Launch Angle in Your Cage
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Launch Angle in Your Cage article is excerpted from our new drills book The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide (click for book description).
For recommendations on how and when to use various training methods (dry, heavy bag, pylos, tee, toss, live, machine, etc.) and to shop for practical and durable equipment click on the link Hitting Training Methods and Aids.
Introduction to Launch Angle
Launch angle represents the vertical angle at which the ball leaves the bat. The trajectory and velocity of the batted ball are the primary contributing factors to distance and outcome.
Launch Angle by Trajectory
The average launch angle tells us about the tendencies of a hitter. As a general guideline, here are the launch angles for different types of trajectories (baseball and fastpitch softball):
Ground ball: Less than 5 degrees
Line drive: 5-20 degrees
Fly ball: 20-50 degrees
Pop up: Greater than 50 degrees
Launch Angle Relationship to Ball Exit Speed
The most productive launch angle for each hitter is highly dependent on ball exit speed. For example, analysts have pinpointed the range of 25-30 degrees as the best angles for professional baseball home runs when paired with an exit velocity of 90 mph or higher. When struck hard, these fly balls clear the fence.
Exit velocity is crucial. It is not only about hitting the ball higher but also hitting it hard. If bat speed is not fully developed, hitting the ball in the air but on a lower trajectory is more productive. Adjust the ideal launch angle to the age, ball exit speed, and type of hitter. If the hitter is not a home run type of hitter, asking them to increase their launch angle could work against them. Every hitter needs to understand their most productive swing plane (attack angle), given their current exit velocity (click here for how to optimize launch angle).
But keep in mind, the higher the exit velocity, the likelier a batter’s mishits result in base hits, regardless of trajectory.
Ball exit speed rules!
How to Measure Launch Angle in Your Cage
Not everyone has access to machines like HitTrax, Trackman, or Rapsodo ($20,000+) to measure launch angles. But no worries, the coach or hitter can easily calculate which spots in their batting cage represent specific angles and get very close. Let’s try it using www.calculator.net/right-triangle-calculator.htm. In this example, our cage is 16’ high, so enter 13 (estimating the hitter makes contact at about 3’ high) in box a=. The back net is 50’ from the plate, so enter 50 in box b=. Click the calculate button. Now see at the top <a = 14.574. So, if the hitter hits the ball and it strikes the very top of the back net, their launch angle is about 14-degrees.
Use this calculator to place launch angle signs at a few spots in your cage. In our example, if the hit ball strikes the top of the cage halfway, the launch angle is 27 degrees, which happens to be the ideal launch angle for MLB home run hitters. Many coaches, parents, and hitters find this surprising. A 27-degree launch angle looks like a flyball out. But, the ball must be struck extremely hard for this angle to be productive.
To assess a hitter’s launch angle, use a machine or live BP, and take the average of ten hard-hit balls. Use launch angle cage markings. When analyzing launch angle, be sure to count only “squared up” contact. Write down a negative 5-degree launch angle for any ground ball, 0-degrees for waist-high line drives, and a positive number for all balls in the air. Add up the launch angle for each solid hit, subtracting the negatives, and then divide the total by ten. Record the date and the average launch angle.
For experienced hitters, take the launch angle evaluation a step further. Use a pitching machine set to high, middle, and low. Measure the average launch angle for each vertical pitch location. This assessment provides valuable metrics when determining the hitter’s most productive zone and then making their plan at the plate.
Other Swing Analytics Articles You May Find Useful
Click the links below for further free swing analytic articles:
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
Click Building the High-Level Swing Series to learn more about our new two-book hitting series containing a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.
In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become powerful and productive hitters.
Enjoy the quest!