Looking Ahead to More Batted-Ball Data

Over the past two to there months, I have noticed a continuing trend in the baseball community of asking questions about batted baseball information. Coaches are seeking answers, community members are interested in finding potential diamonds in the rough for their fantasy teams, and real teams. I think with the baseball data which is currently public on the web it seems that we have now plateaued in terms of the information many smart people have gone through. Meaning that the most obvious, and illuminating answers have come from the data. Now the public is picking through the scraps.

I want to preface what I am saying by pointing out that the amount of data that we currently have is amazing and that shouldn’t be overlooked. People (myself included) are now thirsty for more information. More pieces to the puzzle. More answers to the game. More data to try to help players. As players and coaches continue to use devices like HitTrax, Rapsodo, and TrackMan to collect, organize, and judge players it is important to continue to not only educate the public but to also continue to push the envelope of information. These devices collect data and present it in a visual form to help players improve. Some of the metrics include Launch Angle, Exit Velocity, Distance. Which all are pretty common knowledge, and a general understanding among the community. One piece of information that is presented that I feel needs further research is spin rate, and spin axis of batted baseballs.

I suspect that the next big data for information that is released from MLBAM is going to be something on batted ball spin. Ideally, we could look into players data on both spin rate of batted baseballs and spin axis of those baseballs. There are pockets of the internet which now have access to a limited amount of data on this topic, and often times these people are putting out amazing work. Alan Nathan has published several studies on this topic, and a couple of articles looking at batted ball spin. As great as this data is you can get a general sense of the important from reading over the information which is now public. To GENERALLY SUMMARIZE lower Launch Angle Balls need more spin to gain distance, Higher Launch Angle balls would need an average amount of spin to go further. Baseballs that are over-spun or under-spun can lead to reduced distances in both cases.

Coaches have talked in the past about how true backspin on a batted baseball is one of the most important factors to hitting, but we don’t’ have an accurate depiction of this. How important is true backspin? Teams if they had access to Spin Axis of batted baseballs. This information can lead to a whole different conversation. One in which we can look into players who are slicing a ball or fading a ball. Think about it like a golf swing per say. We could have a more accurate look at not only which players are best at creating this backspin, but how much of an effect does this backspin have on batted balls Vs. side spin on batted baseballs?

Which devices like the ones mentioned above becoming more common among coaches and players I feel that these coaches, and players have no context for what they should be looking for. Great you created 4000 rmps of backspin on the ball? What does that mean for you? Oh you side spun it at 3500 rmps, what does that look like if you had more backspin on it? These coaches and players are thirsty for the knowledge, and they are left to make up their our thoughts on what these things mean for players. It isn’t fair to players, and even worse for coaches who are actively looking for the information to help these players. My last thought on this topic is that making the information public makes sense as more coaches are becoming familiar with this.

What happens after the batted ball data is public? (If that were to happen) It brings up an even more interesting topic in my mind. Once we have another piece to the batted ball puzzle we can now start to create mathematical formulas that look into how player are striking the baseball. People have already figured out how to get the attack angles (estimated) on batted baseballs, the spin rate would help to finalize these types of formulas.

Lastly, we would be able to hopefully calculate the Offset of the bat-ball collision. Simply put this “offset” is point that the baseball makes contact with the baseball. Hitting the baseball square, vs. miss hitting it above or below the center of the barrel. This would bring up a bunch of other questions like which player are best at successfully missing the barrel effectively enough to create the best attack angle, back spin, and offset.

More information will continue to be produced, and this data will help baseball move forward. People are asking the questions. Coaches, and Players are seeking the answers. Data holds the answers.

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Interestingly baseball coaches have talked about batted ball spin long before there was talk about launch angle. For decades they talked about backspin and rather having a slight fade/slice rather than hook spin. Still will be interesting to quantity it.