Thursday, August 4, 2022

Manny Margot, Jean Segura and the way some hitters are studying the way to thrive with the brand new ball

Frustration. Frustration is the secret proper now as hitters strive to determine the way to greatest be productive with this 12 months’s baseball.

“They informed us to hit the ball excessive when the ball was exhausting, and we did,” mentioned one Oakland A’s participant. “Now the ball’s lifeless they usually’re telling us to hit it low? What’re we alleged to do proper now.”

The dialog then quickly fell into one which’s widespread from clubhouse to clubhouse today: crosstalk about balls hit at sure exit velocities, with sure launch angles, that didn’t exit. Balls hit identically nicely with totally different outcomes. Hits that might have gone out with a unique ball, or with out the humidors that baseball put in in 20 parks this offseason.

“What’s up with that, bro? I hit a ball 108 (mph) at 23 levels in Baltimore, straight heart, simply smashed, and I’m like that’s gone,” Carlos Correa mentioned this week, “however the heart fielder catches it and hits the wall and the ball drops, however I’m like, 108??”

The adjustments had been ostensibly made to discover a extra constant ball and a extra constant offensive setting for gamers, however that hasn’t been the lived-in expertise round baseball.

“The balls are somewhat mushy some days, after which the subsequent day they’re 2019 balls,” mentioned Twins outfielder Max Kepler. “I really feel like there’s a combination of balls, it’s not only one ball.”

Phillies hitting coach Kevin Lengthy informed The Athletic’s Jayson Stark one thing related.

“You simply need consistency, and there was lots of inconsistency,” Lengthy mentioned. “After which I picked up the balls in L.A. They had been fully totally different. They had been darker. They gave the impression to be more durable. They only gave the impression to be a unique baseball. However I don’t know. That’s simply from look and feel and look. I imply, I’m not a scientist. I can’t let you know for positive. I simply know the ball gave the impression to be touring significantly better.”

However sooner or later, the gamers have to play, and want to determine how to play this 12 months, with this ball.

“I seen early on this 12 months that I hit three balls that my hitting coach mentioned ought to’ve been homers, based on launch angle and exit velocity, and I believed that’s attention-grabbing,” Kepler mentioned. “I used to be getting data from different gamers with the identical form of critiques, that some balls simply aren’t going they usually’re getting all of them, so I believed if I may discover a stability between fly balls and line drives, then I’ll be sitting fairly.”

In relation to Kepler, the adjustment — which is obvious within the numbers — has introduced him fast rewards a minimum of in terms of one aspect of his recreation.

Max Kepler benefitting from decrease angles

Season Launch Angle AVG






















It is sensible that hitting in decrease angles would produce a greater batting common, since the very best angles for line drives (round zero to 16 levels) are decrease than the very best angles for dwelling runs (16 to 32). So, the decrease common launch angle for Kepler is displaying us some sign that his batting common will probably be higher. Good adjustment!

“It might be, it might be. I don’t know if batting common is the factor anymore, although,” Kepler mentioned with a smile.

Nonetheless, if the ball isn’t going to fly out because it did in 2019, batters do have to seek out manufacturing someplace, and focusing extra on these zero to 16-degree angles is likely to be an excellent adjustment. Robert Orr over at Baseball Prospectus wrote about how the gamers who’ve been hitting the ball in these angles have been performing higher this 12 months, with this ball, too.

When you see that Kepler discovered his approach to this simply by making an attempt to determine the way to take advantage of a ball that received’t fly, it is sensible to ask: which gamers are already on the best way to adjusting to this new ball? Which gamers have added to their line drive angles this season, maybe in the same, Keplerian response?

Listed below are the 15 gamers who’ve added probably the most to their “line drive proportion” (balls with a launch angle between zero and 16 levels) from 2021 to 2022 (minimal 75 balls in play).

Greatest line drive will increase



22 LD%


21 LD%

















































Kepler isn’t within the prime 15, however he is within the prime 15 p.c by way of including line drives this 12 months, so a minimum of he supplied us a suitable manner into this idea.

You may inform that being on this listing isn’t an unquestionably good factor simply from the names on it. For an actual energy hitter like Nelson Cruz, it’s in all probability higher to nonetheless try to hit for energy. At first look, this listing doesn’t even appear to be an incredible listing for batting common, however as a bunch they’re hitting .247 which is definitely respectable in immediately’s league, the place the batting common has fallen to .235 up to now. A number of gamers which were enjoying nicely lately, like Kole Calhoun and Andrés Giménez, simply barely missed, however the good spherical quantity gave us an attention-grabbing group to work with.

For 4 gamers specifically, although, being on this listing in all probability displays a stable adjustment to the present state of affairs in baseball.

Manny Margot, Tampa OF

To get right here, Margot truly decreased his ground-ball price, which is likely to be the easiest way to make this listing. As a result of now he’s combining one in every of his greatest remoted slugging numbers together with his greatest stroll and strikeout charges, and the very best line drive price of his profession. He’s hit a single ball more durable this 12 months than he has in 4 years, and his barrel price is up. He’s actually lower down on swinging at breaking balls low within the zone. Check out his swing charges (due to FanGraphs) towards them in 2021 (left) and 2022 (proper) and the distinction is stark.

The one damaging for Margot is that he’s not enjoying lots of heart discipline, however at this price he seems like he’s going to play nicely sufficient for the Rays to offer him a nook spot even when Josh Lowe returns to the massive leagues. For somebody with middling energy and good pace, that is completely an incredible adjustment to make, whether or not it’s due to the brand new ball or not.

Jean Segura, Philadelphia 2B

The Phillies’ second baseman has additionally pulled the neat trick of including line drives but in addition including energy — Segura’s remoted slugging proportion is at the moment the very best he’s proven in six years, and his barrel price is the very best of his profession, too. However Segura did it in a unique vogue, by specializing in the fastball, even when it meant swinging at extra sliders. The second-highest swing price of his profession towards fastball factors to a brand new strategy which is permitting him to tug the fastball and slider for extra energy, as Orr identified over at Baseball Prospectus. Right here’s how typically he’s hitting fastballs and sliders over 95 mph up the center and to the pull facet by season.

Segura hitting exhausting stuff more durable

Yr Pull&Straight%

















Contemplating Segura has already stolen 5 bases, and stolen base try price turns into significant early, that is wanting prefer it’ll be Segura’s first 15/15 season since 2016. And all of it looks like a part of an adjustment he’s making on goal, ball-related or not.

Austin Hays, Baltimore OF

Austin Hays hit 22 homers final 12 months in his first full season, and performed at dwelling in Baltimore, so he would’ve been forgiven if he’d come again to the massive leagues this 12 months and swung for the fences once more. As an alternative, he lowered his fly-ball price, with out rising his ground-ball price a lot, and the road drive strategy is treating him nicely. Possibly he noticed that change within the outfield partitions that might’ve damage him as a pull-oriented right-hander and determined to get forward of that change, as a result of he’s additionally pulling the ball much less this 12 months. Because of BaseballSavant, his spray charts final 12 months and this 12 months:

Usually, given the best way the ball is enjoying, and the adjustments the Orioles made to his dwelling park, the spray chart on the precise represents an incredible adjustment to make to his setting. For a 26-year-old who has taken some time to get right here, and hasn’t tried a steal but, his profile could also be much less engaging in dynasty and keeper codecs than it ought to be.

Ben Gamel, Pittsburgh OF

Final 12 months, Ben Gamel obtained one of many higher runs of his profession: 400 plate appearances in Pittsburgh. Maybe as a result of it’s what everybody was doing, or as a result of he was coached into it, he hit probably the most fly balls of his profession and inched his barrel price to the very best he’d proven. His reward was modest, although: simply eight dwelling runs and below-average slugging numbers. That’s a troublesome park to play in, and by Savant it’s the fifth-hardest on dwelling runs specifically. This 12 months, Gamel had a repeat alternative at a beginning job, and tried a unique strategy, nearly precisely flipping his ground-ball and fly-ball charges from final 12 months.

He’s obtained the identical remoted slugging proportion as he did final season, and could be on tempo for a similar form of homer numbers, however it’s been good for his total manufacturing as a result of he’s getting extra from his batted balls, and is placing extra balls in play. Given how dangerous batting common has gotten across the league, his return to being a line-drive hitter is a boon to his fantasy worth. He’s playable in all leagues.

For the opposite guys including line drives, we’ll should see if it was an excellent determination. The dumbest factor about all of that is that the humidors may have a a lot totally different impact as we head into the wetter months of peak summer time, after they’ll draw water out of the balls as a substitute of placing it in. You’d hate to vary your strategy to suit a state of affairs simply to see it change, however that’s the lifetime of baseball gamers immediately.

“An excessive amount of data possibly,” shrugged Kepler. “We’re getting to a degree the place we’re overflowing with data, in all facets of life and also you don’t know what to imagine typically.”

(Picture of Margot: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Pictures)

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