Not All Steep Swings Are Created Equal

Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports activities

There isn’t a baseball subject that will get me extra excited than swing range. A participant’s swing is sort of a fingerprint: No two are the identical. However even comparable swings can yield extraordinarily totally different outcomes. There are a lot of methods to check swings, however as a result of Vertical Bat Angle (VBA), the angle of the bat at contact relative to the bottom, is essentially the most accessible (thanks, SwingGraphs), it’s been my go-to proxy for the final 12 months or so. After all, you possibly can at all times use your eyes to visually analyze swings, however having the info to substantiate it helps inform the analysis.

These days, my video evaluations have centered on hitters with steep VBAs, and even amongst this group there’s a ton of swing range. Some take golf-like swings to get to their steep planes and others make use of one in every of my favourite kinds: the chicken-wing swing.

Intuitively, it is sensible that hitters with steeps paths are extra susceptible to whiffs than those that have flatter swings. Even so, a few of the recreation’s greatest contact hitters have swings as steep as a few of those that are essentially the most whiff susceptible. Luis Arraez, for instance, has a swing that’s simply as steep as J.D. Martinez’s, no less than in keeping with VBA. With out the info to substantiate, it’s laborious to know if the identical holds true for Assault Angle (AA), the angle of the bat’s path at impression.

To point out you precisely what I imply, I’ll examine pairs of hitters with practically similar common VBAs, however totally different offensive profiles. A couple of weeks in the past, Davy Andrews wrote about Edouard Julien and the weird nature of his platoon splits (and a tune to go together with it). His total offensive profile drastically modifications relying on if he’s going through a lefty or righty. It’s fascinating. After I learn the piece, I used to be instantly curious as to how these traits would possibly relate to Julien’s swing path. At 40 levels, Julien has one of many steepest VBAs within the majors. It’s nearly an ideal diagonal. Listed here are a couple of sluggish movement swings that showcase that:

Regardless of how excessive or low the pitch is, Julien manages to get his bat on a diagonal, which final 12 months helped him run an xwOBACON of .443, nicely above common. His diagonal angle additionally permits him to crush fastballs. He had a .408 wOBA in opposition to heaters however struggled mightily (.287 wOBA) vs. breaking balls. Manufacturing in opposition to totally different pitch sorts is the place you are inclined to see some deviation between hitters with comparable VBAs. Like Julien, Freddie Freeman can also be a lefty batter with a steep VBA (41.7 levels), but regardless of their comparable angles, Julien ran a 44.3% whiff charge in opposition to breaking pitches, whereas Freeman’s whiff charge vs. breaking balls was 27.7%. There are swing parts apart from VBA that contribute to how such divergence can occur. However earlier than attending to that, let’s take a look at a few of Freeman’s swings from 2023:

Man, Freeman is easy. As a result of each he and Julien arrange with excessive palms, they’ll create a steep path at totally different pitch heights. This setup permits them to drop their barrel simply and depend on altering posture to regulate to areas. How they do it, although, is the place their swings differ. Julien makes use of extra aggressive actions to get to totally different pitch heights, whereas Freeman shifts his shoulder airplane and avoids extra drastic physique changes. His chicken-wing fashion is a little more handsy and fewer reliant on altering his eye degree, and because of this, he has glorious plate protection. His contact charges on pitches on the prime, backside, and outer thirds of the zone outpace Julien by about eight share factors in every location.

Two different components, which aren’t publicly accessible, additionally doubtless contribute to Freeman’s superior plate protection: Horizontal Bat Angle (HBA), the horizontal angle of the bat at impression, and bat velocity. Freeman, who we’ve already established has a steep VBA on common, seems to be higher at altering his swing speeds when crucial, which lets him manipulate his bat angle to cowl pitches all through the zone. You possibly can see this within the third video above, on the changeup breaking down and away from him.

Freeman’s method additionally helps him produce in opposition to lefties (profession 120 wRC+), which is one thing he has improved upon as he has gotten older (139 wRC+ during the last three seasons). In the meantime, Julien’s daddy-hack method typically limits his capacity to change his swing speeds and angles, which may usually result in poorly timed swings or mishits and explains why he’s susceptible to hitting groundballs (50.2% final 12 months) regardless of his steep swing. These points are extra obvious when he faces lefties (22 wRC+, 80% groundball charge), although as Davy identified in his Julien piece, he has made solely 48 plate appearances in opposition to lefties within the massive leagues — an extremely small pattern dimension.

That brings us to the subsequent hitter, Tim Anderson. Even along with his steep 39.5-degree VBA, Anderson had a groundball charge above 60% final 12 months. A batter’s contact level needs to be extraordinarily deep to tug that off. Listed here are some swings from him for instance that:

Most hitters would battle to place the ball in play after letting it journey this deep, however TA’s steep barrel and really feel for contact within the zone allowed him to pound the ball into the bottom over and again and again final season. The sweeping breaking ball from Wealthy Hill is the precise sort of pitch Anderson would have elevated in years previous. Usually, having a steep bat path in opposition to an opposite-handed breaking ball is an ideal recipe for a great launch angle distribution, however if you happen to’re making deep contact, that is all you will get out of the swing.

Chas McCormick was the anti-Anderson final season, when he principally refused to hit the ball on the bottom in opposition to opposite-handed pitching. He can do that due to how he marries his steep, 38.2-degree VBA with supreme contact factors. In 2023, he had a 25.6 GB% in opposition to left-handed pitchers. That was the third lowest in baseball behind Jorge Soler and Mookie Betts. Unsurprisingly, by wRC+, they had been three of the six most efficient right-handed hitters in opposition to lefties final 12 months. Listed here are a couple of swings from McCormick vs. lefties that present his capacity to raise irrespective of the zone or pitch:

Even on the well-executed curveball from MacKenzie Gore, McCormick’s barrel was on an upward slope at contact as a result of he linked with the pitch out in entrance of the zone. That is the kind of pitch that Anderson would have pounded into the bottom regardless of the same steepness at contact, as a result of he would’ve let the pitch get deeper earlier than swinging.

McCormick’s closed stride places him in an incredible place to raise any pitch in the course of the plate, even when it makes it tougher for him to sq. up inside pitches within the prime half of the zone. That mentioned, as you possibly can see within the video of his swing in opposition to Cole Ragans, he can nonetheless get to up-and-in pitches when he holds his posture. The primary takeaway is that irrespective of the zone, his barrel is engaged on an upward slope by contact, which permits him to do extra harm.

Though their swings are equally steep, these 4 hitters have totally different swing sorts that generate totally different outcomes. VBA is a good software to make use of, but it surely solely tells one a part of the story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *