What is Launch Angle in Baseball?

We are reader supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Also, as an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

New words and phrases are added to the baseball lexicon all the time, and some of them sound rather militaristic, like WAR, OPS+, or launch angle. Fans mostly can guess what launch angle means in the sport, but let’s explore it in depth.

Baseball’s launch angle is the vertical angle that a baseball leaves right after its impact with the bat swing by a player. Other modern baseball metrics can branch off this, like Average Launch Angle (aLA).

Baseball insiders and fans alike use launch angles and their averages per player to try to judge the player’s ability to hit the ball A) Solidly; and B) Longer distance for more potential for extra-base hits and home runs.

How so? They have developed generally accepted guidelines for what type of contact each launch angle creates:

  • Less than 10 degrees = ground ball
  • 10-25 degrees = line drive
  • 25-50 degrees = fly ball
  • Greater than 50 degrees = pop-up

It is important to note that this baseball statistic is at least equally used to evaluate pitchers. In fact, many baseball insiders believe the stat is better utilized to judge pitchers.

For the hurlers, there is the “average Launch Angle Against” (aLAA), which indicates whether a pitcher allows mostly fly balls, or ground balls. For the most part, scouts want to see low launch angles and more grounders.

The optimum launch angle for hitting a home run is 25- to 30 degrees. That’s the range pitchers want to avoid.

What is the Ideal Launch Angle for a Home Run?

The optimum launch angle for hitting a home run is 25- to 30 degrees. That’s the range pitchers want to avoid.

As you can see by the numbers above, the 25-degree launch angle is where fly balls begin, barely more than a solid line drive.

From there the trajectory goes up, but at some point the ball is hit too high, so it will come down within the fences. What that says above is the magic numbers between home run and long fly out are 30 degrees for a dinger, and 31 degrees, or more, for a fly-ball that lands inside the park.

What Launch Angle Says About Hitters

Something new fans, especially those involved with fantasy baseball, will notice peppered into baseball-related writing is whether or not a minor leaguer hits too many grounders. This hints that the player may have limited home run potential at higher levels (like the majors).

Prospects in the minors often hit for high averages but with not quite the power that should go with hitting the ball hard a lot. Some players just naturally hit baseballs from the medium range, say 15- to 20 degrees, and end up hitting a lot of hard line drives.

Which is fine and dandy, but in today’s Major League Baseball, home runs sell. Fans fill stadiums for the excitement of scoring runs, and above all, seeing long balls hit.

All MLB teams think foremost about winning, so a very good line-drive hitter can be quite valuable, especially at certain positions where knocking in runs might not be the top priority. After all, teams do need baserunners to score more runs.

But minor leaguers who will hit a lot of home runs in the majors have a significant advantage. So among the many metrics to judge hitters, the 25 to 30-degree launch angle is sought.

More on Pitching and Launch Angle Against

From pitchers, baseball scouts and executives seek lower, or very high, aLAA (Launch Angle Against) ~ because forcing batters to mostly hit the ball on the ground results in fewer runs scored because grounders can’t clear the fence or zoom through a gap in the outfield for extra bases.

Minor league pitchers with aLAA in that home run range (25 to 30 degrees) will be trained to fix that somehow, either with an improved off-speed pitch, better location, or adding a new pitch or two.

Overall, pitching success depends on limiting hard bat contact on the ball. Pitchers who might not strike out a lot of batters, but induce a lot of ground balls, do well.

Greg Maddux is perhaps the best example of this. Not only did he induce grounders for his infielders, he also was an 18-time Gold Glove Award winner himself, so in reality he had 5 defenders close to home plate to gobble up all those weakly hit balls.

Does Launch Angle Matter in Baseball?

The science behind launch angle in baseball is most often associated with exit velocity. Together, baseball people can better guess how far a baseball will travel when struck.

Exit velocity for hitters is like velocity for thrown pitches. It’s the speed in which the baseball leaves the bat upon contact.

Most non-fans or new fans are truly amazed at how fast a baseball comes off a bat. In fact, most well-struck balls travel faster right off the bat than they did when pitched. The mass and torque of the batter generates that much power.

Modern baseball statheads can couple the launch angle and exit velocity averages of hitters and compare them with, say, the park they will be playing in most.

Quite literally, some statheads can tell general managers that if they signed X player, and that guy played half his games in the GM’s stadium, he would hit 10 more home runs in a season. The data backs it up.

He can do that by using the equation above (angle vs. velocity off the bat) to determine where a certain number of balls will travel when hit by Player X, and compare those spots with the distances of the outfield fences at any given park.

It’s a reason why sometimes a fan might see their team sign a certain player, and wonder, Why him? Remember, modern general managers are armed with tons of modern statistics, including those noted in this article. Sometimes they just … know.

Launch Angle and Backspin

Batters must elevate the ball to hit home runs ~ to drive the ball in the air far enough not only to ensure outfielders will not catch it, but also to clear outfield walls of 10 feet or higher (or, like in Fenway Park, much higher).

In the past, hitting instructors might tell batters to “swing level,” or even slightly downward, with intent on putting the ball on the ground so it would not be caught in the air for easy putouts.

Somewhere early in this century, statheads figured out that fly balls fall for hits more often than ground balls, therefore batters should try to hit the baseball in the air as much as possible.

At about the same time, still more baseball stat nuts figured out that a ball with a backspin travels further than ones spinning otherwise.

Put it all together, and in short order the very top-level hitting coaches were teaching batters how to precisely hit balls consistently at higher angles (e.g. 15 degrees or more) ~ with a backspin!

One might imagine that doing this is not easy, especially when the ball is coming at you in a split second. But some hitters managed to excel at it, notably Kris Bryant, and, for a spell, Joey Gallo.

This style of hitting resulted in more home runs (See MLB totals 2015-2019) ~ but also astronomical strikeout totals.

The problem with the uppercut-backspin theory was, as they have throughout baseball’s history, pitchers adjusted. They started throwing more hard pitches to the upper part of the strike zone, which batters had a hard time hitting precisely where they wanted for the angle and backspin.

As pitchers got better at avoiding the long fly balls, the home run numbers went down ~ along with a few hitters who refused to change their swing in response (Gallo).

Measuring Launch Angle in Baseball

It’s not like someone can stand close by the batter with a protractor to measure the angle of baseballs flying off the bat. That would be dangerous, and pretty much impossible anyway. The impact of pitched baseball and bat is just too fast and dangerous.

Launch angles are measured in several ways, most prominently in batting cages with lines drawn out to where struck balls hit the netting, or via computers from digital video of hits.

There are also machines today designed specifically to measure launch angles and exit velocities of hit balls.

In Summary: Why Launch Angles Matter

Knowing the average launch angles of a hitter helps understand just how far baseballs will travel off the bat, and provide insight into the odds of being home runs.

For pitchers, there is the average Launch Angle Against, of which low angles are preferred because that means balls struck on the ground, which are more likely to be converted into putouts.

For hitters, average Launch Angle helps figure out tendencies for hitters. A high aLA means the batter will tend to hit more balls into the air, which in modern baseball should mean more safe hits and even home runs.

Ergo, a low aLA means a lot of grounders, which cannot be home runs. Fly-ball hitters, on average, hit for more power and drive in more runs than hitters who hit more balls onto the ground than into the air.

Related Questions

Question: How do broadcast announcers use the term launch angle?

Answer: Quite naturally, just add the angle, as in, “The baseball shot off his bat at a 25-degree angle.”

Q.: How fast do the hardest-hit balls travel?

A.: Up to 120 mph! Compare that with velocities of pitches, which in the MLB can average in the mid-90s and cap out at 105 mph. This fact makes judging EV important, as faster-moving baseballs are more difficult to get to and catch in a glove. As they say, the harder you hit the ball, the more base hits you’ll get.