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Fantasy Baseball Glossary

by Nathan Grimm
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The more you know.

 

Sure, it applies to helpful life lessons from '90s NBC sitcom stars, but knowledge is also power in the fantasy realm, where few secrets still remain. With countless websites, podcasts, blogs and other content devoted to fantasy news and analysis, finding a competitive edge is harder than ever.

 

So, while the game still involves a great deal of good fortune, it also comes down to who knows more. Understanding and paying attention to the right statistics, while knowing which ones to discount or ignore, can give owners a good foundation for putting together a championship-caliber roster.

 

With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of the newer metrics, what they mean and how they can be applied to fantasy.

 

Exit velocity

 

Exit velocity, as defined by MLB.com, is simply the speed of a baseball after it is hit by a batter. All batted balls, including outs, hits and errors are factored into a player's average exit velocity.

 

It's no surprise that hitting the ball hard correlates with better offensive performance, so players who average higher exit velocities are normally at or near the top of the list when it comes to batting statistics. The game is played by hitting a round ball with a round bat, so it's not a direct correlation, but generally, players with high exit velocities and low output are the victims of bad luck and are the exception, not the rule.

 

For fantasy purposes, it's similarly straightforward, guys who frequently hit the ball hard are guys you want to own and target. Guys who don't should be looked at more critically. Good things happen when you make hard contact. End of story.

 

Spin rate

 

Spin rate technically is the rate of spin of a baseball, in revolutions per minute, after it leaves a pitcher's hand. More importantly, spin rate affects how a pitch moves.

 

Spin rate has become important, too, as average velocity has increased. Television and radio commentators talk ad nauseam about straight fastballs and how, even at an increased velocity, if the pitch doesn't move it's easier to square up. Therefore, pitchers with higher spin rates at similar velocities are harder to square up, and, it seems harder to even make contact against.

 

In a game where strikeouts count, and with the knowledge that pitchers who get swings and misses largely fare better than those who don't, spin rate is hugely important. Identifying pitchers with high spin rates who may be underperforming, or recognizing those with low spin rates who should be due for a regression, could make all the difference down the stretch.

 

Launch angle

 

In our game, as in the real game, home runs are good for hitters and bad for pitchers. So a measurement that tells us who might be most likely to hit home runs by the way the ball comes off their bat, and which pitchers may be best at preventing home runs, is a valuable tool.

 

One of these useful tools is launch angle. Launch angle is the vertical angle at which a batted ball leaves a player's bat after being struck. Too high -- more than 50 degrees or so -- and it's a pop up; too low -- less than 10 degrees, roughly -- and it's a ground ball. But in between, balls generally travel.

 

A look at the leaderboard for pitchers who most frequently kept the launch angle below 10 percent includes notorious ground ball pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Kendall Graveman and Mike Leake, and stars such as Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and Carlos Martinez. Conversely, batters who most often had launch angles of 30 percent or higher in 2016 include home run mavens like Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Brian Dozier.

 

Many other numbers tell a story as well -- a catcher's pop time and how it relates to stolen bases against; an outfielder's route efficiency and how a pitcher benefits from it -- and together, they help paint a picture. The more information that's sought, the clearer the picture becomes.

 

The more you know.