Balls in play can travel one of three ways: on the ground, on a line drive (minimal arc) or on a fly ball (deeper arc). In its description of batted balls, FanGraphs says: “Generally speaking, line drives go for hits most often, ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls, and fly balls are more productive than ground balls when they do go for hits (i.e. extra base hits).”
Do line drives really go for hits most often? For argument’s sake, let’s just say they do. That being the case, I proposed this thesis:
1. The team that hits the most line drives will also score the most runs in their respective league.
After some research, I found that only three times since 2012 has a league line-drive percentage leader also finished in the top five in runs scored (Detroit Tigers in 2013 and 2014, and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013).
So there went that theory. But I wanted to dig a little deeper (shocker, I know) and came up with a revised thesis:
1a. Line drives are directly responsible for more runs for a team than their fly ball or ground ball counterparts.
I tested this statement in the American and National Leagues, using a small, seven-day sample size. The Tigers and the San Francisco Giants were the teams I chose since they were leading their respective leagues in line-drive percentage at the time this data was compiled.
I also took some liberties when considering what batted balls to count. For example, I didn’t count pop ups or line drives to an infielder, since neither of those outcomes typically result in a run scored. Sacrifice flies were counted as fly balls, even if the ball’s arc was flat. As far as what constituted a line drive and what constituted a fly ball, I based it off MLB.com’s play-by-play application.
Here were my results, displayed in a chart: