There’s been plenty of talk across Major League Baseball this year about players improving their batting results by increasing their launch angle, with proponents from Josh Donaldson to Daniel Murphy to Chase Headley. And that’s especially true when it comes to home runs, as most shots over the wall (57 per cent in 2016) came with a launch angle of 25 to 35 degrees and an exit velocity (off the bat) of 95 miles per hour or more. But, if you’re New York Yankees’ right fielder Aaron Judge and have the power to really crank up that exit velocity, you don’t necessarily need a high launch angle. That was illustrated by the opposite-field line drive Judge blasted over the right-center wall Sunday against the Cleveland Indians:
Aaron Judge cranks a three-run home run to right-center field, extending the Yankees' lead to 8-1 in the top of the 7th inning!!! pic.twitter.com/8bQBWELKcC
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) August 6, 2017
This was Judge’s MLB-leading 35th home run of the year. And, as per Statcast, it came with just a launch angle of 16 degrees, making it his MLB-leading fourth homer of the year hit at or below 17 degrees.
Judge now has an MLB-high 4 homers with a launch angle of 17 degrees or lower. pic.twitter.com/sliXuRVR2s
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 6, 2017
That 113 mile-per-hour exit velocity is why even low shots like this from Judge can still clear the wall. And even that is low by his standards. Back on June 8, Judge broke his own record for the hardest-hit ball of the season with a single that rocketed off his bat at 119.8 miles per hour. At that time, he was the only player in MLB with any balls hit over 119 mph, and he’d done so three times. And he had hit 12 at 115 or better, with the rest of MLB combining for just 23. Oh, and just a few days later, Judge broke the record again with a 121.1 mph exit velocity on a home run, the hardest-hit ball in the Statcast era.
Part of that comes thanks to Judge’s size. At 6’7” and 282 pounds, he’s the biggest everyday player in MLB history, and there have only been a few even close, with just 12 hitters 6’6” or taller recording 1,000 MLB plate appearances. As The Ringer’s Michael Bauman wrote earlier this year, “He’s what happens when a normal MLB power hitter is about 15 percent bigger.” So it’s much easier for Judge to turn these kind of relatively-low launch angle (the MLB average was 10.5 degrees in 2015, 11.5 degrees in 2016, so this is still a higher-than-average angle, just a lower-than-average angle for a home run) hits into home runs than it is for most others, given his ridiculous exit velocities.
Judge hits high home runs too, including one that Statcast couldn’t measure, and he’s also cranked the longest home run of this season (495 feet) and numerous 500-foot-plus shots in the Home Run Derby, so it’s not like he’s just hitting line drives out. But it certainly helps his home run totals that he can get these ones to leave the park too. And hey, maybe hits like this will help him break out of his post-All Star slump. It certainly helped the Yankees pull off an 8-1 win Sunday.
[The Render MLB on Twitter]