I am sure while watching baseball games you have seen a graphic or heard the announcers speak about launch angle and exit velocity, especially with some of the mammoth home runs hit. Both can be used to describe how a ball is hit and there is a skill to each. They are both important and are both parts of a culminating stat that Statcast has called Barrels, we will talk about all three. Statcast technology is something baseball has worked to for over a decade now starting with pitch tracking and Statcast was finally rolled out in full in 2015 after a partial trial in 2014. Statcast is a combination of two different tracking systems — a Trackman Doppler radar and high definition Chyron Hego cameras. The radar captures pitch speed, spin rate, pitch movement, exit velocity, launch angle, batted ball distance, arm strength, and more. The high definition cameras track the movement of the people on the field, which allows for the measurement of player speed, distance, direction, and more on every play. So literally every movement on the field is recorded and quantified in some way.
Exit velocity is measured as the speed the ball comes off the bat for all events, outs, hits, and errors. Exit velocity is important not because every ball hit with high velocity is guaranteed to be a home run or even a hit, but the defense has less time to react, so the batter’s chances of reaching base are higher. Exit velocity can also be used to evaluate pitchers using the same logic, The game’s best pitchers — who naturally throw the highest quality pitches — generally rank among the league leaders at limiting hard contact. The highest exit velocity last season predictably came off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton at 121.7 MPH off Ariel Jurado in August, he averaged 93.7 MPH exit velocity which places him in the 99th percentile of baseball. The top 3 hardest hit balls actually came off the Yankee bats of Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez. Daniel Palka came in fourth with a 118.4 MPH blast off of Fernando Romero on June 5th.
Launch angle is the vertical angle where the ball leaves the bat. As a rule of thumb, a ground ball has a launch of fewer than 10 degrees, a line drive is 10-25 degrees, a fly ball comes off the bat at 25-50 degrees, and a pop up is anything greater than 50 degrees. A high average Launch Angle indicating a fly-ball hitter, and a low average Launch Angle indicating a ground-ball hitter. On average, fly-ball hitters generally drive in more runs than ground-ball hitters. Conversely, pitchers who can limit their Launch Angle Against (keeping the ball on the ground) are more successful, because they are the most adept at avoiding home runs and extra-base hits, which come almost exclusively via fly balls and line drives. Freddie Freeman of the Braves actually lead all hitters last season in percentage of pitches hit between 10 and 25 degrees which again, is a line drive.
If you combine launch angle and exit velocity you get what they call barrels. A batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees are considered barrels. For every mph over 98, the range of launch angles expands. A “barrel” is defined as a well-struck ball where the combination of exit velocity and launch angle generally leads to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage. Khris Davis from the Oakland As lead all of baseball last season in barrels that resulted in a hit of some sort with 2.3 percent of pitches seen being barreled up for a hit, equating to 59 of his hits being barreled. The highest White Sox player on the list is Daniel Palka with 33 barrels, 1.8 percent of pitches he saw last season.
Thanks as always for reading and we will be running these pieces all week for what we are calling advanced stat week. Let us know what you would like to see me tackle or if you have any questions. You can ask or just follow us on twitter @SidedSox, and follow us on Facebook. You can also email us at SoxSided@Gmail.com.