I was scouting at a high school game recently, and another scout asked me if I teach the “Launch Angle Swing.” Before I could answer, the player that we both there to see did something of note so we never returned to the subject, but it got me thinking. There seems to be some confusion as to the difference between Launch Angle and Attack Angle. Today I want to clear up that confusion.
Launch Angle The term launch angle has recently become a popular and for some reason polarizing term in baseball. The reason it has become so well known and has such a strange connotation is it really began being used right around the time a few years ago when many hitters began trying to hit the ball in the air more. Those who disagree with this approach will talk against launch angles. However, launch angles have always been a part of the game, it just wasn’t until recently that we really had a term for them. Let me state this very clearly: every single ball that gets hit has a launch angle. Launch angle refers to the angle of the ball off of the bat, so without a launch angle, you are missing the ball. Launch angle refers to the way that the ball moves off of the bat.
Groundball: -90 degrees to 10 degrees
Line Drives: 10 degrees to 25 degrees Flyballs: 26 degrees to 90 degrees
Look at the chart below (from a pro hitter I train): The highest batting averages are seen between 10 and 20 degrees: line drives. Launch angles above and below this range begin to fall off and limit our ability to get a hit.
Attack Angle Attack angle is about the bat not the ball. Attack Angle is the path that the bat takes as it makes contact with the ball.
Downward bat path: Anything negative
Level: 0 Degrees
Upward bat path: Anything positive
How do Launch Angle and Attack Angle interact? Launch angle is determined solely on where the bat meets the ball. If the bat hits the top of the ball, the ball will go down and if the bat meets the bottom of the ball it will go up and everything in between are varying degrees of launch angles. We can get any launch angle with any type of attack angle. No matter whether a swing is up, down or level, a hitter can hit any part of the ball.
Why do high level hitters swing up?
Good hitters have a positive attack angle, swing up, uppercut or whatever you want to call it. The best hitters in the world get the bat on the path of the ball early and stay in the hitting zone for a long time. The average fastball come in at between -6 to -12 degrees and they need to move the bat up to stay on the plane of the pitch for a long period of time. This increases their chance of hitting the center of the ball and creating a line drive.
While any attack angle can produce any type of launch angle, most players and coaches have the opposite view of what really happens. To read more about why swinging up does not actually produce pop ups check out my article here on EliteBaseBallPerformance.com