BatCast: Bat Flip Tracker

I love bat flips. I would have no problem if bat flips became a more theatrical experience. By the power of inference, or by simply reading the first sentence, I’m certain you can accurately predict how I feel about Jose Bautista’s bat flip.  While anyone with an incorruptible soul has been nobly spewing self-righteous significations about how disrespectful Bautista’s bat flip was, I’ve been primarily concerned with one thing: the trajectory of that bat flip. It was a huge exclamation point on a huge moment and it was a pretty significant departure from more “conventional” bat flips.

Most bat flips do not exceed shoulder height. Think about the bat flips that you have mimicked the most in your life.  For me it’s been Griffey Jr,  SosaMcGwire, Ortiz, and McGriff. One could argue that what those players possessed were, by definition, closer to bat drops rather than flips, but you’ll still find these players featured in various “best of bat flips” videos on YouTube. Bautista’s bat flip diverges from the norm immediately upon release, in that it actually started at his shoulders. While this is awesome, it didn’t break new ground. Yasiel Puig flips his bat from above his head on fly outs and triples. Yoenis Cespedes had a triumphant bat flip of his own on Monday night, but for a superabundance of reasons that you already know, Bautista’s bat flip has hogged the limelight. In lieu of this, we’ll focus on breaking down Bautista’s bat flip into some tangible numbers and simply apply that same method to Cespedes’ for a comparison.

MLB debuted Statcast this year, and among its nifty features was the home run tracker. The home run tracker allowed viewers at home to process new data on home runs — specifically, exit velocity, the angle of the home run, and distance. The data I’m about to bring to you is based on this exact premise, but it studies the bat flip.  BatCast: The Bat Flip Tracker™.

Disclaimers:

  1. There is no ™ on BatCast, I just thought it was funny and hope that it’s not illegal to falsely claim a copyright.
  2. I am not an engineer, mathematician, or a numerically-inclined vampire. The last math class I took was trigonometry during my junior year of high school 13 years ago.
  3. I’m about to present some very inexact numbers based on frozen images I’ve gathered from the internet to bring you the BatCast data on Jose Bautista’s bat flip.

Without further ado:

bautJOSE BAUTISTA

7th Inning – ALDS Game 5

Rangers @ Blue Jays

Score: 3 – 3

BATCAST

Initial Launch Velocity 14.63 mph (23.54 km/h)
Total Horizontal Distance 6′-6″ (1.98m)
Launch Angle 78.6 Degrees

Here is the freeze frame of the moment in time that somehow is already emblazoned across purchasable T-shirts. Following the majestic shot will be the explanation of the method I used to come up with the rough, ROUGH BatCast numbers (also featured in metric to honor the Blue Jays and the soil, or turf, of Canada where it all went down).

(Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

(Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

You didn’t think I’d forget the GIF(s), did you? (GIF sources: FS1 + mlb.com) 1475063766308945444               101415_tor_bats_batflip_lowres_gjvlzoc9

 

The numbers:

Launch Height: 5′-2″ (1.57m)

Jose Bautista stands exactly 6′-0″ tall (1.83m). In the image I printed out and measured hastily, he is about 3.33″ tall. If you’re disappointed in my measurements already, I did warn you that it would be rough, and you have every right to stop reading. If we measure up to his shoulder/trap area, where he released the bat, we get 2.87″. After we apply some simple algebra: 3.33/2.87  =  72/x we come up with 62″ or 5′-2″ (1.57m) for the launch height. This also works with the idea that the head and neck comprise 10.75% of our total height.

Horizontal Distance: 6′-6″ (1.98m)

Bautista hurls the bat across his body with his left hand from his right shoulder, which at point of launch, was pretty much on the inside corner of home plate for a right-handed hitter. The bat lands just outside the left-handed batter’s box which we know is 4’ wide. Given that the plate is 17” wide and there is a 6” cushion between the batter’s box and the plate, we can estimate the horizontal distance that the bat traveled to be right around 6.5’ (1.98m).

Hang Time: 1.52 seconds

I derived this number from watching the video and using my phone as a stop watch.  After 10 runs, I had an average time of 1.52 seconds. There is no metric conversion for time (winky face).

Parabolic Trajectory Calculator

This online calculator was paramount to finding the rest of the data provided. Once I had the initial height, the hang time, and the horizontal distance, I tinkered with numbers for the initial velocity and trajectory angle until everything jived with the rough numbers I had figured.
trajectory

Launch Angle: 76.8 Degrees

Jose launches this bat pretty tight to his body, as evidenced by where the bat lands (at the outside edge of the left-handed batter’s box).  A rough/convenient measurement of the launch angle gives us 76 degrees. But after manipulating the numbers in the calculator, we have a more accurate launch angle of 76.8 Degrees.

 

launch angle

Launch velocity: 14.63 mph (23.54 kmh) and Apex: 12′-0.36″ (3.67m)

I had actually tried to measure the apex using the same method I performed to figure the launch height, but it would be a disservice to us all had I used the 10.5′ number that produced. Jose Bautista flips the bat in such a manner that he would have thrown it over himself STANDING on top of himself – or twice his height. In the trade of bat flipping, this is probably considered light-tower power.

 

Cespedes vs Bautista

Using the same method let’s look at, what we can figure to be at least a pretty similar and recent comp.

First, Cespedes’ flip.

THIS_Cespedes_launches_NLDS_home_run_into_the_night

Yoenis Cespedes’ bat flip came in the 4th inning of game 3 of the NLDS with the score already 7 – 3 in favor of the Mets.  The tension in this game was obviously very high as the series was tied at 1 – 1, but circumstantial tension also built differently as there had been a day between this game and the game that saw the Utley v. Tejada incident.

yoenisYOENIS CESPEDES

4th Inning – ALDS Game 3

Dodgers @ Mets

Score: 7 – 3

BATCAST

Initial Launch Velocity 12.08 mph (19.44 km/h)
Total Horizontal Distance 10’-8.1″ (3.254m)
Launch Angle 60 Degrees

 

yoenis

By the numbers, these are two fairly similar bat flips. What Cespedes’ flip lacked in height (8.5 ft; 2.6 m), it made up for in sheer distance (reference table above). But judged by context (inning, game, score), isn’t Cespedes’ bat flip actually more wrong? Of course I’m saying that with my tongue in my cheek – a bat flip is neither wrong nor right. A bat flip is really just like adding an exclamation point to a moment instead of a period. How would you write it?

Home Run.

or

Home Run!

Part II: (preachy commentary)

In the end, people only start talking about a bat flip in context of right or wrong if it’s offensive to a player on the opposing team. Well, it was. It was offensive to Sam Dyson, who, without coincidence, was the pitcher who had just given up the home run to Bautista that spurred the bat flip. Dyson’s reaction seemed to be more of an unhinging; a singular representation of the collective mind of the Rangers. As history now goes, the Rangers were the beneficiaries of strange fortune in the top half of the 7th, nudging them ever closer to the Championship Series. The following half inning saw the Rangers’ 167-game journey and bid for a championship suddenly unravel in a strange, beautiful, sad, and unpredictable sequencing of events. Dyson’s cortisol levels were no doubt already higher than usual, having inherited three baserunners and tasked with getting two outs against the middle of baseball’s most potent offense that features the near certain American League MVP winner and MLB’s leading home-run hitter over the better part of the last decade — oh and these would also be the first two players he would be facing. These facts about the the situation and the prowess of the hitters are somewhat minimized in a pitcher’s mind that is focusing on executing his game plan, but I felt compelled to catch a glimpse into Dyson’s psyche before it all went down.

And then it went down (refer to GIFs of Bautista above).

Dyson will have to internalize the experience, if he’s not/hasn’t already, and I don’t know what that will be like for him. But immediately following the Bautista home run was not the time for that since Dyson still needed to get one more out in the inning. In the moment, amid all the pandemonium, he needed something he thought he had some semblance of control over and he found it, eventually, supposedly, in the bat flip. In fact, the bat flip was something that would, in some strange way, vilify the hero and deflect the attention away from the fact that he just gave up the home run that would eventually be the nail in the coffin (purely from a runs standpoint) for his team’s season (of course it’s more complicated than that). I’m not saying Sam Dyson consciously thought of all this; we’re animals and we’re not always aware of, or able to keep up with the torrid pace of our physiological states – and BELIEVE that Dyson was going through some stuff. However, to believe that Dyson acted above the bat flip, or any of it, is to ignore the fact that he too reacted instinctively to the situation. He made things worse by misinterpreting gestures and pointing fingers at inconsequential things like bat flips.

Dyson’s reaction, while not as grandiose as Bautista’s, was a reaction that was just as impulsive as Bautista’s bat flip, and yet, somehow, it seems like a lot of people deem his reaction to be more acceptable. Is it because he did his best to feign composure through it all? Do you really think he wouldn’t have approached Edwin Encarnacion in the midst of all the mayhem if the bat flip didn’t happen? I don’t. There is a Great Repression in this country, and I hate the way I phrased that, because it sounds so cheesy and adolescent, and really, what do I know? But it does feel like there is a sweeping under the rug of emotions, of feelings, and of truth. This is just how we’ve structured things; to be poised in all circumstance so that no one can see how truly horrible or beautiful we really are. Newscasters delivering horror stories; politicians admitting to affairs; talking about something you did that you’re extremely proud of but don’t want to seem too proud of — there are guidelines right down to accepted cadences, gestures, tones, and expressions for delivering each of these like they each came from an acceptable social norms textbook. Big, real emotions tend to make other people feel uncomfortable because conduct says we repress them and stay status quo. If I seem to be disgusted by it all, I’m not…as much as I used to be. But that’s probably because of anger management, finding love, and the birth of my son — three things I can talk in restricted excitement about because I’m starting to well-adjust…obviously, I’m not there yet if I’m ranting about all of this because I’m caught up in the debate of whether or not a bat flip is acceptable.

Sam Dyson said, in a post-game interview, “he (Bautista) is a huge role model for the younger generation coming up playing this game and he’s doing stuff kids do in wiffle ball games and backyard baseball, it shouldn’t be done”. First of all, Sam Dyson has been teammates with Jose Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton, and bat-flipper extraordinaire, Jose Fernandez. Do you think he was appalled at their flips when he was their teammate? Also, Sam Dyson literally just said, it’s a game, and that’s the point anyone who has ever played the game has been hammered with — “never stop having fun! Remember why you play! It’s just a game!”

I understand the game Dyson and Bautista play is also their job. I understand that to play the game professionally means having to work harder than you ever thought you could work, and that that probably has a tendency to mute and mature the game a bit — and like with anything, sometimes it’s a struggle to remember why you do it. But for Jose Bautista, everything culminated in that one swing. In that one moment after he connected with the pitch from Dyson, every swing he ever took, every time he tried out for a team, every early morning and every late night spent training made perfect sense to him. He was experiencing the moment most people, including himself up to that point, only conjure up in back yard wiffle ball games. So please, in a world where we’re forced to repress so much, don’t take the humanity out of the game, and don’t try to take away anything from Jose Bautista’s moment. Given everything in his life that led Bautista to that immensely emotional game 5, given the gravity of the situation, the no doubt distance of the home run, the do-or-die premise of the game, I’d say that bat flip was absolutely, spot-on, 100% perfect.



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Mark also writes for Beyond the Box Score Send him bat flip gifs and follow him @NtflixnRichHill Instagram Markd1414

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Scott
Guest
Scott

This is just fantastic stuff. Great read and thanks for putting in the legwork to make it happen!

tz
Guest
tz

We have found the triple point where FanGraphs, THT, and NotGraphs converge, and it is this article.

Felix D
Guest

Excellent article with great commentary on the sociology of baseball. You’re really a great and hilarious writer.

Rob
Guest
Rob

The Statcast video of that Bautista home run felt incomplete, almost empty, without a freeze frame and data on the bat flip.

George
Guest
George

This article speaks to my soul on cocky bat flips and this playoffs has been FULL of them (Bautista, Murphy, Cespedes, et al) I would love to see a top ten. Ortiz and Manny were KINGS of the bat flip lol.

fenkerbb
Member
fenkerbb

I somehow missed this until now and I am sad that I did! Is there any chance of systematically cataloging 2016 bat flips and subsequently awarding a “best bat-flipper award?”

Although who am I kidding? The reflected glow of Bautista’s bat flip clinches the award for years to come.