It's the winter off-season and many players are preparing for the upcoming competitive year. Players might be going to the cages a few times a week, hitting the weight room, working on speed and agility, as well as a number of other things. It is a great time to clean up some mechanical flaws in the swing sequence while getting bigger, faster, and more efficient. My biggest tip for hitters is to TRAIN APPROPRIATELY!
Don't Make This Mistake
Don't be the hitter who thinks they are going to increase production simply because they took batting practice a few times a week leading up to the season. While it is better than doing nothing, it is not as effective as maximizing the training environment.
So What Do You Need to Do?
In the simplest terms, practice hitting the ball hard, consistently, with proper ball flight. Thanks to MLB and the Hit Probability section of Baseball Savant, we have data that will tell us how to train to hit for more average and power.
Terms You Need to Know
Exit Velocity - the speed, in miles per hour (mph), the ball travels after it was hit by the batter.
Launch Angle - the trajectory, or how high or low the ball was hit by the batter. This is measured in degrees.
We can use this information to determine the optimal batted ball collision to increase our chances to get a hit and more importantly, to hit for power.
Increase Your Batting Average
According to the Hit Probability section of Baseball Savant, hard hit balls between 9 and 16 degrees provide a 50% or better chance to get a hit. Hard hit balls at 13 degrees had a 64.8% chance of landing for a single.
Want to get a hit? Train to hit the ball hard between 9 - 16 degrees. This is your typical low line drive.
Increase Your Slugging - Power
According to the Hit Probability section of Baseball Savant, hard hit balls between 15 and 24 degrees provide a 20% or more chance to hit a double. Hard hit balls at 19 degrees had a 27.1% chance of landing for a double. These balls are your higher line drives!
Want to hit more homers? Turn your line drives into power fly balls! Hard hit balls between 24-34 degrees had at least a 22% chance of being a home run. Hard hit balls at 28 degrees had a 32.6% chance of being a home run.
What's the Main Idea?
Hitting the ball hard (exit velocity) at optimal ball flight increases your chance to get on base.
If we put our batted balls into "buckets" such as 10 - 15 degrees, 15 - 20 degrees, 20 - 25 degrees, and 25 - 30 degrees, we would want to see our hitters producing consistent hard contact within those areas.
Example: A Hitter hits 20 balls over three to four rounds of BP. If the hitter hit 15 / 20 of those balls hard within 10-15 degrees then he is hitting 75% of his batted balls in the low line drive range which will lead to a good chance to get a single - increased batting average. If the hitter wanted to hit for more doubles, the goal would be to increase the percent of hard contact in the 15-25 degree range.
Hitting the ball hard between 10-30 degrees will produce optimal results! Note: hitting the ball hard matters - soft contact or weak contact results in an easy defensive play.
Take the advice from Monte Lee, the head coach at Clemson University, and have your players try to hit the ball hard through or above the top bar of the L screen. This is a simple way to make batting practice more competitive and fun while practicing quality contact.
At Matthews Baseball Instruction, we are fortunate to have a HitTrax, which measures how hard we hit the ball and at what angles we are hitting those balls.
In the chart above, we can analyze this hitter's hardest hit balls to check for optimal ball flight. As you can see, this hitter have an average hard hit launch angle of 17 degrees, a high line drive. Over 78% of the batted balls in this round were hit between 10 and 30 degrees.
How does it translate to performance? See the results below:
This hitter hit for average and power - with half of the 28 hits going for extra bases!
Invest in your batting practice this off-season by measuring your ball flight. Create a competitive atmosphere that encourages hitters to hit the ball hard - in the air - consistently.
Hope this helps,
See you on the diamond!