The Launch Angle Formula: Why it Matters for Youth Hitters

 In Education, Stories

Exit Velocity Determines Optimal Launch Angle

What goes into making a great hitter? It’s not just a pretty swing or how hard you can hit a ball. Great bat speed and swing path help, but there’s more to it than that. It’s not just your lower body mechanics or your turn.  And it’s for sure not just a ‘snap and a hip slip around a corner‘. For the first time in a long time, I’m going to talk about RESULTS today.  

Learning how the exit velocity of the hitters on your team effect where they can hit the ball to be successful. This matters for EVERY SINGLE HITTER in the lineup. From the smallest slappers to the biggest bangers.  Exit Velocity determines optimal Launch Angle. Period.

Statcast Definitions for Launch Angle and Exit Velocity

  • Launch Angle represents the vertical angle at which the ball leaves a player’s bat after being struck.
  • Exit Velocity measures the speed of the baseball as it comes off the bat, immediately after a batter makes contact.

Coaches, You Can Use this Information TODAY

You, the hitter or the coach, can instantly put this into practice in the cage TODAY to get better.  Are you a smaller player or do you coach younger kids? At the 8u and below, the small field and less advanced defenders make grounders a great weapon. Errors run rampant at these games, and it’s a quick way to a win to hit the ball hard on the ground, especially to fielders that are not the shortstop. But, does that work as the fielders get better in 10u and 12u and what about when the field grows to 300 feet all the way around after that in 13u and beyond?

The Fielders and Field Catches Up to Grounders

But first, I heard a quote once from private hitting coach Bobby Tewksbary, (@TewksHitting) that said something like, “if your hitting strategy is relying on the other team to make mistakes, what happens when they stop making mistakes?”.  That’s a great question!

As players get older, their fielding percentage goes up, and so does the skill of the pitcher, the size of the field, and the deadness of the bats. Let’s use player’s exit velocity off the bat to figure out how to coach them into hitting more balls to places where fielders are not!  And even better…YOU can coach/teach it inside a batting cage! Find out what launch angle range you should be looking for each age group below!

8u

Kids that hit the ball fair are likely to get a hit. Even the best 8u teams have many players who lack the attention span and defensive ability to field above .800. That being said, hitting the ball to the shortstop side of the field is a much better play than the shorter throw from the first base side.  

Hard contact is key and the coach needs to reward that. Don’t react to swings and misses or ‘weak’ hits that result in ‘hits’. Reward aggression and power swings, and more aggression and power swings will come!  

Below, you’ll see a picture of launch angles that are good for kids in this group or this exit velocity to drive the ball out of the infield. Green is good, Red is bad. Notice with this group, the weakest exit velocity hitters, have the smallest green area.  Launch angles, for this group, between 12° and 25° have the best chance of getting out of the infield in our experience at Baseball Rebellion.

You can easily track this on your own with an iPhone or iPad. Download the Hudl Technique app from the App Store and start filming the hitter’s session. You can draw your own lines use the Angle Tool provided by Hudl Technique to determine the launch angles of the hitter. Here, we have done just that at our Baseball Rebellion HQ facility using a Launch Angle Tee as a reference point.

10u

Kids are significantly more coordinated at this level than 8u. Most infielders can field and throw and normally the center fielder can catch most fly balls as well. Now it begins to become important to hit the ball hard and high enough to get the ball out of the infield in the air as often as possible. Balls hit with an exit velocity over 50 mph, which for decent 10u kids is pretty easy, should be hit up at about a 20° angle. This gets the ball out of the infield and into the outfield every time.

Now a good 10-year-old is going to push the 60 or 65 mph mark in exit velocity. That player may be able to carry their velocity up into a 30° or 35° launch angle. In that case, he’s your doubles and home run hitter! Coach him to hit the ball higher than the kid who hits it 45-50 mph because 60 mph at a higher launch angle will go over the fence!

Below, you’ll see a picture of launch angles that are good for kids in this group or this exit velocity to drive the ball out of the infield. This group has a higher margin for error in spite of the better fielders due to their higher exit speeds. The highest chance for hits is between 9° and 30° at the higher end of the launch angle window here.

12u

At the 12u level, kids are now almost all decent fielders, especially on the travel ball circuit.  Double plays happen at least once a game and all the outfielders can catch and throw to correct bases or hit the cut off man. Because of the fences being so close, many kids have the ability to hit the ball over the fence, and some can do it regularly and repeatedly.  

12u is when you really start to see a wide dispersion of talent on teams. This is why we need to examine three different types of hitters in this age group

The average 12-year-old is going to hit the ball around 65 mph. At this exit velocity, the hitter may be able to hit the ball to the fence but they should be looking to be hitting the ball to the gaps or down the lines. These hitters should be aiming for a launch angle between 12° and 25° to get the ball over the infielders and deep into the outfield for extra-base hits!

A good 12-year-old with a USSSA bat can consistently hit the ball close to 70 mph with elevation. To be clear, we consider ‘good’ 12-year-olds in the top 10 percent of HitTrax hitters.  With the right exit velocity and an exit velocity above 20°, those balls should EASILY go more than 210-220 feet and should be practiced if you want to them happen in the game.

Truly elite power hitters in this age group, the top 5 percent of Hittrax’s data set, can hit the ball well over 275 feet. This can be due to size or if they move well inside their swing for their age. If these hitters are hitting the ball 75+ mph, they can really hit it at any launch angle within our range and get on base. But, during training or private instruction, encourage these ‘power’ hitters to hit as many fly balls as they can in the cage. The top of the cage is where the money is, and where the runs are for these players. Nurture that power and encourage them even in games when they fly out. Fly balls are going to be homers and doubles.

Because of this, the windows we have found to be successful in this 12u USSSA bracket is 5° to 38°.  Some can push even higher if they really hit the ball hard!

Below, you’ll see a picture of launch angles that are good for kids in this group or this exit velocity to drive the ball out of the infield.  With exit velocity in the high 60’s to 70’s, kids pretty much have to miss-hit the ball to get out or hit it hard right at someone at the 12u level. Fair balls hit about 70 mph are almost always hits, and if they have any elevation at all, can be driven over the fence and into the trees for home runs! Again, the key to having this window of success is the exit velocity being high.

13u

In 13u, the field grows and the bat rules change!  So what does that do to the 12u kid who was bombing balls? The size of the field and the new bat rules make his launch angle window change. That kid who used to hit homers is now flying out over and over if he takes the same swing with the same intended launch angle.  So, let’s give him the same swing but a launch angle window like the 8u kid found success with until he can hit the ball harder, more consistently. The best window we have identified for the 13u kid moving to BBCOR is between 12° and 25°. Then, and only then, he can we re-open up his launch angle window and go back to driving the ball in the gaps and over the walls.

Interestingly, this launch angle window change is not a swing change. Most kids can simply change their vision height on the baseball to hit it lower. For example, the dominant 12u kid with a USSSA bat hits the ball 300 feet. Put a BBCOR bat in his hands, and he drops to about 250, right where the outfielders play. Because of this, he’s got to look at the top of the ball instead of the bottom. The swing path and intent are the same, to crush the ball, but the target is different. These lower hits are much more productive until the player regains the exit velocity that the new field requires.

One other thing that really throws off the 13u division is puberty. Recently, I received this picture from one of our parents whose child trains here at Baseball Rebellion:

These players are playing 13u baseball. I’d assume that these two hitters have drastically different hitting styles. The smaller player (our hitter), probably, should hit the ball lower than the bigger player due to power potential limitations. The larger player may be slow, and render all his fielded grounders as outs, meaning he must hit the ball hard and high to get on base.

Exit Velocity First, Launch Angle Second

Once it becomes clear what type of player you have based on their exit velocity, bat type, and field size, then you can decide what launch angle is correct for them. What is their role? What are their skill sets?  How often does the hitter reach their peak exit velocity and how high is the average? This is the part of baseball and softball that requires coaching!

Improving players is one thing but on the other side is winning games. Establish with your players that you’re testing to help them be the best they can be. Yes, this may help find out ‘who is the best player’ and it also allows players to have a chance to be used in the best way for them!  Better usage equals a better team, and that isn’t possible without gathering knowledge through data.

Have questions? Reach out to Baseball Rebellion CEO Chas Pippitt directly:

Email: Chas@BaseballRebellion.com

Twitter: @Chas_Pippitt

Website: www.BaseballRebellion.com

Twitter: @BRrebellion

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