An infield fly ball is almost as bad as a strikeout. Think about it: Almost every single ball that’s hit in the air and stays inside the infield is caught. While a rare few do fall for hits, an infield fly balls will probably be caught 95-97 times out of every 100. The only outcome that produces more outs than an infield fly balls? Strikeouts.
The indirect data backs it up. Hitters hit .083 on “soft” fly balls in 2016, according to data from FanGraphs. Even still, only 52.8 percent of those soft fly balls stayed in the infield, suggesting that the batting average of infield fly balls was even lower. Despite the fact that the split itself does not exist, we can assume hitters reach on an infield fly ball around 4 to 5 percent of the time (or even less).
On the flip side, pitchers who generate lots of infield fly balls tend to be more successful. Kyle Hendricks and Clayton Kershaw both are excellent on forcing hitters to hit the weak infield popup while keeping the ball down and out of the outfield.
Kershaw and Hendricks aside, I wonder: Does limiting infield fly balls provide a significant benefit to hitters? And, if so, how much are hitters who limit them helped?
Click here to read more on Beyond The Box Score.