League-wide Batted Ball Changes

About every month, podcast mate Rob Silver pours out his undying love and affection for the Rockies Charlie Blackmon. I’m not as much of Blackmon fan but this comment got me thinking.

Blackmon definitely hit the ball harder last year but so did everyone else with MLB’s juiced ball. Even with noisy data, Rob was right and Blackmon exceeded expectations.

First, here a quick rundown of Blackmon’s stats that change and by how much.

Charlie Blackmon’s Batted Ball Data
Stat 2018 2019 Diff
Max Exit Velo 110.4 110.6 0.2
Avg EV 87.2 88.5 1.3
Max Dist 447 464 17
Avg Dist 173 189 16
Avg LA 11.8 14.5 2.7

Blackmon’s power-based measurements did see a boost up last season.

Next, the league-wide changes need to be calculated. I matched up all hitters with at least 30 batted balls in back-to-back seasons and averaged the difference.

League-Wide Batted Ball Changes
Season 1 Season 2 Max Velo Avg Velo Max Dist Avg Dist Avg HR Dist Avg LA
2015 2016 0.0 0.3 -2.4 -0.2 -15.2 0.7
2016 2017 -0.6 -1.2 -1.6 1.6 -14.4 0.3
2017 2018 0.0 1.0 -7.0 -2.6 -5.7 0.6
2018 2019 -0.2 0.1 2.2 2.9 -12.3 0.7

The preceding table is one huge data hodgepodge with values going up and down with little rhyme or reason. Just looking at 2018 to 2019 exit velocity numbers, they stayed about the same. The league-wide power boost was because the average distance traveled increasing between two to three feet. Blackmon blew past those averages. Now onto an interesting launch angle trend.

Over the four matched season pairs, the average hitter has seen their launch angle increase by over 2 degrees. Could the distance increase be caused by hitters going for more loft? I compared the 17 hitters last season who maintained their average launch angle (+/- 0.2 degrees) and their Max distance dropped by 5 feet but the average distance increased by 6.2 feet.  Just more mixed results.

Going back to the original question

Rob … I can’t call you an idiot this time. Instead, you just had me dive into one of the most messed up datasets and walked away more confused than when I started. Thanks.

We hoped you liked reading League-wide Batted Ball Changes by Jeff Zimmerman!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

Leave a Reply

3 Comment authors
DiaTRIBEDominikk85dannyrock Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted