‘Why is that a can of poop now?’ Adam Duvall confused about fly balls that haven’t gone his way

Atlanta Braves outfielder Adam Duvall (14) cools down in the dugout during the second inning at Truist Park on Saturday, June15, 2024 in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)



Atlanta Braves outfielder Adam Duvall (14) cools down in the dugout during the second inning at Truist Park on Saturday, June15, 2024 in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)

ST. LOUIS – As Adam Duvall discussed his season before the recent series finale versus Detroit at Truist Park, his batting average sat at .171 – tied for the second-worst mark in baseball among qualified hitters.

While this number looked ugly, Duvall did not believe it told the full story of his season to that point.

“Looking up at the scoreboard, you see whatever I’m batting,” Duvall said before that game against the Tigers. “But I think I have to be a more mature player than to believe in that, right? There’s balls that I’ve hit that should be homers that are outs, based on the wind or whatever. I think just being a mature player, I know that. I gotta take those positives. Those stats are a little misleading. I’m not reading too much into them. Now, if I was hitting what I’m hitting and I wasn’t hitting the ball hard, then I would be worried. I’ve hit plenty of balls that I’m happy with.”

Entering Monday’s series opener with St. Louis, Duvall was hitting .170, which was still the second-worst batting average among hitters with enough at-bats to qualify for such leaderboards. He had the ninth-worst OPS, at .546.

Duvall has six home runs.

He feels he should have more.

He has been victimized by something inexplicable: He feels he’s hitting the ball hard, but those balls are landing in gloves. “And so they’re not even hits, they’re outs,” he said. As he lays it all out, his tone is more confusion than frustration.

He doesn’t know how what is happening, or how to explain it all.

His average exit velocity (88.2 mph) is almost identical to last season, and to what it has been throughout most of his career. His hard-hit rate is a touch better than last year. Thus far, he’s striking out less and walking more than in recent seasons.

“If you look at the numbers, they’re very similar. It’s just completely different results,” Duvall said. “I could easily have 13, 14 homers right now, and I would enjoy looking up at the scoreboard. I hit a ball in Baltimore, 106 (mph) at (a 35-degree launch angle), can of poop. Can of poop. Like, why is that a can of poop now? I don’t know. Then I hit a ball to right field, (101 mph with a 26-degree launch angle), it was an out. It’s like, why are those balls outs? Why are those balls outs? I don’t know. I can’t explain that.

“But I can tell you, if I keep doing that, it’s gotta break. That’s all I can do. That’s who I am: I hit the ball hard in the air and over my career, I’ve gotten results that way – I’ve driven in a ton of runs, I’ve hit a bunch of homers.”

The first ball Duvall referenced above – both were hit in Baltimore – was a flyout to center field that left the bat at 106.3 mph with a 35-degree launch angle. Off the bat, it looked gone. (Launch angle measures the vertical angle at which a ball leaves a bat. A line drive, for example, has a lower launch angle than a fly ball.)

Entering Monday, 17 balls had been hit between 106-107 mph with a launch angle between 35-36 degrees in MLB. Of them, 12 were homers, one was a double and four were outs. Duvall’s rocket was one of those four outs.

Versus Oakland at Truist Park, Duvall smoked a ball 109.4 mph at a 35-degree launch angle, only to see it stay in the ballpark. And before Monday, there had been four balls in play between 109-110 mph with a launch angle between 35-36 mph. Two were homers, and two were outs. Duvall was one of the unlucky ones – again.

“If you look at my average launch angle, it’s normally top five in the big leagues,” Duvall said. “And so I’m living in the air. And so when those aren’t hits anymore, you’re gonna look up and see (a) 1-something (batting average). But when whatever starts to change and starts to turn, those are gonna impact games. Those are gonna help you win ballgames. That’s my mindset about it. I can’t get caught up in the number up there on the board. I just can’t. That’s not showing how I’ve been hitting the ball, so I can’t get caught up in that personally, you know?”

Duvall is correct about his launch angle: Since 2019, Duvall has the highest average launch angle (25 degrees) among batters with at least 500 at-bats.

Duvall said the wind at Truist Park has often blown in from left field. Asked about Duvall’s poor luck, Braves manager Brian Snitker expressed the same confusion as Duvall and even mentioned “crosswinds” at Truist Park.

“He’s hit a few balls that when they left the bat, I thought they were out,” Snitker said. “I mean, I think it’s just – I don’t know. In our park, crosswinds. I don’t remember seeing the flags like they are this year. For whatever reason, there seems to be more crosswinds than in the past years. I don’t know why that is. But yeah, there’s been a few balls that he’s hit that I had them chalked up (as homers), like an egg before they’re hatched.”

This season, Duvall has flyouts on these balls (categorized with exit velocity and launch angle):

  • 109.4 mph, 35 degrees
  • 106.3 mph, 35 degrees
  • 106 mph, 45 degrees
  • 104.9 mph, 41 degrees
  • 104 mph, 31 degrees
  • 101. Mph, 26 degrees

There are, of course, many factors in balls in play. The ballpark. The wind. The weather in general. They all play a part. So listing those outs isn’t to say Duvall should have six more home runs – it’s only to make the point that his season could be going differently for him.

And think about this: Those balls we listed weren’t even hits – they were outs.

Duvall can only try to keep hitting the ball hard and hope those go in his favor the rest of the way.

“I’m hitting the ball well, it’ll eventually all play out,” Duvall said.