Carleton: The fly ball … revolution?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on June 14, 2017:

The fly-ball revolution (aka, the air-ball revolution, aka the launch-angle revolution, aka the “Josh Donaldson said what?” revolution) is here. Sorta. While fly-ball rates are up overall in the past few years, they are not at historically high levels.


Home runs per fly ball are up, meaning that when hitters do hit a fly ball, they are getting more out of them. That distinction matters. If hitters have been doing something successful in the past few years, it’s probably not the launch angle, it’s that they’ve found a way to hit the ball harder. Maybe it’s just that players lately are bigger than they used to be.

After all of the stories about the early-season success stories, and players who were lifting the ball more and lifting their stats as a result, there’s been a few moments of quiet reflection. Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight showed that the revolution has essentially hurt as many batters as it has helped. ESPN’s Buster Olney talked to team executives who were much more sanguine about the revolution.

Sure, some guys have raw power, were wasting that power by not hitting fly balls, and have adjusted their swings upward to take advantage of that natural ability. Not everyone has the power to hit the ball out of the park, and if you don’t hit it out of the park, BABIP on fly balls is around .150. That’s a recipe for hitting like a pitcher.

This is being called the fly-ball revolution, as if this was something new, but players have always messed around with their swings. Sometimes it has even worked. Just because we have a fancy new toy (StatCast) that can put fancy new numbers (launch angle) on the issue, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen this movie before.

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Originally published: June 14, 2017. Last Updated: June 14, 2017.