0.015 0.041 0.373 1.047 1.635
40 to 45 0.173 0.013 0.012 0.127 0.423 1.200
45 to 50 0.100 0.014 0.010 0.010 0.170 0
50 to 60 0.042 0.025 0.010 0.015 0.08 0
60+ 0.001 0.005 0.020 0.07 0 0

You can see that higher EV guys have a higher effective LA range. The very soft group actually was a little less sensitive for EV in FB angles, probably because there are a lot of bloopers in that range. Thus that might not apply that much for guys who routinely hit that soft, and thus are played shallower.

The slightly below average group was effective between 5 and 25 and then had a sharp drop-off. With the slightly above average group, the grounders get a little more effective, the peak at the line-drive angles gets a little higher, but there still is a big drop-off around 25 degrees, actually even starting above 20 degrees.

Now it really changes in the hard-hit range (95+) and especially the really hard-hit balls (100+, 110+). The really hard hitters stay effective until almost 45 degrees, meaning they do much better in the non-popped-up but high outfield fly balls (pop-ups are not sensitive to EV and always produce nothing). Those real power hitters (not the Murphy/Altuve type elevators, but guys like Gallo, Sano, Stanton, Judge who can really hit it) thus should hit a lot of fly balls to the OF.

The slightly above average power guys can still benefit from elevating, but then a few things must be true:

1)at least low-ish K rate. This is seen with Altuve and Murphy who don’t hit super hard but for great production

2) The elevated balls shifted towards the LD range and away from the high OF FB range, i.e. a very narrow LA range. Murphy here ideally is again a prime example because he hits very few grounders without a really high FB rate

3) Ideally a low pop-up rate

So it really depends on the type of hitter how they should approach. The hard hitters are always quite effective, even with grounders, but still they need to elevate since the grounders are only around average, but they usually have low defensive value and high Ks and thus need to compensate something. The really hard hitter is rarely truly terrible even as a grounder machine (see Christian Yelich), but if there are higher Ks and no defensive value they might still be bad players. Also despite grounders being less bad, the gap between grounders and FBs is still getting larger, so they have more to gain by elevating. Thus it makes sense for them to go into the OF FB range.

For the really low power hitters it doesn’t really matter unless they slap it straight into the ground, which still is a bad idea for them.

And the average power hitters should shoot for the low-line-drive range unless they are able to have a very narrow range and avoid the high OF FBs; then they can elevate up to the 15-20 range without a penalty (Daniel Murphy type).

We hoped you liked reading Relationship of Exit Velocity and Launch Angle by Dominikk85!

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