In May, I tweeted that I had a hunch that pitchers had very little (to zero) control over exit velocities against them.
This is going to sound stupid, verging on really stupid, but I honestly wonder if pitchers have any control over EV, like, at all and whether or not their allowed batted ball quality just comes down to launch angle. (1/6)— Connor Kurcon (@ckurcon) May 29, 2020
This was hardly a novel thought, and unsurprisingly, this wasn’t the first time someone had put this idea to paper. In fact, Rob Arthur wrote about it almost exactly 5 years before that tweet.
In the past 6 month, many smart people have explored the idea as well, in including Alex Chamberlain of RotoGraphs, Jim Albert of BaseballWithR, and Noah Thurm of FanGraphs Community Research. All 3 pieces offer great, unique insights of their own and I recommend perusing all of them.
I wanted to dig a little into how pitchers might be able to do this. So for this article, through a series of visualizations, I’m going to share all the factors I looked at when searching for this answer. There are no massive breakthroughs in this article. I’m going to talk through and visualize all of the factors that could – and likely do – play a role in pitcher launch angle. Some of you may finish reading and say “yeah, I knew all of that already”. This article is for those who may not. Hopefully, any display shown here can spark an idea for something I haven’t explored. Who knows – perhaps me putting all my thoughts to paper will allow me to think of something else worth digging into as well.
THE BASICS. WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?
If you’re into baseball analytics at all, you’ve likely seen this chart: