How Important Is Exit Velocity for the Optimum Launch Angle?

I looked at the Statcast leaderboard from 2015 to early 2017 and sorted for below-average (88 MPH) and above-average exit velo for batters who had at least 500 ABs in these two and something years as an arbitrary cutoff.

The Top 15 in wOBA above with an EV of above 88 MPH averaged a wOBA of .402 while the top 15 below 88 MPH averaged .351. As expected, the higher EV Group has a higher wOBA than the lower group.

The average LA for the harder-hitting group was 14.16 +- 2.5 while the LA for the softer-hitting group was 11.75+- 4.3. It seems like the softer group does better at a lower LA and there also is a greater variance for different LAs.

I also looked at the worst hitters of each group. The bottom 20 in the soft-hitting group came in at 10.15 degrees +- 4.2.

In the hard-hitting group, the worst wOBA hitters averaged 11.15 degrees +- 3.8.

So there seems to be some relationship of LA in the harder-hitting group, while it doesn’t matter much for the below-average group.

Now, if we expand it to 90+ MPH you get an average angle of 13.43 +- 2.9 for the good wOBA group and 12.26 +- 3.7 for the lower level group.

So the conclusion seems to be that harder hitters benefit more from increasing the LA while for the soft hitters it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Of course, I did not factor in Ks and BB in my calculations (I unfortunately had no access to wOBA/con in the leaderboard) and that is probably a big influence.

Overall, when I did a correlation test of wOBA and LA, I didn’t really find anything significant for both groups.

Where it got interesting was when we got into more extreme launch angles. The top 15 wOBA below 9 degrees was .328 (-23 points compared to the best soft hitters) while for the harder hitters the average was .358 (-44 compared to the best hard hitters).

At 7 degrees, the performance of the hard hitters was .340 (- 62 and the first time it was worse than the best soft hitters) while for the best soft hitters below 7 degrees the average was .320 (-27) and only marginally worse than minus 9.

Looking at the other end, the top hitters above 15 degrees had a wOBA of .376 (-26 compared to all LA) — maybe this is due to sacrificing contact for more lift?

And finally, in the softer-hitting group, there were only 12 guys with a LA above 15 degrees, and their wOBA was .314 (-37).

Overall, it seems like LA only has an effect if you get farther away from the average (around 11-12 degrees). Harder hitters can benefit from going higher, while for soft hitters it doesn’t matter much, as long as they stay somewhere near the vicinity of average.

The guys who really benefit from a LA change are the really hard hitters with really low angles.



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