The Curious Case of the 2024 Braves

braves 2023 vs 2024 base balls
Not to sound conspiratorial or even point fingers, but if we remove as many variables as possible and compare Braves results year over year, the baseball ball isn't traveling as far. Let's investigate.

In the 2024 MLB season, players and analysts alike have noted a peculiar trend: hard-hit balls aren’t traveling as far as they did in previous years. To explore this phenomenon, we examined data from the Atlanta Braves, comparing hard-hit home runs from April and May of 2023 to the same period in 2024. The results reveal a significant change that warrants further investigation into the baseballs used this season.

The Braves have seen 3.9% of their hard-hit balls, defined by Statcast as having an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher, turn into outs. As Lindsay Crosby at Sports Illustrated points out, the fourth-highest percentage of hard-hit outs in baseball, behind only the Houston Astros (4.2%), Baltimore Orioles (4.1%), and Kansas City Royals (4.0%). This high percentage of hard-hit outs has significantly impacted several Braves players:

  • Michael Harris II has a hard-hit out ratio of 5.3%, leading the team. His average hard-hit out speed is 103.0 mph, which is the fifth-hardest in the sample, trailing only notable power hitters like Giancarlo Stanton (104.1), Aaron Judge (103.1), and Vlad Guerrero Jr. (103.4).
  • Six different Braves players have 25 or more hard-hit outs, with significant percentages from Austin Riley (4.4%), Matt Olson (4.2%), and Ronald Acuña Jr. (4.1%), all of whom are experiencing slower starts this season.

As a team, the Braves lead baseball in both hard-hit percentage (44%) and exit velocity (90.3 mph) yet are below average in home runs, managing just 57. Their current batting average and slugging percentage are .249 and .407, respectively, which is almost 100 points lower than last year’s record-setting .501 team slugging. Based on batted ball quality, the Braves should mathematically have a .255 batting average and a .433 slugging percentage.

According to these inputs, Atlanta should have the fourth-best slugging numbers in the league. The three teams ahead of Atlanta in slugging, the Baltimore Orioles (.435), Los Angeles Dodgers (.435), and the New York Yankees (.434), average 76 homers per team and are among the best run-scoring units in baseball.

Using Statcast data, we analyzed the following metrics for hard-hit home runs in April and May of 2023 and 2024:

  • Exit Velocity (EV): The speed of the ball as it leaves the bat.
  • Launch Angle (LA): The angle at which the ball leaves the bat.
  • Hit Distance: The distance the ball travels.

2023 Data:

  • Exit Velocity: 106.0 mph
  • Launch Angle: 29°
  • Distance: 414 ft

2024 Data:

  • Exit Velocity: 104.9 mph
  • Launch Angle: 27°
  • Distance: 401 ft

Despite having similar exit velocities and launch angles, the hit distance for hard-hit home runs in 2024 is, on average, 13 feet shorter than in 2023. This is a substantial difference, especially given the minimal variations in exit velocity (1.1 mph) and launch angle (2°).

Hit Distance Comparison

Doesn’t look like that big a difference? Well, consider again that Truist field, like most Major League stadiums, is 400 ft to Center.

Is it that the balls are changing or is this a limited sample? Could the few variables we’re missing such as wind speed or air density be at play?

We don’t know. But we do know the balls aren’t travelling as far for the Braves and that sucks.

Share the Post: