Launch Angle: The Most Misunderstood Term in Hitting

Written By: Chas Pippitt

What is Launch Angle?

Launch Angle is a huge topic in all of baseball and softball right now.  Many coaches, parents, and players are scared of the term “launch angle”, as they think or assume that people that talk about launch angle want you to practice popping up and flying out.  Why would a coach want that?!?  We in the ‘top of the cage’ camp do not want you to practice hitting weak and easy to catch hits.  We are trying, and in most cases succeeding, in allowing players to reach their power potential and drive the ball farther, which can in many cases leads to more powerful hits, more doubles, and more home runs.

Does Every Batted Ball Have Launch Angle?

Launch Angle Results for Bryce Harper
Launch Angle Results for Bryce Harper

Before I go on, I’d like to make sure everyone understands this one major point: Every ball hit has a launch angle.  Zero Degrees would be a line drive parallel to the ground.  -30 degrees would be a grounder/chopper.  30 degrees would be a fly ball.  Even foul balls popped up out of play behind the catcher have a launch angle, sometimes over 90 degrees! Launch angle is no different than exit velocity in that now that it's constantly measured and discussed, there will be ways that instructors drill hitters to increasing or decreasing the amount of height a certain hitter attempts to create in his batted balls.

Now that we understand that every ball has a launch angle, we can talk about which launch angles are good and which launch angles are bad and why.

What about Exit Velocity?

An important point to know to go into a discussion about Launch Angle is that each hitter’s optimal launch angle is COMPLETELY DETERMINED by how hard they hit the ball, otherwise known as their Exit Velocity, which is the speed of the ball coming off the bat.  I have a player, “Jon”, I work with who consistently hits the ball in BP over 100mph, sometimes harder than 105 mph.  That player should constantly try to hit the ball off the top of the batting cage to allow for more doubles and home runs.  More doubles and homers will directly determine how much money Jon makes (either in scholarships or a contract), how long he can play baseball and what level of baseball he can reach.  A great example of this is the recent article in the StarTribune by Chris Hine about Logan Morrison’s swing change.  Check it out and see how much lifting the ball has positively affected his career and salary.  This story is very similar to the work we did with Ryan Mountcastle, a top prospect of the Baltimore Orioles.

Ryan Mountcastle's Stats from 2016 to 2017 after an offseason of Launch Angle work at Baseball Rebellion. Mountcastle's doubles went up by 20 (he led MiLB in doubles) and HR's went up by 8.  Strikeout rate went DOWN while Average was basically the same and OPS and Slug had significant jumps.  Mountcastle hits the ball HARD enough (over 105 mph) to train to hit it HIGH (over 25 degrees) as often as possible.  You can see his MLB Spring Training home run cleared the batter's eye.

But My Player Doesn't Hit Like a Big Leaguer!

I have another player “Larry” who is on the other side of the exit velocity spectrum.  He exit velocity is almost always between 70 and 76 mph, which is in the 52nd percentile of his 15u age group and clearly not high enough to make it intelligent to ask him to hit the ball up in the air  So, on a big 60/90 field, he’s gotta hit the ball much lower than the player who hits the ball 105 mph.  If “Larry” hits the ball with a launch angle in the high 20’s and low 30’s, he’s going to fly out over and over and over again.  He simply doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to make a higher launch angle a positive result for him.  Here's a screenshot of his most recent session with us on HitTrax.  As you can see, he has 98% singles.  Lowering his launch angle to UNDER 25 degrees but OVER 12 degrees was by design based on how hard Larry hits the ball.  If we go for distance when training, I'd like Larry to be above the 25-degree launch angle and up into the mid 30's.  When Larry is in that higher launch angle range, he can hit the ball 265 or so, which is in the 65th percentile for his age group.  265 on a 60/90 big field is an out, and if he misses even a little bit he's out at an extremely high rate.  This lower 'singles based' launch angle gives Larry the best chance to be the best player he can be in games and help his team win.

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What's Next With Launch Angle?

On the other side of the Launch Angle story is Buster Olney's Article which you can find HERE.  Basically, Olney interviewed people who wanted to remain nameless and they are either totally against launch angle for a variety of reasons, or just uninformed and fearful about what the changes may do to individual players or the teams they play on.The most insightful quote in the article was by an unnamed GM who said, " The concept is so new that I don’t think the process has been fully vetted,” said the GM. “It feels like some of them -- including coaches -- are just making it up as they go along without understanding the mechanics or the collateral damage." and that there are probably not enough coaches who can effectively adjust a player's launch angle one way or the other without ruining his other offensive performance.  While Olney did quote many unnamed with high-level jobs within the organizations they work for, I genuinely believe that baseball is just beginning to figure out how training these metrics will create better players.

You can quote me now, the newest 'Moneyball' type revolution is going to be hitter development and eliminating ground balls.  Once that happens, the people quoted by Olney will, like ground balls, be eliminated from baseball as well. Again, I recognize that not ALL hitters need to hit the ball up in the air to try to drive the ball out of the park.  Not all hitters CAN do that.  All hitters need to understand the launch angle and exit velocity metrics because understanding those metrics will help you improve as a hitter. Almost all hitters benefit from hitting fewer grounders, even if that just means more line drives that land between the infield and the outfielders.

In what is a necessary contrast to Buster Olney's article, HERE is a great article (written by Dayn Perry, CBS) actually trying to explain what launch angle means and how it can actually HELP hitters who focus on it. It goes into great detail about what launch angles are the most successful for everyone and who are the best "launch angle hitters"  in Major League Baseball. Perry gives a list of the hitters who hit the most batted balls at ideal launch angles, between 10 and 30 degrees. You will see the names of some of the best hitters in baseball at the top of the list including Jose Altuve, Daniel Murphy, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Carpenter, etc. This article helps show that just because the "old school" executives, scouts, and coaches think that launch angle is just a phase, or doesn't belong in baseball, doesn't mean that players feel the same way. With more players beginning to study and understand the data, you will start to see more and more of those old school thoughts being "launched" out of the game.

Launch Angle, It's Here to Stay!

The measurement, tracking, and manipulation of a hitter's launch angle is here to stay.  Please don't hide from it coaches!  Take the time to understand it. Use this (new) information to your advantage!  One way to help is this article I put out earlier in the year about batting cages and launch angle.  I know that coaches all over the country want to do the best job they can for their players.  Keep looking for new information, keep learning, and maybe...just maybe...don't kick that kid out of the cage if he hit's the top of the net.  That 'top of the net pop-up' might have been a home run!

7 thoughts on "Launch Angle: The Most Misunderstood Term in Hitting"

  1. Joe Ebeni says:

    I really enjoyed your article. For all those who think launch angle is new, I don’t think that it is. I’m an old guy who grew up in San Diego in the 50’s and idolized Ted Williams (I still have a copy “The Science of Hitting” from the original printing} My father was one of the best amateur players in California ca late 20’s/30’s. An older brother went straight to the Pacific Coast League from high school in 1951. I learned to match the plane of the pitch and to hit the ball slightly under the equator…..= line drive singles, gap doubles, right field triples and the occasional home run.
    Matching the plane of the pitch combined with high bat speed and point of contact below the equator creates launch angle…..hitting (hard) below the equator creates backspin to increase carry. That is why a curve ball hit below the equator goes farther than a fastball hit with the same bat speed….magnified backspin–magnified carry.

  2. Ryan says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with everything you said. The whole approach to hitting the ball up is stupid. It makes for boring baseball and the proof is in the numbers. Strikeouts are at record numbers ever since they started teaching players to swing up on the ball. There’s no back spin. I saw it in Spring Training BP today. Nothing but popouts and the ball just dies. You can even hear it when it comes off the bat. It’s dead. Opposite field hitting like Tony Gywn taught is the only way this game will survive. I’m batting .834 in 3 seasons in an adult league with former minor and major league players. I’ve coached up to college level for 20 years. I could outhit most of these guys even today. I too have Ted Williams book, but he was a left handed hitter. They always have a natural uppercut and love low and inside pitches. Right handed hitters are not that way. Joe, if you’re from San Diego, you should read Tony Gywn’s book. He teaches opposite field approach and door knocking knuckles. It works. Half these guys today have such a tight grip, they couldn’t hit it up or outside to save their lives.

    1. Admin says:


      It seems that you have inserted every single old-school hitting cliche into one single post. I commend you for that. Also, hitting over .800 is certainly impressive at any level. You should celebrate. Thanks for reading!

    2. Spud says:

      If you could out hit most guys today you would of went pro, but you cant and youre full of it.

      Thanks for trying though.


    3. King says:

      The proof IS in the numbers, but apparently you haven’t looked at them. You don’t want backspin. Backspin means you hit the ball under the “button” and it’s exactly what makes the ball pop-up. But I’m sure nothing I say or anyone else says will change your mind. You live in a world where you know everything and you hit .834 over 3 seasons. Unless you’re playing against a team of kids in wheelchairs, I don’t buy it.

    4. DM222 says:

      LOL, I love that somehow all left handed hitters have a “natural uppercut”. That makes no sense at all.

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