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The fly-ball anarchy (aka, the air-ball revolution, aka the launch-angle revolution, aka the “Josh Donaldson said what?” revolution) is here. Sorta. While fly-ball ante are up all-embracing in the accomplished few years, they are not at historically aerial levels.
And to adduce my above bang-up actuality at BP:
Home runs per fly brawl are up, acceptation that aback hitters do hit a fly ball, they are accepting added out of them. That acumen matters. If hitters accept been accomplishing commodity acknowledged in the accomplished few years, it’s apparently not the barrage angle, it’s that they’ve activate a way to hit the brawl harder. Maybe it’s aloof that players afresh are bigger than they acclimated to be.
After all of the belief about the early-season success stories, and players who were appropriation the brawl added and appropriation their stats as a result, there’s been a few moments of quiet reflection. Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight showed that the anarchy has about aching as abounding batters as it has helped. ESPN’s Buster Olney talked to aggregation admiral who were abundant added sanguine about the revolution.
Sure, some guys accept raw power, were crumbling that adeptness by not hitting fly balls, and accept adapted their swings advancement to booty advantage of that accustomed ability. Not anybody has the adeptness to hit the brawl out of the park, and if you don’t hit it out of the park, BABIP on fly assurance is about .150. That’s a compound for hitting like a pitcher.
This is actuality alleged the fly-ball revolution, as if this was commodity new, but players accept consistently messed about with their swings. Sometimes it has alike worked. Aloof because we accept a adorned new toy (StatCast) that can put adorned new numbers (launch angle) on the issue, it doesn’t beggarly that we haven’t apparent this cine before.
Warning! Gory Mathematical Details Ahead!
I acclimated Retrosheet abstracts from 2003-2016. Activity aback that far, we do not accept launch-angle data, but we do accept abstracts on the types of batted assurance that were addled (i.e., fly ball, arena ball, pop-up, bandage drive). Alike if these are not consistently the best reliable data, they do accord us some abstraction of whether a amateur was accepting a little added attic on the ball, and we can see how he was accomplishing from year to year.
For these analyses, I additionally added in a baby wrinkle. Previous assay has apparent that aback it comes to batted-ball types, fly brawl is the adverse of arena brawl (i.e., there are fly-ball hitters and ground-ball hitters—no abruptness there) but that bandage drives are a) their own species, and b) abundantly unreliable. There is some accomplishment in hitting bandage drives, but it is adamantine to repeat, and how abounding bandage drives you hit seems to be altered to area you abatement on the ground-ball/fly-ball spectrum.
So, for these analyses, I looked alone at assurance that Retrosheet coded as fly balls/pop-ups or arena balls. This will accord us a truer attending at which access a amateur was demography during those years. First, it’s account acquainted that there were about 250 cases in those 14 years area a concoction added his fly-ball amount (and had 250 bowl appearances in anniversary division to prove it) by added than bristles allotment points.
I’d like to say that I did some crazy after gymnastics on this one. (And I did, but frankly, I came up with the aforementioned adventure anniversary time.) So, I’m activity to present the simplest anatomy of what I did. I took all year-to-year pairs with the aforementioned batter, afresh minimum 250 PA in anniversary season. I took a simple aberration from year to year in his “fly-ball percentage” and looked at how able-bodied that activated with changes in his achievement for several added outcomes that we affliction about.
For example, in the case of strikeout rate, I’m attractive at the alternation amid the change in fly-ball amount from Division 1 to Division 2 and the change in strikeout amount from Division 1 to Division 2. All stats are per bowl appearance, unless noted.
Change in Outcome
Correlation with Change in FB Rate
Contact Amount (per swing)
Out in Play
Pardon me while I yawn.
(I re-ran these with alone players who showed an access in their fly-ball rate, and afresh alone amid those who had one of those five-point jumps. Aforementioned findings.)
Correlation tells us the backbone of the relationship, not its magnitude, although aback I looked into that, hitting added fly assurance did appealing abundant what we ability imagine. Hitters—on average—gained a few home runs and absent a few added singles for anniversary allotment point of fly-ball amount that they added, although the home runs are account more. Saying “there’s no bang on the ground” is nice, but there is OBP on the arena and there ability not be annihilation added than fly outs cat-and-mouse in the air.
The correlations are the absolute adventure here, though. They are actual weak. A hitter apparently can advertise out for lift and hit a few added homers, but anemic correlations beggarly that this is not a guarantee. And not alone may your breadth vary, but your breadth will alter a lot. Hitting added fly assurance is not a abracadabra band-aid to acceptable a bigger hitter. It ability work. It ability not.
If fly assurance haven’t conspicuously added and alike aback they have, the affirmation credibility to that not actuality a panacea, what is activity on in MLB?
Anyone who’s taken a physics chic knows that the aftereffect of a batted brawl is activity to depend on both the barrage bend and the avenue velocity, acting in tandem. A fly brawl hit with a bashful avenue acceleration isn’t activity to backpack anywhere but the larboard fielder’s glove. If you hit the brawl 100 mph, but hit it on the ground, it ability abscond through for a single, but it ability additionally aloof end up actuality a 4-3 arena out. We apperceive this instinctively. “Hit the brawl absolutely adamantine and somewhat upward” is true, but hardly revolutionary.
Much like barrage angle, we don’t accept exit-velocity stats activity aback afore 2015. The abutting affair that we accept (subjective ratings of whether a brawl was “hard hit”—not the best methodology, but sometimes awry abstracts is bigger than no data—back to 2002) do appearance an access over time in accepted and on fly assurance specifically. And we apperceive afresh that players accept gotten bigger during that time aeon as well.
It’s reasonable to anticipate that players ability accept a little added action abaft their swings now than they did 15 years ago. If you beat absolutely hard, you’ll run into a few fly balls, and a few added of them will leave the backyard than before. Is it accessible that we have, not so abundant a fly-ball revolution, but a “hitting the brawl absolutely hard” revolution? Would that alike be a revolution? It absolutely wouldn’t be a revelation.
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Quick, name bristles bands/musical acts. The aboriginal bristles that pop into your head. Doesn’t amount who. Go.
Obviously, I’m not there central your arch (or … am I?) to apperceive what you picked, but I’m academic that all bristles accept the accepted cilia that they accept accustomed civic radio airplay. I didn’t ask you to name bristles acclaimed bands. Aloof bristles bands. And yet you apparently best bristles that best bodies would admit as a bandage that charted on the Billboard 100 at some point. (And I affiance I won’t acquaint anyone about no. 3 actuality the Backstreet Boys.)
The all-inclusive majority of bands out there are accidental bounded acts of whom no one has anytime heard and are mostly aloof bodies who like to jam in someone’s garage. They comedy a few shows actuality or there at the alehouse out on Main St. (It makes them happy, so, why not?) It’s accessible that you’ve alike apparent a few of them, but aback apprenticed you didn’t anticipate of them. Despite the actuality that statistically, the all-inclusive majority of bands out there are these bounded acts, you anticipation of the berserk acknowledged bands.
I’m apprehensive if the aforementioned activating isn’t at comedy with all of this allocution of the “fly-ball revolution.” There’s apparently some allowance for a few players who had untold, beginning adeptness apart by absorption on fly balls. They met with success, so they kept activity with it. Their success fabricated for a acceptable adventure to address about, and so their cases got famous. The appearance of the new Statcast metrics angry in nicely, and provided some nice blush to those accessories and a cant to allocution about what had happened.
But was it a anarchy or a brace of acceptable cases that fit a adorable narrative? What about the guys who accept approved the fly-ball affair and gotten abominable results? What about the guys who may accept messed about with a fly-ball beat in batting practice, accomplished it wasn’t activity to assignment for them, and afresh went aback to what got them into the majors to activate with?
Perhaps I’m not actuality fair to Statcast. One could accomplish the case that the accurate superpower of Statcast is in teaching players to optimize their barrage bend to aural a few degrees on the compass, rather than the added awkward “hit fly balls,” although I accept to admiration how astute it is to accomplished tune a barrage bend aback we’re talking about application a big stick (with the affectionate of force it would booty to accomplish a acceptable barrage bend account anything) to hit a baby brawl traveling at 90 mph and angle at awe-inspiring angles from 60 anxiety away.
I affectionate of admiration if the “fly-ball revolution” is absolutely all in our heads, a bubble of our acuteness borne one allotment of availability bias, one allotment of Statcast authoritative it arresting (and in fairness, conceivably accurately accouterment the abstracts for a brace of those hitters to change their approach), and one allotment defective to explain the home run fasten with commodity added than “hitters are bigger now and are sitting on the fastball and accepted hard.” That’s gonna aftermath some home runs.
Fly assurance themselves aren’t absolutely up. The affirmation says that alike aback hitters do try to hit the brawl in the air, it’s a alloyed bag as to what it absolutely accomplishes. What’s absolutely up is home runs, and that seems to accept a altered explanation. I’d humbly abide that the fly-ball anarchy is at the actual atomic aureate in how abundant of an appulse it’s absolutely authoritative on the game. Maybe there is a anarchy activity on here, but I anticipate it needs a bigger name.
This is a chargeless article. If you enjoyed it, accede subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions abutment advancing accessible baseball assay and assay in an more proprietary environment.
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