Yesterday, I finally followed up on a note written on my white board for months: “sd(LA) –> BABIP?” The results from my research: the tightness of a hitter’s launch angle is moderately positively correlated with his batting average on balls in play (BABIP). I measure “tightness” in terms of variance. The narrower the distribution of his launch angles, the tighter. The wider, the looser. There is also weak evidence to suggest a tighter launch angle correlates with more consistent exit velocity (EV).
(Turns out Brock Hammit, who is part of the Brewers’ player development team, investigated this very idea in June. Small world! Great minds! All that good stuff.)
As noted in my Tweet, the crux of the finding hints at something previously quantifiable only by the eye test: bat control. In effect, it’s a quantification of the hit tool — to me, the most interesting possible application. Would it surprise you to learn that Joey Votto has the tightest launch angle in the Statcast EraTM? Followed by hitting savants both current and former, such as Freddie Freeman, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer, Mike Trout, Michael Brantley — and maybe less-expected and arguably underrated names (underrated exclusively in the greater “hit tool” discussion) like Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, J.D. Martinez, and DJ LeMahieu?
Tightest Launch Angles – Statcast EraTM
stdev(LA) = Standard deviation of launch angle
Top 15 of 120 hitters with 1,600 batted ball events (BBEs) since the beginning of 2015.
These hitters all have or had outstanding contact skills, superb batted ball efficacy, or both. If you click through to any of their player pages, you’ll encounter routinely elevated BABIPs.
Is there more to this than meets the eye? I’m not sure. Obviously all of this here is but a small part of a much bigger puzzle and should be used in conjunction with, and not in place of, our existing knowledge about player performance. I wouldn’t consider this the be-all, end-all of BABIP analysis by any means, although I do think it’s significant.
That said, here are three potentially pertinent applications of this knowledge:
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