One of the biggest trends this year in Major League Baseball (MLB) is “launch angle”. MLB has actually drafted a text book definition of what launch angle is. According to MLB, launch angle represents the vertical angle at which the ball leaves a player’s bat. The average launch angle is calculated by dividing the sum of all launch angles and all balls hit by players.
Here is the basic calculation supplied by MLB:
- Ground ball is less than 10 degrees;
- A line drive is around 10 to 25 degrees launch angle;
- The fly ball has a better launch angle at 25 to 50 degrees; and
- The pop is greater than 50 degrees, but usually results in an out.
Blue Jays 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson is being called the master of the launch angle. Since joining the Blue Jays in 2015 Donaldson has hit 84 home runs in 1,271 at bats going into last night’s game against the Seattle Mariners. He also hit 86 extra base hits in those at bats. At this pace, Donaldson has an impactful hit once every seven and half at bats. And, during this time Donaldson won a MVP award.
The strategy behind launch angle is a simple one. If a player hits in in the air and to the outfield there are only three defenders who can get him out. Hit it on the ground there are five players who can get you out. And, there is no defense for a home run. Donaldson says that if he hits the ball on the ground he has failed.
While Donaldson is a superstar player in baseball other middle of the pack players are picking up on this trend and turning their seasons around. Donaldson’s teammate 1st baseman Justin Smoak is one example. He has 17 home runs so far this season after roughly 60 games. He only had 14 home runs all of last year.
2nd baseman Ryan Schimpf of the San Diego Padres is an even better example. Schimpf could not even crack the Major Leagues. He was one of the oldest rookies last year at age 28. Since making it to the show he has hit 34 home runs in less than 600 at bats all because of the launch angle technique.
MLB’s Statcast technology measured more than 1,000 of Schimpf’s 2016 pitches thrown at him and determined that he had the best average launch angle at 27.7 degrees.
And, don’t be surprised if more baseball players enter the major leagues in years to come with a better understand of geometry. One tech vendor Blast Motion of Carlsbad, Calif., is working with baseball’s Futures League to track and improve elite collegiate athlete swing performance. The company has developed the Blast Baseball sensor that is being implemented during batting practice and even in actual games. This Internet of Things technology captures and analyze a player’s hitting metrics on the fly.
Blast Motion is a wearable motion capture technology solution provider that develops real-time metrics analysis with auto-curated video highlights. This data is then made available directly to the athletes and hitting coaches post-game in an attempt to provide the team a competitive edge.
Chris Hall, the commissioner of the Futures League said being able to use the same technology as major leaguers to analyze swings is going to be a huge benefit for players. This technology gives the league a step-up on other summer collegiate leagues with college coaches.
The Futures League was founded in 2011 with the goal of becoming a developmental stream for amateur players.
Recently Blast Baseball became the Official Bat Sensor Technology of MLB. The Blast sensor and mobile app provides the Futures League with swing data as proven by the independent Center for Human Performance study. The Blast app has been specially designed to combine video and metrics to enhance swing analysis, allowing coaches to replay and review a player’s swings mechanics.