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How to grade bat flips

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Its all about that swag.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

There are few things in sports as testosterone inducing, crowd pleasing, and opponent shaming as a solid bat flip. I'm a big fan of the 3 goggles (for better or for worse), but I'm actually pretty indifferent on touchdown celebrations. However, a perfectly executed bat flip can jack up the crowd, spotlight a players showmanship, and really strike down the pitcher emotionally. On Twitter recently there was some chatter about bat flips and what constitutes a good bat flip. Now, I don't declare myself a subject matter expert on grading bat flips, but I like to think I can spot a good flip when I see one.

I grade bat flips based on some key mechanics. Like judging a player's baseball mechanics/tools there isn't necessarily one tool that can make you an elite player, but instead a combination of tools that sets guys like Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and Felix Hernandez apart. This goes the same for bat flipping as you need multiple parts of mechanics working together to build a true 80 grade pitcher torturing flip.

Confidence

This is the first thing you should notice. If the player holds his bat for a few seconds after making contact or carries his bat a few steps down the line then he's not showing great confidence. Some of the games elite will begin their bat flip almost milliseconds after making contact with the ball. That's a mark of true confidence, knowing that you just launched the ball into Mars' atmosphere.

Launch Angle

A good bat flip has about a 45 degree launch angle upon release. You want the bat flip to have a nice arc to it's ascent/descent. If you launch it at too low an angle it has only downward descent and doesn't leave room for rotation. Too high a launch angle and the bat stays in the air too long and puts a risk to the batter and others around him.

Low Hand Load/Arm action

Now, this one differs from person to person. I personally love a low hand load on a bat flip. It gives great momentum for the bat rotation, allowing even just a low-power flip to play out to its fullest given the transfer of energy. If you start your load too high then you're just basically letting the bat go.

For example, here's a Shane Robinson bat flip

I think the high bat flip is the weakest of all bat flips. Distance can get exaggerated with high load flips and it doesn't allow the bat to get multiple vertical rotations.

For Robinson, this just simply looks like he's just letting go of the bat as if it were part of his swing mechanics. Don't get me wrong, I love a small guy bat flip, but this Robinson one is uninspiring.

Bat Plane/Spin/Rotation/Tumble/Tilt

This is what the pre-release mechanics build up to and setup a good flip.

To me, to get a plus or double-plus grade here the bat needs to make a minimum 0.5-1 full vertical rotation, and ideally 1.5 rotations. Now, some people like a more horizontal flip, and that's fine. Some players don't flip their bat necessarily and instead toss it, creating horizontal spin. I too can appreciate horizontal spin, but personally I like to see more vertical rotation than spin.

One new frontier in bat flipping is the hybrid plane. It's a combination of vertical rotation and horizontal spin. If executed well you can really ignite the crowd. It's tough to pull off because too much vertical rotation (as if there was such a thing) means less spin and vice versa. This is where a combination of both plane and tilt come into play.

Distance

This is a bit of a minor mechanic, but can push a flip over the edge into elite territory if the player does it right. You want a good launch on the flip and with a proper launch angle and power comes distance. Simply just letting go of the bat creates obviously poor distance, but throwing the bat causes danger to other competitors (such a risk severely downplays a flip).

Ideally you'd like the bat to go about a foot or so above the batters head and land a few feet outside the batters box (irregardless of which baseline). I personally like a player to flip across his body which would be a right handed batter flipping down first base line/left hand batter flipping to third.

Chop Angle/Starting Position

This mechanic helps out the low-hand load. As the Robinson GIF above shows, he's got a pretty swell chop angle before the other mechanics fall apart. Personally I like a high chop angle, but those usually only come on pitches middle to up in the zone and the batter has no control of that. You have to take into consideration where the pitch was when grading a batters starting position.

Now a pitch low and away is tough to hit out of the park, but if it's done then obviously the batter is starting with a low position. This can still make for a great flip of course.

Energy/Pace

David Ortiz is notorious for his low-energy but ultra effective bat flips (it's no wonder he's one of the truly elite flippers in the game). A batter really needs to show energy in his flip, otherwise he runs the risk of just dropping the bat.

Not a fan of Wil Myers flip at all. It's a good chop angle, but he's super low energy on it (which makes sense knowing Myers) and it's combined with way too long of a toss. I'm almost wondering if his poor energy and toss distance caused his wrist injury and surgery.

Follow Through

A good skip after a bat flip can go a long way in creating showmanship and degrading the pitcher. Meanwhile you don't want to stand and watch the pitch at the plate. You want to be making your way towards first base during or right after flipping. Ideally it would be post-flip because you don't want to subdue your mechanics, but a good skip/jog combine can help play up a flip.

Eye level

A player should almost never watch his bat flip. The eye should remain on the balls flight path or staring down the pitcher. You just crushed a ball 1,000 feet into the night sky, bask in your glory. Now David Ortiz, who I mentioned as an elite flipper earlier, is guilty sometimes of watching his own flips, but when you have such great mechanics and showmanship like Ortiz does then it's hard to grade down the flip.

Now, let's look at some bat flips.

60 grade

Great chop, excellent confidence, and I love the head down trot. My only concern here is the poor spin on the bat. The arm action is good and I love the shoulder rotation, but the bat has too much horizontal spin and not enough tumble or rotation.

80 grade

What more do you want? High chop, low hand load, cross body flip, excellent confidence. Look at the glare into his own dugout that Ortiz takes, asking his teammates "Did you see that !#&$?" Ortiz wraps it up with a skip at the end, which for a big man is huge. I would have liked to see a little more energy, but this is David Ortiz we're talking about here.

Also notice the bat goes vertical rather than horizontal. Now, it doesn't get a full rotation but it has good distance on it.

Here's another excellent flip from Ortiz, but I give this one a 70

The classic Ortiz marks are all there, but he gets waaayyyy too much distance on the bat and tosses it more than flips it. Still, you've gotta love this mans elite flip skills, even if he doesn't show all his tools with each flip.

70/75 grade

First, I want you all to look at how the crowd goes bonkers at this home run. This is what a pure launch can do. Donaldson gave the crowd exactly what they wanted.

Great low action and follow through. Shoulder extension is there and plays up with the follow through. Also you can see Donaldson going for the hybrid plane with some tumble on the bat and it is helped by the good distance. I wish Donaldson would have held the bat for just a bit longer and released at a higher point as his launch angle is a little low, but it's still a well executed flip.

50/55 grade

Probably 70 to 80 grade confidence as Jayson Werth just flips this thing with extremely smooth mechanics and awesome confidence.  Good bat rotation and distance, but a poor launch angle severely plays this one down. Werth has a good chop angle and goes cross body, but he just doesn't launch the bat on the way up, instead he throws it when his wrists are at their lowest point.

80 Grade

Just take a second, okay.

Alright, are you ready? Man...what a flip. Off the charts confidence, a beautiful high chop, a fully executed hand load, 45 degree launch angle, the bat gets a rare full rotation in the air, the strut at the end... that's a Rembrandt right there. Look at how he flips the bat not with his fingers/wrist but with his palm. Now, I would like a bit more loft in the flip and have the bat a little higher above his head, but hard to complain with this flip.

You can see that 80 grade flips come in many different styles and flavors.

35/40 Grade

The only thing going for this one is the high chop, but it just falls apart. Low energy and no effort at a flip. The batter just simply drops his bat.

70 Grade

International leagues are well known for their excellent bat flips and it seems like there are at least 10 or 15 Ortiz caliber flippers over there in any given year.

Great chop angle, amazing confidence and arm action. Look at how the pitcher just bends over in shame. This one is graded so highly mainly because of the energy and confidence though. There isn't a lot of hand load, but there's a compact flip and the bat probably made at least one or two rotations in air.

80 Grade

20 Grade

50/55 Grade

40 Grade

65 Grade

40 Grade

The skip is nice and the bat gets good vertical rotation, but there's very little energy and I want more confidence here.  Also the launch angle is just too low despite the good hand load.

50 Grade

Prince Fielder usually has pretty elite level confidence, but this is more of a bat flick than a bat flip. There's little to no arc on the bat path. I like the vertical rotation, but he cheats for the bat height since he releases it so high after his chop angle.

This has some great mechanics for an elite flip, but falls short. I do love the little weight transfer after the flip. That's a great sign for future projection.

70 Grade

Dan Vogelbach is just the kind of guy you expect elite level bat flips from. Larger sized power guy who can crush a ball and knows it. The only thing keeping Vogy from an 80 is he carries the bat too long. He basically traded some confidence for mechanics. I would have liked to see him flip the bat immediately after crushing it then doing a stone cold walk to first rather than mixing the flip along side with it.

Thankfully Vogelbach is still young, and I'd expect to see better mechanics and separation for whatever AL team he eventually plays for.

55 Grade

This was a tough one to grade. There is no doubting Freddy Galvis and his energy here, but I'm not much of a proponent of the two-handed flip. Good hand load, decent launch angle, and the bat get a half rotation, but I'd like Galvis to focus a bit more effort next time into the mechanics. The ball is going over the fence regardless Freddy.

50 Grade

80 Grade

It's not as sexy as the others, but this Carlos Quentin flip has all the makings and mechanics of an elite bat flip (though truthfully I'd like a bit more energy).

Perfect launch angle? Check

Cross body? Check

Hand load? Check

Hybrid plane? Check

Good distance? Check

Sometimes a player just quietly puts it all together and the results can be spectacular. There are many different paths to an elite bat flip. Some tools can outshine others to compensate, but you've gotta hit multiple boxes to even get close.

0 Grade

FYI, that's not a bat flip, Fat Joe.