If you talk to the old-school baseball fanatics, they’ll scoff at any mention of sabermetrics or data-based hitting approaches. Their argument is usually something along the lines of “You’re either Derek Jeter or you’re not.”
But it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid data-ball, and as The Washington Post reports, one of the latest obsessions among Major League Baseball hitters is that on any given pitch, its better to hit a flyball than grounder—and the latter should be avoided completely.
How are hitters making this happen? According to the Post, it’s all about launch angles—or the angle at which a ball travels after it’s hit. Between 2015 and 2016, the average launch angle rose by one full degree. And the higher the angle, the more likely the batter will get a hit.
The “sweet spot” for hitters is between 25-35 degrees with the ball’s exit velocity being about 95 mph (i.e. it’s not only about the angle, it’s also about the bat speed). To date, there have been more hits this season versus last because of the adoption of this approach among MLB batters.
As former American League MVP Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays puts it: “(If) you look in the outfield, there’s fewer players and more grass. So if you hit it in the air, even if it’s not that hard, you have a chance. There are some outfielders who make it more difficult. But someone who has never seen baseball before would be like, ‘Oh, yeah. You’d probably want to hit it out there.’ ”
Watch a highlight reel of some of the longest home runs hit this year below.