Among all of the factors that go into becoming a successful hitter, perhaps the most important is increasing ball exit speed. Today's article will discuss what ball exit speed is, what influences it, and how to improve it.
What is ball exit speed?
Ball exit speed is the speed of the ball off of the bat. It is measured using a radar gun and is measured at the peak of velocity, which is right after the ball leaves the bat. There is a strong correlation between increased ball exit speed and batting average and power. The faster the ball comes off the bat, the better lower the chance of creating an out. In addition, every mph of velocity adds about 4-6 feet of distance to a batted ball.
Ball exit speed can be measured in a number of different settings. Measuring off of a batting tee limits the amount of variables that can effect the speed. It can be measured during soft toss, batting practice, or in a live game setting. I like to measure the ball exit speed during front toss. The reason for this is that a moving ball tends to be more realistic to a hitter than hitting off of a tee, without adding much velocity to the incoming ball. In addition, the ball moves down, forcing the hitter to create a truer, more inclined bat path.
Ball exit speed is influenced by a number of different factors.
1. Bat composition: Exit speeds will be higher with a metal bat compared to wood
2. Bat speed: the faster the bat is moving at Contact the higher the exit speed will be
3. Ball Composition: the higher the COR (Coefficient of restitution) the higher the ball exit speed
4. Point of impact with bat: Balls that come off of the bat's sweet spot will exit faster than coming off of other parts of the bat.
5. Pitch Speed: The faster the pitch, the higher the ball exit speed.
What is a good ball exit speed?
The major league average for ball exit speed is about 94 mph. The highest recorded ball exit speed in 2016 was 125.2. The highest on a homerun in 2016 was 120.5 by Mike Trout. The lowest on a homerun was 89.5 by Mookie Betts.
Below is a breakdown of what I have recorded by age group.
College: Average: 91 High:94
HS Junior/Senior: Average: 83 High: 94
HS Freshman/Sophomore: Average: 72 High: 78
13-14: Average: 68 High: 72
11-12: Average: 62 High: 67
9-10: Average: 52 High: 60
7-8: Average: 46High: 51
Below is the fastest High School Speed I have recorded this year:
How to increase ball exit speed
1. Improve mechanics
When I work with anybody on mechanics, there are 2 main factors that I am trying to achieve. The first if to improve a hitter's bat path. The other is to increase bat speed. Let's take a look at how each can influence ball exit speed.
The 2 most important reasons for creating a good bat path are to increase the area of the hitting zone to improve contact ability and to help the bat meet the path of the pitch. Meeting the path of the pitch means that the bat must move on an incline (upward) path through the hitting zone to meet the ball which is moving on a downward plane. If the swing creates a good bat path, more of the mass of the bat will be able to meet a greater mass of the ball. This means that more energy will be transferred and the ball will exit at a higher velocity.
Obviously, the faster we swing the bat, the faster the ball will exit. Increasing bat speed has many different mechanical factors. Among these include proper lower body mechanics (weight shift and hip rotation), creating separation between the upper and lower body, and keeping the hands connected to the body, among many, many others.
2. Get stronger
Strength is an absolute must in creating bat speed, and as stated before, increasing bat speed is one of the key components to improving ball exit speed.
3. Increase Intent
Intent is the amount of potential bat speed that is used based on how hard a batter swings. Some players simply won't swing as hard as they are capable simply because they just don't. This is more of a problem with younger players, who many times are just content making contact.
The two best ways to improve a player's intent to swing harder are to use certain verbal cues and use weighted implements. The two verbal cues that seems to work the best are to "attack the ball" and "hit the ball as far as you can."
I have recently started using weighted baseballs during tee, front toss and occasionally short seated toss to help improve intent. These balls, that weigh 10 ounces (twice that of a baseball) require the hitter to really try and create as much bat speed as possible and drive through the ball. Many times in BP, batters hold back a little, but with these balls they are forced to swing the bat hard.