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Modern baseball brought many new terms to the sport, perhaps the most over a short period than ever before. Recent years saw more talk about exit velocity ~ what it is, and how to increase it. Especially for young and developing players.
Exit velocity in baseball is the speed of a baseball immediately off a bat. The faster the exit velocity, the farther a baseball will fly, or the better the odds of ending up a base hit. Ever since the velocities started being measured, batters (and their coaches and parents) have had interest in increasing the exit velocity.
New technologies have made measuring exit velocities, along with other things like pitched-ball velocities, and bat speeds, more accurate. The new measurements were then studied against the results, e.g. how the fastest-struck balls ended up (e.g. out or base hit?), and theories developed.
The faster a baseball comes off a bat, the harder it is for defenders to catch or field it. What became more important for players, coaches, and parents alike was how high exit velocity contributed to distance. Chicks dig the home run, and exit velocity delivers power.
Exit Velocity (EV) is a measurement of the speed of a baseball from the exact point it collides with a bat, to immediately after this contact. Usually, it is measured on struck balls that are called Batted Ball Events (BBE), which means they resulted in outs, hits, or an error by a defender.
The faster the ball comes off a bat, the harder it is to defend. Experts say the fastest EVs occur on ground balls or line drives ~ so imagine a struck baseball coming at you traveling 120 mph! Fast-moving balls are harder for defenders to move quickly enough to get to; more pass by or drop in for base hits.
At higher launch angles (the angle in which the baseball comes off the bat), which propels the ball skyward, high exit velocities translate to home runs and power.
As with any new measurement that indicates baseball success, chasing high exit velocity has become quite the quest for many players, coaches and instructors. Do high velocities come naturally, or can a hitter do things to increase his EV?
There is no single, surefire thing to do to make baseballs fly faster off bats. Some tricks might work for some players, or it might take a cocktail of several things to deliver results. Some people are just born with strength in certain body areas to have naturally fast bat speeds and high exit velocities.
Here in no particular order are things others are doing in the attempt to increase exit velocity:
The speed of the bat at the point it strikes the baseball is a contributing factor for exit velocity. Basically, lighter bats are swung with faster bat speeds. However, a fast bat speed coupled with a heavier bat does even more damage. (More on that in the next subsection).
How fast a player can move that bat barrel through the hitting zone is a big deal. One study suggests that you can add about 10% to exit velocity if you swing a normal bat in play right after warming up with a heavier bat. This is commonplace in baseball anyway, either by swinging more than 1 bat at a time, or using a doughnut.
Of course bats lighter in weight can be moved through the hitting zone by human arms and hands faster than thrusting a very heavy bat barrel toward the pitcher. It’s a matter of mass + bat speed creating energy to drive the ball.
Swinging a heavier bat might be a relatively quick way to add a little exit velocity, but it could come with a cost, as explained here.
Other baseball trainers go by the equation that bat speed + bat weight = velocity. As stated above, it’s a matter of getting more mass (of wood or metal) onto the baseball at contact, at the fastest swing possible.
A problem with simply using heavier bats is control. Too-heavy bats are often swung too late, so baseballs are fouled off or dribbled to the opposite field with little zing. The bigger in overall size and stronger a baseball player gets, the easier it is for him to adequately handle heavy bats.
Baseball is one of the strangest sports when it comes to strength training the body for game play. Some places of the body where you’d expect big power in football players, like the chest and biceps, are not necessarily the main factor in swinging a heavy bat fast. They help, but here are areas baseball trainers suggest to work hard to speed up that bat:
- Legs. Many youth baseball parents or coaches are unaware that a person’s thighs and hips play a huge part in how much power a hitter has. It’s a reason why you see players with skinny upper arms like Dave Kingman hit towering long home runs. Strong thighs, whether naturally or through workouts. Exercises to build leg strength include squats, lunges, deadlifts, leg presses, and leg curls. Some specialized cardio workouts like stair climbing could help also.
- Core. The core of a body, consisting of all the abdominal muscles down into the hip area, plus chest and back muscles. There’s just a lot there that contributes to the severe twisting motion that hitting involves. Medicine ball rotations and tosses are very good in this regard and should be tried consistently by baseball players. Other actions include sit ups, crunches, planks, push-ups,
- Forearms. The last part of the human body that transfers power from all the body’s actions in a swing ends up in the forearms and hands. Strong forearms are important not only for solid grip at point of contact, but also to add even more weight to what is being swung forward. They help improve control which increases contact, and solid contact increases exit velocities. Exercises to try: wrist curls, finger curls, squeezing squishy balls (tennis or racquet balls are used most often), and reverse wrist curls.
Some baseball trainers will invent new and unusual ways to work out the muscles that help with hitting. One of them is to swing a bat under water in a pool. Simply use a bat that is not to be used in games, stand in the shallow end in water up to right below the chest muscles, and swing the bat through the water. Both ways.
Another is wiggling and moving fingers submerged in a bucket of rice or grain. Some might even use sand. But it’s as easy as it sounds ~ find something with a lot of small particles that can be moved around, get it into a container big enough to dip your hand into and move fingers freely, and do it a lot. (Note: this exercise also is excellent for pitching).
Other elements that can contribute to the exit velocity of baseballs off bats include:
- Pitch speed. Some say the faster the pitch comes in, the faster it bounces back on a well-struck ball. (Ever tried hitting for distance off a tee?).
- “Smash Factor.” How well a ball squares up with the bat, e.g. centered in the barrel’s sweet spot, can make it bounce faster forward.
- Flight angle. As stated above, the angle the ball comes off the bat can contribute to exit velocity. Basically you want straight line drives or hard grounders for the fastest exit velocity. Of course, this might not be as sexy as higher angles to produce home runs … but that’s what data indicates: lower launch angles are better for EV. (That fastest exit velocity ever was a ground ball to the 2nd baseman).
Why is lower launch angle better for EV? Who knows. Speculation is that they involve more topspin than pop flies; and are pulled less by gravity.
Exit Velocity (EV) is a more modern baseball term, as statheads are digging deeper in the never-ending quest to most accurately measure performances of hitters and pitchers. In the hitting realm, it is part of a group of new measurements including Batted Ball Distance (DST), Projected Home Run Distance (HR-DST), Launch Angle (LA), and Batted Ball Events (BBE).
That last measurement, Batted Ball Events, are the actions on the field used to measure exit velocities for Major League Baseball players. These are struck balls that result in outs, hits, or errors.
Because high exit velocities of baseballs off bats translate to hitting success, such as more hits or longer drives, baseball coaches and instructors are asked quite often about how to improve or increase EV. Exit Velocity is a trending term in baseball, especially since game broadcasts often bring up the EV right after a well-struck ball.
It’s like how so many pitchers fell in love with the velocity of their throws, as opposed to equal love with control and command. Exit Velocity is not the end-all of hitting stats. But a high EV does usually hint toward successful hitting.
Question: Is there a exit velocity statistic to measure pitchers?
Answer: Yes, called Average Exit Velocity (aEV), or Exit Velocity Against. High exit velocity averages means batters are hitting balls that fly farther, or are more difficult to defend. Using the aEV calculation ~ divide the sum of all Exit Velocities off a pitcher, by all Batted Ball Events ~ you can determine if a pitcher is surrendering hard or soft contact. Great pitchers are known to have very low exit velocities against their tosses.
Q.: What is a good EV by age?
A.: Generally it’s around the same as good pitching velocities by age. In Little League (up to age 12), good EVs are 55 mph and up. By high school it’s 80 to 90 mph for good hitting. In college over 80 mph is good, and 90 mph and up is good for MLB hitters. The fastest EV in MLB game play was by Giancarlo Stanton, at 122.2 mph.