What is exit velocity?
The definition of exit velocity: the speed at which a baseball is moving when it leaves the bat.
Why does it matter?
Simply put, the harder the ball comes off the bat, the better chance of getting a hit a hitter has. There is a direct correlation between how hard the ball leaves the bat, and the rate of success. The harder the ball gets hit, the harder it is for a fielder to field and record an out. So, the goal of every hitter, every time up top the plate, should be to hit the ball as hard as possible. Check out the chart below to see why exit velocity matters.
Why the debate?
Exit velocity tends to be a source of angry debate in the baseball world. I think that this emanates from 2 main sources: a lack of understand as to what exit velocity is and the emphasis on max numbers in showcase settings.
Lack of understanding
I have had numerous players tell me that their coaches either don’t believe in exit velocity or that they aren’t trying to have hitters create exit velocity. What that means is that many high school and college coaches don’t believe in hitters trying to hit the ball hard. If we simply change the wording of exit velocity to “hard hit ball”, I don’t know how coaches could argue with that goal.
Overemphasis on Max Exit Velocity
Exit velocity is comparable to pitching velocity. If you want to play at high levels, you need to create velocity both at the plate and on the mound. If we take pitching as an example, a pitcher who maxes their velocity at 81 mph may be a good high school pitcher, but playing in college or professionally with that velocity isn’t going to cut it. The same goes with exit velocity. For every level, there is a minimum threshold that should be cleared when it comes to maxes. For pitching velocity, the very minimum for a professional pitcher in 2023 is probably 90 mph. For hitters, the threshold for max velocity (in a bp session) is probably 100 mph.
While maximum numbers can be important, they don’t tell the whole story of exit velocity. Once those minimum threshold are cleared, consistency becomes far more important. The example that I use is to compare Giancarlo Stanton to Mookie Betts. Giancarlo Stanton can hit a baseball harder than just about any human being on the planet, with his max it velocity being 122 mph. On the other hand, you have a hitter like Mookie Betts whose hardest hit ball in his career is 112 mph. Now 10 mph is a major difference, but who would you rather have?
Is exit velocity important in being a good hitter? Yes. Are there other things that go into being a good hitter other than being able to hit the ball hard? Absolutely. I always describe the ability to create exit velocity as a piece of the puzzle when it comes to being a successful hitter, not the whole thing. While hitters should always be striving to increase their max exit velocity numbers, I do believe in today’s showcase driven world, that number gets a little too much attention when it comes to a hitter’s ability to produce on the field.