Almanac Baseball: The Sweet Spot


A recent Washington Post article covered the trend in baseball for elevated hitting. It wasn’t that long ago that many coaches were advising players to hit conservatively by trying to pierce the gaps in the infield by keeping the ball low or on the ground. A groundball that got you on base was considered the best option most of the time. For many of the lesser hitters in the MLB this is still the case. However, for the elite hitters the trend to looking skyward is building momentum.


In the article, they use examples like Daniel Murphy and Josh Donaldson of players who have reaped the rewards by steadily increasing their launch angle and the percentage of hits out of the sweet spot on the bat. All of the key stats like batting average, number of doubles and slugging percentage have all gone up as a result of this change. For them, grounders are out. After all, hitting the ball in the air should lead to more home runs and more homers bring the fans to their feet and bestow their adulation upon the sluggers who regularly clear the outfield. That can be seen with the recent addition to the 600 plus career home runs. Albert Pujols reminds many of the great Hank Aaron. His milestone is cause for reflection on the place of hitting, big hitting, in the annals of baseball.


In cricket there is a similar trend. Bigger bats and the onslaught of T20 cricket have resulted in many batsmen foregoing the safety first approach extolled in the textbooks for a cavalier high wire act when they get to the crease. It wasn’t that long ago when you could have cows grazing at cow corner without any concern for their safety. Now that part of the field is being peppered with cherries launched from sluggers that would be barely recognisable from the Bradman era.


So while the lines between slugging and hitting and stroke play become ever more blurred in these two great bat and ball games, I suppose we can take solace in the fact that when a ball hits that prized spot on the bat it still looks and sounds all so sweet.


Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.


  1. John Butler says

    Power over strategy seems to be a signifier of the times. Interesting comparison, BTR.

    BTW, BTR, are you any relation to John The Revelator?


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