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Bucco Breakfast: For the Love of Launch Angle

Average Launch Angle doesn’t mean diddly.

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Forget everything you know about average launch angle. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates are still trying to figure it out.

Welcome to Bucco Breakfast, a new daily morning feature designed to help you through the offseason. Each day we’ll roll out a quick topic designed to spark conversation as well as provide some interesting baseball reading from around the web.

A recent tweet by Tango really caught my eye:

In layman’s terms, increasing launch angle for launch angle’s sake is a foolhardy endeavor. A gaudy average launch angle may not mean as much as it does on the surface. From Tango’s chart, we can see that a certain sweet spot occurs between angles at 8 to 32 degrees.

As it turns out, the Pittsburgh Pirates posted the seventh-highest total batted balls between eight and 32 degrees with 1,461 — not far off the MLB-leading Cleveland Indians, who posted 1,581. By percentage of total batted balls, the Pirates see the tenth-most percent - 34 percent - of their contact falling in this range. This is just 1.8 percent off of the MLB-leading Cincinnati Reds.

However, the Pittsburgh Pirates had just the 20th-best wOBA on batted balls in this range with a .685 mark. Though the ranking may draw ire, it is worth noting that the club is .076 behind the leading New York Yankees, who paced MLB with a .781 wOBA on this set of batted balls.

At a player level, Jordy Mercer led the club by percentage of batted balls landing in the 8-to-32 degree range. Corey Dickerson led the team in raw batted ball numbers. Mercer ended up with a wOBA of .623 under this subset (good for a 12th best ranking on the team among those with at least 25 batted balls), while Dickerson was 10th on the club with a .665 clip.

Full rankings found here:

Total “Sweet Spot” Batted Balls By Percentage

wOBA on “Sweet Spot” Batted Balls

What does it all mean? I think this further reinforces the idea that launch angle is clearly not everything. The poster boy for launch angle himself in Colin Moran carried the lowest wOBA on the club in this regard.

With so many ways to quantify hitting, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ next hitting coach had better take a holistic approach rather than zeroing in on one philosophy.

Daily Links

  • No specific article here, but if you’re inclined to support the Pirates’ NL Central brethren Milwaukee Brewers in this year’s postseason, Brew Crew Ball is a great resource.
  • Why do players such as Manny Machado and Gregory Polanco not run every ball out? Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic ($) clues us in.
  • It is entirely too easy to manufacture controversy in baseball.