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« David Robertson: Cutter (and Closer?) Apprentice | Main | A Good Month for James Loney »

Kinsler's Launch Angle

Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers hit 28 home runs and 32 doubles so far this season.  Along with four triples, Ian needs three more extra base hits to match his season high set in 2009.

The locations in the strike zone where Kinsler homers and doubles gives us a clue as to his swing.  He hits balls out of the park that are right down the middle:


Ian Kinsler, home runs, 2011.His doubles come mostly above and below that:

Ian Kinsler, doubles, 2011.The two important factors in hitting home runs are launch angle and velocity.  For a given launch velocity, if the launch angle is too high, the batter hits a fly ball that might fall short of the fence.  If the launch angle is too low, the line drive won't carry out of the park.  When the launch angle is just right, the batter gives the ball the maximum ride.

If we compare all fly balls for Kinsler in 2011, the balls in the top of the zone travel on average 305 feet.  The ones at the bottom of the strike zone come in at 302 feet, and the balls in the middle travel 310 feet.  The differences are even more stark if you look at the doubles and homers.

This all suggests why Ian is such a good hitter.  His swing comes through the middle of the zone at the right angle to launch home runs.  On pitches up and down, he can still generate power, but due to that finely tuned swing he launches too high or too low to drive the ball out of the park.  Doubles or homers, Kinsler remains dangerous in any part of the strike zone.

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