Drilling Down Further on Slugging Splits: Quantity vs. Quality

A few days ago, Bill Petti had a good piece on this site about how slugging rates differ for players when pulling the ball and hitting to the opposite field.  Today, I would like to expand on that topic.  Quantity and quality are two things I'm going to focus on - the amount of balls hit to each trajectory, and the success that the batter had to each field.  With that in mind, here are some major league averages from 2008-2010 for percentage of balls hit to the pull, opposite, and center fields along with the wOBAcon* for each split.

*I'm fine with slugging percentage, but I slightly prefer wOBAcon (weighted on-base average on contact) because the weightings are more accurate than in SLG.  The formula I'm using for wOBAcon is ((0.89*1B)+(1.26*2B)+(1.59*3B)+(2.04*HR))/BIP; the league average wOBAcon for 2008-2010 was .360. 

 


Type% wOBAcon
Pull .438 .413
Center .375 .331
Opposite .187 .296


First, a bit deeper on quantity.  The three tables below show the league leaders in pull%, center%, and opposite%.  I'm using a minimum of 500 balls in play over the past three seasons (2008-2010).

Rank Player Pull%
1 Marcus Thames .599
2 Gary Sheffield .559
3 Carlos Pena .535
4 Kenji Johjima .534
5 Andruw Jones .533
6 Ben Francisco .532
7 Mark Teixeira .516
8 Jorge Cantu .513
9 Josh Willingham .512
10 Dan Uggla .510

 

Rank Player Center%
1 Luis Castillo .443
2 Willy Taveras .423
3 Scott Podsednik .405
4 Yorvit Torrealba .403
5 Brendan Ryan .392
6 Gregor Blanco .391
7 Gerardo Parra .389
8 Nyjer Morgan .389
9 Julio Borbon .388
10 Jeff Keppinger .388

 

Rank Player Opposite%
1 Michael Young .364
2 Ryan Theriot .354
3 Akinori Iwamura .352
4 Nick Punto .350
5 Ryan Sweeney .348
6 Derek Jeter .348
7 Ichiro Suzuki .342
8 Willie Bloomquist .342
9 Joe Mauer .341
10 Luis Castillo .340


Seems pretty reasonable - lots of guys (Thames, Pena, Teixeira, Uggla, etc.) are notorious power hitters.  Suzuki and Jeter don't surprise me one bit on the opposite field leaders.

So now, what about the quality?  

The numbers below show a hitter's wOBAcon to a field relative to the league average (scroll up to refresh your minds on the averages).  100 is league average; higher is better.  It's the same concept as Baseball-Reference's sOPS+ (I'm not using any park factors here).  I've set the minimum at 100 contacted pitches.

                                                                PULL
Rank Player wOBAcon+
1 Mike Stanton 150
2 Kevin Youkilis 146
3 Dan Uggla 143
4 Mark Reynolds 138
5 Russell Branyan 137
6 Jonny Gomes 135
7 Mike Cameron 134
8 Laynce Nix 132
9 Miguel Cabrera 131
10 Josh Willingham 131

 
                                                                CENTER

Rank Player wOBAcon+
1 Jack Cust 161
2 Ryan Howard 154
3 Jayson Werth 152
4 Kendry Morales 150
5 Alex Rodriguez 148
6 Mark Reynolds 147
7 Chris Davis 144
8 Matt Holliday 144
9 Joey Votto 144
10 Carlos Gonzalez 143

 

                                                                OPPOSITE
Rank Player wOBAcon+
1 Ryan Howard 205
2 Jim Thome 203
3 Adrian Gonzalez 181
4 John Baker 174
5 Joey Votto 174
6 Joe Mauer 169
7 Mark Teahen 164
8 Brad Hawpe 162
9 Jim Edmonds 161
10 Lance Berkman  157


Something Bill discussed in his article that I'd like to just briefly touch on here is consistency - some guys have great disparity in their production to different fields, while others are much more consistent.  A good way to do this is by looking at triple slash lines for pull/center/opposite wOBAcon.  Bill identified Mark Teixeira (.527/.338/.259), Jose Bautista (.539/.364/.185, though very small sample size for opposite field data), and especially Curtis Granderson (.503/.324/.253) as being some pull-heavy hitters last year (remember that the data I'm using here are since 2008).  Bill noted that Jim Thome (.405/.452/.601) and Lance Berkman (.422/.375/.464) were particularly good at hitting to the opposite field relative to the pull field last year.  Conversely, Prince Fielder (.465/.439/.405) and Shin-Soo Choo (.443/.447/.449) were some of the more balanced sluggers.

Data are from Fangraphs.

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