In a recent video posted to his YouTube account, Alex Rodriguez blasts Launch Angle. Here’s why the ex-Major Leaguer couldn’t be more wrong.
If you subscribe to Alex Rodriguez’s channel on YouTube, you may have noticed that last week he released a video entitled “How to Hit Home Runs.” In this video, Rodriguez attempted to debunk the current launch angle revolution by promoting what he calls, “line to line consistent hitting and controlling the strike zone.”
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While Rodriguez makes some poignant points, at one point in the video he throws his entire argument out the window. Before we get to that, let’s give Alex kudos for encouraging hitters to think line-to-line when hitting. In this regard, Rodriguez is absolutely right.
In thinking line-to-line, you’re more apt to beat the shift, thereby creating more opportunities for runs. To prove this point, Rodriguez states that three out of the last four World Series champs were great contact hitting teams that didn’t strike out as much.
We fact-checked this point and he’s right! In the last four seasons, only the Chicago Cubs have managed to win a World Series while ranking in the bottom 10 in strikeouts and 14th in batting average.
Where Rodriguez loses his argument is in this section of the clip:
In this portion of his tutorial, Alex Rodriguez encourages hitters to swing “straight down to the ball” in order to create “launch.” In the past, we’ve heard Mike Trout deliver the same message.
The problem with this advice is that it is wrong and will thus create more ground balls. As Josh Donaldson once said, in MLB groundballs are outs. He also falsely correlates launch angle with upper-cutting, which is fundamentally wrong.
I’m not denying that Trout and Rodriguez think that they’re swinging “straight down to the ball,” I’m questioning whether they realize that that isn’t what they’re actually doing – or in Alex’s case, what he did. To borrow a phrase from a friend of the pod, Ryan Fuller, this seems to be a serious case of “feel versus real.”
We don’t have StatCast data to support Alex’s swing, but if we look video, you can see that when he makes contact with the ball, he is in fact not hitting “straight down to the ball.” Instead, the barrel of his bat is on the way up, thus launch angle.
In terms of Trout, not only do we have StatCast data, the data supports the argument for launch angle. According to BaseballSavant, of the 353 MLB hitters with 25 batted ball events this season, Trout ranks 76th in launch angle with a swing that averages 16.4°.
Now, it’s common sense that hitting any object on its top will cause the object to fall downwards, right? In assuming that Mike Trout and Alex Rodriguez understand this, one has to wonder whether they’re messaging is just being delivered incorrectly.
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