The Launch Angle: Baseballs secret weapon

Since the early 2000’s baseball has increasingly embraced analytics, data, and the sciences. In his 2003 novel Michael Lewis showed the world how the Oakland Athletics created a winning team on a limited budget through the use of analytics.

General manager Billy Beane was able to exploit inefficiencies in player evaluation — specifically players with high on base percentage to build a competitive team on a budget much lower than his competitors. 

Statistical analysis, data analytics, and algorithms helped explain a player’s true value. Being able to acquire talent in the 80th percentile of all players at a discount is a huge boon for organizations. Data and statistics have forever shaped the way management will construct their teams. Physics on the other hand may be starting a whole new revolution in baseball.

Physics professors have long claimed the best way to strike a baseball is slightly under it, because it will allow the ball to travel its maximum possible distance. Not very many people listened, and you will often hear little league coaches suggesting their players to have a swing resembling a wood chop.

With new technology we have finally found the optimal way to hit a baseball. Statcast a new tracking service allows cameras to track exactly how hard the players are hitting the ball (exit velocity), the angle at which the ball is launched (launch angle), and exactly how far it travels. The best angle at which you can hit a ball is between 19 and 26 degree.

With those launch angles, players in the 2015-2016 seasons had a .540 average and a 1.252 slugging percentage on a total of 47,846 balls in play. Developing a swing plane that is conducive to those launch angles will likely result in better results for any player. Players with revitalized careers, such as Justin Turner, Yonder Alonso, and Daniel Murphy can attest to that.