Which Batters are More Likely to Pull the Ball

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In Spring Training, I saw the Royals put a shift on Jack Cust and was wondering which hitters were the most prone to hit to one side of the field than the other. I was going to use MLB Gameday hit data to determine a couple of other pieces of information, so I used it to help determine where a player bats a ball on average. While I was at it, I found a comparable average distance for each ball hit for each player.

 

Background math:

 

The Gameday data is in X-Y coordinates, that correspond to a certain number of pixels. Peter Jensen at the Hardball Times  took this data and figured out where home plate was for each park.  I averaged these numbers out for a home plate placement of:

 

x= 125.42

y= 198.27

 

Also I tried to use his values for the batted ball distances, which averaged around 2.67. I found this value way too high. Derek Jeter had several 600 ft blasts. I found that the value of 2 to be a little closer, but not perfectly exact. Since all players were adjusted the same, the exact distance doesn't matter to see who hits the furthest on average.

 

I wanted the data in polar coordinates, distance and angle, for ease of manipulation. I took the distance each ball was from home plate and the angle it was from the center line of the field. The angle is set up so that 0 degrees goes from home plate, through the pitchers mound to center field. All negative angle are towards right field and all positive angles are to left field. I removed the foul balls caught behind home plate. All other batted balls made it into the data as home plate positioning was not know for sure.

 

I noticed that all the switch hitters didn't really favor a field because they split time from each side of the plate. I had no easy way to know the batter's exacted handedness, so I created another data set for each batter against RH and LH pitchers.

 

What the data does say:

 

  1. Given the above conditions, what was the average angle that a batter hit a ball using 2007 to 2009 Gameday data.
  2. Given the above conditions, what was average distance that a batter hit a ball using 2007 to 2009 Gameday data.

What the data doesn't say.

 

  1. How to play the batter. They may hit the ball to one side of the infield, but with power to the other side.
  2. Exactly how far a batter hits the ball. I took an average value for home plate and my distance multiplier is eye balled.
  3. This is not a prediction of future performance, I am just looking at past performance for now.

With all that said, here are the players that pulled the ball the most. The players near 0 are the batters that bat from one side of the plate and didn't a noticeable split. Negative values are to the right side of the field and positive values are the left side. A minimum of 200 batted balls in play from 2007 to 2009 required for this list (complete list of players on Google Docs).

 

Name Number of Balls in Play Average Distance Ball Hit Angle Ball is Hit
Thames Marcus 596 122 -29.8
Jones Andruw 769 127 -27.5
Sheffield Gary 946 124 -27.4
Francisco Ben 743 124 -26.7
Hillenbrand Shea 239 123 -25.7
Piazza Mike 245 148 -24.7
Bay Jason 1243 149 -24.5
Encarnacion Edwin 1041 128 -24.5
Johjima Kenji 986 116 -24.4
Flores Jesus 428 125 -24.4




Jeter Derek 1680 157 -0.8
Buck Travis 418 154 -0.5
Prado Martin 667 163 -0.3
Molina Jose 499 153 0.4
Morgan Nyjer 636 132 0.5
Parra Gerardo 380 158 0.6




Hinske Eric 554 183 20.1
Counsell Craig 807 169 20.9
Utley Chase 1486 196 21.5
Patterson Corey 709 154 22.1
Hopper Norris 332 141 22.1
Harris Willie 827 185 23.0
Johnson Dan 356 190 23.6
Ankiel Rick 717 194 24.7
Bonds Barry 279 199 25.7
Pena Carlos 1020 211 26.4

 

Besides players that pull the ball the most, here are the leaders and laggards for batted distance. A minimum of 200 batted balls in play from 2007 to 2009 required for this list (complete list of players on Google Docs).

 

Name Number of Balls in Play Average Distance Ball Hit Angle Ball is Hit
Pena Carlos 1020 211 26.4
Hoffpauir Micah 236 204 15.9
Dunn Adam 1072 203 19.8
Howard Ryan 1261 200 19.0
Bonds Barry 279 199 25.7
Giambi Jason 747 199 17.2
Utley Chase 1486 196 21.5
Branyan Russell 465 196 14.8
Thorman Scott 216 195 19.0
Jacobs Mike 971 195 17.4




Owens Jerry 317 121 4.7
Berroa Angel 245 121 -9.7
Everett Adam 603 120 -14.7
Ramirez Alexei 919 119 -15.9
Taveras Willy 1110 119 -5.6
Gomez Carlos 777 117 -13.0
Johjima Kenji 986 116 -24.4
Burriss Emmanuel 400 116 -3.5
Castillo Luis 1220 108 -15.8
Gathright Joey 464 88 -10.5

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