Here we are, in 2019, and somehow we still have a large majority of commentators, coaches, players, and parents that misinterpret and misrepresent what a “launch angle” is. This feels like kicking a dead horse but I personally need to put some clarity and finality to my position on the topic and what it represents in training hitters of all ages for us.
What is a Launch Angle?
MLB.Com defines a launch angle as the following:
Launch Angle represents the vertical angle at which the ball leaves a player’s bat after being struck. Average Launch Angle (aLA) is calculated by dividing the sum of all Launch Angles by all Batted Ball Events.
As a guideline, here are the Launch Angles for different types of contact:
- Ground ball: Less than 10 degrees
- Line drive: 10-25 degrees
- Fly ball: 25-50 degrees
- Pop up: Greater than 50 degrees
Hitters can be evaluated by their average Launch Angle, but the tool is generally more valuable in discussing pitchers. In the case of pitchers, the statistic is referred to as “average Launch Angle Against” (aLAA), and it does a good job of telling us what type of pitcher is on the mound. Is he a fly-ball pitcher? Is he a ground-ball pitcher? Average Launch Angle Against attempts to answer those questions.
Generally, 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.
Here is the main point you need to internalize spread and correct when necessary LAUNCH ANGLE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SWING
If you are talking about swing then the terms are approach angle, attack angle, or swing plane!!! Please, I beg you, stop using the term “launch angle swing”
Why the confusion?
I believe that the root of this problem starts with MLB broadcaster and/or former players misusing and misrepresenting the term. When you watch MLB games you should be able to sit down and listen to competent broadcasters using terminology and representing information correctly. See Tony Romo on an NFL broadcast. Why do they do this? Why do they not educate themselves? I really have no idea.
How does a launch angle apply to hitters in training?
On a swing to swing basis, I really don’t care about exact launch angles. Rather, do we achieve the goal of hitting a hard line drive? Notice that first and foremost our goal is to hit the ball hard (or exit velocity but we won’t go there). Secondly, was the ball hit hard on the ground or off of it. Easy. After sessions have ended we will go back and evaluate whether a player is barreling (90% exit velocity or better) line drive launch angles. If so, great. If not, then why? We will then look at video and/or collect swing sensor data to understand further what swing flaw may be present and how we can apply different drills, concepts or ideas to fix said flaw preventing the player from hitting hard line drives.
How does a launch angle apply to hitters in Games?
Easily. It doesn’t. Just be on time. Try to hit the ball hard. Try to hit a line drive. Rinse and repeat.
I hope that someday as a community we can understand that everyone should want players to hit hard line drives. Launch angle has been around since the beginning of baseball and as long as we play baseball in its common form it will remain around. When Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, and Mike Trout all hit the ball the result had a launch angle. So please feel free to share, educate and enlighten anyone that needs to educate themselves further that launch angle has nothing to do with the swing but rather it is only the result of a batted ball.