Arthur: The fly ball revolution is hurting as many batters as it's helped

From SABR member Rob Arthur at FiveThirtyEight on May 17, 2017:

From J.D. Martinez to Josh Donaldson, hitters throughout the big leagues have been honing a new approach at the plate, hunting for big flies and eschewing worm burners. It’s a change rooted in the latest metrics, which say balls hit in the air tend to be more valuable than grounders — particularly since the home run surge of 2015 started turning a higher percentage of fly balls into home runs than ever. So, over the last two years, batters have adjusted their swings accordingly, sending ever more balls skyward.

The resulting trend toward fly balls has significantly improved a handful of hitters, helping them achieve far better results than when they slapped more grounders. Some observers have even suggested it could be contributing to the surge in home runs. But a closer look at the data shows that, while there is a sweeping transformation underway, it seems to be hurting as many players as it is helping.

A batter can hit more fly balls by changing the angle of his swing. Instead of the slight downward plane recommended by many instructors, more of today’s batters are adopting uppercut swings that drive the ball into the air. And across the league, the effect is palpable.

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This page was last updated May 17, 2017 at 2:53 pm MST.