In recent years, a new buzzword has emerged in the world of baseball: launch angle. Simply put, launch angle is the angle at which the ball leaves the bat after contact. This statistic has become increasingly important in evaluating player performance and predicting offensive success. But what exactly is launch angle, and how does it impact a player's game?
Launch angle has become a hot topic in the baseball world due to its strong correlation with hitting success. In fact, according to a 2019 study by MLB.com, the average exit velocity on balls hit with a launch angle between 10 and 30 degrees was 91.1 mph, while the average exit velocity on balls hit with a launch angle between 30 and 50 degrees was 92.7 mph. This means that, on average, balls hit with a higher launch angle tend to travel farther and at a faster speed.
Furthermore, players who are able to consistently hit the ball at an optimal launch angle have seen a significant increase in offensive production. For example, in 2019, the league leader in average launch angle among qualified hitters was Mike Trout, who posted a remarkable 24.9 degree launch angle. This helped him achieve a .291 batting average, 45 home runs, and a career-high 1.083 OPS. But how has the rise of launch angle impacted the game as a whole? According to Fangraphs, the league-wide average launch angle has steadily increased from 10.5 degrees in 2015 to 12.5 degrees in 2020. This is due in part to hitters focusing on lifting the ball more in order to produce more home runs and extra-base hits.
However, the increased emphasis on launch angle has also led to a higher rate of strikeouts, as players are willing to sacrifice contact for the chance to hit the ball with more power. In fact, the league-wide strikeout rate has increased every year since 2005, reaching a record-high 23.4% in 2019. Launch angle has quickly become one of the most important statistics in the baseball world, with players and teams alike placing an increased emphasis on hitting the ball with the optimal trajectory. While this has led to more offensive production and exciting home runs, it has also led to a higher rate of strikeouts and a shift in the way the game is played. As the game continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how launch angle continues to impact player performance and offensive strategies.