Jul. 10, 2017
Is Launch Angle Having A Negative Effect On Baseball?
The current flavor of the month in Major League Baseball is "Launch Angle". Much is being made about the positive impact that launch angle is having on baseball. More home runs are being hit and that makes for more highlights and retweet worth plays. However launch angle is equally bad for baseball.
How could it be bad for baseball?
Over the past few years Major League Baseball has been attempting to speed up the game to keep the attention of the "quickly distracted Millennial's". Pace of play is not the issue when it comes to the younger generation being distracted, bored or otherwise uninterested. There is nothing wrong with the pace of play. The game has become difficult to pay attention to for one reason and one reason alone. Launch angle.
Launch angle creates home runs how is it boring?
The idea of launch angle is simple. An upward swing produces a fly ball when hit hard enough results in a home run. Sounds like a solid concept. Who doesn't like home runs? Everybody likes home runs. The problem is that hitters are now sacrificing quality at bats in the name of launch angle. Uppercut swings are now all the rage and anyone who is anyone has embraced launch angle.
The reverse effect in launch angle is that it results in an ungodly amount of strikeouts and pop outs. There is nothing less entertaining than a quick strikeout or popping out on the first pitch. A constant stream of limited action is the quickest way to lose the interest of an audience.
Putting balls in play, or at least striking out less and having fewer pop outs is more entertaining and attention grabbing. Being entertaining and attention grabbing has been an issue for baseball with the younger generation. It is not necessarily all on the younger generation or all on baseball. It is an equal contribution from both parties. Less quality at bats means less game action, less game action means less attention is paid to the game. This decreased attention is not only applicable to one game but to an entire season of decreased attendance.
Launch angle has it's benefits too
Launch angle has revived the career of Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Last season Zimmerman hit a lowly .218 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI. This season after the embracement of launch angle, Zimmerman is hitting .330 with 19 home runs and 62 RBI. There are benefits of launch angle, as is the case in Zimmerman, but not every player is able to perform like Zimmerman.
While launch angle can revive the career of some players (Zimmerman), it is part of the reason why overall interest in baseball is down. The fact that many players hit 40 home runs a season now is impressive. What is not so impressive is the high strikeout numbers. There is nothing more deflating to the crowd at a baseball game than the home team striking out. If baseball players as a whole want to help improve the attention being paid to baseball and capture that oh so elusive "Millennial" audience, they will need to lessen their emphasis on launch angle.
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James Mastrucci is the Managing Editor for cover32 Houston Texans coverage, and Cavs Editor for Roto Den.
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