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The new conventional wisdom in baseball 
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Joined: Sun Nov 26, 2017 11:40 pm
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The new conventional wisdom in baseball is that hitters are more effective when they adjust their swings to increase the launch angle of the ball when it leaves the bat. Doing so produces more fly balls that can turn into doubles, triples and home runs. Many players, including Josh Donaldson and Yonder Alonso, attribute their success to this new trend. Nevertheless, this tactic doesn't work for every player. Fly balls alone won't turn Jose Reyes into a hitter like Aaron Judge. Judge simply hits the ball a lot harder than Reyes. In fact, Judge hits it harder than anyone. His fly balls end up over the wall about 40 percent of the time, Reyes's only 7 percent. So players like Reyes need to find the right launch angle to match how hard they hit the ball. Reyes, by many measures, is having an awful year. Of the 164 players who qualify for the batting title, only two have a lower batting average on balls hit in play than Reyes does. And the Cubs briefly demoted one of those two players, Kyle Schwarber, to the minor leagues to work on his hitting La'Kendrick Van Zandt Jersey. So why has Reyes been so bad when he makes contact? Examining the angle at which the ball leaves his bat identifies weaknesses in his approach. Reyes hits a relatively high percentage of his batted balls between 20 and 80 degrees, resulting in fly balls and pop ups. However, almost all of his base hits come on balls that he hits between 0 and 20 degrees. The distribution of Reyes's batted-ball launch angles resembles that of the Detroit slugger J.D. Martinez. Martinez hits a similar percentage of his balls in play above and below 20 degrees. But many more of his batted balls in those ranges fall for hits. And a larger percentage of those hits are for extra-bases, because Martinez hits the ball much harder than Reyes does. Reyes's average exit velocity puts him in the company of players like Denard Span and Alcides Escobar, while Martinez hits the ball as hard as elite sluggers like Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera. Oakland's Yonder Alonso is a major success story in the popular narrative that players can benefit from raising their launch angle. He is a first-time All-Star who increased his average launch angle over the past few seasons to great effect https://www.tcusportinggoods.com/gear/michael-downing-jr-tcu-jersey.aspx. As you can see from the chart, almost all of Alonso's hits come on batted balls around the 20-degree angle. He also has a much tighter distribution of batted balls in play than Reyes, with the vast majority of them coming between 0 and 35 degrees. If the fly ball revolution isn't going to help players like Reyes Jalen Reagor Jersey, how can he be successful? A better model for light-hitting players might be Dee Gordon of the Marlins. Compared to Reyes, Gordon has many fewer batted balls above 20 degrees, but more of his batted balls fall for hits. Gordon's batting average on balls in play is .336, which is just about the league average, despite the lowest exit velocity of any qualified player. He makes up for his relative lack of punch by rarely hitting the ball in the air. Some players with relatively high exit velocity succeed by hitting line drives instead of fly balls. For example, Colorado's D.J. LeMahieu has about the same exit velocity as the Mets' Michael Conforto Brennen Wooten Jersey, but hits many more line drives and ground balls than fly balls. LeMahieu is even more aggressive about putting balls in play between 0 and 20 degrees, and has many more of them fall in for hits. LeMahieu's batting average on those balls in play is well above the league average, and much better than Reyes's. It's true that this new trend is driving up the amount of total offense. But it's also evident that this approach won't work for every player. For players with a relatively low exit velocity, an increased launch angle appears to be a route to more fly-ball outs rather than extra base hits, depressing their offensive value. The question for teams is whether they will continue to find room on their rosters for players who can't take advantage of increased launch angles. If the teams don't, punch-and-judy hitters will become as rare as soft-tossing right-handed pitchers.


Mon Nov 27, 2017 2:14 am
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